As we remembered the victims of Hurricane Katrina on August 29, the fourth anniversary of the disaster, the devastated cities hit by the hurricane are still working hard to recover. While much of the world has moved on to focus on the next disaster, HeadCount is tackling Gulf Coast Recovery as one of six issues in our "What's Your Issue?" campaign. Why? Because if the music community doesn't keep this issue on people's minds, then who will? So every six weeks you will find the latest developments in Gulf Coast Recovery right here in your inbox.
- The latest struggle relates how to get the necessary funding to New Orleans and its communities given its current population situation. Some estimates show that about 75% of New Orleans pre-Katrina population has returned to the area. People return every day. However, that still leaves a quarter of the pre-Katrina population not living in the city. With the 2010 census only a year away, leaders from the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights and Mayor Ray Nagin are working hard to get a count of residents who may return to the area and make sure they are represented in the census. This would enable more federal funds and larger congressional representation. Opponents of the idea state that it could hurt the areas where those residents currently live and give the nation an inaccurate count of where people are actually located.
- Another key component of Gulf Coast recovery has been President Obama's actions since taking office. Reports vary as to what extent he has come through on promises made during his presidential campaign. There are groups that do report a better collaboration between federal agencies. Others aren't as impressed. A report by the Institute of Southern Studies sites a poll of over 50 Gulf Coast community leaders giving the Obama administration low marks on many key indicators of Gulf Coast recovery.
- Two prominent Louisiana lawyers and professors compiled a list of statistics about where Louisiana stands in 2009. While you can read all the statistics for yourself, there are a couple that are worth mentioning here: Only 52% of federal money allocated for Gulf Coast recovery has actually been received. New Orleans ranks number one in the nation when it comes to vacant residences.
- If it seems like no one cares about Gulf Coast Recovery any more, you can take some solace knowing that many musicians do. Check out this interview on the HeadCount blog with Zach Velmer of Sound Tribe Sector 9 (STS9) regarding the release of "Peaceblaster: The New Orleans Make it Right Remix." It's an album where all the proceeds go toward building a house in New Orleans through the Make It Right Foundation. Musicians in New Orleans are also the subject of "Treme," a new HBO series in development from David Simon, producer of "The Wire."
While some of the recent statistics are grim, there is much that can be done to turn things around. Follow HeadCount on Twitter or check out our Gulf Coast Recovery Issue Page to get daily updates. Want to go a step further? Write to Congress and tell your election officials how you feel about Gulf Coast Recovery. Or speak to your peers by writing for our blog. Make Your Voice Heard.