This morning, Barack Obama spoke at Tulane University about his plans for the City of New Orleans.
Oyster was there and presents an excerpt of Obama’s speech here.
The full transcript is available on the Times-Picayune. Not surprisingly, it’s a great piece of writing, and it offers many specifics about what policy changes we would see in an Obama administration (bold mine):
1. “When I am President, we will finish building a system of levees that can withstand a 100-year storm by 2011, with the goal of expanding that protection to defend against a Category 5 storm. We also have to restore nature’s barriers – the wetlands, marshes and barrier islands that can take the first blows and protect the people of the Gulf Coast.”
2. “When I am President, the days of dysfunction and cronyism in Washington will be over. The director of FEMA will report to me. He or she will have the highest qualifications in emergency management. And I won’t just tell you that I’ll insulate that office from politics – I’ll guarantee it, by giving my FEMA director a fixed term like the director of the Federal Reserve.”
3. “And as soon as we take office, my FEMA director will work with emergency management officials in all fifty states to create a National Response Plan.”
4. “When I am President, the federal rebuilding coordinator will report directly to me, and we will ensure that resources show results. It’s time to cut the red tape, so that the federal government is a partner – not an opponent – in getting things done.”
5. “Instead of giving no-bid contracts to companies headed by the President’s former campaign manager, we will make sure that rebuilding benefits the local economy. I have worked across the aisle in the Senate to crack down on no-bid contracts, and to make sure that emergency contracting is only done immediately after an emergency. When I am President, if there is a job that can be done by a New Orleans resident, the contract will go to a resident of New Orleans. And we’ll provide tax incentives to businesses that choose to set up shop in the hardest hit areas.”
6. “We must work with Louisiana to make the Road Home program more efficient. We should set a goal to approve every application for Road Home assistance within two months. And we need to increase rental property, so that we can bring down the cost of renting a home.”
7. “Instead of shuttered hospitals and provider shortages, we will help the Gulf region rebuild a health care system that serves all its residents. We’ll provide incentives like loan forgiveness to bring more doctors and nurses to New Orleans, and we’ll build new hospitals – including a new Medical Center downtown, and a state-of-the art Veteran’s hospital.”
8. “We’ll start a new COPS for Katrina program to put more resources into community policing, so that heroic officers – men and women like Nicola Cotton, who gave her life serving the city she loved – have more support. And we’ll launch a regional effort that brings together federal, state and local resources to combat crime and drug gangs across the Gulf Coast.”
9. “It’s time for FEMA to speed up payment of the $58 million that Congress recently allocated for school repairs. And it’s time to invest in education, so that New Orleans has the first-class school system that it has needed for so long.”
10. “That starts with the person standing in front of the classroom. Many heroic, high-quality teachers have returned to New Orleans – but we need more. That is why I have called for $250 million to bring quality teachers back to the Gulf region. Any teacher or principal who commits to come here for three years should receive an annual bonus; and those who teach in subject areas where we face shortages – such as math and science – should receive an additional bonus.”
11. “The federal government has already promised the resources, but they need to be spent more efficiently and more wisely. When I am President, we will target funds to programs that make a difference, and make sure that resources meet the needs of the people – and that means working closely with state and local officials, and asking that they keep up their end of the bargain.”
He concluded by saying:
Here, in the city that gave us jazz, we know that even the most painful note can be followed by joy. Here, in this city, if we look hard enough, we can imagine the unseen – homes filled with families; businesses putting folks to work; schools extending opportunity; the next verse in the American song. That is what is possible if we can trust each other; and if we have the imagination to see the unseen, and the determination to work for it.