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.

8 thoughts

  1. No. Senator Clinton has decidedly not outlined anything specific regarding policy goals for New Orleans Recovery. She has chosen to Not visit the city before the primary, sending her husband instead. She has offered Nothing of substance, nothing beyond predictable sound bites.
    This was a good speech of specific issues that matter to the nation. Senator Obama proved even sharp enough to lay blame for what happened to New Orleans, not on a natural disaster caused by hurricane Katrina but a man-made disaster perpetrated by Federal malfeasance.
    Senator Clinton is not even playing the same game quite out of her league.

  2. Ummm …. New Orleans News Ladder …. you need to go to her website – here’s the link.

    Since I’m guessing you’re too lazy to actually do so, I will outline it for you:


    As president, Senator Clinton would take the federal rebuilding coordinator out of the Department of Homeland Security bureaucracy and put him in the West Wing, reporting directly to the president. She would meet with the Director weekly and grant him full authority to lead all federal participation in Gulf Coast recovery. The Director’s first order of business would be to conduct a Katrina/Rita Recovery Census –canvassing all federal assistance needs of Gulf Coast communities.

    Senator Clinton would take a series of immediate, concrete steps to move federal dollars to where they belong. She would eliminate the local match requirement for FEMA recovery funds. She would streamline and simplify the “project worksheet” process of securing FEMA public infrastructure grants, and deploy sufficient staff to clear backlogs. For priority projects, she would provide upfront seed funding to jumpstart rebuilding while applications and claims are processed. And she would direct FEMA to give the maximum flexibility allowed by law to schools, fire stations, and other critical institutions for creative rebuilding and renovation. She would also convene a state-local-federal summit to resolve challenges confronting Louisiana’s “Road Home” program, with the goal of removing the remaining federal obstacles.

    As president, Hillary would create a Gulf Coast Corps, governed by a joint federal-state-local board. The Corps would have two tracks: (1) it would provide financial incentives to skilled professionals – teachers, doctors, nurses, etc. – to serve in high-need areas as identified by state and local officials; and (2) it would directly hire thousands of workers and apprentices – especially locals and those who left but want to return – to complete priority public works projects, as identified by the states. The first track would fill shortages of key personnel who perform essential services. The second track would provide well-paying jobs to restore and upgrade core infrastructure – fire stations, parks, hospitals, roads, sewer and water systems – so that businesses can function effectively and residents can reestablish their communities and reclaim their culture.

    There are still clear gaps and deficiencies in the city’s hurricane defenses. Senator Clinton would immediately order an independent, stem-to-stern review of the Army Corps of Engineers’ plans and progress thus far. She would fully fund and expedite construction to ensure the city has reliable defenses this hurricane season, and would order the Corps to achieve Category 5 protection over time. And, because every 2 to 4 miles of wetlands reduces storm surges by a foot, she would require the Army Corps and other federal agencies to integrate a wetlands restoration plan as a vital component of hurricane protection efforts.

    In addition to addressing Road Home, Senator Clinton would pursue two specific policy initiatives. First, she would address the skyrocketing cost of insurance by: investigating insurance pricing and claims adjustment practices in the Gulf region; reforming the National Flood Insurance Program; reviewing the insurance industry’s antitrust exemption; and working with states to support their insurance programs. Second, she would expand the stock of affordable rental housing by: partnering with states and localities; funding new public housing developments; offering incentives to builders and developers; and providing direct assistance to residents who have lost their units, including those living in transitional housing.

    The murder rate in New Orleans has spiked, while the police ranks have dwindled. Senator Clinton would provide sufficient COPS and Byrne Grant funding to put two hundred new police officers back on the beat in New Orleans, to fill vacancies in prosecutors’ offices, and to help the city deploy new crime-fighting technologies and methods in partnership with local community leaders. Senator Clinton would also confront the challenge of interoperability by setting national communications standards and providing funds for equipment upgrades.

    The schools in New Orleans suffered hundreds of millions in damage, and remain in various states of disrepair. Senator Clinton would renovate and modernize school facilities through the Gulf Coast Corps. The Corps would also fill the large teacher shortage – officials are anticipating 650 vacancies alone in the Recovery School District. In addition, Senator Clinton would direct the EPA to provide technical assistance through its “Tools for Schools” program to help New Orleans build modern school facilities that are energy efficient, free of lead, mold and other pollutants, and designed to maximize fresh air and sunlight.

    A recent survey reported that more than a third of greater New Orleans residents reported less access to quality health care than before the storm. As president, Senator Clinton would deploy the Gulf Coast Corps to rebuild hospitals and clinics, especially those that serve the under- and uninsured. She would recruit health care workers – doctors, nurses, mental health professionals – through the Corps. And she would provide Community Mental Health Block Grants to address a growing mental health care crisis.

    In addition to supporting and extending federal incentives to stimulate a thriving Gulf Opportunity Zone and to support small businesses, Senator Clinton would direct federal agencies to provide technical assistance to help individuals and communities build energy-efficient “green” homes and buildings, environmentally friendly public transit systems, and modern parks and recreation areas.

    To avoid a repeat of the catastrophic failures of the Bush Administration, Hillary would immediately pursue two proposals she has offered in the Senate: elevate FEMA to cabinet-level status; and establish a Katrina/Rita Commission – modeled on the 9/11 Commission – to review what went wrong and what changes are necessary. She would modify the Stafford Act to add a Catastrophic Annex and would direct FEMA to work with folks on the ground to develop preparedness and response plans and lines of authority. As president, she will be ready to respond the moment a disaster strikes.

  3. New Orleans is a city that has always shown America what is possible when we have the imagination to see the unseen, and the determination to work for it.

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