Saturday, October 1


Watching the post-Katrina events unfold, I've remarked to The Sage several times that the Bush administration would use the opportunity the disaster presented to disperse African-American voters, most of whom vote Democrat, in order to elect more Republican House and Senate members from Louisiana. Others agree:

Alphonso R. Jackson, secretary of housing and urban development, during a visit with hurricane victims in Houston, said New Orleans would not reach its pre-Katrina population of "500,000 people for a long time," and "it's not going to be as black as it was for a long time, if ever again."

Rep. Danny K. Davis, Illinois Democrat and a member of the Congressional Black Caucus, quickly took issue.

"Anybody who can make that kind of projection with some degree of certainty or accuracy must have a crystal ball that I can't see or maybe they are more prophetic than any of us can imagine," he said.

Other members of the caucus said the comments by Mr. Jackson, who is black, could be misconstrued as a goal, particularly considering his position of responsibility in the administration.
Mr. Jackson, a former developer and longtime government housing official, said the history of urban reconstruction projects shows that most blacks will not return and others who want to might not have the means or opportunity. His agency will play a critical role in the city's redevelopment through various grant programs, including those for damaged or destroyed properties.

In the storm's aftermath, the Rev. Jesse Jackson and Rep. Maxine Waters, California Democrat, charged that relocating evacuees across the country was "racist" and designed to move black people, who overwhelmingly vote Democratic, out of Louisiana. The state elected its first Republican senator, David Vitter, in nearly a century in 2004.

Both the preacher and the congresswoman suggested that the residents be housed at the closed England Air Force Base at Alexandria, La., to keep them closer to home.

Rep. Bobby L. Rush, Illinois Democrat, said Alphonso Jackson's remarks and the prospects of real-estate speculators and developers in New Orleans are "foreboding."

"Gentrification is a demon that is looming on the landscape, and we have to be aware of it and vigilant. ... Right now, I don't know if the resistance to it is strong enough," Mr. Rush said.

He said a history of forced removal of blacks from their homes and property cannot be ignored as the reconstruction moves forward.

Two weeks after Katrina, the Congressional Black Caucus issued an eight-point action plan that calls for residents to get the first right of return to the area, that New Orleans residents get first choice of construction jobs and rebuilding contracts and that voting rights be protected.


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