Along the Tracks

Monday, September 26, 2005

An open letter to Louisianans

Louisianans, my fellow Americans:

I begin this letter by expressing the heartfelt sympathy I and all I have spoken with hold for you. The tragedy of Katrina, followed by the insult of Rita, pains us all, and opens our hearts to help you as we would our neighbors next door.

I, and everyone I know, also recognize the crucial task ahead of rebuilding what the hurricanes took away, as well as making Louisiana and the Gulf Coast better able to endure what Mother Nature throws your way.

We also see this as a chance to open part of our country and society to opportunities too long denied. We stand with you in seeking a plan which answers the promise of America.

All that being true, I feel I must also speak straightforwardly about the reaction to these events by your local and state officials and federal representatives.

On Thursday, your congressional delegation unveiled a $250 billion reconstruction plan for Louisiana, much of which has little or nothing to do with rebuilding or protecting or creating new opportunities for the less fortunate. I cannot help but be offended by your politicians’ attempt to take advantage of a tragedy to line the pockets of their families, their lobbyists and their contributors.

Yet the insult to me could hardly compare to that likely felt by those in Mississippi and Alabama, also struggling to rebuild their lives, but practically ignored in the exorbitant program your politicians are selling.
Being uprooted and scattered, fighting to get back on your feet, I have no doubt it is difficult to keep watch on those speaking in your name. From the somewhat detached view I and others hold outside the Gulf Coast, we observe local and state politicians guilty of shameful neglect and incompetence with disastrous consequences. We see powerful families gleaning wealth at your expense. We see senators, representatives, governors, mayors and parish presidents using your catastrophe to help themselves to our money – and the money of our children.

Across the nation, a groundswell has been building to cut unnecessary local projects with federal funding to pay for the rebuilding of the Gulf Coast. However, local voters and officials will refuse to make these sacrifices if they believe the money will merely go to pork projects enriching Louisiana’s politicians and their pals. Even if a more reasonable plan for rebuilding is established, most of your fellow Americans will reject handing oversight of our billions to the inept and often corrupt men and women who now represent your state and local communities.

I refuse to believe this embarrassing behavior is typical of the good people of Louisiana. This is your moment to stand up to the politicians who are shaming your state. Please voice your feelings about their personal and political greed which threatens to create animosity against the very necessary work ahead. Tell them to concentrate on safety, rebuilding, opportunities for the less-well-off and shared sacrifice for the greater good. These are principles your fellow Americans will gladly unify behind.

I, and millions with me, pray for your safety, your success and your bright future.

Paul A. Miller
Bryan, Ohio

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