September 8, 2005

NEW HOUSTORLEANS (via Robert Schwartz):

Shelters Grow Empty as Apartments Open Up (SIMON ROMERO, 9/08/05, NY Times)

In a stunning turnaround for some of the most besieged victims of Hurricane Katrina, the Astrodome population dwindled to about 3,000 on Wednesday from an estimated 15,000 over the weekend, with many people seizing on local job opportunities and inexpensive housing.

Because of a building boom over the last few years, there is a glut of affordable housing in Houston and its metropolitan area, which includes about 4.5 million people. Hotels are also offering a 14-day stay at no charge to storm victims, with reimbursements to come from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Add the outpouring of offers of shelter across the country and an acknowledgment by the government that the original estimates may have been high, and it appears that the Astrodome might be empty soon.

Frank E. Gutierrez, the emergency management coordinator for Harris County, which covers Houston, said that Joe Leonard, the area commander for the Department of Homeland Security, had made it a goal to clear the shelter complex by Sept. 18. "Everyone was asking him, 'What if we don't make it?' " Mr. Gutierrez said, "And he said, 'Then I'll need to work harder.' "

Even though many of those in the Astrodome seem to be bracing for a long stay - and the dome is gaining the trappings of normal life, with its own post office, Internet cafe and medical center - it looks increasingly like a temporary society.

And many of the evacuees are opting to stay in Houston or nearby towns. Evacuees in the dome rejected an offer this week from FEMA to transfer 4,000 people to cruise ships in the harbor of Galveston.

How can these people be finding jobs and housing without a bloated bureaucratic program to do it for them?

Posted by Orrin Judd at September 8, 2005 1:09 PM

I love the talk of bloated bureaucratic programs, that seems to be a remnant of the Gingrich era, when the facts of the matter are that the Bush Administration has created more bureaucracy than Clinton and any other administration in recent history. In terms of the disaster alone, the agencies involved (FEMA etc) had had their budgets drastically increased since 9/11.
The staff of the White House is by far the largest it has been in American history.
Republicans know how to waste money just as good as the Dem's. What happened to those billions of dollars in Iraqi reconstruction?
Because Democrats favor ill-fated programs like welfare, there seems to be enough slack, still, for ideologues to continue the same kind of bickering that's been going on since the Reagan administration, even while the Republicans are spending, creating their own bureacracies, and catering to their supporters.

Posted by: George at September 8, 2005 1:33 PM


Yes, more bureaucracy didn't help, did it?

Posted by: oj at September 8, 2005 1:39 PM

OJ - No, it didn't.

Posted by: George at September 8, 2005 1:42 PM

Because the Bush administration, in the wake of 9/11, did't really intend for there to actually be a need for the Department of Homeland Security; they basically lied, which isn't unusual. It was only meant to act as a counterbalance to its foreign policy, where it lied again when it presented Iraq as a threat. As long as politicians can present an aura of constant threats, they are free to lay waste to even entire countries (See Vietnam).

Posted by: George at September 8, 2005 1:47 PM

What are the networks going to do when the astrodome is empty and most of those folks have jobs and homes?

Posted by: Robert Schwartz [TypeKey Profile Page] at September 8, 2005 1:52 PM

Three points:

--This is reminiscent of the Iraq war where International aid groups set up huge refugee camps expecting a huge numbers of refugees that didn't materialize

--With interstate banking it is probable that LA residents have access to their money in Texas, giving them the ability to not rely on the govt.

--As these people settle into housing/apartments in Houston they will be less likely to want to go back to LA.

Posted by: AWW at September 8, 2005 1:56 PM


Yes, the Department of Homeland Security is an entirely political entity.

Posted by: oj at September 8, 2005 1:58 PM

If only the Democrats had't thought it up and the media hadn't sold it as the best thing since sliced bread, we might be better off.

Posted by: Timothy at September 8, 2005 2:14 PM

Be careful - CNN will make sure the last refugee in the Astrodome is a 3-year old black child, with the most forlorn look you can imagine.

He/she might even be holding a sign that says "Bush went on vacation and all I got was two weeks in Houston".

Posted by: ratbert at September 8, 2005 2:22 PM

I hope all the money pouring in for relief isn't being handed over to the same local officials who've already proven themselves incompetent if not downright thieves.

Posted by: erp [TypeKey Profile Page] at September 8, 2005 2:23 PM

The same sort of thing is happening with the handful of refugees here in Phoenix. I'll bet it happening everywhere. So when New Orleans gets rebuilt it will not have most of its old residents. They'll all be living somewhere else.

Posted by: Brandon at September 8, 2005 2:28 PM

We may be neighbors but culturally Houston is quite different than NO. Residents of NO who want to succeed have been moving to Houston to find work for decades - this is just a continuation of the trend on a larger scale. There are plenty of jobs and empty houses and apartments here, and while Texans are sympathetic and charitable they won't stand for a permanent concentration camp to be set up in the middle of the city, not when there is plenty of work to be found.

Posted by: Shelton at September 8, 2005 2:57 PM

"when New Orleans gets rebuilt it will not have most of its old residents."

As nearly as I can tell, this a feature, not a bug.

Posted by: Robert Schwartz [TypeKey Profile Page] at September 8, 2005 3:14 PM

Yes, when George Bush is presented with a politically popular bad idea, he will say that it is a bad idea but, if it continues to be popular, he will go along. See, e.g., CFR, Homeland Security.

Posted by: David Cohen at September 8, 2005 3:34 PM

David -

Well put. CFR still sticks in my craw.

Posted by: Bruce Cleaver at September 8, 2005 4:02 PM

What's wrong with keeping a bunch of NewOrleanites (or whatever they're called) in the Astrodome for a few decades? Bring 'em out every fall for a photo op where they can jingle their house keys and complain about how all they want is to go back. Look how well it worked for Arafat and the Palestinians.

Posted by: Raoul Ortega at September 8, 2005 5:57 PM

As long as politicians can present an aura of constant threats, they are free to lay waste to even entire countries (See Vietnam).

Because, of course, the unwashed masses are far too stupid to make up their own minds about how accurate the politicians' threat assessments actually are.

Perhaps most Americans saw that Communism was a threat, whether in the USSR or Vietnam, and that Saddam Hussein was a real bad dude who hated America with a passion, after his Great Islamic Hope "mother of all armies" got spanked like a misbehaving child.

Posted by: Michael Herdegen [TypeKey Profile Page] at September 8, 2005 7:18 PM

Neither was a threat to us though.

Posted by: oj at September 8, 2005 8:32 PM

Both the USSR and Saddam Hussein were threats to the U.S., although invading Iraq may not have been necessary.

If we'd nuked Russia in '46, THEN they might not have been a threat, but we did not, and so between '60 and '89, they were most definitely a threat.

Hussein was working towards nukes, and could have given or sold chem or bio weapons to anti-American terrorists.

Posted by: Michael Herdegen [TypeKey Profile Page] at September 10, 2005 5:03 AM

Only to themselves.

Posted by: oj at September 10, 2005 6:50 AM