Summit: Break deadlock on relief

Members of the Congressional Black Caucus, Progressive Caucus and the TriCaucus met on Capitol Hill, Feb. 7, to strategize on breaking the legislative deadlock over assistance for Katrina survivors. Called by the Hip Hop Caucus, the summit launched the Gulf Coast Renewal Campaign. Its agenda includes a right of return, temporary and long-term housing assistance, voting rights protection and mortgage forgiveness.

Gov. vows to play ‘hardball’ with feds

Gov. Kathleen Blanco vowed to “play hardball” with Washington over oil and gas revenues. Opening a special legislative session in the New Orleans Convention Center, (the first time the Legislature met outside Baton Rouge) Blanco said the disaster that killed 1,300 people had become “yesterday’s problem” for many in Washington, and Louisiana is getting short shrift.

“The state receives only a fraction of the annual $5 billion in federal royalties. If no effort is made to guarantee our fair share of royalties, I have warned the federal government that we will be forced to block the August sale of offshore oil and gas leases,” Blanco told the legislators Feb. 6.

Victory in tent city

In a field with no lights or bathing facilities, more than 100 Katrina workers organized and negotiated concessions on running water, bathrooms and written rental contracts from their contractor/landlord. The workers live at New Orleans’ City Park, in one of several sites where Storm Force Inc. collects rent but has not provided facilities. Laborers work seven days a week amid toxins, dust and sludge, without protective gear. They have to pay $5 for a shower. Many are Mexican and Central American immigrants, brought to the area by contractors and the promise of jobs, but face unsafe working and living conditions, including immigration raids and deportation.

“In my city, workers have rights; tenants have rights; communities have rights,” said Tracie Washington, a New Orleans attorney for the workers.

Putting a pin in pain

Acupuncturists Without Borders, a network of volunteer acupuncturists, is using the ancient healing art to ease the stress, strain and pain felt by residents, relief workers and others struggling to help rebuild New Orleans, following the devastation after Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Rita.

Services will be available Feb. 10 at the Common Ground Clinic, Pauline Street (between N. Robertson and Claiborne Sts.), 12:30 – 3 p.m. and at the corner of Canal and Dauphine, 6:30 – 8:30 p.m.

Gulf Coast Update is compiled by Terrie Albano (