Nagin to Washington: “Honor the Law”

Nagin did an interview with USA Today’s editorial board while in Washington. From USA Today

New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin accused the federal government Wednesday of abandoning its legal obligation to help his city recover from the devastation of Hurricane Katrina.

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Under federal law, he added, the government is obliged to help restore vital infrastructure decimated by the storm, which struck the Gulf Coast on Aug. 29, 2005. Nagin said the federal government has approved more than $900 million to rebuild New Orleans’ infrastructure, but local officials have not been able to access most of it.

“We’re here to say to the federal government: ‘Honor the law,’ ” said Nagin, in Washington to see lawmakers and federal officials.

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Andy Kopplin, executive director of the Louisiana Recovery Authority, said FEMA was at first slow to approve infrastructure projects and has consistently underestimated the cost. Nevertheless, he said, $640 million worth of permanent infrastructure money has been approved for New Orleans projects. “Payments will be made as the projects are constructed,” Kopplin said.

Nagin said local officials are caught in a bureaucratic Catch-22: They can’t get the money until projects are underway, but they’re unable to issue contracts until they have money in hand to pay for them. So the city hasn’t been able to begin critical repairs to roads, public buildings, power systems or other damaged infrastructure.

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