44 The Obama Presidency
On Katrina Anniversary, Obama Pledges to End "Turf Wars" that Slow Recovery
By Michael A. Fletcher
President Obama used his weekly radio and Internet address Saturday to mark the fourth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, saying that his administration is cutting red tape and bulking up resources to accelerate the Gulf Coast's recovery from the storm.
Obama said that 11 of his Cabinet members have visited the region in the seven-plus months since his administration took office, and he said he, too, plans to visit the area later this year.
He said his administration has made a priority of fostering greater cooperation among federal, state and local governments.
"I have made it clear that we will not tolerate red tape that stands in the way of progress, or waste that can drive up the bill," Obama said. "Government must be a partner -- not an opponent -- in getting things done."
While the federal government appropriated more than $100 billion for Katrina rebuilding efforts during the Bush administration, complex federal rules and problems with state government programs, particularly in Louisiana, have slowed spending, and thus the pace of recovery.
Obama declared those days over. "No more turf wars," he said. "All of us need to move forward together, because there is much work to be done."
The 2005 storm bludgeoned much of the Gulf Coast and drowned New Orleans. In all, more than 1,000 people were killed and than 1 million people were displaced.
To prevent a recurrence of such a disaster, Obama said, the federal government must continue the work of rebuilding hundreds of miles of levees and floodwalls around New Orleans. The government also must work to bolster the barrier islands and wetlands in the region, which he called the Gulf Coast's "first line of defense" against devastating hurricanes.
Despite the remaining challenges, Obama said there are signs of hope. He said New Orleans has become the nation's fastest growing city, as residents who fled after Katrina have returned. Also, the city recently opened its first completely new school since the storm.
"So on this day, we commemorate a tragedy that befell our people," Obama said. "But we also remember that with every tragedy comes the chance of renewal."
Posted at 6:00 AM ET on Aug 29, 2009
44 The Obama Presidency
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