People’s Reconstruction Platform for Reconstruction with Justice in New Orleans and the Gulf Coast

*Editor's note: exact date published is unknown*

    The People’s Hurricane Relief Fund and Oversight Coalition (PHRF/OC) is a broad coalition of Survivors of Katrina and Rita and supporters around the country. PHRF is working to ensure that the people most affected – poor Black communities who were disenfranchised long before the storms – have a voice in reconstruction; and that those responsible are held accountable for the destruction of homes, communities and lives.

    This platform comes from the demands articulated by Survivors at three national gatherings since September 2005, and by coalition groups working for Reconstruction with Justice in New Orleans.

Reopen & recreate housing in New Orleans
  • Reopen public housing & Section 8 lists
    • Direct HANO to reopen public housing immediately to residents
    • Hire and train public housing residents to repair damaged HANO developments
    • Refute the idea that New Orleans can “fight crime” by denying Right of Return to public housing residents; instead, set up human development programs in marginalized communities
    • Ask HUD to reopen the Section 8 waiting list in New Orleans and offer subsidies to waiting-listers for permanent housing available immediately in other cities
  • Get real on trailers & temporary housing
    • Direct recovery $$$ and support to community-based initiatives for temporary housing
    • Demand that FEMA end bureaucratic delays in providing trailers
  • Restore access to housing & community for renters and homeowners
    • Enact rent control and direct recovery $$$ to make sure rental units get rehabbed
    • Use city leverage to press deadbeat insurance companies to release funds to homeowners
    • Support and foster community organizations who can take on adjudicated parcels for community-determined uses

Reunite New Orleans families

  • Demand accessibility of FEMA, Red Cross and other databases so families can find each other
  • Call for amnesty for all people arrested for survival activities during the storm; press the New Orleans D.A. to immediately release those arrested for looting and those whose cases have been affected by the storm, including the 3500 people (85% non-violent offenders) being held past their release date due to collapse of the court system and loss of evidence
  • Demand re-opening of public schools so that parents with school-age children can come home
  • Provide intensive homecoming assistance to seniors, people with disabilities and caregivers
  • Provide free buses between New Orleans and evacuation hub cities (Baker, Houston, Atlanta, etc.)
  • Reject the plan to exclude unemployed low-income from the Right of Return. (Reject the requirement that low-income people have jobs in order to be allowed home).

Justice and safety for Katrina survivors

  • Convene a tribunal on corruption and human rights abuses before the storm and during the storm/flood
  • Convene a commission to address issues of racial inequity in New Orleans and the State of Louisiana
  • Establish an office of the Independent Monitor with broad investigative authority that reviews NOPD policies, procedures, complaint patterns, and quality of complaint investigations; and makes regular reports to the Superintendent, elected officials, and the public
  • Acknowledge and address of police violence and corruption in New Orleans
  • Press Criminal Sheriff Marlin Gusman to release the names and records – which he now holds illegally – of individuals incarcerated in Orleans Parish Prison (OPP) at the time of Hurricane Katrina; support community-led efforts to identify those who may have died and those who remain missing following the abandonment of prisoners in OPP
  • Conduct an investigation into current conditions inside OPP and support community-led demands for human and civil rights in the criminal system
  • Conduct a nationwide search with citizen input for a Superintendent of the New Orleans Police Department who will clean out corruption and reform the NOPD
  • Re-convene a Police-Civilian Review Task Force that, in partnership with national consultants and the NOPD, will create a 5 Year Plan for Recovery and Reform

Community-based democratic process for all reconstruction decisions

  • Acknowledge the injustice of these elections; demand satellite voting for all elections affecting New Orleans voters until voters return or are permanently resettled
  • Adopt, and provide support for, minimum standards for democratic participation in neighborhood planning, including verifiable inclusion of displaced residents and renters
  • Provide clear information on criteria for plans, as well as resources available to carry out plans such as funds, land, underutilized buildings, zoning flexibility, etc.
  • Eliminate the June 30th deadline for the completion of neighborhood plans
  • Assign a professional planner, skilled in an equity planning approach, to each neighborhood
  • Establish a consultancy for each neighborhood with the American Planning Association’s Planning in the Black Community division and Architects/Designers/Planners for Social Responsibility
  • Categorically exclude acquisition and/or development of land by developers until democratic processes are in place for community land use decisions
  • Eliminate the August 29th “fix-or-bulldoze” deadline for damaged buildings, provide meaningful communication and funding for displaced people to return and repair homes, and withhold “blight” rulings until communities and the city have meaningfully engaged with displaced homeowners
  • Require that any community plan presented to the city include an evacuation plan that is plausible for that community’s residents, and incorporate local plans in city-wide evacuation plans

Promote and expand quality public health care

  • Demand and pursue fully-funded health coverage for all hurricane survivors from the federal government
  • Pending the provision of the above coverage, demand that the state expand Medicaid eligibility to include all Survivors who cannot secure private insurance
  • Actively support the demand that LSU Medical re-open Charity Hospital and that the state legislature reclaim oversight of Charity’s budget
  • Support legislation and budgeting to create community-controlled, publicly-funded primary health care facilities, without substituting local clinics for the advanced care capacity of Charity hospital
  • Actively support funding and esteem for Charity as an integral part of the health care delivery system in NO, and support its continued central role in provider education and trauma care
  • Demand that FEMA extend the time period for grants to medical and mental health providers serving Survivors, and ensure that these grants are marketed to Black providers
Restore public education
  • Support and pursue the following demands from the State until the public and charter school system devolves to City administration:
    • Grant immediate access to all public schools facilities
    • Provide structurally sound and ecologically safe buildings conducive to learning
    • Supply equal funding for all public schools; upgrade infrastructure and IT systems
    • Increase funding to programs that provide skills training
    • Provide on-the-job training programs to complement school-based skills training programs
    • Incorporate community service and physical education programs for students.
  • Use schools to affirm the cultural life of the city of New Orleans; commit to teaching music, visual arts, dance, crafts and local art forms, and include Social Aid & Pleasure Clubs in curricula
  • Develop and support a capacity-building collaboration between low-performing schools and colleges and universities within Orleans Parish
  • Develop and support a tutorial program utilizing the skills of retired persons

Promote human and community-based economic development

  • Enact policy measures requiring immediate restoration of all public utilities to all neighborhoods of New Orleans; enact penalties for utility providers who fail to comply
  • Support strengthened state legislation against disaster price-gouging
  • Enact policy requiring proportional distribution of city contracts to black/minority vendors
  • Direct city-controlled federal recovery dollars equitably to community organizations and small businesses in low-income and Black neighborhoods, and neighborhoods whose residents face disproportionate difficulties in returning. Direct funds to neighborhoods that need to restore local services in order for residents to return, rather than favoring only neighborhoods whose populations have already reestablished themselves.
  • Substantively challenge poverty by developing asset-building programs and legislating support for community initiatives including: IDAs for adults and youth; financial literacy programs; community land trusts; cooperatives and employee ownership; micro-lending, micro-enterprise, and cottage-industry development; business improvement districts; residential commercial corridors; community-based research and development to increase access to high-growth sectors
  • Work with the City Council to shrink the city’s budget for incarcerating youth, low-income people and people of color, and redirect funds to human development programs

Facilitate connections between community-based economic development and global competitiveness

  • Use profitability from Global Enterprises, i.e. Port of New Orleans for community-based development through resource (human and financial) linkages
  • Support local enterprises to enable growth and entry into the global market place
  • Place a cap on foreign investment to ensure the wealth of the community is not exported, and reject the historical practices of “free enterprise zones,” “empowerment zones” and “opportunity zones” that provide tax incentives, concessions and subsidies to large corporations

Support New Orleans’ indigenous & community artists & culture

  • Pay a living wage to each local artist employed at city events, including ensemble members like Mardi Gras Indians
  • Respect Mardi Gras Indians and Social & Pleasure Clubs as an art form, and end police harassment
  • When marketing art for tourist dollars, pay & identify artists when using images of their art; require photographers who sell images to city publications to pay & identify subjects.
  • Support cultural education in schools and community centers, including instruction in local forms of music, dance, visual art, pottery/ceramics, sculpture etc.
  • Establish local cultural centers throughout the city, with programming corresponding to interests & experiences of neighborhood residents, possibly modeled on the Houses of Culture supported by municipal governments in France
  • Commit to using the stories & experiences of children in schools, their families and neighbors as the basis for curricula, enabling children to see connections between their education and their lives in the community
  • Support local arts & culture as a critical part of developing understanding of our own history, rather than simply as an engine for tourism

Support the rights of all workers and Survivors’ right to reconstruction jobs

  • Establish a program to guarantee full employment at a living wage to all returnees
  • Establish a one-stop training/placement center for career counseling, job referrals & skills training
  • Restore collective bargaining power for pre-Katrina unions of city and municipal employees, including Orleans Parish teachers
  • Demand that companies doing business with the City of New Orleans restore fair contracts with their workers; specifically, Waste Management and RTA
  • Support the right to organize and collective bargaining of the returning workforce
  • Establish hiring preferences for hurricane survivors as they return home, along with anti-discrimination protections for workers who have responded to the call for reconstruction labor
  • Support model day-laborer legislation, based on the guidelines of the National Employment Law Project, that protects the right of laborers to solicit work, ensures that contractors meet minimum safety standards and enforces the rights of laborers to fair treatment and pay
  • End police harassment of reconstruction workers on New Orleans streets
  • End city support for ICE raids on workplaces and living spaces of reconstruction laborers
  • Support safety for laborers and all New Orleanians by ending practices that stop undocumented immigrants from calling on emergency and security services; this includes ending collaborations between police and ICE, and making explicit any relationship between the two agencies
  • Ensure that all city agencies – including police, courts, jails and other institutions – provide translation for Spanish-speakers, Vietnamese-speakers and others; and that police on the street have access to translation in interactions with non-English-speaking New Orleans residents
  • Support a statewide increase in minimum wage to at least $1 above the federal minimum wage
  • Support stronger industry standards of wages, benefits and workers’ right to organize in workplaces that get tax breaks, zoning waivers or special consideration (eg. Downtown Development District)

Uphold and advance environmental justice

  • Reject predatory “green-washing” of neighborhoods into parks and green space
  • Reinstate the closure of the over-capacity Gentilly landfill, which was reopened to waste and toxin-infused materials in the absence of community members and without their consent
  • Prohibit the location of landfills near New Orleans neighborhoods; instead, reduce hurricane debris through recycling and use existing permitted landfills for non-recyclable hurricane waste
  • Provide means for residents to remove debris quickly, safely, and efficiently, including access to free safety equipment, debris containers and timely waste removal
  • Demand that EPA and DEQ remove or remediate sediment on streets, sidewalks, and yards in neighborhoods inundated with toxic floodwaters
  • Support and sponsor community-led projects to clean up contaminated sediment, e.g., Safe Way Back Home project by the Deep South Center for Environmental Justice and US Steelworkers Union that involves soil removal and replacement with clean soil and sod cover, and the bioremediation efforts by Common Ground Collective that involve neighborhood plantings of arsenic-absorbing sunflowers and sludge-eating organisms.
  • Develop and support a recycling program for automobiles, glass, and metals
  • Create incentives to reduce use of fossil fuels and increase use of renewable energy to mitigate the impacts of climate change, which includes warming waters that intensify hurricanes
  • Advocate closing the Mississippi River Gulf Outlet and federal funding to restore coastal wetlands
  • Support community-led efforts to clean up toxic sites and reuse them for area improvements
  • Establish public education programs to raise awareness of the need for individuals and households to take post-Katrina environmental safety precautions; and of the importance of protecting against future pollution and erosion

Safeguard the levees and waterway system

  • Demand the Army Corps of Engineers build Category 5 levees immediately, starting with the areas most vulnerable to disaster – those whose populations are poorest, least able to afford insurance and most debilitated by the loss of homes and land – and those whose populations have most been forced by economic inequality, the failure of support from government and profiteering of insurance companies to use their own labor and funds to rebuild
  • Demand the closure of MRGO and the restoration of natural protective wetlands
  • Sue the owner of the barge that destroyed portions of the Lower Ninth Ward levee and many Lower Ninth Ward homes for illegally and recklessly docking in the Industrial Canal