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Faulty Memory
Chocolate City!!!! Since when has New Orleans been considered a Chocolate City? I was born and raised in New Orleans, and I never knew we were the birthplace of Hershey. I thought we were "the birth-place of jazz." I thought we had a rich Voodoo Culture.

I thought we were a city that invited everyone to participate in the Mardi Gras holiday. I thought we were a city that you not only visited for the attractions but the food. I thought we were a city made up of Cajuns, Creoles and others. I thought we were a city proud of ourdiversity. Have we forgotten where we come from? Did Katrina wash away not only our homes but our memories as well?

The New Orleans I remember celebrated life. Growing up in New Orleans, I saw Dragons pass down the halls of my elementary school during Chinese New Year. I sung the National Black Anthem every day during Black History Month. I performed in the Cinco de Mayo celebration. Growing up in New Orleans, I have seen the beauty of a jazz funeral, and I have danced at the Jazz Fest. I have celebrated strawberries, crawfish, tomatoes and shrimp festivalsall over the parish. I have raved at State Palace and I have second-lined on the streets of the Quarter.

I am New Orleans and I am not black, I am not white, and I am definitely not chocolate. I am a resident who sees my community in pain and wonders if my children will ever get to experience even half of the culture that made New Orleans great. I am writing this message to every person in New Orleans. Please don't let thepoliticians tell you that this is a raceissue when they haven't even been able to tell us if we can rebuild on our land. Ihave seen the discrimination in NewOrleans, and it is not due to the color of our skin but the size of our pockets. The rich and powerful are the ones who are being protected. And now our poor andour elderly who were left behind are now being exploited.

Katrina exposed many of the problemsthat we were facing in New Orleans. Problems that are not unique to New Orleans, but due to the disaster have now been exposed to our country. This exposure needs to be used in a positive manner. New Orleans can become an example of rebirth. A rebirth for the better, one thatnot only brings back the rich heritage of New Orleans culture but also takes the time to address the issues that in thepast have held us back. Now is the time for us to rebuild our Levees to Cat-5 level protection! Now is the time for us to make an invitation to all business looking for a home in the South! Now is the time for us to upgrade our school systems! Now is the time to make sure that our poor are really getting the assistance they need! Now isthe time we enact programs to make sure our respected elderly are protectedduring any emergency. If we are goingto rebuild, let us rebuild a greater citythan before.

While the administration looks for blame and assigns committees, let us stand upas a community and work together with our hearts, our hands, and most importantly our spirit to make our city one ofthe most envied places to live in America. Be encouraged, New Orleans. It is time to pick ourselves up and begin the healing process today.

Katie

Absentee Leadership
Nagin was not there for the City of New Orleans for the hurricane, and he certainly is not there for the City of New Orleans after making those stupid comments in that stupid voice of his. He is like a cameleon who changes when it suits his needs.

Well I think he has fried his political goose this time. If this had been a white person saying this you know what would have happened? That person would have been interviewed by every network: NBC, CBS, ABC and CNN, and made to apologize publicly for the comments. Nagin must have lost his mind when he said, "God is mad because of the war in Iraq." Where in the functioning part of his brain did this comment come from? This man does not need to be re-elected mayor of New Orleans.

Annette Valence

(Editor's note: Nagin voluntarily went before major network affiliates and did, in fact, apologize for his comments.)

For Shame, Ray

The whole world watched after Katrina and were shocked that a city in the United States of America had such poverty. We looked like a Third World country. And this is what Nagin is proud of!? He should be hanging his head and looking for ways to rebuild, bring back commerce and improve the City of New Orleans. Instead he has focused on race. Nagin should be thrown out of office. Nothing has been accomplished by his statement that New Orleans will be a "chocolate" city again except for expanding the gap between blacks and whites. Shame on him! He has proven time after time that he is not a leader. This country, as well as the City of New Orleans, does not need a racist as our leader.

For the first time in my life I am ashamed to call New Orleans my home.

Jeanette Sander

Proper Sourcing, Please

Re: "Why Stop at Levee Boards?" commentary, Jan. 10:

Your suggestions regarding the consolidation of state and local governmental bodiesin the wake of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, while having significant merit, could leavethe poor and uninsured of Louisiana without even the hole-filled health care safety netwe have now.

You suggest that "Louisiana has spentbillions over the years on public hospitals that don't produce healthier populations." What you used as a source to make such a statement is unknown to the reader. What I know is as aperson whose own life was saved by the Rev. Avery C. Alexander Charity Hospital -- and whose affiliated Robert Hamilton Coumadin Clinic kept me from having another strokeuntil the week before Katrina hit and was the excuse for permanently closing this one-ofa-kind facility. A fairer comparison would be to contrast how much the current alternative -- private hospitals -- spends per patientwith similar outcomes when compared to the Charity Hospital system. In my experiencenow as an advocate of the uninsured andmedically indigent, the Charity Hospital system, dollar per dollar, does far better.

I agree that a "timeless turf battle between the medical schools at Tulane and LSU has consistently hamstrung what used to (just)be Charity Hospital." Indeed, as noted inrecent weeks by other concerned letterwriters to your paper, that same LSU system seems bent upon killing off the CharityHospital system's keystone complex, despitethe heroic efforts of doctors, nurses, engineers and military personnel that went into Big Charity to clean it up fully -- only to be forced away and barred from re-entry.

You suggest that "our public hospital system was not set up to deal with the common ailments of poor citizens." Actually, there was a comprehensive shift away from exclusive emergency room care for patients with such illnesses for more than a decade -- until it was gutted with the $60 million cut of the Charity system budget by LSU in 2003 -- forcing the closure of scores of outpatient clinics and forever burdening Charity's vaunted trauma unit with less urgent medical cases.

You derisively dismiss "indigents simply (using) Charity as the neighborhood health clinic, thereby placing excessive demands on the hospital's shrinking resources." Yet just where do you suggest that medically indigent Louisianians go for needed healthcare? Like it or not, Charity is/was the only option available. Adults ages 18-64 without permanent disability or dependents do not qualify for Louisiana Medicaid, the traditional source of health care funding for the poor in other states. And as if to answer your original question, leaving people with "common ailments" unattended surely will result in the need for more expensive emergency room urgent care.

The problem of the uninsured is not going away. Despite the forced exile of tens of thousands of New Orleans' medically indigent -- statewide official estimates increase the number of uninsured Louisianiansfrom over 800,000 before Katrina to overone million after.

Your proposal to "regionalize statehospitals -- and give each its own tax base" will doom the remaining Charity Hospital safety net rather than enhance it. Theproposal does not take into account two key facets of the current reality: 1) The near-wholesale lack of private employer coverage for workers, with no mandates to require or to give incentives for such coverage; and 2) The effective dissolution of New Orleans' tax base because of Hurricane Katrina for years to come.

The Shreveport Charity Hospital isworthy of emulation. And there could be some significant governmental reforms in the administration of the system. Whydo we even need the Department ofHealth and Hospitals, unless we remove the Charity Hospital system from theexclusive orbit of Louisiana State University -- affording more equitably the systemand its patients to not only LSU but Tulane, Delgado, etc.

Louisiana's Charity Hospital systempredates federal Medicare and Medicaid. It provided the emulation for which our wealthy country could more equitably share its wealth. Louisiana officials and citizens in the wake of this disasterous hurricane season are looking to othercountries like the Netherlands for guidance in strengthening our communities from catastrophic flooding brought forthby such storms. Might it be possible to also look to other countries for models of healthcare that make it affordable anduniversal for all citizens -- truly affording everyone quality and comprehensive healthcare. Americans clamor Canadians for cheap prescriptions -- yet this is just one byproduct of their progressive system for which everyone including the indigent are covered at a cost comparison dollarper dollar more efficiently and affordably than any other American public or private health provider system.

In contemplating the otherwise worthy task of governmental consolidation which your editorial laid forth in several areas,you might re-read the outstanding article in the same Jan. 10 issue ("The Art of Charity," by D. Eric Bookhardt). Quoting from thearticle: "Charity has for ages been an important part of this city's social and aesthetic fabric. ... Overall the building (and I suggest the entire system) is a monument to Louisiana people and the social safetynet pioneered by Huey Long, Franklin Roosevelt and the Daughters of Charity nuns. ... New Orleans wouldn't be the same without it."

K. Brad Ott
Co-Chair, Care For The Uninsured Subcommittee Region 1 Healthcare Consortium

(Editor's Note: In suggesting that the state's Charity Hospital System be overhauled, we did not intend to give the impression that health care services for the poor would be diminished or that the quality or availability of such services would decline. The opposite, in fact, is what he hope to see in a regional Charity system. Neighborhood clinics would be a vital part of such a health care delivery system because they would reduce the demand on Charity's emergency room.)

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