March 31, 2006
Reported by Pam Dixon
Governor Kathleen Blanco and a group of Louisiana lawmakers climbed aboard three charter buses for a day long tour of Calcasieu, Cameron and Vermilion parishes, areas hit hard by Hurricane Rita. Blanco says, "You'll have new ambassadors telling your story and I think that's the importance of bringing legislators here."
About two dozen of the state's 143 house and senate members made the trip, along with the governor's staff members and other decision makers. Blanco says, "We still don't have money from Washington, but we are working to make sure as soon as we can release the money that it will go in the right places in the hands of people who really need it." For house speaker Joe Salter of Florien, this was his third time seeing the area. Salter says, "We continually need to know what the needs are and relay that to our congressional delegation and president."
The delegation stopped in Cameron for an update on recovery from Cameron officials. Clifton Hebert says, "To date we have cleaned up right at 1900 private properties." Ernie Broussard says, "Cameron is a signature community that is waiting to recover." Cameron Parish Administrator Tina Horn says, "Cameron people are tough. They are going to rebuild."
The governor also greeted groups of Americorps and church volunteers from across the country, some of whom who gave up their spring break to help in the recovery. Blanco says, "It's been a beautiful thing to have citizens of the United States answer that call."
Blanco is counting on the tour to remind legislators that Rita's destruction shouldn't be overshadowed by Katrina. Blanco says, "Here in Louisiana we think of devastation as devastation whether it be Rita or Katrina. Every time I go to Washington I say all my people have to be treated in the same fashion." The governor is hoping another tour through hurricane ravaged areas of Southwest Louisiana will help cure the nation's case of Rita amnesia.
Blanco took a similar tour with lawmakers to see Katrina's aftermath in Orleans and St. Bernard Parishes.