Friday, October 24th, 2014

Hurricane season: Check the barometer and the Obameter

The Pinstripe Brass band plays at the top of a levee to commemorate an earlier anniversary of Hurricane Katrina.
The Pinstripe Brass band plays at the top of a levee to commemorate an earlier anniversary of Hurricane Katrina.

Hurricane Katrina crossed South Florida on Aug. 25, 2005, and then made landfall in New Orleans on Aug. 29. The storm and the subsequent breaks in the city's levees created one of the worst disaster in U.S. history. 

As the anniversary approaches, we are reviewing some of President Barack Obama's campaign promises to help New Orleans and Gulf Coast states recover.

One promise was to "direct revenues from offshore oil and gas drilling to increased coastal hurricane protection." A 2006 law would send more revenues to coastal states for protecting coastlines, but the bulk of the money doesn't reach states until 2017. Sen. Mary L. Landrieu, D-La, has proposed moving up the payment, but it's run into opposition from Senate Energy Committee chairman Jeff Bingham, D-N.M.

Landrieu said she would continue to fight for it, but we ruled it Stalled.

Obama also promised to "ensure that New Orleans has a levee and pumping system to protect the city against a 100-year storm by 2011, with the ultimate goal of protecting the entire city from a Category 5 storm." Although there are some temporary gates and pumps that will have to be replaced eventually, the upgraded levee and pumping system is functionally complete. We rated this a Promise Kept.

Still another promise was to "target tax incentives to lure businesses to the hardest hit areas of the Gulf Coast, including downtown New Orleans and St. Bernard Parish."

Despite bipartisan support for extending tax-free, low interest bonds for businesses beyond the end of 2011, the Senate Finance Committee hasn't yet taken up the extension, so we continue to rate it Stalled.

We'll be posting more updates in coming days. So far, the tally is three Promises Kept, two Compromises, no Promises Broken, three Stalled, five In the Works and two Not yet rated. The promises not rated have to do with steps that the White House would take in the event of a national disaster. In March, 2011, we asked independent experts in disaster recovery whether the 2010 Mississippi flooding, which hit several states -- or any other natural disaster since January 2009 -- would have been far-reaching enough to trigger these promise, their consensus was no.

For our complete list, check our Katrina promises page.