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Candidates slam Bush, promise funds for Gulf Coast rebuilding

Candidates slam Bush, promise funds for Gulf Coast rebuilding

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton once again criticized President George W. Bush and the Federal Emergency Management Agency for their response to Hurricane Katrina, re-emphasizing her plan for Gulf Coast recovery.
Clinton said it remained "an American obligation" to rebuild the region, even as the second anniversary of Katrina arrives Wednesday with swaths of New Orleans vacant and bureaucracy choking federal and state assistance designed to help victims of the disaster.
The New York Democrat, joining three other presidential candidates Monday at the Hope & Recovery Summit at the University of New Orleans, said: "It should be hope, recovery, and results. And we need to start delivering on those results."
She received loud applause from local residents who have heard speeches _ and campaign promises _ from several presidential hopefuls at commemorative events throughout the city. Earlier, Democratic rival John Edwards used the same podium to outline his vision for the rebirth of New Orleans. California Rep. Duncan Hunter, a Republican presidential hopeful, spoke after Clinton. Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois visited the city Sunday.
Clinton did not add much to ideas she outlined during a visit to New Orleans in May. But she pledged to support the reconstruction and strengthening of the levees that protect New Orleans, a project that some estimate could cost up to $40 billion (euro29.3 billion).
"It's just going to be sending more money after bad money if we don't get this right," she said, promising levee reconstruction designed to withstand a Category 5 storm, the most powerful.
Amber Wilkerson, a spokeswoman for the Republican National Committee, responded, "Hillary Clinton continues to politicize another national tragedy with her criticisms of the federal government's response to Katrina."
Edwards earlier outlined a six-point plan to spur the recovery of New Orleans.
A crowd of about 200 people cheered the former North Carolina senator's most provocative proposal, a "Brownie's Law" that would ensure that federal political appointees are qualified for their jobs.
The reference is to former FEMA Director Michael Brown, who resigned amid outcry toward his agency's response to the disaster. President Bush publicly told the director "Brownie, you're doing a heck of a job" even as evacuees remained trapped in the Louisiana Superdome and bodies bloated in the streets.
"It was a tragedy to have people that are essentially political hacks" occupying critical governmental positions, Edwards said.
Edwards' plan also calls for federal funding for 500 new police officers, full scholarships for nurses who commit to working in New Orleans and increased funding to the state's stalled Road Home housing program. He said he will also appoint a chief recovery officer to fast-track rebuilding as well as a special Gulf Coast inspector general to ensure funds are spent properly.
Wilkerson, referring to Edwards' reported $16 million investment in Fortress Investment Group, said, "While this administration was committing unprecedented resources to rebuild the Gulf Coast, John Edwards was working for a hedge fund that was foreclosing on residents who couldn't afford to make their payments." Edwards promised to cut financial ties to the company, which sued to foreclose on 34 New Orleans homeowners victimized by Katrina.
Earlier Monday, Republican candidate Mike Huckabee said the federal government's response to Hurricane Katrina was marked by a lack of leadership and planning. He said guilt after the storm meant money was poured into the disaster area _ but not necessarily in the best way.
Huckabee, a former governor of Arkansas, decried the bureaucracy that has stalled the recovery of New Orleans. He said the government needed to put "people first, paperwork next in a disaster the size of Katrina."
New Orleans' recovery from the storm has been hampered by red tape as officials try to ensure that billions of federal dollars being sent to the area are spent properly. But critics have charged that the accountability procedures are keeping money from getting to individuals and neighborhoods that need it most.
The city's population continues to grow _ now estimated at about 270,000 out of the pre-Katrina level of 455,000.
But Huckabee said about half the 75,000 Louisiana residents who fled to Arkansas are still there, and he thinks they will stay there because of job opportunities, stability and the need to get away from the storm's trauma.
Events marking the second anniversary of the storm are planned through the week in the New Orleans area and on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. Bush plans to visit both areas on Wednesday.
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Associated Press Writer Becky Bohrer contributed to this story.


Updated : 2021-06-17 17:57 GMT+08:00