Local disputes such as one stewing in New Orleans are holding up the placement of thousands of temporary trailer homes for Hurricane Katrina evacuees, according to the head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
The Associated Press reported that acting FEMA director R. David Paulison’s remarks came as Mayor Ray Nagin was telling reporters that his emergency powers will allow him to bypass a City Council ordinance requiring approval from individual council members before the federal government can place trailer parks for hurricane evacuees in their districts.
“I’m not going to get involved in local politics,” Paulison told The Associated Press. “All I can say is we have a lot of mobile homes and travel trailers ready to install, and the city and the mayor need to let us know where they want them.”
FEMA said only eight of Louisiana’s 64 parishes are allowing the agency to establish trailer parks with no significant restrictions. Thirty-two have said no, and another 24 have set various restrictions. Some of the restrictions, Paulison said are unreasonable, such as a requirement that only evacuated parish residents be allowed to live in there.
He said almost every other state has taken in Hurricane Katrina evacuees. “I don’t know why the parishes won’t let their own Louisiana neighbors come in until they get their lives back together,” he said.
Nagin had vetoed the City Council ordinance but council members unanimously overrode the veto, arguing that individual district council members know best where trailer parks should be placed within their districts.
“At the end of the day, with the powers that the city charter gives to me and the state has given to me, I have the final say,” Nagin said. He said he does not expect the matter to end up in court.
He also said that far more residents are living outside the city and want to come back than are living inside the city and opposing a trailer park location. “They’re not very sympathetic to `Not in my back yard,'” he said.
Gov. Kathleen Blanco does not plan to use her emergency authority to bypass the council, according to a spokesman.
In New Orleans, FEMA has said it has identified 22 suitable park sites for almost 3,000 trailers. That is in addition to trailers that FEMA can place on individual lots where homeowners can live while their houses are repaired.
Statewide FEMA has placed more than 16,000 travel trailers and mobile homes on home lots, commercial sites for employers or on group sites in the state. In addition, a FEMA spokeswoman said there are 16,000 mobile homes and 15,000 travel trailers awaiting placement.