Just in case you missed it: A fascinating and sobering feature ran a few days ago on National Public Radio on promises vs. reality in rebuilding New Orleans.

As Dave notes in his Top Five of 2005, a big facet of the Katrina story is how unprepared we are for climate disasters. Daniel Zwerdling’s report from New Orleans suggests that’s sinking in at the local level in The Big Easy, despite Bush administration attempts at spin. Walter Maestri, the man who runs emergency operations in New Orleans’ biggest suburb, Jefferson Parish, where there was a major levee failure, doubts that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers can fulfill their promise that the levees will be rebuilt — properly — in time for 2006’s hurricanes. In fact, his whole sense of who and what he can believe has been upended:

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The Army Corps took decades to design and build the New Orleans levee system — and that system failed in spectacular ways. Given that fact, Maestri questions how the Corps can assert that they already know how to fix those past mistakes. Pointing to a new steel wall that the Corps is erecting along the 17th Street Canal, Maestri notes that similar walls crumpled like tin foil during Katrina along other parts of the levee.

“We really felt all along that the Corps was a group that we could absolutely trust,” Maestri says. “They wouldn’t do sloppy work, or allow sloppy work. They realized that this community basically lives and dies on the strength of those levees. Now, what’s happened — it’s like finding out that your mother lied to you all the years of your life.”

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