Video: News Orleans focuses on rebuilding

By Martin Savidge Correspondent
NBC News
updated 1/12/2006 7:26:32 PM ET 2006-01-13T00:26:32

Most people in New Orleans didn’t even know President George W. Bush was here. They were too focused on the rebuilding plan, either the city’s or their own.

The line for building permits stretched through city hall Thursday, even as New Orleans' proposed recovery plan seeks to temporarily ban rebuilding in heavily-flooded areas.

It’s a clear indication most folks don’t put much stock in the ban or the plan.

“I should have the right to come back in my home,” says Margaret Tolliver, a resident of the Gentilly neighborhood in New Orleans.  “Rebuild it, remodel it or whatever,” she adds, “that right should be my right.”

Under the proposal, Margaret Tolliver, whose home flooded to the roof, should wait until her Gentilly neighborhood counts up who’s coming back. She’s already done that and points out neighbors planning to return. Tolliver thinks the city wants her neighborhood to fail. The light pouring from wealthier communities, as she sits in the dark, tells her so.

“Wouldn’t that be an encouragement to at least give me street lights?” Tolliver asks.

Like many in New Orleans lower-income neighborhoods, she believes the city is simply stalling until it uses its eminent domain powers.

“I see it as plainly as taking poor people’s property,” she says.

Roland Adams is just ignoring the plan. He’s already fixing up his Lakeview home, a neighborhood where the people earn more and the street lights shine. The neighborhood’s wealth makes him certain it’s not wasted work.

“People are gonna come and spend more money than they did before,” Adams says, “I think we’re gonna end up, really, a more exclusive area than it was prior to the storm.”

One plan, two neighborhoods: Roland Adams is already reclaiming his part of the American dream, while Margaret Tolliver fears she’s going to lose hers.

“I’ve done everything that America has asked me to do,” Tolliver says, choking up. “I’ve raised three children independently, without federal assistance, I paid for a home.”

In front of her home Tolliver has placed a guardian angel. She thinks she’s going to need it.

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