Immediately following President Bush’s address to the nation on the Katrina aftermath, MSNBC-TV's Rita Cosby gathered first reactions from the scene. St. Bernard's Parish resident Sheriff Jack Stephens, New Orleans City Councilmen Oliver Thomas, New Orleans business owner Roy Glapion, Chief Deputy U.S. Marshall Dave Dimmitt
all shared their thoughts.
RITA COSBY, HOST, 'LIVE AND DIRECT’: Let's get reaction, because all of you were watching the speech with me. Sheriff Jack Stephens, you're from St. Bernard's Parish, the area probably one of the most hardest hit. Why were you disappointed with the president's speech?
SHERIFF JACK STEPHENS, ST. BERNARD PARISH: I think the president is a sincere man, and he meant what he said. But if he can move the federal bureaucracy to respond to the urgency that this area is in, it'll be a miracle. We haven't seen that so far. Remember, he declared this area a disaster a day before it was a disaster, and we didn't get help for almost eight days down here.
Now, once the help shows up they respond well. But honestly, Rita, we haven't seen any evidence that there’s an open mind and that the feds are thinking large about this. And frankly, they signed contracts a day before the storm came ashore with companies that aren't even domiciled...
COSBY: So you're saying it's not getting down to your area, what he's talking about?
STEPHENS: It's absolutely not getting down here.
COSBY: He also talked about electricity. And you let out a big laugh, because he said electricity is essentially restored.
STEPHENS: It's restored by portable generators that we have to our buildings. It's not restored by any public system. It probably won't be for six to eight months in our jurisdiction.
We have 30,000 homes in St. Bernard. About 95 percent of those are lost.
COSBY: I saw a lot of them, unfortunately, a lot of damage.
Councilman Oliver Thomas, City Council president here in New Orleans, you were shaking your head a lot too.
OLIVER THOMAS, NEW ORLEANS CITY COUNCIL PRESIDENT: Well, I think the president gave a great speech, but will Congress adopt the president's speech? Will they make a long-term appropriation and funding commitment to this region? Just like the sheriff said, how can you be serious about restoration when most of the companies are not from Louisiana? Most of the companies are not from our region?
The president talked about a second line. Well, we don't want that second line to be a jazz funeral that says all of the money and all of the businesses and all of the opportunity is second line, and marched right out of our communities. So we don't want that second line to be a jazz funeral or a burial.
I hope that Congress commits, and our local leaders make Congress commit to major funding for this region.
COSBY: Let me bring in Roy Glapion, because you're one the businessmen that in fact he's talking about. You have got a company, but you're worried you are not going to see any of the good things the president talked about.
ROY GLAPION, NEW ORLEANS BUSINESS OWNER: Not only am I worried, but right now I'd say most of New Orleans, the New Orleans businesspeople are located in Baton Rouge right now. And we're really scratching our heads to find out how are we going to get any opportunities? I believe the money is out there, but there's not a connection between my firm and other firms and how can we engage? There have been five major contracts that have been let so far. Only one has been given to a Louisiana-based company. We need some type of mechanism in place where we can engage those contracts.
COSBY: What did you make also of the president essentially saying if you put money on it, it's going to heal racism?
GLAPION: This is not exactly true. I don't think this is about racism. This is about the color green. That's the most important color right now.
GLAPION: Absolutely. And there are firms right now, black firms, white firms, and Hispanic firms, all of the above, who are looking for opportunities right now. Local firms who are struggling to make ends meet. Our businesses have been destroyed, and for the first time, we have more money than we've ever seen, and we have the technology and the talent to get it done. We just don't have a mechanism to connect the dots between the money and opportunities for our businesses.
COSBY: Well, I certainly hope you get it. Also one of the big focuses while I've been here basically on the street tonight it's the reporters and law enforcement. And I want to bring in Dave Dimmitt with the U.S. Marshals' Service. You guys have been doing a great job. I see you and the 82nd on the street. What is your biggest challenge now?
DAVE DIMMITT, CHIEF DEPUTY U.S. MARSHAL: I suppose our biggest challenge now would be to continue to organize all the elements, the state, the local, the federal, the military. And concerting all of our resources in the right direction, so we're not duplicating each other. That's begun with the joint operation command where the various sheriffs’ departments, parishes, the state, the local, the federal are all combining together.
For example, in the fifth district, D.E.A., Marshall Service are patrol that. D.E.A. does days. Marshall Service does nights. So, we're maintaining 24-hour coverage.
COSBY: A lot of juggling acts. You've done a great job on the streets. In fact, the streets are quite calm thanks to these guys, and also all the local folks who have been doing a big part.
Watch 'Rita Cosby Live & Direct' each night at 9 p.m. ET on MSNBC.