By SHELIA BYRD
Associated Press Writer
JACKSON, Miss. (AP) - A Hurricane Katrina survivor and an event
honoring heroes of the storm are among ways Democrats will use
their national convention to remind voters of the nation's worst
natural disaster and the federal government's fumbled response.
Katrina will be bookmarked as a low point in Republican
President George W. Bush's administration. Democrats want to
capitalize on that when theyl officially choose Barack Obama as
their presidential nominee at the convention in Denver.
Mississippi Democratic Party spokesman Terry Cassreino said a
changing of the guard in the White House could expedite storm
"It's incredibly important," Cassreino said. "We've got a
three-year anniversary coming up next week. If you take a look at
the Mississippi Gulf Coast today, there's still an awful lot to be
done. There are people who cannot return home or rebuild their
houses. Businesses are shuttered."
Margie Perez, a 43-year-old New Orleans funk and blues singer,
will deliver a speech Monday night at the convention, recounting
her struggles after Katrina decimated the Louisiana city. She'll
also talk about meeting Obama a few years ago at the Musician's
Village in New Orleans, where she moved after storm.
Perez said she left New Orleans before Katrina struck in August
2005, escaping the storm but losing her home. She had been renting
the first floor of a house that was inundated by 7 feet of water.
She said the storm and its aftermath "can't be ignored and it
won't be ignored, which is a great thing. The focus of my speech is
on New Orleans, but the whole Gulf Coast needs the attention."
More than 1 million people were displaced by Katrina in
Louisiana and Mississippi. A series of missteps by the Federal
Emergency Management Agency followed. It was several days before
aid reached evacuees stranded in the New Orleans Superdome and
thousands of people were housed in travel trailers with high levels
And protests continue over the U.S. Housing and Urban
Development approving Mississippi's plan to divert $600 million
from a housing fund to a port project, even though some 7,100
people are still in temporary quarters.
Katrina is part of the proposed Democratic Party platform that
will be adopted during the convention.
"When the winds blew and the floodwaters came, we learned that
for all of wealth and power, something wasn't right with
Washington. Our government's response during Hurricane Katrina is a
national shame - and yet three years later, the government has
still failed to keep its promise to rebuild," that party said in
its platform proposal.
On Sunday, the convention will hold a reception to honor
organizations assisting to in the coastal recovery, including Oxfam
America and Friends of New Orleans.
Derrick Johnson, president of the Mississippi NAACP, sees the
convention as an opportunity to restart discussions about Katrina
recovery and the poverty the storm exposed.
"I don't think it's been talked about enough," Johnson said.
Johnson said he assumed the Katrina-related events at the
convention is the Democratic Party's way of "sending a message it
would be for citizens first in their decision and policy
priorities, which is a step in the right direction."
Cory Adair, the political director of the Mississippi Republican
Party, said there won't be many Katrina-themed events at the GOP's
national convention next month in St. Paul, Minn., where John
McCain will become the official presidential nominee.
Adair said Katrina will be a topic of discussion, but on a more
"The message that we're taking regarding Katrina is, 'Sure, it
was the greatest national disaster in history, but we handled it
with a sense of teamwork and are optimistic about how we'll
continue to rebuild the coast,"' Adair said.