Women of the Storm Delivers “See New Orleans Now” Message to National
Leadership; Urges Aid in Restoring a Sustainable Louisiana Coast to Support
National Economy and Security
Mission: To educate leaders and gain
attention to the scale and breadth of devastation caused in the wake of
Hurricanes Katrina and Rita by inviting all members of Congress and others who
set the national agenda to visit New Orleans and coastal Louisiana to see
first-hand the unprecedented damage, the challenges of rebuilding, the signs of
progress, and how Louisiana’s recovery has direct impact on every state in the
Organization: Women of the Storm, founded
in January, 2006, is a non-political, non-partisan group of diverse women from
metropolitan New Orleans and south Louisiana. The common bond among these women is their passion to rebuild their homes, businesses
and communities. Five months after our country’s largest natural and man-made
disaster - Hurricanes Katrina and Rita - only 12 senators and 25 members of the
House had visited coastal Louisiana to see the scope of the devastation for
themselves. The idea for the group was born around a Thanksgiving table, where
most guests had experienced severe damage to their homes. The concept: if you
want guests to visit your home, you must invite them. Women of the Storm
operates under the umbrella of a 501-c-3 organization; it is managed by a
12-member executive committee. There is no defined membership, per se. Hundreds
of individual women (and men) have indicated their willingness to help; with
the participation of our national partners LINKS, the Junior League, the
Women’s Leadership Initiative of United Way and the National Council of Jewish
Women, hundreds of thousands of women all across the nation are involved.
Congress to Our Region: Some 130 women and accompanying media flew to Washington, D.C., on a
charter flight on January 30, 2006 and again on September 20, 2006 to
hand-deliver invitations to senators and key representative to see first-hand
the devastation (and progress) in New Orleans. During a Capitol Hill news
conference before their Hill visits,
Women of the Storm held
aloft distinctive blue umbrellas, mimicking the blue tarp that covered many New
Orleans houses. About 130 women go to Washington on each trip – the number that
a plane will hold. There is no travel cost to individuals; expenses are covered
Results: Within a few weeks after
the January visit, a Congressional delegation of 36 members of the House of
Representatives, organized by then-Speaker Hastert and then-Minority Leader
Pelosi, came to New Orleans. Once they saw the magnitude of the devastation,
each visitor became an advocate for the people of Louisiana and the Gulf
Coast. That spring, additional
funds were appropriated for Louisiana’s Road Home program. In their September
visit, members of Women of the Storm also carried the message about the
necessity of an immediate, adequate and sustainable revenue stream dedicated to
saving Louisiana’s wetlands, which are disappearing at the rate of one football
field every 50 minutes. The first-ever bill giving the state a portion of
federal royalty revenue from new oil and gas leases drilled off Louisiana (and
other Energy Coast states), funds to be dedicated to coastal restoration,
passed both the Senate and the House hours before the end of the 109th
Congress and was signed into law. By just two votes, it survived an attempted
House maneuver that would have led to its defeat.
Rollcall: As of December 31, 2009, 57
Senators and 149 Representatives have visited since Hurricane Katrina. We
continue to encourage Congress members to visit - and to bring field hearings
to our city.
We plan to return to Capitol Hill to deliver our messages – especially the importance of
rebuilding the fragile and essential Energy Coast as part of a national
infrastructure initiative –to a new Congress and a new Administration. We have
written letters to new members of Congress, personally inviting them to visit
New Orleans for a first-hand look at coastal restoration and hurricane
protection issues. And we have met with Cabinet members who have traveled to
New Orleans, as well as encouraging other Obama Administrations officials to
understand our recovery and continuing needs.
Accomplishments: Among the initiatives we have pursued:
platform policies to and attending the Democratic and Republican conventions
to carry the recovery message from the Gulf Coast, tossing small footballs to
draw attention to coastal restoration needs.
10,000 postcards for volunteers to
send to the Congressional delegations from their home states, encouraging a
visit to New Orleans.
to organize the North American Summit, which brought leaders of Canada,
Mexico and the United States to New Orleans in April.
with Google/YouTube, city and state leaders and four universities in an effort
to sponsor a Presidential Forum at the Morial Convention Center in New Orleans.
While candidates only committed to the three traditional debates, the
effort to attract a Google/YouTube debate strengthened essential partnerships,
brought valuable image and media coverage to the city and boosted morale of our
the 62 newly elected members of Congress to visit. Each new member received a packet of
information from us within a few days of his or her election.
our invitations to the new leadership. Ten of the 16 chairmen of House committees have not visited and six of the 16 leaders
of Senate committees have not come.
It is imperative that they – and the members of their committees – have
first-person experience, because future legislation to assist with the
rebuilding is essential.
national leadership about priority issues, including meeting general
rebuilding needs and providing adequate, sufficient and sustainable
revenues for critical coastal restoration
- Applying to
host a 2008 Presidential Debate. Women of the Storm, in concert with
Dillard, Loyola, Tulane and Xavier universities, prepared a unique proposal to
the Commission on Presidential Debates. Because emergency preparedness,
homeland security and disaster relief must remain part of the national dialogue,
nowhere in America is there a more appropriate spot to discuss such pressing
issues as New Orleans! Seven presidential candidates and national media
including The New York Times, the Washington
Post and TIME Magazine endorsed
our effort. However, the Commission opted instead to hold a 2008 debate in our
neighbor state, at the University of Mississippi in Oxford. We continue to
encourage presidential candidates to visit New Orleans and address these issues
here and elsewhere.
to hold events to attract attention to the area’s needs. On May 31, on the
cusp of the 2007 hurricane season’s beginning, Women of the Storm hosted Storm
Warning III at the Port of New Orleans. The event drew attention to the
importance of New Orleans and Louisiana to every state in the nation,
particularly the 31 states that are linked to the city by the Mississippi River
and its tributaries. One-third of all oil and gas production crosses our coast,
and one-third of all seafood comes from our waters. Louisiana is essential to
national industry, domestic energy security – and good food! Women of the Storm
traveled to Memphis on July 11 and
to Dubuque Sept. 7 of that year, hosting events to demonstrate the connection
between the port cities.
- Working to
focus continuing national media attention on coastal restoration,
infrastructure needs and other issues important to the rebuilding and
reimagining of our region, including conducting tours for editors, publishers,
producers and key reporters, as well as other opinion leaders.
of the Storm will continue its national focus. We refuse to allow the country
and its elected leadership to let the challenges from our nation’s biggest
disaster slip away. No city or community is immune from potential natural or
man-made disasters; the lessons from New Orleans are crucial for the nation.
Web Site: www.womenofthestorm.net
Contact: Anne M. Milling, founder