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Plans, Progress and Initiatives

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 nation.

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.

Inviting 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 through donations.

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.

Current Emphasis: 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.

Organizational Accomplishments: Among the initiatives we have pursued:

  • Submitting 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.
  • Preparing 10,000 postcards for volunteers to send to the Congressional delegations from their home states, encouraging a visit to New Orleans.
  • Helping to organize the North American Summit, which brought leaders of Canada, Mexico and the United States to New Orleans in April.
  • Working 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 citizens.
  • Encouraging 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.
  • Reiterating 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.
  • Educating 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.
  • Continuing 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.

Women 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 Sitewww.womenofthestorm.net
:  Anne M. Milling, founder
email: amilling@bellsouth.net                                                           

©2016 Women of the Storm