Citizens serve Governor with subpoena, drop evicted tenants' things at Gov.'s mansion
Thursday, Dec. 08, 2005 at 9:20 AM
Early this morning, a subpoena was served to Governor Kathleen Blanco on behalf of the people of New Orleans and the areas affected by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, charging her with 'dereliction of duty'. An evicted tenants' belongings were placed on the Governor's lawn, along with a sign saying "Governor Blanco, Is this your 'state of normalcy'??" -- referring to a statement the Governor made when she lifted the ban on evictions on Oct. 25. The activists also left a list of demands for Governor Blanco to fulfill.
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THE COURT OF PUBLIC OPINION
THE LOUISIANA SURVIVORS OF HURRICANE KATRINA AND RITA
GOVERNOR KATHLEEN BLANCO
COMPLAINT CHARGING DERELICTION OF DUTY IN HOUSING
PEOPLE AND PROTECTING PROPERTY IN LOUISIANA
The duty of the Governor of any state is to protect the lives and property of that state's citizens. The lives of a great number of Louisiana citizens are in shambles.
The City of New Orleans, the State Government of Louisiana, and the President of the United States were all jointly responsible for dispersing more than half a million people throughout the country, during and after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.
As Governor, you had ultimate state responsibility to protect our people in the face of this danger and you have an equal responsibility to protect them as they try to return to their homes in New Orleans and surrounding areas.
Forces of nature, aggravated by and in combination with governmental decisions on levee protection, were responsible for the flooding that destroyed many thousands of homes in New Orleans and surrounding communities.
Now that the storms have passed, we find that the lives of many of the citizens of this state are totally disrupted. Many of the most vulnerable are living outside the state in temporary housing. Their resources are very limited and they are trying to hold their families together with what little has been provided them. Most are not working now-through no fault of their own.
Work is available here in New Orleans as the homes, streets, businesses and public lands all need extensive clean-up work. Much of this work could be done by our fellow citizens if they were allowed to return home. Many are discouraged from coming back
because of the condition of their former housing units.
Landlords in some of these housing units are taking the law into their own hands and are illegally moving the possessions of their tenants out onto the street.
Not one state official has stood up to these landlords and challenged these evictions.
No law enforcement checks are being made as to who is doing what to these homes.
Louisiana State Government appears to be totally inadequate in helping the citizens of this state to get back to normal. Your leadership as Governor is especially questionable. You have failed to implement rules and regulations that would fit the situation.
People from the New Orleans area through the Common Ground Disaster Relief Organization have now had enough experience identifying some glaring failures of
government that we have decided to serve you this summons.
We are not going to sue you in the state courts or the federal courts, instead we are going to put you on trial in the COURT OF PUBLIC OPINION.
WE CHARGE YOU, GOVERNOR KATHLEEN BLANCO, WITH DERELICTION OF YOUR DUTY AS GOVERNOR OF LOUISIANA.
You are derelict in your duties as follows:
ONE: INADEQUATE HOUSING FOR LOW-INCOME CITIZENS
Much of the available housing stock that could be used to house your citizens who desire to return but have inadequate means to return is sitting empty, and citizens have been told they CANNOT return to perfectly habitable units.
The City of New Orleans currently has thousands of units of currently unoccupied public housing that could fill the needs of families that are now unable to get back into their homes because of this flooding.
Rich and predatory developers have wanted this housing closed down prior to the hurricanes because of their plans to build high-priced condominiums and other high income housing stock. Now, due to the hurricanes, these previously-laid plans are being put into action. Both the state and the city government have assisted in the actions of these developers by preventing the low income residents from returning home, and allowing the public housing units to remain unoccupied until they are shut down and handed over to these developers.
TWO: PRICE GOUGING BY LANDLORDS
Private housing units controlled by for-profit corporations and individuals have been illegally evicting tenants that either stayed or moved back into their apartments that were undamaged by this storm.
Since housing is so hard to come by, the landlords are working only to make as much profit as possible by raising and in some cases even doubling rent. Yet it is the state that gave these corporations permission in the first place to provide a service like housing.
Since the state provided the landlords with this opportunity, the state can establish the conditions under which they operate. In times of emergency those conditions can be imposed as a state of emergency using the powers inherent in your office. You need to
put into place an EMERGENCY RENT CONTROL MEASURE on all private for-profit housing in the state. By freezing the rents at the old rate before the storm you can put a stop to the price-gouging that is being done by landlords right now. This measure will also provide landlords with an incentive to help their former tenants get back into their apartments.
THREE: MASS EVICTIONS OF LOW-INCOME TENANTS
There are many reports of landlords going into unoccupied housing units that belong to tenants that have been scattered far and wide, stealing tenants' possessions, and throwing furniture and possessions in the street. These same tenants are being told not to come back to this area as it is not ready to receive them. You must put an end to this type of looting and destruction of property by landlords. These tenants need to be tracked down and contacted, to find out what the tenants want done with their property. You
need to PUT AN END TO THE "SELF-HELP EVICTION" LOOPHOLE IN LOUISIANA LAW that allows landlords to throw out evacuated tenants' property. This legal loophole is completely inappropriate during a time of disaster such as now, and needs to be suspended. Tenants need to be contacted to determine their intent regarding their rental unit, and if they wish to return once the unit has been rehabilitated, they should be allowed back in without an increase in rent.
Low or no interest loans should be made available to the landlords so that they can refurbish the apartments. Currently, a great deal of undamaged furniture belonging to tenants is being destroyed and put out on the streets without any governmental
supervision. Some of that furniture is recoverable.
RELIEF REQUESTED FROM THE COURT OF PUBLIC OPINION:
HAVING SHOWN CAUSE TO CHARGE YOU WITH DERELICTION OF DUTY, WE NOW PRESENT THE CASE AGAINST YOU TO THE COURT OF PUBLIC OPINION, SO THE CITIZENRY OF THIS STATE AND THE PEOPLE OF THIS NATION MAY MAKE THEIR DECISION ON YOUR CASE.
1) START TAKING CARE OF THE PROPERTY OF CITIZENS OF LOUISIANA:
The Governor's Mansion, where you currently reside, is a temporary subsidized public housing provided to you by the citizens of Louisiana during your term of
office as Governor.
We have brought to this public housing the possessions of _Mrs. X (to be disclosed at a later date when we are assured that property of tenants will be protected by the state) who was illegally evicted by their landlord, in collusion with the Sheriff, while they were evacuated and unable to return. We ask that you, as a public servant of all citizens of the State of
Louisiana, take care of these possessions until their owner is able to return back home to retrieve them, and move back into their home.
We ask the COURT OF PUBLIC OPINION to impose the following demands upon you in order to correct the dereliction of duty as Governor of this State, and we also insist that justice demands you enact the following measures:
2) IMPLEMENT AN EMERGENCY RENT CONTROL MEASURE, FREEZING ALL RENTS IN LOUISIANA AT THEIR PRE-KATRINA LEVELS.
It is unfair and unjust for landlords to profit at the expense of victims of disasters like
Rita and Katrina. This must be stopped.
3) ANNOUNCE AN EMERGENCY MORATORIUM ON “SELF-HELP” EVICTIONS FOR AT LEAST A THREE-YEAR PERIOD.
It is unfair and unjust for landlords to throw people’s property out on the street without first going to court. You are sworn to protect the property of all the people of Louisiana, not just the landlords.
Demand due process and fair treatment for all.
4)MAKE EVERY LANDLORD GO TO COURT AND SERVE LEGAL PAPERS ON THE PERSON BEING EVICTED AND SET ALL EVICTION TRIALS FOR 45 DAYS FROM THE DATE OF THE LANDLORD’S REQUESTS.
A federal judge has already stated that this was fair for Orleans and Jefferson
Parishes – this should be extended statewide to protect everyone.
5)RE-OPEN ALL PUBLIC AND SUBSIDIZED HOUSING IN NEW
ORLEANS AND RESTORE THE 1995 LEVEL OF 14,000 PUBLIC
Any new public housing should involve
extensive involvement of residents to effectively
address the needs, desires and culture.
6)GIVE TEMPORARY RELIEF FROM MORTGAGE PAYMENTS FOR
HOMEOWNERS AND LANDLORDS.
This is necessary so that the entire burden of paying for the housing crisis
caused by the devastation and mismanagement in Katrina and Rita is not borne by the landlords alone.
7)PROTECT THE PROPERTY RIGHTS OF HOMEOWNERS AND RENTERS IN THE LOWER NINTH WARD OF NEW ORLEANS, SO THAT PROPERTY IS NOT DESTROYED / BULLDOZED WITHOUT WRITTEN PERMISSION AND COMPENSATION OF THE
This is only fair and what every renter and homeowner is entitled to under the
Louisiana and US Constitutions. You could ease the fears of thousands of people by making this a part of your proclamation.
Presented by the People and Communities Affected by Katrina and Rita
December 8th, 2005
Russell B. Christensen, Esquire; Volunteer attorney from Maine responding to the disaster
THIS COMPLAINT IS FILED IN THE COURT OF PUBLIC OPINION, SO PLEASE RESPOND TO THE PUBLIC TO WHOM YOU ARE ACCOUNTABLE BY LAW AND JUSTICE
Evicted tenants' belongings on Governor's lawn
Thursday, Dec. 08, 2005 at 9:20 AM
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Tenants' belongings on governor's lawn
Thursday, Dec. 08, 2005 at 9:20 AM
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Demands on Governor
Thursday, Dec. 08, 2005 at 9:20 AM
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