BR Mayor Blasts Chertoff, State & Federal Evacuation Plans - WAFB 9 News Baton Rouge, Louisiana News, Weather, Sports

BR Mayor Blasts Chertoff, State & Federal Evacuation Plans

EBR Mayor-President Kip Holden EBR Mayor-President Kip Holden

A member of President Bush's cabinet is coming under severe fire from Baton Rouge Mayor-President Kip Holden. Holden says it's time Homeland Security Director Michael Chertoff recognize that Baton Rouge cannot handle any more evacuees.

WAFB's Julie Baxter reports Holden blasted Chertoff Monday over federal plans to evacuate thousands more to Baton Rouge in future storms -- with no money or help with housing and care for those people.

Mayor Holden says Washington just isn't listening to Baton Rouge -- that the Capitol City cannot again house 5,000 new evacuees at the River Center. 

"I hope Mr. Chertoff doesn't have to go see the Wizard of Oz and get a heart and a brain," quipped Mayor Holden, "because the situation here is very critical."

Holden says any 35 to 40 mile per hour wind will require evacuating FEMA trailer parks, and he says the River Center plan last year was only supposed to help EBR schools when their gymnasiums overflowed with evacuees.  

"We had to close government last year because you can't have 6,000 or 7,000 people walking on the street, through the garages and everything else," explained Mayor Holden. "People could not come to work. We can't afford to close government any more."

Holden says right now he's prepared to put 3,500 people from Renaissance village and other FEMA trailer parks inside the River Center in the event of a storm; but he says the City of New Orleans and state and federal officials have already decided amongst themselves that thousands more evacuees will come to Baton Rouge as well. Mayor Holden says he has no idea where he'll put those people.

Holden says it was just this month that Baton Rouge learned of a signed contract already in place to use Amtrak trains to evacuate 5,000 evacuees -- including special needs patients -- to Hammond and to a swelling Baton Rouge. 

And the bulge of Baton Rouge is showing up in the numbers:

  • sales taxes up 19% from Katrina thru June,
  • 2000 new businesses registered this year,
  • utility and fuel receipts are up 25%,
  • 911 calls are up 21%,
  • the number of traffic tickets issued is up 92% thru March
  • and the number of criminal cases filed is up 35% thru May. 

"What we're saying to the federal government is, ‘the glass of Baton Rouge and East Baton Rouge parish has overflowed,'" according to Holden.

Mayor Holden's office says East Baton Rouge Parish has billed FEMA $27 million for Katrina-related expenses.  FEMA still owes the parish some $3 million. 

Reporter: Julie Baxter jbaxter@wafb.com

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