No matter how many times I come to New Orleans, the destruction surprises me. But even more surprising is how much work still needs to be done.
I went to New Orleans yesterday to take a good, hard look at Mayor Ray Nagin's "100-day plan" for rebuilding and revitalizing the city.
Today marks day 26, nearly a third of the way into the 100-day plan, and everyone seems to have an opinion about whether or not enough has been done so far. Many people accuse city hall of more inaction than action.
We stopped on a corner in the lower ninth ward where Michael Reed was battling 90-degree heat to fix up his mother's house. Until the storm hit, she had lived there for 49 years. Since Katrina, she has been living in an apartment in Texas. I didn't have to spend more than a minute with Michael to see his frustration.
"That's what politicians do. They throw out a 100-day plan. When that one's over they'll throw out another 100-day plan, so I guess we'll be like that for three or four years. By the time he gets out of office, the next guy will have a 100-day plan," he told me.
In some areas, such as the Lakeview neighborhood, there is some progress. Damaged homes are gutted, with many completely rebuilt. But around nearly every corner there is still a ton of trash, piles of debris that dwarf me, and I'm 5'3".
Rob Couhig, who is heading up the 100-day plan committee, says starting today there is a plan for trash cleanup. He says there is also a plan to get every streetlight operating and every stop sign back upright.
"This is not a magic wand, 100 days. It is to lay the predicate for the next three years," Couhig told me.
Billions of dollars in federal aid are heading to New Orleans, but neither Couhig nor the mayor's office could explain where all that money is going to be spent.
City Councilman Oliver Thomas says crime and housing should be priorities. With just half the population of New Orleans back in the city, crime is reaching pre-storm levels. And people here still don't know which neighborhoods will be rebuilt and when Mayor Nagin will let the public know.
I asked Councilman Thomas what he would do if it was his 100-day plan.
"If it was my 100 day plan, man, you would have the AFL-CIO and their pledge of $1 billion for homes. They'd be out there working right now. ... You would have a job or workforce development plan where residents are being trained in the recovery," he said.
That's his take. What would you do if you had 100 days to get New Orleans going again?