January 28, 2007

Rebuilding New Orleans: Progress Report from the Trenches

January 23, 2007: Rotarians were given a first-hand progress report from New Orleans by one of our own members, Bonnie Lester. Lester, who is with ICF Consulting, is a Project Manager for The Road Home project, which was created to get Louisiana residents back into their homes as quickly as possible. This program is the largest of its kind in U.S. history. Bonnie updated us on the progress of recovery efforts in this coastal area, which was devastated by Hurricane Katrina on August 29, 2005 and the subsequent collapse of the levees in New Orleans. The area most affected was the New Orleans Standard Metropolitan Statistical Area (SMSA).

Overall, Lester stated that recovery efforts are slow but taking place. 780,000 people were displaced, and the population of the City of New Orleans has decreased by 400,000 people since the storm. Most of the displaced have relocated to Texas (Houston, Austin), Memphis and Atlanta. 123,000 homes were damaged severely as a result of the storm, and many of these still have not been repaired or rebuilt. In fact, many areas of town still do not have power, and no means to get it until the State of Louisiana steps in with economic development funding. The demand for repair is so high that many people are taking the repairs into their own hands, even having to raise houses using their original structures. But neighborhoods are coming together to accomplish this with a great sense of community. Lester showed us many pictures of the devastation, but said it is hard to comprehend the scale unless you are on the ground to witness it firsthand.

Lester also updated us on the progress of the rebuilding of Warren Easton High School, a school with which our Club has been intimately involved. The school opened in August 2006 with 792 students learning in 23 classrooms. This is in contrast to the 1,500 who were registered before the storm, but Lester said there were an additional 1,000 on the wait list. The school is pushing forward with high spirits, but there are a few things they would like to have: a football team , uniforms for the marching band (who will march in this year's Mardi Gras parade), and new printers for their donated computers. They also need a kitchen for the school's cafeteria. The Principal of Warren Easton is hopeful for the future of her school, despite the fact that she does not even have power to her own house. She believes that the economic drivers for the city, such as infrastructure and jobs, need to be in place for growth and revitalization to occur. This truly embodies the spirit of the citizens of New Orleans and the commitment that many have for restoring the City back to its original glory. Please consider helping out! (See announcement below.) For more information on The Road Home, please visit www.road2la.org.

Submitted by Amy Riley, Keyway Committee Chair

January 17, 2007


January 16, 2007: A change of venue brought the club to the beautiful new Burke High School, located adjacent to The Citadel campus. Our host was Principal Charles Benton who extended greetings and invited all to a student play, "You the Jury" to be held Jan. 20th at 8 PM and Jan. 21st at 4 PM.

Supt. Maria Goodloe-Johnson then introduced Dean Fran Welch of the School of Education at the College of Charleston who told that when Burke was in danger of being taken over by the state, The College of Charleston, joined by 35 partners, stepped in to retain local control. Three teams are now working side by side, college and school: Teacher/Learning is headed by Juanita Middleton; Teacher-Coach at Burke High School; Community Outreach is headed by Dr. Andrew Lewis, professor of Physical Education at the college; Research Team is headed by Dr. Steven Thomas, formally professor at UCSC.

Coach Middleton told that the Teacher/Learning strand focuses on English, Math, Science and Social Studies, with study groups that include teachers, students, and parents in each area. Advanced Placement classes have been established in History, English and Calculus.

A locally prepared video presentation featured teachers from the college and the high school telling of their goals and inspirations for the success of the program. With a fusion of faculty, students parents and community a true partnership exists.

Submitted by Fred Sales, Keyway Committee

January 14, 2007

A Conversation with Phil Lader

January 9, 2007: Happy New Year! After two weeks of not meeting, Rotarians were treated to a special conversation with Phil Lader, statesman, businessman, and fellow South Carolinian as a partner with Nelson Mullins law firm. Ambassador Lader serves on multiple boards and as a Trustee for many universities, and has served as White House Deputy Chief of Staff and Deputy Director of OMB. Not the least of which was his service to our country as U.S. Ambassador to the Court of St. James from 1997 through 2001.

Ambassador Lader requested that he not give a speech, since he knew so many in our Club, but rather answer some questions posed by the Club. He gave his thoughts on topics ranging from the 2008 Presidential election (strong candidates in both parties, Hillary Clinton has the ability to raise the $100 million needed to contend), to the globalization of public relations firms (companies have to think and act more locally like Coca-Cola), to real estate predictions worldwide ("no particular confidence," although demographics and interest rates may no longer be the sole factors influencing real estate any longer).

When asked how South Carolina can prosper in a global economy, Lader was very serious about the state of our educational system in South Carolina. He stated that the state has historically been capital-poor, and that if we are able to compete in any economy, we need to invest more in our educational system. He used the example of Silicon Valley as a success story of investment in education because of Stanford University. He also cited the study conducted by Professor Michael Porter of Harvard University and the Monitor Group on South Carolina's competitiveness, which found that our state's capital and education infrastructure need to catch up, and that higher education institutions (College of Charleston, Citadel, et al) need more funding for research or the burden of funding will fall solely on Clemson and the University of South Carolina.

Ambassador Lader also shared his geopolitical concerns of the world. He stated that North Korea has been a national concern for us since his years with the Clinton Administration, and still continues to be a threat, although not perceived as much as one by the general public. Also, he feels economic security is equally as important as military security, and that the U.S. needs to get away from the financing of our debt by China . Good advice from a humble man so deeply entrenched in global matters and finance.

Submitted by Amy Riley, Keyway Committee Chair