Bush sees 'a lot of work to be done'
Congress is at work on a hurricane-relief measure to rebuild the city's levees.
NEW ORLEANS (AP) -- Six months after Hurricane Katrina, President Bush got a close-up look Wednesday at the mountains of debris, the abandoned homes and the boarded-up businesses that are shocking reminders of the "pain and agony" New Orleans endures still.
In the devastated Lower Ninth Ward, few residents were around to tell Bush how they felt. But two young women held up a sign for his motorcade that said, "Where's my government?" Farther up the road, a man waved a flattened cardboard box on which he had written, "Pres. cut the red tape and help us."
The president scaled down the enthusiastic assessment he made on his last trip to New Orleans in January, when he suggested this city would be a great place for Americans to bring their families and have their conventions. This time, Bush discussed the hard work ahead.
"I'm getting a view of the progress that is being made," Bush said. "There's still a lot of work to be done, no question about it."
Demolition of the worst-damaged homes in the Lower Ninth Ward began only this week. Those not flattened by the storm had no signs of life and were spray painted with large Xs and, in some cases, the number of bodies found inside.
Here's a sample
"You've got a pile of stuff here," Bush said after watching a small bulldozer push a pile of debris on a street littered with a mattress, toys, a cooking pot, several pairs of blue jeans, a box of Pasta Roni and a pair of women's underwear.
"We want people coming home," Bush said.
To help make that a reality, the president said Congress must come forward with money to compensate Louisianans whose homes were damaged or destroyed and to rebuild New Orleans' broken levees. Without it, Bush said, residents and businesses won't have enough confidence in their city's future to return and bring it alive again.
He criticized Congress' earlier diversion of $1.5 billion in levee-rebuilding money to non-New Orleans-related projects, saying lawmakers "shortchanged the process" of rebuilding the city. He said Congress must reverse the decision -- even as lawmakers were poised to do so.
A $19 billion hurricane-relief measure, set for approval by a key House panel, provides $1.5 billion in various Army Corps of Engineers water projects, chiefly for rebuilding New Orleans' levee systems.
The House bill also includes $4.2 billion in hurricane-related housing projects.
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