Without further ado, then, here is Secretary Jackson's talk:
It is with great joy that I announce to you today a brand new Department of Housing and Urban Development. Everything is going to change about the way we work, and the change is going to start right here, today, in New Orleans.
Our charter is to ensure that affordable housing is available for those who need it. This year in New Orleans, I am ashamed to say we have failed.
For the past year, as various interests have battled it out for this city, we at HUD have often ended up on the wrong side of that battle, forgetting our charter and making decisions that cheat both contractors and ourselves of the chance to make a big difference.
Today, as Governor Blanco said, we need housing for our workers. Yet until today, we at HUD planned to demolish 5,000 units of perfectly good public housing here in New Orleans, and put commercial housing in its place. Almost all of these apartments have no damage at all, many were on high ground, and their former occupants are by and large begging to move back in and start contributing to their city once again.
Today, we're going to help them to do that. But that's only the start. With your help, we're not going to destroy much-needed housing, we're going to make it work - for all of us.
We've got a three-step plan:
1. The first step is to let these folks go home right now.
2. Next, we're going to help them create the opportunities they need to thrive.
3. Finally, with your help, we're going to give back to Mother Nature what she needs to protect this city for all of its citizens.
All of this is going to require your help to an unprecedented extent, and we are very pleased to announce a contracting budget of 1.8 billion dollars.