Actor-author-musician-radio-host Harry Shearer, AKA Spinal Tap's Derek Smalls and the voice of at least a dozen of your favorite Simpsons characters, has been a dripping faucet of bad news about his half-time hometown of New Orleans ever since, as he always puts it, "the failure of the federal levees" in 2005. In his latest Huffington Post post, Shearer notes the dire lack of affordable rental housing for the hundreds of thousands of residents displaced by both the Katrina-related catastrophe as well as state and federal governments' slow-footed, confusing, and often counterproductive response to the housing crisis. In the latest twist, the New Orleans Times Picayune reports that the department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) is paying to maintain empty rental units until "completion of a massive update of the agency's citywide waiting list, which contained 6,572 names when Hurricane Katrina struck in 2005 and has not been revised since then."
Meanwhile, back on Earth, our friends at Bonnaroo and Sound Tribe Sector 9 are providing concrete support to the citizens of New Orleans.
This year, Bonnaroo will donate $240,000 to New Orleans nonprofit groups, including New Orleans Habitat Musicians' Village/Ellis Marsalis Center for Music, New Orleans Musicians Clinic, the New Orleans Center for the Creative Arts, and Tipitina's Foundation. Funds for the donation come from donations made by visitors to the 2008 festival's "Somethin' Else – New Orleans" tent and the 2005 benefit concert "From the Big Apple to the Big Easy," which featured Dave Matthews, Trey Anastasio, Tom Waits, the Neville Brothers, and others at Manhattan's Radio City Music Hall.
New Orleans housing is the specific focus of STS9's charity objective this year. The band will donate all profits from the June 23 release of Peaceblaster: The New Orleans Make It Right Remixes to the city's Make It Right Foundation, whose goal is to build 150 sustainable and affordable homes in New Orleans's hard-hit Lower 9th Ward. The band will also contribute $1 from every ticket sold in 2009 to the foundation. (Look for more on Peaceblaster in a couple of weeks.)