Source AP ©

George and Laura Bush spend Wednesday in New Orleans

President George W. Bush and his wife, Laura, are to spend Wednesday's anniversary remembering the storm in New Orleans and Bay St. Louis, Mississippi.

It is the president's 15th visit to the Gulf Coast since the massive hurricane obliterated coastal Mississippi, flooded most of New Orleans and killed 1,600 people in Louisiana and Mississippi when it roared onto land the morning of Aug. 29, 2005 - but it is only his second stop since last year's anniversary.

The performance by the president and the federal government in the immediate aftermath of the storm - and some residents' lingering sense of abandonment since - severely dented Bush's image as a take-charge leader.

As on other visits, the president and his team arrived here armed with facts and figures to show how much the Bush administration has done to fulfill the promises the president made two-and-a-half weeks after the hurricane.

"We will do what it takes, we will stay as long as it takes, to help citizens rebuild their communities and their lives," Bush said then from historic Jackson Square in New Orleans' French Quarter. "This great city will rise again."

In fact, there is some good news here. The city's population is rebounding, and a few neighborhoods thrive. New Orleans has recovered much of its economic base and sales tax revenues are approaching normal. The French Quarter survived Katrina, and the music and restaurant scenes are recovering.

But much of New Orleans still looks like a wasteland, with businesses shuttered and houses abandoned. Basic services like schools, libraries, public transportation and childcare are at half their original levels and only two-thirds of the region's licensed hospitals are open. Rental properties are in severely short supply, driving rents for those that are available way up. Crime is rampant and police operate out of trailers.

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