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Five Years after Katrina; Opportunity After Katrina; New Orleans Levee Fears Loom; Economy Continues to Grow At Slow Rate; New Orleans Police Department Under Review For Corruption

Aired August 27, 2010 - 08:00   ET


CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: And good morning to you. Happy Friday. It's August 27th.

Welcome to this special edition of AMERICAN MORNING. I'm Carol Costello in New York, in for Kiran.

John joins us from the Lower Ninth Ward in New Orleans, Louisiana, as we look back five years since Hurricane Katrina -- John.

JOHN ROBERTS, CNN ANCHOR: Carol, good morning to you.

We are live this morning from the Ninth Ward of New Orleans to show you what really is a tale of two cities -- a tale of two different recoveries. Five years after Hurricane Katrina, there are plenty of signs of rebuilding and growth throughout the city.

But many neighborhoods, like the one we're in, to some degree, remain frozen in time. Not a lot has happened in the past five years.

This hour, Anderson Cooper is with us. He spoke with former FEMA chief, Michael Brown.

Jeanne Meserve shows us this morning what it's like to still be living next to a levee not knowing when the next storm is coming in. Do residents have faith that those levees will hold or would they rather be somewhere else?

Also, the scene of unthinkable suffering to the source of so much city pride during an amazing Super Bowl run. Tom Foreman shows us the Superdome then and now.

And how about a slice of Naked Pizza? One of the many restaurants that have opened since Hurricane Katrina. Why many are calling New Orleans the land of opportunity when it comes to entrepreneurship.

First, though, the former FEMA director, Mike Brown, is speaking out, trying to clear his name five years later. He took the bulk of the blame for the poor federal response to the storm. He spoke with Anderson Cooper about the fatal mistake that the government made.


MICHAEL BROWN, FORMER FEMA DIRECTOR: As I said in speeches all over the world, one of the fatal mistakes I made was not making it clear that indeed things aren't moving as quickly as they need to move. When I'm executing mission assignments to ask the Department of Defense to go do something, that shouldn't take three or four days -- it should take three, four hours. And you're right. Had I -- had I said that at the time, I probably would, you know, have gotten the old hook and pulled off the stage anyway. But the truth would have been out and I think that's a fatal mistake.


ROBERTS: Anderson joins us now live.

Good to see you. Thanks so much. Boy, when you listen to Brown, it's kind of should have, could have, would have.

ANDERSON COOPER, HOST, "ANDERSON COOPER 360": Yes, it's interesting. I mean, he basically says that he didn't believe what he was saying when he was saying it. I mean, he says that, you know, he was giving talking points and factually they may have been correct, but that, you know, he now wishes he had said, you know, look, it's not moving fast and acknowledged what was actually happening which was clear to everybody on the ground.

ROBERTS: I'm sure he wished he did a lot of things differently including not having dinner in Baton Rouge, asking his assistant how he looked in a tie.

COOPER: Those emails were definitely something that were true (ph). You know, he points a lot of the blame at Michael Chertoff, Homeland Security Department, Michael Chertoff, who went to the avian flu convention, you know, while New Orleans was drowning and says, look, he warned the White House that FEMA didn't have enough manpower, enough of supplies.

ROBERTS: You know, I don't know any journalist that spent more time in New Orleans post-Katrina than you have. When you look back on these five years and you see the evolution of the recovery and the rebuilding -- are you surprised that it's come this far, or are you surprised that it hasn't come far enough?

COOPER: I'm certainly happy to see kind of critical mass having been reached. I mean, it feels like it has been a long time in coming. You are finally starting to see the impact of the federal dollars, not only the rebuilding of the flood protection system, but as you've been reporting on, the education system here. More than half the schools now are charter schools.

You know, some mixed results. It's still too soon to tell. But good things are happening here and you are starting to see real progress. But it's been a very long time in coming.

And, you know, when you come down here at the Lower Ninth Ward, you know, there's one school in the Lower Ninth Ward. There used to be five schools here. They've had to expand the one school that exists.

So, much more still needs to be done. They are still needing money in the pipeline, and a lot of people, you know, haven't had the benefit of progress that others had.

ROBERTS: You know, if you are in the downtown area, if you are out by the Superdome, which looks brand-new.

COOPER: Right.

ROBERTS: They put a new roof on. They renovated the interior. They put the gleaming aluminum paneling on the side of it.

If you are in the French Quarter, which is still peak (ph) until 6:00 in the morning, every day, you think, hey, this city is really doing well. In some degrees, it's come back better than it is.

Is the story of recovery still in places like the Ninth Ward, the Seventh Ward, to some degree? St. Bernard's Parish? Is that always going to be where the focus is of it hasn't come far enough?

COOPER: I think so. I mean, certainly, tourists coming to New Orleans want to have a good time and want to go out to restaurants. They're not going to notice really much difference than it was before the storm. If anything, they're going to see a city that's been re- energized with younger people and more restaurants and a kind of a new kind of energy.

But I think it is in some of these areas made where the tourists don't necessarily go with the first time they come, that the real progress remains to be seen.

ROBERTS: It's interesting to see that some of the tour companies are actually running tours --


ROBERTS: -- of Lower Ninth Ward.


ROBERTS: It's a little bizarre and uncommon (ph) in some ways, but then again, you know, people can see what's going on here. Maybe it gets the word out.

COOPER: Yes. I think for residents, it's kind of a double-edged sword. On the one hand, they want people to, you know, to come to their communities and see. At the same time, it's strange to somebody to see a tour bus going through your neighborhood, looking at desolation. But, you know, if it helps the community, I think a lot of people feel, you know, why not?

ROBERTS: Nobody got the word out better than you did in the weeks after Hurricane Katrina. And you are still down here. A testament to you that --

COOPER: A great place.

ROBERTS: -- five years, still some folks (INAUDIBLE)


ROBERTS: It's great to see you this morning, Anderson.

COOPER: Thanks, John.

ROBERTS: Thanks so much.

By the way, tomorrow night, don't miss "In the Katrina's Wake," it's an "AC 360" and "Building Up America" special. Looking at the promises that were made and whether they were kept. That's tomorrow night at 8:00 p.m. Eastern here on CNN -- Carol.

COSTELLO: New developments for an American held in a North Korean prison since January. He is headed home to Boston, thanks to the help of former President Jimmy Carter. Aijalon Mahli Gomes was granted amnesty after he was sentenced to eight years of hard labor for illegally crossing into the country. The State Department is, of course, welcoming his release.

New video giving us an amazing look at the horrible conditions 33 Chilean miners are enduring deep below the ground. In the 25-minute video, we see where they sleep, play cards, and brush their teeth. The men each sent a message to their families. They also give a tour of the crammed dark and dirty shelter that they're going to be trapped in maybe until December.

Contaminated chicken feed is one of the likely sources of salmonella outbreak that sparked a massive egg recall. According to the FDA, samples of the feed given to hens at two Iowa farms tested positive. The bacteria was apparently also found in the farm's barns and walkways. So far, nearly 2,500 people have gotten sick.

A monster hurricane right now is churning in the Atlantic Ocean. Danielle is packing winds up to 135 miles per hour. Right now, the storm is more than 500 miles southeast of Bermuda. It is not expected to head towards the mainland. But the east coast could see some high surf.

And, Reynolds, suspect some people might actually like that high surf.

REYNOLDS WOLF, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Absolutely. I mean, if you are a long boarder, if you are surfer, and you are on the Virginia coastline, you are going to absolutely love what this weekend is going to bring. Very dry conditions, beautiful conditions and also, as you mentioned, some very big waves. No question about it.

Right now, Danielle is the strongest storm on the planet. It is a category 4 storm. It's the first major hurricane of the Atlantic season. You see it there -- easy to see right on the satellite. We also see Earl.

The latest in terms of the numbers of these storms very impressive -- let's begin first and foremost with Danielle. Again, maximum sustained winds of 135 miles per hour, some gusts up to 160. Expect them to stay east of Bermuda and then veer off to the east and northeast, moving into cooler water and then dying off. Earl is going to be a little bit different. The latest forecast we have on Earl indicates that it is expected to strengthen, also becoming a category 3 storm, which will make it a second major hurricane. The latest path of the National Hurricane Center brings it south of Bermuda. But it's still the storm, for now, expect it to stay away from the U.S. mainland.

But as you know, Carol, very well, these storms can be very fickle. They often change their paths a few times. We are going to watch this carefully.

And I'm telling you, we still have a long way to go in the season. The season ends November 30th. So, plenty of more storms -- certainly expect that.

COSTELLO: And you'll be right there to tell us about them.

WOLF: You bet.

COSTELLO: Thank you so much, Reynolds Wolf.

It's an old gag, but in light of all the recent shark sightings off of Massachusetts, boy, did it work? Police responded to reports of a shark fin sighting very close to the shore in Somerset, Massachusetts. Officers realized that the shark was actually just a piece of Styrofoam cut into a fin-shape, wrapped in gray duct tape and weighted down.

I can't believe people would actually do that. It turns out a lot of people on the beach were hoping it was jaws after they got out of the water, that is.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: After it was pulled out of the water, everybody told me -- everyone looking at it went -- then they all rushed to their cars to leave.


COSTELLO: Oh, bummer.

There have been several real great white sightings off of Massachusetts this summer. Some so close that beaches have been closed at times.

Coming up: Glenn Beck is under fire for holding a rally on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial on the very same day Martin Luther King delivered his historic "I have a Dream" speech. Both sides of the debate when we come back.



COSTELLO: Supporters of Glenn Beck making their way to Washington for his rally. The event will be held on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial tomorrow, the exact site and date where Martin Luther King, Jr. made his historic address 47 years ago.

The gathering is intended to restore honor to America. But opponents say it dishonors King's legacy. Earlier, wee heard from both sides of the debate.


MICHAEL FAUNTROY, PROFESSOR, GEORGE MASON UNIVERSITY: King's life was given in the cause of trying to bring people together and trying to fight the wrongs that were going on in our society. And I'm not necessarily sure that a movement that is comprised so disproportionately of people that don't reflect their overall tenor of the country will certainly be -- will certainly do that and certainly live up to King's legacy.

JENNY BETH MARTIN, NATIONAL COORDINATOR, TEA PARTY PATRIOTS: I do not think that this is offensive. It's about Americans who care about this country regardless of political affiliation, regardless of skin color, who care about the country and want to restore honor to it. It's not about the color of the skin. It's about the content of the character.


COSTELLO: Beck says the rally is not political, even though the other keynote speaker is Sarah Palin.

Now, let's head back to New Orleans and John.

ROBERTS: Thanks so much, Carol.

You know, there's so much devastation in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. Places like the Ninth Ward where we are this morning, it's been such a long road back. But in some areas of the city, the entrepreneurial spirit is alive and well in ways that it never was prior to the storm.

And some of the -- some of the new businesses that are bopping up are so interesting, like, how would you like a slice of gluten-free naked pizza? How a wave of entrepreneurs are helping to bring the city back to life. We got that story coming right up.

It's coming up now on 14 minutes after the hour.


ROBERTS: Back now with our special coverage of the fifth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina coming to you live this morning from the Ninth Ward where it is still such a struggle for people to get back on their feet. As you saw there, there were five schools in the Lower Ninth Ward prior to Hurricane Katrina. Now there's just one. But in many ways, this city is coming back. The culture, the jazz, the vibe -- it is all there. There are actually more restaurants in the city now than there were prior to Hurricane Katrina. And what was a wasteland in September of '05 is now for many young entrepreneurs a land of opportunity.


ROBBIE VITRANO, ENTREPRENEUR: After Katrina, it was kind of that if not now when question that everyone asked.

ROBERTS (voice-over): For Robby Vitrano and Randy Crochet, the answer was creating a new type of pizza, even though neither had ever worked in the food industry.

RANDY CROCHET, RESTAURANT OWNER: We wanted to find pizza which is notoriously the worst thing for you, and be able to flip it on its head and make it a part of a healthy lifestyle.

ROBERTS: Six months after the storm they opened Naked Pizza in a New Orleans neighborhood that had been flooded. And their business took off. This weekend, the fifth anniversary of Katrina, the first franchise will open. They are planning 300 worldwide. Vitrano and Crochet weren't alone in finding opportunity in New Orleans after the storm.

TIM WILLIAMSON, CO-FOUNDER, THE IDEA VILLAGE: When New Orleans became a start-up city after Katrina, everyone became an entrepreneur.

ROBERTS: Tim Williamson is co-founder of The Idea Village, a nonprofit organization that supports this new wave of entrepreneurs.

WILLIAMSON: There was a fear that New Orleans might never come back again. And I think that everyone here at the end of the day believed in New Orleans and believed we wanted to bring the city back.

ROBERTS: The Idea Village's mantra, trust your crazy ideas. Some of those include bayou brew iced tea. Feel good flip-flops, and No-look Couture.

CECILE HARDY, OWNER, LAUNCH PAD: I think the entrepreneurial spirit here is just incredible. I mean it gives me chills thinking about how supportive the community is, with people coming here from all over.

ROBERTS (on camera): Where many of these business renegades are coming to is this building in New Orleans Warehouse District which has come to be known as the Intellectual Property. For years it was a law firm. Now it is a hub for new entrepreneurs.

CHRIS SCHULTZ, ENTREPRENEUR: We have all kinds of --

ROBERTS (voice-over): Chris Schultz's company, Launch Pad, leases work space to these start-ups. 60%, he says, are from New Orleans while the other 40% are from out of town.

ROBERTS (on camera): There's more to it than just giving them office space and bringing folks together like this, isn't it?

SCHULTZ: Absolutely. I mean, this is a work community. So one of the biggest challenges an entrepreneur faces when you are getting a business off the ground is having a sense of community and going through it with other people.

JAMES LOGAN, ENTREPRENEUR: You go talk to most of the people in this building and you will see that they are actually embracing more of New Orleans' culture than their own. It just becomes part of you.

ROBERTS (voice-over): The environment for young entrepreneurs is completely different than before Katrina. Prior to this storm, New Orleans wasn't exactly a friendly place for start-ups.

SCHULTZ: Katrina shook it out for everybody. I'm not a New Orleans native but I was here pre-Katrina and I knew what the business environment was like before Katrina and it is a very different place now.

ROBERTS: But is it enough to keep these newcomers in New Orleans? 504ward is working on just that.

JESSICA WHITE, EXEC. DIR, 504WARD: What we quickly learned is everyone else had attraction policies, which is more like an advertising campaign, we're cleaning and pretty move here. No one was tackling talent retention. Once they are here how do you get them to stick?

ROBERTS: 504ward hosts events throughout the year connecting newcomers with New Orleans' community leaders. Some of these turn into mentor relationships and even job opportunities. Jessica White is hopeful that her generation will stick around.

WHITE: We are a very entrepreneurial demographic, we are hard-working and we want to create new things which is perfect for the New Orleans environment, with that creative spirit.


ROBERTS: You know, the city instituted a number of generous tax breaks and other incentives to help these start-ups get off the ground. But at some point those incentives are going to expire. So, the clock is ticking on these young entrepreneurs to get their start- ups to reach critical mass so that they can be self-sustaining. We are awaiting the government's new reading on America's economic growth. We got the GDP coming up in just about ten minutes' time. Also Katrina five years later, what's it like to still be living next to a levee? Are the people of New Orleans ready for the next storm? Jeanne Meserve joins us coming up next. Stay with us.


ROBERTS: When Hurricane Katrina's floodwaters broke through the levee system it was clearly a failure with catastrophic consequences. The Army Corps of engineers is trying to regain confidence. There is a $14 billion project to build and rebuild the city's flood walls and pump station with a promise of a 100-year level of flood protection by next June. Our Jeanne Meserve joins us from the Claiborne Street Bridge in New Orleans. And Jeanne, Harry Sheer premiered his new film "The Big Uneasy" last night and many people still feeling that way about the levee system. JEANNE MESERVE, CNN HOMELAND SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: You are absolutely right, John. You know, officials say the city is safer. The levees are stronger. But many people we talked to who live near them just don't believe it.


MESERVE (voice-over): The long road back from Hurricane Katrina has brought Sonja Hill here to one of the handful of houses rebuilt right where the industrial canal flood wall gave way.

SONJA HILL, NEW ORLEANS RESIDENT: Looking at the wall. I'm thinking what if it breaks again? What if it breaks right here in front of the door and I'm inside with my kids? I don't feel safe right here if a hurricane comes through.

MESERVE: Sonja says she can't afford to live somewhere else. But Roy Arrigo doesn't want to move. His house is just a few hundred feet from where the 17th Street canal flood wall failed.

MESERVE (on camera): This is the same kind of wall that failed?


MESERVE: Is that scary?

ARRIGO: Yes, it is. And this is a fragile wall.

MESERVE (voice-over): Arrigo's angry at the Army Corps of Engineers and blames it for the destruction of his city.

ARRIGO: We see the work and we are told about all of the progress. But can we trust it? And to be quite honest, I don't think that we can.

MESERVE: In the Gentilean (ph) neighborhood near the London Avenue canal breach, Willean Brown believes the engineering isn't what matters.

WILLEAN BROWN, NEW ORLEANS RESIDENT: They can build a levee as high as they want to. God has the power, so if he wants to tear down the walls whether it low or high, 25 feet, 30 feet, he can knock it down with his power.

MESERVE: Her faith makes her feel safe here. Not her sister Callie.

CALLIE BROWN, NEW ORLEANS RESIDENT: I have to give the government the benefit of the doubt that the wall is going to hold. I try. That don't mean it will work.

MESERVE: For Callie Brown and many others, the shadow cast by the levees is long and dark.

(END VIDEO TAPE) MESERVE: Every single person we talked to here said that if a big storm is headed towards New Orleans, they are headed out of town. John, back to you.

ROBERTS: It only makes sense, Jeanne, after what happened that even though they have rebuilt the levee system if a large storm is headed this way you don't want to be here should the city flood, one of those levees fails. What's your sense in the past five years, this enormous rebuilding project, when you look at the two-mile long flood wall that they are building across Lake Borgne, I mean, it is an amazing feat of engineering but is it enough?

MESERVE: Well, I'm no expert on levees. I can't tell you that. But despite all of this rebuilding I went up yesterday in a U.S. Coast Guard helicopter and went over this area and from the air, it is striking to see how much has not been rebuilt in this part of the city. There are big swaths of green where there used to be homes. When you are on the ground here it almost looks like homesteaders in the middle of the prairie because there's so much greenery and there are so few houses. So, the question I keep having, John, is not so much about the levees but about the city about the neighborhoods and I wonder where they are going to be in another five years. Whether there will still be momentum to try to bring the city back. Back to you.

ROBERTS: Perhaps with that lingering mistrust of the levee system many people who are displaced may choose to stay that way and not return to the city. Jeanne Meserve for thus morning. Jeanne, thanks so much. Let's send it back to Carol in New York.

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: Twenty-eight minutes past the hour. Time for this morning's top stories.

The final kill of the Gulf oil well on hold. BP says crews will have to fish out pieces of drill pipe from the well's blowout preventer before they can move on with the permanent shutdown. Oil has not flowed from the well site since July 15th.

And headed home. Former president Jimmy Carter securing a special pardon for an American being held in a North Korean prison for nearly eight months. Aijalon Mahli Gomes was sentenced to eight years of hard labor for illegally crossing into the country. The State Department is of course welcoming his release.

Brand-new video giving us an amazing look of a horrible conditions 33 Chilean miners are enduring deep below the ground. In the 25-minute video we see where they sleep, others play cards, where they brush their teeth. Earlier I talked to the head of Penn State's Miner Training Program and asked him to assess the conditions and what needs to be done to keep these men both physically and mentally healthy.


MARK RADOMSKY, DIRECTOR, PENN STATE MINER TRAINING PROGRAM: A lot of these shelters will have games, will have reading material, will have diversions and, you know, different things like that. Yes, they have to remain optimistic and positive. And hopefully they are helping each other you on in that regard. They see somebody that's depressed or withdrawn, you know, they will support that person. It is a support network, you know, down below as well as on the surface. It is going to be important.


COSTELLO: The miners each sent a message to the families and gave a tour of the cramped, dark and dirty shelter they are trapped in. They could be down there until December.

The government is just about to revise the second quarter GDP, which is how we measure growth in this country. And joining us now to break this all down, Poppy Harlow and Paul La Monica, both from

And Poppy, I want to start with you. While we wait for this number to be revealed by the government, you have been out talking to people. And no surprise. Nobody is really positive about the economy growing.

POPPY HARLOW, CNNMONEY.COM: Tight. We have focus on the number. But that doesn't matter. The economy speed doesn't matter to the average person. We talked to people from California, Atlanta, and here in New York to see how they are feeling and how their personal economy really is. I want folks to take a listen to what they had to say.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: With this economic downturn, I basically had to shut my business down and go back to work as an employee.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Completely a lifestyle change economically. Thinking twice about everything we do, and having to say, you know, daddy doesn't have a job. Sorry, you can't do that.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Food prices, gas prices, you know, we -- we're hopeful.


HARLOW: Hopeful but that is their personal situation. We did just get that number in. GDP for the second quarter, growth at 1.6 percent in the U.S. And Paul, as we know, that is a little better than the 1.4 percent growth they expected. A big revision downwards where we thought we were.

PAUL LA MONICA, EDITOR AT LARGE, CNNMONEY.COM: Yes. I think -- I have spoken to a lot of people that suggested that anything below two percent feels like a recession to the average consumer. Even though we can take some comfort in the fact that yes, the economy did grow the second quarter, it's growing at such a slow pace it doesn't feel like it is growing.

COSTELLO: No. And don't you need sort of like 2.5 percent growth just to keep up with unemployment?

LA MONICA: Exactly. Unemployment --

COSTELLO: That's really scary.

LA MONICA: -- is the major problem right now. That and the housing market are just major problems for the economy that don't appear to I have any solutions in sight just yet.

COSTELLO: And what does this number mean for jobs?

HARLOW: It doesn't mean anything good for jobs. What economists do, they dig into this number, what is causing it. We have some of the headlines where person am spending is stronger so consumers are picking up their spending, I guess the small silver lining of this report.

But corporate profits were weak. If you see major private sector corporations was weaker profits, with the weaker outlook on what is happening, that is bad news for jobs overall.

I think Paul and I discussed this a lot. The government is hiring. That's where we have some growth. The stimulus spending is causing hiring. Where is the private sector hiring? That's the engine of growth in this country from small businesses that hire two out of three Americans to the big corporations. Where is that private sector growth? This GDP report shows us it is not strengthened yet.

COSTELLO: But we keep hearing from the government, from the Obama administration, that the economy is getting better. It's a slow recovery. Ben Bernanke is going to speak later this morning. What should he say? Should he just come out and be truthful with the American people and say, hey, the economy is bad and it's going to be bad for a while. We are just going to have to deal with it.

LA MONICA: Unfortunately he not going to be able that blunt. He is still a bit of a political animal even though he is an economist. If he were to say things in that truthful of a manner it would probably really spook not just the average consumer but investors as well. I think he's very cognizant of the fact that would rattle --

COSTELLO: So we will hear the same old thing. We are going to hear the economy, it's a slow recovery.

LA MONICA: He's probably is going to harp on that. Yes, this is a gradual, grinding recovery, and he is most likely going to reiterate that the Federal Reserve is there and that they do have kind of, you know, bullets left in the gun, so to speak, to fire if need be if the economy slows even further.

The Fed will 'reassure people they can help the economy stop this slide that it is in. I think the problem, though, is a lot of people are starting to lose faith in the Federal Reserve.

COSTELLO: And if they don't hear solutions. I want to mention stimulus, because some people say we need a second one, but there is no chance of that. HARLOW: Paul Krugman arguing at "The New York Times" we need more stimulus, the administration needs to do more to help with housing and jobs. And at the same time, how effective has stimulus been? That's a point of contention for everyone now.

COSTELLO: Poppy Harlow, thank you very much. 10:00 a.m. eastern is when Ben Bernanke talks. We will bring that to you live. Now back to New Orleans and John.

ROBERTS: Carol, thanks so much.

Another example of the tale of two cities, so much rebuilding and recovery. Yet, New Orleans leads the nation in homicides, and there is deep distrust of the police department.

Meet the man charged with cleaning up corruption in the department. The new superintendent Ronald Serpas is coming up next on the Most News in the Morning.


ROBERTS: Welcome back to a special edition of "AMERICAN MORNING" live from the Ninth Ward here in New Orleans. Some of the most enduring images from the days after the storm -- looting, lawlessness, police brutality -- five years later the New Orleans police department is still answering for claims of unwarranted killings and allegations of corruption.

New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu is one of the police department's open critics.


MAYOR MITCH LANDRIEU (D), NEW ORLEANS: The department is supposed to protect and serve. Right now it has not doing either of those things well.


ROBERTS: Joining me now is the man who is charged with turning the department around, New Orleans Police department superintendent Ronald Serpas. It is good to talk to you, Ron.


ROBERTS: So you have said -- when you look at what's going on with the allegations against these officers who are involved in the post- Katrina shootings -- that the allegations read like a disgustingly vile novel, and you believe the department is far worse than the insidious accounts that you have read. These are very strong words that you are using. How bad are things in the department?

SERPAS: You know, Mayor Landrieu and I and the department of justice, we are going to fix this police department and we're going to make New Orleans safe. What I will admit is that when I came back I had no idea how bad some of the things were. When you read the accounts in federal court, people made their admissions, it is an insult to our community and department. Our community needs us to take the first step to heal those wounds. That's what we will do every single day.

ROBERTS: How bad are things in the department?

SERPAS: I think the worst thing about the police department different from '94, the last time we went through this we had systems failure. Systems that would provide for accountability and investigations of police misconduct, failed. We had systems of officers being able to think they could go to public integrity and report misconduct, failed. We had systems in the court system fail because people didn't believe or trust the officers' word.

As you know, we instituted a new policy -- you lie, you die. We will change the plague field.

ROBERTS: This policy -- we are getting a lot of trucks because they are unloading a container ship just down the street.

When it comes to the policy of you lie, you die, if you falsify a police report as an officer or a detective, if you make a false statement, you are going to get fired. People would think, shouldn't that have been the case the last however many decades? Why is that new?

SERPAS: I wish it wasn't new and I wish we didn't have to make those statements, but we are going to make those statements. And it is the simple truth. If you give a materially false statement to deceive or you allow a false or inaccurate report, your first punish many will be termination, not progressive.

Under the rule today, you might get three days suspension and you can be found guilty a second time. No more. After September 1, first lie, you are fired.

ROBERTS: The mayor, as we said, beginning of this, one of the open critics of the police department. Here is what he said when he reached out to the justice department to help in reforming the New Orleans police department. He said, quote, "Nothing short of a complete transformation is necessary and essential to ensure safety for the citizens of New Orleans.

The suggestion, Ron, has been made you need to get rid of 50 percent of the department personnel to really clean out the New Orleans police department. Can you do that?

SERPAS: I think two things. One, there are hundreds of officers who are getting it right every day and always gotten it right. We will find the people that get it wrong. Mr. Perez from the civil rights division, have been incredibly helpful in applying the power of the federal government to help us weed out people.

The mayor's call for the department of justice was the perfect thing. We are going to work with them every day to make this happen.

ROBERTS: Now, many people think you are absolutely the right person for the job. At least one community organizer by the name of W.C. Johnson told "USA Today" in an interview he didn't think you were the right person for the job because you were here under Chief Pennington back in the 1990s. There was corruption in the department when you were here. There were allegations against you of fudging the budget which you have answered.

But answer those critics who say that because you are part of the old guard here, you shouldn't be part of the new guard.

SERPAS: The difference is part of my last six years in this department, Richard Pennington and I reformed the police department. In 2001 this was a model agency in the United States of America.

I have been gone nine years. I have been the chief of state police agency and big city, Nashville, Tennessee, and we made monumental changes.

But here is the thing. There are people who have said to me, chief, you were here before. I spent 21 years here before in the police department. But I spent all of my life in New Orleans. I had a friend that lived in this very block. I know New Orleans and I'm bringing back the experience of being a chief in two big cities and a big city and big state.

They come back and say how can we make New Orleans better? We will make New Orleans better.

ROBERTS: We were talking about this off camera -- because you spent most of your life here, you know that the -- institution of corruption in this city is generational. It is part of the fabric of New Orleans. Can you eliminate corruption? Or do you just get it to a level where it is tolerable?

SERPAS: I think you eliminate it by being transparent. Mayor Landrieu has been very transparent with the police department and we invite people in to look at the wards. You can't get it right every day. They are human enterprises. Even the media makes a mistake now and then.



SERPAS: We make mistakes. The most important thing is to own up to those mistakes and say we won't let it happen again. This will be the greatest city in America and very short period of time.

ROBERTS: It will be a great thing if it were because there are aspects of the city unmatched anywhere else in the world. Good luck to you.

SERPAS: Thank you.

ROBERTS: Thanks for joining thus morning. We really appreciate it.

We will be back right after this. More coverage of New Orleans coming up on the fifth anniversary of hurricane Katrina.


REYNOLDS WOLF, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Welcome back to the CNN AMERICAN MORNING, I'm meteorologist Reynolds Wolf. And this is your forecast across the nation.

It is going to be a spectacular day across parts of the northeast. When you get to portions of the southeast, though, you've a stationary front with that you may see some scattered showers and storms out across the west -- very breezy for you.

And it looks like we might have a chance of some very dry conditions and possibly some wildfire dangers in parts of the Northern Plains as well as the Great Basin.

Now, in terms of your temperatures, it's going to be very comfortable for you in the northeast: Boston 78 degrees, New York, some upper 70s and some low 80s, 85 degrees in St. Louis, 92 in Denver, 103 in Las Vegas and 81 in Los Angeles.

Now in terms of your flight delays where we might see those scattered thunderstorms in parts of the southeast, that's where you might have some waves for you especially in places like Atlanta. You might have a delay of anywhere from half hour to full hour. Over an hour possible in Las Vegas, Salt Lake City, due to thunderstorms, Miami, Orlando and Ft. Lauderdale. Some of those -- those sea breeze storms might may keep you on the tarmac for a bit and Los Angeles, a slight delay due to the haze, anywhere from an hour to 30 minutes.

That's a quick snapshot of your forecast. We've got more coming up straight ahead. You're watching AMERICAN MORNING, your Most News in the Morning.


CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back to The Most News of the Morning. This week's CNN hero is a whale watching boat captain who spends all night every night working as a midwife. Take a look.


OSCAR ARANDA, CNN HERO OF THE WEEK: In a sad way, the turtles are in danger because of us. Last year, we can have 200,000 turtles come to lay their eggs. But this year we are 50 percent less.

In Mexico, it is a federal offense and the people is not supposed to poach them. The people believe the eggs are aphrodisiac so this is happening always and everywhere.

My name is Oscar Aranda and I'm patrolling the Puerto Vallarta beaches to protect the marine turtles. Many animals depend on marine turtles to survive. When I saw how the poachers take them for selling on the black market that was really the spark that showed me how important it is to help them. We have to be there all night. Turtle comes and if you are not there and the poachers say well, let's take it.

After they lay their eggs, that's it and the babies are alone. She returns into the ocean.

It's right here. We find the nest and we get the eggs and we bring them to a safe place like a turtle hatchery.

As soon as the babies hatch, we want the people to see them and learn, to give them the opportunity to be part of releasing a baby turtle or something that they will never forget. My motivation is how brave the turtles are to survive against all odds, they continue coming. It's amazing.


COSTELLO: To nominate someone who you think is changing the world just go to

It's 52 minutes past the hour.


JOHN ROBERTS, CNN ANCHOR: It was the sight of so much human suffering, the so-called "Shelter of Last Resort", the symbol of the catastrophic failure after Katrina. But the Saints stayed and now the Superdome is the home of champions and the source of city pride.

Our Tom Foreman is with us with today, with today's "Building up America" live from the French quarter this morning. Good morning, Tom.

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, John. How are you? You know the Superdome, you know, anybody who has ever been here knows it is just such a huge icon of the city and people talk about the transformative power of sports teams.

The combination of the restoration of the Superdome and the decision of the Saints to stay and keep playing and win the world championship has all we Saints fans likes to remind people really has had an enormous impact on the building up of New Orleans after Katrina.


FOREMAN (voice-over): No place is more emblematic of all that went wrong, with the evacuation in Katrina, than the Superdome. The ten- acre roof ripped open at the height of the storm, packed with people who had nowhere else to go.

The man in charge then and now, Doug Thornton.

DOUG THORNTON, SMG, SENIOR VICE PRESIDENT: Great, we were very concerned about falling debris from the roof. We had no water pressure. We had no ability to move -- remove trash and debris. And we're taking on more and more and more people and the Superdome was literally the poster child for misery and suffering.

FOREMAN: It took days for the rescue to be complete. As soon as the last person was out, the hard work began. Teams of laborers swarmed all over the dome trying to restore this crown jewel of the city.

Mountains of debris were cleared. Architects worked out a plan to save the dome, to repair the damage from an ocean of water dumped into two million square feet of walls, electronics and furniture. A new sound system, $7 million, new concessions, $3 million, $8 million more for phones; they did it all while fighting budgets and racing a calendar to reopen.

More than 70,000 seats were soaked and moldy; by cleaning them and wrapping them in plastic and blowing hot air for two months all but 20,000 were saved.

THORNTON: If we would have had to replace 72,000 seats we wouldn't have made it.

Reporter: but they did. Opening for the home game a little more than a year later; they won. The work has continued nonstop for five years and it is going on still. It is the largest restoration project ever attempted in this country on what remains one of the biggest rooms in the world. The final bill will be over $300 million.

For Thornton it is worth every penny.

THORNTON: I didn't think there would be new way I could bam, not to the city, not to the dome, not to my home.

FOREMAN: But the Superdome has come back. The Saints have, too in a very big way. No homecoming for any town has ever been sweeter.


FOREMAN: John, Doug Thornton told us a story yesterday that was fascinating. The biggest fear they had in the reconstruction was exactly this. That rain would blow in, the weather would blow in and they have a storm and it would stop them from meeting that completion date.

So the workers put a flag on top that had a hurricane symbol with the slash through it. No hurricane. They left it there throughout construction and then when they were almost finished they took it down. Saying we are done.

Almost immediately a storm formed out in the Gulf and he called the construction crew and said put the flag back up on top. They did, the storm went way and made their opening date.

Just a magical story really; an amazing, amazing building, John. Still is. Well, we're seeing Superbowl here in 2013. A chance for many outsiders to come see it, too.

Roberts: It is going to be amazing. They are playing a preseason tonight there as well; a lot of folks are going to the stadium. You know Tom, it might be a good idea for them to leave that no hurricane flag up there forever if it has that much power to keep the storms away.

FOREMAN: Fly it over the whole city. Absolutely. Yes. I'm hoping to be in the crowd there with all my old friends back here tonight for the game. We will see what happens.

ROBERTS: Fabulous. Well, enjoy the game. Again, like Soledad O'Brien showed us at the convention -- showed us at the convention center, it's amazing to think that the Superdome could even come back let alone to the degree that it has.

Great story this morning. Tom Foreman, "Building up America" for us. Tom, thanks so much.

That just about brings us to the end of the program. But before we go, let's take a look at what it looked like five years ago here in New Orleans.

I was here riding out the hurricane. We were in the parking garage of the Hilton Hotel. And immediately in the downtown area, it didn't look like things were too bad.

Then as we made our way east of the French Quarter we ran into hip-deep water and it was only getting worse from there and we knew something was terribly, terribly wrong. And it wasn't long after that we got news that the levees had been breached to the degree that they had.

I remember the last time I was in the Lower Ninth Ward before today I was driving around in a boat in water that was about ten feet deep. As we take a picture here from the Ninth Ward, it is amazing to see the degree to which it has come back -- if we could go to our shot here. And the way that it -- the degree to which it hasn't come back either.

There's a church, it wasn't actually a (INAUDIBLE) church, before Hurricane Katrina it was a nursery. But it is very much exactly the say way it was. The house next door to it with the cars in the driveway has been restored but the house next to it is the same way it was five years ago as well.

And that's the way it is throughout the Ninth Ward. You have one house that's been restored or a new one that's been built either through Harry Connick's program or Brad Pitt's program and so many other houses that are either abandoned or undergoing reconstruction.

It's going to be an awfully long time before this entire city is back; years if not decades.

That's going to wrap it up for our coverage here from New Orleans this morning. Anderson Cooper will be back again 10:00 tonight -- Carol. COSTELLO: Something that hasn't changed, you know, even through all of the hell those people have been through in New Orleans. They're the friendliest, nicest most wonderful people you'd ever want to meet. Just awesome.

Thank you John Roberts.

ROBERTS: They sure are. And it's a great place to come and spend time.

COSTELLO: Absolutely. Thank you John.

That does it for us. Let's head to "CNN NEWSROOM" with Kyra Phillips.