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Doing the dirty work (cont.)

Posted: Friday August 31, 2007 3:32PM; Updated: Sunday September 2, 2007 7:30PM
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In part because of that unexpected loss of income, Johnson says he lost his home that he shared with 14 other family members. He moved in with a cousin and now will be one of the 11 starving themselves because, he says, "I don't want anyone to go through what I went through. I truly believe in living wages for all workers."

The work is not highly-trained or technical, but grueling. Scudder, worker number 58 on this particular night, tells of wiping the nacho cheese smeared against luxury box walls, pulling everything from beer bottles to women's panties from the toilet bowls. The worst, she says, is when the black garbage bags cover broken toilets and, she shakes her head in disgust, "and they use it anyway on top of the plastic."

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After the long night of cleaning, she returned to her home, napped for two hours, and then opened her house as a daycare center. Despite working 15-hour days, the sound of the ice cream truck sing-songing down her street still knots her stomach. One of her four children will undoubtedly ask for money for an ice cup. "I don't always have," she says, frustrated. "But, hey I don't exist. Nobody thinks of us."

Part of that is by design. "One seventeen, one eighteen," the foreman wraps up her count. A security guard lets the foreman know that the stadium has been cleared. There's no one around. The clean-up crew is free to start its work.

Loose Change

This week marks the two-year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. While the water has receded, the challenges have not, especially for local college athletic programs. While Bono and Green Day may have welcomed the 2006 Saints back to the Superdome, the stadium became a beacon of hope but certainly not a bellwether for change. Just ask Jim Miller, athletic director for the University of New Orleans.

Katrina ripped the roof right off Lakefront Arena, UNO's main athletic venue. The floors were warped. The seats were ruined. The Saints and the other professional sports franchises seem to have regained their financial footing for now, but local colleges do not have the revenue streams to support their rebuilding efforts. Miller has seen his fulltime support staff slashed by one-third and his annual budget cut by $1.3 million. And try fundraising to repair a sports arena in a city where people are without homes. Miller says such income dipped as much as 40% below pre-Katrina levels. The loss of Lakefront Arena, which also hosted concerts and other events, has cost the school an estimated $600,000.

Miller recognizes that the university has made deep cuts, even in the academic departments, to ensure survival, but, he says, "Nobody asks what kind of season your English department is going to have."

For complete coverage on how sports factors into the gulf region's recovery efforts, check out SI's Hurricane Katrina in-depth reports by Alexander Wolff and Caitlin Moscatello. It's well worth your time.) . . .The Kansas City Star recently found that the highest-paid college coaches earn more than governors in 49 out of 50 states. The only governor making more than the state's best-paid coach? Sarah Palin of Alaska, whose $125,000 salary tops Dave Shyiak, the Alaska-Anchorage ice hockey coach who collects $112,000 annually.

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