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After the flood comes the political debris

By November 22, 2005katrina

I wonder if local citizens will take advantage of the next voting opportunity to lash out against politicians with parochial interests?  What am I talking about?   Okay, let’s review:

  1. We’ve just had a disaster of bibical proportions.
  2. Most of the damage came from flooding that was caused by inadequate levees.
  3. Levee construction is an engineering problem
  4. The people who supervise levee construction should be engineers, not politicians
  5. The supervising body should have control of all levees in the area so that there is a complete solution, not a piecemeal one.

So, what happens in Louisiana?  The Louisiana House of Representatives’ votes not to pass a bill that would consolidate control of our levee system under one regional board (incidentally, the state senate voted 37-0 in favor of this bill).  A major force against the levee board consolidation effort was Rep Ken Odinet, a Democrat (and also, apparently, an engineer).  According to the Times Picayune:

"Odinet and other opponents of [the consolidation] bill have said local authorities know better how to perform maintenance and make recommendations about flood control infrastructure, and that local boards can better ensure that the community is not short-changed."

These are code words for: "we like having local political control." Businesses have code words too, such as: "let’s relocate to Houston, Atlanta, or Orlando." Businesses didn’t like the political mayhem in Louisiana before Katrina hit, so why would they tolerate it now?  I can’t believe I’m even bothering to point this out; it’s so obvious.

If you want to see which legislators voted for and against the Levee Consolidation bill click here.  If you want to know the exact procedural method by which this bill died, here are the salient details as provided to me by my legislative insider. 

"Due to the lateness in the special session (which must end today), this was a vote to suspend the rules to allow the bill to be referred to committee before its second reading.  As a rule suspension, it required 2/3 of those present and voting.  It failed to get even a majority, in a vote largely along partisan lines.  Thus the bill was denied a timely hearing, effectively killing it.  The bill would almost certainly have cleared committee, resulting in a vote on its merits on the House floor, because the Transportation Committee is heavily Republican."
That’s the intricate explanation.  If you want to use a good shorthand explanation, just call it ‘politics as usual.’  Speaking of politics, apparently people in Washington are losing interest in helping New Orleans.   People outside of Louisiana have their own problems and don’t want to waste resources rebuilding a community that is going to continue to make the same costly mistakes.
A lot of people I’ve talked to think it’s a shame Katrina didn’t wipe out our state and local political structure so we’d be forced to rebuild that from scratch too.  Hyperbole aside, it’s becoming obvious that the weakest link in New Orleans isn’t our levees, it’s our political system.

So, what are we going to do about it?

P.S. I’m told that Representative Odinet’s legislative district covers the same territory as state senator (Walter Boasso) who authored the levee board consolidation bill.  Odinet is a Democrat and Boasso is a Republican.  You do the math.


P.S. If you appreciate these kinds of observations, you might want to read this as well.

2 Comments

  • Casey Fos says:

    I don’t trust anyone who has held elected office in Louisiana. Therefore, I propose a Clean Sweep Party. https://www.sec.state.la.us/elections/elect-parties.htm . The only qualification to be a candidate of the party is that you have NOT held public office (other than perhaps president of your child’s PTA) in the last 5 years. I don’t think an entire clean slate of politicians can do much worse.

  • Aaron says:

    I’m afraid to think that it’s going to take the new wave of politicians elected by the remaining voters to fix the situation. The only upswing to that is that the remaining voters are VERY well informed, since they are the ones actively rebuilding the city now. I simply hope it doesn’t take that long to accomplish; perhaps the partisan idiots who voted against the levee consolidation can be shamed into voting for it.

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