Let’s review the damage that New Orleans suffered from Katrina. Basically, we have three categories:
- Wind damage (due to 145 mile an hour winds from Katrina)
- Flood damage (due to levee failures)
- Looting (due to absence of armed presence)
Only the first one could not have been prevented. The last two were preventible, and were mostly caused by inept leadership at both the local and national level (businesses did a better job of planning for the disaster than our government). People here in New Orleans are completely fed up with this ineptitude, and people outside of New Orleans are not willing to give us any more money until we fix the problem.
I’m ready to cast my vote. I don’t know who I’m voting for, but in most cases, I know who I’m voting against. In fact, I have an idea for a new ballot design that we should use for the next round of state and local elections: Political incumbents should be identified on the ballots by an orange cross with a number one in the bottom quadrant, or perhaps by an icon of a little duct-taped refrigerator. The first is the symbol for death after Katrina, and the second is the symbol for a rancid smell. Either one works for the local politicians.
So what are the politicians up to these days?
Well many of them are making tremendous effort trying to find their displaced constituents and trying to make it possible for them to vote. That’s an expected political tactic, because no one who is actually living in New Orleans right now has much sympathy for incumbent politicians, especially anyone who voted against the consolidation of the levee board. Incidentally Wikipedia has a nice blurb on the problems that were caused by our levee breaches and offers this passage:
[E]ngineers are now investigating the possibility that a failure in design, construction or maintenance caused much of the flooding. Some investigations point to the possibility of a weakening of the peaty soil beneath the foundations of the flood walls due to storm water. If this is confirmed as the principal cause of the flood wall breaches, then majority of the flood damage within the city will have been as a result of an engineering design failure during the building of the flood walls, and the New Orleans flood may be destined to be recognized as one of the most disasterous civil engineering failures in the USA.
And that passage doesn’t even assume this additional problem that was reported in the Times Picayune on Nov 10th:
Sheet piling supporting the failed floodwall on the 17th Street Canal extends just 10 feet below sea level, 7 feet shorter than the Corps of Engineers has maintained…
Is it possible that the levee floodwall was 7 feet shorter than it was supposed to be in Lakeview? And, if so, who is to blame? If our current levee board system was so good at protecting the "local interest" then why didn’t they figure this out? I think we are beginning to figure out the answer to that last question.
If you want to look at a list of the legislators who voted against the levee board consolidation click on this link. Also, you should read Judge Richard Posner’s post on ‘failure of imagination’ of policy makers and government officials and the prospect of an avian flu epidemic.