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29.1.07

Stuck on stupid XXI: Blanco blame game neglects herself

Blame gets thrown all around to explain why there seems to be such a slow pace concerning the (as it was once called before negative publicity about it took off, Gov. Kathleen Blanco’s) Road Home Program for Louisiana residents to get compensation for storm ravaged homes and rental property losses. In the final analysis, it rests squarely at the feet of Democrat Blanco.

For her part, the governor has been attempting to shift it to ICF International, the contractor the state’s Louisiana Recovery Authority hired. That board, of course, serves as an extension of Blanco as she appointed all its members so, in a sense, when she criticizes ICF, she criticizes her own judgment. Making the fact worse is her designees on the LRA failed to include in the contract the firm won some performance incentives that theoretically could speed up the process.

However, on many measures, ICF is not doing that bad of a job. The latest statistics do show very few grants awarded since it all began in August, 2006, but a steadily accumulating total mainly bottlenecked at the decision stage – when homeowners must decide what they will do with their money which the company can’t control. While Louisiana demonstrably is behind Mississippi with its similar but not identical program, because its program got started later than the Magnolia State’s, in a comparative perspective it’s not as far behind as it may seem at first glance.

But the main reason it fell behind came through inaction and poor decisions on Blanco’s part. Mississippi got cracking in Oct., 2005 with planning for this in a special legislative session. A month later, Blanco cobbled together a special session which did nothing to address the home rebuilding issue. After it, she seized upon and placed all her marbles in a plan from Republican Rep. Richard Baker that ultimately and rightly was seen as unworkable by the U.S. Congress. So, when rejected, Blanco was left with nothing in hand, just in time for another special session during which, again, nothing was done to set up the structure to create a program. This made Congress hesitant to make any promises regarding sums of money to be made available, until during the 2006 regular sessions finally Blanco came up with what is now her Road Home Program.

Clearly, Blanco’s dithering and inability to lead, either emanating directly from her or in terms of lighting a fire under the Legislature to do something, delayed the beginning of the program, making Louisiana look much farther behind. And, some of the delay when it has gotten going has accumulated at the insistence of the state, such as in time it takes to check for fraud, for which Blanco seems to be blaming the contractor.

Blanco, running for reelection, has adopted a strategy of blaming everybody but herself for problems in her governorship. As part of this strategy, she tries to pin everything on procedural problems from the contractor. In reality, the bulk of the delay has come from a political problem, the failure of Blanco to competently discharge her duties in this matter in a timely and prudent fashion.

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