Finally, the rest of the country (or at least those who haven’t read this cyber-space in the past couple of months) is finding out about the misplaced priorities of the Orleans Levee Board. No account of the reasons why Hurricane Katrina’s damage exceeded what should have been can be complete without mentioning it, or the people responsible for it.
We know that in the past several years the board has engaged in building all sorts of infrastructure with little of that actually being levees and floodwalls. We know that in the past few years it has directed resources towards a senseless investigation of a radio talk show host. We know that in the past year it has tried to raid taxpayers to give a huge salary increase for a part-time job to the person mainly responsible for the above.
Thus, it should come as no surprise that the board would prefer to subsidize casinos and marinas and to build fountains rather than more substantial things, especially given the political composition of the board (and these excerpts give a good idea of the jockeying that typically goes on that places a premium on politics rather than performance). And, ultimately, it goes back to the officials who have appointed members of the board over the past decade and more, who serve at the will of the governor and mayor of New Orleans – Govs. Prisoner 03128-095, Mike Foster, Kathleen Blanco, and Mayors Marc Morial and Ray Nagin (although the mayors’ hands are a bit forced – one member must come from the City Council).
Picking political animals who were concerned more about business deals than flood protection merely counts as stupidity. But the fact that there is some question whether a proper job in constructing flood protection was done in the first place reaches into the criminal, a scenario suggested by one expert.
Simply, either through irresponsible priorities or outright negligence in overseeing that specifications were followed in constructing flood protection, the Board frittered away a large amount of monetary resources that could have been utilized much better to provide better fortification against flooding. Indirectly, the governors and mayors who put such people in charge of this vital task also bear blame.
Obviously this is closing the barn door after the horse got out, but a legislative priority in any special session dealing with the aftermath of the hurricane should be to abolish all appointive levee board positions statewide and to merge their functions into the state bureaucracy (not known for its efficiency, but certainly better at providing service than decisions emanating from political hacks). Certainly this provides a better chance for the proper safeguarding when the next big, inevitable storm comes.
Getting rid of political hacks is very difficult in Louisiana. But,it didn't take long to get Brown to resign from FEMA. Why Not list the members of the New Orleans levee board and who appointed them. While we are at it, list the money they wasted on non-relation flood protection besides the waterfall display. Anytime a board is put in charge of a specific task and spents one thin dime on unrelated activity they should be replaced.
I have no confidence in present "so called leadership" to change its stripes and be accountable. If the federal government can be characterized as being wise, they would be careful who is placed in charge of spending federal taxpayer money.
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