Search This Blog


Stuck on stupid IX: Protecting patronage, not people

On the Louisiana Senate floor, not long after receiving the bad news, Sen. Walter Boasso lamented the coma into which his SB 95 had slipped, as a result of the House’s decision not to fast-track the bill which would consolidate most levee district functions for most levee districts in southeastern Louisiana: “It’s politics as usual.”

He got that right. Unless heroic resuscitation efforts occur immediately, this necessary bill’s (which passed the Senate unanimously) life ends at 6 PM Nov. 22. News reports last week underscored more than ever the importance of such a move in their reporting that evidence of weakened levees in Orleans Parish had surfaced months before the fatal onslaught of Hurricane Katrina, but the bureaucratic maze surrounding the administration of levees stymied efforts to fix the problems.

It’s true that the Army Corps of Engineers’ designs for the levees may have underestimated their strength and were possibly archaic. It’s true that federal officials such as Sen. Mary Landrieu gave flood protection a low priority. It’s true that New Orleans and state officials such as Mayor Ray Nagin and Gov. Kathleen Blanco and previous mayors, city council majorities, and governors paid insufficient attention to the political ramifications of their appointees to the Orleans Levee District board. It’s true that the Board itself neglected flood control duties in favor of more glamorous pursuits or the absurd. Still, perhaps all of these obstacles could have been overcome had the lines of authority over the levees been clear – a view endorsed by experts studying the problem.

Boasso’s bill would do that. Unfortunately, it also would interfere with carefully built networks of political patronage and power certain elected officials such as state Rep. Ken Odinet (Boasso's opposite number in the House) have built in their backyards. The House’s decision not to send the bill to committee shows a majority in the House, mostly Democrats and/or members of the Legislative Black Caucus, care more about their own and their allies’ power and privilege than protecting the public and their property from ravaging floods. Blanco also must shoulder some of the blame for not pushing harder for the bill, likely fearful it would steal the spotlight from the bill she supports (SB 71) which is far less reaching and would do little to solve this problem.

Time’s about up in this session for the bill, but if Blanco is serious about flood control she’ll include the item in her January special session call and this time she’ll crack the whip for it on the good old boys who once again have done the things that keep this state in the rear and, as always, will use their points of personal privilege on their chamber’s floor to moan about how they’re being treated “unfairly” in the media when it reports these things. It just goes to show yet again how they’re stuck on stupid.

No comments: