Saturday, February 18, 2006

Some Good News Out of Louisiana

The Louisiana legislature has finally agreed on a levee consolidation amendment to the Louisiana Constitution. That's a significant step that will go a long way to eliminating the graft and corruption that has long plagued the state's flood control operations. It's not the solution I would have hoped for - a single board that consolidates all the individual boards into a single entity, but it's better than the current situation:
The state's many levee boards were quaint institutions dating to the 19th century, intended to allow local control of southern Louisiana's vital systems of flood protection. But over the decades they became known for growth in other areas: self-administered salary increases, sweetheart contracts, expensive lunches, mini police forces, even an airport.

Hurricane Katrina spurred a citizen reform movement in New Orleans and a push for change by a legislator from adjacent St. Bernard Parish whose house was ruined in the floods. All week citizens filled the Capitol here, and the legislator, Senator Walter J. Boasso, now living in a trailer, beat back efforts to preserve the status quo.

Mr. Boasso's work produced a compromise that will soon be signed by Gov. Kathleen Babineaux Blanco: the many local levee boards in New Orleans and surrounding parishes are to be consolidated in two authorities, one for each side of the Mississippi River, instead of the single one Mr. Boasso sought. If voters approve the change in a September referendum, it will go into effect next January.

Mr. Boasso's crusade unearthed two perennial subtexts in the Louisiana Legislature: hostility to New Orleans — rural and suburban lawmakers objected to being put into a government entity that included the city — and fierce protectiveness of small political fiefs, in this instance the levee boards.
That last part is especially instructive. This isn't about flood protection. It's about protecting political power. So the compromise bill compromises flood protection for the sake of getting a deal done. There will now be one board for each side of the Mississippi. Count on the two boards to fight each other over resources and blocking plans to armor the levees claiming that they will flood the other side.

However, a move to cut down the patronage jobs in New Orleans was blocked. It never even made it out of committee. Gov. Blanco had backed that bill, which is not only a subtle dig at the New Orleans governance, but would have gone a long way to restoring a bit of respect in dealing with Washington.

And there's now yet another candidate who's going to run against Whiplash Nagin.
An influential black pastor and frequent critic of Mayor C. Ray Nagin declared his candidacy for mayor Friday, saying Hurricane Katrina exposed the weaknesses of the current administration.

The pastor, the Rev. Tom Watson III, said in his announcement, "We have put up with the political foolishness for a long time, and the impact from poor leadership was not shown until the storm showed it."

Mr. Watson, 50, is the first black challenger to Mr. Nagin, who is also black. Nine others, all white, have said they plan to run in the April 22 election.
Where the New York Times sees race as a key issue, I see individuals who may or may not be qualified to hold the office. Whiplash Nagin is clearly incapable of managing the crisis still facing New Orleans. The other candidates may or may not be capable, but the fact that there are so many candidates shows just how dissatisified people are with Nagin's handling of Katrina.

Handy dandy scorecard of what Louisiana did during their special session. The Times-Picayune has more on the upcoming local elections.

Posted to Wizbang's Carnival of Trackbacks, Basil's Blog, Jo's Cafe, Don Surber, [and will be updated throughout the weekend]

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