Monday, January 02, 2006

Perceptions and Realities

Gov. Kathleen Blanco (D-LA) decided to partake in home improvement at the State Capitol building. She decided to go ahead with renovating one of the floors at a cost of more than $500,000. At the same time, she's considering slashing office staff.
"We certainly would not have initiated this work post-Katrina and Rita," Clarke said. "Given all that the state faces at this time, these renovations would be a very low priority."

The floor had not been improved since the early 1980s and the space needed to be upgraded to meet safety codes, Clarke said.

Restoration work began on the sixth floor Oct. 10, two weeks after Hurricane Rita struck Cameron on Sept. 24.

The week before work began, Blanco ordered a spending and hiring freeze to rein in state government expenses.

Three days after crews started tearing out the old offices, the administration announced that the state's budget would be about $1 billion short because of damages caused by hurricanes Katrina and Rita. That day, Commissioner of Administration Jerry Luke LeBlanc told a legislative finance committee that the budgets supplying money for public health care and education would need cuts of 20 percent or more and that more than 18,000 state employees would have to be laid off.

All three floors that the governor and her staff occupy saw some upgrades, said William Wilson, director of the Office of State Buildings.
At a time when the entire state is trying to rebuild from Katrina and Wilma, doesn't anyone have the slightest notion of what is appropriate. I don't care that this contract was let just days before Katrina hit. The $500,000 for the job could have gone to assist in buying trailers or hiring new police officers for New Orleans or buying a fire truck to replace one that was damaged in Southern Louisiana. (HT: Mister Snitch)

Others blogging the remodeling are Betsy's Page, Louisiana Libertarian, and Gut Rumbles.

Meanwhile, hints for coping with life after Katrina and Rita include soap on a rope - particularly for those who are living in trailers. Gee. Gov. Blanco remodels some of the Capitol offices with marble granite [ed: fixed factual point], and a hint for survival in trailers is soap on a rope.

And then there's the question of the pace of debris removal. Has the federal and state government worked as well as it should have to clean and remove debris from locales? Not when compared to what private contractors have done. The private contractors are being paid out of federal funds, but they've done the job quicker and cheaper.
Those that hired private contractors (with the feds still paying the tab) are finding the job done more quickly and efficiently - and costing taxpayers less.

Specifically, the cleanup in communities that used private contractors is now, on average, about 70 percent done. In those that used the Corps, cleanup is about 45 percent completed.

Communities that hired private contractors are billing taxpayers an average of $14 a cubic yard for cleanup (Pascagoula got it for $7.80). The Corps charges taxpayers $17 to $19 a cubic yard.

Part of the reason is the paperwork and bureaucracy involved when the Corps does the job. Memos pass up and down chains of command, and sometimes it seems nobody can make a decision. The private contractors can move more quickly.
They've also got incentives - namely the notion of profit. The quicker they get done with one area, the sooner they can move to other areas to repeat the debris removal work.

And here's a link to other Katrina recovery and relief resources.

Michelle Malkin notes that Gov. Blanco is trying to tighten her grip on the title of one of the worst governors in the US. Michelle's being too kind. Blanco is the worst governor in the US, and her actions are reinforcing that reality every single day.

The story of Blanco's remodeling job in Baton Rouge while Louisiana residents are still trying to make ends meet is resonating among some folks in the blogosphere who can't believe that Blanco would permit the $500k+ job to go forward at a time when the state budget is wrecked and tens of thousands of residents are barely holding on. Rhymes with Right, Conservative Musings, EU Rota (who wonders if big media will give serious attention to the matter), News, Views 'n Opinions, The Noonz Wire, Thespis Journal, and the Kellino Zone are all blogging the subject.

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