Friday, December 16, 2005

Beignets, beauty schools, and crawfish

The Times-Picayune:

In an interview with committee investigators Nov. 29, former Orleans Levee District President James Huey said the mandated annual inspections of levees were mostly ceremonial events.

"They...normally meet and get some beignets and coffee in the morning and get to the buses, and the colonel and the brass is all dressed up.... They have some news cameras following you around.... You have a nice lunch somewhere.... They have this stop-off thing or whatever. And that's what the inspections are about."

Training of levee board commissioners wasn't thorough, Huey said.

"Once in four years, you know what this is?" Huey told committee investigators. "That's going up to a workshop for a weekend and have a crawfish boil up here and hear a couple people talk about some things, and they get a little piece of paper and they honored the law." ...

The Orleans Levee Board devoted a majority of its meetings to discussing commercial holdings, including leases to various restaurants, karate clubs, beauty schools and two marinas.

The Times-Picayune also revealed in that story that an unnamed levee board official refused to allow the Corps to work on improvements to the London Avenue Canal.

So, have you signed the Citizens for One Greater New Orleans petition for levee board reform?

Meanwhile, Senator Susan Collins (R-Maine) put her finger right on the crux of the problem:
Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee Chairwoman Susan Collins, R-Maine, said "superb engineers and competent contractors" can only go so far to ensure adequate levee protection.

"Until we face up honestly to the issue of governance, we will have failed the citizens of New Orleans," she said.

Whether Collins meant to include in her statement engineers who work at the Corps of Engineers is unclear, but my appreciation of problems at the Corps is that highly competent and concerned engineers and scientists have always been constrained by politics in doing what they thought was best for New Orleans.


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