Thursday, 25 August 2016 14:39

Flood, recovery and the "Selling out Louisiana"?

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obama isaacThe storm over Louisiana has ended for now but the clouds of anger, frustration, despair and blame continue.

The month of August in Louisiana has never been the best time for the state. It has been hit by various major weather events including the two in 2005, hurricanes Katrina and Rita.


In a matter of hours, Katrina in particular, virtually destroyed much of the southern part of the state which after much time and unselfish efforts (with the incredible help of friends throughout the world, particularly America, Louisiana returned from the drowned. Despite budgetary issues, Louisiana has a good future.

Or at least, until this August and the latest deluge from Mother Nature.

This time, the flood hit Baton Rouge and the surrounding environs. In 2005, New Orleans, Jefferson Parish, and areas in the deep Cajun land were severely impacted.

After the winds stopped and the rain abated, America was in disbelief over the extent of the damage from Hurricane Katrina which also slugged Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida. With tens of thousands of poor and primarily African Americans being housed in an air-conditioned-less Superdome, with looting erupting in the streets along with shootings, the issue turned quickly to blame.

I am sure you remember these questions, whether justifiably uttered or not: How did those yellow buses flood? How did those levees break after all? Why does Governor Kathleen Blanco appear so shell-shocked? Why did President George Bush engage in a very public fight with the Louisiana Governor over who would control the immediate post-hurricane recovery? Is Mayor Ray Nagin, of sound mind and body to lead the recovery? Are a few white men trying to remake New Orleans in their own image?

Later, the issue was—is the Bush administration doing enough?

The finger-pointing by those politicians, their respective supporters, and the media ruled the day. Blanco was eviscerated by Bobby Jindal, conservatives and even democrats who felt helpless. Many argued she was helpless to lead a recovery. Ultimately, her poll numbers collapsed so badly due to the constant hammering of blame, she decided not to run for reelection.

Now, the question to ask this August is might someone be responsible for the impact of the recent Louisiana flood? Certainly, homeowners who have no insurance for flood protection are looking at many alternative lawsuits. The success of those suits might be considered high-risk primarily because of governmental immunity, that is assuming that there is responsibility in the first place.
While certainly, nobody could have stopped the storm, and possibly nobody would be responsible for the impact, the reality remains people who are homeless and futureless.

But there is a possible area to be concerned and some individuals who should indeed be questioned. As I mentioned earlier this week in a column, three Republican Congressman might have hurt the state’s prospects of receiving federal assistance. Those congressmen are the current majority whip Steve Scalise, Congressman John Fleming who is now running for U.S. Senate and then-Congressman Bill Cassidy who has moved on to U.S. Senate.

Just like many of us debated over whether the elected officials were responsible for Hurricane Katrina damages or whether competence was impairing our recovery, it certainly is legitimate to question why those three congressmen engage in a horrible vote that could leave thousands of Louisiana citizens holding the deeds to worthless properties, due to no flood insurance. Since FEMA did not require flood-insured and since so many homeowners did not obtain such coverage, impacted families are staring in the dark and might be left out in the cold.

A few years ago, even after this state suffered horribly from Tropical Storm Issac, those Congressmen voted against the funding of very similar damages in Northeast America caused by Hurricane Irene. Their excuse at the time was some of the money was going to unnecessary projects and the country cannot afford another bailout without finding money elsewhere.

On paper and in conservative circles, the argument is sound. If you don’t have the dough, say no.
But now, many of us are scratching our collective heads and wondering exactly how will that vote affect the state's recovery, since it appears we need federal money. Specifically, many wonder whether Congress will react in kind to Louisiana due to the vote of those Republicans.

Is it time to cast blame? Do we want to go through the antagonisms we suffered for years post-Katrina? Like Hillary Clinton retorted, “what does it matter”?

It matters. Two of those three are seeking office this fall. Steve Scalise is running for reelection of First Congressional District and Fleming wants to be US Senator to replace David Vitter. While all three men have records that they could easily stand upon to win reelection this fall, shouldn’t we ask why did they engage in such an absurd decision?

While we might not be able to see Cuba from our back yards, we certainly could have foreseen another major rain and wind event. Even a catastrophic one. Whether one accepts global warming, we know with strong certainty that almost every few years, we will get hit in some major way and will need our friends to help bail us out. There are no ifs, and's or buts. Louisiana, given our close vicinity to water, will get zapped hard again. Maybe not a Katrina, but, I’m sure the good people in Baton Rouge don’t care one wit. Their homes and businesses are severely damaged. They need help.

Earlier this decade US Sen. Mary Landrieu was vilified for what was called the "Louisiana Purchase" since she gave a final vote to the health insurance legislation, aka, Obamacare. Yet, she had been known in Congress as the leading force in bringing back Louisiana. Bar none. Despite the incredible work, in large part due to that one healthcare vote, she ultimately went down losing to Bill Cassidy. Now, Vitter is stepping down and Fleming wants to take his place. Also, Scalise certainly wants to keep his assignment and perks associated with House leadership.

But just as Landrieu is now political history, because of her votes and despite her abilities to bring home the bacon, shouldn’t the three men who could not realize the obvious be severely criticized, if not, defeated?
We’re not talking about whether Obamacare would succeed or fail or whether "man" might be responsible for global warming. We’re talking about whether Louisiana will have its desperate hand out to Washington DC, once again, sometime soon.

How can any of these men believe that states impacted by a disaster will be willing to pony over billions more, given our shutting of our eyes when they were desperate?

These votes were admirable to the extent that we have a horrible debt that climbs by the second. But, the probability of our needing major future assistance soon and the incredible damage that could result, should have been sufficient cause for them to say, "we have your back". Political orthodoxy for reelection purposes is short-sighted. It was more critical to know that Louisiana would soon be hurting and a "turned back" often causes a resulting "stab in the back".

If Mary Landrieu deserved the "Louisiana Purchase" moniker, Cassidy, Scalise and Fleming deserve the “Selling out of Louisiana”.

The damage has been done. Hopefully, we can join with other states needing their own government money as occurred post-Katrina.

The question to ask now is, if we cannot count on federal money, how do we rebuild? A subsidiary inquiry might be, even if the federal funds are approved, how long will it take to go from the "check is in the mail" to the "money is in the bank"? Specifically, what process do we pursue in making us whole?

On Wednesday, Jim Brown and I discussed all of these issues and more in a Facebook live discussion. That video is above.


Last modified on Thursday, 25 August 2016 14:57
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