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kathleen-blanco

Design, planning pros to meet; Blanco's, Nagin's dueling commissions

From Her Waning Fortunes:

...The good news for Blanco is that her Louisiana Recovery Authority (LRA) is getting some legs after just three weeks of existence. This week several hundred leading design and planning professionals will meet with local leaders (by invitation only) for a three-day Louisiana Recovery and Rebuilding Conference at the Marriott Hotel. The goal is to "develop a body of principles that will guide Louisiana's long-range recovery efforts." The conference is being presented by the American Institute of Architects along with the American Planning Association at the request of LRA. Blanco will deliver an opening address, and then the work will begin.
The conference is not designed to come up with a final plan, but rather to get things moving in that direction. Another conference, this one sponsored by the Urban Land Institute, convened last week in California to discuss some of the same issues. That conference was attended by several members of Mayor Ray Nagin's Bring New Orleans Back Commission -- further underscoring a perceived rift between Nagin and Blanco...

"Post-hurricane cuts run deep, Governor chops $431 million in spending"

From 11/6's Post-hurricane cuts run deep, Governor chops $431 million in spending

Gov. Kathleen Blanco chopped $431 million in state spending Saturday in a move that could keep some state colleges closed indefinitely.
Blanco made the budget cuts a day before legislators are scheduled to convene at the State Capitol to begin addressing the devastation caused by hurricanes Katrina and Rita.
The reductions are on top of the $70 million that the governor expects to save through an earlier spending freeze. Coupled together, the fiscal tightening would get the state about halfway toward resolving a nearly $1 billion tax revenue shortfall caused by the storms.
Higher education, which is already grappling with a $54 million loss in tuition and fees from students displaced by the hurricanes, took the biggest hit -- a reduction of $71.4 million.
The $222 million cuts in health care look huge at first glance. However, the state is spending $169 million less on patients since the storms because some hospitals are closed and many residents remain out of state.
A few areas escaped the budget axe, including the TOPS college scholarship program, the military, wetlands restoration and teacher pay...

NOLA: Kathleen Blanco to the rescue?

From the long article All eyes turn to Blanco:

...Caught between overwhelmed local leaders and a federal bureaucracy that was simply not prepared for the size of the catastrophe, Blanco was criticized for her response during the crisis by New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin and deposed FEMA Director Michael Brown. She has been the target of various pundits who have commented on everything from her appearance to questioning key decisions she made as the state's largest city was engulfed in floodwaters.
After the immediate disaster subsided, the criticism did not wane. Blanco was perceived as too indecisive about how to begin the process of rebuilding the New Orleans area. She waited seven weeks after Katrina hit to name the membership of a 24-member "recovery authority," although supporters noted that the governor also had been dealing with the aftermath of Hurricane Rita, which slammed the southwest corner of the state a month after Katrina.
Some of her allies in the state Legislature had joined the chorus of complaints that the administration needed to be more aggressive, scoffing at Blanco's initial pronouncement that the legislative session that begins today would mostly deal with legal technicalities.
In recent weeks, Blanco has changed gears, announcing that during the 17-day session the Legislature will begin the difficult task of trimming the state budget. Her call for the special session, which delineates the topics that can be discussed, is expansive, allowing discussions of business tax cuts, the state takeover of most New Orleans public schools and figuring out how to fill a budget hole expected to be at least $1 billion...
...The governor seemed to be siding with preserving the status quo last month when the State Bond Commission, which she largely controls, directed $45 million in construction spending away from projects in the areas hit by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. The money ended up going to projects in the rest of the state, including many that critics said were frivolous at a time when untold millions -- and likely billions -- of dollars are needed to deal with the devastation in south Louisiana.
But late last week her office was trying to take a more aggressive approach to reshaping how to spend money after the storms, saying they are crafting a plan to cut more than the $300 million that previously was considered to be the limit on what the governor could slice from the current year's budget without legislative approval. The governor's office on Saturday announced an executive order that would made cuts of nearly half a billion dollars...
[...will she borrow money?...]
Although many Capitol insiders believe the governor can lead the session if she is forceful with a clear agenda, Blanco clearly enters the session as a weakened politician.
Her public approval ratings have plummeted, from 55 percent job approval in May to just 38 percent last month, although pollsters caution that surveys cannot possibly be truly representative at a time when so many citizens are displaced from their homes...

FEMA wants $3.7 billion from Louisiana for services rendered

FEMA has sent LA a bill for "its share of hurricane relief". Governor Kathleen Blanco says she can't pay it.

...Staffers for the governor "about fell over" Wednesday night when they received the Federal Emergency Management Agency's estimate of the state's costs for hurricanes Katrina and Rita, said Mark Merritt, a consultant working for Blanco.
FEMA projects that it will spend a total of $41.4 billion in Louisiana, about $9,000 per resident. Federal law requires state and local governments to pay a portion of disaster relief costs. That share can be as much as 25%. The $3.7 billion estimate is roughly 9% of FEMA's projected costs in Louisiana.
The $3.7 billion represents just under half of the $8 billion the state spends per year and comes as the extensive flooding around New Orleans has severely undercut tax revenue. The state is in the midst of heavy cost-cutting to whittle down a projected $1 billion shortfall...
Merritt is a former FEMA official who now works with former FEMA director James Lee Witt, an adviser to Blanco on hurricane recovery. Merritt said the scope of the disaster far exceeded anything envisioned when the relief agency was created. He called the costs "astronomically unprecedented..."

Bush is required to get the money out of the states, but Congress can (and probably will) waive it.

Jackson, Sharpton, AFLCIO complain about "low-wage workers" at rally

From Governor faults White House over rebuilding:

Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco, flanked by veteran Democratic activists and a union leader, criticized the Bush administration on Saturday for allowing hurricane rebuilding contracts to go to out-of-state firms and low-wage workers.
Speaking to a rally of about 1,000 union members and activists from the steps of the state Capitol, Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton also charged the White House with using the crisis to remake the state's political map by discouraging the return of displaced blacks...

I don't know if anyone there said it, but those "low-wage workers" are, in fact, mostly illegal aliens. The article goes on to quote some race-baiting from Jackson, and I'm sure that from Sharpton was even worse. Perhaps they should concentrate on rebuilding jobs for Americans instead of their usual BS. I'm sure they'd get much more support from the rest of the country if they just concentrated on that.

Blanco wants more control over levee boards

From this:

Administrative officials are expected to push a set of proposals during the special session that convenes next Sunday to grant the state greater oversight of local levee boards.
Gov. Kathleen Blanco announced her intentions this week as a contentious debate continues to flare up regarding a series of South Louisiana levees that failed in the face of two monstrous Gulf hurricanes.
While official language for the proposed package has yet to be released, some levee officials are already worried that a consolidation or shift of power could result in a weakened local voice when it comes to hurricane and flood-protection issues.
There's also a growing concern that the two-week session isn't long enough to broach related issues such as construction priorities and land rights.
Supporters argue the move has been long coming, and topics such as coastal restoration and flood protection must be merged under one central umbrella of state control...

Much more at the link.

Nearly $1 billion in state tax income lost since Katrina

Louisiana's budget deficit got an official number today -- nearly 971 million dollars lost in state tax income that the governor and lawmakers will have to slash from state spending in the remaining eight months of the budget year.
Economists warn the budget problems could worsen as they get more concrete details of the lost sales, income, gambling and business taxes from the back-to-back blows of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.
And the figure formally recognized by the state's revenue estimating panel doesn't include the dollars that individual state agencies will lose as fees paid directly to them for licenses and penalties or the federal matching dollars that will be lost because state agencies won't be able to put up their part of the cash.
Gov. Kathleen Blanco's top budget adviser, Jerry Luke LeBlanc, says the governor will make a series of cuts to state departments before the Legislature convenes in a special session November 6...

She can cut $300 million, but hasn't said what it will be yet.
(source)

AG Foti: fmr. Levee Board president Jim Huey broke law

Foti: Levee Board president broke law

A unilateral decision in July by the Orleans Levee Board's then-president, Jim Huey, to pay himself nearly $100,000 in back salary was a clear violation of state law, Attorney General Charles Foti said Thursday in an opinion issued by his staff.
Furthermore, Foti wrote, the $1,000-a-month salary that Huey collected from June through October was illegal because Huey failed to get approval from the board of commissioners.
The opinion, written in response to an Oct. 17 request by state Inspector General Sharon Robinson, does not address whether Huey must repay the money. But the salary matter is expected to be a topic of discussion today when the board holds its monthly meeting.
Huey, who took the helm of the flood control agency in 1996, resigned Thursday.
Huey maintains that he stepped down voluntarily, but sources say Gov. Kathleen Blanco demanded his resignation after criticism of Huey by his fellow board members had mounted in recent weeks. Blanco controls six of the eight seats on the board...

Blanco addresses Louisiana Recovery Authority, says nothing of note

source

Gov. Kathleen Blanco charged her Louisiana Recovery Authority on Wednesday with what she termed "an awesome responsibility," namely "make real my vision of rebuilding a very strong and wonderful Louisiana."
Members of the authority gathered to be briefed on post-hurricane conditions and to tour the southeastern and southwestern sections of the state that hurricanes Katrina and Rita hit within a month's time. While there, they met with residents, business leaders and local officials.
"Recovery will be driven by local needs," she said, encouraging the authority to develop plans that include loans, grants and tax incentives for businesses to return to or relocate in storm-ravaged areas.
Blanco also said the state needs "sound jobs and quality homes" before evacuees can return in large numbers to the stricken areas.
"Imagine a better Louisiana," she said. "Help me to create it."
...Commissioner of Administration Jerry LeBlanc and Legislative Fiscal Officer Steve Theriot briefed the panel on the financial situation the state is facing, including the probability of at least a $1.5 billion hole in this year's budget...

Who delayed body collection: Blanco, FEMA, or Kenyon?

La. Gov. Blamed for Slow Removal of Bodies

Bodies of people killed by Hurricane Katrina went uncollected for more than a week in the New Orleans area as the federal government waited for Louisiana's governor to decide what to do with them, according to memos released Thursday by a Republican-led House committee.
The 38 pages of e-mail between FEMA representatives and Pentagon officials contradict the contention by Louisiana's Democratic Gov. Kathleen Blanco, two weeks after Katrina hit on Aug. 29, that the federal government was moving too slowly to recover the bodies...
The memos indicate that morgues were not ready to receive bodies until Sept. 7 - two days after the first memo complaining about Blanco's inaction, and nine days after Katrina slammed into the Gulf Coast...
..."This issue must be addressed, and frankly, there is operations paralysis at this point," [Army Col. John J. Jordan, the military assistant to former Federal Emergency Management Agency director Michael Brown] wrote [in a Sep 5 email]. "FEMA is pushing state to see what they want to do, and indications are that governor is involved in some of the decisions," especially regarding burial.
"Believe organized collection must begin today once morgue is operational or it will become evident to media that plan for collection is not in place," Jordan wrote in the e-mail, which was sent to Brown and Lt. Gen. Russel L. Honore, the military coordinator for the disaster.
But the morgue did not open until two days later, according to the Sept. 7 e-mail from Jordan.
"First morgue site is fully operational," Jordan wrote to the Pentagon officials. "...Believe media and family member interest will continue to cause security concerns."
Nearly a week later, on Sept. 13, Blanco lashed out at the federal government, accusing it of moving too slowly in recovering the bodies and saying it was disrespectful to wait so long.
Blanco spokesman Bob Mann said Thursday it was FEMA's responsibility for removing bodies, which was delayed because the agency failed to sign a contract with Houston-based Kenyon International Emergency Services to do so.
Blanco "was almost literally jumping up and down and screaming about FEMA's failure to execute the contract with Kenyon," Mann said. "There were few things during that period that were more important and more urgent to the governor than doing something about this body removal. It was important to her that these people be treated with dignity, that these bodies not be allowed to lay out in the street."
"Yes, there was paralysis, but it was on the part of FEMA," Mann said.
Kenyon International's president Robert Jensen said in a telephone interview Thursday night that it was his company's decision not to sign a contract with FEMA. He declined to give reasons, other than to say that money was not the issue. Kenyon later accepted a contract with the state...

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