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Head of New Orleans' levee board [Jim Huey] quits

From this:

The head of the Orleans Levee Board has quit amid questions about no-bid contracts to his relatives in the days after Hurricane Katrina.
The final days of board president Jim Huey's tenure also had been marred by his collection of nearly $100,000 in back pay several weeks before the storm. Huey had led the board for nine years.
Huey defended the contracts and said he was legally entitled to the back pay...
"I didn't want to leave under these circumstances, but I fell victim to some other folks who don't know what they're talking about and they have to live with themselves," he said.
Huey would not say whom he was referring to.
On Sept. 1, three days after Katrina came ashore, Huey leased 3,000 square feet of office space in Baton Rouge from board legal consultant George Carmouche, a cousin of Huey's wife.
Huey said he authorized the $30,000 contact to ensure that the agency's executive staff would have a place to operate after its lakefront headquarters was decimated by Katrina's storm surge. He said he signed the lease only after state government failed to provide him a base of operation.
About a week later, Huey approved a business arrangement with Carmouche's son, Scott, to coordinate the salvage of boats damaged or destroyed by the hurricane at the board's two marinas. Huey said he was forced to move quickly on the salvage contract because the recovery of boats by insurance companies and owners was threatening to devolve into chaos.

Previously: "Levee Board chief got thousands in back pay" and Money for levees went to Mardi Gras, overpasses, PI, legal fees…

Blanco's internal documents might not be released until December

From this

Gov. Kathleen Blanco has asked for more time to deliver documents to congressional committees about her office's role in Hurricane Katrina preparations and emergency response to the storm...
...Blanco got a request for information on Sept. 30 from a U.S. House committee that wanted the information within two weeks. The House committee is interested in internal communications received, prepared, or sent by Blanco and her Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness and the Office of the Adjutant General for three separate time periods.
Another request came Oct. 7 from a U.S. Senate homeland security committee, asking Blanco to provide the documents no later than Nov. 3.
The Senate panel's request is more detailed, seeking documents such as charts outlining who held key positions in state government in preparation for and responding to the disaster, what legal authority the governor had in disaster preparation and response, documents from the last five years spelling out Louisiana's hurricane and flood risks, and those relating to the hurricane planning exercise known as "Hurricane Pam."

They want 90 days more to prepare the docs, meaning they might not be publicly released until December.

WSJ: Most federal aid not yet spent

From Much of Katrina Aid Remains Unspent

Within 10 days of Hurricane Katrina's slamming of the Gulf Coast, President Bush and Congress rushed with rare speed to provide an unprecedented $62.3 billion in disaster aid -- twice the annual budget of the entire Homeland Security Department. White House budget director Joshua Bolten predicted the money would last only "a few weeks."
Six weeks later, the government has spent or signed contracts totaling $16.2 billion, about a quarter of the money. To hurricane victims still awaiting trailers, small businesses needing loans to rebuild or city officials clamoring for debris removal, that amount may seem stunningly low. "When you look at the $62 billion and how much is actually making it to the state, it's such a small percentage that it's really disappointing," says Denise Bottcher, a spokeswoman for Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco. She says the governor has asked the Army Corps of Engineers and the Federal Emergency Management Agency for details on where the money is being spent in Louisiana, but the agencies haven't provided any.

There's a chart at the link.

Evictions to begin in New Orleans

In New Orleans, landlords to begin evicting absent tenants

A flood of legal battles is set to be unleashed Tuesday [today] in New Orleans when Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco lifts a post-Hurricane Katrina ban on evictions and 8,000 to 10,000 absentee tenants face the losses of their homes and possessions.
Landlords are expected to begin filing eviction requests with the courts immediately. If they're successful, they can clear out abandoned apartments and move tons of molding, waterlogged belongings to the streets within five to 10 days. In some cases, the landlords alone can make the decision to evict.
Attorneys and volunteers who represent low-income Louisiana residents are expected to gather Tuesday in Lafayette for briefings on eviction law and to rally in defense of a possible cascade of tenant grievances.

Louisiana leaders reject LA's corrupt reputation; play tu quoque

From this:

The struggle was never more evident than last week when Gov. Kathleen Blanco, Lt. Gov. Mitch Landrieu and New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin appeared before congressional committees asking for help to rebuild after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, in a series of speeches that each included a defense of the state.
With several members of Congress openly suggesting since Katrina that Louisiana isn't trustworthy enough to handle billions of dollars in disaster relief aid, Blanco pledged accountability in spending.
She said the state was hiring a nationally recognized accounting firm to review the flow of federal dollars through Louisiana and that she would hire another accounting firm to audit those first auditors.
"I want to emphasize that the financial affairs of Louisiana will be transparent and wide open. I believe that we will stand well to expected scrutiny by the public, the Congress and the media," she told a meeting of House subcommittees that oversee the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the Environmental Protection Agency, FEMA and other agencies crucial to Louisiana's recovery.
"I expect to account for every single penny of federal money that is received by the state of Louisiana," she said.
New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin urged the lawmakers to Google his record.
"You will see that since I have been in office almost four years, my whole focus has been on reform of government, honesty and integrity," he said...
"All manner of ugly words have been used to describe us by people sitting in their ivory towers. We have moved a million miles, but our old reputation continues to haunt us," Blanco said earlier this month.
And Landrieu was particularly straightforward when he appeared before the U.S. House committees with Blanco and Nagin.
The lieutenant governor said Louisiana doesn't corner the market on public corruption, noting that seven states with members on those subcommittees had more public corruption convictions than his state did.
In a letter he submitted to the subcommittees, Landrieu said New York, Illinois and Florida have twice as many federal public corruption convictions than Louisiana, and California has three times as many.
He said in the past decade, governors of New Jersey, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Arizona, Illinois, Ohio and Alabama all have been indicted - though he failed to mention that Louisiana's former four-term governor, Edwin Edwards, also is behind bars for a corruption scheme.
"I question the political tactics of basically 'kicking our state' while it is down," he wrote. "Now, we come to Congress - the voice of the American people to seek help. And yet, in the media, at the office water cooler, at the family dinner table and even in the hallways of the Capitol, we have been made to feel corrupt, selfish and unworthy of aid."
The problem is Louisiana officials have gone to jail over the years. One of its congressmen currently is under investigation. Federal prosecutors set up shop before the hurricanes in the Orleans Parish school board offices. Jefferson Parish judges have been convicted recently as part of a wide-ranging corruption investigation...

Louisiana spending $45 million on unnecessary projects?

From the AP:

As Louisiana officials plead for federal hurricane relief aid, a state money panel agreed Thursday to spend nearly $45 million on construction projects ranging from health labs and water wells to a sports complex and livestock facilities.
A group of state senators not on the panel said the spending would damage Louisiana's attempts to secure federal cash for recovery efforts and would give the appearance that the state was focusing on nonemergency items while talking about employee layoffs and devastating health and education cuts.
"What you do in the next few minutes is going to reverberate throughout this country as to what Louisiana's priorities are," state Sen. Jay Dardenne, R-Baton Rouge, told the Bond Commission, a panel made of Gov. Kathleen Blanco's representatives, many of her legislative allies and others.
The state's tax base is decimated, Blanco has ordered a spending and hiring freeze on many parts of the budget, and officials are grappling with a deficit expected to reach $1.5 billion in tax income alone...

A horse arena is one of projects.

Illegal aliens making good money taking jobs from hurricane victims

Details here.

...It remains unclear how much of the billions being spent on cleanup and repairs to homes and businesses has gone to Louisiana companies. On Oct. 6, in a speech to businesses at the Sheraton Hotel, Gov. Kathleen Blanco said, "I found out yesterday that 44 percent of the federal contracts and subcontracts have gone to Louisiana companies. That amounts to 31 percent of the dollar value of those contracts.
"I believe that if there is any Louisiana business or worker who is able to do the job, that Louisiana business or that Louisiana worker should get that job," Blanco added. At the time she made those remarks, the dollar value of contracts going to Louisiana companies was around $100 million, the governor's office said.
Under the federal Stafford Act, local workers are supposed to get preferential treatment when it comes to dispensing contracts and money. But there is a catch, contained in the phrase, "to the extent feasible and practicable," which is pertinent to the Louisiana situation, given that much of the local work force evacuated ahead of Katrina...
Rojas is among those who believe that a significant proportion of the Latino work force -- as much as 80 percent, by his estimate -- lacks legal documentation. He candidly acknowledged that a handful of his recent hires are among them. The fact that New Orleans faces emergency needs, and is doing so without a full labor force in place, means fewer questions are being asked, he said...

Blanco creates Louisiana Recovery Authority

From the source:

The authority will focus on key state issues such as housing, jobs, transportation, healthcare and education... Governor Blanco tapped her point-person on recovery, Chief of Staff, Andy Kopplin to head the agency... The authority will also focus on issues such as infrastructure, economic and workforce development, family services and the environment...

Unlike other things of this sort, Blanco has provided them with a to-do list. Within a week they need to "identify a nationally recognized planning firm for the planning process" as well as "set benchmarks for contracting performance and local hiring by FEMA, GSA, and Corps of Engineers". There are also 30 and 100 day goals.

Governor Blanco also appointed a distinguished 24-member Board of Directors to oversee the authority and to direct short and long term recovery plans. As advisors to the Governor, the board will seek public input and will set benchmarks to gauge progress.
Dr. Norman Francis,Chairman ("long-time president of Xavier University and respected New Orleans leader")
Walter Isaacson,Vice-Chairman ("renowned journalist and author Walter Isaacson, president and CEO of the Aspen Institute and former chairman of CNN")
Dale Atkins
Donna Brazile
Philip Burguières
Rene Cross
James Davison
Donna Fraiche
Tom Henning
Sibal Holt
Linda Johnson
John Landry
Laura Leach
Walter Leger, Jr.
Dr. Calvin Mackie
Mary Matalin
Sean Reilly
Virgil Robinson, Jr.
Dr. Mary Ella Sanders
Matt Stuller
Susan Taylor
David Voelker
Rod West

Brief bios for these worthies are provided here.

Senate wants answers from Blanco, Nagin

The Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs has some questions.

- A description of "all actions taken to evacuate or attempt to evacuate individuals without personal transportation and those with medical conditions and special needs."
- All documents from Aug. 29 to Sept. 6 that refer to the levee system; lawlessness, looting or other law enforcement, public safety or public order issues; the situation at the Superdome and the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center; and the "evacuation of the Superdome/Convention Center or other areas of New Orleans."
- Any information that reflects on the "failure or inadequacy of emergency communications, and accounts of desertions" at the Police Department as well as conflicts responding to the disaster with federal, state and city agencies.

This is what they want from Blanco:

- Information related to evacuations planned or carried out by the state.
- All documents from Aug. 23 to Sept. 6 related to requests or offers of assistance by federal, state, local and nongovernmental agencies.

As for the House:

Rep. Tom Davis, R-Va., who is leading the House investigation, said he is not interesting in producing a document outlining blame. "We want to be able to report what happened and where, what decisions were made, and try to talk about what went right and what went wrong, so that we can learn by our mistakes," Davis said in an interview.

Blanco to FEMA: use local contractors

LA Governor Kathleen Blanco has sent a letter to acting FEMA director David Paulison urging that FEMA uses LA or Gulf Coast businesses to do their general contracting. From the PDF file:

"...we have firms in Louisiana and the Gulf Coast which are capable of being prime contractors. These firms will have better local contacts to subcontractors and will be more able to link the resources made possible by reconstruction efforts into the affected areas..."

The article also says that:

President Bush emphasized the use of local industry to help rebuild the economy and [Blanco] also cited the Stafford Act as authority.


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