The AP rounds up Louisiana's plan to get billions of dollars from the feds in "$40B La. Protection Plan Sparks Debate":
A $40 billion plan to hurricane-proof the Louisiana coast has ignited a battle over how best to prevent a repeat of this year's double flooding of New Orleans.
Endorsed by the state's congressional delegation, the proposal would create a nine-member independent commission that would give Louisiana a large say in how the federal money is spent.
That's the "Pelican Commission".
The huge sums involved and the measure's plan to waive federal environmental laws underscore the dramatic steps that Louisiana lawmakers say is needed to help the state recover from one of the country's worst natural disasters.
The commission with at least five members from Louisiana would have final say over Army Corps of Engineers projects to protect New Orleans from the most potent type of hurricanes, known as Category 5, and to restore the coastline, control flooding and improve navigation.
Normal congressional processes for authorizing projects and spending money would be bypassed entirely under the proposal. Environmental laws would be waived once the commission signs off on the work plan, which the corps would have to develop in just six months.
Such an unprecedented transfer of power and money from Washington to a state usually would stand little chance of winning federal approval. Louisiana lawmakers, though, are hoping the catastrophic drubbing from hurricanes Katrina and Rita will force Congress and the White House to take a serious look at the proposal. It has been introduced as part of a broader reconstruction bill.
Translation: Our president is trying to spend his way back to some degree of popularity, so maybe we can get him to further open the wallet.
"The whole purpose is to give this a sense of urgency," said Sen. David Vitter, R-La. "We need to break out of the bureaucratic mentality where everything is studied to death."
"They're asking for a $40 billion blank check," said Steve Ellis, a vice president of Taxpayers for Common Sense. "It is a huge amount of money that would be essentially front-ended as appropriations, and then driven independent of Washington oversight."
Because of the following, I considered putting this under 'humor' as well:
Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., said the proposal was "just a suggestion" and that she never intended to waive environmental laws. What is needed, she said, is a way to streamline the process so hurricane protection work can be done quickly.
"It is not our intention to loot the treasury," she said. "It is our intention to get support and help from the federal government."
You can download a copy of the legislation from Cute Little Baby Fat's site. Another download is an overview of only a couple pages and is basically all you need to know. Just look at all the dollar signs to be allocated to just about every conceivable group. They basically want to buy everyone's support.
Louisiana's congressional delegation has requested $40 billion for Army Corps of Engineers projects in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, about 10 times the annual Corps budget for the entire nation, or 16 times the amount the Corps has said it would need to protect New Orleans from a Category 5 hurricane...
...The bill, unveiled last week, would create a powerful "Pelican Commission" controlled by Louisiana residents that would decide which Corps projects to fund, and ordered the commission to consider several controversial navigation projects that have nothing to do with flood protection. The Corps section of the Louisiana bill, which was supported by the entire state delegation, was based on recommendations from a "working group" dominated by lobbyists for ports, shipping firms, energy companies and other corporate interests...
I don't think they learned this from Bush, I'm sure it's more innate than that.
"This bill boggles the mind," said Steve Ellis, a water resources expert at Taxpayers for Common Sense. "Brazen doesn't begin to describe it. The Louisiana delegation is using Katrina as an excuse to resurrect a laundry list of pork projects."
Aides to Gov. Kathleen Babineaux Blanco (D) helped shape the bill. The governor yesterday asked for $31.7 billion in federal funds for her state's infrastructure, including $20 billion for hurricane protections -- which aides described as a down payment on the larger sum.
BTW, "Pelican" stands for "Protecting Essential Louisiana Infrastructure, Citizens and Nature". I wonder how much they paid to come up with that.
...The 440-page bill also includes $50 billion in open-ended grants for storm-ravaged communities and $13 billion for the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development, along with mortgage assistance, health care, substance abuse treatment and other services for hurricane victims. It also includes hefty payments to hospitals, ports, banks, shipbuilders, fishermen and schools, as well as $8 million for alligator farms, $35 million for seafood industry marketing, and $25 million for a sugar-cane research laboratory that had not been completed before Katrina...
...The coastal protection section may be the most contentious part of the bill, overturning a slew of Corps precedents, but Louisiana officials say that past practice has failed to protect their state. They say their communities do not have the money to pay the standard 30 percent local share for Corps hurricane protection, or the time to wait several years for standard Corps studies...
...Vitter and Landrieu tapped John M. Barry -- author of "Rising Tide," the definitive history of the 1927 flood -- to lead the working group on the Corps response to Katrina. Almost all the other members of the group were lobbyists from firms such as Patton Boggs, Adams & Reese, the Alpine Group, Dutko Worldwide, Van Scoyoc Associates, and a firm owned by former senator J. Bennett Johnston (D-La.). There was a lobbyist for the Port of New Orleans, a lobbyist for Verizon, and three lobbyists who were former aides to House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Don Young (R-Alaska).
Internal notes from the working group obtained by The Washington Post suggest that hurricane protection was by no means its sole preoccupation. A list of "outstanding issues" from a Sept. 15 conference call mentioned the possibility of authorizing at least six unrelated navigation projects, and included questions such as "Are there other things we can do to boost our ports?" and -- perhaps a joke -- "How much can I bill my client?"
"My concern was that the focus was not on protecting Louisiana," said Ivor van Heerden, the deputy director of Louisiana State University's Hurricane Center and one of the few non-lobbyists on the working group...
Maybe the $50 billion amount that their proposal exceeds the already phantasmagoric figure proposed by Bush is intended to be bargained down. Let's split the difference, eh?
Louisiana's Senators, Mary Landrieu (D) and David Vitter (R), have proposed legislation to provide about $250 billion in federal aid to help their state rebuild from Hurricane Katrina. The massive, 10-year plan, contained in a bill introduced on Sept. 22, includes about $180 billion in direct federal spending, Vitter said. The rest would represent the cost of various tax breaks.
But Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) and several other GOP colleagues want at least some of the federal hurricane relief spending to be offset with spending cuts. Among their suggestions: a 5% across-the-board cut in discretionary spending other than defense and homeland security; and rescinding $24 billion in earmarked highway projects in the recently enacted highway and transit authorization bill...
...The Landrieu-Vitter package would draw most of its funds from federal appropriations, but they also are seeking 50% of the revenue from oil and gas leases off their state's coast. Vitter says that 50% share of lease payments recently has ranged between $3 billion and $4 billion annually. Those revenues would go for restoration of coastal wetlands and barrier islands as well as infrastructure.
The energy bill signed into law in August provides Louisiana with $135 million in oil and gas lease revenue annually for four years to be used for coastal restoration work...
it was [Marc] Morial's get-out-the-vote teams that won the day for Landrieu, President Clinton and Orleans Parish Leader Harry Connick...
"Mayor Nagin and most mayors in this country have a hard time getting their people to work on a sunny day, let alone getting them out of the city in front of a hurricane... And it's because this administration and administrations before them do not understand the difficulties that mayors . . . face... In other words, this administration did not believe in mass transit. They won't even get people to work on a sunny day, let alone getting them out..."
Asked to criticize Nagin or others, she responded:
"Because the mayor evacuated the city, we had the best evacuation . . . of any evacuation I've seen. I'm 50 years old; I've never seen one any better."
That prompted FNS host Chris Wallace to remind: "But there were a hundred thousand people left in the city."
Landrieu once again blamed the White House, saying:
"They did [have] a hundred thousand people left in the city because this federal government won't support cities to evacuate people, whether it's from earthquakes, tornadoes, or hurricanes. And that's the truth."
Louisiana's senior senator, whose brother is lieutenant governor and whose father was New Orleans' mayor, is blaming President Bush for "the staggering incompetence of the federal government." Come again?
It's understandable that on the Sept. 4 edition of ABC's "This Week," Mary Landrieu said of President Bush, "I might likely have to punch him - literally" if he or members of his administration made any more disparaging remarks about local authorities and their pre- and post-Katrina efforts. Some are and were family.
Brother Mitch Landrieu is lieutenant governor of Louisiana. Father "Moon" Landrieu was not only mayor of New Orleans, but also later became secretary of housing and urban development under President Carter.
...Despite Landrieu's complaints of budget cuts and paltry funding, the fact is that over the five years of the Bush administration, Louisiana has received more money - $1.9 billion - for Army Corps of Engineers civil works projects than any other state, and more than under any other administration over a similar period. California is a distant second with less than $1.4 billion despite a population more than seven times as large.
...The problem was at the local level. The ambitious plan fell apart when the state suspended the Levee Board's ability to refinance old bonds and issue new ones. As the Times-Picayune reported, Legislative Auditor Dan Kyle "repeatedly faulted the Levee Board for the way it awards contracts, spends money and ignores no-bid contract laws." Blocked by the state from raising local money, the federal matching funds went unspent. By 1998, Louisiana's state government had a $2 billion construction budget, but less than one-tenth of one percent, or $1.98 million, was dedicated to New Orleans levee improvements. By contrast, $22 million was spent that year to renovate a home for the Louisiana Supreme Court...
FPM has a link-rich rundown of the left's attempts to politicize the disaster:
IT'S OFFICIAL: THE AMERICAN LEFT NOW BELIEVES GEORGE W. BUSH IS GOD. Bellowing leftists such as Robert F. Kennedy Jr. and Cindy Sheehan have blamed Hurricane Katrina - something insurance companies classify as an act of God - on President Bush's "killing policies" (and, in RFK Jr.'s case, those of Mississippi's Republican governor, Haley Barbour). Former Clinton aide Sidney Blumenthal also penned an article in The Guardian chalking up the flood to the Bush administration's having cut one item in the Army Corps of Engineers' annual budget. (Desperate to build a presidential legacy, even ex post facto, ex-President Bill Clinton has intimated his administration did more to keep New Orleans safe than Bush's.) Meanwhile, DNC Chair Howard Dean weighed in by demeaning Bush's trip to the disaster area, calling it "just another callous political move crafted by Karl Rove."
On Sep. 3, LA Sen. Mary Landrieu accused Bush of creating a potemkin repair site. She appears to have been wrong. First, here's her claim:
...But perhaps the greatest disappointment stands at the breached 17th Street levee. Touring this critical site yesterday with the President, I saw what I believed to be a real and significant effort to get a handle on a major cause of this catastrophe. Flying over this critical spot again this morning [Saturday Sep. 3], less than 24 hours later, it became apparent that yesterday we witnessed a hastily prepared stage set for a Presidential photo opportunity; and the desperately needed resources we saw were this morning reduced to a single, lonely piece of equipment...
The same day, Kevin Drum introduced this quote with this:
George Bush's photo-op tour of New Orleans yesterday has apparently driven Louisiana Senator Mary Landrieu over the edge. Today she blasted FEMA for its feeble response to Hurricane Katrina and Bush for his phony, stage managed promises of action...
However, "Local officials complain of disease, neglect" (posted on 09/04/2005 02:13:32 AM) says:
The Army Corps of Engineers said crews had closed a 300-foot gap in the 17th Street Canal levee, where the heaviest floodwaters had entered the city, and said they expected to close a second gap in another canal over the weekend.
Work to repair a 500-yard stretch of embankment along the 17th Street Canal was completed late on Sunday after an operation so urgent and intense that helicopter crews refused even to land for refuelling during shifts, instead hooking up to a giant flying tanker that circled overhead.
And, if that wasn't enough, from the ACOE themselves comes this PDF file:
On east side of the 17th Street Canal, the closure was 75 percent complete by midday Friday and a complete closure was expected by nightfall. Helicopters were dropping large sandbags made of strong, synthetic materials, and heavy equipment on the ground has been placing rock. Ground access was created by building a rock road more than 700-feet long from Hammond Highway, which is about 700 feet lake-ward of the breach.
Note that the first (since shown to be erroneous as to the victims) report of people being shot was posted on 09/04 6:10PM Eastern and contains:
The contractors were walking across a bridge on their way to launch barges into Lake Pontchartrain to fix the 17th Street Canal...
The rest of Drum's post will be discussed later, but the last four excerpts cast a great deal of doubt on Landrieu's interpretation of events, which, of course, were then echoed by WM and others.
The use of the term "levee" might be inaccurate. As I understand it, all of the levees held; the problems were in the "flood walls" for the canals.
Apparently Landrieu was less hostile during her interview with Anderson Cooper. That was the one during which he recounted his story about seeing rats eating a dead body.
District Fire Chief Gary Savelle "developed the city's hurricane fire and rescue plan" ("Haunted by Katrina").
WTAE's news director, Bob Longo, quotes Landrieu's press release without any analysis in "My View: Responsibility And The Relief Effort". Please post links to other discussions of her allegations in the comments.