Levees.org founder Sandy Rosenthal speaks to visitors from Indonesia
This week, Levees.org Founder Sandy Rosenthal gave a presentation to an Anti-Corruption Efforts Group from Indonesia.
Rosenthal spoke about Levees.org’s grassroots role in an effective public campaign to hold the Army Corps accountable for the levees’ failure.
The group visited the Levee Exhibit Hall and Garden at 5000 Warrington Drive in Gentilly.
The New Orleans Citizen Diplomacy Council is a nonprofit organization that arranges professional appointments and cultural activities for over 500 international leaders sent to New Orleans annually by the U.S. Department of State International Visitor Leadership Program and other programs. As one of approximately 90 councils nationwide, and the only council in Louisiana, the NOCDC aims to promote cross-cultural relationships and mutual understanding.
Levees.org’s Flood Protection bill – designed to better safeguard levee protection money – made it successfully out of the House Transportation Committee on Monday May 1. The bill is HB266 and is authored by Rep Patrick Connick-R (Marrero).
Mere weeks after the levee breaches during Katrina – while New Orleans was still underwater – a small group of business-people had a plan crafted and ready. Using full-page newspaper ads and paid-media releases, the group quickly convinced a traumatized populace that it needed “levee board reform.”
In the chaotic environment of February 2006 – years before levee investigators concluded that the US Army Corps of Engineers was responsible for the flooding – the Louisiana legislature approved this reform followed by the passage of a Constitutional Amendment by voters in September of that same year. And it turns out that the two new authorities, the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority (SLFPA) East and West, have no authority to oversee or directly influence the Corps.
However, the SLFPA East and West do control how more than $60 million of taxpayer money gets spent every year.*
The “levee board reform” took control of who gets to award lucrative contracts out of the governor’s hands and gave it to a small group of people. This small group is the SLFPA Nominating Committee and they have their positions for life. There are no term limits.
And this committee – at the end of the day – controls who is appointed to spend upward of $60 million of taxpayer dollars annually. And are at least indirectly responsible for protecting multiple parishes from flooding.
This doesn’t sound like good governing to Levees.org. So we support Rep Patrick Connick’s HB266 that would require term limits for all members of the SLFPA Nominating Committee. To contact your legislators, click HERE.
* Produced with data from page 17 of SLFPA-East’s financial report and page 13 of SLFPA-West’s financial report for fiscal year ending June 2016.
Melissa Landry, executive director at Louisiana Lawsuit Abuse Watch recently told the Louisiana Record that she was appalled at details coming to light in a levee breach lawsuit settlement.
“Twelve years after the class-action lawsuit was filed, flood victims are receiving notices of settlement payments as little as $3,” Ms. Landry observed.
She is talking about a federal class-action lawsuit filed against Orleans, East Jefferson and Lake Borgne levee districts. A relatively small pot of money, $17 million must be divided to pay 120,000 claims filed after Hurricane Katrina. It had the effect of making storm survivors confused and angry. And this is understandable.
Furthermore, the settlement might appear that the levee districts have admitted at least partial responsibility for the flooding. However, in a case like this, a settlement is not evidence of wrongdoing. And a judge does not have to believe a plaintiff’s contentions have merit to approve a settlement.