As a citizen-activist and member of the LRA Housing Task Force, I've consistently attempted to get everyone to do the right thing now about ensuring that both our persons and property are safe when (not if) the next storm overwhelms our levees. In this, I find the recommendations of ASCE's External Review Panel to be, for the most part, sound and worthy of immediate implementation.
I believe that the ERP's excellent engineering judgment should be separated from some serious public relations gaffes which in fact do need to be fixed if public confidence in the profession is to be restored.
As for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the chief engineer, citing local activist Ray Broussard, admits that it does not yet enjoy the confidence of residents living in the shadow of its levees. This is compounded by the fact that the Corps has proven itself incapable of managing all the elements of a total flood protection system, yet refuses to inform anyone of these limitations. The missing element is the need for elevated houses and effective evacuation facilities to serve as backup to a questionably reliable set of structures.
In my neighborhood of Vista Park, the results of the Corps' systematic rejection of effective (non-structural) home elevation measures are irrefutable when for every elevated house in a threatened flood plain there are more than seven renovated at grade, despite generous, though horribly delayed, state-administered federal subsidies. In previous positions, Levees.org has considered home elevation as taking the focus off the Corps and putting it on the victims. This I see as a thoroughly irresponsible, public relations-motivated move.
I equally support the longer-term issues that only a Congressional 8/29 panel can address, such as the problem of who's in charge. Our major systems' problems will not be solved by 2011, but there are known initiatives such as promoting and encouraging widespread elevation of homes behind levees. With each passing moment the opportunity to rebuild safely, strongly and responsibly is fast receding. If we don't elevate now, we will not deserve the level of taxpayer largesse we received last time when everyone thought we were safe.
See a depiction of this issue at http://picasaweb.google.com/k0c0king/ElevationIssues/photo#5231147277971112978
LRA Housing Task Force
A Note To Our Readers ... Gambit Weekly will soon conduct endorsement interviews with the Democratic candidates in the 2nd Congressional District race. We want your questions!
Select your best question for the field at large or for one candidate in particular.
Email your question (with '2nd Congressional Race" in the subject line) to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Gambit editors will pick the best ones and put them to the candidates.
Responses will be printed on Gambit's blog (www.blogofneworleans.com), and they will carry weight in the paper's endorsements.
Here's the list of candidates who have qualified for the race (as of press time, Jimmy Fahrenholtz had been disqualified):
Troy 'C" Carter
William J. Jefferson (incumbent)
Byron L. Lee
Kenya J.H. Smith
Thanks for contributing to the democratic process in New Orleans. Don't forget to vote on Sept. 6.