Wednesday, March 08, 2006

More on the Levees

Somewhat disappointing turnout for today's Protest, but due to the timing of the House Committee's action and the President's visit, it was organized at the last minute. I was the tired looking guy in blue jeans and a dark knit shirt,BTW.

Found out today why Monday's Washington Post Article mentioned the $1.6B levee reconstruction project, when approximately $3B had been appropriated:

He criticized Congress' earlier diversion of $1.5 billion in levee-rebuilding money to non-New Orleans-related projects, saying lawmakers "shortchanged the process" of rebuilding the city. He said Congress must reverse the decision — even as lawmakers were poised to do so. A $19 billion hurricane-relief measure, set for approval by a key House panel, provides $1.5 billion in various Army Corps of Engineers water projects, chiefly for rebuilding New Orleans' levee systems. Link

Almost makes me wonder if we live in some kind of sick, twisted universe where a weakened Bush Presidency could be a bad thing, but I won't go that far. It also makes me wonder if I was the only person to miss the original diversion. I'm sure it was reported, just seems like it would have received more attention--maybe I missed it. It's certainly one more reason to keep a close eye on the katrina budget numbers. I've often wondered why nobody with the resources keeps a regularly updated site on how much gets requested, then appropriated, then actually designated to be spent where and on what. But I doubt that a full time paid staffer with the state government, or some media outlet or some other organization could keep up with it.

Apparently the House Appropriations Committe has voted to restore the $1.5B:

A House committee on Wednesday approved about $19 billion in new emergency funds to help clean up and rebuild southern states, including nearly $1.5 billion for repairing New Orleans levees ruined by Hurricane Katrina last summer...

A full House vote is expected next week.

That brings up at least two obvious points. Of course, we'll have to watch next week's vote and look at the exact wording of the appropriation to make sure the money can't be diverted again. Secondly, it brings up some obvious, if unwelcome, questions about the assurances that we're receiving from the administration and the Corps of Engineers. Was $3B enough to make the levees safe or was $1.6B enough? Or is $3B enough?

On a slightly different subject, I'd strongly recommend ,Cronies by Robert Bryce to anyone who hasn't read it. Something in today's paper made me think of it. I think Haley barbour could teach the Texans a thing or two, though. If I remember correctly, The Bushes really didn't need to be in the subtitle; he tried to make them central figures at times when they were just "get along to go along" profiteers. But it's been a while, read the book if you have time. It's listed in both the New Orleans and Jefferson Parish library catalogs.

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