Sunday, June 25, 2006

Somebody Actually Noticed

Maybe it did all go according to script. After performing admirably during the crisis, New Orleans' Finest soon found themselves overwhelmed and unable to perform their mostbasic job functions. Now, buttressed by outside support, they've regrouped and started to focus on problems areas. Amazingly, the results are already becoming apparent.

From yesterday's Picayune:
The individual items in the list given to the council added up to about $20 million less than the $50.8 million total budgeted. Asked about the discrepancy, an administration budget official said later that the list inadvertently omitted some items and would have to be corrected.

I was pleasantly surprised that it's not considered obstructionist to even ask. Although, I am curious about whether it was a city council member, reporter or somebody else that noticed the discrepancy.

Though the infusion of $50M of federal money into the city budget is certainly good news, the article leaves me with more questions than answers. The use of the word reimbursements implies that it's money that the city is being given to cover costs that the city already incurred. That doesn't seem to be the case, but how the city spends the money and then gets paid back by FEMA isn't exactly clear, not to me anyway.

More importantly, it's reassuring that somebody noticed the $20M discrepancy. It's less reassuring that the reaction of the administration seemed to be, "Oops, we forgot. We'll get you an accounting statement as soon as possible." Worse, the reaction of the city council seemed, "Well okay, we'll write you the check. Just be sure to tell us how you spend it." I'm probably reading too much into it. If the Picayune devoted a fraction of the ink to a $50M appropriation that it did to a $238K judicial conference, it would probably be crystal clear.

Finally I couldn't help but noticing the following:
Assistant Chief Administrative Officer Cary Grant said the city also will be reimbursed $32 million for police, fire and other city vehicles that were ruined by post-Katrina flooding. That money is not covered by the ordinances approved Thursday.

Of course, the city was too broke to have an adequate number of police officers and police cars. It's a matter of credibility, unless you think that, in the interest of moving the city forward, we all should all unite behind a mayor who seems to just make stuff up.

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