Sunday, January 28, 2007


From the T/P's January 25th, editorial:
In her efforts to deflect growing criticism about the program's slow progress, the governor says Louisianians would already have received their checks if federal funds had not been delivered "six months late."

The state did not receive the final appropriation to pay for the program until early July, but that should have given the Blanco administration more time to get ready to distribute the money. Instead, almost seven months later, only 258 homeowners have received Road Home grants.

With that record, the governor's finger pointing is dishonest.

The editorial doesn't make it exactly clear that Mississippi received its money six months before Louisiana, but I suppose that most readers can infer that or remember it from a John Maginnis column that appeared almost four months ago. There are also some questionable assumptions in that second paragraph, but my my point isn't to defend Governor Blanco.

On the previous day, The Picayune ran an editorial about the Nagin administration's clumsy attempt to over bill the federal government. Any guesses what word didn't appear in that editorial? No synonyms for dishonest either. I'm sure that the paper's op-ed writers wouldn't pull their punches like that, if they bothered to write about the landfill deal at all. None of them wrote about the city's attempt to over bill the feds for overtime either.

I don't know if there's any connection, but something interesting appeared in yesterday's paper:
The agency wants to immediately move billions of relief dollars sitting idle in state accounts to the parishes and local agencies that have applied for it, so long as the federal government is willing to accept oversight of the project expenditures.


Now Col. Jeff Smith, acting director of the state homeland security office, is preparing a letter to FEMA Director David Paulison proposing that the state pass the remaining $2.5 billion in obligated FEMA money to the local agencies without delay, said Mark Smith, spokesman for the state office. In doing so, Jeff Smith would ask the federal agency for a waiver that would hold Louisiana harmless if local agencies misappropriated or spent money outside federal guidelines. Under the current system, if money is not spent properly under federal rules, the state would be on the hook to pay it back, Mark Smith said.

"With the waiver, the federal government becomes responsible for oversight, and the parishes would get all their money in one shot," Smith said.

The infusion of cash would be a boost to local governments. FEMA's reaction, however, remains in doubt.

FEMA press secretary Aaron Walker said his agency had not received the request from Louisiana officials. He quoted the state's agreement with FEMA, which says, "the State is responsible for implementing and monitoring the grants awarded under the Public Assistance program."

Of course, that wouldn't be an excuse for the slow pace of Road Home program.

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