Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Local Media Notes

After listening to WRNO* this morning, I decided to put off my post on the Times Picayune's refusal to acknowledge the blatant cronyism in the Nagin administration isn't limited to the technology office. When the spokesperson for an office with one of city government's largest budgets gives laughable answers to questions, it should be of interest to more than just a humor columnist. BTW, those budget figures are worth examining; it's interesting to see which departments' have increased and which have decreased since 2005. The proposed city budget for 2007 has increased by about 50% from the actual 2005 budget, but the budgets for the NOFD and NOPD are down. Budgets for the mayor's office, CAO's office and Neighborhood 1 are all way up.

At any rate, Donald Powell insisted that the federal government had provided the money to cover the state's 10% matching share of federal reconstruction money. Specifically, he said that the second CDBG appropriation contained $750M that could be used to cover the state's matching funds. Since I didn't recall that from any discussion of how the CDBG money would be spent, and Rob Couhig certainly didn't ask, I had to wonder what was said at the time. Unfortunately, a couple of hours of googling didn't give an exact answer. Now it's late and I'm tired but it's but it's too much to expect that anybody who actually does this for a living will ask the obvious question of what was said at the time of the appropriations. I had vague memories of most of the money being earmarked for housing, and, as Eugene Robinson pointed out, it would be crazy for the federal government to give us the money, only to demand that we give it back. But that doesn't answer the obvious factual question of whether Donald Powell is full of shit.

It seems that both the governor and the federal government intended for about $250M of the first allocation to be used for that purpose, but I have no idea where Donald Powell got the $750M figure. The LRA's press release about the second allocation even states that it can't be used for that purpose, if I'm reading it correctly:
These additional rules state:
1. Louisiana can not use money from the second appropriation as
matching funds to draw down money from other federal programs.

I don't think I caught Donald Powell in an obvious lie that easily, Powell did say money was allocated that could be used for that purpose. But like I said, it would be nice to see somebody report on what was actually said about the money at the time it was allocated. The second allocation was made in June, but in August the Picayune reported that:
Of the $10.2 billion the state received in Community Development Block Grant money, only about $1 billion is left to be allocated for infrastructure needs, Kopplin said. Requests from the state’s four utilities — Entergy New Orleans, Entergy Louisiana, Entergy Gulf States and CLECO — total $1.5 billion.
Before any money is divvied up among the state’s utilities, Kopplin said LRA’s top priority is FEMA matching funds. Municipal agencies are eligible for FEMA money to repair their streets, water and sewer systems, but the federal government may require local governments to put up an as yet undetermined portion of the money as matching funds.

If it was really intended that the state come up with the entire matching share, the federal government didn't make it as clear as Powell would like us to believe.

In a different matter, it will be interesting to see how the Picayune reports on the defective pumps. I watched three local stations to see how they'd report the story. None mentioned the political angle:
MWI is owned by J. David Eller and his sons. Eller was once a business partner of former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush in a venture called Bush-El that marketed MWI pumps. And Eller has donated about $128,000 to politicians, the vast majority of it to the Republican Party, since 1996, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.
(hat tip: Maitri)

Two of the stations interviewed Matt Mcbide, however. For more on the pumps, his site is where you need to be.

*If the Donald Powell interview is no longer at the top of the page, scroll down to 7am. Tuesday. The remarks are about ten minutes into the interview.

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