Friday, April 20, 2007

Money Well Spent

Looks like I picked the wrong week to give up politics:

From this week's Gambit
Nagin Backer Owes $8,400 in Ethics Fines
A member of the Sewerage & Water Board who raised more than a quarter of a million dollars for Mayor Ray Nagin's re-election campaign last year has failed to pay $8,400 in fines for filing tardy campaign finance reports, according to the Louisiana Ethics Commission. Rev. Benjamin Edwards Sr. , a S&WB member and Ninth Ward minister, formed a political action committee in his own name then raised and spent $269,250 on Nagin's re-election campaign during a two-month period, beginning in March 2006, records show. But the Edwards PAC failed to file reports in a timely manner as required by state campaign finance disclosure laws, thereby depriving voters of information on contributions and expenditures for the mayor's campaign, according to ethics board attorney Alesia Ardoin. Edwards' PAC filed three reports for the April 2006 primary, but they were late by 21 days, 41 days and 61 days respectively. The reports detail the spending of thousands of dollars on campaign billboards, hotel rooms and air fares as the mayor stormed through Texas, Memphis and Atlanta seeking support from voters displaced by Hurricane Katrina. Calls to Edwards at the contact number listed on his campaign reports -- Third Shiloh Missionary Baptist Church -- and to two S&WB spokespersons were not returned by press time. -- Johnson

From yesterday's Picayune:
The cost to replace the pipe network alone is about $3.2 billion, according to a December 2006 report by board consultants.

Meanwhile, water board officials say it will take $1.26 billion over the next 25 years to build a 21st century sewage system that complies with a federal court order and serves a gradually growing population.

The Picayune in January:
The agreements will cost the city $33 million per year, more than triple the cost of the most recent city garbage deal, not including $7 million for dumping at a local landfill.

The Picayune in May:
A multimillion-dollar subcontract involving the inspection of the city's damaged sewer system was awarded in October to a company organized by a politically active minister who incorporated the firm months after the work began.

How MCCI came to be hired -- given that it didn't exist on paper and still lacks a listed phone number -- is something of a mystery.

The answer may lie in the person of Benjamin Edwards Sr., a longtime member of the water board who also is a politically active minister and a friend of Coleman.

And in October:
The goal set by the executive order, which extends for three years, calls for any company that gets public financing, incentives or subsidies to use local businesses for at least 50 percent of its subcontracts. Of those, the order calls for 35 percent to be with small businesses that are "economically disadvantaged," a city certification that typically targets minority-owned or women-owned small companies.

Exactly what these requirements will involve will be determined by Donna Addkison, the mayor's executive assistant for economic development, housing and planning. She will establish the process for determining what will be required of individual companies, Williams said.

I was hesitant to include the last quote, but alarms went off in my head when I read that story in October. That probably had something to do with the fact that when Nagin made the official announcement (without details) of the policy a few days earlier, he cited the city's "transparent spending policies." No matter what your opinion of minority set-asides, you have to acknowledge that without transparent spending policies, the potential for corruption is great. I don't think anybody really believes that the city has transparent spending policies; more often than not, the city's spending decisions even seem to baffle city council members. And, as far as I can tell, the city's DBE program is still a highly politicized joke.

On a side note, the potential for graft and corruption inherent in privatization is slowly become apparent, although some conservatives still debate that. It occurs to me that Nagin manages to combine both the liberal approved type of corruption and the conservative approved form of corruption. I doubt that any recovery project will be well-financed enough for both.

At any rate, Billboard Ben spent $269,250 on Nagin's re-election and he's being fined another $8,400. That's less $280,000 for a piece of $4.46B times some unknown multiplier. I'm inclined to believe Edwards when he says that he made his money through shrewd investments.


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