Skip to comments.Baker’s relief bill deserves try
Posted on 01/29/2006 6:51:06 AM PST by Uncle Sham
Political Horizons for Jan. 29
Bakers relief bill deserves try
By JOHN LAPLANTE
Published: Jan 29, 2006
Ford to City: Drop Dead, a legendary headline screamed in 1975, when a president refused to bail out New York City from financial disaster.
Change the president and the locale, and Louisiana hurricane victims might be forgiven for thinking the same thing.
After hemming and hawing for months about U.S. Rep. Richard Bakers home-buyout bill, and never really saying what he had against it, Bush brushed it aside last week.
Only after aides revealed his opposition did Bush grant a one-paragraph explanation. It amounted to three things: Dont create more bureaucracy; we already gave you people lots of money; and Louisiana doesnt have a plan.
Baker and Gov. Kathleen Blanco countered the Baker bill is so important it amounts to the plan.
Blanco said she only really controls $6.2 billion in recovery money that will be stretched far too thin to aid owners of 200,000 destroyed or damaged homes.
She said opposing bureaucracy is an odd argument for any federal officials to make.
What she should argue is that Bakers bill is a plan for people, not politicians.
Yes, the bill would set up a new bureaucracy called the Louisiana Recovery Corp., but this is not an open-ended promise to hand out money to politicians or write checks to the idle.
The LRC is supposed to be a hard-nosed business proposition. It would pay willing homeowners some, but not all, of the equity in their homes.
If they have a mortgage, the agency would pay it off, giving lenders back some, but not all, of their investment.
The agency would clean up the property and, working with local interests, market it to investors for redevelopment.
The LRC should take some decisions from politicians and give them to homeowners. They could take less and get on with their lives or keep their property in hopes of working out a better deal some other way. The agency would not take land against the owners will.
The corporation could transform many homeowners from helpless victims to people with some hope for the future. It could block a wave of foreclosures that might wipe out tens of thousands of families finances.
It could help head off statewide economic stagnation and spur speedy, organized recovery for communities that must come back for the state to recover.
Baker said hes not giving up. He sees support in both chambers of Congress and says he has passed significant legislation over Bushs objection before. But the opposition of a president whose party controls Congress is a major setback.
In fairness to Bush, Louisiana leaders made it easy for him to so casually shrug off the bill.
Our U.S. senators tried to grab $250 billion on sympathy instead of catalogued needs. The governor and Legislature found money for political projects during the crisis and so far have done little to adjust state government to the vastly different needs. New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin famously made blackness, not prosperity, his top goal.
Some Louisiana leaders also exude an air of entitlement, even arrogance, demanding Washington immediately turn over as much taxpayer money as the state demands.
The Baker bill is not another toy for Louisiana politicians to play with or a well-intentioned program for them to screw up. It should actually bypass the politicians by dealing mostly with residents and bankers and developers.
Bush would appoint the managers of the agency, with Blanco suggesting only two. The U.S. treasury secretary would have final say over how much money the agency can borrow.
The bill is founded in Bakers long expertise in the complexities of housing finance and the federal governments long interest in affordable homes as a big part of the American dream.
Bakers bill also is complex and in some ways unprecedented, and who knows how wily politicians, lawyers or speculators might try to abuse it?
Baker says he is willing to compromise. He should be. Louisiana is asking the nation to take a huge risk by borrowing up to $30 billion. Limits and controls are appropriate to minimize the chance of abuse.
Risks and reservations should not sink the bill without a proper airing.
The idea is worth more than months of foot-shuffling and a sudden brush-off by the president.
The 200,000 families that might directly benefit from it, and the 4.5 million Louisiana residents affected by their states continued crisis, deserve a hearing.
John LaPlante is Capitol bureau editor for The Advocate.
I don't think Pres. Bush is the only one who thinks La. does not have a plan; I don't see Congress jumping on the bandwagon either. La. hurt their credibility big time when they offered up the $250 billion request.
John Kerry had a plan too.
Did Blanko borrow one of John Kerry's plans? He seems to have had an abundance of them.
And here lies the problem. Take the real estate in the 9th Ward. The current levees could not even stand up to Category 2 conditions. What is the point of bundling up that real estate for redevelopment if it is just going to get flooded again?
And even if we were to build Cat-5 levees, the entire region is subsiding - so they might be back to Cat-3 in a few decades.
And that does not even address the corruption in levee construction that apparently contributed to failures. We could spend 30 billion to make supposed Cat 5 levees just to have them fail because of shoddy construction because the Levee Commission gave a contract to a hack.
So Blanco and company have a plan for buying up this real estate. But the political pathologies that magnified the scale of this disaster are still in place. And until the people of Louisiana get rid of their corrupt hack politicians, there will be resistance to sending a hundred billion more dollars there.
I hate to be so blunt, but that is the overwhelming feeling I get from those I talk to about this.
If several billions haven't yet corrected the problems, then something is seriously wrong with the way the money is being used.
As as long as I'm being mean here---I'd love to see all the refugees lounging around at government expense return to Louisiana and be made to help rebuild over there.
This plan had wide-spread Congressional support before the holidays but was held up by the Bush Administration.
Why should we trust the same people (the incumbent politicians of Louisiana) who helped create this mess (and who raked off large sums for their own pockets in the process) to do anything correct and legit about fixing the mess?
(Ray Nagin among others should be in jail or defending themselves in court--having 1700 police on the rolls drawing salaries when there are only 1000 actually on the force is a crime in most places.)
We will get rid of them at the very first opportunity I can assure you of that. Nagin and Blanco for starters are toast. Although I think their problem is more incompetence then corruption it's a start.
The plan her governess wants is a Blanko Checko for Blanko signed by US government
The Baker bill passed the House committee easily to be moved on. It was held up by the White House. So it did indeed have some congressional support. If the president wants to say he doesn't like the plan thats fine. But to say Louisiana didn't have a plan is just not being informed on the subject.
In other words, trust us, we represent the people's interest.
So the people too stupid to buy incredibly cheap FEMA flood insurance are supposed to be bailed out?
Oh, I don't think so...
And you can bet Blanco and company have a plan: Screw the American taxpayer. Again.
As everyone else in areas of the country that are hit by acts of nature such as tornadoes. I haven't seen any government "plans" for any of the people who lose homes and lives all over the country and don't have 24/7 coverage of the "poor" who were told, at least, 3 days in advance to GET OUT and take, at least, a weeks worth of medicine, clothes, water, food, etc. and DID NOTHING.
Go to snopes.com. Type in the search box "New Orleans Police". Click on the first link that comes up. I haven't seen anything anywhere that verifies this story. If it's verified by an investigation then throw the book at them. Until then it's nothing but a rumor.
That's stupidity, not corruption. There is a difference you know.
I think this is what the Republican plan is. Instead of all of Louisiana, I think it should be in devastated areas and areas that will better remedy soil erosion (especially coastal). This plan will better suit black New Orleans Democrats who never had adequate representation and could "transform" Louisiana with better representation.
I have a plan for you. Move to higher ground. I am sick of paying taxes throgh the nose so that morons can have what THEY want.
"This plan had wide-spread Congressional support before the holidays but was held up by the Bush Administration"
It did not have wide support. From my perspective as a soon-to-be ex-Lousyana resident the so-called "leaders" of this state have done zilch in giving the taxpayers in the rest of the country any reason to funnel billions more into the political, economic and educational BLACK F'N HOLE.
GASBAG BLANK-O whines and bitches which is apparently all that's she competant to do rather than lead. The Chocolate Man Ray Nagin further embarrasses the state on an almost daily basis. Vitter, the formerly sane Senator, signs on to Moon's baby girl's attempt to rape the U.S. Treasury of $250 BILLION.
And you wonder why people look on Lousyana with disgust? Really?
I'mm outa here.
Nagin says Vegas-style casino gambling could jump-start ravaged city
NEW ORLEANS (AP) -- Mayor C. Ray Nagin hopes to attract tourists and their cash back to his ravaged city with an "out-of-the-box" plan to install Las Vegas-style gambling in the city's biggest hotels.
Nagin put forth the casino proposal Friday as a way to jump-start New Orleans' economy and help its people get back to work in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.
The plan calls for a large-scale gambling area in the city's central business district, stretching from Interstate 10 on the west to the Mississippi River on the east.
"Now is the time for us to think out of the box. Now is the time for some bold leadership, some decisive leadership," Nagin said.
Nagin said gambling should be allowed in hotels that have more than 500 rooms, the majority of which are near the city's famed Canal Street. The plan would require legislative approval.
Gambling is already allowed using video machines in roughly half of Louisiana's 64 parishes, but there's only one full-scale, land-based casino, operated by Harrah's Entertainment Inc., in New Orleans.
Harrah's downtown casino has been closed since shortly before Katrina hit and the company has not given a timetable for possibly reopening the gambling hall.
Also, three dockside riverboat casinos operate in the New Orleans area.
Nagin made his proposal after Katrina virtually destroyed all 13 dockside casinos on the nearby Mississippi Gulf Coast. A bill to allow operators to rebuild land casinos close to shore has been passed by both the Mississippi House and Senate. Gov. Haley Barbour has said he will sign the measure.
There are currently nine hotels in New Orleans with more than 500 rooms; Nagin said he thought five or six hotels would add casinos.
Nagin would not speculate what would be involved in getting his casino plan passed, but said he hoped Gov. Kathleen Blanco -- who has campaigned against additional gambling in Louisiana -- would include it in a recently announced special session that's scheduled for November.
"Right now we're a cash-strapped city," Nagin said.
Nagin said he is not fond of gambling, and that he wished he had another solution, "but I know of no other way."
He said Harrah's would have to agree to give up its exclusive rights and acknowledged he did not think the company would "do it for free."
Harrah's spokesman Alberto Lopez declined to comment on the proposal.
Dan King, general manager of the city's Sheraton hotel, did not discount the proposal.
"I can't speak for my company. I guess all ideas are worth investigating. I don't really have a comment because I haven't studied it," he said.
Nagin said he sent a letter to Blanco earlier this week asking for a 50 percent income tax credit for any worker in the city. Nagin also asked the governor to eliminate the tax on manufacturers' debt in the city and for an income-tax-free zone for manufacturers in the city.
Stupidity does not cause corruption.
Huh? I think you just made my point but I'm not sure.
Just because Nagin and Blanco stand up and say they do have a plan does not make it so either, unless you include the famous "Chocolate City" plan. I believe President Bush on this and trust him more than the La. politicians.
The locals weren't prepared and did a crappy job of anything imediately after the storm when the enormity of the devastation was just sinking in. We've had five months now for the Feds to get their act together on this and it still isn't taking place. Surely, you can't blame the locals for this. This attitude says every state for themselves. Is that what you want for this nation?
Nagin's economic development plan is to entice Hershey to move from Pennsylvania to New Orleans - make a "chocolate" city.
"Personally, I'm wondering how much more the taxpayers are supposed to pick up to pay for Louisiana. As for me, I'm sick and tired of it. It's time for these people to pull up their bootstraps, and figure out how to take care of their own problems."
Louisiana is beginning to figure it out! There is a new plan being discussed - a plan to levy a tax (4%) against major Oil and Gas producers in Louisiana, something akin to a land use tax on the thousands of miles of pipeline getting the gas and oil out of Lousiana to other parts of the country. These majors would have no choice other than to pay it. They would then turn around and pass that tax on to consumers at pumps across America. It would generate BILLIONS for the State of Louisiana. Americans will helf fund the Lousiana recovery every time they fuel their vehicles whether they like it or not. Rest assured, Lousiana is getting dangerously close to getting "it" figured out. Some politicians in Lousiana aren't as stupid as some want to protray them. In a sense, because of their abundance of Natural Resources on land and off their coast, Louisiana has the Nation and Americans at their mercy and the State is just beginning to wake up to that fact. Time will tell how all this shakes out. Stay tuned!
Bingo. Why should I pay someone to live in a hole ?
Yes, I can. Your pols came to the American taxpayer asking for $250 billion dollars. That one act curdled all the goodwill taxpayers in other states had.
Now, Louisiana wants federal taxpayers to pay for destroyed properties. So far, so good. But then all those properties will be re-bundled for re-development. And I'm sure the corrupt Louisiana pols will figure out how to get their share from that.
And that is the problem all this keeps returning to - you are asking us to send tens of billions of dollars to the same hacks who helped create this mess in the first place.
And what is the point of re-developing land that is now so prone to getting wiped off the map by a hurricane? We're supposed to have at least two more decades of this up-cycle.
LA is in deep trouble politically. Denying responsibility and blaming the Republicans, race baiting, lying...was not a great strategy for building credibility and trust. In addition, greed and corruption...
It requires political capital for elected officials to take on the expenses to rebuild NO and a great risk of looking like they wasted money on LA official corruption. Especially since LA officials will blame any problems they create on Republicans. It is a costly no win situation.
It felt good for Chocolate Nagin and drugged Blank-o in the moment, to go on a campaign of shriking responsibility with national Democrats and the Media Party; doesn't feel so good anymore. Who will forget that witch Mary Landreu (sp!) threating to beat up the President if he mentioned anything about flooded school buses.
They succeeded in hurting the President's image in the US and abroad with their lies and hysteria. Let's see how it serves them now. And I agree, George and Laura should go no where near LA. The slime will probably kill them.
Maybe we do things different up here, but if you have a mortgage, you also have to have homeowners insurance.
Why do LA homeowners need a government handout?
Seems to me the LA plan is to let us tax payers take care of it via the federal government. I personally don't like that plan. I hope the feds learned something after Andrew hit Dade Co. South Metro Dade turned into a cesspool because of all the federal dollars that poured in. I'm thinking nobody wants all of that rift raft to come back and if they delay long enough...they won't and big business is going to move in and scarf it all up saving us tax payers some money.
Best plan I have seen advanced. I do not see the point of rebuilding New Orleans or any other area prone to flooding or being wiped out by hurricanes. If people want to live there they should buy good insurance, if they can't afford it, they should move.
"And that is the problem all this keeps returning to - you are asking us to send tens of billions of dollars to the same hacks who helped create this mess in the first place."
The "mess" you refer to was created by and large by the Corp of Engineers who built shoddy levy protection and turned around and told the good citizens "it's okay to build here, you are protected." The entire Metro area was high and dry shortly after Katrina had passed......then the water burst through.
Last I recall, a corrupt Levee Commission was in charge of the levees, and was more interested in building casinos than improving levees.
And had NOLA suffered a direct hit from Katrina instead of a glancing blow from the weaker side of the storm, it would be moot anyway.
Well, not to be nit picky but he didn't admit to any fraud. I am aware that he admitted they inflated the numbers "to deter crime". Not sure that's how I would have handled things but if there is anything criminal in what they did then prosecute them. I have no problem with that. Believe me the Feds are looking hard at everything down here and if there is anything there they will go after it.
Lousyana has made a spectical of itself from top to bottom.
From BLANK-O's whining, blubbering and spending $550,000 on her office renovations to Nagin's Chocolatetown statement, the state has made an utter ass of itself for the last 5 months.
I'm sure the rest of the country is looking at us as one would a retarded cousin.
Here's a LA family with some smarts:
Katrina evacuees settle into new life
By KAREN OGDEN
Tribune Enterprise Editor
Almost five months after they struggled through waist-deep floodwaters in Violet, La., the Kramer family is tentatively putting down roots in Great Falls.
"Everything is looking good," said Tracey Kramer, who arrived in northcentral Montana days after Hurricane Katrina with his wife, Jean, and their youngest son, William. "We're just pressing forward and thank God that we came this far. I'm just looking forward to a new year and a better year."
The family is grieving the death of Kramer's 86-year-old mother, Mildred, who was among the nearly three dozen patients who drowned as floodwaters swamped the St. Rita's Nursing Home.
Kramer is still waiting for officials at a morgue in Carville, La., to finish DNA testing to identify and release her body. He will then return home to plan a funeral with his siblings.
In the meantime, the family is focused on starting over.
Tracey and Jean, who are retired, are looking to buy a house in Great Falls.
The Kramers are luckier than many: Their insurance covered the flood damage to their house in Violet, roughly 20 miles south of New Orleans. Although the home is structurally sound, it would have to be gutted to make it livable because of water damage and mold.
"I don't feel that it would be wise for me to take all our money and go back down there and redo our house," said Kramer, who plans to salvage what he can when he goes home. "I already made up my signs: 'for sale as is.'"
More violent storms are predicted this year, Kramer added. One team of meteorologists at Colorado State University's Tropical Meteorology Project predicts nine hurricanes in 2006.
"I think we're going to stay here and invest my money in Great Falls," said Kramer, who as a young man was an airman stationed at Malmstrom Air Force Base.
Jean is from Conrad and has a sister, Cathy Christiaens, in Valier. Another sister, Mary Lee Berry, lives in Whitefish.
The Kramers' two sons, Edward and William, are finding it more difficult to get jobs and housing in Great Falls.
William, 35, who came to Montana with his parents, worked security at Bally's Casino, which floated on Lake Pontchartrain. Katrina smashed the building against the wharf.
He's applying for detention officer and security jobs, but he is having little luck because his references and employment records were destroyed or scattered in the hurricane.
Now he's looking into general labor jobs and possibly renewing his qualifications as a certified nursing assistant.
His older brother and sister-in-law, Edward and Bonnie, arrived in Great Falls a month after the storm to join the family.
Their homeowner insurance did not cover their flood losses.
Edward, who was a head technician for a Goodyear Tires store in Louisiana, is still looking for work.
Asked if he's angry about his family's ordeal, Tracey Kramer directs his frustration at Louisiana's congressional delegation, as he did in the weeks after Katrina.
Area residents lobbied for years for the Army Corps of Engineers to close the Mississippi River Gulf Outlet, which is blamed by some for flooding St. Bernard Parish.
"If they'd have fought hard enough to close that thing up, I am positive our hometown wouldn't have been destroyed," Kramer said.
The family is looking into joining a possible class action lawsuit against the Army Corps of Engineers over the outlet failure.
Kramer follows the debate over the canal, as well as developments in his hometown, on the Internet.
But he's focusing on his new life in Great Falls.
"I'm just looking forward for a healthier new year," he said. "... I'm not only talking for us, I'm talking for the whole world because we definitely need it."
Yes, as a taxpayer, I would like an answer to that question. I have to pay for homeowners insurance on my house. Why are you telling me that I should pay off someone else's mortgage when their homeowners insurance should do that?
That is ust not true. Ever since 1967 the corp of engineers has yearly predicted that a direct hit by a category 3 or higher hurricane would destroy New Orleans and much of the surrounding territory.
In 1967 the Corp of Engineers proposed, congress passed and the Lyndon Johnson signed a bill to build a Levy system that would handle up to and including a level 5 hurricane.
Some Democrats were very angry about the so called destruction of natural habitat of assorted fishes and water bugs this new levy system would cause. Environmentalists brought a suit in federal court that was decided by judges appointed by Democratic presidents. The judges decided that the upgrade of the levies would harm the environment, wetlands, and assorted species. The Levy construction autorized by the bill was forbiden by the court.
"Last I recall, a corrupt Levee Commission was in charge of the levees, and was more interested in building casinos than improving levees."
The Commission does not engineer and build levee protection, that jurisdiction falls squarely on the U.S Army Corp of Engineers.
Does the Levee Commission let the bidding for projects?
And, once again, they were more interested in casinos than levees.
Homeowners insurance does not pay for flood damage from rising waters. A lot of the homes destroyed were in areas that were not considered flood zones so they were told by insurers and mortgage companies that flood insurance was not required. Therefore they had no insurance that would cover their loss. Could they have bought flood insurance anyway? Sure, but that's a different argument.
This is not a "gift". It is a loan which would be repaid as properties are redeveloped.