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Conservatively liberal, moderately well-educated, and highly opinionated...

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Friday, February 17, 2006

A cautious thanks

George Bush has done an about-face and is requesting $4.2 billion more for housing and rebuilding in Louisiana.

‘Tis wonderful, yes? Yes!

But Polimom’s curious as to why this beneficence comes now of all times, at nearly the end of a special legislative session, when there was little or no time for Louisiana to react? Even without this complication, welcome though it is, rivalries and petty infighting have made the session a sad joke, and even the desperately needed housing recovery plan has hit uncertain water. Now, this same legislature has one day left – today - to re-work its approach, so Louisiana can distribute the much different amount of grant money.

There appeared to be some continuing confusion -- and possibly friction -- between state and local leaders Thursday over precisely who would have the authority to dole out the federal grant money.

Though the money initially will flow to the state, New Orleans officials think they should receive an allocation to deal with buyouts and renovation grants in the city, an opinion that may not be shared by state officials. [...]

One key problem for either proposal is that the legislation, which is Senate Bill 49 by Sen. Ann Duplessis, D-New Orleans, could be on life support.

Proponents were unable to wrangle the support of two-thirds of the House members present in the chamber in a procedural vote that would have allowed a committee to consider the legislation Thursday evening. The bill cannot be considered by the full House on the last day of the session without another, successful procedural vote.

Polimom is always suspicious of sudden sea changes, particularly by government. Clearly, something more than love for fellow man is driving Bush’s request. Do you suppose some of the boon stems from this?

Exhibit A is the revelation that FEMA purchased 24,967 prefabricated homes at a cost of $857.8 million, and 1,295 modular homes at a cost of $40 million. The Department of Homeland Security's inspector general, Richard Skinner, told the Senate that "it is unclear how the decision was made" to spend $900 million on the more than 26,000 homes. It is clear, however, that almost every penny of that money was wasted, since FEMA's own regulations prohibit the use of mobile homes in flood plains. […]

Given the acute lack of habitable residences in greater New Orleans and all along the Gulf Coast, how could FEMA waste nearly $1 billion on unusable housing?

As a taxpayer, I’m sick that my money has to be spent twice - but apparently it must. Even though our behemoth of a government has wasted months, and billions of dollars, on ill-conceived “help” for the Gulf Coast (and I’m sure it will continue to do so), New Orleans remains in desperate straits.

Let's just hope Louisiana and NOLA can pull their acts together and get things started down there. Finally.