Friday, December 02, 2005

Breech of Trust

Deroy Murdock wrote on National Review Online Politicians here should not undervalue two finite resources: first, the goodwill of Americans and their federal representatives, and second, taxpayer dollars. Maintaining the former boosts the odds of seeing the latter. Thus, Louisiana policymakers must recognize that news of local graft, favoritism, and incompetence will evaporate this city’s reservoir of empathy more swiftly than New Orleans flooded in the first place. Reverting to pre-Katrina mischief would condemn this area to rebuilding without much help from an exasperated Congress and appalled citizens. “In Louisiana, they don’t tolerate corruption; they insist on it,” laughs Louisiana native Fred Smith, president of the Washington, D.C.-based Competitive Enterprise Institute.

Then they should come up with ALL of the money to rebuild any levees or do any other infrastructure work from Louisiana citizens. No federal money should be spent unless
  1. We are sure that it will be properly accounted for, by people that are not in Louisiana, and
  2. No money should be spent either on construction in land that is 7 to 15 feet below sea level, or to protect such below sea level land from flooding
In that spirit, St. Tammany Parish councilman Joe Impastato was arrested in a November 15 FBI sting for allegedly accepting two cashiers’ checks totaling $85,000, after arranging for OMNI Pinnacle, LLC, to dump storm debris on a local businessman’s raw land. Despite facing federal extortion charges, Impastato told reporters on November 18 that there was nothing unusual about his Tammany haul. This was “no different than any other business deal,” he said, adding that he acted as a private citizen, not as a local official.
Regardless, he should go to jail.
OMNI’s influence stretched past St. Tammany, which is just north of New Orleans. In fact, New Orleans mayor Ray Nagin rejected an experienced firm’s lower bid to discard storm debris and accepted OMNI’s pricier bid the day before Katrina struck. OMNI is perfectly connected. OMNI attorney Charles Rice was the city’s chief administrator until June. Rice’s brother, Terrance, has met with officials of the city and the Army Corps of Engineers. As municipal sanitation director, Veronica White oversees contract bids. She originally was hired by a former city official named Charles Rice.
Nagin and the others should join him in jail.
“People with familiar names and faces are making money — often in areas where they seemed to have no particular expertise before the storm,” the New Orleans Times-Picayune reported on November 20. “Perhaps the Louisiana way wasn’t washed away with the storm’s floodwaters.”

Although it only recently acquired a new trailer sales license, Bourget’s of the South, a motorcycle shop, scored three contracts, worth $108 million, to provide FEMA with 6,416 trailers. Bourget’s owners are the father and uncle of the company’s registered agent, state representative Gary Smith, a member of the house’s Special Committee on Disaster Planning, Crisis Management, Recovery, and Long-Term Revitalization.

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