Friday, April 21, 2006
By WILL SENTELL
Capitol News Bureau
Think the biggest natural disaster in U.S. history turned Louisiana’s political establishment upside down?
The signs of business as usual crop up most every day in things big and things small.Nearly eight months ago, Hurricane Katrina threw thousands of state residents into the biggest trauma of their lives. One month later, Hurricane Rita did the same to thousands more.
Most of the victims still face staggering questions, including where they will live, how they can afford to rebuild homes, how long it will be before they can resume some semblance of a normal existence.
Yet judging by the stance, comments and demands of some state lawmakers, it is as if the storms never happened.
Remember how some suggested Katrina would change the face of politics in New Orleans? A bill that would force the city to join the rest of the state, and big cities across the nation, by having one tax assessor instead of seven faces huge political hurdles.
The effort died in a special session earlier this year. Not even the prodding of Blanco was able to get the bill out of a House committee last week, a victory for the business as usual crowd.
Despite hurricane-related budget problems and staggering debts to the federal government, high-paying state government jobs keep turning up.
The administrator of the 11-member Pilotage Fee Commission will be paid around $100,000 per year, and maybe much more.
Earlier this year, the Legislature approved a plan to improve flood control in southeast Louisiana, arguably the best example of a major change since the hurricanes.
The bill sets up two boards to regulate levee operations in the New Orleans area and nearby parishes.
However, even that measure was the classic, political half-a-loaf.
No single episode embodies the Legislature and other politicians after the storms.
Yet day-to-day events suggest that, if the political landscape is going to change, it will take more than two killer hurricanes.