Government & Politics
 

It was a bad week for Army Corps and NOPD, but a worse week for us

I recommend reading Sandy Rosenthal’s latest column in full. Here are a few excerpts to get you started:

It was a very bad week for the Army Corps of Engineers.

First, Bunnatine “Bunny” Greenhouse, former chief oversight official of contracts for [Army Corps of Engineers] operations in Iraq received nearly a million dollar settlement after she was demoted 6 years ago for blowing the whistle on unfair awarding of a contract to Halliburton.

Good for Bunny, a Louisiana native. With all the rhetoric about fiscal responsibility these days, you’d think a public servant who carefully audits contracts would be celebrated. Not so. When Sen. Patrick Leahy questioned Vice President Dick Cheney about Greenhouse’s treatment, Cheney told Leahy to perform an extreme physiological contortion. More about Greenhouse’s history here and here.

Days later, an academic watchdog group released a report excoriating Louisiana State University (LSU) for firing Dr. Ivor van Heerden who, immediately after Katrina, blamed the Corps of Engineers for the failure of the levees and the drowning of New Orleans.

Dr. van Heerden claimed LSU officials retaliated against him because they feared losing funding.

Louisiana State University receives large federal grants from the Corps of Engineers.

Rosenthal’s published her post just hours before this story broke:

Shortly after the Army Corps of Engineers awarded a $675 million contract in April to build permanent pump stations on the area’s three outfall canals, two of the losing bidders protested the decision to give the huge job to CBY Design Builders of New Orleans.

An investigation by the General Accounting Office, Congress’ investigative arm, found a conflict of interest in CBY’s hiring of a former Corps official and concluded that the company’s bid was not properly evaluated.

About the same time on Friday afternoon, a federal jury convicted five current or former New Orleans Police officers in the Danziger Bridge shootings. So, last week was a “bad week” for both the corps and the NOPD.

I’d say the Danziger verdict was another black eye for the NOPD, but perhaps black lung would be a better metaphor, considering the brutality of the case. And speaking of metaphors, let’s can the “it’s just a few bad apples” argument, please. When a department bears this much rotten fruit, there’s obviously a problem down in the roots.

When you look at the vast expanse of recent failure in the NOPD, U.S. Attorney Jim Letten’s hope that the department will one day become “world class” seems preposterous. Jarvis DeBerry made the point well, I think, in his open letter to Ronald Madison, one of the Danziger victims. Again, read the whole column, but this excerpt spoke to me:

It’s impossible, Ronald, for any of us to hurt the way your family hurts, but you should know that all of New Orleans was made a victim by what those officers did to you and your brother, to James, Jose Holmes and Susan, Leonard and Lesha Bartholomew.

Letten said that “the citizens of this country should not have to fear the people sworn to protect them,” but our collective fear of the New Orleans Police Department reached new heights once we learned how the police had killed you, Ronald, and how they tried to cover up their crimes so that y’all who got shot or shot at would look like you deserved it.

On a not-obviously related note, I learned that Rep. Walker Hines, R-New Orleans, who switched parties in advance of a campaign for Secretary of State, might soon drop out of the race now that House Speaker Jim Tucker, R-Algiers, announced his own entry. I’m sure Hines’ intended career in politics isn’t over, so watch for his next announced move, which I anticipate soon.

You may recall that former Secretary of State Jay Dardenne was elected lieutenant governor in the fall. As we know, the lieutenant governor traditionally promotes tourism for the state. Months ago, Dardenne unveiled Pick Your Passion the state’s latest promotional effort. Initially I misread the slogan and thought it said Pick Your Poison.

For a city relying on the Army Corps of Engineers and NOPD to “protect” it, Pick Your Poison seems like the truest advertisement.

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