Government & Politics

Catching up: Reports and ruminations from The Lens

What IS going on at City Hall?

Amid the revelry of the Saints’ Super Bowl victory and Carnival season, writer Karen Gadbois wondered about the effectiveness of government during these festive weeks.

With nearly half of the City Council meetings either rescheduled or cancelled the answer seems to be “not much.”

Which led Gadbois to conclude that “the theory of governance is at work – and only the theory.”

With the transition to new leadership after weekend elections and our continuing recovery, we had to wonder if dormant government is “particularlly a good idea this year?”

Distracted or disillusioned?

Columnist Eli Ackerman posited that the massive participation in the parades was evidence that citizen engagement is alive and well  —  even a political factor, despite low voter turnout.

He wrote: “I’d argue that one’s decision to forgo voting in this hasty municipal election after years of governmental inattentiveness and malice to instead party with the people represents an inherent and compelling political statement in its own right.”

Whether citizens will regret forfeiting their vote while exercising their right to party will become evident perhaps a year from now when the city floods the streets again for these annual festivities. Gauging the mood then will be revealing.

What’s the trigger for a toxic cleanup?

Lastly, reporter Brentin Mock followed up on last week’s report “Toxic soil clean-up slowed by dense bureacracy,” which explained how a lead cleanup program has been stalled for over a year even though the legacy of toxic metals has been apparent since the 1990s.

The Lens asked the state Department of Environmental Quality about levels of arsenic found in soils near schools and playgrounds, and whether a state cleanup was warranted.

Local scientists and the Natural Resources Defense Council used DEQ’s own rules which state, “In Louisiana, the DEQ residential clean-up level for arsenic is 12 ppm,” or parts per million.

But, when speaking with Tom Harris, DEQ’s administrator of remediation services, he said that the clean-up level is actually 22 ppm.

So which is it? When asked about documents from his office that quoted 12 ppm as the clean-up level, Harris responded, “That is a poorly worded statement.”

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