Sunday, May 21, 2006

Goodbye New Orleans . . . and good riddance

I no longer have any sympathy whatsoever for the Katrina victims of New Orleans. Yesterday, they re-elected the man who was the front line commander of the botched hurricane response that first headed the whole affair in the direction of being the worst natural disaster in American history. Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco and the federal response from FEMA completed the job that the incompetent Mayor Ray Nagin began.

It wasn't Nagin's fault that the levees were breached nor that some sections failed after the breaching. But is was partially the fault of the various corrupt parish levee boards. What did Nagin do in his years in office prior to the hurricane to clean up or at least begin to reform the notoriously corrupt and incompetent levee boards? Nothing. And Nagin's mishandling of the evacuation and subsequent first response has been well documented. "Hep! Hep! Sumbody save us from mahself!"

So, Ray Nagin gets re-elected. How can this happen? The guy who is almost wholly responsible for the initial death and misery suffered by the citizens of New Orleans is returned to office by those same citizens, er, those that survived, that is. I wonder how many dead New Orleans citizens cast their ballots for him? Many, I would guess.

Maybe he got re-elected because, hey, why not? His opponent, Mitch Landrieu, is a member of a long time power brokering family in New Orleans that includes current Louisiana Senator Mary Landrieu (D), his sister, and former long time New Orleans mayor Moon Landrieu (D), his father. It is always most beneficial economically to keep that down home tradition of corruption all in the family, ain't it, y'all?

In the same election, two of seven incumbent tax assessors defeated their "I Quit" opponents handily. Four others won re-election in April and only one was unseated. New Orleans is America's only major city where the assessor's responsibilities are split up -- in seven different districts. Every other major American city has only one tax assessor's office. New Orleans needs seven. The IQ team sought to defeat the incumbents and then lobby for the seven tax assessors to be combined into one.
The Tax Commission discovered more problems when it did another study last year. Overall, the commission concluded that 80 percent of assessments in New Orleans were flawed.
80%? How does a city function when its property tax base is 80% wrong? One of the re-elected assessors, Betty Jefferson, holds the distinction of being tagged, "the worst-performing assessor in New Orleans" by the Louisiana Tax Commission. Their study said that the uniformity of her assessments maintained an error rate of 55%, when 20% is considered acceptable. In one egregious case, she assessed a property's value at $243,200 when the property was really worth $850,000, saving the property owner $11,000 per year in property taxes. I wonder where a good portion of that $11,000 went every year. But good 'ol Betty gets returned to office, and handily, too.

New Orleans voters, demonstrating that they are no more stuck on stupid today than in the past, returned some assessors to office whose families have held the assessor's position in their grip for more than 100 years. That's 100 years or more of corruption and incompetence and the voters jist keep'em on a'comin'.
In 2003, the Louisiana Tax Commission found that almost half of the properties in New Orleans owned by assessors or their families were undervalued as much as 70 percent.
Betty Jefferson just happens to be the sister of Rep. William Jefferson (D-New Orleans) who has been in the news just a bit, lately. Two people have pleaded guilty to shoveling at least $400,000 in bribe money his way. And remember that he is the fat cat who commandeered a badly-needed-elsewhere National Guard convoy to take him to his house in New Orleans just a few days after the hurricane struck. A service that was not available to the New Orleans citizens who continue to support him and return him to office election after election. More of that Republican corruption, I guess.

It's just like Mexico, folks. There is this steady barrage of hootin' and hollerin' about how "We gots to change this and we gots to change that," but when the campaign money starts greasing palms, the same ol' same ol' keep getting returned to power. And we're supposed to have some sympathy for them. I think not.

Oh, yeah, it's because I'm a racist.

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