Compared to the old days of governors appointing political friends to levee boards, the new process of appointment might seem a cumbersome alternative, involving an independent nominating committee and some board seats reserved for people with technical expertise.
The renomination of Paul Kemp to the New Orleans-area levee authority is a vindication of the goal of a nonpolitical appointment of a qualified individual.
We’re sorry if Gov. Bobby Jindal or others don’t like it, but we strongly supported a 2006 constitutional amendment that created the process that is now working.
The sticking point for Jindal and the oil and gas industry: Kemp’s qualifications as a scientist and coastal expert are unquestionable, but he voted with the majority of the board to file a major lawsuit against oil companies because of alleged damages to the coast.
That lawsuit is anathema to Jindal and the industry. The governor is clearly looking to replace the offending members, but the constitutional amendment stands in his way.
Only one nomination from the independent committee is allowed for professional seats on the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority-East; for seats with no specific professional requirements, two appointees are submitted, and the governor chooses one of them.
Thus the battle was within the committee: whether to keep Kemp, by renominating him to his seat, or giving the governor the option to get rid of Kemp by including his name with another nominee for a seat for which there is no requirement of particular qualifications.
Again, if this seems a cumbersome process, it is. And if the debate over the wisdom of the lawsuit seems particularly heated, it is.
But by a 5-4 vote, the nominating committee has rightly avoided the temptation to bow to the governor’s authority. This is a close vote, but the majority acted in the spirit of the Legislature and the people who ratified a constitutional amendment to reform appointments to the New Orleans-area boards.
The reasons for the constitutional requirements were obvious in the past, after levee failures flooded much of the city of New Orleans and other parts of the region. Let’s also not forget that political levee board appointments resulted in boards that often neglected their primary duties — keeping the floodwaters at bay — for side ventures involving casino developments and the like along the levees.
If Kemp’s qualifications had been in question, this could have been a close call. It is a measure of how much clout the governor has in Louisiana that the Kemp vote was close anyway.