Two Sewerage & Water Board members resigned their seats on the board Thursday, with one criticizing Mayor Mitch Landrieu's administration for what he described as scapegoating the agency's leadership.
The fallout from last weekend's New Orleans flash flood continued Thursday.
Scott Jacobs, who served as president pro tem of the board, said he resigned because he felt the agency's employees had been forced to take the fall for major infrastructure issues City Hall had never been forced to grapple with.
"City Hall has known for years that drainage is inadequate," Jacobs said. "I’m disappointed that instead of standing up and saying this is a problem, and now the’s time to deal with it, we’re going to shoot a civil servant an hour until this problem is resolved."
The real problem, he said, is that no one has forced a conversation about the enormous investment needed to fully upgrade and modernize the system to deal with storms and rainwater. Those root issues, he said, are to blame for Saturday's flooding and Thursday's power issues as S&WB's plant.
After a Wednesday evening fire knocked out one of the two operating electrical turbines serv…
Jacobs said he had sympathy for both S&WB Executive Director Cedric Grant and General Superintendent Joe Becker. Both have been under fire since this weekend, when the S&WB assured citizens the system was working at full capacity. It was later revealed, in part by City Council members aggressively questioning Becker, that 16 pumps were not working at the time.
Becker, in particular, has been criticized for arguing that no one had been misled because the system was working to the capacity it had at the time.
"Joe Becker was a good engineer, he wasn’t a spokesman," Jacobs said. "He was trying to describe to people that a '67 Chevy was running like a '67 Chevy."
Landrieu said in an emailed statement he was surprised by Jacobs' comments.
"There's obviously a lot of passion, anger, and frustration stemming from these events," Landrieu said. "My commitment to reforming SWB has been unwavering, and I stand by that record working with the board. No one can say with a straight face that we have not worked hard and successfully secured record amounts for infrastructure and spoken almost weekly about the need for more, often specifically for drainage. We also have worked since day one to rebuild the power plant. I have great respect for the volunteers that serve on these boards and will continue to work with the Board and this community to restore trust and credibility."
Jacobs, who is married to businesswoman and charter school advocate Leslie Jacobs, said from a practical side, the fact that he planned to be out of town for significant portions of the next few months also played a role in his decision.
Jacobs said board member Kerri Kane also submitted her resignation. Kane could not immediately be reached for comment.
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