The Advocate and other local media outlets have now broken the story that $500,000 in brass has been stolen from the New Orleans Sewerage and Water Board by its employees over the last 2 years. This was discovered by the Inspector General's office in January and halted in February.
Curiously, this information was not made public until five days after the election to renew the S&WB drainage tax on Dec. 10. Well, all I can say to the citizens of New Orleans is that once again you have been deceived and "fleeced." I daresay the citizenry might have thought twice about voting more money for a S&WB which is so poorly managed, but this information was not provided to us.
This especially applies to the citizens of Algiers, who are getting precious little for their drainage tax money. The tax is being used to operate pumping stations and improve drainage on the east bank of New Orleans. In September, we saw the results of the east bank projects: sharp reductions in flood insurance premiums for the east bank to less than $1,000 annually, even for homes that were heavily flooded in Katrina.
No one apparently seriously advocated during the last 10 years for Algiers. As a result, we have to wait for vague promises of more federal money to obtain improvement in drainage. (What smaller portion that is being spent on the West Bank will not substantially reduce risk or premiums.) In the meantime, for houses that have never flooded, but are at risk according to the Army Corps of Engineers, Algiers residents are paying $2,200 to $3,200 annually.
Make no mistake, if just the West Bank floods in the future, the rest of the country will only understand that New Orleans is flooding again. Economic development of the entire area will be affected as well the tax revenue generated from the West Bank. The city and the S&WB, as well as the flood control boards, need to take steps now to improve West Bank drainage and thereby lower risk of flooding and the insurance premiums.
The West Bank has and is helping to pay for the east bank improvements. It is only fair that the West Bank get relief, as well.
Susan M. Weyer