A charter amendment on the Dec. 8 ballot would make changes in the membership of the group that oversees the aging and ailing infrastructure of the Sewerage and Water Board. We urge voters to reject the proposal, although it is made in good faith as an answer to the flooding of 2017 and SWB’s poor response.
In 2013, voters removed New Orleans City Council members from the board, intending to limit politics.
Now, the new proposal is for a single City Council member to join the board, although as an alternative, an engineer appointed by the council could take that place.
We agree with the Bureau of Governmental Research: “Direct participation on the board by a council member would create a conflict of interest with the council’s regulatory oversight role and potentially increase political decision-making at the board level. While this risk would be reduced by the appointment of an engineer to fill the new seat, there is no guarantee that this will occur.”
The new administration takes the SWB’s problems seriously. Mayor LaToya Cantrell shows up to chair its meetings personally, in contrast with her predecessors. This charter change isn’t as meaningful as aggressive action by the SWB management, the mayor and the entire council, sharing responsibility for these basic government services.