U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., and Rep. Cedric Richmond, D-New Orleans, announced about $56 million in total federal funds for Louisiana this past week that range from renovations to the Fort Polk barracks to ongoing Hurricane Katrina recovery projects.
The biggest chunk of change is $37 million to the New Orleans Sewerage and Water Board for the city’s drainage and pavement repairs from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
“Whether it’s a rainstorm or a hurricane, the city and its residents rely on having a drainage system that can handle a large downpour of water,” Landrieu said in the announcement. “These grants are part of continuing efforts to rebuild the New Orleans infrastructure stronger than before Hurricane Katrina.”
Regarding other Katrina recovery dollars, $4.2 million is going to the Mahalia Jackson Elementary School in New Orleans for repairs and a new Early Childhood Education and Community Center and $3.7 million to go toward building a combined city hall and police department in Westwego.
“I am proud to announce this funding which is so critical to providing needed support for the recovery and quality of life for Louisianans who are still striving to piece together their lives,” Richmond stated. “Last year, I visited with the students at Mahalia Jackson Elementary and it means a great deal to me to be able to celebrate with the families and students who will benefit from these improvements.”
Lastly, $11 million in funds were awarded through the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for renovations at Fort Polk. The dollars are supposed to spur on the barracks-modernization project that has been stalled. Parts of the renovations include addressing mold problems in the barracks.
Early this year, Landrieu announced the purchase of 4,920 acres of land just south of Peason Ridge to expand Fort Polk. In September, the Army closed on an additional 8,448 acres in the same area, continuing the expansion. This past summer, Landrieu also helped secure $20 million to build a new South Polk Elementary School.
More moratorium probing
House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Doc Hastings, R-Wash., is continuing to drill the White House over GOP allegations that a report was doctored to help justify the six-month, oil-and-gas drilling moratorium in the Gulf of Mexico issued after the 2010 BP oil leak.
Hastings sent a letter Wednesday to White House Chief of Staff Jacob Lew requesting documents and interviews regarding White House officials’ role in the late-night editing of a draft of the Interior Department’s Drilling Moratorium Report that make it appear as though the moratorium in the Gulf of Mexico was supported by engineering experts when it was not.
The Interior Department has maintained that the error was a simple mistake made that was quickly corrected in the final version of the report.
Hastings has hosted multiple congressional hearings on the issue.
“The fact that President Obama supported the moratorium decision is well known,” Hastings wrote. “Little known and less understood is the role played by White House political staff in analyzing and recommending the moratorium as a way to improve safety in offshore drilling in the first place and in developing and editing the Drilling Moratorium Report to misstate the peer reviewers’ role.”
Vitter joins liberal on banks
Sen. David Vitter, R-La., again teamed with liberal U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, for another news release this past week pushing for stronger requirements for so-called megabanks to raise their capital standards.
The idea is to simplify regulations and require the largest banks to have more money saved so they are no longer “too big to fail.”
Vitter and Brown — one of the most-conservative members of the Senate paired with one of the most liberal — have formed an unlikely tag-team partnership on the issue. Both of them sit on the Senate Banking Committee.
“This is not complicated finance,” Vitter said in the joint news release. “If a huge bank wants to provide loans and investments for billions of dollars, then they should be required to keep a certain amount of reserves on hand to absorb any rapid or sudden market turns.
“They certainly shouldn’t empty their bank vaults, fail and then turn to the federal taxpayer for a bailout because they didn’t keep some emergency savings,” he continued. “Louisiana families certainly have to keep emergency savings — why shouldn’t these megabanks?”
Compiled by Jordan Blum, chief of The Advocate Washington bureau. His email address is jblum@theadvocate.