Letter: Group calls for bill’s defeat

Citizens for 1 Greater New Orleans strongly defends independence for the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority — East. We fought hard for passage of the 2006 constitutional amendment that won with overwhelming popular support — more than 90 percent among Orleans Parish voters and more than 80 percent among state voters.

Now, we call for defeat of north Louisiana state Sen. Robert Adley’s SB79, which would undo independence and undermine scientific expertise on the flood protection boards.

SB79 authorizes the governor to reject any or all nominees and require three new names in every category. Currently, the nominating committee proposes a single name for scientific positions and two names for at-large positions. SB79 dilutes the quality of nominees and introduces politics into selecting SLFPA members.

Voters emphatically removed levee boards from politics, instead emphasizing scientific-technological expertise on the SLFPA. The nominating committee proposes highly competent people who focus exclusively on protecting public safety and maintaining our flood protection system.

If the nominating committee allowed the governor — any governor—to reject its nominees and request new names, they would undermine the independence of the nominating process and inflict major damage on the scientific integrity of SLFPA decision-making.

SLFPA statutes are silent on how to proceed when confronted with allegations of ineligibility. Appropriate legislation in the 2014 session should fill this void, but even before, the nominating committee should adopt policies to protect the nominating process from politics. We urge the committee to consider these five principles:

1. The nominating committee should remain in control of the decision about reopening the nominating process — not the governor.

2. The decision to reopen must be made in a properly noticed open public meeting and decided by majority vote.

3. The decision to reopen must be based on good reasons, such as ineligibility or death or the candidate’s own decision to withdraw from consideration for appointment.

4. The standard for reopening a nominating process should be set at a high threshold, such as “clear and convincing” evidence of ineligibility.

5. If the nominating committee decides to reopen a nominating process, it should follow the same orderly procedures that are set forth in the SLFPA statutes.

Citizens for 1 takes no position on the Flood Authority lawsuit, which is currently in court and will be resolved by the courts. This issue is not about the oil and gas industry; it’s about protecting a nominating process that ensures the integrity and independence of flood protection decisions. The SLFPA’s decisions are about the safety of our citizens and the security of our homes.

All good government groups who fought for passage of this historic reform need to come forth and defend it.

Ruthie Frierson

founder, Citizens for 1 Greater New Orleans

New Orleans