Statement on Recent Flooding in New Orleans
Yesterday, I attended the City Council’s special hearing on the recent floods. Like many, I left with more questions than answers. It’s obvious the citizens of New Orleans aren’t getting the complete facts. Originally, we were told that every pump was working, then that 7 were broken, and finally that number increased to 14 pumps. We were told that the system was operating at maximum capacity. However, due to power outages, we know that some pump stations only operated at 52% capacity.
This altering of facts and lack of transparency erodes the public’s trust in government. We need an independent commission comprised of engineers, hydrologists, and other experts to investigate our current systems.
After this weekend, we know that heavy rain and intense weather incidents like those of the last few weeks are increasing. Also, the current administration seems incapable of providing an effective emergency response to these situations. Adding insult to injury, some city leaders think it’s acceptable to tell our citizens to get used to this “new normal.” A city government that proves unable to provide basic services is not and must never be normal.
The SWBNO, Public Works department, and all city officials need to be held accountable; all pumps need to be operational, all catch basins and canals maintained regularly. The city budgeted $3 million to prioritize catch basin and drainage work - none of that money has been spent. Out of the nearly 70,000 catch basins located throughout New Orleans, only about 5% have been cleaned. This basic city function cannot be neglected.
The City Council needs to explore and encourage policies and projects, such as the Urban Water Plan, that supplement our current pump system. The Mayor must ensure that there is an effective emergency response plan in place and they must execute the plan with strong leadership.
We need a better plan. We need better leadership. We need more accountability. If New Orleans is to thrive another 300 years, the status quo cannot be standing water.