Yesterday the Baton Rouge Business Report had a fun article which more or less echoed a post we had here at The Hayride last week discussing the criminal misprioritization of taxpayer funds in Baton Rouge away from basic infrastructure.
We noted the unjustifiable dedication of tax revenues toward things like libraries, parks, a bus system nobody uses and the horrifically corrupt East Baton Rouge Council on Aging, while roads and drainage are routinely ignored – or are used not as priorities but rather as hooks to bring in even more tax revenues.
We didn’t get into the detail the Business Report’s piece did. Enter that into the picture and it’s even worse than we suggested…
As Capital Region residents continue to deal with the aftermath of the June 6 thunderstorm that flooded some neighborhoods with nearly seven inches of rain in less than one hour, hundreds of millions of federal dollars earmarked for projects to improve drainage in East Baton Rouge Parish are sitting idle in Washington D.C. Why? Because city and state officials have been unable to scare up the $2 million a year in matching funds necessary to get the projects underway.
U.S. Rep. Garret Graves helped secure the $255 million in federal funding nearly a year ago from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for the East Baton Rouge Parish Flood Control Project, which has been on the books for some 30 years but was never funded until last July.
It calls for widening, deepening, cleaning out and otherwise improving five key drainage canals that run through the parish: Blackwater Bayou, Beaver Bayou, Jones Creek, Ward’s Creek and Bayou Fountain. It’s unique because the Army Corps of Engineers doesn’t typically fund such specifically local drainage projects. Had the work been completed prior to the June 6 storm officials say the level of flash flooding could have been significantly reduced.
“The flooding we saw last Thursday demonstrates the urgency of this,” Graves says.
But the projects haven’t moved forward because neither the state nor the city has put up a local match, which amounts to $65 million. While that may sound like more than either cash-strapped government can afford, the commitment is not nearly as onerous as it sounds.
For one thing, the money doesn’t have to be paid until after the projects are completed, which would be around 2024 if construction started today.
More significantly, the money can be paid back over 30 years, meaning the actual amount needed on an annual basis is just a little over $2 million.
We’re talking about $2 million a year in a billion-dollar budget.
But to listen to the “responsible adults” in charge of East Baton Rouge Parish, that’s just not doable…
“I’ve asked that question and I understand it doesn’t sound like much,” says Fred Raiford, city-parish director of transportation and drainage. “But it’s about being able to commit to a funding source every year for 30 years and our sales tax revenues haven’t gotten where we need them to be. We’re looking at a zero-based budget again for the fourth year in a row.”
This is how ridiculously indefensible Raiford’s statement is…
What this comes down to is horrendous leadership, which is something Baton Rouge – along with lots of other places in Louisiana – has been saddled with for a long time. If you can’t maintain your drainage infrastructure, you have no business building palaces to serve as libraries or overfunding your Council on Aging to serve as a get-out-the-vote engine for the local political machine.
Maybe enough flooded voters will begin to see the light and start throwing bums out on Election Night. What concerns us is those voters will just pick up and leave instead.