To all the mooks out there who tell New Orleans to “stop looking for free handouts and stop blaming the federal government for all its problems,” to the patronizers who advise us “to look to our local government,” to the federal government who will not waive our 10% and to the president who stated that the government had written the check for the recovery of our city, open your ears to this:
The Army Corps of Engineers, rushing to meet President Bush’s promise to protect New Orleans by the start of the 2006 hurricane season, installed defective flood-control pumps last year despite warnings from its own expert that the equipment would fail during a storm, according to documents obtained by The Associated Press.
The 2006 hurricane season turned out to be mild, and the new pumps were never pressed into action. But the Corps and the politically connected manufacturer of the equipment are still struggling to get the 34 heavy-duty pumps working properly.
… The drainage-canal pumps were custom-designed and built under a $26.6 million contract awarded after competitive bidding to Moving Water Industries Corp. of Deerfield Beach, Fla. It was founded in 1926 and supplies flood-control and irrigation pumps all over the world.
And what do we have here, Mr. Penguin?
MWI is owned by J. David Eller and his sons. Eller was once a business partner of former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush in a venture called Bush-El that marketed MWI pumps. And Eller has donated about $128,000 to politicians, the vast majority of it to the Republican Party, since 1996, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.
It also appears that the Corps doesn’t do thorough background checks before frittering away your tax dollars.
MWI has run into trouble before. The U.S. Justice Department sued the company in 2002, accusing it of fraudulently helping Nigeria obtain $74 million in taxpayer-backed loans for overpriced and unnecessary water-pump equipment. The case has yet to be resolved.
This went on while the Corps commander acknowledged that it was his agency’s failure that led to the levee and floodwall collapses and “the Corps has paid MWI $4.5 million for six additional pumps and will use them to troubleshoot the defective ones.” Again, when I questioned him back in September 2006 about City Hall’s cooperation/collaboration with the Corps, Mayor Ray Nagin told me that he meets with Corps leadership in New Orleans on a weekly basis, but ultimately “the Corps will continue its work with little to no oversight and has no accountability to Ray Nagin, the mayor of the city of New Orleans, and his people.” Are our hands tied on this one? Yes. So, don’t yell at us, help us unseat and replace the charlatans who keep us from being safe.
Back at the quilting circle, Meemaw Blanco puts on her rose-colored glasses and assures us that Louisiana is ready for the 2007 hurricane season:
â€œWe will be prepared for that June 1 date (when hurricane season opens),â€ she said. â€œWe will be ready.â€ … Blanco said that if the state is spared and others need help, â€œwe stand ready to come to the aid of our neighbors.â€
All I can say now is WTF? with that sinking feeling that I’m talking into an absurdist canvas of uncharted proportions.
Update: For the text of the Corps memoranda, please visit Matt McBride’s Fix The Pumps. Now!
Related: Scout Prime’s Some People Should Know Better