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Power grab in name of development

In a recent editorial, The Advocate criticized the proposed formation of an "economic development" commission in Orleans Parish as a power grab in the name of jobs.

Rep. Karen Carter of New Orleans, with an "economic development" plan of her own in mind, apparently adopted the blueprint established by Bogalusa Sen. Ben Nevers, Rep. Francis Thompson and others. Their blueprint, in the name of economic development, would create, at last count, some 13 reservoirs across a state that is awash in natural lakes, bayous, rivers, pipeline canals and bays. Construction is well under way on some of the reservoirs.

Their formula calls for using eminent domain, historically reserved for highways, bridges, schools and the like, to take private land and other property, and using state Highway Department capital outlay funds (gasoline tax money paid by all motorists) to fund the reservoirs.

The infamous reservoir in Sen. Nevers' home Washington Parish would destroy a creek, flood cemeteries, displace protesting residents from their "expropriated" homes and ultimately obliterate and inundate an entire community.

Sen. Nevers' Senate Bill 90, coauthored by Sen. John T. Schedler, would create yet another commission, a "subdivision of the state" for the rural areas of Tangipahoa Parish. It, too, would have the power to take people's land and homes under eminent domain and do with the land whatever commission members (not elected by the people but appointed primarily by local politicians) decided was good for "economic development".

Under this legislation, no one living in rural areas of Tangipahoa Parish would be safe from the potential expropriation of their homes and land by the state.

Most of rural Tangipahoa is in the northern part where most of the land is already committed to dairy farming and timber growing and harvesting.

As a resident of a stable dairy farming community, I wonder what Sen. Nevers envisions in the way of economic development for these pasturelands and pine forests. Surely not ports, harbors etc., which his bill mentions as at least part of the rationale for the proposed commission.

This and other power grabs by Sen. Nevers and other self-appointed reservoir builders have been flying under the radar, apparently with little awareness by much of the mainstream news media, thus leaving the public unaware and uninformed.

While our state's highways continue to crumble, many millions of dollars of state highway outlay funds are being spent on reservoirs that no voters – to my knowledge – voted for. And good highways are essential if the state is to attract the kind of private corporations that will produce genuine economic development.

These unprecedented power grabs by members of the legislative branch deserve increased, in-depth coverage by the state's major newspapers and television stations so that the public can be properly informed.

Gov. Kathleen Blanco should veto all bills related to these power grabs, otherwise one can only assume she supports them.

Les Brumfield

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