In my humble opinion, the certification of our levees is the number one issue facing Central Louisiana. It could potentially affect more than 90% of Alexandria residents and thousands more throughout Rapides, Natchitoches, and Avoyelles Parishes. It could tremendously hinder economic development, threatening our regional competitiveness and investment worthiness. It could force an additional burden on thousands of homeowners and businesses.
It needs to be resolved, and this will require cooperation and an earnest and honest attempt to put personal politics aside and work together. And, however much of a good story it is, this won’t be resolved in the pages of the newspaper or on any single blog. It will be resolved when our elected officials and their respective governmental agencies unite around a feasible plan of action.
You can call me a “lap dog” or a “paid propagandist” if it makes you feel better. Doesn’t bother me.
I know, first-hand, how Mayor Roy is handling the problem, and frankly, I don’t understand why Police Juror Coco seems to be more concerned with generating attention to his blog and attacking the Mayor for occurrences beyond his control than in working with the City, in his capacity as an elected official representing a government agency with a real and immediate need to resolve this issue. (And for what it’s worth, I have never been paid or received a single penny to operate this blog, and I have never been ordered or instructed on what to post or what editorial direction I should take).
I also know, first-hand, that Mayor Roy’s schedule is almost always booked. For better or worse, the City of Alexandria is one of the biggest businesses in our region; it employs nearly 900 people. It’s responsible for maintaining an electric utility service to nearly 25,000 households. It’s responsible for a police force and a fire force. It routinely has to embark on major, multi-million dollar capital infrastructure projects. It oversees a Zoo, a Business Incubator, and community centers across the City. It runs youth programming and senior citizen programming and is tasked with organizing and producing numerous community events.
And it has to balance a budget.
The City is not responsible for the levees. It doesn’t control the levees. RRABB does. This is why FEMA’s letter was addressed to RRABB, and not the City. I covered most of this in Part One.
But the City had the resources to assist RRABB in the certification process, and it entered into a PAL agreement in order to provide RRABB with the engineering services they required to file certification documentation.
I’ve read the documentation. I’ve read the original report.
It seems that some people are missing the forest for the trees. Even if RRABB had hired their own engineer, FEMA would have still identified the same deficiencies. These deficiencies were not the result of any negligence on behalf of the City or a part of any “cover-up.” The report ITSELF documented those deficiencies. (To Rhonda Reap-Curiel, I am increasingly confident that the first deficiency was not unique to our situation).
To respond quickly to Greg Aymond:
It is true that the attorney for the local levee board doesn’t have anything to do with engineering data, but Jacques Roy, as the former lawyer for the levee board, has plenty to do with concealing the truth about our levees certification failure.
You are now wholly inventing conspiracy theories. And they are absurd.
FEMA certified our levees as recently as November of 2005, and it was supposed to be a ten-year certification. Mayor Roy was sworn into office in December of 2006, and these issues weren’t known until the end of December 2009. What, exactly, are you suggesting, Greg?
Jacques knew about the City’s deficient certification documents at last as far back as December 30, 2009, when he received the F.E.M.A. letter, and perhaps back until earlier that Fall. Jacques also failed to mention the 4 deficiencies stated in that F.E.M.A. letter and keeps mentioning sand boils as the only problem. Jacques also did not come out publicly on this crisis until F.E.M.A. and the Corps of Engineers held its first public hearing on the Rapides Parish levees on February 4, 2010.
What could possibly lead you to believe that the Mayor knew about a report months before it was even issued? Again, absurd.
I would also submit to you that I know, without any doubt, that although you didn’t hear the Mayor speak about this issue until a meeting made the local news, he had been working on this from the moment he received the notification. Where did the FEMA and Army Corps public hearing occur?
Do you understand there are alleged deficiencies within our bayous and that those deficiencies are not necessarily the same as those affecting the Red River (i.e. sand boils)?
And finally with respect to the differences between accreditation and certification:
I take offense to Lamar’s own ignorance and lies on this point. I clearly understood the difference between the two terms as can be seen by my post entitled “LEVEE TERMS & LAWS“.
I wasn’t talking about you, Greg.
And in response to Greg’s most recent post:
Fourth, Jacques was wrong on the parking lot at the pentecostals being the culprit in our levee system, as I have it on good authority that the parking lot in question is actually located at Rapides Regional Medical Center. Since Jacques was the former attorney for the Levee Board and it was his own City employees that prepared the documents showing exactly where that parking lot was located.Fifth, Jacques claim that the information put out by these blogs is “incorrect”. I challenge Jacques to point out something that I have published as being incorrect.Sixth, Jacques claim that the City of Alexandria was only helping the Red River, Atchafalaya & Bayou Boeuf Levee District still doesn’t satisfy why the City admitted in its documentation that our levees were deficient. Now that Jacques has been caught lying to us and failing to disclose necessary facts, we can certainly move on from here.Seventh, Jacques admits that the bankruptcy proceedings brought by Capital One could hold the downtown hotel deal up. I seriously doubt that one of the most prestigious law firms located in several states and New Orleans doesn’t think that its position is the correct one, just like the City of Alexandria thinks that its position is right. Jacques, being a so-called lawyer himself, surely must realize that even if Capital One loses in the trial court, which isn’t a done deal yet by any means, has an absolute right to appeal a lower court ruling.So Jacques, stop lying to the people of Alexandria about the information, which calls you to task on what you say, that can be found on these blogs.
Mayor Roy’s credibility takes another woeful swoon as he “shoots off” his mouth and shoots himself in his political foot, again. Having no factual evidence or proof while defying reality, the Mayor suggested I published stories about the Bayou Rapides Levee and a FEMA deemed deficient 350 foot parking lot. He’d rather concoct a fantasy or spread falsehoods than have evidence to substantiate juvenile braggadocio.
Mr. Coco, in today’s Town Talk, the front-page, above-the-fold story quoted you as follows:
One of the deficiencies was a 350-foot “opening across a parking lot” along Bayou Rapides that didn’t have the “adequate elevation freeboard.” According to FEMA, freeboard is the height of the levee above based flood elevation, and it must be a minimum of 3 feet.
Messages left with Susie Webb with the FEMA Region 6 public information office were not returned before deadline on Tuesday.
Coco said he had spoken to officials at FEMA, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the city of Alexandria, and nobody seemed to know to which parking lot the letter referred.
“Does anyone know where this parking lot is?” Coco asked.
Brouillette offered a couple of suggestions, with the parking lot across Bayou Rapides Avenue from the Pentecostals of Alexandria being the most likely culprit.
“They never did identify where the parking lot is,” he said.
Brouillette suggested Coco again attempt to get an answer from the Corps or FEMA.
“I think it’s kind of odd that nobody knows where this parking lot is,” Coco said. “How can it be fixed if nobody knows where it is?”
I don’t think anyone would disagree; it’s baffling.
More from Mr. Coco’s blog:
He (Mayor Roy) mentioned an elected official/blogger who is out to politicize a situation. Well, since when does asking for the truth mean the same as politicizing? Who’s afraid of the truth in this case? Apparently this “mystery” parking lot is in a shroud of secrecy. I personally asked Mayor Roy February 24th about “THE” Parking Lot on Bayou Rapides. I also asked City engineer Mike Wilkinson, Mayoral assistant Ken Juneau, the Levee Board and FEMA officials. The best answer from the Levee Board was it’s either the Pentecostal or the Rapides Hospital parking lot. Why can’t anyone say for SURE? The QUESTION is not political, but not getting an answer IS. The mayor had a grand opportunity to identify the parking lot, but weakly replied that it’s so sad that the Town Talk gets stories from Blogs. But again that story has never been on THIS blog, until now. It’s with monotonous regularity the mayor spouts bogus information with zero proof or attribution. Perhaps the Mayor could use his “fat cat” budget to hire additional assistants to slow down out of control kamikaze policies.
The mayor’s animated briefing mostly involved convoluted defense of the Cleco Deal. Some often repeated phrases included, “our experts”, “good problem”, “complicated stuff” and the most used term “UH”. As the mayor continues attacking me, surely he can muster up the gumption to FAKE just a little credibility. Where is that parking lot and why doesn’t anyone want to talk about it?
I have difficulty understanding Mr. Coco’s prerogatives. Accusing another elected official of lying about an issue as serious as this should be taken seriously and rigorously backed up by facts. Signing in for a meeting doesn’t mean anything if you leave immediately after the opening remarks.
My challenge to him: Name ONE, just ONE, piece of “bogus information with zero proof or attribution” the Mayor has ever offered.
FEMA’s description of this particular deficiency was, obviously, vague. And it may have been vague on purpose. The question should be leveled at FEMA, not at the City.
Frankly, it’s patently disingenuous for Mr. Coco to suggest he is the innocent victim of a continual attack by the Mayor. When he was on KSYL Radio, he routinely used his air time to criticize the Mayor and the City, sometimes referencing Greg Aymond’s blog as a legitimate, unimpeachable source, and when the Mayor called in to counter, Mr. Coco continued his criticism on his blog. That is all fine and good. He has that right, of course.
But the thing is: He’s not your ordinary blogger. He’s an elected official, and he also represents the citizens of Alexandria.
During a recent meeting on the levee certification issue, The Town Talk snapped a few photos of Mr. Coco speaking personally to the Mayor. Almost immediately after those photos were available online, Mr. Coco lifted it from The Town Talk (which led to one of their infamous copyright letters; I’ve received one as well), and he added the caption, “So what’s it like being a one-term mayor?” Classy.
Mr. Coco blames the Mayor for his “firing” from an unpaid morning talk show host position on KSYL. I know, first-hand, that is ridiculous. The news caught the Mayor off-guard, and I know he actually lobbied for Mr. Coco to keep his position. Sure, as a fellow elected official, he wanted to ensure he and others had equal time and access to the federal airwaves in order to discuss, rebut, or refute Mr. Coco’s political opinions, but there was absolutely no plot or intention to remove him from his radio show. Mr. Coco was not an employee of the Mayor; he was an employee of Cenla Broadcasting. He wasn’t hired or fired by the Mayor; he was hired and fired by Cenla Broadcasting.
Mr. Coco’s accusation is bogus information with zero proof or attribution.
I have to say it is odd that Coco would be going after the Mayor on this levee issue as the vast majority of levees in the Parish are in areas that fall under the guise of HIS government agency (the Police Jury) and not Mayor Roy’s (the City of Alex) or even Mayor Fields (City of P’ville).
This need to blame someone (and this urging from many sides to seemingly blame one particular someone with very little control over the issue) cannot seem anything but politically motivated. There has been a repeating theme in the mood of local politics over the last two years, a small group who clings to the broken theory that government should never use public resources to spur development because the business community will do it on its own has consistently found fault with Mayor Roy and any other official or government employee who has supported his efforts with SPARC or the initiative to reignite the economic engine of CenLa’s urban centre.
Everything is somehow Roy’s fault and anyone who supports him is a lapdog (in Lamar’s case a lapdog with a cute Golden Retriever…can pets own pets?). This is no different than a local version of the same thing we see with Obama at the national level. Because certain people oppose a few of his policies, they find fault with EVERYTHING he proposes, even if he’s proposing the very things they have argued with in the past, and they spend day after day attempting to create spin that lends blame to him for anything that has gone wrong even years before he came into office. Are our local politicos really no better than the Carl Roves and Rush Limbaughs currently reducing our federal government to a dysfunctional ineffective mess?
Considering that every side involved claims to love Alexandria and love CenLA, I truly hope not.
Thanks for posting this; just found your blog searching around. Keep up the good work!