Archive for the ‘House, Senate’ Category

Interspersed in all the venomous political rhetoric in the gubernatorial campaign that is now moving toward its merciful final week are some real issues that affect our lives and which should warrant closer inspection by the voting public.

Unfortunately, given the public’s taste for voyeurism and salacious gossip, that probably won’t happen. Besides, time is short and the sordid half-truths, distortions and details of political black ops are just heating up. There just isn’t time for the things that matter.

But at least one group is taking U.S. Sen. David Vitter to task for a letter he wrote last April to U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Commander Lt. Gen. Thomas Bostick and Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works Jo-Ellen Darcy.

In that otherwise routine five-page letter, dated April 16, 2015, Vitter addressed a number of issues concerning levees, flood control, storm surge protection, past due payments from the Corps to the State of Louisiana for freshwater diversion projects, a request to complete the Southeast Louisiana Urban Flood Control Project (SELA) in Orleans, Jefferson and St. Tammany parishes, deauthorization of the West Pearl River Navigation Project, a request for increased negotiation efforts to approve the Lower Mississippi River Management proposal, and bank stabilization along the Ouachita River in north Louisiana.

Buried at the bottom of page three of the letter was item number 7: Helis Oil and Gas Permit MVN (Mississippi Valley New Orleans)-2013-02952-ETT.

Issue: “The aforementioned permit application is currently awaiting approval within MVN, but has stalled due to several pending lawsuits,” Vitter’s letter said. “The State of Louisiana, Department of Environmental Quality issued the water quality certification (WQC 140328-02) on March 19, 2015. Issuance of the 404 permit is the last remaining action needed to begin construction of the test well.”

Request: “Immediately approve and issue the 404 permit.”


In his April 16 letter, Vitter did what he does best: intimidate with not-so-subtle threats.

“As the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers moves forward with leadership transitions and promotions in the coming months, I’d like to take this opportunity to ensure that you—as the two primary Corps leaders—continue strengthening your commitment to improve communication and issue resolution with non-Federal stakeholders who depend on the Corps to provide necessary flood protection, reliable navigation, and restored ecosystems,” he wrote.

“…However, it’s critical that Corps leadership understand there remain several significant Louisiana issues that need to be addressed and resolved in an expeditious manner. In light of those issues, I can’t support the transition or promotion of new leadership until I know that a constructive approach will be taken to address and resolve these serious problems.”

As if on cue, the Corps on June 8 approved the permit application by Helis Oil & Gas Co. http://www.nola.com/environment/index.ssf/2015/06/wetlands_permit_approved_by_fr.html

Vanishing Earth, a new political blog that concentrates on environmental issues, obtained the Vitter letter to the Corps that contained Vitter’s heavy-handed approach to resolving issues, particularly the approval of the Helis permit.

That permit, since approved, will allow Helis to drill an exploratory well for the purpose of oil drilling and controversial hydraulic fracking in St. Tammany Parish. Parish residents have resisted fracking in St. Tammany and have even filed a lawsuit in district court to stop the practice there because of legitimate concerns about air and water pollution, damage to the aquifer that supplies drinking water, and the industrialization of the parish.

The irony is that St. Tammany is considered a strongly Republican parish and represents one of Vitters’ strongest areas of support.

But, as is always the case in politics, money speaks much louder than loyalty to constituents and Helis has seen to it that Vitter’s campaigns, both federal and more recently, state, are remembered fondly.

On May 8, less than a month after Vitter wrote his letter to the Corps, Helis made a $5,000 contribution to Vitter’s gubernatorial campaign. Additionally, on that same date, Helis CEO David Kerstein made an identical maximum allowable contribution of $5,000. Then, on Nov. 6 of this year, less than two weeks after the first primary, Helis chipped in an additional $5,000. The company also contributed $15,000 in three separate contributions to lieutenant governor candidate Billy Nungesser.



Moreover, Kerstein contributed an additional $7,500 to Vitter’s U.S. House and Senate campaigns from 2000 to 2008, according to Federal Election Commission records. Corporations are prohibited from contributing to federal campaign. http://docquery.fec.gov/cgi-bin/qind/


Helis apparently is not an equal opportunity donor; no contributions could be found by the company or its CEO to Democrats John Bel Edwards or Nungesser’s opponent Baton Rouge Mayor Kip Holden.

What David Vitter is essentially saying in his letter to Secretary Darcy and Lieutenant General Bostick is that if they do not perform certain acts, issue the permit, then he will punish them by taking away something of personal value to them which, in this case, are the “transitions and promotions,” wrote Vanishing Earth publisher Jonathan Henderson. “In other words, he blackmailed them.” http://vanishingearth.org/2015/11/05/senator-vitter-corruption-reaches-st-tammany-parish-fracking-fight/

Henderson is encouraging his readers to call on the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Ethics “to immediately investigate Senator David Bruce Vitter.”

Additionally, one source said some residents of St. Tammany were considering filing a complaint with the State Board of Ethics. LouisianaVoice inquired of the state board whether or not such a complaint had been filed. This was the response we received:

In response to your public records request of Nov. 12th, please be advised that all complaints and documents prepared or obtained in connection with an investigation are deemed confidential and privileged pursuant to R.S. 42:1141.4 K&L which also provides that it is a misdemeanor for any person, including the Board’s staff, to make any public statement or give out any information concerning any confidential matter.

LouisianaVoice has begun an investigation into fracking operations in Lincoln Parish as well. Residents there are concerned about the drain on the Sparta Aquifer which supplies drinking water to several north Louisiana parishes. We will bring you more details on those operations as we receive them.

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U.S. Sen. David Vitter may not show up for debates and he may not submit to unscripted press conferences, but that doesn’t mean he won’t seek out the opportunity to rub shoulders with well-heeled lobbyists representing more than 1,000 businesses, organizations and other vested interests in Louisiana.

In what political historian Robert Mann calls “the most blatant, breathtaking pay-to-play message I have ever seen in politics,” Vitter, through a front man, unabashedly puts the muscle on lobbyists for the maximum $5,000 each in campaign contributions. http://bobmannblog.com/2015/10/21/sen-david-vitters-blatant-pay-to-play-scheme/

And Mann has worked for three U.S. senators and a Louisiana governor, so he knows political coercion when he sees it.

It’s understandable that Vitter doesn’t want to address uncomfortable questions, i.e. did he ever solicit prostitution for pay? It turns out the family values candidate, who was highly critical of President Bill Clinton’s tryst with Monica Lewinski (and we by no means defend that behavior) in a 1998 New Orleans Times-Picayune op-ed piece, had his own fling with a couple of hookers while serving in the U.S. Senate.

It’s understandable but not acceptable. Senator, you answer for your actions, good, bad or indifferent. You can run but you can’t hide. If you are elected, you will be under this shadow and it will haunt you throughout your entire term of office, be it four or eight years. You said Clinton could not govern effectively after what he did. How can you?

But, as is our wont, I digress.

There are no fewer than 800 registered lobbyists that prowl the halls of the Louisiana Capitol, buttonholing senator, representatives, and governors.

They represent about 1,100 clients, including payday loan companies, utility companies, oil companies, insurance companies, the National Football League, the New Orleans Saints, the New Orleans Pelicans, professional firefighters, sheriffs, municipalities, and the Association of Louisiana Bail Underwriters and countless associations, organizations, and services.

A partial list:

  • AT&T, AT&T Louisiana, AT&T Louisiana and its Subsidiaries, AT&T Telecommunications, AT&T, Inc. and its Affiliates;
  • CLECO Corp., CLECO Power, CLECO Power, LLC;
  • Entergy, Entergy Corp., Entergy Louisiana, Entergy Services, Inc.;
  • Louisiana Energy and Power Authority, Louisiana Energy Users Group;
  • Louisiana Family Forum, Louisiana Family Forum Action;
  • Louisiana Farm Bureau, Louisiana Farm Bureau Insurance Group;
  • Louisiana Federal of Teachers, Louisiana Federation of Teachers and School Employees;
  • Louisiana Housing Alliance, Louisiana Housing Council;
  • Louisiana Oil & Gas, Louisiana Oil Marketers and Convenience Store Association, Louisiana Oilfield Contractors Association;
  • Ochsner Clinic Foundation, Ochsner Health System;
  • Pelican Bingo, Pelican Gaming;
  • State Farm Insurance Co., State Farm Insurance Companies, State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company;

You get the picture.

So, what does all this have to do with David Vitter?

Simply this: Vitter spokesman Jimmy Burland, a Baton Rouge attorney and lobbyist, sent out an email blast to “the Louisiana Lobbyist Community” in which he announced that Vitter and wife Windy would be hosting receptions across Louisiana immediately after Saturday’s primary “and we hope you can attend and bring a check.” (Emphasis ours).

Mann was right. That’s pretty blatant and more than a little heavy-handed and it sends a clear message to lobbyists to be ready to play ball if they want special favors from a Vitter administration.

Okay, we know this kind of thing goes on all the time but at least most politicians have the good sense to be a little more subtle about blackmailing potential contributors.

The schedule for the receptions:

  • Sunday, Oct. 25: brunch at Andrea’s Restaurant in Metairie;
  • Monday, Oct. 26: luncheon at Juban’s Restaurant in Baton Rouge, followed by a reception at a Lake Charles site to be announced at 3 p.m. and a 6 p.m. reception at Café Vermilionville in Lafayette;
  • Tuesday, Oct. 27: breakfast at Brocato’s in Alexandria at 8 a.m., followed by an 11:30 a.m. luncheon at Ristorante Giuseppe in Shreveport and a 5 p.m. reception in Monroe.

And, as if that is not enough: “Additionally, we have set a lobbyist fund-raising meeting for Friday, Oct. 29 in Baton Rouge (time and place to be announced) and urge you to attend,” Burland wrote.

That must be to catch all the strays and stragglers.

Perhaps the most irony-filled statement in the entire email was when Burland wrote, “…David has spent much of his money fighting eight SuperPACs (sic) and opponents, and he has asked his most ardent donors to re-up for the runoff campaign immediately at the maximum contribution amount.” (Emphasis ours.)

Spent much of his money fighting eight Super PACs? Wow, what unmitigated hypocrisy. The Fund for Louisiana’s Future, a Super PAC set up by a Vitter colleague and into which Vitter poured in a quarter-million dollars of his own money, has launched an unmerciful distortion and lies-filled attack against his two Republican opponents. (Presumably, he will do the same against Democrat John Bel Edwards, expected by most experts to face Vitter in the November general election.)

The biggest lies are that Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne had a “European birthday bash” at the expense of Louisiana taxpayers and that Dardenne voted himself lifetime health benefits. The trips were to boost tourism in Louisiana and he was not even a member of the health benefits system when the vote was taken. Moreover, Dardenne led a delegation that convinced then-Gov. Kathleen Blanco to veto a bill that would have given legislators the benefits.

To be perfectly candid, there is no excuse for this kind of character assassination in any political campaign. Unfortunately, there always have been and will always be candidates like Vitter who know no boundaries of decency.

Florida Sen. George Smathers was said to have accused opponent Congressman Claude Pepper of “matriculating” in college, having a brother who was a “known homo sapien,” his sister “a practicing thespian,” and that he and his wife practiced “celibacy before marriage.” Earl Long once called an opponent “catfish mouth” and said another opponent once fell into a hog pen and when passersby commented that one could be judged by the company he kept, the hogs left.

Those kinds of comments are funny and in the long run, harmless.

But Vitter’s attacks are way over the top. He even propped his wife up in front of the TV cameras to tell us her husband has given his pension back to Congress. Interesting, since he hasn’t even qualified for a pension. He’s 54 and he would not qualify for his $74,000 per year pension until he reaches age 62.

We can barely wait to see what kind of sordid, tasteless, lies and distortions he will unleash should he and Edwards face one another in the runoff election.

LouisianaVoice attempted to contact Burland by telephone and email but we never heard back from him. Here is our email:

Sent: Wednesday, October 21, 2015 5:35 PM

To: ‘jimmy@burland.org’ <jimmy@burland.org>


Mr. Burland: Below is a copy of an email to “the Louisiana Lobbyist Community” dated yesterday, Oct. 20.

My question is this: Do you consider this a proper solicitation of contributions when the implication is clear that the lobbyists better play ball or not expect any help from “Gov. Vitter”?

This has the appearance of extortion at worst or coercion at best. I would be interested in your explanation and will publish your response in full.

Tom Aswell


There was the usual disclaimer at the end of Burland’s email:

“This email is intended to reach certain state registered Louisiana lobbyists only. If this email has been sent to you in error, either as a prohibited recipient, public servant or foreign national, please disregard this message and delete it from your mailbox immediately as it was not intended for your viewing or use.”

I’ll bet.

Well, LouisianaVoice received the email and intended or not, here is the complete text:

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For political junkies and political reporters out there, this is just the ticket and it’s coming out party is tomorrow, Tuesday, Sept. 8, just in time for Louisiana’s fall elections.

Freagle, a free political social network designed to connect voters and candidates to engage the way our founders intended, will debut in Louisiana on Tuesday, Sept. 8.

LouisianaVoice anticipates it will make regular use of the site in order to keep its readers updated on political candidates.

Freagle.com will provide a personalized political platform on which voters can customize their issue and election preferences in order to cut through the noise and spin of our current political dialogue to learn who is on their ballot and where those candidates stand on the particular issues they care about.

“Freagle is designed to connect voters to the candidates on their ballot and provide a simple mechanism for learning about where they stand and what they will do if elected,” Freagle founder and CEO Niki Papazoglakis said. “It also allows candidates to easily engage with voters on the topics they care about individually without expensive micro-targeting and polling.”

Freagle is currently operating at: http://www.freagle.com/ . The full site will be live on Tuesday.

Citizens who use Freagle can easily determine who is on their ballot, in their specific precincts. The site will use the voter’s address to automatically connect them to the races on their ballots, but voters also have the ability to manually follow races in other districts. Voters are verified so there are no trolls or political operatives.

“I hope that by making it easy and convenient for voters to be informed and engaged on elections and amendments, more people will turn out to the polls this fall and feel confident that the votes they cast are for the people and topics that best reflect their personal views,” Papazoglakis said. “Ultimately, I hope that Freagle is a catalyst to re-engage voters in this representative democracy and get us back to a citizen-led government.”

Freagle’s other features will include:

  • Simple means of comparing candidates. Election forums will allow voters to conduct side-by-side comparisons of the candidates in each race on their ballot and on individual issues.
  • On-Demand candidates’ debates. Voters can pose questions to all candidates in a race who subscribe to Freagle from the Election Forum wall rather than individually through other venues like websites, Facebook or Twitter and without having to be selected or have timed responses in live forums.
  • My Ballot tool. Voters can research and make voting decisions throughout the election cycle and print their choices before going to the polls.
  • Verification. Voters are verified so there are no trolls or political operatives.

Papazoglakis said Freagle would also be a valuable tool for the news media. “The media will have a simple place to track all of the elections from a single location including who has qualified in each race, where the candidates stand on the issues, and how they are engaging with voters, “ she said. “In addition, comprehensive campaign finance reports are easily accessed from each candidate’s profile.”

Freagle will feature a custom report from the state Ethics Commission that will have significantly more information than the standard download from the Ethics website, Papazoglakis said, adding that the site will also include all campaign contributions for each candidate.

News media outlets wanting more information about Freagle should contact Papazoglakis at (225) 615-4570 or niki@freagle.com.

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By Stephen Winham (Special to LouisianaVoice)

Bob Mann has done an excellent piece on this:  http://bobmannblog.com/2015/06/02/shell-game-shouldnt-higher-education-leaders-have-more-integrity-than-bobby-jindal/#more-5553

Many news stories have been written about it.  I don’t have to tell you what it does – nothing, except appease Grover Norquist and, by association, our governor.

Oh, wait, it does actually do something else – It adds to the plethora of recent stories about our state and governor that keep us the laughingstock of the nation.  If the national media starts playing this up, it really is going to seem like they are reprinting a story from The Onion. The name, itself, is a joke – on many levels:  Student Assessment for a Valuable Education – Think about it.

How this utterly ridiculous bill can be treated as the salvation for higher education makes a mockery of the value we allegedly place on higher education.  It is beyond a shell game.  It is so stupid, in concept and premise, as to make it hard to treat seriously.  I get angry just thinking that such a thing could be introduced, much less actually passed.  It is difficult to give the bill enough credibility to even read it – and reading it doesn’t help much.

Create a fee.  Don’t collect the fee, but give a tax credit for it as if it had been paid.  Send the money that would have been collected had the fee been paid to the Board of Regents to be distributed to colleges and universities.

If there is really no fee, where is the SAVE money coming from?  The fiscal note shows no numbers.  Is the money going to magically appear out of nowhere, be printed by the state treasury, or what?  If there is no money, how can this possibly help higher education?  If there is to actually be money in the fund, where will it come from?

After you create a fund that has no source, you pretend this non-existent tax credit offsets the same amount in unrelated tax increases.

Grover Norquist must be about the most powerful person in the United States.  He gets thousands of politicians to sign a {non- legally binding} pledge to not raise taxes no matter what happens.  No matter how stupid or irresponsible it makes them look, these people, including our governor , treat the pledge as if lightening will strike them dead if they don’t.  And the legislature follows suit.

Or at least John Alario does. The Senate President (R-Westwego) has vowed to overcome defeat of the measure by the House by inserting the SAVE bill in every piece of legislation passed by the House in order to force passage.

How can this be?  In local politics, we would assume anybody with that much power must have a video of the person he controls doing something Bobby Jindal would consider a mortal sin (like subscribing to the theory of climate change, endorsing the metric system or worse, equal pay for women).  So, is it possible Grover has a video vault with thousands of pornos of every politician who has signed his pledge?  That makes almost as much sense as SAVE.

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By Monique Harden (Special to LouisianaVoice)

Before state lawmakers on the Louisiana House of Representatives Education Committee on May 7 unanimously agreed to pass House Bill 180, which would prohibit the building of a new school on a waste site, an official with the LA Department of Environmental Quality gave a full-throated defense of the department’s astounding decision to do just the opposite.

The LDEQ gave the thumbs up to a plan by the Recovery School District to build a new school on the old Clio Street/Silver City Dump in New Orleans. According to Chance McNeely, an Assistant Secretary at the LDEQ who spoke to the Education Committee, the LDEQ uses “the safest, most stringent standard,” but “didn’t find anything that pointed to a toxic landfill or dump site there.” This conclusion is absurd. Governmental records show that this dump received more than 150 tons of waste on a daily basis and operated from the late 1890s to the late 1930s. According to the technical reports prepared by environmental consulting firms working for the RSD, which the LDEQ purportedly reviewed, the site of this former waste dump remains contaminated to this day. These reports show “unacceptable levels” of toxins at the ground surface down to 15 feet below ground that exceed the risk-based standard for residential use and would “pose a risk to children occupying the site.”

It is more than eye-opening that the LDEQ would turn a blind eye to information showing the existence of the Clio Street/Silver City Dump and revealing present-day soil contamination that can harm human health. The LDEQ lacks credibility in concluding that it is safe to build a school on a waste dump.

When McNeely discouraged the idea of avoiding the health risks at the former waste dump by looking at an alternative school site he raised the ire of Representative Wesley Bishop from New Orleans.  McNeely suggested that “probably the same thing” would be found at the alternative site as was found at the former waste dump.  When Rep. Bishop asked McNeely to explain why, McNeely admitted that he was not familiar with the alternative site.  Showing his frustration with McNeely, Rep. Bishop declared, “You’re not making any sense.”

Perhaps the only “sense” driving the LDEQ’s apparent opposition to House Bill 180 is the pressure of approving the RSD’s plan to build the school on the former waste dump in order for the RSD to collect $69 million dollars from FEMA.  According to McNeely, “FEMA requires that, if you’re gonna spend that money, you gotta confirm that there’s not a contamination that would be a danger.”

 Monique Harden is an attorney and co-director of Advocates for Environmental Human Rights, a public interest law firm in New Orleans, LA.

…And for the record, we have, courtesy of Ms. Harden, the transcript of the testimony of Chance McNeely, assistant secretary, Office of Environmental Compliance, Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality.

You may remember Chance McNeely, who moved over from the governor’s office (with a big raise) to become the DEQ Environmental Compliance Officer while simultaneously attending law school. Here are links to some of our earlier posts about Chance:









(We have attempted to edit out numbers that do not belong. If we missed any and you see numbers that look out of place, ignore them; they’re just the line numbers for the official transcript.)

Chance McNeely: “I would just say. If I may just give you a little bit of history that you guys may already be aware of, but I’ll just proceed anyway. Obviously, we had the Industrial Revolution in the last century. And all of that pre-dated any environmental regulations or laws. So in the sixties and seventies, we started environmental regulations. And so, in the time between there, we obviously had contamination that would take place in various locations. This is not unique to Louisiana. This is something that every state deals with. And so, I just, I guess my comment would be that the point of RECAP [Risk Evaluation and Corrective Action Plan] is to put sites back into commerce. And if RECAP says that it’s, if our system shows that it’s safe, we stand by that system. And I think it’s important for y’all to be aware that there are statewide implications for this bill.

Rep. Carmody: Mr. McNeely, you’re with the Department of Environmental Quality. In these situations where – again, I’m not familiar with the areas in New Orleans were talking about here – but these former sites, impacted sites, the school has then come back over at some point and built on top of them. And the [unintelligible] I was just kind of given was that the remediation plan, I guess presented, has gone through DEQ approval process to say that in order to address the concerns regarding the high standards for some of these chemicals to a depth of – whatever it was – three feet, this has to be removed. And then at that point, encapsulation on top of that should create a barrier to prevent the migration of any of these chemicals. Correct?

Chance McNeely: That’s right. I mean, it’s essentially taking three feet of dirt out, 40 putting six feet of dirt in. Well, before you put the six feet of dirt in, you put a layer – like a fabric –so if you ever dig down and hit that, you know to stop. There’ll be six feet of dirt on top of that that’s clean. And then most of the facility, you know, it’s going to be the school built on top of it. So, there’s not, I assume that there, I think there is going to be some grass area, but a lot of it’s going to be covered with the building.

Rep. Carmody: Do all of these qualify as Brownfields sites?

Chance McNeely: Ummm

Rep. Carmody: And the reason I guess I’m asking you that question is that if it’s a Brownfields site, you don’t go all the way to the bottom of that hole until you finished digging out everything you find, is it?

Chance McNeely: Right. And that’s part of RECAP, where they evaluate all the factors. For schools, it’s treated like residential standards. So this is the safest, most stringent standard for remediation that we have. And we stand by it. So does the EPA. We kind of lead the nation in RECAP. We got a great program. And so it’s, again, we do stand by our standards and say that it is safe.

Rep. Carmody: Just to clarify, you’re here for informational purposes only as a representative of the Department of Environmental Quality.

Chance McNeely: That’s correct.

Rep. Patricia Smith: Question I have for you is when you mitigate a particular site do you inform anyone who’s building there what’s there? Are they aware when they first build 60 of what is actually in the ground?

Chance McNeely: I guess the way to explain that – I’ll use the example that we’re talking about. So the Recovery School District is being funded by the feds, FEMA. FEMA requires that, if you’re gonna spend that money, you gotta confirm that there’s not a contamination that would be a danger. And so, RSD does sampling. We have oversight of that. That’s how we got involved in this is that FEMA requires RSD to make sure that the site is okay. And so that’s how the sampling got done and we got involved. Again, we have oversight. We approved all the sampling plans, everything like that. We run it through our RECAP system to determine, you know, the risks. I’ll also point out and I’ll say that, you know, the sampling that came back was consistent with urbanization throughout the, you know, 1900s. We didn’t find anything that pointed to a toxic landfill or dump site there. So, you know, we’re talking about lead. Lead is the primary thing that we found. And we all know there’s lots of sources of lead, you know, that have existed. And you’re gonna pretty much find that in a lot of urban areas.

Rep. Smith: Well, the question I have though is the school opened in 1942. I’m sure that folks knew it was a dump site at that time. 1942 standards compared to 2015 standards ought to be quite different.

Chance McNeely: They are. There were no standards back then.

Rep. Smith: There probably were no standards. You’re absolutely right. Therefore, there ought to be more stringent standards when we’re looking at something that was already there to be able to determine whether or not anything was emitted from it. You got samples. Did you go all the way down to the 15 foot level for any samples that you know of?

Chance McNeely: I believe we did. I believe we went all the way down. It’s either 12 or 15 feet, I believe.

Rep. Smith: But even if you build and you’re looking at only the three foot level, what’s to say that you cannot disturb what’s under the layer that you put in there? There’s nothing to say that. A bulldozer or something can go farther down – just like folks hit water lines, gas lines, you know, that are underground. So, what’s to say that it doesn’t go beyond that?

Chance McNeely: Again, dig down three feet. Put that fabric in. If you ever get to that point, you see it, and you know you’re supposed to stop. But, during construction, we’re talking about constructing on top of six feet of clean, new soil. And so, the reason you need six feet is out of an abundance of caution. You know, if they had any kind of pipe burst or something that it would be in that six feet of barrier without ever having to down 95 to the area that has any contamination.

Rep. Smith: I guess because of the fact that dump sites and waste sites, Brownfields, and all these are mostly in urban, African American communities. That when we begin to build that’s where we’re building. When we begin to build and looking at trying to replace schools that often times they’re not many places to go unless we look for new 100 sites outside of the urban areas where these have been located and that’s an atrocity in itself. We know that.

Chance McNeely: My response to that would be we’re on the same page. The point of a Brownfields program and RECAP is to put contaminated properties back into commerce. We don’t want to have to build schools for the children of New Orleans way 105 outside of town. We want them to be in town. And there’s contamination in town that we address through RECAP.

Rep. Wesley Bishop: Quick question for you. I am familiar with this area. I am familiar with this district. It’s in my district. And the one thing that stands, I think, as a stark testament as to why we should not be doing this is Moton School. Moton School is in my district. Reason why I know is because my mother-in-law is the principal of Moton Elementary School. And when you look at it right now, you drive in my district, that school has sat there abandoned for years for the very same concerns that we’re talking about. You put that same remediation piece in place. You remediate this particular area, it would actually make it good. The one thing no one has been able to answer for me is why in the world do we have this conversation when we talk about our kids. I can’t figure that one out. My understanding and, Representative Bouie, correct me if I’m wrong, this situation came about based upon the Booker T. Washington High School. I’m also saying also that there is a $40 million budget to erect a new Booker T. Washington High School. I understand that there are some alumni, who have some concerns as to whether or not this will slow down the process. And that’s a valid concern because we’re many years beyond Hurricane Katrina and it’s still not built. But I also understand that there is an alternative site that’s present right now that you could build this very school on right now. Only $4 million has been spent to remediate this process. So, basically you eat the $4 million. As an attorney, it makes sense to eat the $4 million. Because if you don’t and you build this school, the number of lawsuits you’re going to face based upon parents [unintelligible] sent their kids into what most folks consider to be harm’s danger would pale in comparison. Rep. Bouie, can you talk a little bit about the alternative site that’s available for the building of this school?

Rep. Bouie: [Discussion of the Derham School property as an alternative site.] 

Chance McNeely: If I may, if it’s the pleasure, if it’s determined that the site has to move, my understanding would be that, you know, FEMA would still require sampling. And I’ll just tell you they’re probably going to find the same thing they found [stops].

Rep. Bishop: But is there reason to believe that a landfill [unintelligible] at the new site? 

Chance McNeely: I’m not familiar with that site.

Rep. Bishop: You’re not making any sense. How do you get to interject that into the argument when you have no reason to believe that that’s the case?

Chance McNeely: Because what we found through sampling at the current site has nothing to do with a landfill. It has to do with is standard urbanization: lead. It’s not, we 140 didn’t find anything that said, “Oh, there was a hazardous landfill here.”

Rep. Bishop: I disagree with you totally, sir.

Chance McNeely: Ok.

Rep. Bishop: I disagree with you. I know you gotta job to do and gotta come and make this argument, but I totally disagree with what you said.

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