Thursday, November 10, 2005

Priorities

Back in 1981 I moved to Bayou Derbonne, LA, a small agricultural community in Natchitoches Parish, LA. Over the years, the road, the physical blacktop road deteriorated to the point where it was gravel in some areas. The local police jury, lacking the funds to repair it, actually came in with plows and graveled a large section of that road.

Natchitoches Parish is a poor parish. Some of us who lived on that road knew that without help we would never be able to drive on a standard road, so we began writing letters and putting together a coalition and trying to get help to fix eight miles of bad road. Eight miles. Two lane road. Nothing fancy. Just some asphalt so that we could drive to work and home without potholes and gravel dings on our vehicles.

Because our road is the back door to a major federal preserve (the National Red Dirt Wilderness Area), we got a pledge of assistance from Senator Mary Landieu and actually recieved funding. We got the pledge for funds in the year 2000. Then 9/11/2001 came along. I got a letter from Senator Landrieu explaining that other priorities had been foisted upon us and that our funding for our little eight miles of bad road had been taken for more pressing issues. We understood. We still understand. And we still drive on bad road.

Our experience is not unique. Lots of small communities all over the United States share the same frustrations. In North Louisiana, for example, Morehouse Parish wants to spend $4 million for a Livestock arena. $4 million is a drop in the bucket, but the people there would like some of their tax money to support their own people. With the horrific destruction of south Louisiana, Morehouse Parish probably won't get their livestock arena. They probably understand.

After a lot of soul-searching and a lot of arguing with people I respect, I have come to the understanding that we need to rebuild South Louisiana. We should grant the resources and the money to getting those people back on their feet. It is the right thing to do, culturally, economically, and from a humanitarian prespective. I don't necessarily agree with it, but I understand it. I support the effort.

This opinion from the Alexandria Daily Town Talk represents the frustration a lot of folks in North Louisian feel when South Louisiana needs money.
Lawmakers also feel awkward as they try to ask the rest of the state to chip in to salvage New Orleans, a city that has been larded with preferential treatment forever. Already we are hearing complaints from North Louisiana legislators on things like cutting the $11 million slush fund to help plug the hole in the state budget levee.
The feeling of frustration has been building for years. New Orleans has long gotten preferential treatment from the state legislature. Sure, the lions share of taxes comes from there, and sure, a whole lot of people live there, but the perception exists that New Orleans is almost a state unto itself.

I still support the effort to rebuild South Lousiana. I agree that it is the right thing to do. During the worst of Katrina and Rita, the citizens of North Louisiana opened their doors and hearts to the citizens of south Louisiana that needed us. We worked long, hard hours in shelters and spending scarce resources so that lives could be spared and the trauma could be reduced.

We understand that the ports and the infrastructure needs to be rebuilt. We understand that levees and marshes have to be restored. And we are being asked to contribute, to put aside our own wants and needs until that restoration is complete. We are being asked to put aside our infrastructure needs until the people south of I-10 have what they need to prosper.

Can you understand the frustration and resentment? Even when we admit that the work must be done, we have heard it all before. New Orleans needs a superdome. New Orleans needs better roads. New Orleans needs to upgrade their ports. New Orleans needs a new convention center. We need the Superdome to be remodeled for the tourist industry in New Orleans.

We don't have the voter base that New Orleans has. When we need 8 miles of road fixed we have to compete against all the little tiny needs of all over the state. When New Orleans needs something, half a million voices speak.

Yeah, we're frustated. We did the best we could for New Orleans, and now we are being asked to do more. Our needs are being pushed aside so that we can make Louisiana a better place.

What would be a big help is if the New Orleans lawmakers would band together and commit to helping North Louisiana at some identified time in the future. If those lawmakers would agree that... say... from 2008 to 2012 they would not ask for a single dime from the legislature and that they would get behind all the little projects that we in Louisiana need so desparately.

It seems sometimes like north Louisiana is being asked to be part of the team, yet never gets to share in the victory.

I still need 8 miles of basic road.

5 comments:

j said...

Pawpaw, if you'd really like to help the political process you should run for state representative or state senator. You might could get elected.

Pawpaw said...

j. I've thought about it, but not just yet. I still have things to do before I can even think about things in the political arena.

And, I'm an unknown. No one knows who I am but the folks that read this silly blog and the magazine I contribute to.

j said...

Harry Truman sold hats, didn't he? Edwin Edwards started politics as a city council member.

oyster said...

Pawpaw, South Louisiana appreciates your (continued) support.

Thank you.

And, just maybe, there will emerge a reform politician in South Louisiana who will seek to diminish the excessive political influence and cost the New Orleans area has on the rest of the state.

Now more than ever, we must set aside regionalism and the old "Business as usual" attitudes.

Schroeder said...

Well said pawpaw. Ditto oyster's remarks.