In theory, the levee authority, the product of a post-Katrina reform drive to replace the parishwide levee boards of yore, is supposed to operate on a separate plane, to sidestep power struggles and focus exclusively on flood protection. Unlike in the old days, some of the new authority’s members are required to have actual expertise in things such as engineering and water management, and all are supposed to be free of political ties and conflicts of interest. The board is also set up to make independent decisions on things like, well, filing lawsuits — or so its members insist.Indeed. Notice also the "payouts for lawyers" canard is currently being put to use by BP with great effect.
In practice, it turns out, it’s nearly impossible to stay above the fray. In its brief existence, the authority’s members have gotten into fights over funding and control over land behind homes that back up to its floodwalls.
But there’s never been a blow-up like this.
By filing the stealth suit, the levee authority has picked a major fight with defenders of the industry’s prerogatives and critics of “frivolous lawsuits” that carry the possibility of huge payouts for lawyers — two categories with considerable overlap.
But that's not what we're focusing on right now. Instead, there's this.
Mark Moseley: Political machinations stain selection for a job that’s meant to be above politics
It’s always assumed that politics factors into the U.S. Attorney selection “process,” but the key decisions are made in private. It’s a farce, and a disservice to the public as well as to potential nominees like Polite. The political nature of the appointment makes everything suspect.Can't say I'm too excited about Moseley's suggested remedy. I do agree the "process" by which US Attorneys are selected is severely lacking in transparency, though. I'm just not convinced there's much value to ensuring the candidates are always "outsiders." I would have thought the fashion for ass kicking "outsiders" would have gone the way of the Dodo.. or at least the Skyline Crane but some dreams die hard, I guess.
For example, when the Bush administration directed then interim U.S. Attorney Jim Letten to “make urban areas safer,” were we to interpret that as code? Or, when Polite says he intends to focus the office on violent crime — is that his own preference — or Holder’s or Jackson’s?
Here’s my proposal on how to reform the system: U.S. Attorney candidates should come from outside the district and be chosen by lot. I envision each region compiling short lists of peer-approved candidates from each party. When a vacancy opens in another region, a lottery selects a candidate from all the lists to determine which “outsider” candidate fills the vacancy. It’s not a perfect solution. There are drawbacks — lack of familiarity with a new region being the most obvious. And even a random process wouldn’t eliminate all the politics, but it would be a step in the right direction — certainly an improvement over the current charade.
Anyway back to this lawsuit thingy.
Bob Marshall: Flood Authority, suit against oil companies safe from political meddling — for now
Marshall's article is right to laud the post-Katrina reforms for raising the professional standards of the flood protection authority and for granting it a certain degree of insulation from political interference. But it's foolhardy to presume that politics won't (or even that it shouldn't) come into play in public affairs as is likely to happen eventually.
When Gov. Jindal and Garret Graves, head of the state’s Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority, loudly condemned the suit and promised to sink it, Louisiana’s tradition of pervasive political meddling might have led many to assume the board would soon be stocked with oil company executives.The good news for reformers: That kind of political power play looks impossible to achieve this year because of the protections against hanky-panky built into the amendment and legislation that created the flood authority.The bad news: The Legislature could rescind that protection during its next session.
“The amendment changed the constitution to allow the establishment of regional levee authorities, and laid out certain ways how that could be done, and those things can only be changed by another amendment,” Robert Scott, president of the Public Affairs Research Council, told The Lens.
In the public arena, no matter how smart you are or how important you think the work you're doing is, that work is always going to be subjected to the scrutiny of the public. As long as we're still doing democracy that means it will always be "mired in politics." Maybe the smart people should try to work on winning the political arguments rather than running and hiding from them.