Friday, June 24, 2022

New Orleans Desperate as US Government Infrastructure Debate

NEW ORLEANS – “It’s an embarrassment,” Joe Frisard told VOA about the state of infrastructure in his hometown of New Orleans, Louisiana. ‘We’re a big city hosting Super Bowls, we have an NFL team and an NBA team, and we’ve hosted world-class big music festivals – but I do not think you could find a six-block piece. not. way here which is not wrong. ”

Americans have been discussing infrastructure for the past few months while President Joe Biden and Democrats in Congress wanted to pass a nearly $ 2 trillion bill that would address what politicians in both parties recognize is an older network of roads, bridges and water systems that the need has an upgrade.

Among New Orleans residents, however, the state of the city’s infrastructure system has been a point of discussion for decades – as common as a discussion about favorite restaurants or the next festival on the calendar.

Frisard showed a pothole on two blocks of his house, so large that someone placed a children’s car in it.

“It’s also not like a small remote controlled toy car!” he laughed frustrated. “Look, it can fit a mini-engine!”

For new Orleans like Frisard, they can sometimes just laugh. Residents often decorate the long-standing potholes on their blocks, and social media accounts have been created to honor giant traffic cones placed for dangers or to advertise “waterfront propertyWhen the city’s streets flood.

“People have a sense of humor about it, but it’s not as funny when cars and houses are flooded during an average summer rainstorm or when we have to boil our drinking water because our water system fails several times a year,” he said.

‘I mean, who else in America has to do this? Are we not saying that we are the richest country in the world? But can we not provide safe drinking water? he added.

Crumpled infrastructure

New Orleans has unique challenges that make infrastructure maintenance particularly difficult. Most important among the obstacles is that the city sits on alluvial soil – soil created by thousands of years of Mississippi River. Each time the river flooded its banks, more sediment was deposited, creating the land on which the city and its surrounding population centers now sit.

Unfortunately for New Orleans residents and government officials, the alluvial soil is constantly changing, helping to create the city’s infamous cracked roads and potholes.

But damaged roads are far from New Orleans’ only infrastructure challenge. When President Biden visited the city last month to advance his infrastructure plan, city officials highlighted what many people see as the biggest challenge for infrastructure.

“We took him to our more than 100-year-old sewer and water board facility,” said Ramsey Green, deputy director of infrastructure in New Orleans. “The facility aims to protect residents of our city from all the floods and other climate-related challenges we face today, but it was built when Woodrow Wilson was president.”

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Green and others toured the facility with President Biden. They explained how, although an improved riparian system ignored the risk of flooding water – as was the case during Hurricane Katrina in 2005 – they still struggle to pump water from within during heavy rainfall.

‘It’s not because we’re seeing more rain now,’ Green said when asked about the city’s pumping system, ‘but that we’re seeing more periods of rain. If you get 12 inches of rain within six hours, you will get flooding unless you are on a mountain top. ‘

City officials say they need federal funding to help strengthen the system. Green is hopeful that the president’s infrastructure plan can do that.

“We have a long list of green infrastructure projects that can help prevent future floods by, for example, providing spaces in the city where excess water can be safely stored,” he said. “But then we also have more than a century old pumps and pipes that need to be replaced.”

Less than a week after President Biden visited the city, a tornado struck. A series of repairs led to a drop in pressure that made the local water supply unsafe to drink. The residents were instructed to boil all water for about two days to prevent ingesting dangerous bacterial contaminants.

“If we had invested in more reliable power sources, including solar power, the boiling water advice would not have taken place,” Green said. “And if we had invested in an improved piping system, it would not have happened either.”

Competitive definitions

“In New Orleans, the issue is particularly acute because so much of our city is below sea level,” said Joe Giarrusso III, one of the seven elected officials on New Orleans’ city council. “But this issue of outdated infrastructure is something that Americans across the country are facing. This is our chance to make big improvements. ”

But these improvements are going to be expensive. According to Giarrusso, resolving all of the issues of New Orleans’ surface and underground infrastructure will cost about $ 9 billion.

To pay for his plan, Biden proposed raising the company tax rate from 21% to 28%. According to a poll by Morning Consult / Politico in April, nearly two in three voters said they support raising the corporate tax rate to pay for infrastructure improvements, including half of Republican voters with an opinion on the matter. The tax increase remains a non-start for Republicans of Congress.

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“It’s not a biased issue among voters, because it’s something we can all agree on. It is good for public safety, it improves our quality of life and it will create jobs, ”Giarrusso told VOA.

However, the plan has met with opposition from Republicans in Congress, who believe Biden’s plan extends far beyond the traditional infrastructure projects.

“Only 5% of that is infrastructure,” Louisiana Republican Sen. John Kennedy said after the president’s visit to reporters. He said projects addressing bridges, water, ports and broadband should be the focus of the bill. ‘The rest is the Green New Deal, new welfare programs and compensation. Asking me to vote for this bill if it is only 5% infrastructure and 95% non-infrastructure is like asking me to buy a car to get the cup holders. ”

But Democrats like Giarrusso say it makes sense to address initiatives that address affordable housing, and include the care of children and the elderly under the umbrella of infrastructure.

“To provide infrastructure for better housing for people,” he said. “These things are investments in our communities just as important as bridges and roads.”

To pay a bill

For an infrastructure bill to pass the U.S. Senate evenly, all Democrats must vote in favor, as well as at least ten Republicans. That difficult scenario perhaps became a little more likely Friday when a group of ten Democrats and Republicans, including Senator Bill Cassidy, presented an infrastructure bill that would cost about $ 1 billion.

But it is a challenge to get colleagues to cooperate with their proposal. The draft bill focuses on the traditional physical infrastructure and is not the size of the president’s proposal. That could make it hard to convince enough Democrats, while the $ 1 trillion price tag is still high enough to haunt many Republicans.

If the Democrats can not pass a bill, they will still be able to carry out the Biden plan through a process called budget reconciliation. However, it requires all 50 Democratic senators to go along, and Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia has already expressed reservations.

But Frisard, from New Orleans, does not think ordinary Americans care how this is done. He said the city deserves better.

“It would be surprising to me to find a group of people who are more proud of their city than New Orleanians because we have so much shit to live here,” he said. ‘I’m tired of guests or tourists entering the city, and I have to explain why we boil our water or why the roads are so bad. This country has the money to fix it, and we deserve it. ”


Nation World News Desk
Nation World News Desk
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