Parish gov. brings concerns to WashingtonFeb 18th, 2011 | By Terri Sercovich | Category: Top Story
St. Bernard Parish President Craig P. Taffaro Jr., Council members Wayne J. Landry, Frank Auderer, Ray Lauga, George Cavignac and Mike Ginart and Parish Recovery Director Michael Dorris, Jr. met with several key federal officials in Washingtonn D.C. during the annual Washington Mardi Gras week.
“St. Bernard and Plaquemines played host at our third annual parish breakfast, which again solidified St. Bernard Parish’s lead in maintaining regional partnerships as 14 parishes, three state house districts, and five congressional districts were represented in addition to two state wide offices, four regional chambers, and dozens of private business interests attending,” Taffaro said.
Business meetings were held with EPA, HUD, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Senator David Vitter’s office, Senator Mary Landrieu, Louisiana Congressmen Jeff Landry, Charles Boustany, Rodney Alexander, Steve Scalise, and Florida Congressman Mario Diaz-Balart, who currently serves on the House Committee on Appropriations and three key subcommittees, as well as congressional staffers for FEMA and coastal projects.
Meetings with the Corps of Engineers focused on the recently released MRGO Ecosystem Restoration Draft Report and the parish’s objection to the recommended location for the Freshwater Diversion project as well as concerns for the lack of outside protection in the plan for coastal restoration, protection, and land reclamation. Major General William Grisoli of the Corps received comments and concerns and was responsive to the request for an extension to the public comment period for the Draft Report as well as the request to include a St. Bernard Parish and State of Louisiana representative at the Review Board for the submitted supplemental report.
Discussions with HUD Deputy Secretary Ron Sims and his staff continued dialogue relative to St. Bernard Parish’s rental permitting process, comprehensive zoning ordinance, the permitting of the Provident multi-family housing developments, resolution to eight outstanding complaints regarding permissive use permits, and the funding status of parish CDBG and recovery projects. HUD’s position is a demand that the permissive use permitting process be rescinded by the parish council, that the comprehensive zoning ordinance that establishes an R3 zone for multi-family housing be rescinded pending a land use study that identifies specific locations for multi-family development in St. Bernard Parish, Taffaro said.
“HUD stopped short of stating that recovery and CDBG funding for projects such as the hospital, the new water plant, Val Reiss Phase III, and other drainage and sewer consolidation projects would be pulled, but indicated that a referral of civil rights violations from Fair Housing to the Department of Justice would freeze funding until the investigative process and ruling would be complete,” said Taffaro. “ Additionally, St. Bernard Parish is a sub-grantee in the receipt of recovery and CDBG funding and as such, should HUD classify St. Bernard as non-compliant and refer the matter to the DOJ, the state of Louisiana could experience disruption in the flow of recovery and CDBG funding.”
“As potential resolutions are reached, public notice will be included as several of the HUD points of reconciliation will require council action. Other related activities such as the land use study is in the final stages of preparing for advertisement, the rental license/registration legislation is in development, and the development of rental property management strategies is being researched.
However, HUD has made their position clear that their assistance with any part of the land use, management, or enforcement of housing standards is secondary to resolving their immediate demand that St. Bernard align itself with the fair housing practices which they have prescribed,” Taffaro said.
Additionally, Taffaro said other meetings with congressional delegates revealed that the transition into the 112th Congress is anything but smooth.
“While our needs and requests for support of continued recovery funding were received openly, the assurances offered in the midst of the 100 billion dollar budget cut were cautious at best,” he said. “Currently, the media reported frenzy for cutting the budget is real and what was once a discussion of earmarks seems to have evolved well past that concept and the reality is now based on just how deep the new congress will reach into all areas of funding to achieve the 100 Billion dollars of cuts. And the impact to FEMA related recovery projects has yet to be determined.”
The St. Bernard delegation had the opportunity to meet with Administrator Lisa Jackson of EPA, and called the meeting productive. They requested a more streamlined environmental review process in relation to coastal projects from the Oil Spill Disaster as well as Corps sponsored work.
“On a more positive note, St. Bernard Parish participated in a formal recognition exchange with Washington D.C.’s Newseum and provided official video documentation of Hurricane Katrina which will remain archived in their records,” Taffaro said.