May 162019

Water flows through the 800 block of Baronne Street on Sunday morning. Many New Orleans neighborhoods and business areas flooded after the early morning storm. (Danae Columbus, Uptown Messenger)

Danae Columbus, opinion columnist

Sewerage & Water Board Director Ghassan Korban was very clear in his remarks at the Bureau of Governmental Research on Tuesday morning. When it rains as hard and fast as it did early Sunday, May 12, expect flooding. Our antiquated drainage system just can’t keep up.

Like thousands of New Orleanians, we spent Sunday mopping up flood residue and drying out our cars. Guests at the neighboring short-term rentals, caught off-guard, stood in line for our shop vac. Korban was pleased with our collaborative efforts. He believes in personal responsibility and that citizens should help each other. This includes neighbors cleaning catch basins as the front line in protecting their most important assets.

Korban takes the philosophy of personal responsibility one step further when he describes the city’s drainage and sewer system as assets that also must be protected. If citizens want the best system possible that can minimize flooding and provide fast service when problems occur, they must invest in that asset. If not, keep your mops handy.

Korban has done an excellent job of rebuilding public trust while getting long-stalled construction projects moving. He has lots of plans for the future, including new underground pipes and valves, strengthened Entergy feeder system, faster repairs times and perhaps additional pumps (depending on the outcome of a long-overdue comprehensive master plan).

Customer service is improving. Old billing issues are being resolved. The public is beginning to understand what it’s going to take to build a system that keeps our neighborhoods dry. Korban also predicts that one day soon his agency will absorb the Department of Public Works, which will create increased accountability and a more seamless system of street repairs.

Mayor LaToya Cantrell was masterful in squeezing one-time and recurring dollars from the state and the tourism industry. But those investments won’t be adequate to fill all our long-term needs. A stormwater management fee is not on the immediate horizon, but it can’t be too far down the line.
New Orleans is a city that must learn to live with water. Up until now, we haven’t done a very good job. Under Korban’s continued leadership, perhaps that dream could become a reality.

Kirk Williamson is vice chairman of the Orleans Parish’s Republic Executive Committee and a first-time candidate for a state House seat. (Danae Columbus, Uptown Messenger)


Williamson greets President Donald Trump at Louis Armstrong International Airport on Wednesday. (Danae Columbus, Uptown Messenger)

In an off-the-cuff moment that will surely go down in the annals of New Orleans political history, President Donald Trump said the magic words to Kirk Williamson, a first-time candidate for the Louisiana Legislature, House District 94. Their brief encounter occurred on the tarmac of Armstrong International Airport on Tuesday when Williamson — the vice chairman of the parish’s Republic Executive Committee — was among those who greeted the president. Williamson took that opportunity to focus Trump’s attention on flood-protection and infrastructure needs as we prepare to enter hurricane season.

Trump thanked Williamson for his commitment to his constituents and suggested he run for office one day. When Williamson explained that he currently was a candidate, the president replied, “Good, you seem like a man who cares about his people and is a reliable Republican. I endorse you!” Williamson may have become the first Louisiana candidate to receive the president’s “endorsement” this season but won’t be the last. Trump is expected to support one of the Republican candidates running against Gov. John Bel Edwards in November. In the meantime, Williamson will be sharing the news of his good fortune with the voters in House District 97. They are the ones whose endorsement he really needs.

Forty-seven-year-old African-American environmental, food and water attorney Shawn “Pepper” Bowen Roussel is throwing her hat into the House District 91 race to replace the term-limited Walt Leger. Currently the Director of the National Food and Beverage Foundation’s Culinaria Center for Food, Law, Policy and Culture, Roussel is also the host of the podcast Green Pepper, where law and policy makers talk about food memories and food policy.

Her campaign will focus on such issues as the impact of water on New Orleans, empowering underserved communities, food insecurity, climate change and coastal protection. Roussel received her undergraduate degree in Computer information Systems from Tulane University and her law degree from Loyola. She previously worked at Lockheed Martin and Ochsner Health Systems. She clerked for Councilwoman Stacy Head and drafted legislation for State Rep. Ebony Woodruff. Roussel is known to be a serious, detail-oriented, no-nonsense professional. Her candidacy will surely add spice to the campaign.

Danae Columbus, who has had a 30-year career in politics and public relations, offers her opinions on Thursdays. Her career includes stints at City Hall, the Dock Board and the Orleans Parish School Board and former clients such as District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro, City Councilman Jared Brossett, City Councilwoman-at-large Helena Moreno, Foster Campbell, former Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne, former Sheriff Charles Foti and former City Councilwomen Stacy Head and Cynthia Hedge-Morrell.

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