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Congressman Garret Graves

Representing the 6th District of Louisiana

OPINION | McHugh David: Will local politics choose adaptation over repetition in 2018?

January 2, 2018
In The News

The GOP landed several legislative victories at the tail-end of 2017. Tax reform passed, and it came gift-wrapped with benefits for 2016’s flood victims. Also, Congressman Garret Graves led the charge for bi-partisan reform to the “duplication of benefits” clause hindering so many victims of the flood, as well as hurricanes Harvey and Irma, from receiving money to help with recovery.

Recovery was an oft-used word used in 2017. Many will remember the plethora of memes online when last time the yearly date changed, expressing hope and thankfulness that the annum 2016 was in the rearview.

Those who don’t peruse the online landscape simply said “Bye 2016” and moved forward.


People wanted to move on; they wanted a chance at new beginnings and to get away from the troubles of the past.

Unfortunately, that’s not how life works. Not only did the troubles of 2016 follow into 2017, they lingered.

Recovery was slow, it was difficult, it was painful, and it was confusing. With the end-of-year changes that came from Washington, folks are hoping that the bounce-back will speed up.

The new changes may very well help homeowners get back up to speed, as -- to the surprise of many -- huge swathes of residents still haven’t even fixed their homes.

In fact, the City of Denham Springs just listed 55 home sites as “blighted.” Simply put, they weren’t even gutted post-flood.

One wonders what that number will look like, parishwide.

And yet, one of the main ways we prepare for the future is to look to the past. Many of the headlines from 1977 and 1983 (years of previous, devastating floods) look so very familiar.

Except the price tag, of course, which is exponentially higher this time around - matching the exponential growth in Livingston Parish, starting in the late 1970s.

It’s time to learn from the past, not repeat it. Its time for residents of Livingston Parish -- well, really, state-wide -- to demand adaptive responses to changing landscapes.

For instance, it is entirely unacceptable for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to put a tax-payer funded project on hold, indefinitely, because the “cost-benefit ratio” doesn’t stack up.

That’s its response to the Comite River Diversion Canal. Well, what project does have the appropriate cost-benefit ratio? Why can’t the canal be a start to something bigger, greater?

Allowing these folks off the hook is why Louisiana exists, as it does, today.

The gas tax? Why? Has the process enacted by the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development been properly scrutinized?

The state ran up a $15 billion infrastructure deficit, included in that was mis-management of infrastructure funds.

How, then, are you going to do better?

That same mentality carried into the local elections for taxes for gravity drainage districts. Taxpayers asked “Why do you need my money?” and the answers simply weren’t there.

The City of Denham Springs embraced the recovery process as a chance to adapt and evolve. What will the parish and state do?

It doesn’t have to be the same, clearly -- Denham Springs is making simple, community-level changes in their direction.

But the citizens need something to put their faith in. “The way it has been” simply doesn’t cut it, anymore.