[StBernard] EDITORIAL: We owe Governor Blanco her own "thank you"
Westley at da-parish.com
Mon Nov 19 21:07:24 EST 2007
The Advocate: EDITORIAL: We owe Governor Blanco her own "thank you"
By Gerard Shields
Published Sunday, November 18, 2007
Click here <http://www.2theadvocate.com/opinion/11535391.html> to read the article online
At a Washington news conference last week, Gov. Kathleen Blanco signed a huge cardboard cutout of a "thank you" letter to Congress and President Bush. Then she clapped her hands together - as if dusting off her palms and handing the mantle of governorship to her successor, U.S. Rep. Bobby Jindal, who was standing beside her.
The two were conducting what they called a "thank you tour," meeting with congressional leadership. That Blanco, a Democrat, was appearing with the Kenner Republican spoke volumes about her dedication to her state.
She had traveled to Washington no fewer than nine times since the hurricanes, pleading for federal dollars, trying to squeeze whatever funding was available for Louisiana.
Fighting the wave of Katrina fatigue in Congress, she came back - even when she didn't want to - asking for the federal government to bail out the state's troubled Road Home rebuilding program, which was going to run out of money at the end of the year.
But ask she did. For her people.
Louisiana hit the jackpot 10 days ago when Congress approved $3 billion for the Road Home in the defense spending bill. On the same day, the House and Senate overrode a veto by President Bush that will authorize about $7 billion for Louisiana coastal restoration, hurricane protection and flood-control projects.
That Blanco would have to come to Washington for help had an ironic twist: If the federal government had done what it was supposed to do in reacting to Hurricane Katrina, Blanco might still be governor.
Blanco didn't lose her job to a political opponent; she lost it to a disaster. She lost it to federal levees that broke, and to a federal response that - at best - was anemic.
Some point the finger at Blanco, saying she was indecisive in the face of catastrophe. Yet the question will forever linger: Could any governor have adequately handled what confronted Louisiana on those tragic days?
Blanco traveled to Washington once again last week, thinking that she would have to plead with congressional leaders. Even though the funding was approved a week earlier, she decided to return to the Capitol anyway.
"We are here to say. 'Thank you, thank you, thank you' to the members of Congress for caring so much," Blanco said.
Yet she noted that the battle for funding wasn't over by a long shot. Jindal will have to return to Washington with recovery requests, she said. One chief issue is trying to free $1.2 billion in federal grants to homeowners wanting to elevate their homes or protect them from damage in future storms.
The mock handoff to Jindal - who will be inaugurated Jan. 14 - served as a transfer of much more: of Democrat to Republican and senior politician to junior.
Blanco enjoyed some light moments on her latest trip, joking with fellow Louisiana politicians during the letter-signing.
"You can tell she was a teacher," Jindal said, praising Blanco's orderly handwriting.
"This is truly going to be embarrassing," said U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., with pen in hand.
"Remember I was studying to be a doctor," Jindal joked.
After viewing Jindal's scrawl, Blanco poked.
"He was right," she said.
U.S. Rep. Rodney Alexander, R-Quitman, said he hoped Blanco would not disappear from public service, pointing to Blanco's husband, Raymond "Coach" Blanco, in the audience.
"We don't want you to just go off with Coach," Alexander said.
"But don't go off with anybody else," Landrieu said chuckling.
Maybe Blanco has one more thank you tour in her before she leaves office. Maybe the people of Louisiana can thank her for her dedicated service.
The Louisiana Disaster Recovery Foundation
Louisiana's Fund for Louisiana's People
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