Katrina plus 9: The new normal

The AP’s Jeff Amy nails it with his story on the City of Bay St Louis, which has now appeared statewide in the Clarion Ledger, the Hattiesburg American and the Sun Herald and nationwide in outlets like the Washington Times.  Jeff is one of the proverbial smartest guys in the room and a seasoned business writer. Best of all he’s one of us, a Harahan guy made good that covered the post Katrina insurance battles for the Mobile Press Register. I always enjoy the chance to visit with him and I was lucky enough to have lunch with Jeff and AP Photographer Gerald Herbert last Monday here in the Bay.

I use the term the new normal because places like Bay St Louis and Waveland are fundamentally different places than they were on August 28, 2005 yet in many respects we haven’t changed much at all.  Cities like Gulfport have done a very good job overall with the Urban blight that accompanied Katrina.  Others not so much. Gerald Herbert captured the contrast and it was the photo that he took of the house around the corner from me that tells the tale of two cities:

AP Photo / Gerald Herbert
AP Photo / Gerald Herbert

It makes a heck of a contrast with the photos of the new Old Town Harbor that also appear with this story in other newspapers. Not more than a mile and a half from that Harbor, lots that once had houses on them are overgrown and derelict structures amazingly still stand nine full years after the storm.  This despite a City Code department that is bursting at the seams with 6 positions that costs far more in salaries than the City takes in via associated permit and inspection fees. Something is clearly not right.

Low expectations come at a terrible cost in terms of money but more important and far more expensive is the opportunity cost of the foregone alternatives that most here accustomed to the new normal never perceive.

When you look at the City’s financial crisis through the lens of the politics of low expectations, what has happened since August 29, 2005 make tons more sense.

13 thoughts on “Katrina plus 9: The new normal”

  1. The ‘politics of low expectations’. Great term Sop! The ‘dumbing down’ of America is showing results: violence, decay and yes, low expectations. Hope, confidence and self-reliance are rare commodities in our times. Well-parsed Slabbed.

  2. Jeff Amy did do a great story on Post Katrina Bay St. Louis. I am so glad he got the Mayor under the heading:
    “28% Tax hike proposed” saying that the cities financial troubles are “greatly exaggerated” and claims the Mayor’s efforts have already balanced the budget.” This must be why he and the City Clerk went to The First Bank and took a loan in the name of the taxpayers for a half a million dollars, why $370,000 in utility bill payments were used for “something else” last June, July and August, and must be why he had Butler Snow Bond attorney Lucien Bourgeois do a bond restructure of $400,000 since the city could not make it’s bond debt this year. That’s right, all of these scenarios describe a balanced budget. Is he a well person??
    On a more positive note, I saw one example of transparency that I never thought I would witness in Hancock County this morning at the Hancock County Board of Supervisors’s Budget Hearing. When they distributed what was supposed to be their budget ( a pitiful one page list of all departments with a total at the bottom) members of the Hancock County Alliance for Good Government stood up and objected to it not being informative enough with regard to what is being spent and where in more detail.
    Low and behold, the County Attorney, Gary Yarborough, handed his copy over to Alliance member, Libby Garcia, who was at the podium at the time, and told her to keep it. I had the vapors for a minute.
    Let me tell you, that would have never happened (and didn’t in the last 20 years) under the previous legal counsel. This guy just might bring these people along in the right direction. Looks like his fees are going to be money well spent in the name of transparency, and I made it clear to the Board that the Alliance is dedicated and determined to achieve transparency for the local taxpayers. It was a moment in time.
    If anyone who reads Slabbed would like a copy, please email me at [email protected]. It’s your money; you should know how it is being spent.
    I’m still in shock–good shock.

  3. Which city has a Wal-Mart and which city could not get a large grocery store and other chain stores after Katrina because the other city had a Wal-Mart?

    FY 2013 Sales Tax Figures:
    Bay St. Louis
    Taxpayers: 389
    Gross Sales: 102,228,420
    Gross Tax: 6,869,914

    Waveland
    Taxpayers: 200
    Gross Sales: 172,010,351
    Gross Tax: 11,656,651

    1. Very true. Which City puts its eggs all in one basket in the casino?

      Truth be told the Cities should merge and be one. I am not holding my breath that will happen. And of course the City is doing its best to run off taxpayers like the Poolman.

  4. Now that is the debate that should happen–merging Bay St. Louis and Waveland, but I also think it is too late. It should have happened after Katrina before the Federal Gov. sent all of this money in here they should have advised the officials in Jackson that at least Bay St. Louis and Waveland should merge. For about 16, 000 residents we have 2 Mayors, 2 City Councils (11 representatives + the Mayors is 13 representatives) 2 city clerks, 2 law firms, 2 Fire Chiefs, 2 Police Chiefs, 2 city halls to maintain, it just goes on and on for two communities who now have over 40% of their residents on some kind of government assistance. Look East about 20 minutes and you have Gulfport with 79,000 ( that’s 44,000 more than all of Hancock County) with 1 of each of the previously mentioned . Makes NO sense.
    And, we need only 1 school district in this county. We have all of the same duplication- 2 of everything for about 6,000 students.
    The Alliance for Good Government is presently conducting a study which we will title “What are We Paying for Government in Hancock County?!!”
    Stay tuned.

    1. Holy Political Personal Poo-Poo Power Batman,

      The reason why Mississippi and Louisiana are No.1 and No.2 nationally in political corruption is because the sheeple tolerate the political thiefdoms like Kenner, Riverridge Bay St.Louis , Waveland having their own separate Mayors, Council, police depts.. though some are surrounded by major metropolitan governments.

      Whereas in Texas, Houston for example has annexed and continues to annex all surrounding small towns/counties and continues to grow while we in Mississippi and Louisiana stagnate while we allow such governments to carve out and maintain their political thiefdoms.

      1. Lock, watch what you wish for bad, as you may get it.

        Bad enough are two small-to-middling kleptocracies. Worse is a centralized kleptocracy. After all, “efficiency” was seen in those models of progressive embodiment sporting the Arbeit Macht Frei gate cover.

  5. Well put, Lockemuptight. I always referred to them as little fiefdoms, but thiefdoms may apply too. Time will tell. At any rate, it is a burden on the taxpayers.

  6. “For everybody knows about Mississippi Goddamn” – Nina Simone. “This is a show tune / But the show hasn’t been written for it, yet.” AG Eric Holder, at the intersection of law & politics, metro Ferguson 70115 is ground zero for “Getting Back to Abnormal”. The Missouri Commission on Human Rights says Show-Me Fair Housing by removing barriers in local governance, zoning & landuse. “…to boldly go where no man has gone before…”. Captain’s log. Star date: Katrina at 5 – the art of Celestial Navigation – care for ‘the community’ prioritizes the politics over the people. Dr. Spock reports that the Federation has taken a serious hack. The Klingon machine has mastered cloaking technology per code (qur – ‘to be greedy’). Mr. Hand: “Am I not merciful?” Mr. Bill: “O-o-h Child. Ne Me Quitte Pas.”

  7. Interesting thought about Bay St. Louis & Waveland merging. There are plenty of examples of consolidated governments around the country. Not all have involved full-scale annexation. Some have only consolidated some essential services, such as police and fire. It seems logical. But such discussions always seem to provoke a lot more emotion than logic and emotion usually runs against logic in those cases. Bay St. Louis and Waveland have been rivals and competitors for years. Would today’s residents of each city be willing to put aside that rivalry in the interest of a possibly more efficient, economical municipal government?

  8. Another bit of info we have obtained through numerous litigation at the state & federal level is that with very rate exceptions the taxpayers have gotten illusory coverage on insurance coverage purchased by local governments. Given that the premiums are quite hefty for E&O and general liability, the end game is that either those unsophisticated local kleptocracies got fleeced much like the common volk, or the the sophisticated kleptocracies enriched insurance related friends and family without any “loss” by way of payout.

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