Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Times-Picayune Gets it Wrong on the VA Hospital

After news broke yesterday that the VA site wouldn't be cleared until summer of 2010, the paper's editorial board offered its unequivocal support for hastening the process of preparing the site of the proposed VA hospital in "downtown" New Orleans, by which it appears to mean Lower Mid-City.

It's unfortunate that the board utterly failed to qualify its stance.

While pretty much everyone agrees that a new VA hospital would be a good thing for New Orleans and for veterans, it's disturbing to see no mention whatsoever of other concerns in the editorial.  There's not a single mention of another interest in play: the rights and treatment of residents of Lower Mid-City.  The editorial is wildly imbalanced in this regard.

What the board fails to understand is that the lack of progress in acquiring properties it laments has some underlying sources.  For one, as a state historic preservation official stated recently in a speaking engagement at Tulane, there are only two properties in the VA footprint that are actually looking at moving at this point given all the complications.  This is not just some issue that can be overcome by applying greater willpower - it's an intractable problem.

Let's not forget that there are residents who have made it clear that they will fight to the bitter end.  Making the VA footprint "construction-ready" will require full-out expropriation by means of eminent domain in the end.  The board's editiorial fails to address the negative consequences of having to resort to that remedy - even if that tenuous option is arguably constitutional after the unfortunate Kelo case.  There's still the Louisiana constitutional amendment, passed post-Kelo, to keep in mind:

‘property shall not be taken or damaged by the state or its political subdivisions: for predominant use by any private person or entity; or for transfer of ownership to any private person or entity,’ (La Const. Art. I § 4(B)(1)).”

No comments: