Wednesday, October 13, 2010

State of Louisiana Threatens Remaining VA Footprint Residents

While it's couched in concerned language and talk of outreach and support, the State Division of Administration's release today serves a darker underlying purpose as an unspoken warning shot across the bows of remaining residents and especially the 12 properties that it has not yet acquired or expropriated in the VA Footprint.

The real message: we're coming, we're going to make it impossible for you to persist even if you still own your property.

No matter how much outreach the state does or what it provides upon request later on, the bottom line is still very clear.  People are still living lawfully in the VA Footprint and the state is going in to disrupt basic, essential services.  An unelected state agency is more concerned with completing a development project for a federal agency than it is about the state's citizens.

State of Louisiana
Division of Administration
Office of the Commissioner

October 13, 2010
Contact: Michael DiResto, 225-342-7158

State to begin utilities infrastructure removal for VA hospital site preparation

BATON ROUGE – The state Office of Facility Planning today began outreach efforts to the remaining residents in the new VA Hospital footprint in the Mid-City area of New Orleans, informing them in advance that removal of utilities infrastructure will begin next week and that all utilities – which includes electricity, gas, water, sewerage, and phone service – will be disconnected by Friday, October 28.

After that date, any residents in the footprint of the VA Hospital will be provided access to temporary utilities service, which will be provided upon request. While the state has acquired 182, or 94 percent, of the 194 properties in the hospital footprint boundaries between Tulane to Canal and Galvez to Rocheblave, state officials anticipate that the utilities disconnection may impact about half a dozen properties.

“We are committed to fulfilling our agreement with the Veterans Administration to provide them the hospital site by November 30, which entails removal of all utilities infrastructure, clearing all properties, and having the land prepared for construction by that time,” said Jerry Jones, Assistant Commissioner of Administration.

Jones said that removal of all utilities infrastructure in the area is expected to take up to six weeks.

“At the same time, I want to make sure we fully inform everyone, so we are going door to door in the hospital footprint to tell people about our plans to disconnect utilities. We are particularly focused on people who still have legal rights to be in the footprint area. We are doing everything we can to help them with relocation and housing assistance. We have also made arrangements to provide temporary utilities services should some people decide to remain in the area beyond October 28th.”

ADDED: For the record, I do recognize that this press release may help with the effort of getting notice out to residents, even if I do disagree deeply with the timeline and approach.  My comments may seem rather bitter, but I would encourage you to step into the shoes of one of the residents: how would you like it if this happened to you and your home?  That's always been a touchstone for me in this entire affair.   

Many proponents of the hospitals project like to portray anyone who questions its advance as an obstructionist.  That's an unfair framing of the issue.  The abysmal site selection created the need for people to be obstructionists just to ensure that their rights and the rights of others weren't violated.

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