Wednesday, June 29, 2011

That Tired Old Spin

Here's some spin from a campaign email sent out by Senator Karen Carter Peterson, legislative author of the bill that created the BioDistrict:

Forging Ahead for a Healthcare Game-changer in New Orleans

The legislature also resisted changes and roadblocks to the planned University Medical Center in lower Mid-City New Orleans. My priorities continue to be to vastly improve and expand healthcare in New Orleans, not just for the provision of care to our people, but also for the tremendous economic opportunity a medical-research corridor represents to our city.

Resisted roadblocks?  Like what?  Is she referring to HCR-59, which would have provided greater legislative oversight and public accountability in order to avoid a fiscal disaster?  If so, she's mischaracterizing the measure.  I'm not sure why she's so quick to trumpet the fact that she resisted changes to the UMC - changes are certainly needed if the UMC is to avoid becoming a boondoggle.

As with so many politicians in the area, she seems to be stuck blindly on the idea that the UMC must be pushed forward as proposed - that somehow alternative designs or sites nearby would not bring just as many jobs and economic development opportunities to the area.

And as for the "medical-research corridor" - read BioDistrict New Orleans - remember that Senator Karen Carter Peterson did not move to exclude Mid-City from the BioDistrict even after the Mid-City Neighborhood Organization publicly asked to be removed from the boundaries of the "vastly" large 1,500-acre district (and no, to my knowledge, the neighborhood was never asked if it wanted to be in the district at the outset).  She did not take action even though a relevant bill regarding the BioDistrict was moving through the legislature this session.


Andrew said...

You're wrong about one thing: Senator Peterson has been heavily engaged with the Neighborhoods on Biodistrict legislation, including voting for the bill you speak of. HB 576 by Representative Leger (which was signed into law as Act 400 by the Governor) provides two advisory positions for neighborhood residents on the board. The legislation passed without opposition in the Senate.

I understand your point of view, but it's always a difficult balance between opening new economic opportunities and respecting and preserving our neighborhoods.

Happy to discuss the issues anytime,


Brad V said...

Thanks for the comment. The neighborhood specifically requested to be removed, however, so what may seem magnanimous in HB 576 is revealed as less than that...especially when it's noted that the neighborhood was never asked whether it wanted to be part of the district at the outset.

The bone thrown to the neighborhood in the bill is admittedly some improvement, primarily because the representation is on the actual board, not merely the advisory committee. Still, the representation remains functionally controlled by the Senator and the supportive state reps in BioDistrict through their ability to propose the list from which the Mayor gets to make the two neighborhood appointments (correct me if I'm wrong on the mechanics here, but that's my understanding from the bill text shortly prior to passage).

I'm really not against a biosciences district as a concept at all. Like the LSU/VA project, I'm chiefly concerned that unwise and excessive development sprawl into traditional neighborhoods will do far more damage than more concentrated development that has the same overall economic and jobs benefits. Reducing the size of the BioDistrict won't hurt the BioDistrict as a concept, but it will go a long way toward reducing neighborhood inflammation regarding the subject - and save many people lots of hassle.

Andrew said...

I think the "bone" thrown to the neighborhood is quite significant. Having seats on the both the board and the advisory committee gives the neighborhoods more voting power than, let's say, Tulane, or Xavier, and half as much as the Governor has.

I don't think the concerns about excessive development or sprawl are quite well-founded. Yes, neighborhoods reside within the biodistrict, but they also benefit from items such as a planned bio-science-focused HS and security and streetscape improvements. And in the end, many of the "sub-districts" in the biodistrict may never see any actual biosciences-related development. Having input on the board will also give serious voice to neighborhood input to development decisions. I certainly understand that these folks will be "recommended" by legislators, but that is actually added accountability since their small districts can be easily and directly impacted by grassroots political activity (unlike, say, the mayors or governors office might).

Glad to hear your perspective as usual. Really enjoy the blog and the work you do.