Orgeron wants 11 homebuilders involved in subdivision moratorium process

Corey Orgeron (file photo)

Councilman Corey Orgeron, in a seven minute screed directed at…well, himself and nine colleagues comprising East Ascension Drainage Board, opined about the moratorium against subdivisions of residential and commercial property recently proposed by President Clint Cointment.  A nonsensical diatribe (at one point Orgeron blamed his lack of lucidity on low blood sugar induced by missing lunch), Orgeron proclaimed his tepid support for the moratorium.  In a baffling conclusion he recommended including homebuilders to “assist us in the (moratorium ordinance) language.”

The councilman’s concluding remarks, in their entirety:

In the next couple of weeks we’re gonna get together and try to come up with a plan that’s gonna address what we’re gonna do during this moratorium.  One of the things I am gonna ask is, we’ve got builders in here, I’m gonna ask each member of this council to appoint a homebuilder to assist us in the language that we have to comprehend to do this.

We’re gonna get civil engineers involved.  We need to look at industry, and ask industry to come in and help us.  We gotta ask the Chamber (of Commerce) to come in and help us because, let’s face it, none of us knows a damn thing about where water flows, or how it flows, or why it flows.

That oughta sit well with his constituents.

Corey Orgeron’s campaign finance report includes Greater Baton Rouge Homebuilders Association along with other development interests.

No, not those constituents; nor these.

More residential subdivision builders and the money behind A Better Ascension’s ill-fated attempt to abolish the parish presidency.

Why would someone elected to serve the people of Ascension cozy up with the development community, which those constituents blame for so many ills confronting the parish?

There is some precedent.  Back in 2013-14 the parish council was considering a Transportation Impact Fee on development and, then the chair of Finance, Chairwoman Teri Casso appointed a sub-committee.  Unfortunately, that body included a developer and another member of Greater Baton Rouge Homebuilders Association.

The sub-committee’s proceedings, geared toward derailing the impact fee, were a circus with Billy “the Builder” Aguillard as the ringmaster.  Coincidentally…

BJM Construction is owned exclusively by Billy J. Aguillard

The effort was further deterred when Chairwoman Casso directed the sub-committee to delay any findings until after the October 24, 2015 election.

What follows are excerpts from Orgeron’s seven-minute meltdown (with editorial comment in red text where deemed necessary for context).

It’s the inability to plan effectively to address the needs of the parish; that’s where we’ve failed you.  I say “we” because this drainage board is supposed to be guiding and directing the opportunities and the individuals that are in charge of the drainage board, essentially, at this stage.  It’s the parish president that is the head of our drainage.

16 months after all of us running saying we’re never going to allow 2016 to happen again…it’s happening again in some areas.

By August 2017 FEMA had reported 7,854 households impacted by the August 2016 flood.  Ascension’s Assessor had identified 6,170 flood-damaged structures.  None of which should diminish the suffering endured by residents last week when the parish reported that 54 structures had taken water as of Thursday.

It’s uncalled for.  We need to get this work done.  We need to stop talking about getting work done and stop talking about shovels in the ground; we need to stop talking about bulldozers and excavators, and little pumps to help pump out a swamp.  And we need to get to doing this stuff ahead of time.

Orgeron claimed, without elaboration, that “warning signs” have been seen for “the last 16 months” while withholding “blame from any one industry or any individual.”  He did characterize complaints received as “maintenance issues.”  With 1100 miles of roadside ditch, who knows how many culverts in need of attention, parish maintenance crews have their hands full.  The last administration and EA Drainage spent $7.25 million on a ditch-cleaning effort to mixed results.

That’s why I was applauding a lot of the builders.  I was applauding the Baton Rouge Association (of Home Builders) when they came up and said, “you know what, we want to work with you to restrict some of the things that we’re currently doing.”  But they also reminded us, “that we’re complying with your laws.  We’re complying with what your telling us to do.”  

This is still America…and we are obligated to protect the freedoms of everyone…and not start picking on one person or one industry.  While it’s still great politics, and it’s still great political fanfare, and it gets people reelected, that’s not the purpose of what we’re supposed to be doing here!  Dammit, I don’t want to get reelected if I do a crappy job for you.

We suspect Councilman Orgeron has finally found some common ground with his constituency.

Now, I’m going to support this moratorium because I think it’s gonna ease some of the frustrations.  I can foresee that a lot of the frustrations we have, people want to so a boogey man.  I’ve heard my constituents and they’re saying, “Let’s support it.”

Attached to this moratorium, I’m gonna make certain demands of certain people in this room that we’re gonna start taking actions; we’re gonna stop cutting corners.  We’re gonna stop sitting on $80 million in our drainage fund and we’re gonna start spending that money, start spending your tax dollars to get work done.

The bottom line is; past/present administrations, past/present drainage boards…we have failed you.  We’ve had several studies telling us what drainage needs to be done…

Bluff Swamp and New River drainage project bids approved by EAD

We hadn’t taken effect on them.  We just passed one a couple of months back.  We’re spending more money on reports and not enough money on what these reports are telling us to do.

Cointment-negotiated Floodplain Management Plan contract saves taxpayers $775,250

That’s a travesty to each one of you in this room, and a travesty to everybody in this parish.  It’s about damn time we get off our hands, and we start taking the efforts that are needed to take care of the drainage for all of you.

Ascension longstanding drainage issues have been compounded by decades of rampant development without necessary improvements.  There is no quick or easy fix notwithstanding Councilman Orgeron’s over-simplification.  It will be long and very expensive, necessitating assistance (and funding) from federal and state agencies as well as cooperation from neighboring parishes.