Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Levees.org

In the true spirit of Hillel who once asked "If I am not for myself, who will be? And when I am for myself, what am 'I'? And if not now...when?" comes Sandy Rosenthal, a wife, mother and community activist. Rosenthal, an attractive, tall blonde has a very slight speech impediment, but she never has let it get in her way of speaking her mind, especially since she saw the devastation of what happened to New Orleans in the wake of the levee breaks that followed Hurricane Katrina. To that end she founded the socially conscious Levees.org organization while she and her family, including her teenager son Stanford, were all evacuated in Lafayette, Louisiana. Levees.org has time and time again held the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers responsible for the flooding that took place. Since it was the job of the Corps to maintain the levees and to make certain that they were properly designed to protect the property and citizens of the city, she reckons, they should be held accountable for the disaster of the resulting flooding following the surge brought into New Orleans by the hurricane. Sometime after the flooding subsided and the recovery effort had begun, Rosenthal's organization began putting up yard signs demanding that the Corps of Engineers be held accountable. As a result of stinging accusations, the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) issued a report that essentially cleared the Corps of any wrongdoing. Rosenthal and her organization called foul there because, among other things, the ASCE report was paid for with Corps of Engineers funds (about $2 million). The community watchdog organization went so far as to make a satiric video showing a high school classroom discussing the very idea that such a report would be free of any influence. It generated a great deal of accusations of being unfair by the Corps and other engineers closely associated with them. Suggesting that such a relationship was a clear conflict of interest, a University of California-Berkeley professor, Raymond Seed, pushed for an independent review of the actions of both the Corps of Engineers and ASCE. Seed claims that at most every turn, the Corps and ASCE prevented his investigation from completing its fact finding mission. In fact he claims both of the parties undermined the review he had initiated along with the National Science Foundation and has charged that the funding of the initial review by ASCE was a clear ethics violation. Rosenthal and her organization have pushed for an investigation of the Corps' failure to prevent the cataclysm and the alleged conflict of interest, which has been termed the 8/29 investigation. Both Rosenthal and Seed have been critical of an internal investigation being conducted by three former presidents of ASCE because it has dragged on for many more months than they feel it should. According to a spokesperson for ASCE, that independent group referred to as the CPC moves at its own pace. According to a report in the Times-Picayune, retired U.S. Representative Sherwood Boehlert (R-NY) claims the CPC has experienced difficulty in meeting because of the schedules of its members. A report is now expected to be released during September. Rosenthal and Seed have continued to express dismay over the slow progress being made by ASCE and Seed additionally alleges that a list of witnesses he provided to them over nine months ago have never been contacted by the review board. Rosenthal's son won a Youth in Philanthropy award last November from the Greater New Orleans chapter of the Association of Fund Raising Professionals based in part on his work as the webmaster for the Levees.org website. There is no question from where the son gets his inspiration and drive. Perhaps Sandy Rosenthal is emblematic of that other famous Hillel quote, to wit, "That which is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow."

1 comment:

Editilla d'Aphasia said...

Hi Alan,
I just loved this post. Thank goodness Levees.org has you watching their backs.

We have been all over this and over on the Ladder it gets a bit spicy, so there.

We also do Kosher from time to time:)

Thanks for keeping the light on
in New Orleans.

Editilla~New Orleans Ladder
http://noladder.blogspot.com/