Monday, April 11, 2011

Congressman Cedric Richmond's Misunderstanding of Federalism Puts New Orleans At Risk

Saturday night my jaw dropped as I read this piece in the Picayune. See Rep. Cedric Richmond addresses the limits of states' rights.

There are two problems here. First it is clear that Congressman Richmond does not understand the concept of Federalism or what some people call "State Rights". I don't like the term State rights because I think it causes people like Congressman to go down the wrong path. The other major immediate problem is that he now has gone horribly off a concerted message we in Louisiana are trying to make.

Rep. Cedric Richmond, D-New Orleans, joined Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr., D-Ill., in a colloquy on the House floor last week about what they view as the severe limits of states' rights as a theory of government, especially for poorer -- and disaster-prone -- cities and states that depend on federal help in times of need.

"I come from a state in which they are talking about states' rights right now. It should be their right to offer health care as they see fit. It should be our job to cut all of the things that aren't essential," Richmond said. "However, I remember those days after Katrina when we were not saying states' rights. We were saying: 'Where is the Coast Guard?' We were saying: 'Our levees have collapsed. We need the Corps of Engineers' help to rebuild them.' "And it took this Congress and actions and your vote to put $14 billion into the Corps of Engineers' budget, so that they could build the proper infrastructure around the city to protect the citizens there.

Why did they do it? Because it was the common good. It was the right thing to do. So you can't have it both ways when you talk about states' rights and when you talk about the role of the federal government. And now when times are difficult, we go back to the states' rights argument, so that we can cut those things that the least of us need." And, Richmond said, the flaw of the states' rights argument isn't simply a matter of dollars and cents, but also of simple justice.

"Had you left it to states' rights and the will of governors and the legislatures of those Southern states, then Ruby Bridges, who is my constituent in New Orleans, would not have had the federal marshals to escort her that day to Frantz School, so that she could have the same education as everyone else.


Federalism is a lot more than just "State Rights" Federalism is about dual sovereignty in which both the States and the Federal Government have certain rights and obligations. The problem here is that Congressman from New Orleans of all places is now arguing that as to flooding and coastal erosion issues we must depend on the kindness of the Federal Government. WRONG!!

It is the position of people regardless of party in Louisiana that this is a FEDERAL responsibility! Since the early nineteenth century, the U.S. Supreme Court has held that the COMMERCE CLAUSE (Article 1, Section 8) gives the federal government extensive authority to regulate interstate commerce. This view originated in 1824 in the landmark case of GIBBONS V. OGDEN.

As noted here: The United States Constitution specifies that the judicial power under article III extends to "all Cases of admiralty and maritime Jurisdiction." A major purpose of federal admiralty law is to secure uniformity when actual transportation in interstate trade or commerce may be affected, although waters used chiefly for recreation may be included, if the facts show a clear potential for commercial transportation. Another constitutional root is found in the property clause which specifies that "Congress shall have Power to dispose of and make all needful Rules and Regulations respecting the Territory or other Property belonging to the United States."

FURTHER WE HAVE THE: Rivers and Harbors Act Since 1899, the US Army Corps of Engineers has had broad permitting authority to control the placement of wharves, piers, breakwaters, jetties, and similar structures within the navigable waters of the United States.41 The authority extends both to dredging and filling. Bridges and levees are also subject to control.42 In the exercise of the authority, the Army Corps conducts a public interest review and is entitled to consider pertinent factors other than navigability, including the environmental impact of a project.

The Corp of Engineers has been in the river works business for a long time. In fact it started in New Orleans relating to the War of 1812. As this article notes as to Mississippi River system it's FED all all the way. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) is responsible for 12,000 miles (19000 km) of the waterways. This figure includes the Intracoastal Waterway. Most of the commercially important inland waterways are maintained by the USACE, including 11,000 miles (18000 km) of fuel taxed waterways. Commercial operators on these designated waterways pay a fuel tax, deposited in the Inland Waterways Trust Fund, which funds half the cost of new construction and major rehabilitation of the inland waterways infrastructure. The Mississippi River System, including the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway (GIWW) connects Gulf Coast ports, such as Mobile, New Orleans, Baton Rouge, Houston, and Corpus Christi, with major inland ports, including Memphis, St. Louis, Chicago, St. Paul, Cincinnati, and Pittsburgh. The Lower Mississippi River from Baton Rouge to the Gulf of Mexico allows ocean shipping to connect with the barge traffic, thereby making this segment vital to both the domestic and foreign trade of the United States.

In the Pacific Northwest, the Columbia-Snake River System allows navigation 465 miles (750 km) inland to Lewiston, Idaho.

If one observed the BP oil spill drama, one say that the State Government could hardly do anything without getting the Corp's approval.

The problem/ threat that Louisiana is under is in large part related to the Mississippi River and the Intracoastal Canals . Two of (YOUR) USA's major highways. We have so well controlled the Mississippi River that now all that sediment that made the Delta is going off the Shelf . Louisiana can not redirect the river on her own so to replenish the wetlands that protect New Orleans and our Coast. Further there is the subject of the Intracoastal canal that has contributed in some ways for Wetland loss. The protection of the Citizens and in fact taking measures to restore the wetlands is a FEDERAL responsibly in large part.

This is what makes Congressman Richmonds statements so dangerous. He has now gone off message at the very time where we are making a concerted push to get the Feds to do something about all this before it's too late. Under Federalsim this is mandatory not optional.

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