Gutting Graft

New Orleans        A lot of big hooey in the New Orleans and New York papers about the home gutting “scandal” administered by NOAH — New Orleans Affordable Housing — and its director along with their connections to the Mayor, his relatives, and the lining of their own pockets.  The essence of the “scandal” in the way the papers play the matter is whether or not the recovery was setback and how the money was charged by private contractors for houses they had not gutted or even for houses that other groups with volunteers, including ACORN, had gutted.

    Let’s agree right away that playing funny with the money was wrong, but for my money there is a bigger scandal here that the papers keep brushing against and then missing.

    If you mine through all of the muck, you will notice that in several cases private contractors charged for houses that were gutted by ACORN supported by the ACORN Institute Recovery and Rebuilding Fund which received the donations and by a lot of volunteers from colleges and universities all over the country.  All of this work continues to this day.  The same was true for some homes cleaned out and gutted by the Catholic Archdiocese of New Orleans.  One woman has been extensively quoted in the paper having said her house was gutted by ACORN and its crews of volunteers.

    The press just stumbled on this, because as a matter of policy, privacy, and protection of its members and their confidentiality, ACORN refused all requests to provide the list of homes that its crews had gutted to the press or investigators.  The Archdiocese also refused to turn over its lists because of confidentiality concerns for clients.  

    Funny that the two largest gutting operations ended up with the same position on this, but there are other ways that the two operations are operating in unison, and that goes to the bigger scandal.

    Both ACORN and the Archdiocese put in bids to increase the level of gutting they could do if NOAH funds were awarded to allow them to put more capacity into these projects.  Neither was awarded one red cent, while all of the bids were let to private contractors.  This was in spite of the fact that various members of the City Council had promised the opposite and encouraged both of them to apply.   

    Furthermore, the bids, I know in ACORN’s case, were literally one-half the amount for gutting each house than the bids that were awarded!  I believe the bid from the Archdiocese was similarly much lower than the awarded bids from talking to people who have access    From the beginning more was paid to do less, while the two groups — ACORN and the Archdiocese — that had done more gutting than anyone else combined were frozen out of the opportunity to get the job done at half the cost.  

    From the beginning politicians and the press have known this all smelled.  It is hard to swallow why they are rushing to act surprised now.  

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