Replacing Lead Service Lines – Perfect Infrastructure Project

January 22, 2021

New Orleans      Recently, Social Policy was lucky enough to have fifty contributors offer ideas suggesting priorities for the new Biden administration. There were some amazing recommendations, and we’ll dig into more of them soon, but one comes to mind now as all sides in the warm glow of the inauguration are claiming they want to look for projects where there might be bipartisan agreement: infrastructure. Wait, I’m not through. I realize that some of these infrastructure proposals bring the hair up on the back of too many necks, where the tradeoff for more jobs can be questionable highways, industrial canals, bridges to nowhere, and all manner of so-called “shovel ready” projects that are less about repair and more about what a friend once called “edifice complexes.” Richard Diaz, an organizer and activist in Milwaukee, had a short and sweet contribution that was spot on when it comes to infrastructure. He called for governmental replacement of lead service lines or what they call whips in New Orleans.

Do we need to make this happen? Ask the former governor and other officials in Michigan now under criminal indictment for not acting to stop the poisoning of water in Flint, Michigan. In fact, ask mayors and governors all across the country who are struggling with this problem because of cost. Different cities have tried to craft fixes here. Some cities have stepped up to the job, but on timelines that stretch out for decades. Some states, Louisiana for one, have made it state law to try and force residents to pay for replacing lead prices that cities and states often mandated, which was also the situation in Wisconsin. Madison, Wisconsin replaced all of their lines at their own cost, but they are the heroic exception.

As cities are drowning in debt with tax losses during the pandemic, it’s hard to pretend they can or will step up to this problem on their own, despite the scientific and public health consensus that any lead being swallowed, especially by children, is destructive. Look, the price is huge, $10 billion, but how large is that really, when we talk about several trillion here and there for stimulus. Estimates for infrastructure projects nationally are trillions as well. Put all that together and $10 billion isn’t chump, but it seems reasonable, and, even better, solves a huge, critical problem, and does so in way that most politicians should love, by fixing something that voters can see in almost every city in the country, and even more powerfully, does so in their front yards.

Seen all together, getting rid of lead service lines almost seems like a no-brainer, no matter the cost.

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In Like a Lion, Out Like a Lamb

January 21, 2021

New Orleans      It’s January, not March, but watching the Trump exit from Washington still summons the old “in like a lion, out like a lamb.” He said he would be back again in some form, which might have seemed ominous to many, but only says to me that he’ll be booking a comp room at his hotel a spit away from the White House, and who will care. I was on a call with associates preparing for the coming waves of voter suppression, and one of our team was breathing easier by the minute he said, still worried that there might be one last gasp from former president Donald Trump. If there was one, it was only a wave and a whisper.

As Joe Biden was preaching unity, Trump was likely burning up the phone talking fire sale and yelling, “call Saul.” He has to raise a big nut this year, estimated between $300 and $400 million on debit and refinancing for his properties. The Trump Organization, heavy into hotel and golf properties that were slammed by the pandemic, was down an estimated 39% in revenues in 2020. Those numbers don’t sweeten the coffee for prospective bankers, and when it comes to bankers, most of the ones holding his paper, Deutsche Bank and Signature, have either said no way or no mas. My bet is that to make his properties in America great, he has to get on his knees to foreign banks where his four years left big markers, like Israel, Turkey, and, yes, Russia. The optics might not look great, but when he’s counting his friends on one hand, three of the fingers would have their area codes.

As for lawyers, he has a bit of a problem lining up representation for his coming impeachment trial. Rudy is ready, but reportedly Trump didn’t like the notion of him saying he was on point before working it out with the Donald.         Son-in-law supposedly was spending his last day in the White House trying to put together a team. The last bunch has headed for the hills it seems now that Trump’s star has faded and their law partners are skittish about the new wave in the White House and the blowback from the C-suite in the private sector. But, hey, we’re talking about lawyers now, so never fear, there are enough ambulance chasers and wannabe egomaniacs with law licenses between DC and NYC to join hand to hand in a giant conga line. Lawyers have a rap for repping mass murderers and the mob, so this one will be easy-peasy.

Trump has a bit of a brand problem for sure.         Much of his so-called base are more my buddies at Motel 6, than gold AE card folks asking for a suite for a grand or two. He might have to move them somewhere under something else, but I’m betting he looks to make the transition from high rollers to low ballers where he can make a sell for his snake oil. Normally, we would simply say, luckily, he has his health and his family, but I’m not so sure about his health, and his family may not be ready to stand in front of Florida trailer parks with a For Rent sign, so that may not be such happy trails either.

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