Progressives are sounding the alarm about the lengths to which GOP officials appear willing to go to advance their deeply unpopular and reactionary agenda after Louisiana’s State Bond Commission, at the urging of right-wing Attorney General Jeff Landry, once again denied flood prevention resources to New Orleans due to the city’s opposition to the state’s new abortion ban.
As CNN reported Saturday, last week marked the second time in as many months that the panel rejected financing for a $39 million planning and infrastructure project designed to protect the residents of Orleans Parish from storm-induced floodwaters, which are projected to intensify in the coming years as a result of the fossil fuel-driven climate crisis.
A statement shared on Landry’s official Facebook page and video from Thursday’s bond commission meeting make clear that the Republican attorney general, who can vote on the panel or designate a representative from his office to vote on his behalf, has been imploring his colleagues to withhold credit in a bid to force city officials to comply with the state’s assault on reproductive freedom.
Civil rights attorney Sherrilyn Ifill described Landry and his co-conspirators’ actions as a manifestation of conservative “blackmail” that is “becoming normalized.”
Not enough people are “responding with the urgency these authoritarian moves deserve,” warned Ifill, the former president of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund.
I don’t think we’re responding with the urgency these authoritarian moves deserve. This is blackmail, not ordinary politics. And it’s becoming normalized. Trump was impeached for conduct like this. https://t.co/nwhBhTujuz— Sherrilyn Ifill (@SIfill_) August 21, 2022
The New Orleans City Council on July 7 passed a resolution in which local policymakers proclaimed their support for reproductive healthcare access and asked police, sheriff’s deputies, and prosecutors not to use public money to enforce Louisiana’s draconian prohibition on abortion, which took effect just days after the U.S. Supreme Court’s far-right majority overturned Roe v. Wade and is currently in force following multiple legal challenges.
The bond commission on Thursday voted 7-6 to defer a motion to approve flood prevention funding until next month, threatening the future well-being of Orleans Parish residents whose elected leaders are attempting to defy the cruel and dangerous forced pregnancy bill passed by Louisiana Republicans and signed into law by Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards.
“The officials in New Orleans took an oath of office to support and enforce the laws of our state, yet they have decided that some laws are not worthy of enforcement,” Landry said on Facebook after the vote. “Today was another step toward ensuring the parishes and municipalities of our state comply with the laws of our state.”
Thursday’s close vote followed Landry’s overwhelming victory at the July 21 meeting. Just two members of the commission—both designees of Edwards—supported a motion to approve funding for the project in question without delay last month, while 12 members voted to block it.
The first vote came two days after Landry sent a letter urging the bond commission to “defer any applications for the City of New Orleans, Orleans Parish, and any local governmental entity or political subdivision under its purview.”
“Any other funding that will directly benefit the City of New Orleans,” he wrote, “should also be paused until such time as the council, mayor, chief of police, sheriff, and district attorney have met with and affirmed that they will comply with and enforce the laws of this state and cooperate with any state officials who may be called upon to enforce them.”
Deputy Attorney General Emily Andrews, representing Landry, told the commission in July that withholding financing “is really about sending a message that defiance of state law is unacceptable.”
“There’s no question this act of defiance is unconstitutional,” she argued. “We can all agree on the main principle, which is that a municipality and a parish cannot disregard state law. What we don’t agree on probably is the consequences.”
Work on the street improvements was expected to be finished in 2024. It’s unclear whether the decision by a handful of Louisiana Republicans to postpone construction will push back the completion date, but if it does, the consequences could be deadly.
In response to last month’s vote, New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell called it “disappointing and appalling” that the commission halted funding for one of the city’s “most vital and valuable infrastructure projects.”
“Regardless of the outcome,” Cantrell continued, “my administration will continue to prioritize the needs of our residents, which includes improving our aging infrastructure, strengthening our resiliency as a city, and protecting the reproductive rights of women throughout the City of New Orleans.”
On Friday, Cantrell reiterated that she is unwilling to budge on abortion and criticized Landry and other Republican members of the bond commission for harming the economy and endangering public health by holding flood mitigation funding hostage.
“We cannot afford to put politics over the rights of people, and particularly safeguarding people from hurricanes and other disasters, because we are on the front lines of climate change,” she told CNN.
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