According to a report published by the Louisiana Section of American Society of Civil Engineers’ (ASCE), the state of Louisiana received a D+ in infrastructure. The following list includes each area of Louisiana’s infrastructure and the grades assigned to each:
- In the area of Aviation, Louisiana received a C grade;
- Bridges in Louisiana received a D+;
- The Coastal Areas received the grade of D+;
- Louisiana’s Dams received the grade of C+;
- Louisiana’s Drinking Water received a D-;
- The Inland Waterways received a D-;
- Our Levees received a C;
- The roads received a D;
- The solid waste grade was a C+; and
- Our Wastewater received a C-.
Louisiana ranks 49th in economy and 50th in opportunity. In 2018, the median household income of the 250,000 people in the 2nd Congressional District was $38,131. Of that sample, the largest share of the population made less than $10,000 a year. A report conducted by the American Lung Association also found that several cities in Louisiana have some of the nation’s most widespread air pollution.
Why are these statistics important?
On February 7, 2020, Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez introduced a house resolution that would address communities in America–and Louisiana’s 2nd Congressional District’s critical infrastructure and health issues. That resolution is commonly referred to as the Green New Deal. The Green New Deal seeks to abolish systemic injustices,1in the following areas: clean environment, infrastructure and high paying jobs.
The etiology of the Green New Deal is the New Deal. The New Deal was a collective of programs created via federal legislation that included public works projects, regulations and financial reforms. The New Deal was the single most mechanism by which the American white middle-class was created, while excluding Black communities from using their own tax dollars.
Gary believes that the Green New Deal provides an opportunity and a blueprint for Louisiana and the 2nd Congressional District to put people in the district back to work and to fix our crumbling infrastructure.
A. Environmental Justice:
Environmental justice is the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people regardless of race, color, national origin, or income, with respect to the development, implementation, and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations, and policies.
The 2nd Congressional District is comprised of the following parishses:
- The Parish of West Baton Rouge;
- The Parish of East Baton Rouge;
- Ascension Parish;
- Assumption Parish;
- Iberville Parish;
- St. James Parish;
- St. John the Baptist Parish;
- St. Charles Parish;
- Jefferson Parish; and
- Orleans Parish
Included in these parishes is an area known around the world as “Cancer Alley.” Cancer Alley runs along the Mississippi River, which includes parts if not all of the above mentioned cities and parishes. Scholar and activist, Steve Lerner, referred to these types of areas as Sacrifice Zones. Sacrifice Zones are often “fenceline communities” consisting of low-income and/or people of color. They are considered “hot spots” of chemical pollution where residents live immediately adjacent to heavily polluted industries.3 Cancer Alley has more than 140 chemical factories and oil refineries.
In consideration of this information, the people of the 2nd Congressional District has helped Gary identify the following needs:
- The need to provide full federal funding for the Department of Environmental Quality’s Environmental Justice programs. The petroleum chemical industry’s voice can not be the only voice at the table;
- The need to strengthen Superfund Community Involvement. Community involvement is the process of engaging in dialogue and collaboration with community members. The goal of Superfund Community Involvement is to advocate and strengthen early and meaningful community participation during superfund cleanups;
- The need to increase regulatory fines for the chemical factories and oil refineries, who poison the air, water and land of Louisiana;
- The need to limit the use of eminent domain that displace African-Americans from their homes and communities under the auspice of “public good.” To the citizens of the 2nd District, which includes the residents of Gordon Plaza and others similarly situated, your demands have not fallen on deaf ears. Federal, state and local governments have a racist history of using the Takings Clause (Eminent Domain) to displace African-Americans from their homes and communities under the auspice of “public good.”
Gary will advocate for and vote on passing legislation to increase funding for the Super Fund. Providing for legislation that makes resources more readily available to citizens whose homes have been devalued and whose health is at risk. Thus, allowing governments to purchase property from affected property owners at a “just” price, and assist with relocating those families to a safe and healthy location.
B. Infrastructure: Community Development Block Grant Funding (Re-imagined)
Over the years Community Development Block Grants has garnered a bad reputation as “free money,” because the perception is that it is not fulfilling its mission of eradicating poverty in urban and rural communities. Though some of these claims may have merit, the intent of the grant remains pure: to prevent a major increase in poverty rates, a deprecating built environment, and an unskilled workforce.
In accordance with Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’ Green New Deal resolution–which calls for investment in economic development, green building, transit and education. Gary will call for an
immediate re-allocation of community development funding to eliminate the financial vacuum caused by the de-industrialization of rural and urban communities.
Furthermore, Gary will collaborate with the “new” working class that will be created through implementation of the Green New Deal. According to the Bureau of Transportation, households with an annual income of less than $25,000 are almost nine times as likely to be a zero-vehicle household than households with incomes greater than $25,000. Given these statistics and recent migration patterns, it can be argued that transportation–public or private– is vital to upward mobility for at-risk populations.
These changes will require not only adequate federal funding–but also a retooled, educated workforce that will utilize public transportation to commute to city centers and to attend school and work. Gary will advocate for, and vote to pass legislation that will reallocate federal transportation spending to ensure equity in funding public transit in the 2nd Congressional District. In addition, the utilization of this funding will help bring U.S. gas emissions to net zero by 2030, through clean, renewable, energy sources.
Gary will also advocate for the restructuring of legislation that allows for a more flexible local match requirement for transit projects. For nearly four decades, federal funding on transportation has been 80% highway and 20% transit. This algorithm places an undue burden on urban and rural communities, and Gary will seek to undo this disparity.
- Recognizing the Duty of the Federal Government to Create a Green New Deal, H.R 109, 116th Cong. (2019).
- STEVE LERNER & PHIL BROWN, SACRIFICE ZONES: THE FRONT LINES OF TOXIC CHEMICAL EXPOSURE IN THE UNITED STATES (2012).
- Id. at 346.
- Beau Evans, Toxic Sites in Louisiana: 15 of the State’s Most Polluted Places, NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune (Feb. 16. 2017),
https://www.nola.com/news/environment/article_96f6f003-a44a-56da-bc3d-6546c6e1969d.html (“Facing a series of national toxic waste disasters, Congress passed legislation in 1980 authorizing the EPA to create the “Superfund,” which identifies harsh toxic sites to jump start and fund cleanup efforts. Currently, the EPA lists 15 sites in Louisiana on its National Priorities List, slating those sites for Superfund reimbursement money to complete cleanup.”) (last visited Jan 29, 2021)