Local political and business leaders ready to bend Obama's ear - FOX 8 WVUE New Orleans News, Weather, Sports

Local political and business leaders ready to bend Obama's ear


NEW ORLEANS - Some local business and political leaders are ready to bend President Barack Obama's ear on local needs when he visits the city on Friday. And some are hoping the president and a key member of Congress will bring good news about efforts to head off astronomical flood insurance rate increases in metro New Orleans.

The president will be at the Port of New Orleans Friday to discuss the importance of taking measures to grow the economy and create jobs through exports, according to the White House.

"We're going to try to make the best of the opportunity," said Michael Hecht, President and CEO of GNO, Inc.

Port President and CEO Gary Lagrange said the president chose the right spot to talk about exports because of the huge success the port here and those around the state are enjoying. He said besides sitting on a tremendously busy waterway, the overall value of Louisiana's annual exports is $29 billion.

LaGrange told FOX 8 News he expects to speak to the president about the proposed deepening of the Mississippi River and other infrastructure needs at the local port. He said a deeper river would result in significant growth in exports.

But progress at the port is not the only major issue local business and political leaders hope to address with Mr. Obama during his short stop in the city. They are extremely concerned about the impact the Biggert-Waters Act will have on flood insurance rates, and homeowners and businesses by extension.

Some homeowners fear they could end up paying flood insurance premiums of over $20,000 a year if the law is not changed.

On Nov. 1, a letter was sent to the White House signed by GNO Inc. and almost 200 other organizations asking for a delay in the law.

Hecht said although the White House has not responded to the letter, he hopes to get a response from the president or staffers who will accompany Mr. Obama to New Orleans.

"One, to reiterate the challenge, but two, to also suggest a solution which is that the president has the ability to administratively delay the Biggert-Waters Act, and that could effectively solve the problem, so we'd urge him to step in and fix the problem, not just for Louisiana, but for the entire nation."

Hecht said although the White House has not responded to the letter, he hopes to get a response from the president or staffers who will accompany Mr. Obama to New Orleans.

Longtime California Congresswoman Maxine Waters, who co-authored the legislation, has insisted that when it was passed, she was not aware of the devastating effect it would have on flood insurance rates around the country.

Waters will also be in the area Friday. She is scheduled to tour parts of Plaquemines Parish heavily damaged by Hurricane Isaac's floodwaters.

Plaquemines Parish Councilman P.V. Griffin said he invited Waters to the area after meeting with her about the flood insurance issue.

"We won't be able to live here if we have to pay that kind of premium for flood insurance, and she said, 'I didn't really know, Councilman Griffin, this would have such an impact, you know, on the residents.' She said we have to fix this," Griffin said.

Griffin said he told Waters the law must be removed because the flood insurance rates would be unaffordable and would keep the area from rebounding fully.

"You have to abolish this monster that you created," Griffin said he told Waters in previous meetings.

He is hopeful her visit on Friday will result in some type of positive announcement about the flood insurance program.

"I really believe in my heart she's going to bring us something real good," said Griffin.

Others share that hope.

"We don't think it's just coincidence that all this is happening on Friday," said Hecht.

Hecht said the economic progress the president will trumpet while in the Crescent City on Friday would definitely be undermined in the future if the flood insurance crisis is not averted.

"There is an irony in that the president is coming down to talk about the record exports and the great economic growth in the New Orleans region, [but] that if NFIP is not fixed it could actually undermine that very growth," Hecht said.


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