Veteran member of post-Katrina Levee Board praises new book that criticized the levee reform movement
Stephen Estopinal, eight-year veteran of the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority–East created after Hurricane Katrina, praises Levees.org founder Sandy Rosenthal’s new book Words Whispered in Water: Why the Levees Broke in Hurricane Katrina (Mango, 2020).
Estopinal’s book review will appear in the upcoming double issue (vol 40, numbers 1 & 2) of the Xavier Review. An early galley has been released ahead of the hard copy issue.
In her book, Rosenthal is highly critical of the levee board reform movement, labeling it as both ineffective and a distraction from the true culprit in the flooding event, the Army Corps of Engineers.
Estopinal––who was president of the Authority when his eight-year tenure ended––appears to agree.
Here is an excerpt from the review:
“...Rosenthal attended board meetings of the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority – East during the construction of the new flood post-Katrina protection system. She observed firsthand how design comments provided by the experts on the board were routinely ignored.
“...I––a past commissioner of the Authority East––can confirm that the many public comment and review meetings that the Corps hosted during the construction of the new system were simply for show. Major decisions were made and locked in stone before anyone outside of the Corps’ sphere of influence could contribute.”
Words Whispered in Water, which is reviewed by Publishers Weekly, has been a #1 New Release on Amazon for eight straight months. An unboxing video promoting the book’s release has amassed over 135,000 views on Facebook alone.
Stephen Estopinal’s full review can be seen below:
The Orleans Parish Assessor's Office has appealed 31 reductions in commercial assessments, a total value of over $45 million, approved by the City Council in their capacity as Orleans Parish Board of Review, announced Assessor Erroll Williams.
During the Open Rolls Period from July 15 - August 15 every year, residential and commercial property owners are able to visit the Assessor's Office to discuss the taxable assessment on their property. If the two parties are unable to come to an agreement, the property owner may submit an appeal to the New Orleans City Council in their capacity as the Orleans Parish Board of Review.
"My job as the Assessor is to put together a fair and equitable tax roll," said Assessor Williams. "It's our job to try to ensure that every taxable entity pays their fair share- no more, no less. Based upon extensive research that my appraisal staff did to get values right in these exceptional circumstances due to COVID, I'm not comfortable with the $45 million reduction the Board of Review has given these 31 properties. It doesn't align with our data, so we've appealed these commercial tax reductions to the Louisiana Tax Commission."
The Governor's declaration of Emergency triggers into effect Louisiana RS. 47.1978.1, requiring the Assessor to take into account "all the damages to the lands or other property, including obsolescence, and the depreciation of the value of such land or other property caused by the disaster, fire, or emergency."
"We did extensive research to get values correct given the COVID-19 obsolescence factor," said Assessor Williams. "We looked at residential and commercial changes throughout the beginning of the year extensively and what we saw was that residential values are continuing to climb, while commercial real estate was really taking a hit. My staff worked incredibly hard to get these values right, as mandated by law. And the reductions granted by the Board of Review simply do not match up with what we found."
Both the Assessor and property owners have the right to appeal the decisions of the Orleans Parish Board of Review to the Louisiana Tax Commission (LTC). If, after a ruling by the LTC either party is unsatisfied with the value, disputing the value in court is the final recourse.