Apparently the DOTD is poised to make good on one of the many threats that were made if the tolls on the Crescent City Connection expired, as required by law, on December 31, 2012. They say they’ll pull the plug on the decorative lighting that has graced the skyline of the Crescent City since 1987.
It should be noted the money for that lighting was raised by a civic organization, the Young Leadership Council, in increments as small one and five dollars from both sides of the river in what seemed like a successful private/public partnership. They gave half a million dollars to the state and thought they had a deal.
We all know what’s happened with the tolls since then, and now the DOTD is poor-mouthing, saying they’ll have to turn the lights off this weekend because they don’t have the money to keep the lights on. How much does it cost? The “stunning” sum of sixty thousand dollars a year…fifteen thousand dollars for electricity and forty five thousand dollars for maintenance. Those numbers are from DOTD, and if experience is any indicator a private contractor could probably find a way to cut THAT by at least twenty five percent. Locals who don’t remember might have bought that bull, but not the guy who originally brokered the deal.
Chris Johnsen is now an attorney in New York, but in 1987 he was the President of the Young Leadership Council. He said the original deal called for the money to be raised PRIVATELY and the lights DONATED to the STATE with the quid pro quo that the state maintain the lights in perpetuity. Now go find your winter coat, because here comes the snow job.
Rhett Desselle, a DOTD lackey, says THAT deal was with the old Mississippi River Bridge Authority, an entity that no longer exists because it was abolished by the legislature at the end of last year. Technically, he’s right. The legislature HAD to ABOLISH the Mississippi River Bridge Authority because they had wasted, misappropriated and otherwise tossed millions of toll dollars into the muddy Mississippi for things like flood insurance on…wait for it…A BRIDGE.
But I shouldn’t focus my ire on Rhett. He’s just doing what his boss, Sherri LeBas, the secretary of DOTD, tells him to do. She’s an artful dodger. I’ve been trying for A YEAR AND A HALF to get her to come on the air with me and explain why she needs MORE taxpayer money to maintain the Crescent City Connection when we’re ALREADY paying for maintenance with taxes from license plates and gasoline that pour into Highway Fund #2. That’s how every other Mississippi River Bridge in the state is maintained. I guess she doesn’t have a good explanation for that extra FOUR HUNDRED MILLION DOLLARS in tolls she’s looking for. Or, for that matter, why DOTD is playing it heavy handed and punishing us for paying off the bridge by paying all of those tolls for all of those years.
You think it’s really necessary to turn those lights off this weekend? Or is it more likely that DOTD is trying to keep us ALL in the dark?