Money will come; now, spend it wisely

Louisiana’s coast is under attack, and it’s been that way for years.

Any trip to Grand Isle can show exactly how bad the problem has gotten in recent years, as areas that were once solid land have now been completely washed away by salt water, which has eaten through the marsh like a termite through wood.

But help is seemingly on the way in the coming years, as billions of dollars are slated to come onto the state’s books through the federal RESTORE Act – dollars that are designated to fix the problem before it gets any worse.

This, of course, is a great thing, and is something that should have been done years ago so that the current damage could have been avoided.

But like anything else, having government resources means little if they aren’t spent in a way that does the greatest good for the largest amount of people.

This luxury soon to come to the state will put a huge burden of pressure onto lawmakers, who have to cash in (pun intended) and make great decisions to secure our future.

Transparency is needed in the process, and a clear plan needs to be outlined right now to ensure that everything is in order.

Sure, it’s hard to make a plan when it’s not known exactly how much is coming.

But when in doubt, use a tool that we often use in journalism: the inverted pyramid.

Prioritize the most important things that need to be done from most important to least important.

As money comes, finish the things on the top of the list first, then work down to the bottom. As more funds come, weave through the list and find a way to keep moving along.

It sounds easy, and it sounds like a common sense approach for how things should be done. But too often, planning goes by the wayside, and we don’t utilize the assets that we’re given to the best of our ability.

Transparency was mentioned above, but how about accountability? That’s something that should be addressed, too.

In a news release sent out this week, the Public Affairs Research Council of Louisiana touched on several concerns they have with the state’s future use of its RESTORE Act funds.

In it, the entity outlined several things that can be done to mediate the process.

A lot of their ideas are good, and should be considered when planning for the future.

How about this one?

The council suggests that any RESTORE Act funds should be spent with “a higher level of scrutiny,” and should be subject to “more stringent and frequent audits.”

The plan outlines that if funds are used improperly or in a way that isn’t efficient, they should be repaid in full so that they can remain in use for the issues that the state continues to face.

That sounds like a good idea, and would be a fool-proof way to ensure that we get the most bang for our buck.

The council’s plan also talks about the state’s budget crisis, mentioning several instances when Louisiana’s Coastal Fund has been raided to try and fix budget shortfalls – politically tricks that are often hidden by what the council calls “broad budget language.”

To remedy that problem, it’s suggested that the people should have the power. If money from the Coastal Fund is needed, citizens should be able to chime in on the issue and give their thoughts.

Again, that makes sense.

It has to be a team effort, and we all have to come together to battle this problem, which is very real.

The truck full of gold bars is on the way. The money that the state desperately needs is going to arrive shortly.

Now, it’s time to plan to ensure that everything is spent wisely.

We can’t afford to mess this one up.

We can’t afford to lose anything more than what is already gone. •