By Jeff Thomas
The new energy plant in New Orleans East should be crime reduction tool. Living amongst some of the most crime prone areas of the city, the residents of the East need the construction jobs and permanent jobs this project will produce. Only through public-private partnerships will New Orleans begin to see a real reduction in violent crime. The soon to be approved project should be a model for modern urban crime reduction strategies that focus on jobs not jails.
New Orleans customers will pay all the construction costs of the plant plus interest to Entergy for this new company owned asset. Residents of the East will also bear the major brunt of construction inconvenience and resulting pollution consequences of the plant. Entergy gets to sell us the electricity generated by the plant at a guaranteed profit and is free to sell to the national grid for whatever profit it can make. Sweet deal for Entergy. Making the plant a crime reduction facility will make it a sweet deal for the city.
The direct correlation to crime and unemployment is a proven fact. And like much of Orleans, the East has pockets of dire poverty juxtaposed with upper class and upper middle-class neighborhoods. This plant can help transform the East by decreasing poverty by providing short term construction jobs and long term permanent jobs to people who live in impoverished neighborhoods in the East. Jobs not jails changes the focus in crime reduction from punishing bad behavior to providing pathways to employment.
CITY COUNCIL APPROVAL
Pull out the golden shovel. Last week’s vote by the New Orleans City Council Utility Committee means that the plant in New Orleans East will soon break ground. But before granting final approval and smiling at the photo shoot with Entergy executives, local government leaders should at least require that New Orleans residents, especially those from the East should get jobs and contracts resulting from this new project. Entergy enjoys a 100% monopoly on energy services, so they owe the citizens of our city jobs and contracts.
GOOD CORPORATE CITIZEN
As the biggest company in New Orleans and headed by an African American and lifelong resident of the city, Entergy should lead by example. Huge contracts to local African American businesses would provide economic prosperity for all citizens. Black businesses hire black people at higher rates than other businesses. Jobs reduce poverty and crime. The paucity of Caucasian poverty in the city mandates a focus on attacking black poverty and reducing crime in the Black community. Entergy should provide leadership and a model that all companies can emulate. And this new plant is the perfect place to start.
Outgoing Council Action
However, to date, Entergy’s history in this role has been lackluster at best. So, our political leaders must push, cajole or create laws requiring the mighty giant to help more. The benefits of monopoly should not be solely Entergy’s. The rate hike every customer will pay is like the regressive sales tax. When every penny counts, $100 is a lot of money. And poor people are most likely to have their services cut off for non-payment due to these rate hikes. Many have argued that the council should not finalize this project as they will be out of office soon. But this is a current project of this council.
They should go out with a bang. Coordinate Entergy and SWB power sourcing. Impose DBE requirements on this project. Require 50% of new jobs go to New Orleans East residents. Otherwise a stray bullet might hit a pipe in the new plant and cause an explosion that will thankfully be swallowed by storm water.
Entergy must be a good corporate citizen. The city council must represent the people’s interests. Together New Orleans will be a great place to live for everybody.