Hurricane Isaac brought danger, misery and hope with it when it ambled on shore early Wednesday morning below Houma. Mercifully, its sustained winds never exceeded 80 miles per hour.
Had it come in as a Category 2 and maintained its slow, devastating march northward, huge wind damage would have accompanied the mammoth amounts of rain and flooding that will be the legacy of the storm. On the bright side, Isaac was a significant and successful test for the new $15 billion hurricane protection system in the New Orleans area. The storm took the feared path west of the Mississippi River and spent almost two days pushing water into Lake Pontchartrain via Lake Borne and up Barataria Pass to vulnerable West Bank areas in Jefferson parish. Now, the floodgates on Lake Pontchartrain appeared to have done their job, and the pumps took the huge amounts of rainfall and dumped it over the floodgates and into the lake. Improvements on the West Bank appear to have done their job, as well. That has to make government officials and the Corps of Engineers happy.
Not so fortunate were areas on the north shore of Lake Pontchartrain and on the east bank of Plaquemines Parish. Obviously, there is still work to do to protect life and property in some areas of coastal Louisiana, but the Hurricane Isaac experience is an indication that progress is being made. In addition to giving a greater sense of security to millions of our citizens, from an economic development standpoint it sends an important signal that investments are safer in Louisiana than they were seven years ago.
On its way to Louisiana, Isaac strolled past Tampa Bay but decided not to stop in to visit the Republican National Convention. After a delayed start, the convention started rolling and picked up steam. A bevy of speakers pounded the theme that America and Americans deserve better than the economic problems that continue to hamper the nation. The GOP plan is to create 12 million jobs in the next four years by: utilizing North American energy sources to make the U.S. energy independent; taking the regulatory boot off the neck of small businesses; preventing tax increases from negatively impacting jobs and investment; expanding trade agreements with nations that trade fairly and freely; and gradually lessening the deficits and national debt in order to keep the dollar sound and inflation under control. Governor Romney and his team have not yet provided a great degree of detail regarding the specifics of implementing that plan—a fact the Democrats are quick to point out. How effectively they sell it will go a long way toward determining who will be in the White House and which political party controls Congress.
After panning the GOP convention, the Democrats—sans hurricanes—are heading for Charlotte for their big show. The challenge that President Obama and his party face is to convince the few truly undecided voters left in a neck-and-neck race that they can make things better if they have the reins of power for the next four years. The key to the Democratic convention will be how well they can demonstrate that they have a plan finally to turn the economy around. Their cavalcade of speakers cannot simply trash Romney and the Republicans as being dangerous and uncaring. They must clearly convince a troubled nation that relief is on the way. If they can’t do that, they run the risk of seeing Republicans in control of both Congress and the White House next January.