Saturday, June 30, 2018

Dead on arrival?

Way back in 1992 I covered, among other things, the federal bureaucracy for The Herald-Dispatch, the daily newspaper in Huntington, W.Va., which was not yet known as America's Best Community. Early that year, the White House announced that President George H.W. Bush wanted to streamline the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers by consolidating some district and division offices. Here on the Ohio River, the White House plan would eliminate the Huntington District office and move its work to the Pittsburgh District.

Yeah, that went over really well here.

At the time, about 500 people worked in the district office in downtown Huntington. It was one of the largest employers in the city and the county. After several days or weeks of public outcry, a rally was on the main drag through town. The Huntington High School marching band performed and all sorts of people had their say.

As usual, the big name at such an event was Sen. Robert C. Byrd. The senator knew the power of a sound bite, and he gave us a good one. The White House plan, Byrd said, was "dead on arrival."

It was difficult to not think of Byrd's sound bite — little else of that event remains in my memory — as I read of the most recent proposal to reorganize the federal government. The administration wants to move the navigation functions of the Corps of Engineers to the Department of Transportation and the functions relating to flood control to the Department of Interior. Right now the Corps controls almost everything relating to the flow of rivers and smaller streams. This  plan would divide all that.

Is the latest White House proposal politically viable, or is it dead on arrival? The former editorial writer in me can only draw on that overused phrase, "It remains to be seen."