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Data betray claim 2023 not conservative mandate

As Louisiana leftists continue to move through their stages of grief over this year’s statewide election, they pursue yet another narrative that fails under the cold hard light of data.

So far, liberals among Democrats, within the media, and in academia have tried to comfort themselves over their blowout losses that leave perhaps the most conservative governor, Legislature, and Board of Elementary and Secondary Education in history about to take over. They do this by telling themselves they delivered their message poorly – when in reality it’s the message itself at fault – and by bolstering themselves over the illusion that outgoing Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards had notable lasting accomplishments – only if you believe during his years in office fewer jobs, fewer people choosing to work, many fewer residents, tepid personal income growth well behind most states, pandemic policy that cost more lives than preserved, and government growing at three times the rate of inflation are good things.

The other narrative is that the victory of Republican Atty. Gen. Jeff Landry to replace Edwards, as well as legislative gains, is somehow less legitimate because overall turnout was the lowest since 2011 (slightly lower in the general election, slightly higher in the runoff). You have journalists and academicians propagating that “apathy” suggests there isn’t a groundswell to follow diametrically different options than with which Edwards tried to outflank the GOP-run Legislature.


Bossier needs rethink of school clinic policy

What appears to be the signature initiative of Bossier Parish’s new school superintendent threatens to bring controversy if not implemented correctly and for the right reason.

Last week, the Bossier Parish School Board unanimously awarded the job to assistant superintendent for administration and personnel Jason Rowland. Oddly, he was the only applicant in contrast to the last several occasions when the district hired a superintendent, perhaps because the district over this span only promoted from within and this discouraged outside candidates and in-home potential candidates who considered Rowland’s ascension as inevitable.

In the months leading up to his promotion Rowland worked on establishing school-based health clinics, both permanent and rotating, on the belief that this would discourage absenteeism. Indeed, since the onset of the Wuhan coronavirus pandemic and lingering beyond that, nationally truancy (defined as a student missing at least 10 percent of class days) has doubled to about one in five.


Edwards leaves LA worse off than he found it

It’s legacy-salvaging time as the embers die on the Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards Administration, with a full-bore effort to turn impossibly a sow’s ear into a silk purse.

At the specific policy level, for example, you have its Commissioner of Administration trying to stave off the undoing by incoming governor Republican Atty. Gen. Jeff Landry of a costly and counterproductive taxpayer-funded parental leave scheme for state employees while proclaiming “History is going to look very favorably on … Edwards and what he’s done.” This shilling is backed more broadly by a propaganda campaign using tax dollars touting alleged accomplishments, if not reframing failures.

Dardenne is dead wrong: if history is kind, it will relegate the Edwards years as a footnote; if bluntly realistic, it will register the 2016-23 period as one where his policies botched economic growth and development and coarsened society while privileging special interests at the expense of Louisianans – all in all, a retreat into the past following an agenda that disserved the state for decades. The data leave no other assessment possible.


Unwelcome paid leave time bomb needs excising

Don’t expect, in the dying days of Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards’ misrule over Louisiana, that we won’t see more attempts to lock in bigger and more redistributive government than just attempting to create generous paid parental leave that incoming governor Republican Atty. Gen. Jeff Landry needs to curtail.

Starting in 2024, almost 38,000 classified state employees will gain this perquisite at taxpayer expense. It allows up to six weeks of this following the birth, adoption or foster placement of a child. That comes through regular channels: the State Civil Service Commission, which quietly promulgated the rule in September, then somewhat more publicly signed off and expanded by Edwards earlier this month.

Another roughly 4,000 unclassified employees which includes the other two branches of government, those of other statewide elected officials, and non-civil service employees in higher education, Edwards included through executive order, leaving just under 27,000 uncovered in the executive branch. All in that branch could be covered at the discretion of elected officials and higher education management boards, and the several hundred in the other branches could be covered by assent of the two chamber leaders of the Legislature or of the Louisiana Supreme Court.


In BC, monuments come before employees, people

It’s not just Bossier City employees who find the city’s staggering debt load forestalling their abilities to receive pay raises; retired Bossier City firefighters face the same hurdle with paying for their health insurance.

Last week, the city approved a budget without a cost-of-living pay raise to employees, but did use one-time money to provide a bonus, costing about $2 million. A downturn in revenues, mainly from reduced sales tax collections, not only prevented locking in higher pay but also forced the city to dip into other funds that normally paid for capital expenses to shore up the budget. Also hampering this was continuing to siphon general fund dollars, around $4 million, to pay down a high amount of debt.

But money that would have been available for raises eaten away by debt servicing also could have gone to maintain the city’s subsidization of retired firefighters’ health insurance. A recent television news story brought to light that several years ago the city halted this, forcing retirees to pick up the entire tab. Louisiana state government picks up a portion that grows the more years a retiree worked for the state, and local governments do the same for the most part. By way of example, twenty years of service for a state employee usually means the retiree pays just a quarter of the monthly premium.


Knife-edge Caddo sheriff race poised for redo

It’s still advantage Democrat Henry Whitehorn, but, if allegations made by his opponent for Caddo Parish Sheriff Republican John Nickelson prove correct, that may end up switching things for good – eventually.

Initial tallies on Nov. 18 gave Whitehorn a single vote lead out of over 43,000 cast. Certification by the parish could occur as late as 4 PM Nov. 27, which involved the board of election supervisors verifying machine totals and early voting and absentee totals, with the additional task of conducting a recount as requested by Nickelson. Keep in mind that a recount only comes from absentee ballots, 7,780 in this instance, because these are the only ones not entered electronically but are scanned.

This put Nickelson at a partisan disadvantage. The board is comprised of the clerk of Court, Democrat Mike Spence; Registrar no party Dale Sibley, Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards’ appointee Democrat Brenda Traylor, and representatives one each from the major political parties. The board as part of its duties reviews absentee ballots that initially didn’t optically read correctly to discern, if possible and by majority vote, the intent of the voter – a process engineered by a “recopying” technique.

That equated to adding three votes to each candidate, leaving the Whitehorn one-vote margin intact. Nickelson immediately sued, citing a number of irregularities. Clearly, Nickelson’s legal team had done its homework. Its petition noted problems including at least two voters voting both early and on Nov. 18, some voters claiming their votes didn’t register, at least one voter saying he supposedly was registered legally at a precinct but denied being able to vote even provisionally, at least four voting unable to do so legally as interdicted under law, and as many as six votes cast on election day from people deceased.

Further, the filing questioned the administration of the recount. It alleged imprecision in the machine recount that demanded a hand recount of all absentee ballots that the board denied in the interests of time, improper retention for counting of ballots with disqualifying marks, and improper witnessing and voter signing on the envelopes in which ballots were sealed.

The filing asked the district court, which by law will hear the case at 10 AM Dec. 1, to order a hand recount, and declare a winner if possible, or schedule a new election which would be held on the statutorily-designated day of Dec. 16. This almost certainly guarantees a new election, because unless the hand count is allowed and shows a remarkably large swing in favor of one candidate, the other who then otherwise would be declared the loser can claim that so many irregularities exist that even a small lead leaves open the possibility with so many tainted votes out there that this makes the original election’s outcome unknowable.

And if it does come to that, Nickelson may come out the winner. Nickelson in the general election racked up 45 percent of the vote because in precincts where white Democrats and Republicans made up at least 70 percent of registrants, Republican candidates averaged 91 percent of the vote, while Whitehorn got 35 percent because in precincts where black Democrats made up at least 70 percent of registrants, black Democrats averaged 88.8 percent of the vote. In that election, turnout in precincts where at least 75 percent of the registrants were white averaged 27.9 percent of the vote, while in precincts where at least 75 percent of the registrants were black averaged 14.8 percent.

But in the runoff, turnout in those mostly-white precincts fell 5.3 points while in those mostly-black precincts actually rose 1.2 points. If these numbers reverted even slightly to the general election form, Nickelson wins a special election.

On the one hand, as overall turnout slipped between elections 2.4 points, Whitehorn did better with his base, so another election that could be expected to feature even more reduced turnout the trend would indicate he would do better still. But on the other hand, and perhaps more compellingly with just a single contest on the ballot, fewer than ten days before Christmas, and where Nickelson by the latest campaign finance reports would appear to hold a significant funding advantage necessary to drive turnout of his base, he might be in better shape to hold onto voters.

That resolution may or may not happen anytime soon. Depending on what happens in district court, appeals could go all the way to the state Supreme Court, and may push any election into 2024. Its certification may have been completed, but this contest is far from over.


Bossier Jury jumps from pan to fire on library

On the issue of its Library Board of Control, maybe the Bossier Parish Police Jury is jumping from the frying pan into the fire. Just how hot, we may find out soon.

At its last meeting earlier this month, the Jury without discussion voted unanimously to appoint all of its members onto the parish’s Board. Currently, unlike any other such board in the state, jurors serve on it and in all five of its slots, and there have been at least two jurors on the Board since 2016.

The law provides for a maximum of seven positions, so the Jury apparently will try to dodge this requirement by rotating members in and out, although the law also specifies the lengths of terms at five years. Perhaps it could utilize the provision that allows for the Jury president or his designee to serve ex oficio and give different jurors that role each month. It also means that Democrat Juror Charles Gray, defeated in his reelection attempt last month, will be kicked off the Board as soon as possible unless he resigns earlier.


Thanksgiving Day, 2023

This column publishes every Sunday through Thursday around noon U.S. Central Time (maybe even after sundown on busy days, or maybe before noon if things work out, or even sometimes on the weekend if there's big news) except whenever a significant national holiday falls on the Sunday through Thursday associated with the otherwise-usual publication on the previous day (unless it is Easter, Thanksgiving Day, Independence Day, Christmas, or New Year's Day when it is the day on which the holiday is observed by the U.S. government). In my opinion, in addition to these are also Memorial Day and Veterans' Day.

With Thursday, Nov. 23 being Thanksgiving Day, I invite you to explore this link.


New views, not leaders, can salvage LA Democrats

So, who from Louisiana’s political left is right about the morass of the state’s Democrats? The veteran political analyst who foresees the light at the end of the tunnel as very distant? Or the academician who thinks the party’s political fortunes can improve dramatically?

As part of his television gig, longtime editor of the shopper New Orleans Gambit – no longer a shopper since The Advocate chain gulped it up a few years ago – Clancy DuBos doesn’t see much hope for the party that ruled the state uncontested starting over a century ago for six decades, and still was in the majority until about 15 years. He declared the party on “life support” and, boldly asserting perhaps the surest thing in state political history, foresaw a major shakeup in state party leadership within the next few months.

That’s axiomatic for a state party with a single out of eight members of Congress, without a single statewide executive, standing on the wrong sides of supermajorities in each legislative chamber, soon to be down 9-2 on the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, and in three years likely to lose ground on the one elected body where it isn’t in a steep minority, the Public Service Commission. Having no candidate come within 25 points of Republican winners in any statewide race and ceding even more supermajority ground to the GOP in the Legislature as a result of this year’s election makes leadership change a question not of if, but of when.


BC debt blows budget hole, stops pay raises

In Bossier City, a debt-fueled spending binge now approaching two decades in length continues to take its toll, depleting significantly reserves derived from the half-cent sales tax paid in the city since 1991 while fire fighters have to make do and city employees keep losing ground to price inflation.

This week, the City Council passed its 2024 budget, which contained a lot of bad news. Compared to the 2023 version, general fund revenues were down over $3 million to $61.7 million, or 4.8 percent. This came mainly as a consequence of sales tax revenues falling over $5.5 million or 15.7 percent to just under $30 million, so even though property tax revenues rose $900,000 or 5.8 percent to $15.5 million, overall revenues took a significant hit. Almost three-quarters of general fund revenues come from these two sources, so more than trivial changes in these have a magnified impact.

Yet spending on public safety increased some $3 million to $42 million despite the reduced revenues. In part, this came from increased state supplemental pay of a few hundred thousand bucks but the rest came from robbing the three funds set up largely to fund capital items for fire operations, the city jail, municipal buildings, and streets and drainage with money derived from the 1991 dedication. Legally the city may use these collections to pay operations and maintenance of fire, jail, and buildings structures and equipment and did so with a vengeance for 2024. Typically, 70 percent of collections is earmarked for this, but for 2024 all of it and $3.4 million from reserves, totaling $6.7 million, will go out the door, reducing collectively the reserves of those funds by a third, to prop up the general fund so that only about half a million fewer dollars are spent.