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22.4.19

Perkins practicing power politics on steroids

Last year, Shreveport Mayor Adrian Perkins told campaign audiences that he wanted to break with politics of the past. Instead, he seems all too eager to embrace heavy-handed favoritism that apparently runs against the law and blatantly contrary to taxpayer interests, leading to questions about his abilities and motives.

Perkins, a political novice who hardly had lived any of his adult life in Shreveport, swept into office as a wunderkind promising to break the mold of ossified Shreveport politics and attitudes. And in the initial period of his tenure, the public seemed approving, with over half giving him above-average marks in a television station poll.

But Perkins has made some controversial decisions, and last week two of them backfired in ways that abnegate his campaign image. At the state level, the Attorney General’s office rendered a legal opinion against his attempt to remove members of the Shreveport Airport Authority.

21.4.19

Voters must reject Bossier school tax hike

No matter how you define it, the Bossier Parish School District asks for an unwarranted property tax increase on May 4.

Early this year, the School Board voted to put a pair of hikes on this ballot, which as a typically local-only election date tends to draw low turnout. If its members thought this would shorten the odds of passing the roughly 26 mills (about 23 going to salaries to make the total dedicated to pay starting this year around 60) by having school employees disproportionately show up at the polls to approve their own raises, it backfired.

Instead, local groups have sprung up in opposition with aggressive campaigns to defeat both measures. At least two have mailed out pieces or made phone calls asking for rejection. These are the Good Government Coalition, whose organizers include local business representatives and political activists, and Building a Better Bossier, whose principals are associated City Tele-Coin, a business with extensive government contracts (introducing an element that creates another layer of political intrigue involving Public Service Commissioner Foster Campbell, who as a state legislator championed funding efforts for Bossier schools and on the PSC has butted heads with the company on regulatory issues).

18.4.19

LA taxpayers stiffed by questionable call

You know a governor is up for reelection when he grooves many state employees a day off with pay for nothing.

Yesterday, Gov. John Bel Edwards’ right-hand man, Commissioner of Administration Jay Dardenne, declared all of state government would close today because of weather considerations. This comes on top of the legal Good Friday paid holiday.

Bad weather is no joke, and the tornado threat issued last night for 16 southeastern Louisiana parishes today certain merits caution. But the state does have 48 other parishes that at most might or did get a lot of rain (here in northwest Louisiana, some energetic precipitation last night softened to a drizzle by sunrise, going on and off since), which have faced much more severe weather before that didn’t draw paid furlough under Edwards or any other governor.

17.4.19

Advocate undercuts paper of record status

The decision by the Baton Rouge Advocate to go behind a paywall will cause a significant shift in how state political news and opinion become consumed in Louisiana – in ways perhaps The Advocate didn’t expect or want.

Earlier this week, the newspaper’s top brass announced the new model. In some ways, it was late to the party, as a large majority of papers in the country have turned to this practice. In fact, it became the second-to-last mid-major to major paper in the Louisiana to do so, with just the New Orleans Times-Picayune the last standing with entirely free content (and, perhaps not coincidentally, that paper that has done the most to embrace a move online while deemphasizing its print version).

Academic research has studied the consequences of such a transition. Typically, newspapers have headed in this direction as a last resort to stem revenue losses. Keep in mind print advertising revenues have dropped by about two-thirds in just a dozen years, leading newsrooms to cut their employee numbers by almost half in that span.

16.4.19

Casino strategy unrealistic, going nowhere

You can lead a Louisiana riverboat casino to water, but you just can’t make it locate near or in it.

An extensive study prepared for the Louisiana Department of Economic Development tries to point boats in certain directions. It reviewed all forms of gaming in the state (not “gambling;” recall that the state Constitution says the Legislature is to suppress that) and concluded that, as the casino market dominated state gaming, only changes here could substantially stop the slide in gaming revenues from existing sources since 2008 (it predicts a bump up from adding sports betting this coming year).

It outlined a strategy, with one part right on the pulse of policy-making. That recommendation tracks efforts to loosen restrictions on the land-based casino in New Orleans, principally in allowing it to add a second hotel to its operations. Local officials and lawmakers seem ready to sign off on that this year after encountering problems last year.

15.4.19

Streamlining LA higher education needed

Legislators shouldn’t criticize hiking fees, or tuition, at Louisiana’s higher education institutions. These were needed, while streamlining the state’s overbuilt system must follow.

Last week, during budget presentations, some representatives expressed disapproval with Louisiana State University Baton Rouge’s decision to raise fees for this academic year. This came after lawmakers had constructed a standstill budget for this and the previous fiscal year, rather than inducing cuts as they had for the several years prior.

System Pres. F. King Alexander called the higher fees necessary in order to absorb hidden, mandated cost increases and to hand out pay raises. He said almost every state spent more per student, and every school did in the southern region. Further, the typical LSU faculty member makes over $10,000 fewer annually than the regional peer average.

14.4.19

Glover ups ante in insults to LSU

Democrat state Rep. Cedric Glover continues his war on the Louisiana State University System.

Glover, who didn’t graduate from college, filed HB 470 for the regular session of the Louisiana Legislature that would detach my employer Louisiana State University Shreveport from the System and merge it into the University of Louisiana System’s Louisiana Tech University. It’s a bad idea on a number of levels, although Glover claims it would bring more “comprehensive” higher education to the Caddo/Bossier metropolitan area. Notably, as Shreveport mayor from 2006-14, Glover did next to nothing to promote or assist LSUS.

That bill will go nowhere (especially as it requires a supermajority to pass). No other legislator has desired to co-author it, significantly including neither LSUS’ representative Thomas Carmody or its senator Barrow Peacock, both Republicans who seem quite cool to the idea. No groundswell among policy-makers, or even from Tech, clamors for its support.

11.4.19

N.O. should transfer power to LPSC

You don’t need to reinvent the wheel, New Orleans City Councilor Helena Moreno needs to realize.

Yet Moreno seems intent on doing just that. She has asked the Council to beef up its staff that deals with utility issues. It’s unnecessary and wasteful.

Currently, New Orleans only among American cities regulates its electricity provider. In every other state, entities at the state level oversee electric provision, which in Louisiana would mean the Public Service Commission.

10.4.19

Barras agrees; Earth resumes revolving

Louisiana’s Revenue Estimating Conference today provided its first revised forecast since last June. And now the world can start turning again.

You would have thought from the apoplexy issued by the Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards Administration every one of the four times Republican House of Representatives Speaker Taylor Barras refused to accede to a change that the end of civilization was nigh. The higher forecasts proposed since November and finally accepted require unanimity among the four panelists, but Barras initially wouldn’t go along out of an abundance of caution over the state’s lackluster economic performance, perhaps the country’s worst.

All throughout, Edwards but particularly Commissioner of Administration Jay Dardenne, his shill on the REC, kept whining about how not recognizing additional revenues would bring disaster, subverting criminal justice reforms and hampering efforts to improve reformation of juvenile offenders by preventing startup of a new facility. The Legislature – contrary to the Constitutional prohibition on contingency spending – had passed and Edwards signed a supplemental appropriation allocating money to these causes, which the Administration screamed up and down could not be fulfilled without REC recognition of higher revenues.

9.4.19

Wage hike part of Edwards potemkim strategy

If he champions so much an increase in the minimum wage, why would Louisiana Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards advocate the least likely way to accomplish it?

In his 2019 state of the state address, Edwards stumped for SB 155 by Democrat state Sen. Troy Carter, which would put into the Constitution a minimum wage increase with perhaps more to follow. Louisiana is one of a few states with no state minimum wage, and one of 20 that in practice enforces the current federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour for most workers.

He didn’t mention HB 422 by Democrat state Rep. Royce Duplessis that would unlock local governments to mandate their own increases. Nor did he give rhetoric backing to legislation, not on offer so far this regular session but commonly on the docket in past years, that would put an increase or several into statute.