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27.2.05

Queen Bee Needs to Discipline a Drone

Look up audacity in the dictionary, and there would be a picture of Agriculture Commissioner Bob Odom.

Treasurer John Kennedy wants to do something very sensible – pull the $12 million a year that the Odom-controlled Louisiana Agricultural Financial Authority (LAFA) receives from the Legislature for … for what? It’s an unrestricted check because its original purpose, boll weevil eradication, has been accomplished, and the law establishing it did not designate any other purpose for the money, derived from a tax on racetrack slot machines revenues. Kennedy very rightly argues that the money could be used elsewhere. It could generate $36 million more for health care spending, or $108 million more in federal highway funds – a year.

(Or maybe some of it ought to be saved in case the problem comes back – those pesky boll weevils have been in this country since 1892 and I have a feeling they may come back around these parts. More interestingly, the federal government has an eradication program that pays for 70 percent of costs – why did Louisiana never take advantage of this, instead of going it alone?)

But old Bob Odom doesn’t think that’s a good idea, because he pledged the $12 million a year to pay off the $45 million sunk into a boondoggle sugar mill in Bunkie that’s not even constructed yet. Kennedy counters by saying the state (which has a lot more coercive taxing power than the LAFA) could back the bonds, but Odom rejects this by admitting it’s possible but arguing “the banks would never do it.”

Oh, really? I don’t know which financial institutions hold these notes, but if Kennedy or, perhaps better, Gov. Kathleen Blanco were to go to these banks and articulate Kennedy’s proposal, I think they would go for it. And if they were crazy enough to tell these officials they wouldn’t, either could simply tell them that this bank never would get a chance to do business with the state of Louisiana during their terms in office. But I don’t think those bankers are dumb enough to let it come to that.

What all this points out is the out-of-control nature of Odom’s empire, and Blanco and others need to crack down on it. The best thing to do would be simply to stop construction on the one mill and never start the other (hey, it would give some tired Department of Agriculture employees some rest from their second jobs as construction workers). However, with the one already partially built, that may be politically impossible.

The next best step would be to divert of the $12 million a year as Kennedy suggests to more useful purposes. Better, to prevent any more mischief, LAFA itself needs to go the way of the boll weevil in Louisiana (unfortunately, its statute designs the board as such that once a governor and the Senate have put its members there, it can’t get rid of them at least until the end of a term and, close reading of the statute shows, maybe longer).

Bill prefiling has started for the 2005 session; it would be appropriate for LAFA member, by virtue of being chairman of the Agricultural Committee, Sen. Mike Smith himself to prefile just such a bill. Especially if Blanco wants it, for surely he recalls the last time a committee chair disagreed with Blanco ….

3 comments:

PJ said...

And we wonder why we are last in everything that we should be first in.Corruption is so ingrained in this state because the majority of citizens want something from the government.Our politicians are nothing but a collective image of what kind of people we are and its not a pretty picture

Anonymous said...

Don't count on Senator Mikey Smith. He wouldn't be chairman of the Ag. Committee, if it wasn't for Bob Odom. Mikey knows better than to bite the hand that feeds you.

Jeff Sadow said...

These two comments are perfect bookends to each other; the first shows the consequences of the condition described in the second. And we the people are partly to blame, because we put them in and keep putting them in to office. 2003 elections: Odom (under indictment) wins with 66% in the primary, Smith -- no opposition.