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Will Walker provide leadership for Bossier City's political maturation?

Lo Walker has lead Bossier City as mayor for a month and the initial returns look good.

He has promised a more hands-on approach to running the city, a change largely for the better from the 16 years of previous mayor George Dement. While Dement did some politicking from behind the scenes, he was more what political scientists who study local politics would call a “ceremonial” type of mayor – good at pep talks, great at ribbon-cuttings, but not a real policy leader.

Walker, by contrast, has the potential to provide leadership that in the past decade largely gravitated to the City Council. This does not necessarily have to be a bad thing, but a majority of the council over that time period has suffered from a parochialism that has spawned a suboptimal set of attitudes in governance.


CAFTA votes more political gain than loss for Louisiana lawmakers

The Dominican Republic-Central America-United States Free Trade Agreement (better known as CAFTA) has now passed both houses of Congress. Divisions within the state mirrored the close (Senate) and closer (House) vote on the measure.

There is little question that CAFTA will benefit the country as a whole, but the fact is it does remove protections from, in particular, sugar farmers. This was the main impetus behind the nays of three state Republicans when it came to the vote.

It’s no accident that the two Republicans (Reps. Bobby Jindal and Charles Boustany) who voted against it have somewhat sizable sugar interests in their districts. Nor is it unexpected that Sen. David Vitter would cast a vote against it, given the narrow margin with which he won (even if in the primary) his seat – sugar interest votes do count.

At the same time, it is unfortunate that these Republicans had to abandon their principles concerning minimal intervention of government into the economy in order to vote on behalf of the individual interests of a portion of their constituencies. In reality, little in the way of sugar production will be lost and, frankly, if some Louisiana sugar producers go out of business as a result of this agreement, then this means their talents and resources would be better served by going into other lines of business.

Nonetheless, from a political standpoint, the interests of all sitting federal legislators were served by their actions on these votes. Jindal and Boustany will lose hardly any votes for their vote – even if on the losing side, their free trade impulses won – and Democrat Rep. Charlie Melancon, the most vulnerable Democrat in the entire House next year (because Pres. Bush outdistanced him by 8 percent within the district, more than any other successful House Democrat, in 2004) only solidified his credentials to a good portion of his constituents.

Vitter’s vote against it last month (joining Sen. Mary Landrieu) statewide will win him more votes than it loses him, but one must question his zeal in complaining about the defeat. More behavior like that would lead objective observers to question whether he really is as reliably conservative economically as he always has seemed to be, keeping in mind that protectionism, championed by some who call themselves conservative, is not really a conservative position.


Now it's Hightower allies distressed at him over hotel

Shreveport Mayor Keith Hightower has enough problems with conservative critics of building a publicly-owned convention center hotel. Critics from the left now are going to make his political life – and future – more miserable.

With two Republican council members (Thomas Carmody, Mike Gibson) often joined by a third (Jeff Hogan) consistently voting on measures to defeat, or at least reduce the taxpayers’ exposure to the venture which shows every sign of costing the city more than the benefits it brings, Hightower needs all of the support he can get from the four Democrats on the council. But two of them, Calvin Lester and Theron Jackson, now publicly question the project over the “Fair Share” issue.

With his efforts to keep unionized employees from taking excess taxpayer dollars, another commendable set of actions by Hightower during his mayoral reign has been his resistance to instituting a quota system for city contract bid-winning. Legally, this cannot be mandated by law but another method by which this may be put into place is on a contract-by-contract basis, where general contractors get asked to put in such quotas in their subcontracting each time the city negotiates such a contract. Then they must uphold the provisions or face civil penalties.

Hightower well could do this, although surely he realizes that to do so would cause contractors to increase bid prices because the contract would mandate that less-efficient producers be involved (as the typical reason why minority-owned firms are underrepresented in contracts awarded is their quality is not as high as the wining sub-contractor’s – obviously true among all kinds of losing firms – but especially because they are disproportionately smaller which means they are less able to bring economies of scale to bear that would lower their prices). It would also admit that there is some institutional bias against minority-owned firms in Shreveport’s contracting process which no doubt Hightower, and, frankly, any objective observer familiar with the process, does not see present.

Part of these objections proceeds from future mayoral politics. Both Lester and Jackson have an eye of the mayor’s office in 2006 and 2005 second quarter statistics show Shreveport now has a black population comprising 47.14 percent of the electorate while the white portion of the electorate has dipped below 50 percent (49.48). These black politicians, with the hotel going up around them throughout the campaign season, can use this as a campaign issue to mobilize the black vote.

At the same time, publicizing this issue as a shortcoming about Hightower’s tenure can only hurt him if he does run for the state Senate District 37 seat in 2007. He must win the lion’s share of the black vote, 22 percent of the district, in order to have a chance to win the office.

One aphorism of politics states that if you make people on both sides of an issue mad, then you must be doing some right. But given the bridges Hightower has burned with area conservatives and the desire of black liberals to take care of their own political futures, not enough people are going to see Hightower as doing “right,” at this rate, for him to have much of a political future.


Hightower takes correct stand against greedy labor interests

One issue in which Shreveport Mayor Keith Hightower has performed well is labor relations with city employees. His veto of an ordinance to recognize an employee union was perhaps his finest act as mayor.

On the whole, unions in the private sector hurt society because they are able to expropriate wealth from consumers through collective action that skews the labor marketplace. However, at least there is a countervailing force – market competition itself. When labor greed inflates too much, this makes the good or service they produce uncompetitive and, in the end, they price themselves out of a job because other producers with properly-priced labor costs can do the same job or better for cheaper. In essence, unions are parasitic whose supporter have enough audacity to advertise just how much wealth they expropriate from society and, in particular, non-unionized workers.

But in the public sector, where no competition exists in the provision of most government services, unionization is a disaster to the polity. Without market forces to intervene, it becomes a contest of sheer power where government disarms itself considerably by giving away bargaining power (by recognizing unions’ right to strike, for example), allowing more ability to unions to raid taxpayers’ pockets.

When one reads comments such as workers want “[t]o be treated fairly … [l]ike a human being,” the proper response to this situation is not to give them more power over taxpayers’ purses, but instead to remind them that if this is their perception, they have procedures by which to lodge complaints and, if that proves unsatisfactory, they are perfectly free to seek employment where in their minds they are “treated fairly” like a “human being.” A government job to hold in perpetuity is not a right.

The dirty secret, of course, is that a great many of these workers know they could never get paid as much and/or receive benefits as extensive for the amount of work they put in with their present city jobs. Knowing that, instead of calling upon their talents to explore other opportunities, they’d rather reach into somebody else’s pocket to better themselves.

Hightower needs to continue to hold the line here, and his past looking out for taxpayers on this issue, in sharp contrast to his penchant for building expensive things that drain taxpayer resources, is to be commended.


Independence Bowl perhaps a luxury not longer in reach

Slowly and, unless something happens soon, steadily it looks like the life is ebbing out of Shreveport’s Independence Bowl.

That would be a shame because some pretty good matchups have occurred. Several schools with national championships have played in it (Alabama, Army, Auburn, LSU, Notre Dame, Nebraska, Oklahoma, and Texas A&M), with perhaps the most prominent having been OU’s 1999 appearance. Not only does OU possess the most national championships in the modern era (since 1949), but the next year after dropping the game to Ole Miss 27-25 they won the national championship where the I-Bowl served as one end defining a 20-game win streak.

It also has some history on its side. It’s preparing to celebrate its 30th year, making it the tenth-oldest contest running among the holiday bowl games.

But the I-Bowl has some unenviable intractable realities to face. It is in the third-smallest metropolitan area to host a game. Worse, it is one of the few bowl games whose city of location does not have a NCAA Division I-A football-playing university in its metropolitan area which boosts local attendance and support. Only three others do not, and two of those (San Antonio and Jacksonville) are large metropolises. In fact, only the other such city, Mobile, is farther from a Division I-A program than is Shreveport (Ruston’s Louisiana Tech). But no host city is farther from a school in a major conference (there are considered to be the “BCS” six) than is Shreveport (Baton Rouge’s LSU).

Combine these with the fact that, of the 2005-06 bowl list, it is hard to argue that the only city considered to be less “resort-like” in terms of winter weather and attractions is Boise (where you can guarantee a big home crowd because, well, there’s not a whole lot else to do in Boise in the winter). This factor is crucial to get fans from the schools competing in the game to travel to it.

This has become reflected in the I-Bowl’s difficulties in finding a title sponsor and with getting two conferences to have tie-ins to send teams to the game (crucial especially if they are BCS conferences such as what the I-Bowl has now because fans of these schools are more likely to travel) and, if so, giving the I-Bowl their least worthy teams. A relatively unattractive winter resort area without much of a natural college football atmosphere means not much travel incentive or hometown turnout.

This impacts the most important aspect of the equation, the payout. Bowls are required to pay a certain amount of money to the competing teams (which then gets divvied up within their conferences). Lower attendance means fewer dollars, making the payout harder to meet, much less going above the minimum. Mediocre teams playing also reduce television ratings, discouraging sponsors and networks for paying more for rights to broadcast. It becomes a vicious cycle into which the I-Bowl regrettably has been sliding.

It has caused the I-Bowl to dip into its reserves to the point that they almost will be exhausted after this year unless a sponsor steps up at this late date (despite Shreveport taxpayers contributing $100,000 and Louisiana taxpayers forking over nearly $360,000 in tax dollars to fund the game – almost $1.4 million of state money goes to the two New Orleans-based bowl games). It may not matter now, with the Big 12 Conference becoming very hesitant to extend its contract past this 2005 game.

As a college football fan and sometimes I-Bowl attendee I consider this unfortunate, but understandable. Way too often we try to have non-essential things we can’t afford in this state, things perhaps affordable if attitudes changed to make the state one where greater economic wealth could be generated. I just hope a sponsor, which could pump in millions over the term of a contract, will step in. But don’t hold your breath – we’re still waiting on somebody, anybody, to buy the Superdome naming rights.


Recognizing "courage" where it exists

It’s not really the content of the column, nor the story in it, but rather the tone of John Hill’s piece that leaves one a little unnerved.

I don’t know what Fox McKeithen’s religious affiliation was, but from the Catholic perspective his situation fell into an area of ambivalence, where, depending upon several factors, either the decision to continue to live or to bring upon death are moral. This is, one the one hand, opposed to murder/suicide, the kind of death visited upon the protagonist in the film Million Dollar Baby, where she merely objected to having to live paralyzed and her death was engineered through lethal injection.

On the other hand, in either the movie protagonist’s or McKeithen’s case, neither were in a persistent vegetative state. Had they been in persistent vegetative states with bodies that would cease to stay alive without some care beyond nutrition and hydration, Catholic doctrine would suggest they should be kept alive. However, if it were a matter of them requiring any life support beyond nutrition and hydration, it would constitute a clear case where those entrusted with this person’s life could reasonably anticipate that they should allow the person’s soul to take its next step according to God’s plan: maintaining life or declining to death on their own.

With McKeithen’s case, a lot of contingencies existed. One could go into minutiae here, but to draw a very general, broad distinction, McKeithen chose to die where there are many who contribute less to society than he did and he potentially could have, and who have far fewer resources to draw upon to sustain their lives, who chose and continue to choose to this day to live.

So when one reads that McKeithen wanted to “die with dignity,” and that his “final legacy is to show us all how to face our own deaths”, quite unintentionally it comes across as a kind of endorsement of his action in all cases, that perhaps anybody who is paralyzed and on mechanical ventilation ought to opt for the same, in order to be “dignified” and courageously “face our own deaths.” Obviously, some do not choose death, a few famous, most not. As I have argued elsewhere, it would be unfortunate if a global attitude emerged to discourage people in this condition from wanting to live or, more perniciously, made others feel excused from an obligation to provide the extra assistance these people would need to stay alive in a dignified fashion.

Hopefully, the one thing that people do not get out of John Hill’s column is that the horrible incident showed “courage.” Facing one’s limitations and mortality in and of itself does not connote courage; it’s the response to recognizing those conditions that demonstrate it. When I think of the decision made by McKeithen and his family, “understandable,” “difficult,” “hard,” and “painful” all come to mind precisely because I see courage in these kinds of lives. And it’s important to be a purist when it comes to defining such a word this way in this situation because otherwise it can become debased very quickly. That is what is so insidious about Million Dollar Baby, where somehow the act of killing the protagonist becomes accepted by many as “courageous” (even “loving”) when in fact they erroneously make it a synonym of “convenient.”

In a world where too many deny there is right and wrong, where some wage a constant campaign to make gray the division between black and white, we must be vigilant to pay heed to and to recognize the true meaning of things in order to properly understand the moral implications that proceed from them.


To the Caddo Sheriff and Commission: get on with it

Regarding the series of legal maneuverings that even the Louisiana judiciary declares is complicated, now another chapter opens in the long-running dispute between Caddo Parish government and Caddo Parish Sheriff Steve Prator over who pays what at the Caddo Correctional Center.

I’m not a lawyer and, worse, I only have three college degrees, so I will try to make this almost-incomprehensible legal mess as least partly understandable. The parish owns the CCC. However, they contract to the sheriff to operate it, which is mandated by statute. Legally, they must pay the sheriff at least $3.50 a day per parish prisoner to do so, for which the sheriff is responsible for clothing and feeding such prisoners. However, it must pay additionally for medical and medical transportation expenses.

Obviously, at this statutory rate (which the parish cares not to pay any more) the sheriff could not operate the facility on only the daily funding rate. One way which generates more funds to do so is to take on state prisoners (there are other kinds too, such as federal prisoners and prisoners from other parishes, but to keep it simple let’s just assume that the two sources are parish and state prisoners). Here, the state must pay the sheriff at least $22.39 a day for the provision of the same kinds of services.

However, Caddo Parish argued that since non-Caddo parish prisoners are housed there, that the sheriff was bound to reimburse it for such expenses related to the general existence of the CCC in relation to the proportion of state prisoners there (roughly 25 percent at any given time). In May, the state’s Second Court of Appeals rejected that, allowing Prator to bill the parish for the additional expenses without himself being billed for what the Court called “fixed” expenses of the CCC.

But the bill Prator sent over apparently also includes expenses of the state prisoners, and the parish wants that portion excised out, which may lead to more legal maneuvering which already has cost parish taxpayers plenty (at least the Second Court’s bill only added about $200; it’s the lawyers’ fees that really add up). The irony of course is that, to this point, it is all about bookkeeping: parish taxpayers pay regardless, the dispute is just which parish entity gets what funds and who gets charged what.

Which is why, instead of continuing bickering, both entities need to discuss alternative ways of meeting their financial objectives. The Court suggested two ways immediately available in its decision. One would be for the parish to get the state to send reimbursement to it rather than the sheriff (which it then, of course, would have to turn right back around and hand it over to the sheriff any statutorily-required expenses). It also suggested that the sheriff could bill the state for the other expenses for state prisoners.

And then there always are legislative solutions. I’m sure Prator would find a lot of sheriffs ready to line up behind a bill that would increase the $3.50 level and/or the $22.39 level (it’s been tried before). And the parish could try to get state prisoners to pay additionally to it for certain things (again, it’s been tried before).

Both the parish commission and sheriff have expressed their desire to get this over with. So why don’t they start pursuing these other solutions as well? It’s only been two years now of this wrangling.


McKeithen's death raises provocative questions

I was sorry last year to find out that Louisiana’s late Secretary of State Fox McKeithen got injured and became quadriplegic. I had met him just once, not long after the infamous 1991 election when he explored the possibility of running for governor. In all likelihood, he correctly gauged that the times had passed by a politician of his demeanor for the state’s highest office, and instead ran and won three more terms as secretary of state.

I am not sure how to evaluate whether he correctly gauged the decision to take his own life, but that’s what he did when last week he asked to be taken off mechanical ventilation after putting his affairs in order, indicating that he could not live on a vent full-time. Since he had pneumonia, if he is like most quadriplegics and couldn’t go for more than a short time off the vent, he died quickly, perhaps unpleasantly, by suffocation.

If I had met him now, 11 years later after his accident, if the subject came up I might have counseled him to take a different course. Existing as a quadriplegic is no fun and one of the worst aspects of it is ventilation. I can see if one led a vigorous life that to be felled without warning in the way he was might cause more damage to his psyche than to his physical body.

But, as I have had visibly pointed out to me over the past 14 years, a body that refuses to work in almost any, even basic, way, need not connote that it is the time or appropriate to, literally, pull the plug on your life. Ventilation is a tremendously difficult thing to live with for somebody on it, and almost as severe for loved ones who take care of that person. Yet, regardless, ventilation is not a sentence stripping a person of any ability to contribute to society. So much still may be accomplished; to see such an example, click here.

I do salute McKeithen because in his few months of disability I think he did raise some awareness across the state about how the state can more efficiently utilize its resources to assist those who have major physical disabilities, which at this time are way too heavily skewed towards institutionalization and away from solutions that do not limit a persons potential, solutions in fact that often cost the taxpayer less than institutionalization.

I am demoralized to think that McKeithen, who had resources far beyond what the typical vent-dependent person has to assist him in living a quality life, nonetheless felt that he could not live such a life, and hope that the state’s insurance and long-term health care infrastructure did not discourage him from living. If nothing else, I hope Louisiana policy-makers as a result scrutinize more closely this infrastructure, without regard to personal interests, in order to improve the quality of life for people who usually through no fault of their own find themselves in situations akin to McKeithen’s.


Fool me twice ...

State Rep. Jack Smith seems to have gotten caught in a lie, and now he asks us to believe he didn’t know it. It happened in regard to HB 755 which originally was a proposal to establish a telephone helpline for families of alcoholic youth. It turned into a vehicle that would allow convenience stores to sell frozen, alcoholic drinks without a standard liquor license.

On the last day of the session, when dozens of bills are in conference and await floor action, the conference committee in charge of this one slapped on amendments longer in text that the original bill (which means a member or two on the six-member committee briefly told the others what should be done to the bill, and they agreed). Smith, a co-author with Rep. Carla Dartez of the bill, then carried it to the House floor where he insisted the conference committee additions did not add to the list of vendors allowed to sell daiquiris.

Smith, an insurance agent, claims he got counsel from a liquor lobbyist and Rep. Taylor Townsend, a lawyer, to back up this assertion. Regardless, others lawmakers such as Rep. Mike Powell, a lawyer, and Sen. Jay Dardenne, another lawyer, saw a very different and obvious meaning to the bill. So many did that the House forced essentially a retraction of a prior affirmative vote on the bill, and it died. Ever since, Smith has conducted damage control to remove the perception that he deliberately tried to mislead legislators.

His story: as a way to get funding for the hotline, he took without really reading the language the amendments written by the liquor industry lobby. After the impartial lobbyist and the learned Townsend reassured him, still without really knowing what it was all about, he got the conference committee to approve the language (yes, believe it or not, he and Dartez were both on the conference committee). Still an innocent, he then insisted to the House that, trusting these others, the bill didn’t do what it really did.

So, for this version of events to be credible; first, Smith had to approach the liquor industry with an idea for funding of the helpline; second, they said to him, “sure, no problem, and by the way, here are some amendments to the bill which look a lot like another bill previously rejected by the House but don’t worry they don’t allow for daiquiri sales in convenience stores;” third, even though it was his bill and he was on the conference committee, he decided not to read through the amendments and pushed them on trust from the highly-impartial (on this matter) liquor lobby (heavy sarcasm, thank you); fourth, when Powell to pick his brain on the matter, even though he really hadn’t analyzed the amendments, he still insisted he knows what it says and dismisses Powell’s questioning; and, fifth, when he joked about the matter later with colleagues, afterwards he said he wasn’t referring to this bill (although he apparently did not reveal which one he was being dishonest about?).

Believing this improbable train of events means two things, that you also believe the Louisiana Legislature isn’t really chock full of good old boys and girls who can’t pass the simplest ethics reforms, and that Smith is so incapacitated by the legislative process that he can’t even pay attention to what his own bills say, including when he gets a second chance by being on their conference committees, and then has the audacity to dismiss opposition and to joke about the subject.

If his constituents don’t move to recall Smith for incompetence and/or mendacity, the least they can do is get him to co-sponsor any of several pieces of legislation designed along the lines of last session’s HCR 31 which would have required a day’s layover of conference committee reports before floor action. Of course, it failed to pass the House by one vote – and Smith voted against it.


More Blanco partisanship present in HB 415 veto

While several of Gov. Kathleen Blanco’s line-item vetoes smack of partisan politics, it seems one of her regular vetoes does as well. That explanation aside, state Rep. Mike Powell’s HB 415 should not have drawn her ire.

This bill would have removed the January option for local (bond and tax) and state (to fill legislative vacancies) elections, leaving now only March/April, July, October, and November (and February if you live in Orleans Parish) to get a vote in. It would have saved the state at least $500,000 a year (and millions across local governments in the aggregate) and eliminated a low-turnout election whose figures double, triple, and multiply even higher when in conjunction with regular elections with candidates on the ballot.

Three reasons may explain her actions here. First was pure pandering to the courthouse crowds of local governments. The January date often is chosen by these governments because they are low-turnout elections where taxes may be raised. In this environment, whichever constituency gets favored by the raised taxes (usually government workers of some stripe such as teachers, public safety personnel, etc.) can turn out disproportionately highly its members to pass the proposition. Of the candidates on the last governor’s election, Blanco was most favored by local officeholders and this veto will help these allies and perhaps attract new ones as she tries to build a political machine through the state Democrats. (Their allies in the state Senate almost derailed this bill before it got to Blanco. First it was defeated then resurrected two days later, with many senators switching sides both ways in between.)

Second, particularly among Democrat local officials, it is, as it is with Blanco, their nature to want to transfer more resources from the people to government. Again, this January election takes advantage of human psychology to increase the chances of this happening, so it’s no accident that she would want to keep this date.

Third, the bill’s lead author Powell has been a persistent critic of big government and its spendthrift ways, counter to Blanco’s philosophy. Perhaps his most outspoken episodes this past legislative session involved questioning on the House floor whether it really made sense to build lakes in the name of economic development. Powell also is the favorite, should he choose to run, for Senate District 37 being vacated after this term by the most conservative member of the Senate and another critic of Blanco’s philosophy, Max Malone. One of Blanco’s allies, Shreveport Mayor Keith Hightower, like Malone term-limited, is chomping at the bit to take this seat and at this time Powell is the only person who clearly could beat him. Defeating one of his bills would be a way for Blanco to deny Powell a legislative accomplishment on which he could campaign.

In her veto letter, Blanco states there’s not much of a case to do away with an election day, writing that people need maximal opportunities to express themselves electorally. If so, then why did she not veto SB 53, which gets rid of a special December election date for congressional elections? Further, the election code already provides for additional election dates in RS 18:402(F)(7), so if the citizenry really wants it and/or the local government really needs it, they can have as many elections as they want (with two-thirds concurrence of the State Bond Commission.

If not hypocritical, this veto of Blanco’s certainly seems partisan, if not directed against Powell, then against Republicans and their philosophy favoring smaller government that does less in the way of absconding with the people’s resources, both in terms of raising taxes and extra money spent on elections.


Vengeance and hypocrisy are mine, says Blanco

With the line-item veto power, occasionally Louisiana governors will use it to get rid of some spending that truly needs to be excised. But more often than not, governors will use the power to punish legislators for presumed crimes against her. Local projects loaded into either of the operating budget, HB 1, or the capital outlay budget, HB 2, are at risk. We know it, they know, even if one reads their veto messages and that reason never is given.

Therefore, if a governor is going to use the power to bludgeon legislative opponents, she might as well not be hypocritical about it. It seems, however, that Gov. Kathleen Blanco got caught out in a number of her line item vetoes. Reading her veto letters and referring back to the two bills, many examples abound. The following are first excerpts from her messages, paired with similar projects that escaped a veto.

This amendment provides $150,000 payable out of state general fund to the town of Jennings for drainage improvements. This project has potential of being funded through the federal government's Community Development Block Grant program or through the state's existing rural development program.

But in HB 2 p. 56, lines 26-32:

Drainage Improvements Mimosa Gardens Subdivision, Planning and Construction
Payable from General Obligation Bonds
Priority 2 $ 100,000
Priority 5 $ 95,000
Total $ 195,000

Doesn’t this project also have “the potential of being funded through the federal government's Community Development Block Grant program or through the state's existing rural development program?” Sure, but the state senator representing Jennings, unlike his Bossier counterpart, Republican Gerald Theunnissen, loudly supported Blanco’s gubernatorial opponent and opposed her sick tax idea?

This amendment provides $25,000 payable out of state general fund to South Beauregard High School for athletic facilities. As South Beauregard High School is a public school, the local school board should bear this cost if they determine this project has merit.

But in HB ,1 p. 34, lines 25-28:

Payable out of the State General Fund (Direct) to the Calcasieu Parish Police Jury for the Ward One Senior Citizen Group for renovation and improvements of Moss Bluff Middle School

Isn’t this a school, too, one not that far away from the other? Why give the money to the police jury to pass on to a nonprofit group to do the work? Why doesn’t the Calcasieu Parish School Board have to bear this cost? Is it because South Beauregard High’s area is represented by Republicans Rep. Brett Geymann or Sen. James David Cain?

This amendment provides $89,000 payable out of state general fund to the St. Tammany Arts Association for safety purposes. As this association is local in nature and serves an area of the state with a solid local tax base, the citizens of the area should shoulder the cost of this project if those citizens deem this project has merit. Items such as this are eligible for funding from the Arts Grant Program in the Office of Cultural Development, within the Department of Culture, Recreation and Tourism.

But in HB 1 p. 264, lines 1-3:

Payable out the State General Fund (Direct) to the city of Westwego for the Westwego
Performing Arts Theater and Community Center $120,000

Why does Westwego not have to go through all of these hoops? Maybe Westwego isn’t as affluent as some areas of St. Tammany Parish, but it’s not a slum, either. Could it be because perhaps Blanco’s biggest critic about her unwillingness to find money for an educators’ pay raise and her great willingness to raise taxes was one of the state senators representing the parish, Republican Tom Schedler? And Blanco wasn’t through with the state’s most politically conservative area:

West St. Tammany YMCA, Building, Planning and Construction (St. Tammany): This is the only YMCA project in the bill that would receive a general fund appropriation. The project has $200,000 in Priority 2 and $2,800,000 in Priority 3 for a total remaining appropriation of $3,000,000 after the veto of the $150,000 in general fund dollars. The capital outlay request submitted for the project indicated a total request of $3,000,000. Consequently, the $3,000,000 appropriation would be a sufficient amount to fund this project along with the $3,700,000 in matching funds identified in the bill should the Bond Commission give its approval.

But what about in HB 2 p. 127, lines 18-27:

Multi-Purpose Building, Planning and Construction
Payable from State General Fund (Direct) $ 100,000
Payable from General Obligation Bonds
Priority 2 $ 100,000
Priority 5 $ 100,000
Total $ 300,000

Why does this nonprofit get to tap into the general fund and not the one represented by Schedler? Perhaps because its Republican senator, Walter Boasso, did not offer a perfectly acceptable pay raise plan that didn’t raise taxes while Schedler did?

Perhaps the most blatant of these cases came with her veto of Republican Sen. Max Malone’s item that would have shifted $12 million from building the Shreveport convention center hotel to helping to improve the Jimmie Davis Bridge between the city and its easterly neighbor across the Red River, Bossier City. The shift would have occurred only if a court found the legally the hotel could not be built using the money within the next year.

Blanco’s veto message rambles something to the effect that if the project were held off starting it might produce revenues more slowly and cost additional funds. But doesn’t Blanco even care about the legality of the project? In her thinking, it seems that it’s better to flout the law (if the courts find the money is not be used in accordance with its stated purpose) than to risk extra taxpayer subsidization of the project. Is that the attitude about the law a governor should have?

If Blanco is going to use her powers to exact vengeance, the least she can do is come up with better excuses. Otherwise, her partisanship and hypocrisy show right through.


Liberalism makes "Super Safe Sundays" unsafe

The second “Super Safe Sunday” upped the ante of the first (which featured a hit-and-run) by, of course, ending in a shootout, and so the Shreveport City Council took decisive action this week – by praying.

Mind you, I see nothing wrong with invoking the Deity, given that I do it on a daily, and more often, basis. But we’re also instructed that He helps those who help themselves, and too many of those with power in Shreveport don’t seem to be keeping up their end of the bargain.

This series of community events, which to date have appealed almost exclusively to blacks, was created with promoting alternatives to violence by staging at the Fairgrounds in and around Independence Stadium featuring music, three-on-three basketball, dunking booths with local radio personalities, karaoke, and adult and child hula hoop contests. With violence infiltrating gatherings for both events that already have taken place, the city has suspended its logistical support for the event, essentially canceling or postponing it.

The Shreveport Times had some thoughtful words on the subject:

But what happened Sunday runs deeper than merely bolstering police numbers or closing off thoroughfares. It's about the warped mind-set that chooses gunfire as a reaction to an insult or offense. It's about zero tolerance from the community for such behavior. It means denouncing violence, not by pastors alone, but by young people in their relationships with each other, even working with authorities to bring suspects to justice.

It's about individual responsibility assisted by a firm but compassionate community that reaches out to young people to provide alternative models for managing anger.

With the last phrase, they’re on to something, but thery don’t try to analyze the logical concatenation from “managing anger.” Why is there anger out there that needs to be managed?

The Times in part hits on it when it mentions “individual responsibility.” The people involved in the activities obviously lack it in terms of their relations to other human beings. Instead, it gets replaced with a sense of entitlement married with a lack of self-restraint, an attitude that they should have things and power to which they otherwise demonstrate they do not deserve. Rather than conforming to norms of behavior that help the entire community and, ultimately, themselves, they violate them to the detriment of the entire community and, ultimately, themselves.

Yet the most interesting, and sensitive, question which no doubt The Times was extremely reluctant to address, was why this pathological attitude is far more prevalent in the black community than others. Unfortunately, the answer is because too many political elites with the wrong philosophy have allowed too many within the black community to think that this counterproductive behavior not only is acceptable, but trés chic.

After all, for decades big government has been telling people it’s all right to be selfish, to blame others for the actions you take in response, and make them give you resources and power. You’re pregnant but you don’t want to be? Don’t worry, the courts say, it’s all right to kill the unborn. You want to get more out things of life than you deserve given your contribution through your labor to society? It’s all right, we’ll tax heaviest the greatest contributors to society and transfer the money to you. And, particularly relevant to the black community, it’s OK to blame for anything that goes wrong in your life some bogeyman like “white America” or anybody who insists on judging people on their merit and behavior rather than on their skin color.

In other words, too many politicians, liberals and mostly Democrats, have been spreading the fictions that people are not wealthy not because they cannot contribute as much to society as do the wealthy, but because they lost “life’s lottery” and thus the wealthy are “robbing” them; that government must redress this balance; that people are free when they can do whatever they want regardlesss of the costs to others or society; that government should promote the efforts of these “disenfranchised” groups (defined as anybody not white, middle class or wealthier, Christian, practicers of heterosexuality, unborn, and especially if female) rather than enforce a standard of noninterference among people and especially in concerning the government relative to the people; and that they (in government) know best the solutions to everybody’s problems.

This pathological thinking regrettably is worst of all among black leaders, who ruthlessly try to stifle dissenting voices in and out of their own communities. Is it any accident that by championing an ideology that glorifies the self and blames others for inadequacies that behavior based upon these tenets of liberalism will erupt within that community? This is the “anger” – inculcated by liberal elites into the black community by saying blacks today are put upon by “the man,” explaining away the community’s retarded economic progress as something caused by others, excusing thuggish behavior (increasingly glorified in film, sound, and print) as some kind of understandable reaction to this “new slavery.” All too many (mostly young and male) in the black community have responded to this rhetoric and the conditions created by implementing the liberal agenda with pathological behaviors such as those put on display at and around these events.

Properly understanding the origins of this behavior seen at these events, which does not mark the behavior of typical black citizens but at the same time is much too disproportionately highly represented in the black community (and victimizes primarily it), provides the appropriate solution for the city to pursue. Unless incredible security measures are taken, such as metal detectors going into the festival area, and heavy, no tolerance policing in the area, given the too-many rotten apples in the basket, safety cannot be guaranteed. Shreveport cannot afford these measures at the expense of increasingly meager resources, and these events cannot go on.

Instead, a new approach for helping the black community needs to begin by using the energy behind the idea for the events to the throwing out of power the elites and their ideas that have created these conditions, and to investigate a more realistic, mature political philosophy that will actually help any community whose leaders and people embrace it.


Area city governments already good at turning taxpayer resources into sludge

The latest woes of Shreveport with Bioset’s default on its sod production contract prompts The Times editorial page to speculate about the value of local government trying to enter the free market. The answer, as a number of recent episodes on both sides of the Red River shows, is emphatically “none.”

A number of elected officials seem enamored with the idea that local government can operate and/or own enterprises typically operated by the private sector, and a review of the past decade or so shows their lack of wisdom on this account:


Shreveport finances headed for withdrawal from gambling fix

In a story first broken by Fax-Net Update, it turns out that the “magic bullet” (or, alternatively, “Field of Dreams” – “build it and they will come”) philosophy of economic development vigorously pursued by Shreveport Mayor Keith Hightower, is starting to come a-cropper. Making matters worse is his simultaneous “Mardi Gras” style – shower constituencies (and especially friends) with money to keep the votes rolling in.

The impending disaster all started in public when, as a period of City Council vote fluidity appeared in efforts to get construction going on the convention center hotel that may have delayed or derailed it, at the very same time councilman Jeff Hogan won a promise to shovel some money to a civic organization in his district and said he was ready to vote for construction to begin.

But when the city started to look for the money to meet the promise, it instead found a rapidly deteriorating financial position, courtesy of declining casino revenues, and informed council members as such. This is because Hightower has had a habit of putting it all on one throw of the dice – casinos, and now the convention center, and it’s gotten worse.

Employment trends don’t lie. In 1998, Hightower’s election, Caddo Parish (of which over 80 percent is Shreveport) had 106,079 jobs with 10,202 of them in the amusement/gambling category, or about 9.6 percent. By 2002, jobs had increased slightly to 109,937 but amusements/gambling jobs had mushroomed to 23,553 or around 21.4 percent of the city’s total. As the years have gone by, the health of the city’s economy depends more and more on gambling.

(By contrast, Bossier Parish numbers, of which Bossier City represents about 60 percent, show a slight 1 percent increase in the proportion of amusement/gambling employment over the same period. But it’s now almost a quarter of the jobs in the parish – the city, whose city council members all were returned to office in this years elections and the outgoing mayor was replaced by his chief lieutenant, has been unable to reduce Bossier City’s even higher level of dependence on the casinos. At least its “riverboat fund” has nearly $30 million in it, even though a small portion of that has been appropriated to balance the city’s budget in recent years.)

The casinos are estimated to dump most (almost 95%) of the estimated $14.086 million going into the Riverfront Development Fund in 2005. Projections are that this amount will be more than 13 percent below anticipated. From the final total, almost $2.6 million was budgeted to be doled out to a number of organizations.

Worse, this problem has been a long time coming, and the city did nothing in the name of prudence. In 2004, civic appropriations were slightly higher than those budgeted for 2005, but total fund expenditures outstripped revenues by over $3 million, over 22 percent, taking the reserve down almost 74 percent. With less than $1.8 million left, that means at current rates the fund will have been depleted totally at the end of this year.

So, just cut back on civic appropriations, then? Not so fast, because much of the fund goes into funding other city operations:

Shreveport uses its Riverfront Development funds to pay debt associated with the new Convention Center and the relocation of City Hall downtown, to provide funds to various community and civic groups, to pay Convention Center pre-opening expenses and for professional services contracts and capital projects. (emphasis added)

In fact, 22 percent, or about $3.5 million (around 1 percent of the total city budget) goes into the general fund, 28 percent, almost $4.5 million, goes to paying the convention center debt (as if having a hotel that can’t pay for itself isn’t enough), and professional services, while professional services (how are the winners of these contracts determined?) eat up about another $2 million.

At this rate, it’ll be lights out in Shreveport (and Bossier City) when Texas expands gambling, perhaps as early as now in a special legislative session. Thus are the wages of ever-expanding government that is unable to expand in any significant way diverse economic development.


Group's idea to change discrimination definition proves faulty

There’s a move afoot to broaden the city of Shreveport’s nondiscrimination practices in hiring and firing to include sexual orientation and “gender identity” (meaning somebody who is of one sex but wishes to physically appear using conventions commonly associated with the other). Doing so would constitute a major departure from the existing philosophy behind the definition of a targeted group and on “discrimination.”

The concept of discrimination by government confuses many, as evidenced by the mayor’s spokeswoman Liz Swaine’s reaction that the city charter's Section 14.12 statement that “No person in the classified service or who is an applicant for a position therein shall be appointed, promoted, reduced or removed or in any way favored or discriminated against because of his … sex” means the matter already is settled.

For one thing, government and public policy made by it always discriminates in one form or another. By way of example, federal and state tax laws treat higher- and lower-income people very differently, by taxing the former at a much higher rate. In terms of personal liberties, murderers are discriminated against heavily, with those convicted of it looking at, the very least, long prison terms severely curtailing their liberties, and potentially even state-sanctioned taking of their lives.

Since discrimination is a hallmark of government action, the question becomes, when does it become appropriate? In the former cases, as a people we have decided that these are matters to be defined by our constitutions and lawmakers. Some instances of it, however, are considered so difficult to justify that they are given a very special status requiring very stringent government protections by government from their occurrences.

The charter lists two distinct categories of things for which the city cannot discriminate in its own practices for its classified employees. First are the immutables of race, sex, and national origin. These are characteristics about people over which they have no control – you’re born with certain equipment, and of a certain ethnic background. There exists almost universal agreement today in America that prejudicial treatment should not occur against individuals because of their genes.

But the charter also specifies a category of attitudes and behaviors – religious and political beliefs. As recognized above in the example about behavior that is murderous, government is much more open to discriminating against people on the basis of their behavior as behavior is a choice made by the person with some of those choices being suboptimal to the greater good of society or even that person (such as prostitution). Why are these attitudes, which will translate into certain behaviors (voting, religious observations, etc.), protected as if they were immutable characteristics about people?

This is because these two things have a direct relationship to the activities of government. Obviously, political beliefs matter in a democracy, and religious belief (or lack of it) often plays a strong role in the formation of those political beliefs for the individual. In a system of government where votes matter and where the vote often is formed on the basis of political attitudes, democracy would not work were this kind of discrimination allowed.

Another thing of note is the procedures of the classified personnel system are highly biased in favor of the use of merit to determine personnel decisions. Section 14.7 and following sections would make it difficult not to hire, to demote, not to promote, or to fire employees on non-merit bases.

Understanding these concepts highlights Swain’s confusion, as well as that of the supporters of this change. “Sex” is something people are, while “sexual orientation” is something people choose. That you are “male” or “female” (or, in very rare circumstances, “intersexed”) is a matter of genetics, while who you express sexuality with is a behavioral matter, defined solely by its expression. (Beware the trendy idea that sexual preference is a genetic matter; long ago the idea that there’s a “gay gene” was debunked and the evidence continues to mount against its existence.)

Thus, what the proponents ask is to change the city’s entire philosophy of how defines discrimination so insidious that it bans such activity in its employment practices, vastly expanding “protected” categories to those that involve behavior that have nothing to do with the political process and freedom of political belief and association. This would invite the addition of spurious categories to the protected list and simultaneously cheapen the protections of the existing categories, making the latter more prone to future alteration, and thus watering-down. Such mischief must be avoided, which is why the advocates of this change err in supporting it.


One small step for Louisiana health care savings ...

So much of the practice of medicine in this country has become so regulated that it has taken on the aspects of government ownership (and universality; anyone who argues America need “universal” health care does not know what he is talking about because it already is universal in the U.S.). Unfortunately, that means it becomes less and less efficient in its delivery, at greater and greater waste to taxpayers.

Wheelchair provision to the indigent in Louisiana provides a prime example. Incentives simply were absent to control costs. My own experience confirms this. When my wife got her latest, most powerful wheelchair, the firm we dealt with (through private insurance, not Louisiana Medicaid) promised one set of things but when the delivery was made it lacked some features. To our chagrin, we found the company already had billed the insurer who had paid for things we didn’t get (and consequently, reduced my wife’s lifetime benefits as a result). A couple of years later, we learned from another source that the company owner had been convicted of Medicaid fraud for similar practices.

Most Medicaid wheelchair recipients in Louisiana, because of the state’s archaic laws that push the disabled into nursing homes, are nursing home residents, so the idea of making nursing home monitors of these devices, and in fact paying for them first before they can receive reimbursement, is an outstanding one. Might as well make them work a little harder for the generous reimbursement schedule under which they operate, plus they do get a bonus for each successful reimbursement. More stringent requirements, better monitoring, and the ability to “recycle” chairs alone could save the state millions of dollars that can be plowed into home-based care for the disabled.

This is an example of the efficiencies Louisiana needs to pursue to bring down the cost of health care in the state which runs about $6 billion yearly, or about 30 percent of operating expenses of state government. The resulting savings may only be 0.2 percent of this total but it’s a start. Maybe the federal government prompted this, but now it’s up to state officials to keep looking for greater and more efficiencies.


With thinking like this, no wonder we educationally underachieve

Today’s letters page of The Times provides us an acute demonstration of why there’s a long way to go with education in this state.

On the learner side, there appears a letter complaining about price differentials between different areas. The writer wonders why a product costs 35 cents more here than there and seems unable to grasp the simplest principles of economics, complaining, “I just know it doesn't cost 35 cents per bottle to get the syrup from Dallas to here.”

Has this guy never heard of the fluid, dynamic nature of the free market, supply and demand setting prices, and the idea of competition? Casting aside the notion that it may actually cost that much to get a product from its presumed production point to its imagined distribution point, and also assuming he chose exactly the same retailer from which to buy the product, the absolute easy answer is that market conditions at this moment are much tighter for the product (not as much supply to meet demand) that they are here.

The uneducated would imply that there’s some price fixing going on but that so rarely happens in the real world (something about which a majority of our Louisiana Legislators are ignorant), especially in the hypercompetitive world of groceries, that it is incredibly farfetched to accept. If left to itself, the market does a superb job correctly pricing everything, contingent on the characteristics of the markets themselves. Yet this very basic fact of life seems to have eluded this correspondent, which, if he votes, in part explains why we keep getting so many Democrats, liberals, populists, and good-old-boys elected to office.

But it takes complicity to produce this lack of education, and another letter by (presumably) a teacher shows why we allow it to fester. This woman first argues that “Teachers are not opposed to high standards” and then goes on to show why in fact some are:

They are simply aware that requiring all students to reach the same standards, regardless of their abilities, is more harmful than many realize. Indeed, since schools now are being held accountable through a system of standardized testing, the immediate reaction is to provide these students who are in danger of not performing at the required level with a set of tools designed to help them pass the test.

In other words, we are teaching these students to become better test takers at the expense of meaningful educational experiences.

This remarkable misunderstanding of education is tragic coming from somebody seemingly involved in it. Simply, in today’s world of ever-increasing complexity and escalating demands in knowledge and skills, there is a basic level that students must have in order to have any but the slimmest hopes of just getting by in life. The accountability standards now enforced by the state, as acknowledged by experts, do an excellent, although perhaps not perfect, job of elevating students to this level.

This person, however, despairs that such basic knowledge (mind you the current passing grade on the LEAP tests is 40 out of 100) can be learned by all non-developmentally disabled children. Instead, apparently she would get rid of the tests and teach “meaningful educational experiences.” Now what could these be exactly, because whatever they are they sure won’t equip a child to exist in all but the most menial fashion in today’s world. I wouldn’t call that “meaningful.”

Of course, one might expect this illogic if you can’t even come up with an appropriate syllogism in the first place:

Imagine if Major League Baseball players would all be arbitrarily expected to hit 20 homeruns each season to be able to play the following season. This would not make a lot of sense because there is much more to baseball than hitting homeruns.

First of all, this comparison equates “testing” with “homers.” Obviously, in baseball the overall worth of a player is judged on many factors. But, as mentioned above, it is absurd to think that testing does not capture very well knowledge that students should have learned. In other words, no other indicators really are needed to capture the worth of a student’s knowledge.

Not only does she fail conceptually here, but empirically as well. Now, let’s see, at any given time there are 780 major leaguers on rosters, or about .00027 percent of the entire American population (and about a quarter of these players are not even Americans). Last year, one of several recent homer-happy years, 93 managed to get 20 – or about .00003 percent of all Americans.

Accountability standards are not asking that everybody perform in the top 99.99997 percent of their class. The better baseball analogy to be used would be everybody would be expected to participate in T-ball, and be able to hit one off the tee 4 times out of 10.

With attitudes like this among educators, again it is little wonder why we lag so far behind in quality of education.


Hightower ready to turn sludge into lead at our expense

Questions about Shreveport’s foray into the sludge and sod business have increased from just concerns about the connections that Mayor Keith Hightower has to the enterprise to include whether it represents another attempt for the city to get into a business costly both to its private and public sectors.

From the private sector, you have some operators in the business perturbed that the city has tried to enter this business. Government-run enterprises in almost all cases are exactly the opposite of what Hightower and too many politicians on both sides of the Red River believe and try to sell to the public: they are “lose-lose” operations which allow an inefficient, subsidized producer (government) to push out the more efficient producers (business), sapping both the economy and lifting money out of taxpayers wallets that could have gone to more helpful purposes.

But also some officials in government are rightly apprehensive of this project. City Councilman Thomas Carmody has it right when he questioned whether the marketplace for such a huge quantity (12-15 tons a day) exists and its financial impact to the city.

Part of the answer, the Hightower Administration admits, comes from the fact that the city was under the gun from the federal Environmental Protection Agency to stop producing such a volume by treating it differently. Apparently, entering into a 25-year contract at $2 million a year, minus any revenues made from the product (in the form of costs savings to the city in getting its own sod, $600-700,000 per year), was considered more cost effective than paying for waste treatment upgrades at $26 million.

Why is beyond me. Just do the math – at a net value of $1.3 million per year cost (assuming this stays the same), the contractor would have gotten in 20 years the same amount it would have cost to improve the facilities – and there were another five years left on the contract and the problem would not have had a permanent solution after it was ended, unlike with the facilities improvement option. And does anybody seriously think the city could have made anything but a pittance off the rest – just where’s the market for as much as 3,650,000 tons of sludge a year?

In other words, Hightower would rather shell out hundreds of million of dollars to build money-losing convention centers and hotels that probably will have a net harm on both private and public sector finances than pay a fraction of that to accomplish the unglamorous task of building infrastructure to have a cleaner city. It’s just another example that everything (stadium renovations and impacts on contractors, the Red River Entertainment District, the convention center and hotel, community development grants, etc.) the Hightower Administration seems to touch, as far as economic development goes, turns to lead.


Reducing public broadcasting subsidies will improve it

The federal government looks poised to cut subsidies to the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. I’ll believe it when I see it; the then-new Republican Congress in 1995, after saying the same thing, didn’t cut a cent. But a decade later, it’s an issue worth reviewing.

The amount being discussed, $100 million, sounds large but in fact represents only a little over 4 percent of the entire government corporation’s budget. Over 80 percent of its money comes from non-federal government sources. If we use a uniform cut of 4.33 percent, in practical terms for Louisiana that would mean about $138,000; uniformally across the state, for example, Shreveport would lose less than $7,000. In other words, it’s just not that much – one good pledge drive, even one generous gift, could make it all up, locally.

Of course, opponents have trotted out the well-worn playbook saying the cuts would impact the best-received, most popular programs. Right; I’d like to see station mangers cut these and then expect the pledge drives and business commitments (over 40 percent of total funding) to do as well. No, they are sensible folks, and, if any scaling back of programming occurs, it will be with the deadweight.

A good place to start would be opinion shows that consistently display a liberal bias. Finally running Bill Moyers into retirement is a great start, but more work can be done, as evidenced by the CPB’s own objectivity surveys (they are required to produce such reports annually). Over a fifth of consumers of its television (PBS) and radio (NPR) say there is a liberal bias (much smaller proportions chip in they actually think there’s a conservative bias – must be Howard Dean fans).

The CPB’s pollsters try to spin this argument by pointing out major news networks are seen by their respondents as even more liberally biased, so they argue their focus groups show:

There is a core segment of the population that will always contend that all news media is biased no matter what. In other words, many people are simply “jumping on the bandwagon” and saying PBS and/or NPR are biased only because they believe all news media are biased and they do not distinguish between specific news organizations and the news media in general.

Only in an era of grade inflation in education could somebody come up with such a backwards conclusion. If people “do not distinguish between specific news organizations and the news media in general,” then why is it that they do differentiate between the CPB and others by giving different very scores (one-third compared to one-fifth)? Doesn’t it make far more logical sense to say the people who say there is bias do so because it’s really there? What if they polled the public and found a third disliked Coke and while a fifth disliked Pepsi? Would it then be logical to conclude that at least 20 percent of the country dislikes all soft drinks?

Or an even easier solution is to just cut off all subsidies to Pacifica Radio stations. Much of what they broadcast is so horrendously slanted and contrafactual that it’s worthless yet $1.2 million a year has been going to this arm of the kook left (and now that it has Dead-Air America, why should taxpayers’ dollars support this lunacy?).

Don’t be fooled, with so many other greater priorities out there, as Congress has made clear, it’s about time to trim the fat from the CPB represented by its politically-biased content anyway. If the public really supports public broadcasting, no doubt it will step up during pledge time.


Confirming Blanco hypocrisy about teacher pay raises

Let me get this straight – a couple of months ago when Louisiana’s revenues got revised upwards, Gov. Kathleen Blanco argued that this one-time money should not be plowed into teachers’ pay raises and instead we needed to hike taxes on cigarettes to cover such an increase (later revised to we need to hike taxes on cigarettes to pay for health care but then some health care bucks would be shifted over to the raises)?

Now, speaking of another anticipated bonus coming down the line later in the year, Blanco is saying this extra money can be used for these raises. Help me out here, the reasons are the same potentially for the future as they were in May why there’s this “windfall” – higher-than-expected sales tax receipts but mostly oil revenues. So why then was this considered not applicable to recurring spending, but in a few months it will be?

Answer: because then there was a bloated budget out there to be passed, and Blanco did not want to give the impression that certain priorities needed to be shelved, some efficiencies could be wrung out of state government, or that the state did not need to reach deeper into the people’s pockets. Now that this budget awaits her signature, suddenly we hear no cautions about the Blanco Administration about spending this money on a recurring commitment; indeed, we get pledges that it will be.

What makes this hypocrisy almost comical is the intended beneficiaries, teachers who have yet to prove they’re worth what we pay them at current levels, are not enthused with this raise. “We’re concerned somewhat as to the specifics” says one union thug; another says they’ll be disappointed if it’s not meaningful as defined “at the beginning of the legislation [sic] session.”
Once again, the Blanco Administration demonstrates while it is not that serious about pay raises for teachers, it is serious about using teachers as political pawns to swipe more money from the people.


Independence Day, 2005

This column publishes every Sunday through Thursday after noon (sometimes even before; maybe even after sundown on busy days) U.S. Central Time except whenever a significant national holiday falls on the Monday through Friday associated with the otherwise-usual publication on the previous day (unless it is Independence Day or Christmas when it is the day on which the holiday is observed bu the U.S. government). In my opinion, there are five of these: Memorial Day, Independence Day, Veterans' Day, Thanksgiving Day, and Christmas.

With Monday, July4 being Independence Day, I invite you to explore the link above.