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24.2.05

Ron Sadow, 1931-2005

The letter in the previous post ends, "take care, Dad."

Perhaps this is where my fondness for writing columns come from, since my father was a frequent writer of letters to the editor. At his visitation this afternoon several people remarked upon that. In honor of my father, I am making an exception to what I wrote about my private life in this blog's very first post (last item). Now his memory lives, among other places, in cyberspace:

Ronald Sadow was born in Astoria, New York. A graduate of Flushing (NY) High School, he entered the University of New Hampshire in 1949, where he obtained a B.S. in Civil Engineering in 1953. During his time at UNH he lettered in several sports and played on UNH’s Yankee Conference football team in 1950. He also completed Reserve Officer Training Corps study and was commissioned a second lieutenant in the U.S. Air Force upon graduation. After advanced training at Wright-Patterson AFB in Dayton, OH, he was stationed as an assistant installations officer at Hamilton Air Force Base in San Francisco, CA where he met his future wife Helen and whom he married in 1955. After discharge from the Air Force he attended the University of Tennessee and completed a M.S. concentrating in the area of environmental engineering in 1957. Employed by Dow Chemical for several years in the Norfolk, VA area, a subsequent transfer brought him to the Texas Gulf coast where he worked in areas of increasing responsibility for Monsanto Corp., Turner, Collie, and Braden Engineers, and Walsh Engineering. In 1981 he accepted a senior-level position at Ford, Bacon, and Davis in Monroe, LA where he remained for the next dozen years, and spent one year working for the U.S. Department of Energy’s Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in Carlsbad, NM before retiring from full-time work in 1996. He continued working part-time until his death.

Sadow was a professional engineer for almost 50 years and held numerous offices in, wrote a number of articles about, and won awards in the profession. Licensed in dozens of states, he was an authority on treatment of sewage, wastewater, and runoff. In 1968 he won the American Society of Civil Engineers’ Water Pollution Control Federation’s Wilhelm Rudolfs Award for the best publication in the area, and subsequently he served on the executive board of the organization, as well as on its Texas board, culminating in holding the office of president of the Texas organization in 1971.

Take care, Dad.

23.2.05

One Last Time

I alerted my expert in this field (fourth item, last comments) to this editorial, and here was his reply:

Thanks for the article. Grey water has been used for years in areas of Europe for nonpotable uses. However because of the detergents, etc. it still needs minimal treatment so as to not contaminate grounds undergoing irrigation, etc. As you can visualize, one would need a separate collection and distribution system and this would be very costly and duplicative. The goal is to save and reuse some water. This is more cost-effective when one completely treats the total effluent [this is being done] to potable or acceptable standards for domestic and industrial reuse. There is no shortage of water...it is only misplaced. The technology of treating any water [including seawater] to potable standards has and is being well demonstrated....thus there is no availability problem, only the monetary cost and justification. For Shreveport to discuss the topic of reuse is amateurish.....all they have to do is to employ the proper technology in treating Red River water and they can satisfy any demands made, even split treatment for different users. It just requires a cost-effective justification which the City cannot generate at this point in time. Summation---a dreamy editorial that has little substance nor practicality..........

He has remained anonymous to this point. That will change in my next posting.

22.2.05

Is Bossier City Maturing Politically?

Chances are extraordinarily high that Bossier City will return every single legislative and executive elected official in this April’s election. Such continuity is exceptionally rare in a city its size, a development both reassuring and troubling.

This contrasts the situation in 2001 when candidates came out of the woodworks to contest all but one council district largely as fallout over the imperious way in which the city decided on the building of the CenturyTel Arena. Even the 2003 special election for Council District 1 got three candidates and a spirited contest.

One could argue the merits causing this stability as good things happening in the city. For now, revenues exceed expenditures enough so that emergencies can be covered (such as rapidly increasing pension costs for public safety personnel) and even city services expanded beyond the steadily increasing population. The riverboat rainy day fund sits full and continues to throw off cash (but not for long), the Louisiana Boardwalk commercial development supposedly brings a new day to the city, and the biggest problem is one of growth, increased traffic congestion, which also is being grappled with by the city.

But darker skies loom, bringing a host of problems that will require leadership and vision. At the current level of services and with existing obligations, soon the city will begin to draw down from the riverboat fund – in essence, spend at a deficit level. Some Council members dreamily think that the Boardwalk will provide enough in sales and property tax revenues to keep the budget balanced with current revenues at current service levels, but that is unlikely (remember how five years ago it was supposed to be the arena that was supposed to spark all sorts of development in south Bossier?).

Increasing the ominous nature of this development, were Texas to move to legalize any more gambling, Bossier City could be in serious financial trouble. As dependent as Shreveport has let itself become on gambling (oops, “gaming;” “gambling” is supposed to be suppressed by the state), Bossier City is much more so. The city still largely remains a bedroom community to Shreveport, meaning its ratio of residents to commercial enterprises is higher thereby making the sales and property taxes they could generate per capita lower. The three casinos and Louisiana Downs disproportionately balance things out, so a significant drop in their business or closures would really hurt the city.

Of course, moves to build the Arena and Boardwalk represent attempts to diversify the economy but we have to face that fact that they do/will not attract a significant number of outsiders who would not otherwise spend dollars in the city (a small number that would decline significantly with a reduction in gaming business). The problem is these enterprises are based on a model of consumption rather than production (regardless whether that entails physical or creative goods); it’s the latter which really adds value to a local economy.

In part, the kind of economic development chosen by Bossier City heretofore stems from the kind of political elites picked to run the city. In reviewing the current crop about to be reelected (which largely mirrors past groups in kind), most either come from longtime politically-active families of some prominence or are Air Force transplanted leaders who made politics their next career. In some ways it creates a small, insular clique where political decisions largely get shaped by “insiders,” risking suboptimal decision-making.

This mentality to governance was exemplified in the debate about the Arena. Sold as something which ended up costing twice as much which would bring more benefits than costs, in reality it is like all other publicly-financed entertainment venues (as I have argued convincingly in a past Fax-Net Update column, along with the academicians who study this subject) in that when adding foregone revenues and externalities, it will never achieve that goal. Simply, it got built because of ego, of a desire to make the city seem more “grown up” and its political elites more powerful.

But Bossier City is all grown up, and let us hope that the ease of their reelection does not breed complacency and acquiescence to insular attitudes of the past. Its citizenry can help it mature politically by an increasing proportion of them casting a more critical eye than ever on their city government and its activities, making greater efforts to make their preferences known. If inattentiveness by citizens and ineptitude by leaders occurs, the former will wake up to make the 2009 election cycle make the 2001 version seem tame by comparison.

21.2.05

It'll Take More than Hotlines

Amid much fanfare Gov. Kathleen Blanco recently announced increased efforts to stamp out fraud in state government's operation. This is all well in good; I have seen it committed myself both as a state employee and as a user of state programs so anything that can reduce it certainly is welcome.

But the effort echoes of another anti-corruption attack of 20 years ago, when Mikhail Gorbachev became General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union and thus the Soviet Union’s president. As part of his reform agenda, he asserted that too much corruption slowed the Soviet economy.

Naturally, he had not yet fathomed the thing that stunted the Soviet economy of course was communism itself, with its failed ideology of taking economic power out of the hands of individuals and vesting it in the state. Without any corruption, or drunken employees, and with all the restructuring and openness possible, none of that changed the fact that command economies underperformed free economies (as well as were immoral).

Blanco needs not to fall into this trap. Many reasons exist why Louisiana’s economy underperforms, with the chief one being much the same as the Soviet Union’s except on a smaller scale. But more directly related to corruption as an allied source of this, altering the reputation of the state away from a perception of too much corruption requires more than hotlines, it requires consistency in application.

It’s a hard argument to make that this consistency exists when, just in the past month, the following matters dealing negatively with state ethical matters occurred:

  • Lawmakers talk about raising limits on lobbyists’ gifts
  • Legislators begin talking again about carving out exceptions in the state’s ethics code regarding lobbying, opposed by good government groups
  • A bill gets introduced (H.R. 4) asking for an ethics exception limited to one judicial district (see the Louisiana Legislature Log for more details)
  • Hiring a chancellor at LSU for a record salary who is under investigation by the federal government, while at the same time throwing Boys’ and Girls’ State off campus
  • Bob Odom (need I write more?)

    You can have all the hotlines you want, but these are the types of things that have to get corrected before any significant change in outsiders’ attitudes about the state will occur. It’s nothing she can directly do, but exercise of informal power can succeed, just as when she effectively sabotaged Odom’s scheme to build sugar mills where none are needed. She’s the only one who has any power of such magnitude that even could begin to start reversing this impression in business shying away from the state because of its ethical reputation.
  • 20.2.05

    Louisiana GOP Starting to Stand Up for Its Principles

    This isn’t your 20th century Louisiana Republican Party. The state’s GOP recently has gone on the offensive, taking on Democrats Gov. Kathleen Blanco and Shreveport mayor Keith Hightower through the pen of its chairman Roger Villere, Jr.. He lambasted Blanco for having let a year lapse without an appointment of an inspector general, accusing her deliberately stalling (even the Legislature tried more quickly to hire a legislative auditor, even if they did hire one of their own), and ripped into Hightower (and the Democrats on the City Council, to some extent) for pushing the ill-advised convention center hotel project at the expense of other more important city needs.

    Five years ago, such muscle would have been unexpected, if not unimaginable, out of the state party. Former Gov. Mike Foster, whose Republican heritage began the day he filed to run for Governor in his 65th year, did what he could to emasculate principled conservatism out of the party. He backed a slate of candidates in the 1999 elections for the party’s state central committee, enough of whom won so he could put leaders pliant to him in office, where they remained silent while he let gambling grow, supported tax raises and some Democrats for office, and massively increase state spending (although he did follow a conservative agenda in other ways).

    For a Republican party in a state where a dwindling, but significant number of conservatives calling themselves Democrats still existed, a move to center constituted the worst possible strategy. In some ways it echoed the old, get-along-go-along strategy that many party elites who were socialized into the milieu of the GOP being the minority party had practiced, who conservatism rested more on their desire to keep their economic and social standing intact than on a principled base.

    It showed in election results, where a party that displayed its conservative zeal more often could have swung in their columns the relatively few votes Suzanne Haik Terrell and Bobby Jindal needed to win the U.S. Senate and gubernatorial races, respectively, as well as missing chances to win the Attorney General and Insurance Commissioner spots. It showed in the state legislature, where the GOP never has asserted itself even as it continues to grow stronger in the body and even had Republican state Sen. John Hainkel, former candidate for governor and Senate President, offer to switch parties (again!) to keep his leadership post.

    But perhaps this is changing as well; the new attitude may be infectious. State Sen. Jay Dardenne has told fellow lawmakers that he will push for a bill that wipes out entirely the ability of legislators to receive free sporting tickets from lobbyists. Not only is he crossing up Democrats on this, he’s challenging another of the older guard Republicans in the Legislature, Charles Lancaster who said he thinks the current $100 limit ought to be increased.

    It’s the attitude of party officials like Villere and of elected officials like Dardenne that will drive the GOP to majority status in the state. They correctly grasp the growing discontent of the public with politics as usual, of public officials that place too much emphasis of seeking power and prestige for themselves and their allies. More of a focus on the people’s needs and desires they pursue but, more importantly, they are willing to contrast themselves and this attitude and to challenge Democrats when the latter are on the wrong side of an issue. It is a most welcome change.