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18.2.06

Democrats prefer preservation over responsibility in session

As if we needed any more proof of the inability of Louisiana’s current gubernatorial administration’s and its Legislature’s leadership to serve the people of the state, the recently-concluded special session delivered it in abundance.

The biggest priority, of course, was not even part of the special session call: trimming the low-value programs from state government and thoroughly reviewing personnel distribution to cut a bloated state bureaucracy (this had better be part of the regular session starting in five weeks). The next biggest priority was levee governance reform, followed by consolidation of Orleans government to save money and improve the city’s ability to bounce back from the recent hurricane disasters.

State Sen. Walter Boasso got the southeastern regional levee board consolidation and professionalization off to a good start at the session’s beginning, with a nice pep talk by Gov. Kathleen Blanco. However, Boasso then began to run into legislative critics who wanted to protect political fiefdoms that their local levee districts represented to them and/or who felt too much political pressure from local interests (backbones often being in short supply among Louisiana’s legislators) to stick with his plan. For awhile, any sort of reform looked as if it would founder.

Blanco seemed disinterested in salvaging the enterprise until the waning days of the session, with legislators saying she did not even bother to contact them until late. But what really seemed to turn the tide to produce any reform at all was federal relief coordinator Donald Powell lecturing the Legislature that reform had to come or the federal government would look much more dimly at providing any sort of relief. In the end, a watered-down bill that will improve somewhat the situation made it out.

But Blanco whiffed totally on consolidation of Orleans government – if she at all tried. She sent out her House leader Speaker Joe Salter alone to carry the water of consolidating the judicial system with no backup (commented upon by committee members who heard the bill), and the bill was killed before it could be brought to a vote. Combining the seven Orleans assessors into one like all other parishes didn’t even get that far, dying in committee. On both, Blanco or any executive officials were AWOL.

Incredibly, contrast this to the treatment that two useless, if not detrimental, pieces of legislation got from Democrat elected officials. Blanco personally asked the Democrat-controlled Legislature to pass a bill that would allow people without positively identifying themselves to be able to vote in upcoming New Orleans elections, increasing the chances of fraudulent elections – and it complied. And when the House initially balked at allowed the utilization of satellite voting centers in populous parishes for that election (with a perfectly good, easy, and no-extra-cost early voting system already in place), not only Blanco, but Sec. of State Al Ater, Lt. Gov. Mitch Landrieu, and Atty. Gen. Charles Foti (Democrats all) threw their weight behind it with their own testimony in its favor as it squeaked out of committee towards eventual passage in both chambers.

In short, the Democrats who lead the state and Legislature fought harder for their own preservation with measures designed to boost Democrat fortunes and to reward politics as usual in Democrat-run New Orleans, than they did to secure the property and lives of the people of the state. This callous disregard for the welfare of the state’s people in favor of their own self-interests neither should surprise long-time watchers of politics in the state nor be insufficient evidence to its citizens to send these sorry excuses for leaders home for good in 2007.

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