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4.3.06

Lawsuit provides Landrieu opportunity against Nagin

New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin has more than reelection to worry about, having become the target of a lawsuit by the National Rifle Association. Nagin ordered police officials to seize privately-held, legal firearms in the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, and a temporary restraining order issued Sep. 23, 2005 enjoined him to cease the practice. Apparently, confiscated weapons have yet to be returned.

What was particularly lamentable is that Nagin had absolutely no authority under either the U.S. Constitution or the Louisiana Constitution to do so. Louisiana statutory law does allow some restrictions on firearms during extraordinary conditions, but does not allow for out-and-out confiscation.

The publicity generated by this suit (probably not accidentally) comes at the launch of the sprint to the mayor’s election Apr. 22 and it only can hurt Nagin’s already tough chances. Four years ago, Nagin got into the general election by capturing a good chunk of the dwindling white vote, where he used it to defeat another black Democrat. However, no serious Republican or white candidate ran in 2002.

The white vote will be even more important this time out because Nagin has three whites, one Republican, running, Lt. Gov. Mitch Landrieu, civic leader and Audubon Institute director Ron Forman and former city councilor Peggy Wilson. But, at the same time, he is the only prominent, credible black candidate in the race.

It is likely that most whites will desert Nagin, and whites will comprise a larger portion of the electorate than they did in 2002. At the same time, without a major black opponent (even if Democrat Landrieu will have some crossover appeal), Nagin could win if he monopolizes the black vote.

Here’s where his controversial confiscation action and the reminder the lawsuit serves of it potentially causes him problems. Security is an issue that cuts across partisan and racial lines. Blacks and whites, Republicans and Democrats, and all others equally needed firearms to protect themselves against looters in the chaotic environment right after Katrina. Indeed, violence may have been higher in neighborhoods that had higher proportions of black residents.

If Landrieu in particular can remind people that Nagin grabbed guns instead of allowing their use to prevent looting and demonstrates a strong Second Amendment through past deed and current words, this could facilitate his crossover appeal to black voters. Wilson and Forman can do so, too, but Landrieu would be the biggest beneficiary because Landrieu probably would be the next port of call for black voters disgruntled with Nagin created by negative campaigning against Nagin.

Landrieu has nothing to lose by emphasizing this, and probably could pick up some white votes as well. It’s a vulnerability Nagin will wish he didn’t have.

1.3.06

Katrina response used to advocate border insecurity

Apparently Sen. Mary Landrieu isn’t the only one wanting to pile on the American Red Cross and government organizations for political gain. Enter the National Council of La Raza, an anti-American group (motto: “For the Race, Everything; Outside the Race, Nothing”) which promotes unfettered illegal immigration into the U.S. regardless of national security concerns, and pursues a predictably redistributive agenda focused on taking wealthy and power from others and transferring it to those of Hispanic origins. It’s upset about the “response” of nonprofits and government to “Hispanics” regarding the 2005 hurricane disasters.

A lot of the sheer idiocy of its agenda is visible right off the top. The group claims government agencies didn’t provide emergency directions in languages other than English which cost Peruvians and Brazilian working along the Gulf Coast their lives. So we’re supposed to have a bunch of evacuation signs posted in Spanish and Portuguese because of a few immigrants who were irresponsible enough not to be have some knowledge of English? When you come to America to work legally, you need to know some basics of the country’s official language. You adapt to America; it doesn’t adapt to you. It’s your own fault when you fail to do so, not this country’s obligation to bend over backwards for you. I’ve been to 50 countries worldwide and I sure didn’t expect there to be signs in English alongside those in Arabic or Bulgarian (for example); even if I’m a visitor it’s my responsibility to figure out to get around and my fault alone if I can’t.

Also, the group in the report whines about how storm victims got deported because they showed up seeking aid. Well, a little common sense tells us that if they were in the country illegally to begin with, they needed to be deported after receiving assistance. (And, of course, had they not illegally entered the country, they wouldn’t have needed help in the first place.)

While labor abuses did occur, the report illogically tries to tie that to the wise suspension of the Davis-Bacon Act that serves to restrain trade and infringes on individual rights. There’s nothing about artificially inflating wages in order to satisfy union greed that would stop illegal labor practices.

The report gets downright contradictory when it faults the Red Cross on the one hand for requiring diversity training of its workers, which slowed response, yet at the same time criticized the organization for not having enough Hispanic volunteers. So what was the ARC to do, break down doors to Hispanic household and impress volunteers? Does La Raza even understand the meaning of the word “volunteer?” And if the ARC declined help from other Hispanic groups as the report alleges, do these other groups need the ARC’s permission to launch their own efforts? (Perhaps another word with which La Raza is unfamiliar is “ingrate.”)

Its recommendations turn out predictably leftist with a heavy emphasis on embracing victimhood and irresponsibility: force government to spend money to support additional languages other than the national language of English, refuse to enforce immigration laws in times of turmoil, shower benefits on illegal aliens, compel the ARC to become more diverse, etc. Much of what it proposes would degrade border security. In short, the whole thing is a waste of resources and intellectual energy, just an excuse to promote an agenda not designed to assimilate to and celebrate the concept of America, but instead to divide and weaken it.

28.2.06

Second, Sixth Districts unlikley to have partisan change

On an earlier occasion I warned that superficial analysis and over-reliance on conjecture would create problems in understanding the political changes wrought by the 2005 hurricanes in Louisiana. Another example has presented itself.

An organization headed by 1980 independent presidential candidate John Anderson, FairVote, recently argued that the impact of the hurricanes could create competitive Second (around New Orleans) and Sixth (around Baton Rouge) District Congressional elections. But this analysis only incorporated subjective conjectures and superficial data. A look at more specific and rigorous data demonstrates this scenario to be rather far-fetched.

As concerns the Second, the simple fact of the matter is with almost half of the district comprised of black Democrats before Katrina, some extreme dislocations would have to occur for it to become competitive. This seems unlikely. Understand that prior to the storm the district had about 250,000 black registrants out of 405,000.

Two-thirds of the district is comprised of part of New Orleans. The city now estimates it has 156,140 people, and the work I’m doing for a paper presented later this week shows the majority of them are black (yes, I will summarize it all for a future posting). It’s not the 68 percent prior to the storm, but when this is broken down into voter registration totals of those present in Orleans that puts a bare minority as black Democrats who almost always vote Democrat.

Keep in mind the election is eight months away, people are still flowing into Orleans the majority of who are black, and that some whites will vote for a Democrat. In short, it is highly unlikely that a Democrat will not win there in the fall, and likely that this person will be black.

There’s only a marginally better chance that the Sixth District, represented by Republican Rep. Richard Baker for almost 20 years, could flip Democrat. The Greater New Orleans Community Data Center’s population estimates show this to be unlikely, reporting state population down about 385,000 in January. The population estimation data only shows an increase of 57,820 total individuals in the Sixth District. Using historical data and assuming they all are black Democrats from Orleans Parish, and further assuming all stay and change their registrations from Orleans, the 56.79 percent who would be registered would comprise 32,836 voters, adding to all black voters in the Sixth District would make the district only 38 percent black.

Further assuming that 82.21 percent of all blacks in the district would be black Democrats, adding to that the 28 percent who are white Democrats, and assuming everybody votes at the same rate their partisanship and other parties registrants split theirs, a Democrat could eke out a victory by about 5 percent of the vote. But historically, white Democrats are as likely to vote for a Republican candidate as they are to stay loyal to their party in the Sixth District’s contest, making a Democrat win, all other things held equal, an unlikely scenario – especially with the election ten months away from the date of this data and continued predicted movement from the Sixth District back to the Second.

I like to think that the intentions of FairVote on this issue were genuine. Its purpose is to suggest changes to electoral codes and systems to better reflect popular will in elections. However, they use their conclusions to support changes suggested by their conclusions, opening the possibility of why they were a bit too lax in their research methods was because such conclusions could assist their agenda. In any event, careless research will do nothing to increase our understanding of Louisiana’s post-hurricanes political geography.

27.2.06

Make correct, not expedient, changes in higher education

As is proper, Louisiana is reviewing the provision of higher education in the state in the light of the 2005 hurricane disasters. The luxury of too many baccalaureate degree-granting campuses no longer can be sustained in light of the new fiscal realities.

The main reason why Louisiana has gotten into the position where it has 14 such institutions is because politics, rather than educational or financial considerations, have played the main role in determining what gets taught where. There’s little real reason to have in smaller cities a Northwestern State, Southeastern, Nicholls State, Louisiana Tech, or Grambling when they all are within a hour’s drive of major metropolitan areas with their own (often more than one) major state universities. It also makes little sense to have a Southern University right down the street from the University of New Orleans, and another Southern University up the road from Louisiana State University Baton Rouge.

But you just can’t pick up whole campuses and transport them so the state is looking into some kinds of consolidations. Obviously, the move making the most sense would be to end the Southern University system and combine them into the appropriate LSU schools (including associate degree-granting Southern University Shreveport with Bossier Parish Community College) and to combine Grambling and Louisiana Tech, institutions that grant undergraduate and graduate degrees just miles apart from each other in an area of population about 30,000.

Of course, that will never happen because the schools to be merged into others will themselves and have their alumni (a few of whom roam the state Legislature) complain about the end of tradition and will claim each school has a unique, distinct mission – if any of that is true, it certainly pales in comparison to the hundreds of millions of dollars the state would save each year by this rearrangement. In the end politics, rather than efficient delivery of higher education, will win out.

More limited reforms could occur concerning the campuses in small cities near large ones, where they are more than several miles apart and could not easily consolidate resources. But it cannot occur for trivial reasons. As consultants recently have observed, there must be some synergy of functions, or nothing meaningful gets accomplished.

Fortunately, a synergistic-based strategic plan already exists – the Board of Regents of the State of Louisiana’s 2001 Master Plan. I’ll use my employer, whose views I may or may not represent on this issue, Louisiana State University Shreveport, as an example on how this can work.

LSUS is designated in the plan as the comprehensive university in Northwest Louisiana – that is, it should be the primary institution in serving educational needs in this part of the state. Historically, it has not been. NSU has been allowed to poach students through Shreveport-based programs such as its nursing programs. Tech has been allowed to offer graduate coursework at its Barksdale Air Force Base satellite campus. And graduate medical education, of course, is taken care of by the LSU Health Sciences Center Shreveport.

Given the disparate locations and roles of the programs involved, a merger really would not work. Instead, shifting of programs makes much more sense. Something like this should occur:

  • NSU’s School of Nursing should be transferred into LSUHSC (which should not, given LSUHSC’s current scope and facilities, not result in the loss of accreditation)
  • Tech should be made more purely into an engineering school, with transfers of functions such as offering degree in the Liberal Arts to LSUS
  • Any Tech graduate programs currently offered in Shreveport should be transferred to LSUHSC or LSUS, wherever appropriate
  • Some serious thought should be made to transferring NSU’s educational instruction to LSUS, even though NSU has a long history in this area (it started as a teachers’ college) because, quite simply, there’s a whole lot more demand for teachers in the 350,000-person Bossier and Caddo Parishes than there is in 25,000-person Natchitoches Parish.

    Obviously, politics will intrude on these suggestions, too. NSU and Tech will scream about losing these functions. But these are the kinds of things consultants need to be considering because they will save the state tens of millions of dollars (my best guess; it could be much higher) a year and will bring more rationality to higher education in the state. Whether common sense will prevail on this matter is another matter entirely.
  • 26.2.06

    Landrieu mayoral win creates intriguing statewide scenarios

    Last week, Lt. Gov. Mitch Landrieu revealed one of the worst kept secrets around recent New Orleans that he will run for mayor in April. As interesting as this might be concerning politics in the Crescent City, it makes for even more interesting ramifications statewide.

    Were Landrieu, as currently he is favored, to win the top job in New Orleans, he no longer could ascend to the state’s top job of Governor as Lt. Governor. What makes this more than an academic point is that a concerted recall effort is taking place aimed at Gov. Kathleen Blanco.

    Legally, a petition must meet the one-third registered voter mark within 180 days, and then officials would have 20 days to certify it. Given this time frame (with any general election for mayor, as expected, to occur May 22), the next election date that could be scheduled for the recall would be the Sep. 30 contest to fill two other statewide offices.

    This would give Blanco plenty of time (the Constitution gives no specifics) to choose Landrieu’s successor who would face confirmation by the Legislature (convenient, since it would be in session at the time if she’s quick about it). In essence, she might be picking her own successor if things don’t go well for her.

    (This month or so would be an interesting time in the state. Should the governor’s office become prematurely vacant at this time, there would be no Lt. Governor to assume the job. Neither would there be an “elected” Secretary of State that would be next in line – the current holder of that office Al Ater was not elected. That would put Atty. Gen. Charles Foti – whose family is married into the Landrieu clan – in the Governor’s Mansion. How about that for a Landrieu anaconda wrapping itself around the state?)

    This duty presents quite a choice for Blanco. She must be relieved that a potential gubernatorial rival now is out, and she would want to pick somebody that would not become a political rival to her; indeed, she would want an ally on the chance she does get recalled successfully and/or to assist her in reelection efforts. Is this a backdoor way for Jim Bernhard to finally get the political power he has craved?

    And it’s something she needs to start working on immediately. With Landrieu looking like he well could be out of the picture for a succession, this can only encourage people to sign the recall petition who otherwise would not want to see two Landrieus in three of the most powerful statewide elected offices in Louisiana.

    Nothing can happen unless Landrieu wins, but if he does, the situation will conjure up some political intrigue exciting even by Louisiana’s inflated standards.