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31.12.09

Jindal continues reform agenda through budget woes

One underappreciated facet of the Gov. Bobby Jindal Administration has been its ability to make lemonade out of lemons and advance a reform agenda simultaneously. This trait surfaced again in Louisiana’s Department of Health and Hospitals forced cuts because of mid-year budget deficits.

With roughly 40 percent of general fund money going into health care, the $248 million total general fund cut was going to make a significant impact on its operations as well as produce the single largest area of fiscal relief for the state Yet when the dust settled, particularly in the area of care of the indigent elderly and developmentally disabled, the Administration made exactly the best moves to induce increased efficiency into the system.

Most prominently, it has accelerated plans to close state-run development centers – in other words, publicly-owned nursing homes for the developmentally (meaning mentally and/or physically) disabled. Their operating expenses are much higher than comparable facilities in the private sector, and some of their clients could be cared for adequately in home- and community-based settings. Also, the state again has scaled back payments to the politically-powerful nursing home industry which for decades has benefitted from extra largesse that has bred wastefulness and inefficiency. This may encourage more transfers from institutional settings into alternatives at cost savings to taxpayers. Yet at the same time, the Administration preserved funding for the very home- and community-based programs that will be expected to take up the slack from the impact of these other changes.

What distinguishes these changes from those of the greater crisis of a year ago is back then alterations to produce savings largely were procedural, while this time they are more reallocation. This is a key and (given political forces) more difficult step in policy evolution but absolutely necessary if savings are to be realized. Some efficiency gains get realized through changing the way tasks are performed, but the real savings come from pulling money from less efficient uses and putting it into activities that produce the same or better outcomes for fewer dollars.

One would hope that these kinds of things would have been done absent any budget crisis on the principle that smaller government is morally better but regardless Jindal has done them in the current forced situation, instead of takings alternatives such as budget gimmickry, not introducing prioritizing into cuts, or, worst of all, raising taxes. Like other actions such as state human resources pay and personnel reform they are unglamorous whose benefits are hard to see but whose self-interested political opponents are vocal in their criticism, yet they bring large and undeniable benefits to the state as a whole. Jindal may be criticized for infrequent pursuit of the large and symbolic, but he must be commended for his ability to insert a conservative approach in the nuts-and-bolts of governing when faced with harsher fiscal times.

30.12.09

Glover's lack of response induces little confidence

Months after the incidents came to light, the only question out of many swirling around a percolating corruption probe into Shreveport’s City Hall that has yet to have been fully answered is whether “accountability” is in the lexicon of Mayor Cedric Glover. That has been answered as an emphatic “no," now buttressed by a largely useless report which is long on stating the obvious and short on accepting responsibility and making changes.

The actions taken by Caddo Parish Sheriff Steve Prator already has netted three employee arrests and another, former supervisor of inspectors Wavey Lester, resignation under duress. Lester, a holdover from former Mayor Keith Hightower’s administration reappointed by Glover, is related to one arrested in the alleged scheme to pay contractors for shoddy, fraudulent, or nonexistent work, and also to city Councilman Calvin Lester. The investigation subsequently spread to the Queensborough Neighborhood Association which is lead by Caddo School Board member Lola May.

Most stunning was that warning signals flashed for years that something was wrong while even the most basic due diligence was being neglected. Director of the department involved, Community Development, Bonnie Moore, also an appointee held over from the Hightower regime, revealed that the program under question did not even vet the presumed “contractors” receiving money to see if they had a contractor license – a process that takes seconds on the Internet. Direct invitations to corrupt actions were issued as a result of the department only a few years ago prohibiting nepotistic transactions – and then allowing those who had been participating such as Wavey Lester’s relative to continue.

This is not the first controversy this decade with the department with Moore’s leadership. Under Hightower, a loan program went bad with seeming political favoritism playing a role in decisions made in Moore’s department. Instead of corrective action, the program simply was stopped.

And Glover since his taking the helm of the city appeared to evince the attitude that he kept the area out of mind, nothing bad could be happening there. He was taken by surprise when Prator launched the investigation months ago, once it started his underlings instead of being cooperative and proactive expressed bafflement over or even passive resistance (such as charging sheriff’s investigators hundreds of dollars for city documents related to the probe before the arrests) to it, and Glover initially defended city actions before nudging Lester to resign.

This leads to some very curious, unanswered questions that only silent Glover can resolve:


  • Why was Moore kept on, despite her record and glacial speed in discovering and trying to address problems in the department?

  • Why were even the simplest procedural changes, such as vetting the status of contractors, never implemented despite Moore’s perception of problems?

  • Why was Wavey Lester kept on, and did it have anything to do with his relations with Councilmen Lester and the contractor?

  • What role did the Fair Share program have to do with the improprieties – the program that mandates that the city identify businesses owned by the “disadvantaged,” such as the arrested contractors who are all racial minorities thereby qualifying their firms and give them assistance to make them as competitive as possible in winning city contracts?

  • Why did the city not begin an investigation itself as it was clear even years ago that some kind of problem was emerging about this program?
    Where was the city auditor Leanis Graham in studying these programs through which millions of dollars passed?

  • What is the city’s relationship with the Queensborough Neighborhood Association, with details about the money that flowed from the city to the organization and whether May’s position had anything to do with that flow of funds?

    Glover has done nothing to address any of these questions. They still need answering because leaving them unresolved both sends to signal that a coverup is in the works to hide far more extensive corruption and/or that the Glover Administration cannot reflect upon or own up to mistakes which gives the impression that it is incapable of running the city in the efficient and ethical fashion that its citizens deserve.

    Firing Moore, who has proven incapable and never would be retained had something like this come to light in the private sector, would be a first good step. Then Glover needs to be honest, even if that means heavy self-criticism, and show some leadership in addressing these concerns. Doing neither risks indicating to the citizenry he is incapable of achieving either.
  • 29.12.09

    Protest notes provide direction to challenge usurpation

    Louisiana officials have joined in calling for the Environmental Protection Agency from backing off its ideologically-driven choice to set the stage for its regulation of carbon emissions as an “endangerment.” How they are doing so may point to a strategy for defeating the power grab.

    As noted previously, a twisted interpretation of a law never intended to apply to what is in fact a nonexistent problem is going to allow the EPA eventually to issue regulations that will have a profound negative impact on the American economy – an issue pointed out in these numerous communiqués. But most galling is that the EPA in the process plans to rewrite unilaterally the law without Congressional approval. To understand why, we must first acknowledge the political nature of the “man-made global warming” issue and the political and monetary agendas of those who support it.

    The hoax largely is aided and abetted because of a mixture of ideology and money. Pres. Barack Obama and many liberal Democrats want to use the issue to acquire more power and privilege for government they think they will control. The federal and other governments dole out huge sums of money to researchers to give them incentives to fashion research that will support this agenda (the exposure of these efforts now turning them into babbling, transparent apologists). Interest groups who share this ideology shut their eyes to the lack of and contradictory evidence to their article of faith (much of the recent research now having been found manipulated to attempt to validate their faith) in order to continue to maintain their purposes and jobs. Genuine scientific inquiry is a casualty of those that assert human activity makes any significant contribution to climate change.

    Yet none of this is argued by the correspondents even as in replies to them the article of faith is reasserted. And all Louisiana legally can do is protest; it has no legislative power to make any changes to this federal concern. However, that the approach is to highlight the impact on property rights and economic freedoms may point to how to overcome the unilateral action of the executive branch, taken because Obama cannot get a reluctant Congress to put into law this policy.

    What the EPA does not want to admit (and which is why it continues to claim it is being “compelled” to act in this way by a Supreme Court decision) is that it intends to act extralegally. The very law it cites as forcing it states that endangerment means regulation essentially of any property with a significant structure on it the size or more of an acre. Unilaterally, the EPA is creating a “tailoring rule” that will increase by an order of two magnitudes the emissions standard by which a property would face regulation because it knows to follow the law as written would subject well over a million new structures to a complicated regulatory process that would be overwhelmingly politically unpopular and enormously expensive.

    The approach that these opponents of the EPA’s usurpation of legislative power appears to focus on a court challenge that initially would make the EPA follow the letter of the law, and once that happens, to sue on the basis that the interpretation of the Clean Air Act of 1971 constitutes impermissible takings under the Constitution. If this is what Gov. Bobby Jindal and others are intending by penning these protests, rather than a futile attempt at persuasion these lay the groundwork for policy that reasserts proper Constitutional authority. As such, they do Louisianans a service.

    28.12.09

    Enjoy Independence Bowl; sustainability questionable

    Today the 2009 edition of the Independence Bowl occurs, in what might the end of the golden era of Shreveport’s Independence Bowl and an eventual slide into oblivion.

    At least it has a title sponsor which may allow it to last longer than the dubious previous one which defaulted on its commitment. Essentially going a couple of years without a sponsor and then with one that quickly stopped paying its money forced the entity that runs it, the Independence Bowl Foundation, to dip into reserves and led Shreveport to make a controversial and secret gift/loan to the organization to keep the game afloat.

    But the problem is these follies did not go unnoticed by college football. This game will be the last matchup between teams from the premier power conferences in the land, the Big 12 and Southeastern Conferences. This decade, they have produced six of the nine mythical national champions and every year but one put one of their teams in the national championship game.