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18.8.11

BR smarter than Holden on "smart" growth snake oil

When referring to former Mayor Tom Murphy of Pittsburgh and his proffering advice about how to create an urban renaissance, the operative word is “rich” – not in the sense meaning following his tactics would produce much wealth, but in it being used as a simile for “laughable.” That’s because if Baton Rouge and other Louisiana central cities followed his course of actions, like Pittsburgh they also would become economic basket cases.

Murphy, who prior to entering elected office had a job similar to that of the nation’s 44th president, was in town to speak at the Louisiana 2011 Smart Growth Summit in Baton Rouge. Having served as mayor from 1994-2006, he oversaw a period of in Pittsburgh where the city’s economic landscape made a transition away from heavy industry. As a result, more service sector jobs, many concentrated in higher-end industries such as higher education and health care, developed.

The strategy Murphy followed involved heavy government infrastructure spending, tearing down and clearing areas, building sports facilities, and pumping money into downtown.

17.8.11

Politics, not facts, lie behind opposing plan privatization

Never walk into an ambush, which Gov. Bobby Jindal astutely avoided yesterday when a biased political organization convened a kangaroo court to convict the Jindal Administration’s potential plan to privatize all state employee health insurance operations. Predictably, the session was short on truth and bereft of reasoned analysis, and all about politics.

Clearly, the sponsoring organization, the League of Women Voters of Baton Rouge – a group that long ago followed its national office in abandoning any pretense of nonpartisanship and since has sung vigorously in the left’s choir – meant to embarrass Jindal in any way possible. It invited a panel so full of their own interests against the idea – a state senator so partisan that if Jindal said 2+2=4 he would insist the equation really equaled 5, an ex-state worker with an axe to grind as Jindal fired him for protecting his power and privilege as opposed to serving employees, retires, and taxpayers, the head of an organization of state retirees that tries to scare them into thinking any move to get the state out of the business resembles the apocalypse, and the head of a state teachers’ union who opposes any government privatization of functions – that it was clear that a Jindal Administration representative simply would serve as a propaganda device to try to legitimize this dog-and-pony show and be ganged up on by the others. There wasn’t even any pretense of fairness, as the head of the sponsor herself had written critically of the idea, and showed entire lack of seriousness by the goofy move of setting an empty space for Jindal Administration representation and the engaging in dramatics to call attention to the fact of its absence.

Denied a hostage to beat, these bullies turned to spouting hot air instead of cold, hard facts.

16.8.11

Fear, lack of vision hold back LA online education

Louisiana, typically dragging its feet in innovation, needs not to let vested interests and limited vision retard utilization of new institutional arrangements and technology not just to educate better its children, but also to offer better service to adult learners at the tertiary level.

This week sees the opening of the state’s first online, virtual charter school, the Louisiana Connections Academy. Interest in it has gone through the ceiling, inviting the usual pushback from the education establishment threatened by any success it may achieve.

As an educator who for over a decade has taught courses online, and who for the past several years has taught the majority of his classes online comprising an entire university major, I can assure you that if done correctly and with students having the right attitude about online learning this method can be very effective.

15.8.11

Bossier City again tries, fails to justify wasted spending

It snowed this spring in Bossier City when its officials addressed the $21 million the city shelled out for a parking garage that could have been paid by the developer of the Louisiana Boardwalk. Good for the developer who is going into receivership as the garage cost would have made the project even less financially feasible for it; bad for the Bossier City taxpayer because what was obvious to everybody except the financial half-wits in elected city office, that the money could have been used in a more productive way on behalf of the citizenry, was worse than thought.

Still, not being the sharpest tools in the shed on these matters, even after making the people pay the wages of their policy sins exemplified through the city’s budget collapse of two years past, Bossier City policy-makers don’t seem to realize their continued defense of this and other poor decisions aren’t convincing to observers who actually can run two brain cells together. Their latest attempt comes through an assertion that, by 2015, the property will have “paid off” the costs associated with it.

At a figure quoted at $43.5 million, roughly half of that figure represented legitimate expenses appropriate for government to pay, such as infrastructure. It also managed to get the bankrupt owner to pay for some as well as the Red River Waterway Commission (which gets its money also from taxpayers). But the simplistic method it uses to claim a payback fools nobody who has any financial sense.