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Low turnouts won't eliminate LA elective offices

With the absurdly-low turnout for the Louisiana treasurer special election, some talk has emerged about eliminating as elective minor statewide elective offices like that. That will prove daunting in a state with a political culture built upon office-holding.

Almost every state goes beyond the federal government model of two elected executives because of presumed “good government” movements in the latter part of the nineteenth and early part of the twentieth centuries. Then, because of rampant corruption in many state governments, reformers decided by fragmenting power in state governments this would prevent its concentration that made graft inviting and possible. Louisiana’s rich history, if anything, encouraged this multiplicity from reformers.

States vary in the number of elected singular executives, ranging from New Hampshire electing only its governor to South Carolina and Washington having nine. When it enacting its 1974 Constitution, Louisiana remained part of that highest tier, including the seven still elected today plus a commissioner of elections and a superintendent of education.


Ties to Jindal unhelpful, to Edwards unpenalized

Oversimplified and grossly stated, the lesson this past weekend for Louisiana state elections was some connection to former Gov. Bobby Jindal turned into a penalty, while you got a pass if you had connected yourself to current Gov. John Bel Edwards.

Although lawyer Democrat Derrick Edwards racked up the most votes in the special election for treasurer, Republican former state Rep. John Schroder turned out the winner. Edwards, no relationship to the governor, ran a shoestring campaign but put some egg on the face of a state party that refused to back him by parlaying merely his position as the only Democrat running to capture 31 percent of the vote, with Schroder trailing at 24 percent.

But that bested both former Jindal Administration official Angéle Davis and state Sen. Neil Riser, who had 22 and 18 percent, respectively, both of the GOP. Analysis by regions in Louisiana reveal how Schroder gained the runoff, where he becomes the massive favorite to triumph and complete the term to 2019.


New Orleans vote results promise further decline

While New Orleans continues its pursuit of mediocrity, Jefferson Parish makes a bit of progress away from it, local election results this weekend revealed.

With a statutory change since its last elections, New Orleans now has these in the fall previous to the year in which terms end. The final numbers reveal a depressing acquiescence to greater government control and collectivism, placing redistribution ahead of wealth creation: of the 48 candidates for mayor and City Council, 37 ran as Democrats with just one Republican. Needless to say, the next mayor and seven councilors all will be Democrats spanning the ideological scale from moderate liberal to very liberal.

The mayoral candidates that went into a runoff, City Councilwoman LaToya Cantrell and former judge Desiree Charbonnet, of the serious contestants ran the furthest left ideologically. Their platforms of items such as supporting a “living wage,” using government fiat to control housing provision, promising greater expenditures without realistic plans to pay for these other than tax increases, diversion of city contracting money based upon race and sex of contractors along with other appeals to identity politics, and committing the city to expensive, economic development-unfriendly and unnecessary environmental schemes barely distinguish themselves from each other.


More hotel unionization harmful to New Orleans

Great; just as New Orleans finally has struggled past its pre-Hurricane Katrina tourism benchmarks, it takes a step backwards with an unnecessary escalation in some lodging prices that will deter visitors.

That will happen as a result of unionization of its largest hotel, the Hilton New Orleans Riverside. UNITE HERE and management currently negotiate a contract for around 500 workers, although bringing them into the cartel’s fold increases union penetration into the city’s overall hospitality industry only to four percent.

Advocates of the development spent some effort blowing sunshine up people’s skirts. Leftist interest groups took note and booked more business at it. Workers obviously ignorant of how the world works crowed about how they could get a “fair share” Hilton’s profits. Even an academician, clearly not trained in economics, thought this could make more jobs into “middle class.”


On LA juries, racism argument proves insufficient

If the U.S. Supreme Court someday were to incorporate the Sixth Amendment in its entirety, the facile argument to do so that it recently dismissed without even granting it a hearing should play no part.

Last week, upon announcing its agenda for its 2017-18 session, the Court notified that it would not hear a Louisiana case challenging the exceptional nature of the Sixth Amendment’s application, which governs conduct of criminal trials. This case asked that the high court incorporate through the Fourteenth Amendment the unanimous jury requirement that justices in 1972 ruled applies to federal trials. Uniquely among the Bill of Rights’ contents, the Sixth Amendment contains the only right split between federal and state governments and therefore treated differently.

Only Louisiana and Oregon have opted to use non-unanimous juries for convictions, both born from allegedly racist motives. One theory floated in Louisiana’s case argues that it standard, ten of twelve for conviction, came because the state had a population then about 15 percent black; thus, a typical jury would contain two blacks (men, in those days).


Only one LA amendment merits voter approval

This upcoming Saturday, Louisianans have just three constitutional amendments to wade through at the voting booth, although these hit on the all-too-familiar themes of state and local taxation.

Amendment #1 would preclude levying taxes on property under construction and not yet in use. Currently, the Constitution and statute give next to no guidance on this matter, nor do any rulings by the Louisiana Tax Commission. This leaves subject to local interpretation what an assessor should do in the case of incomplete projects that can take a long time for building to conclude, with treatment ranging from no taxation at all on improvement until finished to taxing on the entire value of the end result even if not entirely operational and everything in-between.

The amendment would allow assessors to use discretion in determining the usefulness of the improvement and value it all from there. It seems to strike a good balance between having a known standard and allowing for tackling matters on a case-by-case basis. Further, the relative predictability it would bring will encourage economic development, as it will remove incertitude on this issue for decision-makers regarding locations and expansions. Yes.


Case remains to merge, demote LA universities

President of the University of Louisiana System Jim Henderson recently made some remarks regarding the role of higher education in the state which deserve comment and challenge.

Meeting with the Baton Rouge Advocate’s editorial board, Henderson answered questions over his first year on the job. In particular, two topics brought up merit amplification.

During the interview, he shilled for a plan devised by the system that, among others things, pledged to increase the number of graduates. It hopes to increase by 20 percent this figure by 2025, a number which comes from two inputs: the amount of individuals eligible for university education and the skill at which institutions utilize to confer degrees upon them.


Special interests overwhelm Graves' good sense

Seeing as the law makes little sense, why does Louisiana’s Republican Rep. Garret Graves want to die on the Jones Act hill?

Better known as the Merchant Marine Act of 1920, among other things the federal statute prohibits transshipment among U.S. ports by foreign-flagged vessels. It has provisions for specific and general waivers, and GOP Pres. Donald Trump enacted the latter for ten days regarding Puerto Rico in the aftermath of the recent hurricane disasters inflicted upon the islands.

This launched Graves into criticism mode, who called it a solution looking for a problem. He argued that relief efforts suffered more from internal distribution on the main island than in getting stuff there. He noted a majority of Puerto Rico’s commerce already came from foreign vessels and said it would cost Gulf Coast shippers jobs.


Clarity needed on LA child care center cameras

If Louisiana wishes to use cameras as an enforcement tool in child care centers, it needs to clarify potential use of these.

In August, the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, which regulates these businesses, promulgated a rule that would allow inspectors to review video recordings. Nothing requires a licensed facility to have this equipment or that it include audio. Operators argue that their voluntary installation of such devices occurs primarily for their own employee oversight and as a selling point for client families, as parents can hook into video feeds to monitor their children. Perhaps only a quarter of all sites have cameras running.

According to the rule, inspectors have access to recordings whenever they visit during operating hours or the facility has children present, although no legal instrument defines how long centers archive these. Inspectors may show up without provocation.


Bench protesting students to teach life lesson

If high school football players take to protesting whatever through disrespectful conduct towards symbols representing ideas behind the Constitution, the most important lesson they should learn isn’t utilizing free expression, but that actions have consequences.

After two Sundays ago, when National Football League players in significant number began not acknowledging the U.S. flag or standing at attention facing it during playing of the National Anthem, school officials rightly suspected copycat action would appear on the horizon as well. If nothing else, children obey faddishness and let themselves get swept up in trends, in this instance a reaction by professional players against remarks made by Pres. Donald Trump denigrating those who acted as such.

To cut this trendiness off at the pass, on instructions from the Bossier Parish School Board Superintendent Scott Smith in no uncertain terms mandated that students choosing to participate in extracurricular activities such as football have to observe decorum regarding the flag and Anthem. The district’s high school principals, such as Parkway High School’s Principal Waylon Bates, drove the point home further by issuing a letter to athletes and parents demanding standing in a respectful manner during the Anthem. Violators refusing to do that could be punished by coaches and school officials.


Candidates hope outsider campaigns bag wins

Does the outsider approach to winning campaigns still have legs, after its greatest victory last year? Louisiana candidates in elections later this month hope so.

Since political newcomer Republican Pres. Donald Trump knocked off the most establishmentarian of establishment candidates (who still doesn’t understand why she lost), more people than ever running for office seem eager to embrace the outsider approach – running against a government’s elected class as a whole. As proof, high profile contests at both the state and local level in Louisiana illustrate this.

Republican treasurer candidate Angéle Davis from the gun has run a campaign stressing her congruence with Trump. A number of her communications demonstrate the linkage, where she expressly brings up Trump’s agenda and allies herself to that, despite the fact little of it directly addresses the role of treasurer. Within five seconds of her recorded voice calls, she informs listeners that she aligns herself with his ideas.


End govt preferences bias in electioneering

It’s time for Louisiana to make campaigns concerning ballot propositions more impartial, taking away a bias that favors government preferences.

State law does not address how local governments may involve themselves in elections such as on taxation matters. Nor does it require local governments to regulate electioneering; some, like Bossier Parish, put matters like legal placement of campaign signs in a Unified Development Code or elsewhere in their code of ordinances.

Livingston Parish does not, making no mention of the issue at all. That’s why a sign has appeared on Walker High School property visible to traffic concerning an “OPERATIONS FUNDING RENEWAL” for “Livingston Parish Public Schools” asking viewers to “VOTE October 14,” and, for those not swift on the uptake, reiterates that “This is NOT a new tax!”


LA one step closer to legalized hooting up

Louisiana has gotten one step closer to hooting up in mass by securing both cannabis distribution channels relative to a permissive medical marijuana law that legalization proponents don’t like.

Last week, Southern University chose the Lafayette shell company Advanced Biomedics to operate the school’s medical marijuana business. Until 2020, statute allows Southern and Louisiana State University to do so, each by itself or through proxy, producing all but inhalable cannabis products while emphasizing reduced THC levels, for “recommendation” by physicians to address a variety of ailments.

LSU previously chose GB Sciences, based in Nevada, as its operator. Given federal laws’ prohibition on growing the cannabis sativa plant, although state law said only the two Baton Rouge-based universities could grow the crop, each has farmed out the task over concerns that doing it themselves might threaten receipt of federal research grants.


Caddo rebel monument on the move ... maybe

Except for a Hail Mary that would shake up more than just the current dispute, it looks as if the Confederate monument by the Caddo Parish Courthouse will head to the dustbin of history.

Last week, the full Caddo Parish Commission voted to advance an ordinance to move the object. On Oct. 19 the vote on the actual measure will come, but the balloting that pushed the matter forward and on another signals high certainty that this will succeed.

During its Monday work session prior to the Thursday regular meeting, Commissioner Lyndon Johnson proposed the movement. With little debate, commissioners voted 8-4 to put the item on the future agenda, with Commissioners John Atkins, Mario Chavez, Doug Dominick, and Jim Smith opposing. This disregarded the recommendation of a task force set up by the Commission that called for adding monuments or other material to the area next to the existing object that would expand the historical overview about the object and, more generally, address race relations.


Battle to come over last year's surprise surplus?

Just because Louisiana finds itself with a surplus in closing out fiscal year 2017 doesn’t mean it can’t apply this money to next fiscal year.

Realized revenues for last fiscal year went $143.2 million above the budgeted baseline. It might hit $143 million. But, as it becomes in a sense “bonus” money, those kinds of dollars the state only may spent on a set of nonrecurring items, classified in the Constitution as paying off bonds early, reducing the unfunded accrued liability in retirement accounts, spending on capital outlay (especially for roads with federal matching funds available), filling the Budget Stabilization Fund, or engaging in coastal restoration efforts. The law also gives priority to the BSF and UAL, designating a minimum of 25 percent (or, if greater, $25 million) and 10 percent, respectively, of any declared surplus goes to these.

House Speaker Taylor Barras already has voiced a preference to put at least $99 million into the BSF. That would repay draining it that amount in the year’s first special session, although the BSF statutory ceiling would allow depositing a much larger amount. By the numbers, with the recently found money at least $35.8 million must go to the BSF and $14.3 million to chip away at the UAL.


Report should spur reduced LA teacher leave

As bad as teacher absences are in Louisiana traditional public schools, it could be worse, data from a recent report show, yet it can become better with enlightened leadership.

It never hurts to state the obvious, and the Thomas B. Fordham Institute did just that by comparing absenteeism of Louisiana teachers in traditional compared to charter schools: teachers in traditional schools have a rate almost three times that of those in charter schools. Duh; considering that traditional public school teachers have had a fairly malleable evaluation system where fewer that one in a hundred draw remediation for incompetent performance (although evaluations become more rigorous starting this year), and school districts give off at least ten sick/emergency including two personal days a year, they have every incentive to take all of those days, leaving classrooms in the hands of substitutes largely often without college degrees with districts footing additional costs as a result.

A dozen days are average among the 35 states with significant numbers of charter schools. In Louisiana, the law mandates at least ten sick days with the two days but sick, not personal, days may accumulate. Teachers absent more than five days consecutively must provide documentation of the illness, but days taken here or there they can take one with impunity, up to their banked days.


Cassidy receives reminder of left's agenda

If Louisiana Sen. Bill Cassidy hadn’t realized it after a decade in politics, he knows it now: these people aren’t your allies, much less your friends.

Some months ago, Cassidy remarked that he would like to see health care insurance reform pass a “Jimmy Kimmel test.” This referred to a sometimes humorous but politically vapid late-night television talk show host whose son was born with a heart problem. Having Cassidy on his show, Kimmel ventured the eponymous test should be “no family should be denied medical care, emergency or otherwise, because they can’t afford it.”

If so, the misnamed Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”) fails. It doesn’t provide such a guarantee because it leaves over 28 million uninsured, with more on the way as it continues to drive premium prices higher – up on average 60 percent since full Obamacare implementation in 2013. Further, the related Medicaid expansion does not increase the amount of medical care delivered because insurance and actual delivery are two different things.


Treasurer's choice illustrates Democrats' atrophy

So, it’s come to this: in a treasurer’s field containing one of their own, Louisiana Democrats may vote for a Republican because he seems to them least likely to use that office as a springboard for something more exalted.

That seems like the plan for at least some high-profile New Orleans elected Democrats who back state Sen. Neil Riser in the race to fill out the term of now-Sen. John Kennedy. The Columbia Republican faces off against, among others, fellow GOP former state Rep. John Schroder and past Secretary of Culture, Recreation, and Tourism Secretary as well as former Commissioner of Administration Angéle Davis. Also, he competes against a Libertarian, another Republican, and a Democrat.

But the Democrat, Derrick Edwards, has failed to gain the backing of the state party and any of its influential elected officials, even though polling puts him in a runoff. He would seem to have potential: for a party that takes great store in finding “victims” supposedly needing redress for the oppression/discrimination they face, Edwards ticks off the two boxes of racial minority and disability. Additionally, he has an inspirational story of suffering quadriplegia yet persevering to earn advanced college degrees, most recently law in which he currently practices.


All-GOP lineup challenges in LA PSC contest

For Louisiana Public Service Commission District 2, what’s a Democrat or Republican voter to do? 

They face different challenges in the election next month to replace the vacated seat. For Democrats, they not only don’t have a horse in the race, but solely Republicans entered the starting gate. For Republicans, they must figure out how to choose among the three.

Lining up are former state Rep. Damon Baldone, orthopedic surgeon Dr. Craig Greene, and former state Rep. Lenar Whitney. Each has different charms and warts depending upon the partisan leanings of a voter.


Cassidy's option not as good as other tactics

The question posed by Louisiana Sen. Bill Cassidy’s latest effort is whether those wishing to have sanity return to American health care insurance can use this as a bridge to get there or if letting the stench worsen has a better chance of succeeding in that.

Cassidy and three co-sponsors rolled out legislation yesterday to make substantive changes to health care policy, to mixed reviews from his fellow Republicans and conservatives and predictably partisan caterwauling from Democrats and the political left. It will act as an amendment to a budgetary bill and must pass within the next two weeks, but only after vetting from the Congressional Budget Office to ensure it does not raise significantly the national debt.

For that reason, it has slim chances of passing. The compressed time frame leaves little opportunity for analysis and to gather support. At present, a majority of Republicans would vote for it, but all but two would have to commit. Cassidy and his co-sponsors argue that not only does this represent the last chance to alter substantially the failing Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”) for at least a year, but also allege that without it a “single-payer” system become probable – a ruinous government-run health care system that promises worse care for at least a trillion dollars a year more.


LA Catholic leaders confuse faithful on politics

Louisiana Catholic Church leaders sometimes make it more difficult for the faithful to align their political views to their spiritual beliefs.

This year, a number of actions taken by politicians have invited Catholics to examine how their faith should translate into the political world. The interrogation a week ago by a pair of Senate Democrats – one nominally Catholic – about a Catholic judicial nominee’s faith as it relates to abortion jurisprudence underscores this.

On this matter, some individuals representing the Church cause confusion rather than clarity. It sometimes comes in the form of publicly-rendered judgments such as with reactions to some executive orders issued by Pres. Donald Trump.


Sportcaster tries hand as social justice warrior

Injecting a full dose of ignorance into the debate over a Shreveport basketball arena, Fox Sports announcer and native Tim Brando recently showed why the world doesn’t come rushing to figures in the sports world to gather informed political commentary.

Last month, Shreveport Mayor Ollie Tyler proclaimed that the city would pursue building a facility to house a New Orleans Pelicans minor league team. That would cost the city $30 million, with another $100 million spent by the Alabama firm Corporate Realty to build stores and a hotel around it. Pelican management remains undecided about where to locate the squad.

Opposition immediately surfaced as Shreveport has roughly $750 million in infrastructure needs without funding presently for $300 million, meaning the $30 million would displace other priorities. And the $30 million would depend upon roughly $2 million a year in tax collections from the complex for decades; given Shreveport’s troubled history with supporting professional sports franchises – currently none – and the past instability of what the National Basketball Association at present calls the G-League with 46 different team structures that last a little under five years on average, there is no guarantee the team would stay an extended period of time or generate enough money to repay the bonds.


Shore up flood insurance with individual mandate

As debate over extension of the National Flood Insurance Program rages while tropical disturbances that bring flooding rage, lawmakers should keep cognizant of the larger picture and remember what is sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander.

Historically, almost annually a significant flood hits somewhere in the U.S. Whether it be from sources as gigantic as the recent Hurricanes Harvey and Irma that just slammed Texas and Florida or as nondescript as the heavy rains that inundated New Orleans a month earlier, or from the Red River in northwest Louisiana to the other Red River in North Dakota, flooding that breaches habitable structures occurs widely in the country under widely different conditions. Indeed, last year every state had at least one NFIP claim.

Yet the U.S. has a schizophrenic policy to deal with these disasters. Almost a half-century ago, policy-makers hoped establishment of the NFIP would create a stable, self-funded regime to take care of the matter. But that rigid, government-run program takes poorly into account actual risk into its pricing, which as a result has failed to accumulate enough reserves to stave off losses triggered by huge weather events. As such, the program has debt of $25 billion.


Will Ethics Board act on more than just Richard?

OK, so the Louisiana Board of Ethics got state Rep. Dee Richard. What’s the holdup on everybody else?

Next week, the Board reportedly will announce a settlement with Richard over $37,000 in campaign funds he apparently misspent. R.S. 18:1505.2 states that campaign funds shall not be used, loaned, or pledged by any person for any personal use unrelated to a political campaign. Richard will admit he spent that on gambling, an addiction he maintains he developed as a result of taking legally-prescribed medication.

A dose of irony comes along with that. Richard has made a career in the Legislature in efforts to reduce the addiction that state government has to spending money, and now he gets busted over his own profligate, illegal spending. Term-limited but not intending to resign early over the incident, his district’s voters now may decide whether to attempt his recall over this breach of trust.


Edwards' model unlikely to gain his party's favor

Can Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards teach Democrats how to win in the South? The answer to this title of a recent Politico website story is more pessimistic than it lets on.

Written by my The Advocate colleague Tyler Bridges, who pumped this out as he left for a fall semester gig as a Shorenstein Media Fellow at Harvard University, it explores whether Democrats elsewhere in the region can transport Edwards’ shock win in 2015 to their own turfs. Bridges gives the effort some hope, writing that the “progressive” elements in Edwards’ governorship should convince his fellow partisans beyond the border to overlook his seeming anti-abortion views and support for the Second Amendment that produce a perception of him  by some as a social conservative.

But Bridges oversells this case – one that he admits isn’t that strong to begin with – in two important ways. First, Edwards’ fidelity to the playbook that gives Democrats their only shot to win in the South – at least pose as a social conservative while espousing class warfare – has serious holes in the first instance.


Will LA left indulge in fascism on donations?

Will the Scarlet D reverberate in Louisiana? More interestingly, how will cultural elites, especially on the political left, react to any appearance by it?

If delayed, it turns out that higher-dollar donors to former Louisiana state Rep. David Duke can face consequences for their support of the white supremacist’s U.S. Senate campaign last year. The Federal Election Commission reported 129 contributions of $250 or greater in 2015-16 – campaigns must report information on persons making these – to fund Duke’s effort, and it seems some have caught significant grief over this.

In California, business fell at a longtime restaurant forcing its closure because of boycotts over the owner’s gift. In Minnesota, many employees staged a walkout from a bar owned by a Duke donor.


Edwards' SNAP policy continues to hurt LA

It’s Labor Day, although one noxious policy decision by Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards makes every day for some like Labor Day’s excuse for not having to work.

As soon as he entered office, Edwards rescinded his predecessor former Gov. Bobby Jindal’s last-minute change that allowed the state’s Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program waiver to expire. That allowed able-bodied adults without dependents to continue receiving food stamps beyond the three out of 36 months period unless working or in a training program for at least 20 hours a week.

Edwards later issued a cosmetic executive order allegedly addressing the open-ended nature of the benefit, mandating that recipients had to report regularly for job training centers – which they already had to do in many cases to receive unemployment insurance, replicating for SNAP the same undemanding requirement to draw that. This does little or nothing to encourage work, which withdrawal of SNAP benefits certainly would do, if history provides any guide.


State wisely lets go of park money sinkhole

Finally, a park that entered the state’s realm under suspicious circumstances will return to where it came, eroding little its value to Louisiana’s recreational system while relieving taxpayers of a large load.

Confirmation came this month that Hodges Gardens State Park would close and transfer back under control of the previous owners. A private citizen had developed the area initially as a private home, and over time opened it to the public. Known mostly for its horticultural offerings, under state control it would expand on amenities that provided camping, oversight lodgings, boating and fishing, and an amphitheater.

The foundation that had run it offered it to the state around the time of the hurricane disasters of 2005. A number of aspects should have discouraged the then-Gov. Kathleen Blanco Administration from accepting it. Money would be tight for a couple of years, yet the state would incur startup costs of over $1 million and roughly the same in operating expenses each year. Much of the park had features similar to several within a few dozen miles in a sparsely-populated area of the state, but this one would cost much more to run in order to service the botanical gardens, the one unique feature not only in comparison to the nearby alternatives, but also statewide.


Litmus test strikes again for LA Democrats

You would think Louisiana Democrats would embrace Derrick Edwards as the perfect candidate for state treasurer. But the party’s litmus test plus its aversion to looking impotent instead makes him an outcast.

At its most recent meeting, the party’s executive committee failed to endorse Edwards despite his qualifying as the only Democrat in the contest. Moreover, he ticks off two victim class boxes, racial minority and person with disability; Democrats generally allege that American society discriminates against minorities and the disabled, mandating increased government efforts to redistribute resources their way. And, Edwards seems competitive as he polls in the lead for the spot.

Historically, the party has abjured endorsing even those statewide candidates who show strength. In 2011, it refused to back the contestant who would garner the second-most votes in the governor’s race, Tara Hollis, claiming it did not want to coronate a candidate in a field with multiple Democrats running. But it also didn’t endorse Democrat Donald Hodge, the only opponent to Republican Insurance Commissioner Jim Donelon, where Hodge would go on to capture around a third of the vote. And in 2015, in a governor’s race with multiple Democrats running, it did endorse current Gov. John Bel Edwards (no relation to Derrick) months earlier than typical.


Shreveport chases team at taxpayers' expense

In the latest iteration of a northwest Louisiana’s build-it-and-they-will-come fantasy, Shreveport has decided to go all in on attracting a minor-league basketball team by spending up to $30 million in taxpayer money. How this provides a net benefit to the taxpayer remains unexplained.

Mayor Ollie Tyler cajoled a City Council majority to approve of the courtship with the New Orleans Pelicans of the National Basketball Association. Many league teams sponsor a second-division club in the newly-renamed G-League, and, after an initial pitch by Tyler, the team has narrowed its choices to Shreveport and Pensacola.

Landing the squad would provide quite a boost for a metropolitan area that has seen a long list of failed minor league professional franchises in recent years. The 1990s turned out as the golden era of area pro sports, when Shreveport boasted teams in second-division football and basketball and in third-division baseball and hockey, plus a second-tier golf tournament.


Liberal Landrieu not enough so for hard left

Clear-headed, politically-knowledgeable Louisianans surely are scratching their heads over a piece in a national opinion journal that declares New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu insufficiently liberal.

Appearing in the decreasingly center-left New Republic (which has had to head further left to recapture the luster lost through the Glass Affair, among other problems), the article by one Michael Stein – who has demonstrated far left chops in work for the extremist web site Truthout – complains Landrieu hews too close to the political middle. He calls Landrieu a “run-of-the-mill centrist Democrat, one who appeals to the left with illusory calls for progress even as he ingratiates himself with center-right supporters by straddling the ideological line.”

Really? A review of Landrieu’s issue preferences and actions as mayor reveals otherwise. Let’s check them off:


Rubbish court ruling ignores good jurisprudence

If you ever want to see an example of judicial activism that subverts the rule of law, look no further than a recent decision concerning judicial districting in Louisiana.

A few years ago, the local National Association for the Advancement of Colored People’s chapter for Terrebone Parish sued state officials over the at-large districting system for elections in the state’s 32nd Judicial District. Although black population comes in at about two-ninths of the parish’s total, until recently elections had produced only white judges as winners. In this system, candidates run concurrently, choosing one of five slots, but the entire parish electorate votes for each.

Doing the math, that would mean, all things equal, a minority candidate would win one district. But that didn’t happen until 2014, after the suit’s filing. This history the NAACP alleged constituted deliberate discrimination – but not actually by those in the district. Instead, they had to claim the state’s officials conspired to keep black folk down, because the state’s majoritarian institutions and executive branch officials created and administer the current election system.


LA court intervention threatens religious freedom

It should worry those who prize religious freedom when a court defines the practice of a particular religion, as appears imminent in Louisiana.

That situation has come about from a ruling by state 19th District Judge Mike Caldwell in refusing to dismiss the Diocese of Baton Rouge from a suit brought by a woman claiming past sexual abuse by a parish member, now dead. She alleged that she told Fr. Jeff Bayhi about it in a confessional setting and further asserted he recommended that she do nothing.

The Louisiana Supreme Court last year ruled that Bayhi had no obligation to report to authorities any presumed credible evidence of commission of a crime against a child (she then was a minor) incident to communications under confessional seal. Church canon law mandates excommunication for any confessor who reveals any information obtained this way, or even to confirm that any encounter took place.


Idea TOPS significantly keeps LA students absurd

It’s time to retire once and for all the shibboleth that Louisiana in-state higher education tuition costs without widely-available and fully-funded Taylor Opportunity Program for Students awards drive students out-of-state.

Some families, and even administrators who should know better, interviewed in an article for the Baton Rouge Advocate asserted that essentially full funding of TOPS for this school year generally made the difference in students’ decisions to enroll in a Louisiana higher education institution instead of heading elsewhere. For academic year 2016, TOPS only paid around 70 percent of the full year’s tuition because the state did not fund it fully.

In the past year, the assertion floated around that partial funding caused students to look across state lines for their university degrees, which backers of covering the entire tuition amount this year utilized in support of their cause. But, in reality, such a claim hardly validly explains such motivations, yet may point to the real reason going out of state might prove tempting for some.


Appointed parish manager not a bad idea

All in all, not just Ascension but a lot of parishes in Louisiana could benefit from turning administrative functions over to a professional.

A citizens group, but whose leaders come from the business community, has started a movement in Ascension Parish to mothball the elected parish executive in favor of a manager appointed by the parish council. Almost half of the state’s parishes have an elected chief executive, with the others run by an appointee selected by their legislatures.

The organization claims that an appointed administrator could bring managerial competence to a job they see as unduly politically-influenced. That a state grand jury indicted Parish Pres. Kenny Matassa on bribery charges this spring only adds fuel to this argument. Those wishing to keep the current system, including Matassa, say that arrangement of divided government provides for greater accountability to the people.


Edwards faces win, loss on LA fiscal matters

A couple of canaries in a coal mine may send mixed messages to Louisiana concerning its fiscal situation, making Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards both a winner and loser.

Earlier this summer, the private operator of Allen Correctional Center began disseminating information, making the formal request earlier this month, that it would opt out of its contract at the end of this month. After some deliberation, the state decided to take over the property, but with a different mission: instead of housing prisoners for their sentences, it will serve as an intake center for recent convicts coming from five large-populated parishes and as an exit station for some prisoners soon to reenter society at the completion of their sentences.

Administration officials said they had considered plans for some time to begin a consolidated intake process, potentially expanding it to other parishes in the future, for inmates without special circumstances and establishing the reentry program for those planning to live in southwest Louisiana. Whether that also could expand in geographic scope remains unclear.


Enforcing alien statutes crucial to rule of law

Break out the handkerchiefs in Louisiana as the impact of Pres. Donald Trump’s seriousness on the issue of illegal aliens gets translated to policy, as reported by the media. But before having a good cry, consider all the facts.

The Baton Rouge Advocate, for which I write opinion columns, presented a quality entry into the contest to write about sympathetic people in the country illegally now faced with deportation. The story discussed how the number of deportations in Louisiana, following national trends, had escalated considerably since Trump took office, with the vast bulk of higher numbers comprised of people not wanted for criminal activity other than being illegal aliens.

To personify the issue, it centered primarily on the owner of a bricklaying business out of Prairieville, in the country illegally for many years. It describes him as a homeowner with a family and employing 10 people, who in 2014 Pres. Barack Obama’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement found illegally in the country but which unhooked him and threw him back into the sea, telling him to stay out of trouble. He has paid federal income taxes for a dozen years.

As part of this probation he reported annually to ICE, but on his most recent trip the now Trump-led agency told him either to pack his bags and leave the U.S. by Oct. 10 or face immediate arrest. This is presented as some kind of betrayal by ICE, as he had “held up his end of the bargain,”

Representative of special interests, when informed of his case and in commenting on the broader context, expressed high dudgeon. “No prioritization” one cried. “It’s whoever they can get their hands on,” despaired another. “People are afraid to leave their children at the bus stop,” bemoaned yet another, adding “They're acting without any regard for children's welfare or humanitarian factors.” And as another profiled illegal alien observed, “Only God can protect you.”

Of course, God helps those who help themselves, and this guy has an easy way to do that – go back to Honduras, where he transfers his money earned illegally in the U.S. to pay for his children’s college education. That was the plan of the business owner, to retire to Mexico eventually but not at present, who appears befuddled by all of this. “We are not the criminals as many are depicting us. We're just here working and helping this country.”

Really? Undoubtedly, he has committed no crimes of violence; he may not even have jaywalked in all his time here. But whether he has not acted as a criminal and has been “helping this country” is best determined by the answers to these questions:


·      How does he pay federal income taxes? That requires a Taxpayer or Employer Identification Number and both require proof of legal residency. And if using an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number, those have been expiring. Is he using fake documentation?

·      Does he check the citizenship status of his employees before hiring them? And, if he has any government contracts, does he do that through E-Verify as required by state or federal law?

·      Does he deduct from his employees’ salaries payments for Social Security, Medicare, unemployment insurance, etc., and remit the proceeds to the proper authorities, as required by law?

·      Does he pay his employees at least minimum wage, as required by law?

Maybe I’m an unsentimental unromantic, and I don’t know the guy, but I suspect the answer to most of these questions is negative. In other words, chances are he breaks tons of laws on a regular basis. This is not criminal?

And, why did he not, when caught and knowing the heat was on, begin the process to obtain citizenship, which begins with acquiring legal residence (that is, getting a “green card”)? Maybe because he intended to transfer as much wealth as possible from the U.S. back to Mexico for his retirement and could not bring this plan to fruition if he had to renounce his Mexican citizenship? And that activity, along with apparently breaking laws right and left, is “helping the country?”

One can debate the overregulation of American entrepreneurship as a defense for skirting the law. Yet at the same time, what makes America exceptional compared to places like Mexico is fealty to the rule of law, and breaking with impunity reasonable statutes such as American immigration laws irreparably erodes that respect. It cannot be tolerated, even in the case of a industrious participant in the economy.

Likely the reason he left Mexico was because civil society there did not permit him to deploy his talents fully. Maybe if fully enforced, American immigration laws would deter enough people like him from coming here, forcing them to stick around there and giving them every incentive to vote and engage in other efforts to prompt Mexico to evolve into a civil society more like America’s, solving a problem for both countries.