Earlier this month, Gov. John Bel Edwards with first lady Donna in tow continued their global gallivanting with a trip to Puerto Rico, ostensibly for the commonwealth to learn from a state well experienced in disaster recovery. At least he stayed within the U.S. this time, even if he left the continental shores; other overseas trips he has taken in his fewer than two years in office include stops in Rome and Cuba.
In the case of the junket to Rome, the stated purpose of this travel being to share information on approaches to combat human trafficking, sending lower-level officials or just making phone calls and exchanging e-mail could have gotten the job done. And even as the state didn’t pay much to fund his and other officials’ travel to Cuba, that mostly funded by its communist government, because of current U.S. policy the trip had zero possibility of payoff any time before the distant future.
The wasted money on the Puerto Rico jaunt mirrors the lack of rationale for the Roman holiday: again, the lower-level officials who conduct disaster relief operations on the ground can provide all the necessary information to the islands, either in person or by phone or electronic communication. I guess when Edwards joined the Army prior to his political career to see the world, he thought serving as governor would provide the same opportunities.
Yet as wasteful as Edwards’ travel habits appear, at least he can accomplish things from information gathered from these, even if procured very inefficiently, since he almost certainly will act as governor for the next two years. New Orleans Democrat Mayor Mitch Landrieu and three of the city’s Council members won’t even have their jobs in five months, yet they decided to bill the city to visit the City of Lights just before they go out the door.
Democrats Susan Guidry, Nadine Ramsey, and James Gray joined Landrieu in Paris this week, supposedly to wrap some information exchange around a celebration of New Orleans’ tricentennial. Paris officials invited them to the capital of the former metropole which established the Crescent City 299 years ago.
Like Landrieu, they are lame ducks, with Guidry bumping up against term limits and the other two defeated in reelection attempts. Like Landrieu, as such they can do little or nothing with any information they happen to learn there. Like state taxpayers with Edwards’ globetrotting, city taxpayers will fork over ten of thousands of dollars for next to, if not zero, return as a result.
To add insult to injury, the Louisiana Legislative Auditor has launched an investigation into city credit card use by council members – pieces of plastic that no doubt will get a workout in France this week. Already, Democrat councilor and Mayor-elect LaToya Cantrell basically has admitted she misused hers and faces possible criminal charges from that activity.
Elected officials need to dispense with the Carnival-like attitude that gaining office entitles you to throws of free trips. Edwards could make himself a good example of cancelling this belief by eschewing taxpayer-paid travel for flimsy reasons, and just maybe it would trickle down to the likes of Landrieu and others in the state.