It’s bad enough that, overall, the most popular universities in America don’t fare well on their commitment to free speech. Worse still for Louisianans, Louisiana State University scores close to the bottom of them all.
RealClearEducation, part of the complex of websites best known for its flagship RealClearPolitics, along with the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education and College Pulse, has created an index called the College Free Speech Rankings. The former advocates and litigates for robust free expression policies on campuses, while the latter collects data online and provides analysis of student opinion.
The rankings accumulate data from five different areas, most of which comes from student perceptions about a school’s openness, tolerance, administrative support, and comfort with self-expression. Mixed into that is FIRE’s Spotlight Database, which evaluates schools on their policies’ fidelity to First Amendment jurisprudence.
In fewer than 15 minutes, Louisianans were treated to full-frontal political cowardice and hypocrisy at yesterday’s Revenue Estimating Conference meeting.
That gathering came after the REC punted during its previous meeting last week its duty concerning the state’s unemployment trust fund. R.S. 23:1474 requires that the REC, between Sep. 5 and 30, project the balance of the fund for the beginning of next September. In doing so, it is to “consider all information, including projections and information from the United States and state departments of labor, in its analysis for [the] official projection.”
The determination affects what rates employers must pay and maximum benefit amounts payable to unemployment insurance recipients for next calendar year. If the fund has below $750 million, the former increases and the latter decreases for 2021.
Louisiana Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards has moved onto a new section of his party’s playbook. Not only does his policy create a problem that he proposes to solve by doing more of the same, but also he now has taken to proposing for it unconstitutional solutions.
During the budget process, Edwards acted as if the state’s unemployment trust fund wasn’t hemorrhaging its balance. The Wuhan coronavirus pandemic brought a retrenchment in economic activity worse than any other state’s, with a dramatic increase in the state’s unemployment rolls. Although federal policy encouraged this to an extent, Congress compensated somewhat in its CARES Act by allowing the state to use as much of the $1.8 billion gift as it wanted to replenish the fund.
Instead, Edwards asked for not a cent of its use for this purpose and plowed much of CARES Act money into inflating general fund spending by $600 million this year. Regrettably, the Legislature went along but it had more foresight to include $275 million in grant relief for small businesses. This would diminish the drain on the fund by allowing more businesses to stay open and thereby employ more people that additionally would boost the fund with payroll taxes being collected.
Posted by Jeff Sadow at 11:05
Accountability kept Bossier City in line with taxpayer interests. Lack of it led the Cypress-Black Bayou Recreation and Water Conservation District to betray them.
Last week, the Bossier City Council met to deal with the city’s property tax millages in the wake of reassessment. The statewide version that occurs every presidential election year requires that local government entities adjust their rates in response to that so that the total amount paid in from that action remains the same, either down (if values increase) or up (if values decrease). However, in another subsequent vote (or proclamation, in the case of single executives that solely helm a government), any rate below the maximum allowed may be adopted, although increasing the adjusted rates (termed a “roll forward”) require a two-thirds supermajority to enact.
The city had courted controversy a month earlier when a ballot item to renew one of the three taxes subject to elections (the fourth doesn’t require one and lasts into perpetuity, as permitted by the Constitution) asked voters to increase the maximum allowed over the previous 6 mill rate to 6.19 mills. Because of a reassessment that showed a decrease four years earlier, the Council took the opportunity to jack taxes up then, and convinced enough voters to ratify that increase in that election.
At least one bad precedent was set at the last Louisiana State Bond Commission meeting, and hopefully legislators will act so more won’t follow.
Most of the panel’s business, comprised of most statewide elected officials, select legislators, and the commissioner of administration, involves allowing local governmental units to issue debt for capital expenditures, approving of election items to fund these, and permitting units to issue short-term debt for operating expenses backed by highly predictable revenue streams, such as a property tax. But at last week’s meeting, it veered off into controversial, if not dangerous for taxpayers, territory.
It approved a request by the Lafayette Parish Convention and Visitors Commission to issue 10-year notes totaling $1 million for continuing operations. Calling it “emergency financing” due to the economic dropoff born of the Wuhan coronavirus pandemic, the quasi-public agency said it needed the money for “continuity of essential government functions.” It said it would need funds by the beginning of next month, having already seen nearly $600,000 fewer in revenues for the year to date and expected a forecast revenue loss even higher over the next 12 months.
Look up the word “leadership” in the dictionary, and the last picture you would see is that of Louisiana Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards. Instead, you’ll find his picture next to the entry of “whiner.”
Edwards left no doubt about his lexicographical placement with a screed he delivered published in the pages of the Baton Rouge Advocate. The story covered his reaction to the Republican-controlled Legislature calling itself into special session to deal mainly with Wuhan coronavirus pandemic issues, some others attached to recent storms, and a few miscellaneous matters.
Legislators have become concerned about the policy drift the state has taken over the past several months, which consists of Edwards reluctant to surrender a hold over the state’s activities imposed by his use of emergency powers that looks compared to other states increasingly out-of-step and draconian that achieved a double ignominy: the worst state economy since the pandemic erupted and the most physical suffering from the pandemic. Somebody had to act while Edwards fiddled.
Posted by Jeff Sadow at 12:40
Just call him John Bel Grasshopper.
The guy otherwise known as Democrat Gov. Edwards, in his handling of the Wuhan coronavirus pandemic has followed the liberal Democrat playbook perfectly: create a problem, then claim that more government intervention will solve it. Edwards, because of his persistent ignoring of science, continues to employ some of the most draconian restrictions among the states as Louisiana, despite that restrictiveness, continues to suffer more than any other state. It now is the only state ranking in the top ten of total virus cases (first), current hospitalizations from it (tenth), and total deaths by it (fifth) per capita.
Even as his policy hasn’t proven very effective – because it has slowed the acquisition of herd immunity from a more saturated start point (because of Carnival celebrations that acted as accelerants) that has allowed the virus to linger longer and thereby threatening more vulnerable individuals longer – it has proven brutally effective in punishing the state’s economy, more than any other state’s.
Posted by Jeff Sadow at 08:50
So, what can we expect out of the 2020 Second Extraordinary Session of the Louisiana Legislature? Optimistically, policies for economic improvement and a better way to govern in times of emergency – aspirations not shared by Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards.
The latter issue first and foremost the session seems to aim at. Starting next Monday, lawmakers will have 30 days – a week before elections if it goes the distance – to sort out a list of items more extensive than the month-long first such session tackled. Some are small items that could have waited, but most deal with the ongoing Wuhan coronavirus pandemic and its economic fallout.
The call appears to indicate the Republican majority will pursue several intertwined tracks. As Edwards continues to use statutory powers to keep more restrictions on personal interactions than most states that keep entire swaths of the economy almost entirely closed – even as the state suffers with the worst indicators of all the states and follows a plan almost entirely at odds with what worked in Sweden – the call leave plenty of room to change that.
Louisiana’s legislators should give a task to the Legislative Auditor as soon as possible to ensure wise spending of precious Wuhan coronavirus pandemic recovery dollars.
Earlier this month, a KEEL radio talk show host noticed essentially duplicate signs along stretches of highway. She made inquiries to the Department of Transportation and Development, and received explanations from both the regional spokeswoman and the department Secretary himself, Shawn Wilson. They said signs could need better reflective qualities at night or font changes, but she noted no font changes and wondered why reflectivity changes could not occur on the existing signs, saving at least some money.
Shreveport area legislators weren’t amused when contacted about this. They expressed skepticism that the money needed to be spent, and one conjectured that the funds for this came from federal grant money that it would have to use or lose.
Posted by Jeff Sadow at 12:05
More bad news has come for Democrat Shreveport Mayor Adrian Perkins’ Senate campaign. Even worse for him, it’s more bad news for his potential reelection.
Last week, Caddo Parish’s current grand jury brought charges against four Shreveport police officers in the death of Tommie McGlothen. Called to the scene of a disturbance McGlothen apparently had instigated, after using force to subdue him and putting him unsupervised into a police vehicle, he began to have medical problems and died hospitalized a short while later.
McGlothen was black, which made him a candidate for a narrative America’s political left increasingly had propagated that somehow, despite considerable evidence discrediting it, that white police officers discriminate against blacks, leading to deaths through excessive force. Adding credibility to this particular instance was a coroner’s report that said different actions might have prevented McGlothen’s death.
Posted by Jeff Sadow at 15:40
If you want a textbook exercise in selective use (or nonuse) of information and utter lack of logical reasoning to justify a healthy dose of judicial activism, look no further than Harding v. Edwards.
That’s the case in the Middle District of Louisiana contesting the state’s election procedures for fall elections. Voters sued the state, asking for more time to vote early and greater expansion of unverifiable excuses for not showing up in person and qualifying for a ballot to vote by mail. Democrat Pres. Barack Obama appointee Judge Shelley Dick bought just about all of their argument, ruling that the state had to revert to rules used this summer that exempted registrants subject to a medically necessary quarantine, experiencing COVID-19 symptoms or awaiting a diagnosis, caring for someone who is quarantined, or having a chronic health condition that imparts a higher risk of serious COVID-19 complications. It also temporarily waived the usual requirement that first-time voters must vote in person. And, early voting would expand in number of hours and days, although three days fewer than in the summer.
In her written opinion, Dick telegraphed early she would legislate from the bench with a vengeance when she noted the U.S. Supreme Court’s standing jurisprudence, reinforced in an April ruling, to interfere in how states conducted balloting, that the “Court has been presented with more than a handful of cases on the subject of elections during the pandemic, but has provided virtually no guidance,” but then cherry-picks a line from that decision, that it “should not be viewed as expressing an opinion on the broader question of whether to hold the election, or whether other reforms or modifications in election procedures in light of COVID–19 are appropriate. That point cannot be stressed enough.”
The Baton Rouge Metropolitan Council made the right call in rejecting an invitation to become a rainmaker for relatives of an oft-convicted black man killed while strenuously resisting arrest.
In 2016, Alton Sterling, who an autopsy showed had in him what experts called a dangerous combination of substances, some illegal, underwent a minutes-long struggle with police after they had responded to reports he had threatened somebody. Unfortunately, acting in a way that experts said reflected subpar procedure but an understandable fear for their safety, one of the two white police officers trying to control Sterling fatally shot him.
Given these dynamics of the incident, authorities didn’t charge either officer with a crime, concluding their actions not unreasonable. However, his children – five, from different mothers; he never was married – already had launched a civil lawsuit against the city for wrongful death, blaming the city for allegedly not having a written policy for use of deadly force, claiming it tolerated “racist behavior” among its police, and that it didn’t vet adequately the hiring of the two officers.
Posted by Jeff Sadow at 14:45
The latest decision made by Louisiana’s Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards regarding the Wuhan coronavirus pandemic makes clear the lengths to which he will go to politicize the issue and demands that the state’s Legislature counteract him.
Last week, on the day a previous proclamation expired, Edwards issued a new one. He asserted that it meant the state had moved into the federal government’s definition of “Phase 3” for reopening the economy. Those federal guidelines envision that individuals unless considered vulnerable face no restrictions to their activity although advised to minimize time in crowds while vulnerable ones could interact with physical distancing and/or utilizing other measures such as face coverings; employers could go to full worksite staffing; and, all businesses could reopen although with some minor distancing in large venues and bars (which under state law are places that serve more alcohol than food except in this case for those with video poker machines), and visitation of nursing homes could resume without additional restrictions.
By contrast, Edwards ordered continued masking in public for everyone, applying major distancing requirements for larger venues and bars that could stay open, even as almost all bars still would remain closed for on-site consumption as they are located in parishes with a greater than one-in-twenty positive rate over the past two weeks on virus tests. All places offering dine-in food service could operate only limited hours. He also disallowed nursing home visits for the time being, although saying limited ones eventually would become allowed. Obviously, little has changed.
Posted by Jeff Sadow at 12:00
Louisiana’s state higher education institutions, and perhaps even its private colleges and universities, have a lot to do in a short period to ensure they properly observe the First Amendment.
Last week, the U.S. Department of Education announced the imminent publication of a final rule that, among many things, addresses distribution of federal grant money to such institutions. Sixty days after publication, schools will have to have in place rules that protect First Amendment rights – which covers expression, assembly, and religious practice – or else potentially forfeit departmental grants if a court determines the school violated the First Amendment (in the case of private institutions, the burden of proof would rest on its own promulgated speech policies). It distributes several billion dollars a year this way, and other federal agencies that give out several times more are expected to follow with similar rules in the near future.
Unfortunately, Louisiana’s universities and colleges have trouble maintaining such protections. Despite a 2018 law that forced schools to comply with constitutional requirements regarding assembly, a review of the state’s larger universities show distinct problems in protecting expression. A leading advocacy and litigant for protecting speech rights higher education employees and students, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, reviews schools with over 10,000 students for their constitutional compliance. Of the nine that qualify, only one – McNeese State University – grades as compliant. Four others have problematic aspects to their regulations that might be unconstitutional depending upon application. The other four have at least one policy that unambiguously violates constitutional jurisprudence.
Posted by Jeff Sadow at 14:05
In a contest where he has no margin for error, Republican District 5 Public Service Commission candidate Shane Smiley committed a big one.
Smiley, the current president of the Ouachita Parish Police Jury, will face off in November as the only alternative to Democrat incumbent Foster Campbell after another Republican withdrew. Campbell survived a challenge to his candidacy over his current three-term service given constitutional term limits, but remained on the ballot through a loophole permitting those in office prior to 2009 to serve an unlimited number of terms.
Although the district routinely votes for Republicans, with almost half a century in elected offices Campbell has dug in his influence deeply throughout the district. Personally wealthy and with ample fundraising ability, with his haul in no small part from the companies the PSC regulates, Campbell makes for a formidable foe against a relatively unknown Republican like Smiley who has no proven fundraising history and who will have to campaign at the top of his game to win.
Posted by Jeff Sadow at 15:20
Need still another confirmation that politics, rather than science, drives the Wuhan coronavirus pandemic policy-making of Louisiana Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards? Just check out confirmation of the worst kept secret – that he would issue relaxations to rules issued about the virus prior to Sep. 11.
Today, Edwards signaled that the state would move into Phase 3. According to federal government guidelines – which in the past Edwards claims he follows along with closed-door advice he asserts he receives from the White House Coronavirus Task Force –the only restriction left for individuals in lower-risk populations is they “should consider minimizing time spent in crowded environments.” As for businesses, they can resume “unrestricted staffing of worksites,” but specifically for places such sit-down dining restaurants, movie theaters, sporting venues, and places of worship these can operate under “limited” physical distancing protocols (as opposed to “moderate” or “strict” requirements in Phase 2). Even more specifically, gyms can remain open if they adhere to standard sanitation protocols and bars may operate with increased standing room occupancy, where applicable.
At the very least, this means every kind of business can open, although with mild capacity restrictions, including bars which Edwards has kept shut unless they served more food than drinks and/or had a video poker license. Whether Edwards will match action to words remains doubtful, indicated by his announcement saying tomorrow details would be forthcoming – as well they should since his orders expire tomorrow – except that the face covering requirement in public would continue.
Posted by Jeff Sadow at 17:45
More evidence has surfaced that shows Louisiana’s Robin Hood and excessive tax policies continue to punish its poorest citizens.
The notion of improving the lives of the poor through hefty and progressive taxation has become an article of faith of the political left – the more and taken from the wealthier, the more that can be shoveled to the poorer regardless of the very imperfect mechanisms in place to ensure that this redistribution creates long-term increased wealth among its recipients. However, while America’s federal government as a whole has the most progressive income tax regime of all economically developed countries, and thus the most progressive system since unlike most other countries it doesn’t have a national sales tax – which unless manipulated by exceptions is very regressive – its states typically are the opposite. The leftist Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy ranks only a few states as having progressive state tax codes, with Louisiana ranked 14th least progressive in its latest study on the topic.
In fact, unusually when compared to other economically developed countries where progressive taxation typically varies inversely with the size of government (measured by the proportion of wealth taken in taxes), among U.S. states it’s the opposite. A study from the conservative American Enterprise Institute argues that economic issue preferences among elected policy-makers cause this; even though more progressivity creates additional economic costs such as reduced development and population loss, in states which elect more officials with more liberal economic preferences they are willing to countenance this tradeoff.
A report and a lawsuit bring up a trenchant question for Louisiana policy-makers: how does government best protect both the health and safety of the public and yet prevent itself from encroaching on their liberties or unjustifiably interfering with their lives and livelihoods?
The Pelican Institute recently reviewed how Louisiana government deals with public health crises. Undoubtedly prompted by Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards’ policies addressing the Wuhan coronavirus pandemic, the effort evaluates state law governing the issue and makes suggestions for improvement.
Edwards has faced criticism for policy on this that seems to rely more on arbitrariness than science that has led the state to ring up some of the worst indicators related to the pandemic while having some of the most restrictive rules. But, as the report notes, the reigning jurisprudence on government police powers gives officials wide latitude over restrictions placed upon commercial activity and personal behavior as long as those rules don’t interfere with individual liberties, where a much more stringent standard applies.
Louisianans, don’t be fooled by the latest attempt to mutate fiction into fact in a long-running battle to shape public policy around a presumption of “systemic racism.”
Especially this being an election year, mainstream media and their liberal political allies have intensified their old habit of flogging this idea when able to find an incident they can shape to support it. Recently, this has come in the form of black crime suspects dying incident to arrests with white police officers involved. Reporting that has sensationalized such events in Louisiana spurred policy-makers invested in the narrative to succeed in formation of a legislative panel to address policing.
Meeting last week, legislators heard from proponents of the narrative. A functionary from the Louisiana branch of the American Civil Liberties Union, Advocacy Director Chris Klein, testified that in state blacks represent 53 percent of those killed by police even though they comprise 32 percent of the state's population. “There are some trends that are not in dispute," he said. “There are very real trends that create stark disparities in Louisiana.”
Posted by Jeff Sadow at 16:05
At The Hayride, Dan Fagan posted a piece about his reasons for quitting his columnist spot at the Baton Rouge Advocate. In it, he brings up issues about writing conservative pieces in today’s mainstream media, and more specifically at the Advocate, which deserve fuller investigation and explanation.
I preceded and overlapped Fagan there, writing a column from 2015-19, and observed some of what he did. In general, Dan (with whom I’ve never had a chance to correspond, although at one point one of my pieces made reference to one of his) recounts that he felt suppressed, had to edit columns to tone down their conservative content, and even had some outright rejected. He further perceives the Advocate editorial staff (past and present) as having an unreflective liberal bias largely with a readership to match.
Since the later 1990s, I have served as a paid opinion columnist for a number of Louisiana newspapers, both large and small, and that experience along with knowledge of the industry through my academic studies has led to some conclusions that should interest anybody who wants to understand why the stuff that appears on opinion pages does, especially as it relates to conservative content. My experience with the Advocate largely reflects these.
The next time someone complains that relaxing Louisiana’s mail-in ballot rules won’t damage election integrity, you know they’re either ignorant or want to steal elections.
That’s the only conclusion drawable from a devastating piece that ran last week in the New York Post. It drew from remarks made by an anonymous New Jersey Democrat veteran political operative, whose pedigree the staff authenticated, who made it chillingly clear how easy and undetectable was committing voting fraud.
Mail-in ballots provide much fertile ground for fraud, he explained. Tricks he and others have used include:
How difficult is it for government to make a link and upload a document? Apparently too hard for the biggest small town in America, Bossier City.
Yesterday, its City Council plowed through another semi-monthly session in usual fashion. This means it operates like a rubber stamp, verifying a compliant made by 2021 Council at-large candidate Chris Smith about a lack of transparency. Typically, meetings have less in the way of information and discussion than those of Red China’s governing organ the State Council, with terse statements of actions at hand, rarely any discussion of these, and rarer still anything but unanimous votes. In fact, in 2020 the average regular meeting has lasted under 45 minutes, in large part because few had any public comment and from the machine gun nature of how ordinances and resolutions were dispensed with.
On this occasion, one such item on the agenda that appeared a few days before on the city website that it also delivers from a mailing list to which citizens may subscribe, #10 under New Business, was this:
Besides being an outlier in Louisiana statewide elective office – the only Democrat – Gov. John Bel Edwards also is an outlier compared to other past governors – he has no control over his own state party.
Louisiana, for a variety of reasons, has the weakest state major political parties of any in the country. Part of that comes from the historical dominance that governors can exert informally, blessed by a political culture that too intensely conceptualizes its chief executive as a man on horseback that keeps order and dispenses or withholds resources. In the past, governors have loomed large over their parties, determining their leadership and directing their resources.
But not Edwards. The party had serious reservations about his ability to win when he set off in 2014 to capture the office. Famously, among others, the party chairwoman state Sen. Karen Carter Peterson had gone to him and asked him to withdraw in favor of throwing their support behind a Republican they thought could defeat Republican Sen. David Vitter. Of course the party revved up support for him when he did well in the general election, signaling a runoff victory where it became his mouthpiece afterwards, but Peterson and other party officials like recently-departed executive director Stephen Handwerk had their own independent bases of support.
Posted by Jeff Sadow at 12:30
Republican Lafayette Mayor-President Josh Guillory might overstate his case a bit, but he has the right idea to counsel against nonprofit organizations in sheltering Hurricane Laura evacuees as long as selfish protesters take to the streets of the city-parish.
Guillory sent notice to area nonprofits asking that they hold up with shelter establishment in the wake of the storm’s strike last Thursday, While the Lafayette area received just a glancing blow, to the southwest major property damage occurred, displacing many and likely for some time. As justification, Guillory noted protest activity stemming from the police shooting of Trayford Pellerin, who ten days ago brandished a knife a convenience store. He exited, with Lafayette police in tow, walked half a mile to another store, and made set to enter it, ignoring multiple times police instructions to desist and two unsuccessful Taser attempts. Apparently fearing Pellerin would attack people inside the second store, police open fire when he attempted to enter, killing him.
Since then, protests have popped up around Lafayette, without any reported acts of violence. But Guillory noted the potential for it to occur, and therefore he could not guarantee the safety of an influx of refugees. This didn’t mean that organizations couldn’t take people in, just that the city gave notice that they might be at risk. For that, some of those invested in protesting cried foul (with one particularly uneducated complainer saying Guillory wanted to instill “fear” into people from coming together to exercise their “second amendment” rights; rather than promote gunplay, she probably meant to refer to the right to assemble peacefully under the First Amendment).
Posted by Jeff Sadow at 16:15
Just as you can’t stop students participating in athletic events from insulting the flag, you can’t censor their artistic expression that doesn’t disrupt a school’s educational mission or promotes vulgarity or illegal drug use, a Louisiana school district needs to learn.
The Washington Parish School District finds itself mired in controversy over the issue. Apparently, by custom at its Pine Junior/Senior High School seniors have designated parking spots where they may have painted whatever isn’t negative, rude, or offensive in language, pictures, or symbols.
Senior Ned Thomas had a representation painted of Republican Pres. Donald Trump from mid-waist-up, with the nation’s chief executive wearing a suit and tie, stars and stripes bandana, sunglasses with stars on one lens and stripes on another, and overall looking serene. Not long afterwards, he was informed that the picture was too “political” and the district had it painted over.
Posted by Jeff Sadow at 14:35
Hurricane Laura has started to bring its unpleasantry to Louisiana. But over time you can find a bright spot even with extremely and highly wind-swept dark clouds.
The end of this week will mark 15 years after Hurricane Katrina struck Louisiana (and almost that long since Hurricane Rita piled on). In a silver linings view, concerning the world of state and local politics it actually brought some benefits.
The end of this week will mark 15 years after Hurricane Katrina struck Louisiana (and almost that long since Hurricane Rita piled on). In a silver linings view, concerning the world of state and local politics it actually brought some benefits.
Politics in the near-epicenter, New Orleans, abruptly changed. After levees overtopped and broke, state and local officials, largely Democrats, tried to misplace primary blame for this upon the federal government, whether in the form of claiming the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers had fallen down on the job, to weaponizing the event as an indictment of the Republican Pres. George W. Bush Administration, to wild conspiracy theories that would not look out of place in today’s era, where the political left and Democrats bend over backwards to assert ludicrously that systemic racism in America exists, that deliberate destruction of levees had occurred to harm black folk.
In reality, although the federal government bore some fault for a flawed protection system and response, the main culprits were state and local government. A dysfunctional flood control system allowed cronyism to triumph over provision of adequate protection, while the indifference Democrat former Gov. Kathleen Blanco had shown in planning to deal with such a crisis turned into full-blown evasion of responsibility and failed leadership when it came.
Posted by Jeff Sadow at 00:15
As bad weather looks set to attack Shreveport, its mayor manufactured another attack ad against his own Senate campaign.
Democrat Shreveport Mayor Adrian Perkins in fewer than two years in office has given the city’s citizens plenty to wonder about his transparency and whether they can trust him. The moment he entered office he put into motion an insurance deal with a relation to a political ally that he alleged would save the city money. Instead, it cost much more for much less. He also had a campaign organization of his try to bill the city for disallowed inauguration expenses. When it came time to pick a permanent police chief, he said he would follow the choices of a committee he appointed, only to reject its recommendations. And he apparently claimed improperly an automobile allowance even though he used a city-provided car.
Incidents like these will make it easy for supporters of his Senate opponents, principally those backing incumbent GOP Sen. Bill Cassidy, to portray Perkins as just another shifty politician who acts out of personal or political gain at the expense of the people. And now Perkins has delivered more ammunition to his critics with a disastrous television interview.
Don’t go all Milli Vanilli and blame it on the rain. Go all reality and blame it on the governor.
That would be Louisiana Democrat John Bel Edwards, who found yet another way to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory when he declared onerous restrictions on some businesses would last past this Friday as part of his response to the Wuhan coronavirus pandemic. In place since mid-July and in full needlessly extended in early August, Edwards declared these would continue because, even as in his estimation the state had shown progress in keeping down infections and the resulting hospitalizations and deaths, looming bad weather would interfere with population testing for the next several days. Plus, education institutions have restarted on-campus classes, adding another element of congregation that could spread the virus.
If this comes off as grasping at straws to continue command and control over the political environment, it is. Edwards still clings to the notion, believing a ratcheting down of disease metrics now can compensate for his botched performance to date, that government must indemnify everybody from any risk, rather than pursue policies that only intrude upon individual autonomy insofar as to protect the vulnerable while also placing that responsibility as well in the hands of free people making their own decisions.
Posted by Jeff Sadow at 16:10
Too bad, Angry Left. One person’s demise won’t get you a Senate seat.
Modern liberalism, shorn of its intellectual groundings with history revealing its invalid assumptions about human nature and with data proving the inferiority of its policy prescriptions, has devolved into a conduit of hate. By definition, it seeks to divide and axiomatically pits the resulting groups against each other, positing imaginary bogeymen that only government can stop from allegedly oppressing the others. Today’s liberalism is all emotional rage and no coherent thinking or wisdom.
Thus, it’s never a surprise that when a conservative of note suffers misfortune this not only prompts some activists on the left to revel in it, but also leaves them hoping matters become even worse – just look at their reaction that the Grim Reaper had taken the wrong sibling when Republican Pres. Donald Trump’s younger brother recently died. Unfortunately, to a lesser degree the same rhetoric emerged with Louisiana’s Republican senior Sen. Bill Cassidy.
Posted by Jeff Sadow at 14:00
From the phone lines came another hint that Bossier City actually might have some meaningful, widespread competition for its city government in next spring’s election.
Last week, Baton Rouge firm JMC Analytics conducted an automated telephone survey largely about this election. After a perfunctory question about the 2020 presidential contest, it asked questions about the mayor’s race, at-large city council races, and council district races specific to the district in which the call was received.
For the mayor’s contest, it asked abut voting for 2001 council candidate Tommy Chandler, current councilors Jeff Free and David Montgomery, city chief administrative officer Pam Glorioso, and incumbent Mayor Lo Walker. In addition, it asked whether the respondent would vote to reelect Walker.
In a great endorsement for Democrat Mayor Adrian Perkins’ U.S. Senate campaign, Shreveport politicians declared surrender.
Earlier this week, a Shreveport City Council committee virtually committed to increasing fees or taxes to boost public safety salaries. The city’s police department currently runs dozens of officers below what it considers optimal numbers and firefighter salaries are significantly lower than what some other area departments pay.
Below-par staffing adds to a litany of problems facing Shreveport under the watch of Perkins, although many of these predate his arrival by years. Its estimated population has plunged six percent from the last census in 2010. Caddo Parish, of which the city comprises about four-fifths in population, has seen microscopic 4.1 percent economic growth in the same period, well below the rate of inflation. Violent crime, which in this span has seen a small decrease nationally, increased in Shreveport. All sorts of rankings in the past couple of years of the metropolitan area, which is majority Shreveport but also includes typically Bossier, Webster, Red River, and De Soto Parishes, place it dismally, from “best places to live” (122/125), in “happiness” (172/182), to safety (148/182), and is the worst of 182 in where to start a career.
Posted by Jeff Sadow at 16:45
Little Johnny Bel didn’t like the rules, so he took his ball and went home. Then he gave it to the neighborhood bullies and told them to go try to make everybody play by his rules or else the other kids wouldn’t get to play at all.
One could point to many instances in his time as governor where Democrat John Bel Edwards put partisan power elite desires ahead of the needs of the people, abdicating any responsibility he had as a leader. But he topped them all with his recent statement opposing reasonable proposed election rules modifications.
Earlier this week, Republican Sec. of State Kyle Ardoin, as permitted by statute, pitched these changes for the November and December elections in Louisiana. Using the latest evidence-based data to shape these, he called for a modest extension of early voting and of acceptable reasons to request an absentee ballot. He demonstrated that his office could oversee elections that offered low risk of Wuhan coronavirus transmission, that existing request options largely covered those affected by the virus, and that while the state could handle some expansion of ballot reception by mail, the existing elections infrastructure and Postal Service limitations likely would produce an outcome that would moot the counting of too many such ballots.
With his boss Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards caught out again on a brazen political mistake, Louisiana Commissioner of Distraction Jay Dardenne tried to do his thing again.
During June’s special session that resolved the state’s operating budget, despite knowledge of the impending economic dislocation courtesy of Edwards proclamations shutting down large portions of the state’s economy as a response to the Wuhan coronavirus pandemic, Edwards and Dardenne presented a budget that shrank government not one bit. This discouraged the Republican majority Legislature from resisting, and it acquiesced in expanding government at a time that revenues demonstrably would shrink.
But the GOP-led chambers didn’t completely abdicate. One measure they imposed to rein in unnecessary spending prohibited appropriation of $57 million to fund programmed pay raises for state civil service employees. These occur automatically annually unless the State Civil Service Commission acts to mitigate these. Legislators said that they couldn’t see their way to using extra taxpayer resources on this when almost none of these employees had experienced job loss or furloughs while a significant portion of nongovernment sector employees had, with that held back money more usefully applied to relief for nongovernment workers.
Louisiana Republican Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin not only came up with an excellent emergency election plan for fall exercises of the franchise, but also in doing so he took the wind out of the sails for a group of malcontents.
Statute allows the secretary to make adjustment to election rules in an emergency situation, with a proposal authorized by appropriate legislative committees and the governor, followed by plan production approved by the same and each legislative chamber. This procedure brought forth a plan that made significant change to the just-concluded postponed spring local government elections.
Remarkably, despite the evidence at the time of its formation that the Wuhan coronavirus pandemic would be much reduced, the environment actually was approximately as bad at the times of the elections because of Louisiana’s unprecedented and unique bimodal distribution of infections, so the plan actually had some utility. Regrettably, that plan had problems, chiefly in that it allowed too much leeway for voting by mail – which creates opportunities for unscrupulous individuals to marking their ballots in voters’ stead (and then add insult to injury by signing as the witness) – and allowed registration without verification of identity.
Posted by Jeff Sadow at 14:40
Bossier City elected officials put one over on taxpayers. Let’s see if enough of them care to punish Republican Mayor Lo Walker and its seven City Council members next spring.
Last weekend, voters approved better than two-to-one a continuation of an existing 6 mill levy for public safety operations plus an increase of 0.19 mills, for the 2021-30 period. The increase matched the current rate paid, which was above the rate previously authorized by voters because of a constitutional loophole that allowed the city twice to raise rates beyond that because of a one-year devaluation of assessed property values in the city.
If at all taxpayer friendly, when in subsequent years values resumed their upward march, elected officials would have rolled back rates to the maximum voters had permitted. Instead, they kept the extra, and received validation for that sleight-of-hand in this election.
All aboard the tax hike train, at least one media outlet in Louisiana appears to encourage to the detriment of the state.
It’s no secret that Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards has longed since his first day in office for tax increases, and disproportionately on its most productive entities, rather than reduce the size of Louisiana state government. He did manage to get a temporary sales tax increase through the Legislature, but it was his last, least preferred option.
Now Edwards has more impetus to seek tax increases. The descent of the Wuhan coronavirus pandemic has triggered overall revenue reductions and higher expenditures in some areas, particularly concerning the burgeoning imbalance of unemployment insurance payments going out compared to taxes coming in. Instead of pulling back on government spending for this fiscal year, Edwards successfully implored the Legislature to spend federal government largesse without cuts, making for an expensive ticking time bomb for taxpayers.
The mainstream media, both national and Louisianan, still stumble in the dark when comes to understanding the policy blunders that have made Louisiana the worst-hit, longest hit state by the Wuhan coronavirus pandemic.
Ten days ago, USA TODAY ran a piece on how not only did Louisiana suffer a high peak of infections in the spring, but, more than any other state, has seen one again this summer. Yesterday, the New Orleans Times-Picayune/Advocate published musings from Jeff Asher, known more for his analysis of crime but who recently has made a pivot to looking at pandemic data, about recent patterns in these data.
Louisiana continues to serve as an outlier to national pandemic trends, because of this bimodal distribution in cases. Because of that, as of yesterday it ranked second in infection rate, fifth in current hospitalization percentage per capita, and sixth in mortality per capita. Only Georgia, at first, first, and eighth, respectively, arguably is as bad off. But this is its first rodeo, only within the past month hitting these lamentable marks for the first time while Louisiana is repeating, and worse daily on cases but with far fewer deaths, from four months ago.
Posted by Jeff Sadow at 17:30
Perhaps it didn’t match the author’s intent, but a recent article in Louisiana’s largest newspaper illuminated a glaring weakness in Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards’ approach to battling the Wuhan coronavirus pandemic.
A piece in the Times-Picayune/New Orleans Advocate replicated one in the New York Times about “excess” deaths from the virus. It noted that nearly 5,000 more Louisianans died in the first four months of the pandemic than did last year during the same period. With over 3,500 directly attributable to the virus, that meant around 1,400 from other causes also had occurred over and above the previous year’s.
In it, as well as in a prior piece, came musing about why. Some “other” deaths actually may have come undiagnosed as attributable to the virus (it works the other way around, of course, with government reimbursements higher for treating virus patients than for other maladies perhaps prompting virus mortality reporting inflation) and also could come from people delaying medical treatments and/or reluctance to visit hospitals for fear of staying in them.
Posted by Jeff Sadow at 12:10
Louisiana Democrat Supreme Court Chief Justice Bernette Johnson can’t leave her post quickly enough, her latest opinion confirms.
The only black and Democrat on the Court, Johnson has a long history of being on the losing side in cases when divisions occurred. She will retire at the end of this year, courtesy of the recently-upheld Louisiana Constitution’s provision (which she dissented from) that disallows a judge running for office if 70 or older at the beginning of that next term.
But it looks like she’s going out with a real bang. A career criminal, Fair Wayne Davis, petitioned the Court to have his life sentence overturned. First convicted for attempted armed robbery in 1979, he received a sentence of ten years at hard labor. Out before his time, he subsequently was convicted of possession of stolen things in 1987, attempted forgery of a check worth $150 in 1989, and for simple burglary of an inhabited dwelling in 1992. As such, he fell under the state’s habitual offender statute, meriting his lifetime residence in a cell.
Posted by Jeff Sadow at 11:45
What was at first a bit of a head scratcher around Shreveport judicial circles has become much clearer as a politicization of a judicial contest.
Last week, the Caddo Parish Sheriff’s Office arrested Trina Chu, currently a candidate in the westernmost district of the state’s Court of Appeals, Second Circuit. Each district has three sections that open up periodically over a decade, and as a no party candidate she challenges longtime no party incumbent Jeannette Garrett for one of those.
Chu used to work for the Second Circuit, a few years back, for former Chief Justice Henry Brown. He left the Court in a hurry one step ahead of censure by the state’s Judiciary Commission for alleged attempted influence of another judge concerning a case in front of the Court about a woman with whom he was very friendly. That attempt supposedly involved material that Chu, also a friend of the woman, had obtained and transmitted illegally.
Posted by Jeff Sadow at 15:00
A recent court decision threatens freedom of speech and assembly at the local level in Louisiana and thereby demands that the Legislature act as soon as possible to rectify.
Last week, the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against a group that wanted to participate in a 2015 Christmas parade in Natchitoches. Authorities barred the state’s Sons of Confederate Veterans chapter from marching while displaying the Confederate battle flag.
The three-judge panel ruled that city authorities weren’t policy-makers on this matter. Not long before the parade, the city voluntarily had turned over parade administration to a local nonprofit group. The group placed the restriction on the SCV, over which city policy-makers had no control the court decided. However, the mayor did ask the group to impose the restriction, which the group had not thought to do otherwise.
You might think the halt in television and film production in Louisiana caused by economic restrictions wrought by the Wuhan coronavirus pandemic might save the state a lot of money. If only that were a silver lining from the budgetary devastation the virus has caused.
Louisiana’s Motion Picture Production Tax credit loses the state a lot money annually. Every two years, the state legally audits the giveaway, which on in-state production can kick back from 25 to 40 percent of costs, subject to certain minimums and screenplay or personnel caps, up to a total across all ventures of $150 million annually in first-come, first-serve fashion. The last report, covering 2017 and 2018, showed that in 2018 it returned only 19 cents on the dollar to state taxpayers, with another 17 cents going to local governments fortunate enough to host productions. In 2018, that meant state taxpayers shelled out a net $120 million future loss (future because credits issued on that spending can be redeemed indefinitely, creating a long-term liability).
In fact, that report showed taxpayers benefited from legal changes in force from 2015-17 that discouraged producers from raiding the treasury. In 2017, the state certified only $113 million in credits, but with the relaxing 2017 changes that figure increased to near the maximum at $148 million. Future years were predicted to hit the cap.
Stuck pigs squeal, which is why a lot of oinking came from Republican Bossier City Mayor Lo Walker over a tax increase he wants voters to ratify on Aug. 15.
Monday, Walker took to the airwaves to explain how the city’s request for voters to authorize starting next year a 6.19 mill property tax dedicated to public safety operations for the next decade really wasn’t an increase over the current 6 mills set to expire this year. The feat to deny the ballot item’s actual wording that it “represent[s] a nineteen hundredths (.19) of a mill increase over the 6 mills authorized” currently involved some misdirection, blame-shifting, and a subordinate’s handy prop.
To understand his argument as it is, which doesn’t quite mesh with how he wanted it to appear, it’s necessary to review the legal arcaneness of Louisiana property taxation. When citizens pass a property tax dedicated to government operations of some kind, the amount becomes a ceiling on what the government can charge. It doesn’t have to levy all of it; every year, governments have the option – in Bossier City’s case, by ordinance – to set rates anywhere up to that maximum, which normally equals the amount approved by voters.
Posted by Jeff Sadow at 16:50
No elections emergency ever existed in Louisiana, nor will one exist this fall, that justifies weakened election rules.
When the Wuhan coronavirus pandemic descended upon Louisiana this spring, a combination of panic and opportunism gripped elected officials in charge of elections. Those who panicked foresaw voting locations for April and May elections becoming a miasma of the virus, inevitably pouncing on the vulnerable who showed up to exercise the franchise. The opportunists saw the environment as a doorway to relax procedures, whether it encouraged illegal voting, that could bring partisan advantage favoring their interests.
Thus, without an entirely convincing rationale, these elections were postponed first for about two months, then another. In the meantime, Republican Sec. of State Kyle Ardoin, backed by Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards, presented a deeply flawed plan to alter procedures for the pair of low-stimulus affairs. When the appropriate legislative panels rejected those temporary rules, he came back with a less-flawed plan that unwisely won acceptance. The rescheduled to Jul. 11 elections operated under these, as will the rescheduled to Aug. 15 set.
It’s you, not him, who deserves blame for Louisiana’s worst-in-the-nation Wuhan coronavirus pandemic response, according to Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards.
In his latest attempt simultaneously to avoid taking responsibility for and to drag out needlessly the state’s sorry policy reaction to the pandemic, last week Edwards said he would keep in place for at least two weeks proclamations that had reduced the size of gatherings to 50, closed bars even with food service permits (unless they have video poker machines) for anything on premises, and mandated face coverings. At week’s close, Louisiana ranked second in cases per capita (Edwards erroneously claimed the state had the most), ranked fourth in current hospitalizations per capita, and sixth in mortality per capita. Only Georgia, which held down, respectively, first, first, and eighth places, rivals Louisiana in pandemic severity at this time.
The reason, said Edwards, is you. Enough of you don’t wear your masks enough to let the state register improved metrics and then move towards more economic openness. And maybe those nasty Republicans had something to do with it, one of his functionaries last month charged, saying that Edwards had resisted imposing this kind of restriction previously because of “political considerations.” Mainly GOP politicians have led the public fight against a heavy-handed state response that included a mask mandate.
Posted by Jeff Sadow at 16:35
The timing is bad, but the idea worse, for a Louisiana local government like Bossier City to ask for a tax hike on citizens.
Next Saturday elections will occur in most parishes in Louisiana three months later than intended. Almost all of these feature local runoffs, tax renewals, or requesting new funding for a bond issue. Uniquely among large jurisdictions, Bossier City asks for a property tax increase.
Not that city politicians wanted to make that obvious in order to increase the chances of the measure passing, as the ballot wording indicates: should the city
With news of a federal government deal on unemployment benefits in the offing, Democrat Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards went to the liberal playbook to pull out a classic tactic to cover up for his mistakes.
Congressional House Democrats and Senate Republicans with GOP Pres. Donald Trump have agreed in principle to slather on more taxpayer largesse soon after the extra $600 a week in unemployment benefits expire at the end of this week. Currently, that means in Louisiana someone who asserts he is looking for work – which by the numbers includes people who weren’t until the bonus became law – can make as much as $847 a week for idleness, which is 92 percent of the state’s median household income for 2018.
The current approach theoretically, as well as anecdotally, has a tremendous moral hazard problem of essentially creating a universal basic income at a relatively high level. This creates a disincentive to work that has caused employers to shut down permanently as well as spawned resentment among those still working.
Reviewing Louisiana’s contests this fall for the Supreme Court and Public Service Commission, whether to act as a stealth Democrat and whether that will cost a candidate are questions that will be answered.
A growing trend in Louisiana, which first began in local contests in the northern part of the state but increasingly has become visible statewide, is for Democrats to run for office without a party label or as an independent, or even calling themselves Republicans. This way, they try not to turn off potential voters who increasingly register as Republicans that turn up their noses at any Democrat while using labelling or other means to signal to faithful remaining Democrats that they are safe to vote for.
In some places, that tactic is irrelevant. For the 7th Supreme Court District contest to replace retiring Democrat Chief Justice Bernette Johnson, which comprises Orleans and some of Jefferson Parish, with a large black and Democrat majority only a Democrat can win. It has three largely interchangeable black Democrat women jostling to replace Johnson – Appellate Judge Sandra Cabrina Jenkins, Orleans Civil Judge Piper Griffin, and Appellate Judge Teri Love.
Posted by Jeff Sadow at 13:50