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Some Louisiana elected officials get it, others don't

Louisiana elected officials must understand that if the country is to give a huge donation to help the state’s shattered coastal areas rebuild, that the state doesn’t make itself look irresponsible. Some apparently get this, and some don’t.

THEY GET IT: Reps. Jim McCrery and William Jefferson (even as he remains under a legal cloud) scored their second recovery-related bill. It makes sensible requests designed to promote economic recovery and government capacity-rebuilding. It was done with little publicity but with maximal results.

SHE DOESN’T: By contrast, Sen. Mary Landrieu put her name on a bill that is tantamount to post-disaster looting, and now runs around screaming about how she’s going to be a Grinch stealing the Senate’s Christmas if she doesn’t get her stiff demands (for example, not just restoration, but dramatic improvement of levees, even as it is way too early to resolve that argument). That’s really going to win friends and influence enemies, and is just another reason why she is headed to political oblivion.

THEY GET IT: It seems that the Jefferson Parish Council has seen the light regarding the creation of a regional governance boards for levees. Using as a starting point previously failed legislation, some of its members now support a regional board of qualified appointees would make region-wide decisions while leaving existing districts to implement. In part it was Jefferson’s opposition in the last special session that prevented the bill from passing.

(Although they do have a problem with their request that tax monies raised in Jefferson stay with Jefferson projects. That defeats the purpose of having a regional strategy, even if what they do support removes more politics from the process.)

HE DOESN’T: Secretary of State Al Ater continues to generate the appearance of partisanship in performing his duties, by continuing to insist that New Orleans and now statewide elections be delayed several months because of perceived logistical and monetary problems. By arguing there should be a delay of the April statewide election for two constitutional issues, he attempts to blunt criticism that New Orleans elections could be held the same day.

But Ater admits the necessary machines are on order, and surely five months is enough time to get them here and scare up enough poll commissioners in Orleans to operate them (and an ex-Secretary of State and former jailbird says it can be done in February). Even if cost is a consideration, with Ater claiming the federal government is slow to reimburse him, there still is that five months and the reimbursement could come at any time,

Worse, Ater wants to blow a portion of funds that would be set aside for an election on an unprecedented voter outreach effort. In America, states put the burden of registering to vote and carrying it out, in person or absentee, on the individual. Why are people any less competent to perform these tasks just because they got chased around by a natural disaster? This is a waste of taxpayer dollars and again brings up the specter that Ater is more interested in trying to influence the results of the election than in impartially conducting them.

THEY DO AND DON”T GET IT: Most of the members Northeast Louisiana’s legislative delegation think small, judging the recent special session as successful. It largely was, but had such a limited agenda and execution that when you aim that low, it’s hard to miss. Only Sen. Robert Barham and Rep. Kay Katz seemed to understand that bigger issues are at stake. We can only hope by the time of the next special session, projected next month, that this big-picture thinking among all legislators will be spreading faster than water through an Orleans levee breach.

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