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Politicized meeting no help in broadband funding quest

If one had hoped that discussion about the state’s recent loss of a federal government grant opportunity at the recent Public Service Commission meeting could produce positive activity to produce more widely available broadband capability, that got dashed with the spinning of wild conspiracy theories that entirely lack credibility, contractors and agencies trying to cover themselves, and a state government that only too late realized it had headed in the wrong direction and then ran up against partisan political realities when it tried to salvage the situation.

Although the PSC has no jurisdiction over the matter, Commissioner Foster Campbell wanted it discussed. Almost two years ago the state, using the Board of Regents as the lead agency, was awarded a grant to link broadband access off of a high capacity line connecting the state’s northern universities that would have expanded access to public state and local agencies as far west as the Texas border and as far east as Baton Rouge. It was hoped that the lowered costs would encourage private sector providers to latch on and lower provision costs so more households and businesses could get this kind of service, supplementing slower current networks.

But as the project fell way behind, months ago the Division of Administration stepped in with, compared to the original, a very different plan that removed the state in large part from building and operating the network to a leasing arrangement.


Uncompetitive assessors' races deserved more scrutiny

While higher profile races may have gotten more attention, voters in Caddo and Bossier Parishes delivered a verdict on an intriguing question in the contests for the same minor office – do they care about what a parish assessor does or can do?

Democrat Incumbent Caddo Assessor Charles Henington got his first challenge in a dozen years from Republican attorney Royal Alexander, a past state Attorney General candidate and who worked on Capitol Hill. Alexander made as his main issue the fact that Caddo residents paid the most in property taxes and declared that, generally speaking, comparable properties in Caddo were assessed at a higher value than elsewhere.

Henington responded by saying Caddo never had been cited by the state for having values out of line with what assessments ought to be.


Dardenne policy should focus on taxpayers, not ambitions

So Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne breathes a sign of relief, after two statewide elections in two years, and four in the past five, now that he appears to have plenty of time to govern rather than campaign. Mind you, the campaigning part was his own choice – he didn’t have to run for Secretary of State in a special 2006 election, then run for the regular job, only to seek successfully to abandon it in 2010 for this job. And now this progressive ambition threatens unwise prioritization of Louisiana tax dollars.

Unsatisfied with the opportunities provided by the secretary of state’s job, when assuming his current position after the special election in 2010, Dardenne must have felt even less fulfilled. Given this job-hopping pattern, it’s unlikely that Dardenne does not aspire to something even higher and with far more policy-making importance than this or his previous job. And to parlay his current position into that future, he must depend upon a historical fluke that without would make the leveraging power of his position virtually nil.

The Louisiana Constitution provides the lieutenant governor with no power. This was as the guiding force behind the 1974 (the latest) Constitution, then (before becoming Prisoner #03128-095) Gov. Edwin Edwards, intended.


Songy record problematic in achievement, legal issues

The Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education District 6 runoff between Republican incumbent Chas Roemer and Democrat challenger Donald Songy has taken the most ideological tone of the remaining undecided contests. But also the “professional” vs. “outsider” theme needs reviewing to judge the qualifications of the candidates.

Roemer, a businessman, has argued that his approach, promoting school choice such as by facilitating charter school operation and dismantling counterproductive institutions and processes by means such as tying teacher evaluation more closely to performance, will move the state out of dwelling at or close to the bottom of educational achievement statistics. Songy opposes many of these reform efforts and contends that his three decades of working in public schools, the last four year before retirement as superintendent of Ascension Parish schools, makes him more capable of creating improvement.

Songy, of course, must address the obvious question of using his career and approach as examples of qualifications when they took part in an educational system that has performed poorly; was he and his outlook then not part of the problem?


Grant discussion wise to resist politicization, find solutions

While perhaps the request by Public Service Commissioner Foster Campbell does not really fit the mission of his governmental body, it does provide an opportunity to help chart a course to salvage a federal government grant awarded to the state, now revoked, by avoiding politicization of the issue.

Campbell asked that at the Nov. 9 meeting of the PSC it discuss the matter, even though the regulatory purview of the PSC makes it questionable whether it has any legal input at all regarding the issue of build out of telecommunications infrastructure by the public sector before it operates. It concerns a statement from Washington that the Department of Commerce’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s grant office has told the state it had serious reservations about whether the state could come up with a plan it deems workable for a Broadband Technology Opportunities Program grant by its deadline.

The BTOP program, created by the initial Pres. Barack Obama spending bill known as the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, funds in three areas, two of which Louisiana pursued: