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Tantrums don't change facts of need for closing, reform

Feel better now, after the three-hour tantrum about the closing of the Southeast State Hospital? Feel better now, after the six-month tantrum about education reform? I hope so, because neither changes the fact of the rectitude both of the closure and reform.

If modern liberalism were in charge in most respects of public policy-making in Louisiana, these actions of a meeting to protest the closure and of a recall petition directed at Gov. Bobby Jindal would resonate perfectly with that ideology’s dependence upon emotion and assertion of feelings to formulate policy, with inconvenient facts shoved aside in a blizzard of illogic. But it isn’t, and the facts remain.

Louisiana as a state, both in terms of public and private mental health beds per capita, is in the top quarter of states, and plenty of beds exist in the Regions 1 and 9 that had been served by the hospital. Some family members will have to travel longer distances to visit patients, but it’s not the state’s job to give them curb service, only to do the best it can (often for free) to treat the afflicted. Many families and patients also have the option of private and non-profit providers in the area.


Closings teach privatization loaf better than none at all

Facing fiscal pressure and changing demographics, the Gov. Bobby Jindal Administration went for Plan B concerning correctional institutions, probably leading a number of state and local policy-makers bemoaning that they got what they wished for.

This past legislation session, and in the previous one, Jindal had budgeted to privatize some state prisons beyond the two already permitted in state law, as well as this past session planned to close two others. As occurred the year before, no further privatization occurred, but the closures happened despite an attempt to make an end run around Jindal’s authority on the matter.

Apparently, the numbers indicated that this was not enough, so last week the Administration announced the closure in two months of the C. Paul Phelps facility in southwestern Louisiana that would save an estimated $12 million a year. Demographic and local capacity trends such as they are, that space has turned surplus. Naturally, the decision left some state legislators and city officials whining about how a few local residents will lose jobs and a few businesses will lose subsidized inmate labor.


Hypocrite moans when others may get taxpayer largesse

It seems for some being at the public trough is not enough. They also have to act as hypocrites when it appears others may be trying to push their snouts into the mix.

Complaints arose from one Louisiana film studio boss when he discovered that the National Aeronautics and Space Administration was renting out part of its Michoud Assembly Center for use as a film studio. Patrick Mulhearn of Raleigh Studios claims that the federal government, which is required to recover costs when possible on facilities, set rental rates for another studio to use its unused space at below-market rates, which would violate federal rules. NASA says it does not and no demand in the aerospace area means the space would not get used for the general purpose of the facility.

Raleigh uses space at Baton Rouge’s Celtic Media Centre, leading Mulhearn to whine, “All I've been given is hearsay from producers who tell me that our rates are more expensive than theirs. The taxpayers didn't fund [Michoud] to make movies. … I know that [Celtic’s owners] never would have built this facility if they knew they were going to have to compete with NASA.”


LA Third District tilt hinges on differing GOP strategies

As usual in these kinds of cases, the reason for the intensity of Louisiana’s Third House District contest between U.S. Reps. Charles Boustany and Jeff Landry is because they are so similar on the issues – which produces an opportunity actually to dissect and discuss the issues.

Trying for his fifth term, Boustany, from an old-line political family in Lafayette, got matched with freshman Landry, with a much newer political pedigree, because of redistricting brought about by Louisiana’s failure to grow much in population in the last decade. Both being Republicans in an area that has evolved into a solidly conservative national electoral district, one will win.

Certainly they differ in style. Boustany takes a measured approach that focuses more on the deal-making aspect, while Landry forcefully articulates issue preferences that highlight policy and where preferences differ among representatives. To oversimplify, they pose the “insider” vs. the “maverick,” and provide contrast on the eternal political question of democratic rule of whether meaningful policy gains can come given the costs of compromise in their achievement.


LSU System consolidation, excising best scenario

Comments by Gov. Bobby Jindal appear to map out the direction a major part of higher education governance, and related to that organization of the state’s charity hospital system, will take beginning soon.

Jindal voiced support for combining the top job at both the Louisiana State University system and at its largest entity Louisiana State University Baton Rouge. The system oversees four campuses that award degrees all the way from associates to doctoral in many fields, other campuses dedicated only to graduate degrees in professional areas, specialized research-only institutions, and two systems of charity hospitals. Presently, the same individual on an interim basis holds both this system presidency and the chancellorship at LSUBR.

Earlier this year, outside advocacy groups and some members of the entity that governs the system, the Board of Supervisors, indicated a desire to implement a “one LSU” concept, which essentially would bring the disparate parts of the system under the authority of LSUBR. Instead of them operating as separate institutions, in essence they would become parts of LSUBR. The professional schools would become separate colleges, the research institutions managed by LSUBR, the other teaching campuses satellites of the Baton Rouge campus, and the hospitals now also run by it.