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Scrap new N.O. personnel rules that discriminate

Although the problem may find proper resolution beforehand, when New Orleans Mayor-elect LaToya Cantrell assumes office in five months she may have the chance to prevent a flaw in city civil service rules from violating Louisiana’s Constitution if not individuals’ civil rights.

Last week, the city’s personnel director Lisa Hudson ruled a batch of Fire Department promotions were tainted by discrimination. In 2016, Chief Timothy McConnell promoted dozens of firefighters to captain’s rank, under revised rules stemming from Mayor Mitch Landrieu’s “Great Place to Work” Initiative. The package’s promotion claims the effort is to “create a merit-based employment structure where decisions about hiring, promotion, and pay are made based on the individual employee’s abilities and performance” and it would “modernize – not eliminate – our civil service system.”

Civil service systems exist to ensure extraneous factors that don’t bear on doing the best job possible don’t influence decisions to hire, fire, promote, demote, or other reward or punish government employees. But changes made under the initiative’s aegis allowed precisely this.


Kennedy tactic questions Edwards' competence

Perhaps Republican Sen. John Kennedy’s attack on Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards’ criminal sentencing reform package contained more than one layer in a bid to challenge him in 2019.

In my most recent Baton Rouge Advocate column, I noted how criticisms Kennedy levied against measures championed by Edwards to reduce numbers and lengths of sentences of incarceration appealed to a law-and-order populist crowd. He did this in a way to suggest Edwards had put public safety at risk by reducing prison populations without putting in place enough resources to discourage recidivism, but more overtly by calling the Department of Corrections incompetent to handle the transition.

He made this charge by reminding of numerous black eyes suffered by DOC over the past few years. But he also lumped in the Department of Public Safety, increasingly in the spotlight for the nervy antics of its former commander Mike Edmonson. Apparently, investigators believe Edmonson engaged in corrupt behavior that escalated in brashness over time, ripping off taxpayers and winking at other favored individuals who did the same, even obstructing investigations.


Shreveport contracting process needs reform

As Shreveport Mayor Ollie Tyler enters a reelection year, changes she could galvanize City Council support to alter city’s contracting procedures, both giving voters a reason to return her to office and injecting greater confidence into city use of taxpayer dollars.

Shreveport sends deals exceeding $10,000 through its Architectural/Engineering Selection Committee for contracting in these areas. This fall, criticisms, particularly from City Councilman James Flurry, have come that its current structure and procedures in the city’s ordinances present too many opportunities for a mayor to enforce a pay-for-play regime that puts rewarding political allies first.

The committee has nine members, but the mayor in reality appoints six entirely controlled by her – four city department heads she can fire at will and two citizen appointees. Another she must appoint but does not employ is the director of the Metropolitan Planning Commission. The Shreveport City Council selects its chairman and clerk for the other two.


Abandonment highlights LA anti-competitive taxes

So, how’s that convoluted Louisiana corporate tax code that requires state-sanctioned bribery working out?

It appears Jefferson Parish-based Smoothie King will emulate a number of larger past Louisiana-headquartered corporations and head to greener pastures. All signs seem to indicate inevitable decampment to Texas by the franchiser with nearly 1,000 locations.

That could have happened 5 years ago, but the state stepped in with an incentive package for it to stay, that looks to end up costing taxpayers over $2 million. This figure could have gone a bit higher, except the firm did not hit all of its job and payroll numbers.