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21.12.14

Bossier City fiddles while arena burns taxpayer dollars

Last week, Bossier City lawmakers shot down a pay raise for employees, where having no such hikes has become the norm over the past few years. Maybe if the city hadn't played venture capitalist in the name of economic development, this would not have happened.



This comes from about a dozen years existence of what’s now called the CenturyLink Center. Flush with cash with the introduction of riverboat casinos in the 1990s and with the familiar gnaw of Shreveport envy tugging, the city’s elected officials (with councilors Jeff Darby and Bubba Williams still with us from then, and current Mayor Lo Walker having ascended from being the city’s chief administrative officer) decided to build the mid-sized multipurpose arena on the taxpayer dime. Of course, had a market existed for this, the private sector would have obliged, but politicians charged on, telling the public it could be done for under $40 million but which ended up costing half again more.



That and controversy over its siting (which drew big opposition from residents in the areas around the Jimmie Davis Bridge) cost some city council members their elective careers in 2001. It’s just plain cost taxpayers since, with a total deficit running into the millions of dollars since its opening in 2000, as reflected by the fact that in all of those years operating revenues exceeded operating costs except for two, meaning the city has transferred in through 2013 approaching $5 million that could have been spent on other city operations.

18.12.14

Event tempts some to contradict university's mission



The staging of an event at Louisiana State University Baton Rouge’s Pete Maravich Assembly Center has raised the question about whether events at state facilities ought to be censored over free speech concerns of its sponsors, and is worth some exploration.



A prayer rally termed “The Response” is scheduled there Jan. 24 of next year and has caused controversy because the main sponsor behind it is the American Family Association. The organization has gained recognition for organizing boycotts of and registering legal complaints against television programs and movies that show higher amounts of graphic sex, violence, or language, and generally supports traditional morality in public policy. As a result, it strongly has condemned the practice of homosexuality and laws that legitimize it in the public sphere, such as same-sex marriage.



In turn, supporters of the concept that policy should protect expressions of homosexual behavior bitterly oppose the group. The absurdly-named Southern Poverty Law Center – being as its assets are over a quarter billion dollars – quaintly calls the AFA a “hate group,” which is the standard appellation it levies on groups who promote an agenda to which it disagrees, rendering it the genuine hate group of them all. Elements that apparently agree with that assessment seek to protest the event and to change policy concerning facility rental. To make matters more interesting, the event’s guest of honor appears to be Gov. Bobby Jindal.

17.12.14

Watering down TOPS subverts its beneficial impact

A recent opinion piece by a private university leader in Louisiana suggests less in the way of achieving educational excellence for those who attend college in the state than it does to encourage increase lining of his school’s pockets.



Dillard University Pres. Walter Kimbrough, upon reviewing the results of a recent report concerning statistics about the state’s Taylor Opportunity Program for Scholars, which pays tuition at the highest state-school level for any university in the state for students who have graduated from high schools in state, or who were home schooled, or who meet other special qualifications if certain qualifications are met, declared the program “is more of an engine of inequality than it is of opportunity.” The program began out of a private effort by philanthropist Patrick Taylor to fund college for at-risk children in New Orleans who were able to graduate from high school.



But when the state institutionalized this into law using public money in 1998, the program as a tool to send students from lower socioeconomic backgrounds to college became only one goal for use of that money. Incredibly modest merit standards were put into place for qualification to earn it, which today means that a student graduating from a high school to pursue non-technical study must pass there a certain number of core courses, achieve a 2.5 grade point average, and score a 20 composite on the American College Test.

16.12.14

2014 scenarios should prompt end of blanket primary

For some time this space has argued that Louisiana not only should return to closed primaries for Congressional elections, but for all elections. In the wake of 2014 elections favoring Republicans in the state, other voices have joined in perhaps through surveying GOP wins that might have turned out differently that could not have if the blanket primary system had been junked.



Perhaps most strikingly, Republicans nearly threw away a safe seat on – and thus the effective majority on it – the Public Service Commission as the stealth candidate phenomenon came calling to its District 1 contest. In the general election, incumbent Eric Skrmetta polled only 37 percent of the all-Republican field, one point behind Forest Bradley Wright with the remainder of the vote but not enabling him to make the runoff going to perennial candidate Al Leone.



But Wright only two years earlier had run as a Democrat in a different district (there is no residency requirement for these), gaining just a fifth of the vote, and had not changed his hard left environmentalist agenda. However, enough voters in the heavily-conservative district became aware of this so that Skrmetta pulled out a win by about 4,000 votes in the runoff.

15.12.14

Mitch Landrieu candidacy can't resurrect Democrats


While a proper understanding of the precarious political position Louisiana Democrats find themselves in certainly globally would assist the party, perhaps no one would benefit more from knowing this than their own New Orleans Gov. Mitch Landrieu in terms of what to do with his political life. And while those options don’t look great, his chances of maximizing them depends upon comprehending the most valid interpretation.



As previously noted, the blowout loss of his sister Democrat Sen. Mary Landrieu to Republican Rep. Bill Cassidy to retain her present Senate seat has been understood poorly by many on the political left. Some wish to ignore its root causes and plan to sail on without learning its lessons: when leftist candidates are seen for what they truly are, which will be the case going forward in Louisiana, they cannot win statewide nor legislative majorities in Louisiana. The trick to recovery, then, is for Democrats to preach less in the way of the extreme liberalism that emanates out of today’s White House and (in a month) the minority parties in Congress, not to double down on it.



An objection to this argument declares that a moderating strategy that became more like a less far-reaching version of conservatism than like liberalism ultimately would fail because Democrats would end up echoing Republicans and voters torn between the two would still side with the real thing. Instead, this view holds out hope that traditional modern liberalism can appeal on economic issues to win back enough voters to make the party competitive, if not able to win majorities.

14.12.14

Better choices out there for LA governor than Cain



It might surprise readers to know that the idea of the warden of Louisiana’s most prominent prison running for governor is neither unprecedented nor futile: the only man ever to defeat Huey Long in an election was Henry Fuqua upon winning the governor’s race in 1924, with his only political experience and also previous job title for eight years having been the warden at the Louisiana State Prison in Angola. Yet that shouldn’t mean an embryonic candidacy of the current chief there Burl Cain either is realistic nor desirable.



While the state’s media may report the notion of Cain’s jousting for the state’s top spot, apparently juiced by anonymous social media postings, as something novel, in fact this talk has circulated previously, as noted warily by the far left in reference to the 2011 election. Cain has carved out a history as a prison reformer that puts the locus on reformation of the individual from within, that believes good, hard, honest work spurs such reformation (or at least helps the miscreant square his debt to society), and that religious belief and its expression does wonders to subsume and control man’s tendency towards evil.



In Cain’s nearly two decades heading up Angola, he has achieved near-celebrity status on the basis of helping to turn what once had been a dreadful operation into one that prides itself on its safety (a large portion of its population is murderers and the large majority are lifers), its multitude of enterprises that pay for some of its operations (including loaning itself out for documentaries and feature films), certain high-profile prisoner-run aspects such as its rodeo and newspaper, and the relatively high proportion of evangelization spread among its inmates. Critics maintain that Cain treats some prisoners too harshly (the most recent allegation being over its ambient death row temperatures) and severity depends upon whether they embrace religiosity, especially of his evangelical kind.

11.12.14

Lack of Democrat self-awareness dooms their fortunes


Some obviously get it; others don’t. As activist Louisiana Democrats fall into the latter category, that only serves to reinforce the prediction made recently in this space.



The inevitable postmortems of the collapse of their state party as a result of the blowout GOP wins by all kinds of its candidates over all kinds of theirs came out about the same time as the syndicated version of this space produced its version. Some of the more thoughtful observers, such as national political newsletter writer Stuart Rothenberg who noted increasingly partisan politics based upon ideological differentiation explained Rep. Bill Cassidy’s swamping of Sen. Mary Landrieu in her futile reelection attempt, and my professional colleagues who understand that issue preferences are driving more than ever voting behavior in the south and their differenences between parties have become starker as national Democrats continue to champion ideology at odds with the majority in Louisiana and a vast majority of its whites, creating a dilemma for the party’s success.



But the problem facing Democrats is that if these voices are listened to among the party’s supporters, activists, and leaders, then they are being disregarded. Some merely misread the environment, such as state political newsletter writer Jeremy Alford. He explains the Landrieu blowout ultimately came because “the GOP pushed emotion, not necessarily a candidate.” In reality, for many voters in that contest emotion had less to do with their decision and issues more, much more than perhaps ever for a U.S. Senate contest in the state.

10.12.14

Voters acting in own interests sideline LA Democrats

Saturday, Dec. 6, 2014 marked the end of the transformation of Louisiana’s political party system, as every imaginable Republican defeated, and then some, every imaginable Democrat, a scenario unthinkable when Sen. Mary Landrieu first got herself elected to statewide office in 1987.



In these elections for Louisiana to fill its slate of federal elected officials, Democrat Landrieu struggled in her reelection bid against Republican Rep. Bill Cassidy, in the process becoming the first incumbent to lose from the state in over 80 years. Even as she lost by 12 percent, compared to her down-ballot colleagues she didn’t do badly.



In the Fifth Congressional District political newcomer Republican Dr. Ralph Abraham rolled up over 60 percent of the vote in triumphing over Democrat Monroe Mayor Jamie Mayo, and in the Sixth Congressional District longtime political aide and appointee Republican Garret Graves did the same against Democrat former Gov. Prisoner #03128-095. This will leave starting next year the only such Democrat in Louisiana being Rep. Cedric Richmond.

9.12.14

Change desire expressed by Shreveport, Caddo voters

When looking at the sum total of local elections in Caddo Parish this year, throwing out bums, or at least not letting them into office, erupted as the overall theme among voters.



Not entirely accidentally the highest profile contest, Shreveport mayor, saw the two quality candidates least connected to previous electoral office advance to the runoff. Rank amateur Victoria Provenza dispatched a sitting city councilman and state representative, while winner Ollie Tyler only had executive experience as a political appointee to run the parish’s largest government (by operating budget the Caddo Parish School District) but her first election try which brought victory now puts her in charge of the entity in the parish with the second largest budget.



Tyler defeated Provenza, a white no-party candidate, because she was a black Democrat in a city where 41.7 percent of registered voters are black Democrats. More interesting is that the other two major officeholders who didn’t make the runoff also were black Democrats. These electorally experienced candidates got rejected. While Tyler was perceived by many to be the choice of outgoing Mayor Cedric Glover, she does represent something of a break with a mayor under whose leadership Shreveport seemed to stagnate.

8.12.14

Moribund Democrats look to put up stealth candidates


As Louisiana Democrats find themselves sliding into political oblivion, they find on offer two strategies to become meaningful again at the statewide level: adapt to the median voter’s issue preference, or to rely on subterfuge. Early indications are their hardheaded leaders will rely on the latter.



As the party as a whole, mimicking its national superstructure, has drifted away from the preferences of Louisiana’s majority, not surprisingly voters have turned away from it. It lost its legislative majorities shortly before the 2011 elections, not long before the switch by Attorney General Buddy Caldwell to the GOP gave the state all Republicans in statewide state elected offices. The year before, the U.S. House of Representatives delegation had gone all Republican except for the sole black-majority district in the state, and now with the rout suffered by Sen. Mary Landrieu last weekend in her bid for reelection, no one elected statewide is a Democrat. Keep in mind that two decades ago Democrats held all statewide elected offices, all but two U.S. House districts, and 85 percent of the seats in the Legislature.



Voting publics do not shift so radically in preferences, but party elites do, and thus if they wish to be more successful electorally they must persuade the public to vote for them – clearly unsuccessfully – or moderate their extremism in issue preferences. Yet as the campaigns of Landrieu and other Democrat competitors for House seats this fall – who endured defeats worse than Landrieu’s – showed, Democrat elites don’t exactly seem open to that.