During the recent session of the Louisiana Legislature, House Speaker Jim Tucker, R-New Orleans, and his hand-picked Chairman of Appropriations Jim Fannin, D-Jonesboro, fought mightily to inflict severe and destructive cuts on higher education, doing little to nothing to mitigate this budget problem.
I understand the need for cuts given the current budget forecasts, but it was Speaker Tucker’s angry tirade against the state’s colleges and universities that revealed how little respect our purported leaders hold for higher education in Louisiana, and how little understanding they have for the critical need to properly invest in higher education. In his fury, he made all sorts of negative accusations, but basically declared higher education to be dysfunctional.
As a retired university administrator of 46 years, I can say with some authority that he is right. Higher education in Louisiana is dysfunctional. It is so because of short-sighted, arrogant politicians like Tucker who devalue and insult the most important economic development engine driving this state. His immature demagoguery is an unpleasant tactic that attempts to justify severe cuts on the very colleges and universities that produced people such as himself. This under-funding ultimately cheats our young people from getting the best education possible.
His relish for unnecessarily debilitating higher education is ironic, as he was one of the prime leaders of the move to triple his own legislative pay, an effort rejected by the citizens of Louisiana. Tucker seems to believe that our campuses can adequately educate our people and be nationally competitive on the same short budgets of yesteryear. Thankfully, Senate President Joel Chaisson, D-Destrehan, and Senate Finance Chairman Mike Michot, R-Lafayette, had the foresight and courage to mitigate the severe cuts to higher education, forcing Tucker and company to come to the negotiation table.
I highly recommend that Gov. Bobby Jindal rein Tucker in as quickly as possible or he will find that instead of retaining and bringing our best and brightest home, he will be the governor saying to our best and brightest, “Last one to leave, please turn out the lights.”
MAY 17 Here's a column from James Gill, this time in the Advocate. Gill, who has jumped ship from the Picayune, writes about the absurdity of dueling polls in this post. The numbers are so wildly different, it is obvious that both sides are "cooking the books," he writes. In particular, he looks at Sen. Mary Landrieu, and how her recent actions in DC have been received by those polled. Gill's acerbic, amusing prose is a welcome addition to a paper so conservative as to be occasionally lacking in personality.
MAY 17 Blogger Tom Aswell continues delivering bombshells about the state education department and Gov. Jindal's education "reform" efforts. In this post, he reports that students in the Shreveport area have been signed up for a charter school without their knowledge or consent. Most interesting to Aswell is how this Texas-based charter (with ties to GOP types) got the personal student information it has, if the students didn't give it.
MAY 17 This post by JR Ball in the Baton Rouge Business Report is an interesting tongue-in-cheek look at recent Baton Rouge economic development efforts. Among the items he examines is the idea that gaining a Costco makes BR a "world-class city." (Really? All you need is a different brand of Sam's? MK!) This effort, and other recent ones, are all built on the taxpayer's back, with tax zones, tax incentives and tax rebates, Ball writes.
MAY 17 Blogger CB Forgotston is critical of the legislature's reliance on a revenue-estimating committee's decision to include projected tax amnesty income in this year's forecast. That's a problem, CB posts, because the deadline for these people to pay their taxes is June 30, 2014. So when do you think these people who haven't paid taxes in years are going to pay their taxes? Surely not before June 30, and that means the money won't be there for this year's budget, he argues.
MAY 17 Here's an interesting blog out of California by a Hollywood writer, attorney and academic named Brian Alan Lane. He blogs about higher ed, and was a whistle-blower in a scandal over false credentials. In this post, he takes aim at LSU's new top dog, King Alexander. It's convoluted and a little confusing, but it sure makes Alexander a lot more interesting than he was yesterday.
MAY 17 Blogger Robert Mann writes about the LSU Board's refusal to allow Dr. Fred Cerise to testify before the legislature about Gov. Jindal's plan to close down all the state's charity hospitals and dump the poor on the private system. It's hard to imagine anyone more qualified than Cerise to testify about that, so why would anyone try to prevent him doing so? Mann thinks it is because the powers that be aren't interested in hearing any truth about the plan.
MAY 17 This post on the Louisiana Sinkhole Bugle, a blog that notes developments in the Bayou Corne and Jefferson Island salt domes, talks about a proposed expansion of the salt dome storage under Lake Peigneur in Iberia Parish. Residents are working against it for several reasons, including two biggies: the sinkhole disaster in Bayou Corne and the continuing, unexplained bubbling on the surface of the Lake.
MAY 17 NOLA police arrested more people Thursday accused of either being involved in the Mother's Day shooting or hiding the suspect afterward, this Gambit story reports. The NOLA police chief said he suspects the whole thing was gang-related and throws out a challenge to the gangs: he's got informants now, he says, and he knows a lot more than the gangs want him to know. The people who live in the neighborhoods terrorized by gangs are ready to talk, he says.
Is it a crime for citizens to photograph, video, or take notes of a police officer in the line of duty, or a right protected by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution? Locally, such activity, as witnessed recently, will at the very least result in a night spent behind bars.
David Calhoun and Elizabeth “EB” Brooks are the first two employees of Lafayette Central Park Inc., the nonprofit charged with turning Lafayette Consolidated Government’s 100-acre Johnston Street Horse Farm property into a passive public park. Calhoun was named executive director, and Brooks is director of planning and design.
Episcopal School of Acadiana’s Dr. Joshua Caffery, chair of the school’s English Department, is headed to Washington, D.C., and the Library of Congress as the latest winner of the Alan Lomax Fellowship in Folklife Studies.