Do you know where the term gerrymander comes from? Story has it in 1812, then Massachusetts Gov. Elbridge Gerry redrew the state’s political lines to favor his own party. When an artist observed the outcome of the governor’s etching, he noted that the shape resembled a salamander. A newspaper editor at the time coined the phrase gerrymander, which has been used ever since to describe the politics as usual process of redistricting that comes every 10 years.
As the three-week special redistricting session heats up in Baton Rouge, lawmakers are quickly showing the state that the protection of their own political futures is a top priority — second only to mapping the required minority districts to appease the U.S. Department of Justice — and the question of which congressman from Louisiana loses his or her seat has gone all the way to YouTube.
The Times-Picayune reports that the battle between potential power shifts in Jefferson and Orleans parishes due to drastic population shifts in New Orleans has some legislators publicly stating they don’t want to run against each other next election, while The Advocate reports that the process of redrawing Baton Rouge districts has black lawmakers in an uproar.
Black caucus members are attacking House Speaker Jim Tucker’s plan because the minority districts being drawn in East Baton Rouge Parish and elsewhere have too high a percentage of black voters, which they say will create less diversity in other districts by having too few black voters in non minority districts, The Advocate reports:
The more black voters in majority white districts, the more influence they can potentially exert in elections and on the actions of those elected and vice versa as far as white voters in majority black districts, [state Rep. Michael Jackson] said.
Tucker, a Terrytown Republican, meanwhile, is busy trying to calm the fears of his colleagues, like Rep. John LaBruzzo of Metairie and Rep. Nick Lorusso of Lake Vista, who say they simply do not want to face each other in the upcoming election cycle:
Tucker said he will not redraw the map in a way that reduces the 29 majority non-white districts he has proposed. In fact, the Legislative Black Caucus is seeking a 30th majority non-white district in Shreveport.
The speaker added later Monday that, even as he entertains changes, time is running out in the three-week session that must end by April 13. The House redistricting committee is expected to take up the map again Wednesday. He said he wants the bill on the House floor by Friday. There, he told members, “I don’t expect to have any substantive amendments.”
Then there’s the issue of re-carving the state’s Congressional districts with six reps instead of seven. That heated topic has prompted an anonymous group to post a YouTube video that portrays north Louisiana politicians as mafiosos who meet secretly over drinks and cigars to figure out how to protect their incumbent seats.
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.