[Stephen Handwerk serves in many roles that intersect with this project. He serves on the Louisiana Democratic Party’s Executive Committee, State Party Central Committee, Lafayette Parish Democratic Executive Committee, is a founder of Louisiana Stonewall Democrats and is currently the board president of Acadiana Open Channel. In this release he is speaking clearly for himself from the position of executive producer and not on behalf of any of the organizations he is currently associated with, save for the Acadiana Debates.]
In my role as executive producer of these programs (I was chosen by the Lafayette Democratic Executive Committee and Acadiana Progressives to lead this effort with my experience with AOC, knowing the rules, policies and what I believe to be my standing in the community) I feel I must respond to this column.
Walter Pierce took to the pages of The Independent today to help Representative lie to his constituents in what is likely the first, most certainly not the last, campaign stunt by the incumbent.
From the start we have placed in safeguards to assure that NO candidate was going to be ganged up on, abused or targeted. In fact NONE of the questions we are posing to the candidates are personal in nature. The only time a challenge or “follow up” question is given is when a candidate doesn’t answer a question. or if we know what the candidate is saying is false (such as voting records or statements made in public). Acadiana Debates is being attended by the furthest left of the Democrats and the furthest right of the Republicans in the districts we have chosen to host. Why else would Don Menard or Anthony Emmons choose to attend? Clearly our group is not likely to agree with much of these candidates but they were adult enough to come to our forum and tell us how they would legislate — something all candidates for office, yes even incumbents, should have to do.
To the claim that Rep. Hardy makes that Porsha Evans/Beatrice Wilson may have an axe to grind with him and he brings up her past crimes. Firstly, Porsha was in a junior staff position at DHAP and was doing exactly as she was instructed by her superiors. Secondly, with regard to her past problems with drug abuse, these crimes all happened well over 15 years or more ago. I have known Porsha Evans for the better part of this decade, one in which she has done little but try to improve the community for ALL OF US — to bring help to those who need it.
As for her past, I ask the kind readers here: When has someone paid their debt for mistakes of the past? Does what she did more than a decade ago haunt her for the rest of her life so that she can’t work anywhere? Does she no longer have the right to participate in civil discourse? NOT once did Rep. Hardy or his Legislative Assistant J.P. Stoshak EVER voice any complaint, concern or even mention Evans to me.
Finally I think the larger issue is simply this: Rep. Rickey Hardy lied to his constituents when he confirmed with us that he was going to attend the event. And The Independent helped him perpetuate this lie. Clearly if the representative had issues with any of the members directly involved with this production we would have substituted them out. A prime example of this is Evans worked for several years for former state Sen. Don Cravins. Since he is running for that senate seat, she will not be on the panel during that forum. This was a decision made by us weeks ago.
But at the end of the day what we have here is a political stunt. One that voters are tired of. Why are they tired of them? Because it doesn’t’ help educate one child. It doesn’t help fill one pot hole, it doesn’t put one person back to work or create one job. What could have been solved by one phone call, man to man, from Rep. Hardy sharing his concerns so that we could have had a real debate was lost for this stunt that was in the making for well over a week. So I ask you? Was it worth it? There are no other debates that we know of happening for this race. The incumbent will largely go unchallenged and not have to answer the questions the voters have. Perhaps come election day, then Mr. Hardy will have wished he handled this differently and not as a game.
MAY 20 This post by blogger CB Forgotston draws parallels between Gov. Bobby Jindal and two individuals he probably doesn't want to be aligned with: President Obama and former governor Edwin Edwards. CB says Jindal's trying to jack up the debt ceiling (an Obama play, according to CB) and buy votes from GOP leges who normally wouldn't go for that (an Edwards play, CB says).
MAY 20 Here's a post in the Baptist Message from an alumnus of Louisiana College. The author, Larry Burgess, calls on the leadership of the private school to take care of some pressing problems. Physical plant issues are critical and unaddressed, some faculty make so little they need government health care, and there is an atmosphere that does not encourage honest discussion, he writes. It's time to get things back in order, he says.
MAY 20 This post in Gambit tells of a benefit concert scheduled to raise money for the 19 people shot during a Mother's Day second line on Frenchmen Street in NOLA. Among them was Gambit blogger Deb Cotton, who spoke frequently about violence in the city and reported on the city's second line culture. Gambit's foundation, along with other NOLA non-profits, also is selling t-shirts to raise money for the victims.
MAY 20 Blogger Robert Mann is critical of the personal interest some legislators take in their work here, sharing the comments one NOLA solon made in explaining his decision to vote against a bill that would require people to stop discriminating against female workers. His wife might lose some salary, so he was going to have to vote against the equal pay bill, Conrad Appel said. Appel and everyone who heard him should have been ashamed, but they weren't, and that's what is wrong in that building, Mann argues.
MAY 20 American Press columnist Jim Beam writes about the budget again here, urging kudos for the House and its efforts to try to fix the budget as opposed to passing on a flawed and messy rubber-stamped document as it usually does. The Senate already is poo-pooing the effort, but instead Senators should be trying to find a way to improve it as well, Beam argues. He also has some predictions in here from LABI and CABL.
MAY 20 Here's a link to the photo gallery from Tulane's graduation this past weekend. Dr. John and Allen Toussaint played together and received honorary degrees. The Dalai Lama was so entranced by their performance he got up from his seat and walked across the stage to stand next to them. He even participated in a second line with his own personal, saffron-colored umbrella. To the graduates, he urged them to think about creating a peaceful, hopeful life and society.
MAY 20 This Picayune story questions the rhetoric of NOLA officials who say the city, aside from having a "murder problem," is safe. The talking points generally are that the criminals are killing each other, but everything else is OK. The police chief there says that even Lafayette is more dangerous than NOLA. But crime experts interviewed here say that NOLA's numbers indicate one of two things: either people are so used to violence they don't report it, or somebody's "fudging the numbers."
MAY 20 The Advocate's Mark Ballard writes about some of the background maneuvering that took place during the development of budget alternatives in the Legislature. From Rep. Joel Robideaux being called a "tax and spend liberal" to robo-call influence, Ballard lets us in on some of the work that happens behind the scenes but usually doesn't make it into the Advocate's daily coverage of the session.
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.
There will soon be a whole lot of shakin’ going on at Benny’s Sportshack Supplement Depot, a new concept by Opelousas native Benny Nele. Located at 2002 Johnston St., the supplement shop, smoothie bar and café, featuring hot off the press paninis and wraps, plans to open in late May.