Gov. Bobby Jindal may have difficulty with oratory (see Pooyie for more on that) and has done nothing yet to erase that wind-up toy national speech back in February, but he’s rapidly acquiring the critical ability to willfully ignore facts and to massage public sentiment with photo ops. Politicians on both sides of the isle must have this skill set, and our man Bobby is becoming an adept. Pucker up infants, here comes the gov.
Case in point: Jindal’s “Louisiana Working Tour.” The governor is whistle-stopping in all 64 parishes, handing out multi millions of dollars to local officials for a wide range of projects. The natives are giddy. It’s all about economic development and jobs-jobs-jobs, the governor says. “Our number one mission is to establish an economic environment that creates opportunity for our people,” his Web site proclaims. “We will not stop until our state is the best place in the country for businesses to invest, grow and create jobs for our people.”
That’s a tall order to fill, but it turns out the administration is getting a little help from Uncle Sam, or Uncle Obama as it were. What the governor has failed to mention as he tours the state, smiling beatifically beside over-large Publishers Clearing House-style cardboard checks with mayors and police jurors standing by in enthralled gratitude, is that a sizable amount of funding for many of those checks comes from the feds including but not limited to the American Recovery & Reinvestment Act, otherwise known as (cue forboding music) the stimulus plan.
That would be the same federal initiative the governor panned as recently as last week when, in an op-ed he wrote for on-line journal Politico, he referred to is as “a nearly trillion-dollar stimulus that has not stimulated.” The same stimulus plan of which, in an act of political posturing or fiscal responsibility, depending on whom you ask, he refused to receive more than $95 million in unemployment money for out-of-work state residents.
But no where on these photo-op checks do we get a hint of their funding source. (Other federal aid including hurricane-recovery money also figures into the checks.) Instead, they are emblazoned with “State of Louisiana - Office of the Governor” and a big, fat logo for the governor’s office. As one political blog put it, “Despite the fact that the checks contain millions of dollars of Recovery Act funds for job training programs, housing assistance programs, homelessness prevention programs, police training, criminal justice technology upgrades, and community development block grants, Jindal has been printing his own name on the checks and taking credit for the money.”
In fact, there are no signs of the stimulus plan in Louisiana, literally. In an article in The Advocate last week, the state Department of Transportation and Development acknowledged that, at the order of DOTD Secretary William Ankner — a Jindal appointee — state road projects funded through the stimulus program will not bear the customary yellow signs indicating the funding source. A DOTD spokesman cites the cost of the displays — up to $800 each — for their absence. When asked why DOTD used similar signage for highway projects funded through state surplus money, the spokesman replied, “But we put up really cheap signs.” Maybe it’s for the best; Obama is popular like poison ivy in Louisiana.
This is neither itchy nor scratchy for me; it’s the unleaded fuel of political chatter and helps with my job-job-job. Now, please enjoy the rest of this week’s edition. I wrote the entire thing myself.
MAY 21 Here's another post from blogger Tom Aswell about the "course choice" program. He's already reported on kids being signed up without their consent or knowledge, and has more here: For example, he tells of a six-year-old who was signed up for high school Latin. He also digs a little deeper into the sister companies of the main one operating in Louisiana; all of them seem to have complaints against them. Stinky.
MAY 21 Given the 80 percent cut in higher ed funding since he's been in office, it's clear Gov. Jindal would rather give tax cuts to out of state companies than have a functioning system, blogger Dayne Sherman argues in this post. The cuts have been such a disaster, Sherman says, that it will take 30 years to fix what's been broken. He says he believes the aim is to shut down most of the schools before Jindal leaves in 2016.
MAY 21 Blogger CB Forgotston says there are too many elections in Louisiana, and they're costing us too much money. The proof is in the pudding: turnout for most of these nonsensical pollings gets worse and worse, CB opines, even as millions of dollars that could be spent on health care or higher ed go down the tubes. The legislature must take action to stem the tide of pointless elections, he says.
MAY 21 Gambit columnist Clancy DuBos writes about the Mother's Day shooting, and how the stages of shock and blame and healing mirror those traveled by the same city following Hurricane Katrina. The city will recover, just as it did following the storm, by reaching out to help the people injured most seriously by the event, DuBos writes. It's how we heal, he says.
MAY 21 Here's an interesting investigative piece by WVUE on the retirement benefits of some Jefferson Parish public employees. According to the story, the taxpayers are paying 100 percent of the retirement contributions of employees who started work prior to a certain date in April 1986 -- and have done for more than 30 years. It costs the parish millions annually, and might not be legal, the story reports.
MAY 21 This post on Bayou Buzz provides insight from Louisiana's intrepid pollster, Bernie Pinsonat, on the winners and losers from this year's legislative session. But to hear Bernie tell it, there's almost nuttin but losers: Jindal, the Republican party, the Fiscal Hawks all get big goose eggs in his win column.
MAY 20 This post on The Lens takes a look at a huge (either $500K or $250K) bill that one NOLA charter now has for school lunches. The RSD says the charter group didn't fill out the proper paperwork for federal reimbursement, but the story details how the RSD didn't ensure the people running the charter had the proper training, despite requests from hapless charter employees trying to fill out forms. Either way, somebody's asleep at the wheel.
MAY 21 Here's a post on the Advocate (but buried on a subpage, not on the front) that reports something Louisiana Voice reported almost a year ago: a top DOE official lives in Los Angeles and "commutes" to Baton Rouge. The positioning of the story caused a stir on Facebook Monday, with several posters asking if the Advocate was covering someone's hiney. Sentell's stories on DOE are notoriously soft, and this one is no different: don't expect any hard questions in here.
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.