We envy newspapers like The Times-Picayune and Gambit Weekly. New Orleans has corruption in its government institutions — widespread, endemic, congenital corruption; cancerous corruption that no chemical can ameliorate. It cannot be zapped by microwaves. New Orleans has bribes and kickbacks, back stabbing and malfeasance — all the colorful enumerations of bad, selfish, greedy behavior by which Louisiana’s political reputation is calculated. That malaise is apparently spreading with the city’s white flight: Mandeville’s recently former mayor pleaded guilty a week and a half ago to federal tax evasion and mail fraud charges. Now that’s working for the people (in the press).
Investigation. Arrest. Trial. Conviction. Sentence. They’re the bread and butter of journalism, especially journalism willing to take on people in power at the risk of alienating them. Government in the Big Easy is a big easy target; it has produced a spring in the step of reporters there for decades.
Here in Lafayette, it’s been a tougher row to hoe. We rejoice when a police chief confesses to bugging his secretary’s office or a grandstanding councilman scribbles graffiti on a credenza. Is that the best we can do? It’s superficial. A scrape in need of Bactine, a Band Aid and a kiss from mother.
This week’s cover story assessing the performance of department heads in Lafayette Consolidated Government is proof that it’s a desert out there. Certainly there is dysfunction in LCG — it wouldn’t be a human enterprise otherwise. That’s the idea we’re trying to convey in the image on this week’s cover: The structure isn’t perfect — there are gaps and misalignments — but it is somehow sound. It stands on its own. That’s no small undertaking in a consolidated government where rural and urban have to find a way to mesh competing prerogatives.
By and large, LCG is functional. Its upper management is competent; they have training and degrees in their areas of expertise. They do a good job at salaries probably lower than what they could earn in the private sector. Most of them are local, invested in the community. There are no black helicopters hovering over Lafayette, which sucks for us in local media. We watch and wait, then wait and watch.
One thing to watch is City-Parish President Joey Durel’s quest to equip all vehicles in the LCG fleet — from company cars to multi-axle trucks — with GPS tracking. He didn’t sell councilmen on the idea during budget finalization — the council balked — but he reinstated the nearly $400,000 in the budget for GPS with his veto pen. Durel is convinced, based on a stunning example of fuel savings after a state agency started using GPS, that the system will pay for itself quickly.
How? By making LCG employees honest. One implication of wanting GPS in all city-parish vehicles is that some LCG employees are using the vehicles for purposes other than what’s on the work order — putting extra, unauthorized miles on them. Durel is too nice a guy to say it plainly, which hurt his sales pitch to the council, but that’s part of it: some LCG employees are skimming from the proverbial till. That’s what I’m talkin’ ’bout!
The council failed to override Durel's veto reinstating the GPS funding. In the meantime, if the worst that’s happening in Lafayette Consolidated Government is that some employees are driving their GI-Goes more than they should be, we’re doing pretty well.
JUNE 19 Former Saint Steve Gleason, who is paralyzed by ALS, released a statement Tuesday in response to the Atlanta radio station's skit making fun of him and the disease, this Picayune post reports. What did he say? He said he'd accepted the apology of the DJs who did it, notes that at least the incident has got people talking about ALS, and asks anyone who is burning to take action about it to do so -- by helping him fight ALS.
JUNE 19 Blogger Ian McGibboney takes a look at the Gleason incident in this post. He makes a good argument about the difference between having free speech and being free from consequences for your speech (which none of us is). He also admits that many of us got upset before we listened to the skit -- but lets us know that the reality is far worse than we can imagine. It was the incredibly bad judgment, even more than the actual speech, that probably got those DJs fired, he opines.
JUNE 19 Washington Post blogger Aaron Blake writes about Sen. Guillory's switch to the GOP in this post. He writes what most political watchers in Louisiana know: Guillory was a Republican before he decided to run for the senate seat in a mostly-D St. Landry district, and has switched back now that he plans to run for Lt. Gov. in a mostly-R state. But how come Blake missed Guillory's appearance on a TLC pageant show? Now that is a video we'd like to see. (Again).
JUNE 19 Here's another Washington Post blog post about a Louisiana politician, and it's just plain scathing. Ezra Klein says Jindal's Politico post was "insulting" to the intelligence of voters, and adds that Jindal is personifying the "stupid" he's railed against, by being an "elite" who convinces GOP activists of "things that aren't true." Me-ow.
JUNE 19 Here's Gov. Jindal's post in Politico, in which he asks the GOP to get over losing to Obama (again) and stop "the bedwetting." (Uh, what?) He gives his Republican buddies what is probably a nerd's idea of a coach's motivational talk, which starts with a list of accomplishments that they can't seem to exploit and ending with an absurd description of liberals that sounds like a character treatment for a Fox "News" movie scripted by Gordon Liddy. Sure, he's preaching to the choir, but even the choir's not this gullible.
JUNE 19 Lamar Parmentel read Gov. Jindal's post on Politico, but thinks it was so dumb it probably was published in the wrong paper. This post by Lamar on the Daily Kingfish opines that possibly Jindal's post was destined for the Onion -- because the governor couldn't possibly be serious here. If you listen closely, you can hear the staff of the Kingfish giggling.
JUNE 19 Blogger Robert Mann posts from Turkey, a country he has visited several times in the past few years. Mann gives an interesting overview of the current political and societal climate of the country, which -- if you're living under a rock and don't know -- is experiencing protests and turmoil these days. Mann promises to post as much as he can during his trip, which should be fascinating reading.
JUNE 19 Blogger CB Forgotston says the legislature is keeping the vicious cycle going with its funding of new buildings for the community college/technical college system. Universities across the state need maintenance and improvement on existing buildings, and the solution is to build new buildings at other schools? By the time the bonds are paid off, those buildings will be falling down, too, CB says.
Frank’s Casing Crew, now doing business as Frank’s International, will make its final appearance on ABiz’s list of the Top 50 Privately Held Companies in Acadiana this year, and once again it will likely be at the top with more than $1 billion in annual revenues. The 75-year-old company specializing in tubular fabrication and installation services to the oil and gas industry plans to offer shares of its stock to the public for the first time.
The defeat, or rather highjacking of House Bill 420 in the final days of this year's Legislative Session, say Reps. Vincent Pierre and Terry Landry, is the result of the propaganda spread by one unidentified local media outlet and an unnamed former state Representative, but nothing to do with the original legislation's lack of checks, balances or details.
He’s a singer. A songwriter. A piano man. A family man. He’s even got his own Wikipedia entry. He’s David Egan. And he knows ancient secrets about the monolithic stones of Stonehenge that he’s not willing to share.