I’m not convinced that state Rep. Rickey Hardy’s bid to block three quarters of a million dollars in grant funding from the Lafayette Parish School System last week was a stunt to get his name in the paper. Nor am I convinced it wasn’t. Either way it worked; he’s getting some ink in this edition of The Independent Weekly — in this column and in the news article on page 6. Rep. Hardy is also this week’s couillon, and he’s gotten no small amount of coverage in the dailies as well as the local television news stations. That’s a lot of Rickey Hardy for the state’s political off-season.
But that’s just it, and it’s why a lot of people have questioned Hardy’s motive in blocking the funding: It’s the off-season, the Legislature won’t be in session again until next spring and state lawmakers are operating off the radar; they’re back at their day jobs, breaking away only for the occasional chamber of commerce photo op or to inspect constituents’ ditches and potholes, with a few committee meetings in Baton Rouge thrown in for good measure. For those who crave attention — I’m not saying that’s Hardy — this is the lean season.
“I don’t try to pull no publicity stunts,” he says. “It is what it is. If I’ve done something wrong, I’ll take my lick. If I’ve done something right, I’ll take my stand. I never was trying to get my name in the paper. I just deal with controversial issues. People like somebody that takes a stand for something.”
Hardy has taken some stands — notably in the last two legislative sessions to raise from 1.5 to 2.0 the grade point eligibility for high school athletes. He also supported state Superintendent Paul Pastorek’s bid in the last session to effectively neuter local school boards, a position that won him little favor among his former colleagues on the Lafayette Parish School Board where he cut his teeth in politics. But butting heads with the Lafayette school system — both the central office and the board itself — goes back to his days as a board member. He fought to change the pay system for bus drivers, opposed the buy-out of former Superintendent James Easton’s contract, even marched in front of Vermilion Elementary School, which had recently been closed, with a sign that read, “Don’t trust the school board.” Remember, he was on the school board at the time.
Rickey Hardy is a riddle wrapped in a quote inside a shoe surrounding a foot stuck in his mouth. He shoots from the hip with a bazooka, and I’ll admit, the journalist in me is thrilled that he’s my state representative.
“If I wanted to do a publicity stunt I could go run in front of a car and jump on top the hood. It’s respect — that’s all it is,” he says, at once further endearing himself to me and dismissing in certain terms any suggestion that blocking the LPSS grant money was something less than a matter of principle. He also insists the funding fracas had nothing to do with a grudge. “Let me say this to you: I’m too cool, too calm and too in control to get mad,” he intones with the cadence of a Baptist preacher hitting mid-sermon stride. “Like Big Mama used to say, ‘Don’t let them people get inside your head and upset you, because then you can’t do anything.’ So, why would I be upset? Why would I be mad? I’m not mad.”