Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Written by The Independent Staff

We left the first installment of the 2011 Independent Weekly Lecture Series — screenings of the acclaimed Davis Guggenheim documentary Waiting for Superman at the Grand Theatre on Ambassador Caffery — with a sense that, finally, there may be some real momentum toward embracing reform in the public school system, or at the very least taking an active interest in the performance of our public schools by a heretofore complacent population. The Ind-hosted screening of WFS was originally scheduled to be a one-off event, but overwhelming demand for tickets prompted a second screening. The cinema was packed. Sandwiched in between was a panel discussion by members of the education community. Plenty of teachers turned out for the screenings, but so did elected officials, school board members, superintendents from Lafayette and neighboring parishes, and regular folk who recognize that if we don’t improve public schools — if we don’t get this right — the future prosperity of Acadiana is seriously compromised.

The much-anticipated audit of the Lafayette Housing Authority went public Monday, confirming many of our suspicions about the beleaguered agency — too little transparency, negligible accountability, a board bored or intimidated by the minutiae of competently overseeing an entity that receives a king’s ransom in federal funds to aid the poor, an executive director who also managed a housing authority in Opelousas and who received gilded financial compensation — in effect, an out-of-control agency that opened the cookie jar to far too many hands. Also, on Sunday The Daily Advertiser published an eye-opening schematic delineating potential conflicts of interest in convoluted and Byzantine programs supposedly designed for low-income housing. Follow the money? Good luck with that. The audit and Advertiser story underscore a stunning lack of oversight. Now District Attorney Mike Harson must decide whether any of the audit’s “abnormalities” rise to the level of criminality. And to think, the LHA is just one relatively insignificant agency through which millions of our tax dollars flow. Scary.

We know Gov. Bobby Jindal loves him some pub. Like a junkie with a private jet he travels the country feeding his fix. And according to the National Oil Spill Commission, in a report issued last week that was vigorously disputed by Camp Jindal, our gallivanting gub-nuh, during the height of the disaster, used the spill for some old-fashioned “showboating,” as The New York Times put it in a headline. The report accuses Jindal of deliberately withholding from the Coast Guard the location of an area of oiled marsh he used as a backdrop for television interviews, presumably because if the Coast Guard knew where the fouled marsh was it would have dispatched a clean-up crew and Jindal would have had to find another location from which to rail against the federal response to the spill. According to the report: “Coast Guard responders watched Governor Jindal — and the TV cameras following him — return to what appeared to be the same spot of oiled marsh day after day to complain about the inadequacy of the federal response, even though only a small amount of marsh was then oiled. When the Coast Guard sought to clean up that piece of affected marsh, Governor Jindal refused to confirm its location.”

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