Thursday, February 25, 2010
New Orleans, Louisiana
COMMON SENSE IN LOUISIANA GOVERNMENT?
COME ON MAN!
There is no shortage of controversial and often puzzling happenings in Louisiana to write and comment about. One of the more challenging things about writing only a weekly column is how to pick and choose. No problem in Iowa or Oklahoma. But the Bayou State just bleeds with bountiful topics involving Louisiana personalities (I guess including yours truly) that cry out for commentary and, often, ridicule. So where to begin?
Our list starts with last week’s courageous announcement by a Lafayette state representative that it’s time to get real tough on drug dealers. He has introduced legislation to be considered by the Louisiana Legislature next month to completely prohibit the selling of illegal drugs from 1000 feet to 2000 feet around schools, playgrounds, day care centers, churches and public housing units. Yes, you read correctly. No ILLEGAL DRUGS! So it would be illegal to sell ILLEGAL DRUGS? Come on man!
How about the major announcement by the Baton Rouge public library that they will provide free wireless Internet access to library users? The public library is supposed to be the synergy, the epicenter of information flow in any community. Yet they are just offering free Wi-Fi? Every coffee shop and many businesses, including a number of car washes and oil change centers, have offered free internet services for years. Kids in remote villages in China and India have widespread free use of Wi-Fi. In states out west, routers have been installed in school buses and free Wi-Fi is available to kids as they travel to and from school. And the main public library, in the city that houses two major universities, is just making free Wi-Fi available? Come on man!
Over $215 million is owed by the state to Louisiana property owners who were saddled with a ridiculous assessment to pay off the mistakes and the outright negligence of Citizens Property Insurance Company. Citizens has been called the worst financial disaster in Louisiana’s history, and both the legislature and the insurance department made a huge mistake in creating this inept financial monster. There is a provision in the law that gives property owners a rebate, but, as we should have expected, one has to go through a number of hoops to get this assessment back. You have to go back a year, dig out your insurance policy, get a specific form, add the information to your state income tax return, and add in more red tape to get back what you should have never been charged in the first place. I guess it was just too simple for the insurance department to notify the insurance company that a rebate should be given by lowering the basic homeowner’s insurance cost by the amount of the rebate, then allow the issuance company to file for a refund. No hassle or inconvenience to the property owner, and no having to fill out form after form. But state government never seems to want to make it easy on the taxpayer. Come on man!
The FBI this week closed the book on its investigation of the anthrax killer going back to 2001. Remember Dr. Steven Hatfill? He was the director of LSU’s Center for Bio-medical Research at the time, and the FBI, quite irresponsibly, tagged him as a “person of interest.” LSU declared him a piranha and dropped him like a hot potato. No “innocent until proven guilty.” You get caught in a controversy and LSU drops any sense of loyalty. Hatfill was later awarded five million dollars for the FBI’s irresponsible actions, but nary a word of apology by LSU. The same “cold shoulder and out the door” approach seems to be directed at Ivor van Heerden, the coastal geologist and hurricane researcher who headed the state’s Team Louisiana investigation of the causes of levee failures. He apparently “rocked the federal grant boat” by saying the Corps of Engineers failed to properly construct mainline levees, a fact that seems irrefutable. But LSU is pushing him out the door. No loyalty at the state’s flagship. Come on man!
A federal judge in Baton Rouge sentenced a guy named Robert Thompson to a term of 309 years in prison. No, not 39 years. 309 years. Now Thompson certainly deserved some heavy punishment. He was found guilty of identity theft and bribery. He stole identity information to rip off some $20 million. So he was no small time thief. But take a look at other federal crimes. If you are guilty of murder or manslaughter in a federal court, the average sentence is 153 months. That’s about 12 ½ years. Rapists average 79 months. Those guilty of weapons offenses average 91 months in the federal system. So 309 years (not months) for identity theft? Come on man!
(Did you note that former NBA star Jayson Williams was sentenced this week? The prosecutor just asked the judge to sentence Jayson to 5 years behind bars with a minimum of 18 months before parole. The prosecutor told the judge Jayson has a “dark side.” A dark side? The guy shot and killed his limo driver. Of course he has a dark side! And he will be back on the streets in 18 months? Come on man!)
The Louisiana Republican Party issued a press release blasting Democratic leaders in Washington for the federal stimulus plan saying it has “failed to keep national unemployment out of double digits and wasted billions of dollars.” On the same day of the press release, Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal was in DeRidder handing out hundreds of thousands of dollars of – you guessed it – federal stimulus funds. And just last week, the Governor released his budget proposals for the coming year that included some one billion dollars in, that’s right, federal stimulus funds. Must be a real talent to have it both ways. Come on man!
Louisiana may just be ready for a tea party revolution of its own. People have had enough. It may be time to clean house, put new faces in charge, and change the system that allows so many disjointed and out of whack decisions to be made. So you are ready, right? You believe Louisiana is really on the verge of throwing the rascals out and head in a new direction? The time is ripe, isn’t it? Come on man!
“Sometimes I lie awake at night, and I ask, ‘Where have I gone wrong?’ Then a voice says to me, ‘This is going to take more than one night.’
A Louisiana Governor – take a guess.
Peace and Justice
Jim Brown’s weekly column appears in numerous newspapers and websites throughout the south. To read past columns going back to 2002, go to www.jimbrownla.com.