Thursday, May 21, 2015

CAN AN INDEPENDENT SHAKE UP LOUISIANA GOVERNOR’S RACE?


Thursday, May 21st, 2015
Baton Rouge, Louisiana

CAN AN INDEPENDENT SHAKE UP
LOUISIANA GOVERNOR’S RACE?

This fall’s Louisiana governor’s race has settled down into a four-man contest.  U.S. Senator David Vitter is far out front, and conventional wisdom points to a republican-democratic runoff between Vitter and Rep. John Bell Edwards from Amite.  But is the current field of candidates set in stone?  Is there still room for another major candidate-an Independent?

Senator Vitter’s lead is hefty and he has racked a large war chest of campaign cash.  But as BayouBuzz publisher Steve Sabludowsky wrote last week, Louisiana voters have “a long history of punishing frontrunners and promoting also-rans.”  So is there another candidate out there; a third party candidate who can swoop in at this late date and make a formable run for the Governor’s Mansion?  I’m talking about that John Wayne Dude.

In the days following Hurricane Katrina, the Crescent City was in chaos and on the verge of anarchy with little sense of law and order.  I was there daily and saw it first hand.  The calming force that entered the city leading the Army's 82nd Airborne division and the 1st Cavalry was a native Louisianan, General Russell Honore.’  He was widely credited as being the “Rudy Giuliani of the Gulf Coast” and bringing restraint and stability to the bedlam that had been taking place.

Since retiring from the Army, the General headed up a national consulting firm for disaster response, and has written several books, including nationally acclaimed “Leadership is the New Normal.” He moved back to his home in Point Coupee Parish, and has become a leading environmental voice in the state.

Gen. Honere’ is telling friends and associates that he is seriously considering a race for governor, and is confident, with his national connections, he can raise the necessary funding.  And he won’t be caught without an answer in political debates.  During the Katrina recovery, his comments included;  This is a Disaster. This isn't something somebody can control. We ain't stuck on stupid.”  And my favorite:  “I can't swing a dead cat without hitting a reporter.”

So what political banner will he run under?  The Republican field is crowded with three well-funded candidates in Vitter, Lt. Governor Jay Dardenne and PSC member Scott Angle.  And Democrats have been rallying around John Bell Edwards.  So is there an opening for the General?  Yes, as he contemplates running with support from the fastest growing politically designated group in the state-Independent voters who have abandoned both republicans and democrats.


There are some 750,000 independents or “No Party” voters in Louisiana, roughly 25% of all voters registered throughout Louisiana.  If a large majority of these voters, who have turned their backs on both major parties, could be galvanized behind a charismatic candidate like Gen Honore’, a run-off spot would be possible.  Even if he failed to make the runoff, he would still be in a position to have a major affect on who gets elected by his endorsement.

Actually, if Honore’ can rise the necessary funds, he is not that far behind in getting into the race.  LSU’s Public Policy Research Department has just released a poll showing that a majority of voters in both parties are paying little attention to the statewide election that takes place in five months.   Fewer than 25% of registered voters are even following news about the election.  So there is fertile ground for a new entry to gain momentum.

When Gen. Honore’ first arrived in downtown New Orleans by helicopter, he admonished troops surrounding the Convention Center to:  “Put your rifles down.  We are here to help these people, not harass them.” Louisiana certainly needs a lot of help right now.  And it has been a longtime in the state capitol since leadership was anything but normal. 

Will this high profile Louisiana heed the call and jump into the political fray?  There is still time to organize and put together a major campaign.  When or lose, General Honore’ would bring a whole new dimension to the campaign.  And to many voters, that would be politically refreshing.

******
You can't vote that water out of the city of New Orleans.
General Russell Honore’


Peace and Justice

Jim Brown

Jim Brown’s syndicated column appears each week in numerous newspapers throughout the nation and on websites worldwide.  You can read all his past columns and see continuing updates at http://www.jimbrownusa.com. You can also hear Jim’s nationally syndicated radio show each Sunday morning from 9 am till 11:00 am, central time, on the Genesis Radio Network, with a live stream at http://www.jimbrownusa.com.










Wednesday, May 13, 2015

WHAT LOUISIANA’S NEXT GOVERNOR SHOULD DO FIRST!


New Orleans, Louisiana

WHAT LOUISIANA’S NEXT GOVERNOR SHOULD DO FIRST!

Louisiana’s next governor will take office in less than eight months, and will jump into the abyss of a state with massive fiscal problems, an educational system that is dysfunctional, a healthcare system that needs a major overhauling, a highway system that has been neglected for years…get the picture?

So where to begin?  Maybe he (there is no she running, at least for now) ought to take a deep breath, clear his head, and curl up with several books.  What you say?  The Bayou State is going to hell in a hand basket, and the best you can come up with is to begin a reading list?  OK.  Just calm down a bit and read on.

A responsible new governor (has this been a past oxymoron?) needs to first address the biggest single failure by the state’s leadership at many levels, and that’s the fiasco of not having a well thought-out master plan. The brushfires will continue to burn, so a short period of “getting a handle” on what to do in the long run will be critical for actually finding some workable solutions, rather than just plunging financial holes year after year.

First on the reading list is Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell.  A New York Times best seller for years, Gladwell talks about how one can “catch up” when they are far behind in any given area.  If a state lags in educational attainment and needs to make a huge leap, as does Louisiana, it’s not just important to adopt what other progressive states are doing.  Louisiana is at the back of the pack in many areas, so there has to be a quantum leap forward.  The Bayou State is to far behind the curve to merely try to catch up.

 Gladwell follows the same reasoning put forth in Thomas Friedman’s The World is Flat. A kid in a small mountainous village in China has access to the same information as the student at a major American university, and thus has quickly closed the learning gap.  Say “computers.” Basic laptops are being given to students in a number of states. Less than $100. And both local businesses and foundations are donating large numbers. Louisiana is not in this mix. Why not?

Next, Greg Leroy’s The Great American Jobs Scam.  His premise, simply put, is to quit buying jobs from other states. It’s a giant waste of money.  Louisiana has paid out billions of dollars in recent years to bring new jobs into the state.  Leroy argues convincingly that these inducements do not work, and are never a major reason for a company moving for one state to another.  He cites numerous examples or CEOs saying, “of course we will take your money, but these state programs are never a significant reason for our company to move.”  These businesses were coming anyway.  They just play the state for all it was worth and bilk taxpayer dollars.

And finally, Start -Up Nation, by Dan Senor and Saul Singer. It’s a story of Israel’s economic miracle, but there are a number of good lessons for Louisiana.  Israel has no natural resources.  They are abundant in Louisiana.  Israel produces more start-up companies than do most of the world’s major industrialize countries.  Louisiana has few start-up companies.  Israel has more companies on the NASDAQ than those from all of Europe, Korea, Japan, Singapore, China and India combined.  Louisiana has one listed company.

The key, Senor argues, is how universities are brought into the mix.  Private-public think tanks have been formed, and the state has encouraged venture capital with tax breaks taking an aggressive pro new business attitude.  No outright effort to “buy” companies as does state government in Louisiana, but a business-state partnership that has produced bountiful new higher paying jobs.

There is a critical need for a concentrated review of what direction Louisiana will take in the years to come.  A long-range master plan, filled with ideas taken from the best and brightest concepts in place all over the world. Such a roadmap should have been developed years ago. Will the next governor heed the call?

******

“Long range planning does not deal with future decisions, but with the future of present decisions.” Peter F. Drucker.

Peace and Justice

Jim Brown

Jim Brown’s syndicated column appears each week in numerous newspapers throughout the nation and on websites worldwide.  You can read all his past columns and see continuing updates at http://www.jimbrownusa.com. You can also hear Jim’s nationally syndicated radio show each Sunday morning from 9 am till 11:00 am, central time, on the Genesis Radio Network, with a live stream at http://www.jimbrownusa.com.







Thursday, April 30, 2015

HAS LSU DUG ITS OWN HOLE?


April 30th, 2015
Baton Rouge, Louisiana

HAS LSU DUG ITS OWN HOLE?

Chicken Little has got nothing on King Alexander.  The LSU president is shouting from the rooftops that the state financial commitment is crumbling to the ground, the LSU fiscal sky is falling, and he is about to declare “academic bankruptcy.”  Academic bankruptcy?  I’ve been around and a part of Louisiana state government for some 44 years, and I’ve never heard of the phrase.  You can’t even Google it and find any other example.

The LSU boss stirred up a real hornet’s nest of opposition with a number of voices, including many legislators, responding that Alexander was shooting from the hip and way overreacting.  LSU quickly backtracked and put out a statement saying they were merely preparing for possible “financial exigency.”  I haven’t heard of this one either, but the Prez is hoppin’ mad and want’s more money from the legislature for the state’s flagship campus.

Now in fairness to Alexander, he does have reason to gripe.  The Louisiana legislature has marched in lockstep with Governor Bobby Jindal’s efforts to strip higher education to the bones year after year.  The question is, just were has the educational establishment been all this time as funds were continually reduced?  The answer is simply that those who live off the higher education spout didn’t want to rock the boat and draw attention to the number of enormous salaries that are being paid, many for non-academic work.  Over two hundred higher education employees take in more than $200 thousand a year.

Presidents of even smaller Louisiana colleges average $350,000 a year.  LSU lists 13 Directors of Academic Affairs, each making over $200,000.  It can be lucrative if you can make it into the academic bureaucracy, so unless your job is at risk, there is little upside to “taking one” for the Higher Ed team.

But, you say, there are college boards and trustees, appointed from the business sector, that surely must be outraged and willing to speak up-right?  Hardly.  As the Wall Street Journal put it just last week, board members “have such an affection for dear old alma mater, and love those 50-yardline seats.  ‘Whatever you want to do Mr. President.’  And so it’s been observed a long time that colleges will spend everything they can get their hands on, in the absence of either market pressure or stewardship by a strong-minded board.”

A major mistake was made by the LSU leadership in the failure to develop a solid endowment plan. LSU could well have the lowest endowment of any major college of its size in the country. Endowments are important. As much as 20 percent of the total amount spent by major universities to cover costs can often come from its endowment. Income is built up over a number of years by actively encouraging alumni to make regular contributions to a university fund. Successful college endowments grow through investments and are a significant income source for any major university in the country. Not so at LSU.

As you would expect, the nation’s top-rated universities also have the highest endowments. Harvard leads the country with an endowment approaching $30 billion. A number of state universities have endowments that are significantly above $1 billion. The University of North Carolina has topped the $2.3 billion level gaining some 13 percent in one year on investments of new funds into the endowment. How about the Southeast Conference? Texas A&M is way ahead at $11.1 billion. Vanderbilt is solid at $4 billion.

The University of Florida comes in strongly at almost $1.3 billion. The University of Alabama has an endowment of $1.23 billion. The University of Tennessee system is now at $954 million. Our football rival up in Arkansas has an $800 million endowment.  Any numbers of smaller southern schools are above this level. So where’s LSU? Less than 700 million, and barely edging out Cooper Union and Macalester College.  (I’ve never heard of either school.)

The governor and the legislature both need to step up and see that adequate funding is available for all state universities.  But there is some internal soul searching and educational accountability that for years has been glossed over and ignored by the higher educational community.  There is more to leadership than just threatening that the academic sky is about to fall.

*******

Half the crowd in Tiger Stadium on a Saturday night can’t even spell LSU.” 
 James Carville

Peace and Justice

Jim Brown

Jim Brown’s syndicated column appears each week in numerous newspapers throughout the nation and on websites worldwide.  You can read all his past columns and see continuing updates at http://www.jimbrownusa.com. You can also hear Jim’s nationally syndicated radio show each Sunday morning from 9 am till 11:00 am, central time, on the Genesis Radio Network, with a live stream at http://www.jimbrownusa.com.






Wednesday, April 22, 2015

JINDAL TIRED OF US HYPHENATED-LOUISIANANS!


Baton Rouge, Louisiana

JINDAL TIRED OF US HYPHENATED-LOUISIANANS!

Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal is mad.  Really mad!  He’s had his fill of all these hyphenated-Americans ballyhooing and expressing pride in their ethnic heritage.  Jindal joined a group of 18 presidential wannabes in New Hampshire over the weekend trying to impress Republican diehards.  And he didn’t hold back on his distain for those who treasure their heritage.

 "I don't know about you, I'm tired of the hyphenated Americans. No more 'African-Americans.' No more 'Indian-Americans.' No more 'Asian-Americans,' " Jindal told some 600 Republican activists.  So the Governor, whose own parents immigrated to the U.S. from India, wants to not only drop his own Indian-American label, but expects everyone else to do likewise.

Now that will certainly cause a real shake up back in Jindal’s home state of Louisiana where, according to local lore, he occasionally stops off to visit.  Louisiana is an amalgamation of many cultures, with one of the most diverse mix of diversity found anywhere in America.

Doing away with ethnic identity will come as a real blow to many Louisianans.  Italian-Americans are great in Louisiana numbers, and take boundless pride in their heritage.  Jindal will no doubt have to take a trip to Independence in Tangipahoa Parish, a town founded by immigrants from southern Italy, and break the news to the locals that they no longer can be called Italian-Americans.

He will find little support in New Orleans where the St. Joseph’s Day festival, honoring
Italian-Louisianans is a major annual event.  Also, I would urge the Governor to avoid the American Italian Cultural Center, the pride of New Orleans that houses the largest Italian museum in the nation.

And the Irish?  I’d trend lightly Governor on getting their dander up.  St. Patrick’s Day celebrations in both Baton Rouge and New Orleans are sacred, and Irish-Louisianans carry their pride on their shoulders all year long.

I hope I’m there when the Jindal breaks the news to John Georges, publisher of the Baton Rouge and New Orleans Advocates.  John, you see Governor, is in the forefront of Greek-Louisianans who relish in their Hellenic heritage.  He won’t take lightly that he can no longer be called a Greek-American.

No more Cinco de Mayo week-long revelries, celebrating Louisiana’s Hispanic culture in Shreveport and Bossier City?  The first week in May begins one of Louisiana’s biggest festivals, with many other similar observances all over the state proudly commemorated by Latin-Louisianans.  Jindal will just have to put away his sombrero.

Drop the reference to African-Americans?  Good luck with that Governor.  Suggest this to the Louisiana Black Caucus in the legislature and see how far you get.

And, Governor, you better pass this year on the Des Allemands Catfish Festival, that is, if you ever went there in the first place.  These German descendants take their Deutschland street names and their bratwurst seriously, as do ethnic German-Louisianans in Forest Hill (initially founded by German immigrants as Bismarck).

Now you are not, Governor, going to tell our Louisiana Cajuns that their French culture is no longer worthwhile?  We spend state funds for CODIFIL, the Council for the Development of the French Language, yet you want to make the Acadian-French heritage a thing of the past?  Why Marie Laveau and Justin Wilson would both be turning over in their graves.

The real first Americans are still in the Bayou State making up the four initial Indian tribes that include the Coushattas, the Choctaws, the Chitimachas, and the Tunicas.  For some pretty valid reasons, these original settlers aren’t really fond of all of us immigrants, and are dead set against not being referred to as Indian-Americans.  The war drums will be really beating against Jindal on this one. 

As for me, I’m a Scot by bloodline through and through. I rallied for Scotland’s Independence in the recent British elections, I fly the Scottish flag outside my house, and I’m proud to be a Scottish-American.

So Governor, if you want to disown your native heritage, so be it. That’s your freedom of choice.  But as for the rest of us, we too have the right to express our pride and allegiance for each one of our special heritages-a melting blend that makes this nation and our state so special. As I wrote in a previous column, how about taking care of the economic chaos you have created in the state.  And for goodness sake, leave Boudreaux, Antonio, Zorba, Gottfried, Shawn, Jemarcus, Bubba, Pedro, and me alone.

Peace and Justice

Jim Brown

Jim Brown’s syndicated column appears each week in numerous newspapers throughout the nation and on websites worldwide.  You can read all his past columns and see continuing updates at http://www.jimbrownusa.com. You can also hear Jim’s nationally syndicated radio show each Sunday morning from 9 am till 11:00 am, central time, on the Genesis Radio Network, with a live stream at http://www.jimbrownusa.com.