Thursday, May 29, 2014

The Cost of Hosting a Superbowl!

Friday, May 30th, 2014
Baton Rouge, Louisiana


There is a great deal of whining going on down in the Crescent City over the loss of the 2018 Super Bowl.  Many New Orleanians who were part of the bid process felt they were far and away the front-runners to host the big game for the 11th time.  After all, the year would be the city’s 300th anniversary.  It turned out that the rest of the NFL couldn’t have cared less.  There might have been some sympathy towards New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina in allowing the 2013 game to be played there.  But a Super Bowl in New Orleans in the near future seems like a real long shot.

To win the Super Bowl, a city needs a new state of the art stadium that costs well over $1 billion.  Minneapolis, which won out over New Orleans, spent that, and so did Atlanta, which seems a cinch to get the bid in 2019. 

Old wounds no doubt came into play when opposing cities lobbied for their town, and then quietly undermined the New Orleans effort.  Forbes Magazine referred to the blackout during the 2013 game saying outage would hurt the city’s future chances.  And gouging hotel prices were also used against New Orleans.  During the last game played in New Orleans, average room rates skyrocketed on average more 300%, with some hotels exceeding 590%.  And the hotel, motel tax is one of the highest in America.

But it’s the stadium.  You just gotta have a new stadium to hook a Super Bowl bid-right?  And the drums are already sounding for the State of Louisiana to pony up a billion or so in an effort to bring the big game back to the Crescent City as soon as possible.  Local TV station WWL raised the question in a headline that read: “Does New Orleans need a new stadium to land a Super Bowl?”  And one commentator at the state’s largest paper, the Times Picayune, lamented: “Saints owner Tom Benson needs to start planning for a New Stadium…New Orleans will not have a chance in hell with all other cities having brand spanking new stadiums all hoping for one chance to host the Super Bowl.”

So does New Orleans need a new stadium?  Sure, if the public dollars are unlimited and the taxpayers don’t mind continuing to paying through the nose. The current Superdome is just a few years away from a $350 million renovation.  That’s all taxpayer money.

Forbes Magazine recently reported that the Saints owner Tom Benson will receive almost $400 million from state subsidies through 2025.  “He negotiated one of the most complex — and lucrative — stadium lease agreements in the NFL, adding to his fortune as his team was bringing in estimated yearly profits of $31 million. Over the 15 year the term of the lease, the state will pay Benson at least $198 million in increased revenue from the Superdome, $142 million in rental payments on property Benson owns, $10 million in bonuses for bringing the Super Bowl to New Orleans and $2.6 million in tax breaks.”
Then there is the agreement for the state to lease space in a downtown office building being purchased by the Saints owners.  The building is adjacent to the Superdome and the state is to lease more than 320,000 feet at $24 dollars square foot, which is one of the highest rental rates in the state today. So Louisiana taxpayers are basically paying the cost of the building the Saints ownership is buying.
“That’s incredible. I‘ve never heard of that one before,” said Robert Baade, an economist at Lake Forest University who studies stadium financing. “There is no end in how creative governments get to supporting subventions. That’s just another form of subsidy.”  Just how much more in public subsidies will taxpayers be willing to pay as other state programs are being cut to the bone?
New Orleans has been on a roll hosting far more Super Bowls than any other city.  Now other cities, with justification, are demanding part of the action.  Winner Minneapolis has hosted one Super Bowl in the past, and Atlanta only two.  New Orleans can well rest on its laurels, and it’s time will come again, sometime down the line.  For now, Louisiana taxpayers, who have paid out massive state tax dollars, need a well-deserved break.
Some people think football is a matter of life and death. I assure you, it's much more serious than that.                            Bill Shankly

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  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

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Obama and Jindal Share a Lot of Similarities!

Thursday, May 22nd, 2014
Baton Rouge, Louisiana


A week doesn’t go by without Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal taking a potshot at President Obama. The Prez has kept a tight lip and publically ignores Jindal, but it’s obvious from press reports that there is no love lost between them. Despite the animosity, Bobby Jindal and President Obama have a lot in common.

First, both of them are cold fish when it comes to retail politics.  Jindal and Obama don’t seem to enjoy pressing the flesh or networking with their political colleagues.  Where Bill Clinton and George Bush were heavily engaged in calling and meeting with members of congress from both parties, Obama has been aloof and has failed to build personal relationships in Washington.  Republican Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell waited two years before he was even invited to a one on one meeting at the White House with Obama.

Jindal has been a no show at legislative gatherings for years.  Outside of his annual address opening the legislative session, legislators complain that he is, for all practical purposes, missing in action.  Since the legislature in Louisiana convened two months ago, Jindal, in his quixotic quest for national office, has traveled to Chicago, New York, Indianapolis, Dallas, Washington, Nashville, Lynchburg, Mobile, Atlanta, and New Hampshire.  Yet he rarely travels the one block from the governor’s mansion to the state capitol.

Two of the loneliest spots in the nation on the weekend are the White House and the Louisiana governor’s mansion.  Past presidents used to relish hosting state dinners and bringing in musicians and other noted Americans to honor their service.  Not this president. The Obamas have hosted just six state dinners, where Bill Clinton and George H.W. Bush threw more than 20, and Ronald Reagan hosted 35.

Hosting a dinner or reception in honor of special Louisianans is apparently off Jindal’s radar.  Instead of crisscrossing the country weekend after weekend, wouldn’t it be refreshing for Jindal to stay home occasionally, and throw open the Governor’s mansion to honor Louisiana’s best and brightest?  Why aren’t we inviting and recognizing a host of Louisianans -- returning military men and women, our outstanding musicians, athletes, artists and writers?  In a state that’s at the bottom of numerous quality of life lists, wouldn’t it make us feel better to honor Louisiana’s own?

Both Jindal and Obama have religious issues that haunt them from their pasts.  Obama’s pastor for 20 years, Reverend Jeremiah Wright, is noted for spewing racial epithets and hate talk, which the President has tried to ignore throughout his presidency.  And Jindal?  He has dabbled with the premise “ the devil made me do it.”  His experience and writings about exorcism will be the fodder for much commentary if he continues on his quest for higher office.
And then there is the issue of Jindal and the President on Obamacare.  In1998, Jindal served as the executive director of the National Bipartisan Commission on the Future of Medicare.  There was talk then of the main component of Obamacare, the individual mandate. But the idea had overwhelming Republican support, and Jindal raised not a discouraging word about Obamacare.  In recent years, however, Jindal has made opposition to Obamacare his mantra.  Today, his opposition is all he seems to talk about.  Jindal echos former presidential candidate John Kerry in feeling that, “I was for it before I was against it.”
So you see, Bobby Jindal and Barack Obama have a lot in common.  They both go with the political wind, which raises questions about any core beliefs.  Both of these guys reflect the former British Prime Minister Disraeli school of thought that says:  “The voters are moving in the streets. And I must find out which way they are going, and then jump out ahead of them.  For I am their leader.”
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  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

Wednesday, May 14, 2014


Thursday, May 15th, 2014
Baton Rouge, Louisiana


Millions of campaign dollars from all over America are pouring into Louisiana in a calculated effort to influence the outcome of  the state’s up and coming U.S. Senate race.  Incumbent democratic Senator Mary Landrieu is in the fight of her political life and republicans are leaving no stone unturned in an effort to beat her in November.  But who is going to decide the outcome of this race -- voters in Louisiana or political PACs in Washington, D.C.?

Landrieu’s main opponent, so far, is incumbent 6th district congressman Bill Cassidy, although several other republican challengers have been making headway in recent weeks.  Conservative republican Tea Party candidate Rob Maness picked up the support of former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin last week, and his supporters feel this gives his campaign a much-needed shot in the arm.  The one thing all these candidates have in common is their obsessive desire to gather financial and political help from outside the state.

National super PACs are running the show in the senate race, and the dark money from non-Louisianans will continue to pour into the Bayou State.  Yes, we here in Louisiana know this is a big race.  Political prognosticators from all over America continually tell the rest of the country that the winner in Louisiana could decide whether democrats or republicans control the U.S. Senate. But even with so much supposedly at stake, should outside money be the deciding factor in who represents the interests of Louisiana in Washington?

Louisiana is notorious for weak campaign disclosure laws, allowing big money from numerous outside groups to go unreported.  And even if the PAC itself is listed, it becomes a front since the donors themselves stay secret.  Financial reports show that as of now, Mary Landrieu has raised about half of all her campaign money form out of state.  Congressman Cassidy has raised some 30% of his campaign funds from non Louisiana donors, but expect these percentages to rise dramatically in the weeks to come.

But listed campaign donations are only the tip of the iceberg.  Millions of dollars from outside groups opposing both major candidates pouring into the state go unreported. 

But listed campaign donations are only the tip of the iceberg.  Millions of dollars from outside groups opposing both major candidates are pouring  into the state unreported.  TV commercials sponsored by Americans for Prosperity (the Koch Brothers) airing statewide attack Landrieu’s voting record daily. Bush operative Karl Rove’s group, American Crossroads, has joined the fray opposing Landrieu. But national democratic leaning PACs are also in the mix opposing Cassidy.  Look for a whole host of national organizations to jump in to Louisiana’s senate race in the weeks to come.  Names like the U.S. Chamber of commerce, the National Association of Realtors, and the National Rifle Association.

So how about this idea?  Let Louisiana voters elect their own U.S. Senator without interference from outsiders across the U.S.?  Wouldn’t that be unique?  Right now, these PACs feel that Louisiana citizens are ignorant and incapable of choosing the candidate to best serve the state’s interest and just waiting to be exploited by special interest groups.  How about being really radical, prohibit all outside campaign money, and just let Louisiana folks decide on their own?

There is a proposed constitutional amendment being considered right now in Washington to allow states to regulate the nation’s campaign laws.  Such an amendment is necessary because a recent Supreme Court decision has allowed unlimited money from all over the nation to directly affect states like Louisiana.  With such an amendment, a courageous Louisiana Legislature (is that an oxymoron?) could simply pass a law saying no outside campaign money in any Louisiana campaign.

When was the last time someone even saw a candidate for U.S. Senate in the state?  These candidates are obsessed with raising dollars for television.  I wonder if any candidate has the courage to make this commitment -- that they will accept no undocumented out-of-state money from special interest groups, and only raise campaign dollars from voters in Louisiana.  Now that would be one heck of a campaign pledge.

“It is money, money, money! Not ideas, not principles, but money that reigns supreme in American politics.”
Senator Robert C. Byrd

Peace and Justice

Jim Brown

Jim Brown’s syndicated column appears each week in numerous newspapers and websites throughout the nation.  You can read all his past columns and see continuing updates at 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 Communications Network, with a live stream at

Wednesday, May 07, 2014


Thursday, May 8th, 2014
Baton Rouge, Louisiana


Achievement in U.S. elementary schools lags behind many industrialized countries.  The U.S. comes in16th in science and 23rd in math.  Our major economic competitors -- China, Japan, Canada, Germany and Korea -- are far ahead.  So why is it so hard for us to implement new approaches that will improve our kids’ performance?

In spite of a number of innovative proposals for reform put forth by concerned legislators, my home state of Louisiana ranks at or near the bottom in every national survey of educational achievement.  House education committee chairman Steve Carter, from Baton Rouge, has been in the forefront of some of these proposals. In addition to other initiatives, he’s a major proponent of charter schools.

Charter schools are independent public schools that are not constrained by the statewide one-size-fits-all requirements often placed on local schools. Charter schools are able to be more innovative in developing curricula, hiring teachers, and structuring the school day.

 A key benefit of charter schools is that parents have a choice.  They pick the school and are not forced into making their kids attend a specific local school.  In just about everything else you do, there’s a choice.  But not in where your kid goes to school. Choice fosters competition.  For many, the lack of competition is a key component in the weakness of the American educational system. To be successful, schools have to compete. That’s the key to charter schools.  To be successful, they have to compete.  And the students are the beneficiaries.

I saw first hand how successful charter schools can be in New York last week.  My oldest daughter Campbell was honored at a dinner for her work in support of the Success Academy Charter Network.  A thousand people turned out for the gathering with former Florida Governor Jeb Bush as the keynote speaker.  The event raised nine million dollars.

To show how successful charters can be, Success Academy has opened 32 schools for 9,000 students. And get this. The student achievement is remarkable.   Students at Success Academy ranked in the top 1 percent of all New York schools in math, and the top 7 percent in English.  The racial makeup always comes up, doesn’t it?  Only 3 percent of the kids are white.  So much for not being able to close the racial achievement gap.  As Campbell told the crowd, “demography is not destiny.”

She did not mince words to those who, in many states like Louisiana, continue to try to put up roadblocks to stop the growth of charter schools.  “It’s a fight,” Campbell told the crowd last week.  “We have to fight for these schools.  I wish we didn’t.  It amazes me that there could be anything controversial about the achievements of these extraordinary kids.  It amazes me that anyone would dare try to choke one of the most exciting, innovative things happening in public education.”

And she answered some critics who say that all kids cannot attend charter schools.  “No one is saying that every public school student should be moved into a charter.  All we say is that the excellence of our charters should be moved into every public school.”

So it took a girl raised in Ferriday, Louisiana to go to the Big Apple and lead the charge for public school reform. Yes, this is a proud papa talking. But you cannot argue with success.

Right now, in the Louisiana legislature, there is an effort to curtail and limit the growth of charter schools.  What a mistake this would be.  Campbell put it this way.  “You can tell who’s on the losing side of an issue when what they fear most is competition.  By saving children and giving them a chance, these schools remind everyone what these kids are being saved from-an education system that has lost its way.”


Congress and state legislatures should not tell teachers how to teach, any more than they should tell surgeons how to perform operations.”

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  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