So what happens next?

So what happens next?

The national elections are over and President Barack Obama has won another four years. Some folks are elated, some angry, and others just dazed, wondering, What’s going to happen now?

The voters have spoken and experts are trying to analyze the results and what it says about the demographics and direction of America. You may like the new direction ... or be one of those who are concerned. Count me among the seriously concerned.

As for the next four years, changes could impact entrepreneurs, small business owners, oil and gas exploration, and industrial expansion in Louisiana. You know, the folks who create jobs. I have no idea what will happen in health care in 2014 and how it will impact health care professions, services, or costs to patients and businesses. I am not certain anyone does.

My greatest fear is more government, more taxes to fund that growth, more regulation by that bigger government—and more people dependent on government. In other words, expanding the fish market and giving more fish away—instead of teaching more people to fish. But if we take the incentive away to fish, we all starve.

Game time

Congratulations to Mayor Kip Holden on his victory. This is an important four years for Baton Rouge, as we must keep our momentum in growing jobs and tackle some tough issues like crime. It will also be Holden’s final term and one to determine his legacy.

It is time for all elected leaders to join together and lead. The voters have kept Holden as starting quarterback. It’s time for the team to hit the field and execute the offense if we expect to win.

Term limits sends message

The people of Louisiana spoke loud and clear parish by parish about local school board politics. The days of the dynasty and the 30-year reign are over. All 67 parishes that took a “local option” vote passed the measure to limit school board terms—and by around a 3-to-1 margin in most cases. Some approved it with as much as 85% in favor.

In The Advocate, Stephanie Desselle with CABL said the vote “sends a powerful message that Louisiana voters expect a new direction from its school boards.” And Brigitte Nieland with LABI said of long-standing school board members, “They are like little kings and queens. They are so entrenched.” After this vote, the end to their reign is in sight—statewide.

I extracted a message from this decisive landslide victory for change many would like to ignore. That is what this vote says about the legislative opponents who successfully fought Rep. Steve Carter’s effort to get this on the ballot a year ago. They pretended to represent the views of their constituents, but this vote clearly proves they didn’t. I wrote last year that two of the opponents were Sen. Bob Kostelka from northeast Louisiana and Sen. John Smith from southwest Louisiana. (Each has a relative that sits on a school board.) But I took a look at the vote on term limits in these two Senate districts. It passed by a large margin in every parish represented by these two. In fact, in Ouachita and Calcasieu parishes, term limits scored a bigger win than the constitutional amendment “to bear arms.” Now, would Kostelka or Smith have ever opposed that measure going on the ballot? No way.

I am pleased that Carter, Gov. Bobby Jindal and all the organizations for education reform gave this another try this year. Hats off to you. This vote is a wake-up call, sent loud and clear by Louisiana voters to elected officials, that we want more reform in education—not less.

Together B.R. better listen up

The headline on the NBC 33 website said, “Together BR forum tells political candidates what it wants from them.” It was a report from a meeting held with 30 candidates on Oct. 29 that reportedly drew about 500 people. Dr. Jeanne George of Together Baton Rouge said, “What we’re pushing for is to get them to listen to the citizens. Instead of focusing on issues that divide, we’re going to be asking them to focus on, to make a commitment to, working together.”

Well, I have to say, while I respect the effort and sentiment here, it rings hollow. I can’t really hear what they are saying because of all the noise and chaos surrounding the CATS tax, which Together Baton Rouge led the charge on.

So let me ask George to please “listen to the citizens” who have lots of questions and criticism about what happened. Maybe angry taxpayers can tell her group what they want from them. Some answers. Maybe an explanation for why they were misled. Or even an apology.

You see, it is good for voters to hold forums and ask questions, then hold accountable those who want to lead and serve in office. I applaud their involvement. But with that responsibility comes risk and accountability. Together Baton Rouge stepped out front along with others, including Catholic Charities and Rev. Raymond Jetson, chair of the Blue Ribbon Commission on Mass Transit, and got this tax on the ballot and passed by voters. It happened fast.

Instead, they could have pushed the Metro Council and mayor to find the funds for the rest of 2012 and set up the district properly, researched the homestead exemption status and been certain on the budget and ongoing support. But they didn’t. Haste make waste.

And once the tax was passed, the “rest of the story” began to unfold. And it is not pretty.

As JR Ball pointed out in his column “The craziness of CATS” (Oct. 30), Gary Owens, CFO of CATS, in testimony under oath, “disclosed the tax approved by voters wouldn’t generate the revenue to deliver the promises made by CATS prior to the election. In particular, six of the eight express routes promised to voters were now off the table.”

Ball notes that the total of the revenue that won’t materialize is $6.7 million. That’s a tremendous miscalculation.

But it keeps getting worse. Just recently WAFB-TV reported that there is not public transportation to the new Woman’s Hospital on Airline. So millions of more tax dollars raised and you still can’t get to this new hospital. Of course, there are many places outside the taxing limits that riders want to get to—riders whose property won’t be taxed. What a plan.

Ironically, Together Baton Rouge and Jetson did much research on comparable cities and per capita figures to make their case. So were they not as meticulous when it came to the homestead exemption and city-parish funding?

As Ball pointed out, this is the kind of fiasco that undermines public trust and will impact any future proposals in our parish. The proponents for this put their name on the line with CATS to the taxpayers—and now they have to be accountable, answer to voters and clean this mess up. Otherwise, few people are going to “listen” to what they want in the future.

That’s my boy!

Once you get older and your children are grown, you begin to feel you can relax and not worry so much about the future. Then, you have the incredible experience of becoming a grandparent. That happened to Teeta and me on Oct. 25, 2012. Our first grandchild came along—Ryan Caden McNeil, born to Jeanne and Ryan. Suddenly, you begin to consider the next generation and the world they will grow up in. The future has again become a priority.

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