On March 7, voters in District 16 will go to the polls in a special election to fill the Louisiana Senate seat of Dr. Bill Cassidy, who was elected congressman for District 6 last fall. Cassidy was a fine state senator, and Lee Domingue is the right person to fill those shoes. He is a good man and will make a great senator. I have known Domingue for many years and found him to be an innovative, energetic and successful entrepreneur—who learned some hard lessons in failure along the way. [Like most entrepreneurs, I’ve certainly had my share of failures and learned valuable lessons.] Domingue is a conservative who has a passionate desire to serve District 16 and work with Gov. Bobby Jindal in turning Louisiana around.
I live in District 16, so I have a strong interest in this election. I know all the candidates in this race. Both Laurinda Calogne and Dan Claitor are nice folks and both ran for other offices last year and lost. They are trying again. Calogne had support for her congressional bid from some of the same businessmen who now back Domingue, including me. We made a choice in this election for who we believed could best serve District 16. But, now in her radio ads, she attacks her former supporters and goes on to claim she is honest and can be trusted. That sounds hypocritical to me.
Claitor went on the attack in the district attorney’s race, belittling Hillar Moore for being a youth baseball coach. I applaud Moore for his community service to kids and find it admirable. Domingue is also a youth coach and sees it as a way to mentor young kids and impact their lives. It is an act of service above self—which is what elective office ought to be about, too.
South and southeast Baton Rouge have had two previous senators, in addition to Dr. Cassidy, who have been solid leaders in the legislature: Jay Dardenne and Tom Greene. Lee Domingue is cut from the same cloth as these three previous senators. He is a man who will make an impact—and make us proud. I encourage the people of District 16 to vote for Lee Domingue on March 7.
City dock dream
Our executive editor, JR Ball, will tell you he tires of hearing me talk about the old city dock just south of the Mississippi River bridge. Years ago I walked out on the rusting structure, which sits over the water and in full view of the “theater on the river.” I have envisioned locals and visitors standing on the deck, sipping their favorite beverage, with a gorgeous sunset as the backdrop. The crowd listens to the jazz band as they wait for their dinner reservation at the popular new restaurant. There is the smell of hot, boiled crawfish in the air as a tug boat pushes a string of barges northward on their way to St. Louis. High up above the deck, there are residents of the third floor condos out on their balconies enjoying the spectacular sunset. Offices of local executives occupy the second floor of this new development called “City Dock,” the hottest development opened in 2011 in the Capital City. Can you see it?
As I tell JR, it can happen. This ugly property travelers see as they cross the bridge into our community, which has sat vacant and rusting for decades, is owned by the city of Baton Rouge and is structurally sound to hold three stories. It sits on 7 acres. Mayor Holden has put the structure on the stimulus list at $60 million. While that may be a long shot, I believe we allow the free market to compete and challenge developers nationwide to bring forth their best plan for the site; the city will choose a winner whose plan has the greatest impact—and lease it to them for $1 a year for 30 years. The city won’t spend one tax dollar, but they will turn a dormant nonproducing asset into a beautiful front door to our city and a taxpaying entity. The dock would fit in great with Plan Baton Rouge phase II [page 32]. E-mail the mayor now at firstname.lastname@example.org and encourage him to form a committee to make this dream a reality and let the private sector innovate and compete. Baton Rouge will be the winner.
Gov. Jindal delivers
Jindal faces some tough challenges with the budget, but at the same time, when it comes to new ideas, policies and promoting the state nationwide, he is still on a roll.
For those of us who know the desperate need for reform in Louisiana, it is exciting to see his continued plans to reform education in our state, particularly school choice, and to tackle the issue of fiscal reform. For far too long, Louisiana has battled the dedication of 70% of the state budget, leaving only health care and higher education to bear the brunt of cuts. And when that has happened, most cowards just made cuts “across the board.”
Jindal has announced plans to ask the Legislature to free up the dedicated funds and put them on the chopping block too, providing the flexibility that is long overdue. He is also going to provide accountability and transparency on the Web, enabling parents to see if MFP dollars intended for the classroom by the state are actually being spent there by the local district.
Jindal said, “When we face large deficits—we need to take the approach that ‘everything is on the table’ in order to identify needed savings for the state, which includes finding savings in statutory and constitutional dedications and making all government spending more transparent and accountable to the taxpayers whose money is being spent.”
As for improving Louisiana’s image, Jindal was selected to give the Republican response to President Barack Obama’s address to a joint session of Congress tonight [Feb. 24]. The president speaks to the nation and then the governor of Louisiana responds. Whether you are a Republican, Democrat or independent, it is a proud day when the governor of our state is held in such high regard and given such an honor. Folks across the country—from former Louisianans to corporate CEOs—are watching, and they aren’t laughing—they’re listening. We should all celebrate that Jindal is in the national spotlight, changing what people think of Louisiana and our leaders. We have longed for that change in our reputation—and Jindal is delivering.
New roads … finally. It’s so wonderful to actually witness the results of state and local tax dollars being spent on roads. Perkins Road—five lanes—from Bluebonnet to Siegen and to Essen is under way. Unbelievable. [It should have been done a decade or two ago.] Burbank has four-lane segments and more are coming—and it’s happening before all the land on Burbank is developed. Unbelievable. Staring Lane built from Highland Road to Burbank, and then four lanes back to connect to Essen. And I’m still alive to see it happen. Unbelievable.
I know the folks in Central are just as excited to see the Central Thruway construction continue. And those in Livingston and Ascension, watching the work begin on interstates 10 and 12. Unbelievable.
Our infrastructure is still many years behind our needs, but Mayor Holden’s Green Light Plan and the governor’s surplus money for roads are showing results. But with the growth in the Capital City, we can’t let this be the last of it. I still would like to drive down a wider Lee Drive, Nicholson Drive, Siegen Lane [from Highland to Perkins]—and cruise on that loop before I die.