My editorial views seldom coincide with the editorial opinions of The Advocate. Yet, we actually agree that Sen. Yvonne Colomb’s bill to rewrite the rules on who gets a vote on the city of St. George incorporation is misguided and should be defeated in the Legislature, which opened its regular session on April 8.
Colomb’s bill—which, if approved, would require a parishwide vote to answer the St. George question—has the backing of Mayor Sharon Weston Broome, who regularly preaches her vision for unity. Of this I am certain: This bill, which uses the notion of “inclusion” as a sword to foil the St. George movement, does nothing to unify East Baton Rouge Parish. In fact, in only serves to further divide us.
Quite simply, it is unfair to change the rules after the game has begun.
I asked the mayor—who, it’s worth noting is also the president of our parish—if she stood by this bill, and if so, why neither she nor Colomb had felt the need to let us all vote on Central becoming a city too? Her reply:
“One of the weaker arguments being made is that the City of St. George breakaway is comparable to the City of Central incorporation. This is not a reasonable comparison. The City of Central, at the time of its incorporation, was comprised of approximately 10,000 citizens. The proposed St. George is home to more than 80,000 residents, and equates to hundreds of millions of dollars in property and sales tax revenue being diverted from current services. The City of Central had a neutral budget effect on the (city-parish), and their incorporation had no significant financial impact on the remaining residents. By comparison, the proposed St. George breakaway would create a budget deficit to the tune of nearly $50 million, not to mention other issues such as pension and legacy costs, which would need to be negotiated.
“This issue is about fundamental fairness. There is nothing wrong with identifying a problem and utilizing legislative resources available to fix it, regardless of the timing. If we adopt the position that it’s too late to make a change, where would we be as a society? It is never too late to fix an inequity, and that is why I support Senator Colomb’s bill and the democratic process that allows us to protect the residents who would undoubtedly be affected by this breakaway.”
On the other hand, Colomb told The Advocate that the “backers of making unincorporated St. George a city are ‘secessionists’ and allowing the entire parish to decide the issue is a fair approach.”
She goes on to claim, “It’s merely democracy.”
So, again, perhaps she and the mayor can get on the same page and explain why democracy wasn’t important when Central “seceded?”
No one is fooled. You can see from the mayor’s reply this isn’t about democracy … it’s about money.
Which is exactly the same reason why Broome, then a state legislator, and Colomb teamed with Rep. Pat Smith years ago to defeat state Sen. Bodi White’s bill that would have allowed voters parishwide the chance to participate in democracy by voting on the creation of an independent school district. They wouldn’t let everyone vote then because protecting EBR school money, unions, and adult teachers and administrators, was more important than democracy.
Now, however, they suddenly want to give us all the right to vote? What a load of hypocrisy.
Is the board stacked?
Far too often, the disciplinary decisions of the Baton Rouge Police chief are overturned by the Municipal Fire and Police Civil Service Board. Is the board stacked for the union? Why do police and fire get their own board for review—and get to put a representative on that board? (See the state law, here.) This seems like a conflict of interest.
This old system has run its course. I don’t see it as fair—but fixed. I suggest the mayor and others take a close examination of this board’s history and its votes, and then move to update the system so it works for the citizens, not the unions.
What planet is this?
Sometimes I have to stop and wonder, “What is going on?”
I recently saw Christiane Amanpour, CNN’s chief international anchor, do an interview with James Comey, the former FBI director. Here is what she asked him regarding “hate speech”:
“Of course, ‘Lock her up’ was a feature of the 2016 Trump campaign. Do you, in retrospect, wish that people like yourself, the head of FBI—I mean the people in charge of law and order—had shut down that language? That it was dangerous potentially. That it could have created violence. That it’s kind of hate speech. Should that have been allowed?”
Comey, responded appropriately to his liberal host saying, “That’s not a role for government to play. The beauty of this country is that people can say what they want.”
So, let me say, Amanpour is crazy and CNN drives me nuts.
New Orleans COA tax gets beat
A whopping 71% of voters rejected a new tax for the New Orleans Council on Aging, with the opposition led by its mayor, LaToya Cantrell. Good for her.
The mayor, according to The Times-Picayune, said infrastructure is currently a higher priority for New Orleans, adding that more accountability and transparency are needed for agencies that use city money without City Hall oversight. Prior to the election, Cantrell said, “I do not believe we can millage our way out of the existing conditions in the city.”
Contrast that to the EBR CoA, which broke campaign and ethics laws while conducting its campaign to unfairly win a dedicated tax. In New Orleans, the mayor used her PAC to spend money for mailers arguing against that tax. A bold move.
The Times-Picayune also noted, “The nonpartisan Bureau of Governmental Research also opposed the tax, saying the proposal gave no assurance to citizens that the tax money would be used properly.” Same case here.
In another irony when compared to Baton Rouge, Harold Rodgers III, CoA executive director in New Orleans, told The Times-Picayune that “the Council on Aging’s history of clean audits that are available for public view as evidence that it has handled city money properly.”
They had clean audits and lost; Baton Rouge’s CoA has had troubled audits—and numerous other problems—and won. How could Baton Rouge be so dumb?
Still waiting on justice
• District Judge Mike Erwin has announced his retirement and has left the bench—only to move over to his stool at George’s to hold court. But the Supreme Court should not stop its investigation of him and his actions at Sammy’s. That victim deserves justice and we deserve the truth.
• I hope the FBI will bring charges against Jussie Smollett and take over the miscarriage of justice by the Cook County, Illinois, prosecutor who just let him walk. Compounding this disgrace is that Smollett continues to lie, claiming innocence despite all the evidence and outcry from the Chicago police chief and mayor. Unbelievable.
• EBR School Board member Connie Bernard got another charge of simple battery added to her case from last summer where she walked into a party at a Lakeside home and used profanity during an altercation with local teens. As I said before, Bernard should resign because she can no longer lead effectively—and she has set a poor example for children and teens.