It was sad reading our recent cover story (“No man’s land,” May 21) on the demise of Florida Boulevard. I participated with the Regional/Urban Design Assistance Team (R/UDAT) of architects and planners back in the 1980s, sharing ideas with others and creating yet another plan that sat on a city shelf. We all know, like a football game plan, it can look good on paper, but ultimately it comes down to execution on the field at kick-off. And while bold change doesn’t happen overnight, it has to start somewhere. A first step. As they say, “Eat the elephant one bite at a time.” It never happened.
As for Florida Boulevard, a good place to start could be a few simple laws and policies requiring landowners to be responsible for their property—and hold them accountable. It is long overdue.
One beginning step is to address ugly, abandoned signage—or visual pollution. The article says: “[T]he signage code in the overlay district is weak and ineffective. It makes generous exceptions for nonconforming signs, allowing, for example, a sign to remain standing outside a retail center if just a single establishment in an otherwise vacant and abandoned strip remains in business. That’s why there are so many broken, cracked and outdated signs along the corridor.
“The code also allows for monument signs to be as high as 25 feet tall, roughly the equivalent of a three-story building. By definition, monument signs are supposed to be low to the ground—around 5 feet or so—and more visually appealing.”
Fix the damn code.
Richard Empson, a Sherwood Forest resident, sees it clearly, saying, “If the city could just come in and clean up the street it would make a big difference. If they could enforce the code, find out who owns the blighted buildings and make them clean them up. Why is that so hard?” Good question.
The story noted “Empson and other neighborhood leaders from his area recently met with Mayor Sharon Weston Broome to discuss the issue. She and her assistant chief administrative officer, Kelvin Hill, say they recognize the need to do something, and plan to look at revising parish ordinances dealing with code enforcement.” Great, we all agree: Ugly is not good. So let’s start now. Change the rules and make people remove signs to comply. Or bid out a scrap metal company to remove them all. Do something now. Look at photo below and tell me how long that sign has been standing as a testament to abandonment?
There are dozens like this that scream “out of business.” This is not good. (And this blight isn’t limited to Florida Boulevard.) So, can we take this one step in 2019 before we go another 30 years?
Questions on immigration
For those who oppose any type of border policy or enforcement, could you look at this latest report and answer a couple questions?
U.S. News reports: “The flow of migrants at the southern border surged in May as authorities last month took into custody more than 144,000 migrants, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection. The tally is a 32 percent jump from April and includes the highest number of apprehensions in a month on the southern border in 13 years. More than 55,000 migrant children were among those taken into custody while the number of families and unaccompanied migrant children encountered at the border skyrockets, officials told reporters.”
• What do you suggest we do, and how do you sustain this influx?
• Democratic leaders say these families are seeking asylum due to “terrorism” at home. But that is also the case in Syria and many countries in Africa. Do you deny them asylum, or are all welcome?
• What do you say to all the other immigrants who have applied legally and been on a waiting list for years to come to America?
• What is the cost to house and feed 55,000 children and eventually educate them, and provide health care, and how will we pay for it?
• Do you and Democratic leaders suggest these migrant children move to the top of the list, potentially denying support for American children in need?
• Is there a current legal process, and why can’t it be applied to all immigrants?
• What responsibility does Mexico and the Central American countries have for providing for their citizens’ safety and well-being?
America is the greatest nation and was built with immigrants. We are also the most compassionate. But we are also a nation of law. The recent report makes it clear immigration reform is essential.
Does Louisiana need a reset?
PAR published its 2019 legislative wrap-up, with the headline reading, “Session relishes stability but not reform—the calm 2019 waters hide deep problems.”
After discussing details of the session, the report concluded: “Previous fervor in the Legislature for constitutional reform has apparently relaxed. These issues require a sea change in our approach to state government. In short, it requires a RESET.”
So, what does that mean? I agree we have “deep problems” and we continue to kick the can down the road—especially in this election year. We have put Band-Aid after Band-Aid on our 45-year old model with almost 200 amendments. Absurd.
PAR explained, “That is why the Public Affairs Research Council of Louisiana has collaborated with the Committee of 100 and the Council for a Better Louisiana to form RESET Louisiana’s Future. Through this initiative our organizations will educate candidates and citizens about the problems facing our state and what we can do about them. The coming turnover brought about by term limits means a flood of new legislators next term. We focus on the key areas of education, state finances, infrastructure and criminal justice/public safety.” (Read more about RESET here.)
When you evaluate the candidates for office this fall, you should ask each where they stand on calling for a constitutional convention as well as the need for a RESET.
As I wrote last issue, there are major issues to address in our 1974 constitution—and I agree, that makes a good case for a RESET. But, I also noted the No. 1 priority of Gov. John Bel Edward, as he told PAR, of raising the minimum wage to $9 per hour, totally misses the mark and sets a low bar for the future. It also raises concerns over such an effort with that type of vision—or lack thereof—in the highest office.
Hats off to Calvin Mills for being named the 2019 Small Business Advocate of the Year by the National Small Business Association. Mills is CEO of CMC Technology Solutions, an author and community leader.