Happy New Year! Let me make one popular prediction on an event that happens next week: Coach O and Joe Burrow will lead the LSU Tigers to a national championship in the Superdome. What a great way to start the year for Baton Rouge and Louisiana—and every Tiger fan.
In our first monthly issue of 2020, you will find many predictions and perspectives from a variety of people and professionals in our community about the next 12 months. I am sure you have some of your own predictions—or wishes.
I have more questions about the future than predictions. The pace of change in business is so rapid that it’s hard to guess what will come next. And when it comes to politics—all politics—there is no normal; sadly, anything goes.
I like to think of myself as an optimist and prefer to start every year on a high note. Peter Drucker said the best way to predict the future is to create it. That suggests opportunity to control one’s destiny, but I am not certain that is possible anymore with the internet, smartphones, Facebook, Google, Amazon, artificial intelligence and robots. It’s a different world than the one Drucker knew.
Here is what I will predict about the new year: Unfortunately, politics—local, state and national—will dominate the news and our lives. It is likely to be nasty and negative, especially on the national stage. It’s a sad state of affairs and the presidential campaign is something I am not looking forward to. And after such a tumultuous year, regardless of the outcome, the question will be: How will we heal in 2021? (Look at the four years after the 2016 elections. Deep divisions never restored. Certainly not “one nation, under God.”)
We are constantly reminded—even hourly—that we have a presidential election this fall. President Donald Trump will be tweeting daily. Democrats will continue their theatrics of impeachment if Rep. Nancy Pelosi ever delivers the two bills passed in the Democratic House. We all know how the trial in the Republican-controlled Senate will end—with an acquittal. So let’s get on with the election and let Americans have their say in November. In one month, the Iowa caucus will begin the circus to choose the Democrats’ standard-bearer to take on Trump. I just wonder if they will end up choosing a socialist.
Here at home, we will have our own saga taking place at the State Capitol with the Jan. 13 inauguration of Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards following his close re-election. The Advocate recently reported the three major candidates in the 2019 election collectively spent $46.9 million. When including the major political action committees, the Republicans spent $34.4 million and the Democrats spent about $38.7 million. That’s more than $73 million total. Insane. (Why is the top seat of such a poor state worth spending so much money?)
On that same day, there will also be the election of the new Senate president and speaker of the House—both expected to be Republicans, who will then name committees and the chairs. This will be a harbinger of the first session of this newly elected Legislature held by a majority of conservative Republicans. I predict a tough battle for Edwards over the next four years.
And there’s more politics closer to home in East Baton Rouge Parish. Don’t forget our local elections for mayor-president and Metro Council. It should be interesting as Mayor Sharon Weston Broome’s goal of unity in our parish is far from accomplished—and is probably worse. We continue to have strong racial tension. Crime remains a major issue. The city of St. George was approved at the ballot box and is now in litigation.
But lucky for the mayor, Baton Rouge demographics and politics have changed and work in her favor—despite the CityStats report showing only 38% of citizens believe the parish is going in the “right direction.” (EBR is a majority minority parish). Our Democratic governor just won East Baton Rouge Parish by a 2-to-1 margin over a Republican opponent who grew up in the capital city. And Broome backed Edwards and he will certainly be in her corner. So I predict no one will have the base or money to challenge her. (As incumbent, we know she can count on big donations from all those with contracts for MovEBR and with the city-parish. Some things don’t change.)
Now the Metro Council elections will be a different story with some term-limited members and others who may be vulnerable. Some races could be a free-for-all.
But politics is not confined to public elections. On campus, with the resignation of LSU President F. King Alexander, the supposed “official search” begins to find the next flagship leader. But don’t think for a second that good ol’ Louisiana politics are not already fast at work behind the scenes to anoint the next president, just like the ol’ days under the last Gov. Edwards. Keep watching.
And politics isn’t limited to higher education. The EBR Parish Public School Board is going to be selecting a new superintendent to replace the retiring Warren Drake after this school year. This may be the most important position filled in 2020 in our community. With declining enrollment in traditional public schools, financial pressure on the budget and plans for the prospective City of St. George, the need for a new leader with innovative thinking, courage and a record of success, is critical to our future.
I have shared with you before that politics plays too big a role in Louisiana and our lives and I think we will see that proven again in 2020.
But for this next week—Geaux Tigers!
Know your community
How much do you know about East Baton Rouge Parish? I shared some numbers a month ago from BRAF’s 2019 CityStats report produced by BRAC and LSU’s Public Policy Research Lab. It is underwritten by the Newton B. Thomas Support Foundation.
Here are a few more stats to analyze. Any surprise you?
• EBR is the largest parish in the state.
• The parish is now majority minority.
• Three of every four residents were born in Louisiana (big status quo).
• Seven of 10 respondents say the pace of progress is “too slow” (status quo).
• Half of residents (52%) are under 34 years old.
• Nine of every 10 residents have a high school diploma.
• One of three has a college diploma.
• One in four said they were a victim of crime in the last year.
• The parish has a poverty rate of 19.1% (the U.S. rate is 12.3%).
• Politically, 25% list themselves as conservative; 14% very conservative (39% total).
• Of those residents with children, 8% want them to stay in Baton Rouge; 45% want them to leave and 44% say it doesn’t matter.
• Ninety percent said job opportunities would keep young adults from leaving.
• CATS ridership didn’t change from 2012 to 2018 (74,000).
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