As a new year starts, we are hopeful of growth and progress in our community. There are many opinions and predictions shared in this issue of what 2019 holds for Baton Rouge. I am just praying that there will be no repeat of the petty and disgraceful racial politics we witnessed last year. We must raise the bar and do better.
We all are aware and can see evidence of race issues in our country and our community almost every week. But I have to wonder if most of the decisions in EBR by our leaders and our council, boards and commissions are going to be driven by race in 2019? If so, that is very concerning to me and should be to others.
There was a lot of talk on how the standoff over candidates for the director of the airport stemmed from a division of race at the Metro Council, resulting in no hiring from the finalists submitted. It was embarrassing and dysfunctional. For EBR to win, the goal must be to recruit the best player for the job. Did our Metro Council, search committee, Airport Commission and mayor-president accomplish that task for the citizens? Was race the obstacle?
We all witnessed the debacle and walkout at the Metro Council over the appointment to fill the vacant seat after councilman Buddy Amoroso was killed in a biking accident. Denise Amoroso, his widow, was finally selected after African-American councilwoman Tara Wicker voted in unison with the council’s white members. Wicker was called “Judas” and a traitor for her decision—and that includes by fellow councilwoman Chauna Banks, the council’s biggest mouth and bigot.
Southern University Political Science Professor Albert Samuels, an African-American who co-chaired Mayor Sharon Weston Broome’s transition committee on race relations, told The Advocate, “It’s counterproductive to frame this issue as a somehow race loyalty test. Black people do have the right to disagree with one another. Sometimes, it’s important to call out the people who will try to insist that we must think one way.” Samuels went on to call Wicker’s action courageous.
The most recent issue on display was the hiring of a new BREC superintendent to replace the retiring Carolyn McKnight.
The BREC Commission is made up of nine members: six black, three white. They include Lloyd Benson Jr., chairman; Shelton Dixon, vice-chair; Larry Selders; Davis Rhorer; Rossie Washington Jr.; Mike Walker; Sandra Davis; Kenneth Pointer; and Kenyetta Nelson-Smith.
The search led to four finalists, three African-Americans and one white. Only two had run park systems, one white and one black.
In the end, the commission hired neither, opting to choose Corey Wilson, chief of business and management services for BREC since 2012, who is also an attorney (Harvard law grad) and previously a consultant in New Orleans.
Benson, the chairman, said it was his “knowledge of the community” and that there would be no delay in moving forward with projects such as the reimagination of the zoo and Greenwood Community Park. Sounds like they may want Wilson to continue the status quo for the commission, which is probably the weakest board in EBR. After seeing Benson and their cowardice displayed with the zoo fiasco, I can say if BREC hosted a “weenie roast,” the commission would come dressed as the “weenies.” So sad.
In conclusion, the goal for the search was to find the very best talent to replace McKnight. Did the commission succeed?
It has been said over and over that leadership is key for our city, parish and region to flourish. We need vision and courage, not a mob mentality driving decisions of weak boards—and certainly not race. Just like on any team, you have to recruit the best talent to compete for the championship. It’s not about “somebody” getting one job, but it is about creating a community that attracts jobs for all who want to work.
Competition is tough among cities and you have to have a strong team and bold ideas or we will all lose. And in critical situations, when the game is on the line with the clock ticking, a great coach said, “Think of players, not plays.” Put the ball in the hands of your best to win. Young, old. Female, male. Newcomer, native. Black, white. Choose the best and be held accountable. We must all demand that of our officials and boards in 2019. Baton Rouge deserves better.
Disruption hits home
We just learned on Jan. 10 that Georgia Pacific will close its plant that manufacturers copy paper in Port Hudson. The market demand for copy paper continues to decline with digital. But that “disruption” impacts our region and the 650 employees who worked in that plant. Those are neighbors, volunteers, little league coaches, church members and customers of retail shops and restaurants—and they need our support in a tough time. What impacts them impacts us all. “Disruption” is real.
Barras was the wise one
Speaker of the House Taylor Barras was taking a beating and accused of politics by other members of the Louisiana Revenue Estimating Committee—as well as The Advocate editorial staff—for being cautious about the price of oil and whether the state would have surplus funds to spend.
But I looked at the spot price for West Texas crude over the past three months and found: Oct. 2, $75.16; Oct. 29, $67; Nov. 29, $51.46; Dec. 27, $44.48; Jan. 7, $48.27. This is like a roller coaster with impact from a variety of factors, including last week’s U.S.-China trade talks. Who can predict that? Certainly not our REC in Louisiana.
It will be a crazy election
I started out as a registered Democrat, but by 1980 when I listened to Ronald Reagan versus President Jimmy Carter, I knew I was a Republican and switched. The contrast was stark—and I predict it will be the same in 2020.
Can you believe the Iowa caucus for the presidential election is just about one year away—Feb. 3, 2020?
That means you and I are going to be inundated with the rhetoric from Sens. Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, Kamal Harris and Corey Booker just to start. Aaarrrggghhh!
They will be joined by Tweedledee and Tweedledum—or Rep. Nancy Pelosi and Sen. Chuck Schumer—who, when I see them on TV talking, makes my stomach turn.
I know many of you say the same about President Trump—and consider him “crazy.” (Sometimes, I think that, too.) But I am afraid this next election is going to be dominated by crazy. We know what Trump has said in the past, yet look at what these newly elected Democratic officials are saying as a warm-up for what’s ahead.
Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez describes herself as a “radical” and Democratic-Socialist. She has a plan called the “New Green Deal” relating to climate change, which will be funded by raising tax rates up to 70% on the wealthy. Here’s what she said on “60 Minutes”: “There’s an element where, yeah, people are going to have to start paying their fair share in taxes.”
Another newly elected member of congress, Michigan Rep. Rashida Tlaib, was unapologetic for her comments about the president when she said, “…we’re going to impeach that motherf****r.” Get ready.