The signatures are in and it seems to be a matter of time before residents of a proposed City of St. George get to vote on their future—and ours. However, this potential fifth city inside East Baton Rouge Parish was not inevitable and could have been avoided.
It was shorted-sighted politicians who not only didn’t learn from the past (Central City) but were also more interested in protecting their careers, EBR public school system money and the system’s union jobs than taxpayers, parents and children.
It is said, “If we fail to learn from history, we are doomed to repeat it.” Remember Central. Parents there wanted to control their schools and proposed an independent district, which the Louisiana Constitution allows (just like Texas.) It does not require formation of an independent city.
But then-Sen. Kip Holden led the opposition, using the argument of “you’re not a city like Baker and Zachary,” which he, incidentally, had represented and supported in their quests for their own school districts. (It should be noted the Zachary district actually reaches outside the city limits.)
So, the people of Central put together a petition and became a municipality—and then got their own school district, which was their original goal. When you are talking about people’s children and their future, there is a motivation that is hard to stop. Central would not be denied.
But did our politicians learn anything? Obviously not.
State Sen. Bodi White, who authored a bill to allow an independent school district in Southeast Baton Rouge (now the St. George area), tried twice to get it passed and was defeated. He says opposition in the Senate was led by then-Sen. Sharon Weston Broome (now the mayor, defeating White) and in the House by state Reps. Pat Smith and Ted James.
They, too, used the same excuse that St. George was not a city. They were shortsighted and political, thinking they would raise a bar that could not be overcome, but they underestimated these parents and grandparents, and their dedication to their children.
White told me he stood at the podium in the Senate chambers and warned his opponents: “Be careful what you wish for.” And the recently certified petition with more than 14,500 verified signatures—a second attempt—proves he was right. Broome, Smith and James gambled, and they may cost us all big. But they must own their decisions in the Legislature.
Broome, as mayor, made a statement after the petitions were approved saying, “Citizens across the parish deserve to have a clear understanding of how this proposed city would impact their personal finances.” I wonder whether she had a clear understanding how denying an independent school district when she was a state senator could result in a new city and impact the parish’s finances? She may have never expected she would have to deal with the fallout as mayor.
The mayor and opponents of this city-forming initiative keep talking about the finances of St. George, but that is for those residents and voters to figure out and vote on—just like the people of Central did.
The bigger fear, I think, for the mayor, BRAC, the EBR school board and others is how are they going to deal with the finances in Baton Rouge?
In theory, I do believe we should be stronger as one, united parish. But I am also a big proponent of school choice and support charters, vouchers, home school, and both public and private schools. I supported the districts for Baker, Zachary, Central and southeast Baton Rouge.
Just do what is best for children. That is what parents in the southeastern part of our community were doing when they simply asked for an independent district. The EBR school system had failed most and they wanted out. Can you blame them? Others had already gotten out.
Our politicians often lack vision and play only parochial politics. St. George is a good example of this. Over the past 40 years, our EBR school system has gone from 67,000 students to 40,000. Parents make choices and leave the parish, start their own city or choose private or home school. They will do whatever it takes, and, in the end, politicians won’t have the final say. In the case of St. George, the voters will—and they earned it with the petition. The Legislature had its chance and blew it.
I suspect St. George will pass. All who oppose it need to point their fingers of blame in the right direction. We should hold accountable those who made this bed that we may all have to lie in.
ABC news anchor Robin Roberts embarrassed herself in her interview with Jussie Smollett, but colleagues defended her. Fellow Louisiana native, CNN host Don Lemon, said, “Robin did an excellent job.”
No, Don, she didn’t. She rushed to get the exclusive interview when many others were skeptical about his claims and still investigating. Roberts and ABC gave Smollett a forum to spew his lies to a national audience without ever asking him a single hard-hitting question. In fact, at the end, after his tears, she concluded with “Beautiful. Thanks, Jussie.” Seriously?
Of course, there were many media pundits, Hollywood stars and Democratic politicians who rushed to judgment and tried to capitalize on this “victim.” That included two presidential hopefuls—Sens. Cory Booker and Kamala Harris—both of whom described the alleged attack as a “modern day lynching.” And Democratic Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi tweeted, “the racist, homophobic attack on Jussie Smollett is an affront to our humanity.” Nancy: It didn’t happen.
The hoax has left them looking like fools, not leaders, and it should make all question their judgment and credibility.
Money: One-time vs. imaginary
Some folks in the media, like columnist Stephanie Grace of The Advocate, and Democrats were quick to criticize Gov. Bobby Jindal for using one-time money in the budget. At least that was real money.
But recently, Grace said it was “appropriate” for Gov. John Bel Edwards to budget imaginary dollars that the Revenue Estimating Conference indicate don’t exist. But who’s counting? Not Grace. I guess it is “appropriate” to use voodoo economics in Louisiana.
Edwards and Jay Dardenne, the governor’s commissioner of administration, call it an “aspirational budget.” That means they want to include everything on their wish list that looks good in an election year—and if it doesn’t happen, they can blame the Republicans for taking it out of “their budget.” (Would such deception dishonor a West Point cadet?)
Grace wrote that the governor is presenting a budget based on money he assumes will be available, and Dardenne told lawmakers, to do otherwise would be “divorced from reality.” Grace said, “That’s true.” Oh really?
Grace and Dardenne may want to read where Louisiana’s third-quarter GDP growth was among the slowest in the nation—44th among all states—according to a recent report released by the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis. And our unemployment rate is now higher than the national average. That is reality.
Of course, Grace sides with the governor and lays the blame for all this on Rep. Taylor Barras and his conservative allies in the House. She proclaims: “The Edwards administration’s response is appropriate under the circumstances.” As long as it allows government to spend more money, all is well among liberals, Edwards and Grace.