Many voters I talk to lately express little enthusiasm for the upcoming Election Day. (Early voting runs from Oct. 25 to Nov. 1.) At the national level, many voters are asking, “How did we get in this situation?” Maybe you feel differently and can’t wait to vote for president. To each his own.
I believe it is historic and unprecedented to have both nominees with such high negative ratings, and a huge number of Americans like neither. I understand because I am in the same boat. (The two political parties and the process bear part of the blame.)
This presidential race may have been entertaining and a boon for cable TV and presidential debate viewership, but it was simply disgusting and ended in the gutter.
I turned off the second debate and couldn’t even watch the final one. It really hit home for me when I had a dad share that his 9-year-old son had an interest in politics and asked if he could stay up and watch the second debate. This was right after the release of the Access Hollywood video. The father was concerned about what crude or lewd comments might be said during this presidential debate and advised his son it may be best he go to bed. That is a sad day, but it’s indicative of the new low in politics.
Of course, on the flip side, the first debate drew a record 84 million viewers. (Hey, folks like their reality TV and Jerry Springer.) Do you think if the debates would have stuck to a discussion on issues such as education, trade policy, defense, taxes and immigration viewers would have stayed tuned in? Certainly not. And what does that say about us?
Let me also add that the national media—print, TV and radio—have all been openly biased in covering this race. It was embarrassing. Whether it was FOX helping Donald Trump or The New York Times and every other major network, including CNN, trashing Trump and protecting Hillary Clinton. (Fact is, they should all thank Trump—and Julian Assange—for making it so easy for them to report controversy and attract viewers. Like Assange and his daily emails released, Trump also supplied endless material for the media with his mouth. He just couldn’t help himself.) It was a new low for objective media coverage. The irony was, the more they hit Trump, the stronger he got because the public distrusts the mainstream media. Sadly, I don’t think that will change—and with social media, candidates can just go right to the public.
So, Election Day is upon us. This drama will come to an end (maybe…). Let me sum up this historic campaign season and declare the real “deplorables” were Clinton and Trump. Here are my endorsements.
President: No endorsement
You vote your own conscience here. We can all seem to justify our own decisions in the end. (There are 11 other candidates on the ballot.)
U.S. Senate: Dr. Charles Boustany
There are 24 candidates in the race for this seat. They range from longtime, yellow dog, populist Democrats to a longtime, ultra-conservative, white supremacist. Louisiana can ill afford to send either of these extremes to Washington to represent our state. We need to elect an intelligent and effective senator with integrity, who can team up with Sen. Bill Cassidy to help our state and nation.
Congressman Charles Boustany, a Republican who has served for the past 12 years, will make TEAM LOUISIANA solid in the Senate.
Boustany’s experience includes the House Ways and Means Committee and serving as chairman of the Tax Policy Subcommittee. He advocates for a simpler tax code and reduced regulation on business. Boustany is also a heart surgeon and understands the negative impact of Obamacare on patients, small business and the medical profession. He has voted to repeal the law and offered market-based solutions.
In talking with others who know and work with Boustany, they described him as, “Serious. Working hard every day. Studying the issues.” They also said, “He doesn’t crave the spotlight. He is intelligent, principled and effective for Louisiana.” Finally, one said, “His heart is right and he works well with people to get things done.” High praise.
Boustany is a native of Louisiana who graduated from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette and got his medical degree from LSU in New Orleans. He and his wife, Bridget, have raised their two children here.
Boustany has a record of accomplishments for the people of Louisiana and is the best choice for the U.S. Senate. He will make us proud.
Congress, District 6: Garret Graves
Graves is finishing his first term in Congress and he has made a difference quickly. He has been an impressive leader, working hard for flood recovery and helping get hundreds of millions in federal highway dollars for our state—including a solution for the age-old Washington Street Exit problem on Interstate 10. Graves continues to be a champion for coastal restoration and leads the fight against the federal government’s monopoly on red snapper fishing. He also helped lift the ban on crude oil exports and protected business by limiting the executive branch from adding cumbersome and harmful regulations.
Graves’ goals for his next term include improving traffic in the Capital Region, using technology to make government more transparent and responsive, and reforming entitlement programs and the criminal justice system with a merit-based investment structure.
Graves and his wife, Carissa, are very active in our community. His dedication, integrity and values are to be admired. His ideas, energy and leadership are appreciated and a big asset for the 6th Congressional District. Graves deserves re-election.
Baton Rouge mayor: Darryl Gissel
The three-term era of Mayor Kip Holden concludes in January. This is an important time in our city and parish. Who we elect matters as we seek to unite our community, rebuild after this summer and set a course for the next 20 years.
The city-parish 2016 budget was $880 million. There is a total of around 4,500 employees on the payroll. That’s a huge operation to be in charge of. None of the candidates running have any real experience as a CEO. Most are running on their political experience or work as a legislator, not as an executive. Only one of the top six has never been a politician. He is running as an independent with the “No party” label. He is truly the only real “outsider” among the major candidates.
Is Baton Rouge ready for that? Dare we take a risk? Maybe it’s time to think differently—to choose based on who is best prepared for this major operation and not who has the highest name recognition or most money? I like it.
I have talked with many of the candidates and know most of the top six. I have supported and endorsed several of them for other seats in the past and respect their public service. But as I observed two mayoral forums last week, I thought about what I heard and what I know about the candidates, as well as what I believe are important qualities for the next leader of our community. Basically, I was deciding whom I would put my trust in to get the job done. I decided: Darryl Gissel.
Gissel is someone who is different from the rest of the field. His bio states he holds a master’s degree in public administration from LSU and has a bachelor’s degree in political science. He worked for former Gov. Dave Treen and ran the Republican Party for a few years, so he understands the political process. But he has had his own real estate business and has had to deal with the city-parish and its agencies.
He is one who has served this city and parish as a volunteer and leader in giving back—not on the public payroll. You may know little of Gissel, and he is a dark horse or long shot, but before you vote you should go to his website, darrylgissel.com, and read about his ideas and his experience, and view the videos from friends who know him well, and see if you reach the conclusion I did.
Gissel is very serious about leading Baton Rouge at this critical time, and he has read the budget. He is bright and will surround himself with folks even smarter than he is because he understands how to get things done in business. He had to do it to succeed—and he has.
One of his neighbors, who I trust, said, “Darryl listens well. He digs into the details and tries to do the right thing by everybody, yet understands the pitfalls of politics. Darryl is a good person with values. He also has a good sense of managing money.”
Sounds like qualities of a great mayor and one who could work well with north Baton Rouge and south Baton Rouge, the Metro Council and the business community. Our community needs that type of leader. I believe that is Darryl Gissel. He has earned my vote.
Another key factor in our future success is the Metro Council working with the new mayor. Teamwork matters. Re-elected with no opposition are Trae Welch (District 1), Chandler Loupe (District 3) and Donna Collins-Lewis (District 6).
In the other races, there are some incumbents and some open seats. Like you, I have not always been pleased with the actions of the Metro Council. It’s not always an easy job pleasing everyone, and often they’re caught between the opinions of constituents on how one should vote and the “greater good” for the city-parish.
Change can be good, but you can also swap one problem for another. Just because someone claims they can do it better, doesn’t make it true. You will never agree 100% with any elected official.
Below are my recommendations on some of the districts. In a few I will defer until the Dec. 10 runoff election, and in one, I endorsed two of the candidates. In District 2, I chose to make no endorsement.
District 4: Scott Wilson
District 5: Erika Green
District 7: LaMont Cole
District 8: Buddy Amoroso
District 9: Defer to Dec. 10
District 10: Tara Wicker
District 11: David Vincent and Matt Watson
District 12: Barbara Freiberg
Parishwide Council on Aging proposition: NO
No one with a heart would say we shouldn’t take care of our elderly citizens in this community—and there are many public and private funds and organizations that contribute to that effort, including the Council on Aging. But should we approve a NEW property tax for 10 years and raise almost $8 million dollars annually—more than double what the Council on Aging’s budget is now? The answer is NO.
These taxes would all be controlled by a non-elected board and its CEO, who are not accountable to taxpayers or voters. I might add the Metro Council punted this issue on a new tax to voters. Of course if it passes, the dollars from the current city-parish budget are freed up for the council to spend elsewhere. Nice try, but I say, “Why shouldn’t the elderly be a priority in the budget for the new mayor and Metro Council and they handle oversight?” They should.
Page 57 of the annual COA audit by L.A. Champagne & Co., LLP, certified public accountants, notes, “East Baton Rouge Council on Aging was determined to be a high-risk auditee.” Let me define that: “A high-risk auditee is a recipient which has a high risk of not complying with federal laws and regulations. For example, an auditor may judge a recipient to be a high-risk auditee because the audit reports of the past few years have numerous audit findings.” (Several of the findings were noted to be “repeat” findings from the year before. Go read the audit online.)
As you may have recently read in The Advocate, the folks at COA illegally used their nonprofit postage permit for a mailer by their political PAC that is supporting this tax. This mistake points out, as did their audit, that there is a lack of attention to detail and oversight of operations. One more reason to vote “no.”
But there is more. The Legislature just passed this year a new tax on car rentals that will be 3%—and 40% of revenues in EBR from that tax will go to COA.
In addition, the annual audit pointed out a deficit, which the director claimed was due to COA’s Bingo Hall investment failure. Had they not lost the $200,000, she said, they would have ended with a surplus. So if they would have a surplus, and now add to that a new car rental tax from the state, why are we attempting to pass another NEW $7.9 million property tax on the people of our parish, many of whom have lost their homes, cars and possessions—and DOUBLE the budget of COA? Doesn’t our government have enough money to spend? And shouldn’t the COA have to come back annually to the Metro Council and state Legislature and be accountable for what they get and spend—and provide a clean audit? I will vote NO—and we can still continue to support our elderly.
Parishwide Recreation and Park Commission proposition: NO
BREC is asking you to renew a tax that will raise over $15 million annually for its maintenance and operations. BREC of course claims “doomsday” if this renewal is not approved and says, “BREC will be forced to undergo significant reductions to its staff, maintenance of parks and facilities and recreational offerings.” Looking at the list below, maybe it is time for some belt-tightening. It will force some changes BREC has mostly avoided. They say the renewal will:
• Maintain more than 180 parks and facilities. (This is way too many and has always been very expensive to maintain. This could force BREC to eliminate many of these small parks.)
• Maintain BREC staff at current capacity. (Do we have too many employees and should we be more efficient or even outsource? If we reduced land we would need less staff?)
• Maintain 6,624 acres of land. (Is this a good thing or too much?)
• Maintain and operate BREC’s six golf courses. (Did you know Austin, Texas, with a population of 1.25 million to our 800,000—50% larger—also has six public courses?)
Of course, BREC often touts its GOLD medals, but as I understand, that is based partly on how much land and how many parks you have per capita. Maybe that is why they keep all those around.
As you know, with property taxes, as new residential homes and commercial buildings go up, all their revenue amounts increase. BREC is right up there among the top parish agencies on the amount of money from property taxes—and it is run by a non-elected board you have no say over.
Also, like COA, BREC has had some audit problems. In July, the 2015 audit had still not been released. The Advocate reported on the draft given to the BREC Commission, which said, “The audit says BREC has failed to timely reconcile the numbers on its main accounting records, or general ledger, to the documentation that can back them up. Failure to do so could mean ‘those financial reports may be prone to misstatement due to fraud or error,’ the audit reads.” Have they got their house in order, and what recourse do taxpayers have? We vote on renewals at the ballot box.
For those who are worried of doomsday—maybe we see what happens. BREC can always come back to voters in the spring and show us how they have improved and aren’t just maintaining the status quo.
St. George Fire District 2, propositions 1 and 2: YES
These are two renewals and the St. George Fire Department is one of the best in the parish. Public safety is a top priority and this district is one of our fastest growing. They are good stewards and deserve renewal.