- Associated Press - Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Recent editorials from Louisiana newspapers:

Feb. 28

The Times-Picayune, New Orleans, on levee reforms:

Gov. Bobby Jindal wants more control over who serves on the two levee authorities that oversee flood protection for Southeast Louisiana. That’s not surprising, given how upset he was about the lawsuit the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority-East filed last year in hopes of forcing oil companies to pay for damage to the state’s coastline.

But giving the governor more sway is a bad idea. The whole purpose of post-Katrina levee board reforms was to remove them as much as possible from politics.

Residents demanded that the old crony-laden boards be consolidated and that board members have autonomy and the technical expertise to hold the Army Corps of Engineers accountable for its work.

The post-Katrina transformation of the levee boards has been among the most positive changes in our region. The new flood protection authorities are vastly better watchdogs than the old boards.

That is due in large part to board members’ credentials and the independent process for choosing them.

Now Sen. Robert Adley, at Gov. Jindal’s request, has filed a bill that would undermine that process and let the governor reject nominations for the board until he gets someone he likes.

Under Sen. Adley’s bill, if the governor refused all the names submitted by the nominating committee, the group would have to send him an entirely new set of nominees. Currently, the nominating committee can resubmit a nominee the governor has rejected.

Taking that power away from the committee would be a significant step backward.

Sen. Adley’s bill would give the governor “de facto veto power over the flood authority nominating committee,” Sandy Rosenthal, founder of levees.org, said in a press release Thursday. Requiring three nominations for each vacancy also would make it harder for the nominating committee to find enough qualified applicants, the release said.

Robert Scott, president of the Public Affairs Research Council and a member of the levee authority nominating committee, pointed out last week that the governor already has significant power under the current system. “But the idea that he can now go back and ask for new nominees, that negates the need for the committee,” Mr. Scott said.

The levee reforms in 2006 were “specifically crafted to try to lift the New Orleans region out of the old ways of doing things, in which just a small number of politicians were controlling who got on these very important and influential levee authorities,” he said. “Now we have a system that, while not perfect, is more independent than it used to be.”

No matter how they feel about the levee authority’s lawsuit, Gov. Jindal and Sen. Adley should honor those reforms …

Online:

https://www.nola.com

___

March 4

The Advocate, Baton Rouge, La., on Carnival:

As another Mardi Gras arrives, we know many people outside of Louisiana - and quite a few inside the state - will regard today’s holiday as a running indulgence of the Seven Deadly Sins, which include, among their number, sloth, lust and gluttony.

But we’d like to mention, in the interest of balance, the Seven Lively Virtues of Carnival …

1) Carnival teaches humility. Through the long-running tradition of masked parade riders, the identities of those throwing beads and other trinkets are usually concealed from the recipients of these much-valued favors. The underlying message - it’s not important for one to get personal credit for an act of generosity - is an important one in this age of indulgent self-congratulation.

2) Mardi Gras reminds us to live in the moment. The central attraction of Carnival, the splendid parade that moves past us all too quickly, is a nice reminder that most of life’s gifts are fleeting ones …

3) Carnival is inclusive … Carnival extends its invitation to everyone - the young and old, rich and poor, people of every color and creed. Everyone has a chance to see the parade and enjoy its bounty. This is America at its best.

4) Mardi Gras is nonpartisan. Carnival, thank goodness, does not require a particular party affiliation for participants. This is at least one day for our politically divided culture to raise its collective hands in celebration of the silly spectacle of the holiday.

5) Carnival cultivates a healthy skepticism about power. The mock royalty of Mardi Gras - the business executives and debutantes dressed as kings and queens - exemplifies our natural inclination not to take hierarchy too seriously … This is monarchy American-style - a winking nod toward status in an otherwise populist holiday. In short, democracy at its fullest.

6) Mardi Gras celebrates the local. We’ve heard a lot in recent years about the value of honoring local culture on a planet increasingly driven by globalism. Mardi Gras, so rooted in the traditions of south Louisiana, expresses the uniqueness of our region. Carnival can’t be franchised to Topeka, Kan., or Tennessee ..

7) Carnival affirms our faith in the future. The reckless abundance of the Mardi Gras - the long lines of floats, the tons of parade throws, the Carnival feasts - expresses our desire to freely spread what is good, fully confident that this shared abundance will be renewed, year after year, from Mardi Gras to Mardi Gras …

Online:

https://theadvocate.com

___

March 3

The News-Star, Monroe, La., on Kennedy’s contract proposal:

State Treasurer John Kennedy has a plan to save money that we think is deserving of universal support.

Unfortunately it has failed to get such support and the upcoming legislative session will be the third in which he has sought to get enabling legislation for his plan ..

Kennedy’s plan is to reduce by 10 percent the amount of money that the state spends each year on professional, personal and consulting contracts. In a tight economy, such a plan sounds more than reasonable. It becomes nothing short of imperative when you discover that in 2012 the amount spent on such contracts was $5.28 billion.

That’s not a typographical error. The number is $5.28 billion.

So, that means the state can save $528 million by reducing the contract number by 10 percent …

When you discover what some of the contractors have been paid to do, you quickly begin to wonder if the whole process shouldn’t be examined, not just trimmed.

Kennedy has some key ones he likes to share:

- $94,000 to a California consultant to “assist students to learn valuable social skills through organized play on their recess and lunch periods.”

- $874,930 to pay a consultant to “provide assistance to disadvantaged business enterprise companies doing business with DOTD.” …

- $57,100 to “inform and educate the Hispanic community on seatbelt usage.”

Kennedy readily admits that many of the contracts are going for good things and a lot of the contracts are federal money that must pass through the state for distribution. His point is that even on the good contracts there is most likely negotiation room and that waste is waste and the state should be opposed to federal waste as well.

So why has this plan failed to gain universal support?

Primarily because it does not have the support of the Jindal administration. The administration argues that the bill would harm the state’s privatization efforts and that it amounts to micromanaging the state departments. Our thought is that the administration shouldn’t be concerned about privatization in this matter. It isn’t about reducing government by engaging private business, it is about cutting costs in government. ..

Senators Mike Walsworth, R-West Monroe, and Francis Thompson, D-Delhi, both serve on the Senate Finance Committee. We urge them to view this as a bill that supports our area colleges and universities and lend their considerable support to the measure.

Online:

https://www.thenewsstar.com

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