- Associated Press - Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Recent editorials from Louisiana newspapers:

Nov. 11

The Advocate, Baton Rouge, Louisiana, on the state’s coast:

Louisiana’s disappearing coast is a crisis measured in decades, and it’s been a tangible process for those of us who were born and raised here. From childhood to age 60 is not a long time in geological terms, but the land loss in Louisiana is something we can see.

A new project is recording the dramatic changes as seen in the lives of today’s residents.

Jed Joseph Pitre was born in Thibodaux in 1961 and remembers when the beach at Grand Isle seemed wider, with thriving coastal marshes used for family fishing. That beach is now narrower, and the coastal marshes are gone, replaced by open water.

A science teacher at Thibodaux High School, Pitre was one of 19 south Louisiana residents interviewed by students about the cultural changes they’ve experienced and the coastal erosion they and their families have witnessed.

For many of us, Pitre’s observations about childhood memories surely resonate, painful but true. The teacher’s remembrances are part of an oral history project, aimed at both preserving memories of the coast and teaching students about history and methods that historians use.

“What we want is to get the kids to be more aware about how quickly we’re losing land,” said Darcy Wilkins, research associate and project manager with the oral histories project.

Louisiana has lost almost 1,900 square miles of land since the 1930s through a combination of levees along the Mississippi River hemming in sediment that used to feed the wetlands, canal dredging, natural sinking and sea level rise.

There are estimates the state could lose another 1,750 square miles in the coming decades if nothing is done to help slow or stop land loss.

“I feel like a lot of people don’t understand, even people in Louisiana don’t understand what’s happening,” Wilkins said.

She is absolutely right, despite efforts by Louisianians and environmental advocates around the nation.

We commend the students who took part in the oral history project, working with teachers at South Cameron High School, West St. Mary School, Thibodaux High School and Holy Cross High School in New Orleans.

The students were trained using the interviewing methods of the T. Harry Williams Center for Oral History at LSU.

Each school got four or five sets of audio recording equipment, and students were asked to talk to community members about their experiences with land loss, coastal restoration, sea level rise and the impact it may have had on their lives.

“I was pleasantly surprised they (the students) were all so into it,” Wilkins said. “Louisiana is a really special place, and people get excited about sharing how special it is.”

That’s great to hear, even if the news for the coast is not nearly as positive. Coastal Louisiana needs help, badly and soon.




Nov. 12

American Press, Lake Charles, Louisiana, on state needing highway money:

Election year or not, the Louisiana Legislature at its session next spring needs to do something about raising revenue for repairing existing highways and constructing new ones. Doing nothing endangers the $90 billion to $100 billion in industrial investments expected all along the southern part of the state over the next half-dozen years.

The urgency of the situation was expressed by a number of public officials and others at the recently concluded hearings on the state’s highway and bridge needs by members of the House and Senate transportation committees. The state has a $12 billion highway and bridge backlog.

Kevin Naquin, chief executive officer of the Louisiana Associated General Contractors, put it bluntly. He said Texas voters would likely approve using $3 billion of that state’s rainy day fund in hopes of capturing much of this industrial expansion, according to a report in The Times-Picayune.

“If you think Texas is giving up on some of our planned industrial expansion, you’re mistaken,” Naquin said. “It would be horrible if we lost $100 billion of economic development because we don’t have the infrastructure to handle the increase in workers, the increase in goods and services that have to go into making the plant.”

State Sen. Robert Adley, R-Benton, chairman of Louisiana’s Senate Transportation Committee, thinks this state should also free up some of its rainy day money for roads and bridges.

“Government is not in the business of creating savings accounts,” he said. “If we don’t need the money, we need to give it back to the people, or we need to spend it on what we need. Right now, the largest demand in this state is funds for infrastructure.”

The recently released Southwest Louisiana Regional Impact Study focuses on the transportation problems in this corner of the state.

To emphasize the importance of doing something, the study noted that during the three-year period from 2011 through 2013 there were 110 fatal accidents within the five-parish area - 67 of which were in Calcasieu Parish. There were 8,151 accidents with injuries, and 6,099 of them were in Calcasieu Parish.

“The anticipated employment levels and associated population growth will place additional demands and result in additional accidents on already inadequate roadway networks within the five-parish area, and especially in Calcasieu Parish,” the study said.

Traffic problems in Lake Charles are already a nightmare for motorists, and the full impact of the industrial boom hasn’t arrived. Doing nothing is not an option.

Nobody wants to talk about increasing taxes, but the state’s residents can’t expect to benefit from this tremendous industrial growth and not make some contributions themselves. The state’s 20-cent gasoline tax, for example, has lost more than half of its purchasing power since it was last increased.

The state gasoline tax is ranked 38th in the country. New York is in No. 1 position with a state tax of 50.6 cents. Alaska is ranked 50th with the lowest tax - 8 cents. All states pay an additional 18.4-cent federal excise tax.

It is time for the Legislature and the people of this state to step up to the plate and help ensure we enjoy the full fruits of the coming industrial expansion.




Nov. 11

The News-Star, Monroe, Louisiana, on GOP seizing moment:

Last week’s election marked a seismic shift in nation’s political landscape as Republicans gained the majority seats in the Senate and retained their grip on the House of Representatives.

Though the decision of voters is certain to complicate the final two years for President Barack Obama, he sees the need to move forward.

The president pledged to reach out to Republican leadership - House Speaker John Boehner and presumptive Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell - and he needs to follow through on that. Part of his job over the next two years should be playing a larger role in dialing back the extreme partisanship we’ve witnessed in Washington in recent years, something that has held our nation’s government in gridlock far too long. A do-nothing government is almost as bad as a tyrannical one because in the end the needs of its citizens are not served at all.

According to The Associated Press, nearly two-thirds of voters interviewed after voting noted the nation is on the wrong track. Only about 30 percent said we are going in the correct direction.

Even though Boehner said the new Republican-controlled Congress would vote soon in the new year on the “many common-sense jobs and energy bills that passed the Republican-led House in recent years with bipartisan support but were never even brought to a vote by the outgoing Senate majority,” there’s still room for madness in the new congressional order.

The new Republican-controlled Congress lacks a unified agenda with various House leaders proposing everything from doing away with the IRS, the EPA and the Education Department to cutting banking regulations to holding more votes on eliminating Obamacare.

The posturing is more about taking political positions rather than solving problems such as the wage gap that holds back our nation’s economy, or curbing the skyrocketing cost of higher education that’s turning young adults away from getting a college education, or fixing our nation’s crumbling infrastructure that threatens economic stability.

Republicans have a rare opportunity in this moment to step up to the halls of Congress once more and become a body of action rather than reaction. They should not waste this moment. Come to the table and seek solutions that everyone can agree to, and at least come with ideas for solutions.

Compromise should not be treated as an ugly word. Indeed, it is how the Founding Fathers structured our government to work. Without compromise and cooperation there can be no progress for our nation.

Our best years came about from working together . for the common good. It’d be a nice thing to see some of that come up in this new Congress. It’d be nice to see much-needed work getting done once again in the halls of Congress.



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