- Associated Press - Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Recent editorials from Louisiana newspapers:

Aug. 18

The Advocate, Baton Rouge, Louisiana, on debate about public statues and monuments:

Public statues and monuments, by their nature, are meant to be permanent parts of a civic landscape. That doesn’t mean such memorials should never be removed. But when we do consider taking them down, we should do so thoughtfully.

By that standard, the process to determine the fate of several Confederate monuments in New Orleans doesn’t seem destined to inspire much public confidence in the result. That’s a shame, given the dimensions of a controversy that’s captured attention beyond New Orleans, bringing state officials with their own political agendas into the fray.

This summer, New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu called for replacing the monuments with less controversial ones. The iconic images in question include the statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee atop a huge column at a St. Charles Avenue traffic circle, a statue of Confederate President Jefferson Davis on the street that bears his name, and the statue of Confederate Gen. P.G.T. Beauregard at City Park’s entrance. Another monument commemorating an 1874 white rebellion against the city’s biracial Reconstruction-era government also is part of the controversy.

The Confederacy advanced white supremacy and slavery, twin evils of American history. No reasonable person can favor celebrating those ideas. But even some people who despise the Confederacy’s values have argued for keeping the monuments in place as a cautionary message to today’s citizens - and those to come after us. This dispute also invites reflection on what moral yardstick we should use to mark the past in public memory. Should the statue of Andrew Jackson, slave owner and persecutor of Native Americans, be removed from Jackson Square, too? What about memorials to slave owners George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, whose faces adorn our national currency?

Given the difficulty of such questions, we shouldn’t demonize our differences regarding the proper role of public monuments. That’s why the polarizing quality of this summer’s debate has been so regrettable.

Landrieu called for the monuments’ removal before getting widespread public input, creating the perception that decisions about the status of the monuments had already been made. Two city panels have recommended removal of the monuments, and the issue now heads to the New Orleans City Council, which almost surely will follow the recommendations. Cynics might be forgiven for assuming that allowing public comments before the committee votes was really just for show.

This process has seemed more driven by theater than policy, creating a natural climate for political posturing by many other players. Gov. Bobby Jindal, as well as U.S. Sen. David Vitter, Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne and Public Service Commissioner Scott Angelle, who are GOP contenders to replace Jindal, have come out against removing the statues. State Sen. John Bel Edwards, the lone Democrat in the governor’s race, said the issue should be left to New Orleans residents.

Although state officials might shape this debate at the margins, the future of the monuments will, we suspect, ultimately be determined by the people of New Orleans, and that’s as it should be. New Orleans needs a united citizenry to confront its broader challenges, such as crime and public education. But this summer’s discussion of the Crescent City’s Confederate statues, ostensibly aimed at civic unity, is sparking division instead.

Sadly, a debate about public monuments has become a monument to political folly.




Aug. 15

The Courier, Houma, Louisiana, on state’s latest budget shortfall:

The news of Louisiana’s latest budget shortfall, unfortunately, is nothing new.

Recent years have brought shortfall after shortfall to the state’s budget.

Much of the immediate cause stems from the prolonged dip in oil and gas prices. Since the state relies so heavily on tax revenue generated from that industry, any drop in prices can have huge impacts on the state budget.

But this year’s shortfall is just a symptom of the larger problem.

In fact, the projected gap next year of $713 million is less than half the size of the one lawmakers faced this year.

This year, the Legislature had a $1.6 billion shortfall it had to resolve to keep the state’s books balanced.

Much of that work, though, relied on money that won’t be in the budget next year. That fiscal maneuver that got our state officials through this year is actually part of the cause of next year’s projected troubles.

Again, though, the creative financing used to get us through this year is another symptom, not the cause of the ongoing budget turmoil.

The cause is the refusal among lawmakers and the governor to spend the amount of money the state has each year.

If lawmakers were required to actually balance the books - without resorting to paperwork tricks that work only on paper - they couldn’t simply kick the can down the road.

In fairness, though, that would require other changes that are difficult and complex.

So many areas of the state’s spending are constitutionally protected that the Legislature has little flexibility in making cuts.

Ironically, health care and higher education - in a state that desperately needs more of both - are the two areas where cuts can be made.

To fix this glaring problem, the state will likely require a constitutional convention to correct or improve the 41-year-old document currently in place.

Other changes, too, can help.

The Legislature passed and Gov. Jindal signed into law this year a measure that will make it easier for lawmakers to vote down state contracts and use the savings for higher education.

This problem took decades to fully form - though at times it was simply hidden by increased oil and gas tax revenue or other infusions of money.

It won’t be solved overnight.

It does, however, require the attention of our state officials.

With the eyes and ears of voters on legislative and gubernatorial candidates over the coming months, everyone running for office should have a clear, concise plan of action for fixing this problem once and for all.

There will be times of plenty for state finances, and there will be lean times, too. Our officials need the flexibility to deal with annual fluctuations without gutting vital services in health care and higher education.




Aug. 15

The News-Star, Monroe, Louisiana, on voting for candidates in state’s gubernatorial election:

In case the signs popping up on every street corner haven’t given you a clue, we’re fully into election season.

In Louisiana, we will have an opportunity to go to the polls and select a governor who will be focused on the serious issues facing our state.

Fortunately, voters will have a true selection of highly qualified candidates from which to choose, if those who are crisscrossing the state now on the campaign trail remain in the race. We’re inspired by the potential and want to learn more about what the candidates plan.

All of the announced candidates have said they’ll call a fiscal special session soon after taking office to start working on the serious financial issues facing the state.

But that’s just a starting point.

Candidates, what’s your plan? If elected governor, what would you propose to do on these issues:

. Aligning the state’s expenses with available revenue.

. Developing a reliable method to fund higher education.

. Examining the privatization of the state’s safety-net public health system and determining what’s working and what’s not.

. Determining the best way to educate our children so they are successful in a global economy.

Louisiana needs a governor who’s focused on solving our big problems and brings creative solutions to the table. We need someone who understands how to work collaboratively with all stakeholders to achieve his goals, and who also understands that intelligent people who bring much to the table may not always agree with him. That doesn’t mean they deserve to be banished.

We need a governor who hires smart people to serve in his cabinet positions, people who are as dedicated as the state’s top official to moving Louisiana forward. And, we need a governor who supports transparency and requires his cabinet to do the same.

We’re weary of a state operated in absentia by a governor whose personal political aspirations have overshadowed the talent, ability and hope for a better future Bobby Jindal brought to the table when first elected.

We’re ready for a new beginning. Candidates, bring it on!



Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide