- Associated Press - Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Recent editorials from Louisiana newspapers:

July 14

The Advocate, Baton Rouge, Louisiana, on raid on the oil reserves:

The U.S. government just has an instinctive knowledge of how to succeed in business: buy high and sell low.

That’s the case with the latest raid on the oil reserve that is stored in Texas and Louisiana salt domes to provide a backstop for the nation’s economy in the event of a national emergency.

Instead, the U.S. House voted to sell some of the oil reserve to fund an otherwise worthy cause, medical research.

As a physician, U.S. Rep. Charles Boustany could be expected to support the 21st Century Cures Act for biomedical research. After all, the bill was approved 344-77.

But Boustany, R-Lafayette, is from the oil patch and understands the economic and national security issues raised by the funding source.

In 30 years in medicine, Boustany told the House, medical innovation has helped save the lives of countless numbers of his patients, but the new bill is a “false choice.”

“I believe it’s irresponsible to flood the global market for petroleum with more product while Louisiana families are experiencing layoffs because of low global prices,” Boustany said. “Selling barrels from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve should be done in a thoughtful and strategic manner when global prices are high, not as another coffer for Congress to raid at its convenience and at the expense of Louisiana’s oil and gas industry.”

We cannot disagree that the glut in oil supplies, although good for the national and world economy in general, is hurting us here in south Louisiana in a more immediate way.

We would put the stress on the “strategic” in the description of the reserve.

The reserve is not there as a piggybank for Congress. It was set up to be tapped in genuine cases of national emergency. It was used to fuel the economy during the supply disruptions of the 2005 hurricanes in Louisiana - Katrina and then Rita, the latter probably doing more to hurt directly the oil and gas production in the Gulf of Mexico.

Other uses for it are tempting, such as when gasoline prices rise and consumers are aggravated. That short-term political approach is wrong and invites depletion of a strategic resource for a political emergency.




July 14

American Press, Lake Charles, Louisiana, on Sportsman’s Paradise:

A second Louisiana agency has decided it, too, will start selling ads on state-owned property.

The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries is looking to reel in advertisers to help “sponsor” the more than 1.5 million acres of land and stock of vehicles and vessels under its control.

The move comes more than a year after the state Department of Transportation and Development issued requests to consultants to sell advertisements for state roads, bridges, rest areas, ferries, scenic areas and even vests worn by transportation employees while they are working on roads.

State Farm, the largest insurer in the state, is now paying DOTD $250,000 annually to have the company’s name and logo appear on Motorist Assistant Patrol trucks, which aid stalled vehicles in metropolitan areas to ensure traffic flow.

DOTD hired The Superlative Group of Ohio to drum up the advertisement business in exchange for 30 percent of revenues generated by any agreements it works out that are approved by the department.

The money raised goes back into DOTD’s operating budget. DOTD can now use revenue from a specific sign to offset the costs of operations of the bridge, road or rest area where it appears.

So far, the ads seem to be working out for DOTD, so Wildlife and Fisheries is following their lead. The ad sales will become legal for the agency when a new state law goes into effect Aug. 1.

The law authorizes the Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Commission to authorize the placement, construction and maintenance of advertising and sponsorship signs on immovable property, vehicles, vessels and assets of the department. It also must develop procedures and criteria for advertising-sponsorships.

Possible ad placements the agency is already considering are “wrap-around” ads on agency trailers and signs at public events.

Corporate sponsorship is creative thinking. It’s a novel approach to raising money, we agree. But the need for it also speaks volumes about the cash-strapped agencies within our state.




July 15

Times-Picayune, New Orleans, Louisiana, on justice moving slowly:

Every part of the criminal justice system must work efficiently for justice to be served and New Orleans to be safer. That hasn’t always been the case at Criminal District Court. But the court overall improved significantly in 2014 in moving cases through the docket.

The average time it took for a case to be wrapped up in 2011 - from arraignment to conviction, guilty plea or dismissal - was 157 days. In 2014, that improved to 117 days, according to the Metropolitan Crime Commission annual report on the 12 CDC judges’ efficiency. If the bottom three judges are excluded, that number falls to 100 days - which is quicker than the national average of 111 days.

“That is an impressive accomplishment for the court as a whole,” commission president Rafael Goyeneche said. “You have judges that are working hard and are working smart, as a whole.”

The quicker pace at the court is a positive development. Speed is not the only measure of a well run and fair judicial system, but letting cases languish for months on end doesn’t serve the accused, the victim or the public.

“When I ran several years ago, I ran on a pledge that I would work hard and take the bench early because my theory has always been justice delayed is justice denied,” Judge Franz Zibilich said.

The court’s improvements in case management are particularly noteworthy because violent crime and the use of weapons are significantly higher in New Orleans than in other cities. The national average is 29 percent, but 45 percent of felony cases here involve violence and weapons, Mr. Goyeneche said. Those cases are more complex and can take more court time.

Also, District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro’s office accepted more cases for prosecution in 2014 than the year before. That increased the average number of pending cases from 2,573 in 2013 to 2,692 in 2014, according to the crime commission report.

It is significant that judges are moving cases promptly despite those challenges. The statistics suggest judges are telling people to be in court on time “and doing their part to ensure justice is timely administered in their section of court,” Mr. Goyeneche said.

Judge Zibilich moved into the top spot, as the most efficient jurist for 2014. Judge Karen Herman, who had been No. 1 for five years, came in second in a tie with Judge Keva Landrum-Johnson.

Some judges are lagging badly, though. The least efficient in the crime commission report were Darryl Derbigny and Julian Parker, who tied for 10th place, and Tracey Flemings-Davillier, who was last. All three were ranked near the bottom in 2013, as well. Judge Parker retired at the end of 2014, but the other two need to get a handle on their caseload.

Judge Flemings-Davillier inherited a massive docket when she took the bench in 2012. She points out that she has worked hard and moved almost all of those cases as well as the cases allotted to her in 2013.

Still, she had an average of 422 cases open each quarter in 2014, according to the crime commission. Mr. Goyeneche has said that the judges with the largest backlogs may need the help of an ad hoc judge appointed by the Supreme Court. That would be a sensible approach.

The court as a whole could be more efficient with an electronic docket system, he said.

Some judges are critical of the crime commission report and question its need and fairness. But looking at how individual judges are performing, and which ones are behind, is worthwhile.

The public elects these judges and depends on them to run criminal courts effectively. It is important to know who is and isn’t doing that.



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