- Associated Press - Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Recent editorials from Louisiana newspapers:

Sept. 22

The New Orleans Advocate on Gov. Bobby Jindal run for GOP presidential nomination:

Just a few weeks ago, Gov. Scott Walker, of Wisconsin, was riding high in the polls, nationally and in the key early caucus state of Iowa.

His was to be the Midwestern vessel into which mainstream and evangelical Christian Republicans could pour their hopes for a return of the GOP to the White House.

Now, he’s not.

Just over 70 days of a presidential campaign, and it’s over.

Walker withdrew after having been hopelessly outshone by the phenomenon called Donald Trump.

What did not matter? Reality.

That Walker was a real governor and had a record much praised in the GOP for attacking labor unions in his home state seemed to fade beside the bluster and egotism of the Trump “brand” in politics.

The pundits are speculating that after two major candidates - Walker and former Texas Gov. Rick Perry - there will be others soon leaving the GOP nominating race. A couple of candidates seem longshots by any reasonable standard, former Govs. George Pataki, of New York, and James Gilmore, of Virginia.

What, now, is the call from Camp Jindal, still plugging away in Iowa?

The Louisiana governor is one of those who, despite formal qualifications, could never quite seem to get a hearing in the electorate even before Trump’s rapid rise. An occasional blip up in the Iowa polls, from the state where he has most campaigned, has been relatively minor.

Nor is money unlimited for Jindal. He’s a very effective fundraiser, no mean skill in politics, but he’s also someone who has not posted the big numbers that several of his competitors did, including former Gov. Jeb Bush, of Florida, and U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, of Texas.

If the Jindal operation in Iowa is lean enough, perhaps he can make it through to the caucuses. He has certainly tailored his appeal to the most conservative caucus-goers; four years ago, the winner was former Sen. Rick Santorum, of Pennsylvania, who made a similar appeal.

Santorum, however, is also one of the candidates who can “live off the land” with a low-budget campaign, and he seeks to win again in Iowa, thereby providing more competition for Jindal in the latter’s chosen niche.

The departure of more candidates in a field so large is to be expected, but we don’t know when or if Louisiana’s entry will be one of them.




Sept. 21

The Courier (Houma) on Louisiana’s poverty rates:

The poverty rate in Louisiana should suggest to all of us that there is some serious work to do.

The U.S. Census Bureau says that nearly 20 percent of Louisiana residents lived in poverty in 2014. That is the same level our poverty rate hit the year before.

Only Mississippi and New Mexico had higher poverty rates.

The numbers might be unchanged, but they are shocking nonetheless.

And they could be higher.

The federal poverty line is listed at $24,000 for a family of four.

That is not much money at all. Most people would say that four people living on $25,000 or even $30,000 a year are also living in poverty.

In any event, the numbers in this issue aren’t as important as the reasons.

Why do so many of our friends and neighbors struggle to make ends meet?

Why are so many of us living in poverty?

There are multiple reasons, of course. For some families, there have been layoffs or other uncontrollable circumstances that have changed their financial outlook.

For far too many families, there is a lack of education and options.

With high school dropout rates so high and graduation rates so low, many of our youngest adults have embarked on life’s journey without the basic tools that will help them make their way.

And as our colleges continue to make it more and more difficult for students to afford an education, that path, too, is becoming fraught with failure.

We are fortunate to live in a part of the country where the economy has remained relatively strong.

Even in light of the recent slowdown in the Gulf oilfield, our job market remains fairly stable.

There have been layoffs, but there are also companies looking for new employees.

Unfortunately, the people with the lowest skill levels - the people most likely to be struggling in poverty - will be the least in demand in any job market.

The answers to our problems are complex, but they are attainable.

We have to equip more of tomorrow’s workers with the skills they will need to get and keep jobs and build lucrative careers. Whether those skills are learned in college or trade school or on the job, it is essential that they get them.

We have to make it easier for adults to return to school and get the training they need. Life isn’t over at 18 or 25 or 55. If a person wants to learn, he or she should be able to make it happen.

Our school systems have made great strides in adult education, job training and other programs that aim to get people out of poverty.

But the numbers show that we have not made the progress we should make.




Sept. 20

The (New Orleans) Times-Picayune on the mayor and sheriff resolving disagreements about building new jail:

Mayor Mitch Landrieu and Sheriff Marlin Gusman talk past each other and around each other. They address each other in court documents and through the media, but they rarely seem to actually talk.

Maybe that is why they have been at odds for so long on how to build and pay for a new jail to replace New Orleans’ notoriously dangerous parish prison complex.

The mayor wants to retrofit the new 1,438-bed inmate tower that opened last week and make space in it for mentally ill inmates.

The sheriff wants a separate 380-bed building to house those mentally ill inmates and a modern laundry. His construction plan depends on roughly $54 million in FEMA recovery money still owed from Hurricane Katrina.

The mayor wants to use that $54 million far differently. He would spend $7 million to add onto the city’s Youth Study Facility and transfer 16- and 17-year-old inmates from the sheriff’s custody to the juvenile jail. Another $25 million would go to pay down the sheriff’s construction bond debt to free up money for operating the jail. The remaining $17.2 million would pay to renovate or demolish old and flood-damaged buildings that belong to the sheriff, rebuild the holding area for prisoners going to court and put in a new laundry.

The mayor’s position is that he controls the use of that FEMA money.

The sheriff says he does.

The mayor’s view is that there is no need for another jail building with almost 400 beds.

The sheriff says the city is arresting more inmates than can fit in the 1,438 beds he now has.

Sheriff Gusman is shipping overflow city inmates awaiting trial to other jails several hours away from New Orleans.

The mayor wants U.S. District Judge Lance Africk to forbid that, making the sheriff transfer out the remaining state inmates he is holding instead.

Their impasse is not healthy for our community.

But there were signs in the past week that there might be a path to compromise.

In a meeting with the NOLA.com ‘ Times-Picayune editorial board last Monday, city chief administrative officer Andy Kopplin and City Councilwoman Stacy Head laid out their alternative plan for the $54 million. And they made a case for the sheriff to minimize the number of state inmates at the jail and free up space for city prisoners.

“It’s a very thoughtful way, we think, to actually maximize our use of our resources,” Mr. Kopplin said. “That spends about your $50 million and lowers operating costs rather than increasing them.”

When Sheriff Gusman came in the next day to meet with the same group of editors, he rejected the notion of retrofitting the just opened inmate tower. That would be too disruptive and would require sending more inmates to outside jails during construction, he said.

But the sheriff, who oversaw New Orleans’ finances as chief administrative officer under Mayor Marc Morial, was open to other parts of the city’s plan.

He would like spending $25 million to pay down his office’s bond debt. “The idea that we would take some FEMA funds and use them to pay down some of the outstanding indebtedness is a great idea,” Sheriff Gusman said. In fact, he said, “It’s an idea I came up with.”

He and the mayor both worked earlier this year to persuade voters to let the sheriff use property tax revenue collected to pay off construction debt on general operations at the jail. That should take budget pressure off the sheriff and the city, which is responsible for paying the cost of housing local inmates awaiting trial.

Sheriff Gusman also wants to rebuild the docks where inmates are transferred to court and replace the old laundry.

The jail was in horrendous shape when Judge Africk approved a federal consent decree in June 2013 that is supposed to bring it up to constitutional standards. The new jail building that opened last week will improve the conditions for inmates dramatically. It is Sheriff Gusman’s job to ensure that reforms are put in place. The city will pay the costs for those improvements.

That is why the question of the jail’s size is so fraught. There are still major differences between the two, but there seems to be a good starting point for a conversation.

A real conversation. Not through aides, not through sound bites, not in court papers.

Just Mayor Landrieu and Sheriff Gusman sitting down to come up with a workable, affordable way to get the jail complex finished.

Both sides say they are open to a meeting.

“We’re willing to meet,” Mr. Kopplin said Monday. “We’re happy to meet at any point in time. We’re always happy to talk to the sheriff. We have all worked with the sheriff for many years.”

Sheriff Gusman said he is open to that, too. “I think you always have to be willing to reach a compromise,” he said Tuesday.

So, do it. Send out an invitation - either from the mayor’s office or the sheriff. It doesn’t matter who moves first.



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