- Associated Press - Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Recent editorials from Louisiana newspapers:


Oct. 25

The Advertiser on Louisiana Senate campaigns:

Rob Maness says a John Fleming PAC leader has offered both carrot and stick to the retired Air Force colonel: Leave the Louisiana Senate campaign and endorse Fleming - Republicans Maness and Fleming are two of two dozen candidates but are both most identified with the “tea party” - or suffer political consequences.

The carrot was the promise of help in future campaigns; the latter, undisclosed political opposition that would end Maness’ political career.

The political action committee leader, Paul Dickson, disputes Maness’ account and Fleming, who by law cannot coordinate with the PAC, says he knows nothing about any threats.

Nonetheless, Maness told the Baton Rouge Advocate last week he would file criminal charges, although one can’t be sure what those might be.

Maness says the PAC leader’s actions were low, “shocking even by Louisiana standards.” Well, stick around: We Louisianians routinely set the politics bar low and oftentimes limbo lower. Maness’ accusations seem like standard fare.

Of greater concern to voters should be that with early voting underway, candidates were talking about things that hold no bearing on what matters to voters. Rather than showing thin skin for political shenanigans, candidates would better serve voters by offering political ideas superior to those of their competitors.

Where do the candidates stand on free trade? How have they - how might they - aid the oil and gas industry, important to Louisiana’s economy? Do they support Obamacare and how would they improve or replace it? How can they improve our state’s infrastructure, including our ports and riverways? What is their sense of America’s place in the world, and how would they better position it?

These are issues to discuss, things that touch upon the welfare of our state, its people and our nation. Coffee shop chatter in Madisonville - that’s where Maness and Dickson met - does not rise to that level.

Candidates in this and every race should be urged to stick to what matters as the campaign season limps toward a less-than-satisfactory end. This Senate field includes qualified, interesting candidates who make themselves less interesting by posturing.

The next senator should be the candidate who shows, not just discusses, character. It should be the candidate who displays his or her own knowledge and expertise instead of denigrating the knowledge and expertise of competitor candidates.

“Politics ain’t bean-bag,” Finley Peter Dunne’s barkeep character Mr. Dooley said famously. It can be bruising - it will be bruising in Washington, too - and it should be humbling as candidates take their messages across Louisiana. Winning a seat in the U.S. Senate, the world’s greatest deliberative body, ought to depend on your record and vision. Hone those, trumpet them and discerning voters will follow.




Oct. 25

The Advocate on LSU’s student newspaper:

If Huey Long were alive today, he would be 123 years old.

But that might not stop him from celebrating the decision by The Reveille, LSU’s student newspaper, to quit daily publication and settle instead for a weekly newspaper.

In 1934, Louisiana’s two-fisted political boss famously expelled seven Reveille editors for printing an anti-Long letter and refusing to knuckle under to faculty censorship. The seven went on to earn scholarships to the University of Missouri. Seven years later, LSU formally apologized to them.

The Reveille only published two days a week back then, but it grew to be a daily newspaper, enhancing its impact on campus and polishing the image of LSU. Five days a week, it gave students a chance to practice the kind of fearless journalism that would make the Reveille Seven proud. And the campus supported that effort, with students paying a fee for which LSU promised a newspaper published “Monday through Friday during the fall and spring semesters.”

The unnecessary retreat to weekly publication will set all that back, as The Reveille vacates its unique place as a printed daily and transforms into one of many websites.




Oct. 25

The Courier of Houma on state spending:

The draft of an audit report to be released next month questions the state’s spending on a fish-testing program after the BP oil spill in 2010.

More than simply a critique of spending from years ago, though, the audit could cast doubt on the provisions Louisiana took following the spill to ensure the safety of our seafood.

Both possibilities are troubling.

Robert Barham, who oversaw the state Department of Wildlife and Fisheries under Gov. Bobby Jindal at the time, has defended his office’s spending and testing, telling The Associated Press he is not only “confident that everything we said was true, but that we did everything that we needed to do to ensure that it is safe.”

He might be sure, but the auditor’s report leaves doubt in many minds.

The Legislative Auditor’s Office takes issue we millions in spending following the oil spill, saying the testing program was insufficient and mismanaged but that the department spent money from the program on unnecessary equipment, some of which can no longer be found.

In defending his department’s spending, Barham said auditors didn’t look at all the paperwork. He also said that BP would have raised similar issues if the money were being misspent.

And BP did just that.

According to the draft audit report, the oil giant sent Barham a letter in 2012 taking issue with the state’s spending - saying Barham’s department had overspent by nearly $1 million on equipment while insufficiently testing seafood.

“While we are encouraged that the state deems this level of sampling and testing sufficient to provide safety assurances, this level of sampling is inconsistent with the explanation provided by your office to justify the recent vessel purchase,” a BP attorney wrote.

Perhaps most troubling of all is the cavalier attitude Barham takes even now in discussing his department’s use of BP money.

“Yes, we bought things that otherwise I’m certain we wouldn’t have bought: big boats, equipment, other stuff. But this is 100 percent BP money. This is not a dime of taxpayer money,” he said. “If we hadn’t taken the money, it would have gone to other states.”

That sounds like Barham is saying that the care and stewardship required when spending taxpayer money was unnecessary when spending BP’s money. But any money the state spends - particularly in response to an environmental catastrophe like the BP oil spill - must be subjected to rigorous scrutiny.

State Inspector General Stephen Street is also looking into the Department Wildlife and Fisheries, so taxpayers must continue to wonder whether Louisiana was spending its money - whether it came from taxpayers or from fines - in their best interests.



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