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‘Legislators who did not behave were given ashes and switches and sent to bed.’ Jeff David column.

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Thursday, May 24, 2012

School cuts here are a done deal

ith the Louisiana legislature required to adjourn no later than Monday, June 4 at 6 p.m., the meaningful legislation, the bills that really divvy up ye ole taxpayer pie, have begun to surface from the backburner and into public view. ways Depending on the political order of the day, these key pieces and means of proposed law either receive Jeff M. David healthy debate or a quick rubber stamp, largely depending upon two important factors. Those factors are, in order of their importance, (1) The political power of the Governor as perceived by a clear majority of legislators; and, (2) The propensity of the Governor (and his immediate staff) to use the perceived power at their disposal. Power is perception, in case you were wondering, and it’s very much in the eyes of the beholder, unless, of course, somebody is pointing a gun at you, in which case you get to know REAL power. Governor Bobby Jindal, coming off a smashing reelection victory last fall, began feeling his political oats almost immediately as he signaled “education reform” as the hallmark of his second four years in office. In a second signal, the Governor’s staff began passing the word around the new Legislature that this time around, the Governor would be hands-on the legislative power structure. Private sessions were held, and individual legislators were forced to commit pro or con to the Governor as opposed to any particular piece of legislation. Those who chose to be “with” Governor Jindal got committee chairmanships, and other little favorable perks like an apartment at the Pentagon Barracks, or the appointment of a political supporter to a higher education board. Legislators who did not behave were given ashes and switches and sent to bed without their dinner. Among the legislators sent to bed hungry were state Senator Dale Erdey of Livingston Parish and state Representatives Rogers Pope and Sherman Mack of Livingston Parish. These legisla-

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Shh! Progress whispers

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n comprehending the ultimate importance of events, sometimes the ones to remember are not the big, explosive news stories, but the little ones that whisper. So what is a more appropriate than one such story about our public library? The photo on the front page of our Sunday issue says it all. This picture of the new main branch of the Livingston Parish Library in the town of Livingston is an eye-opener. The beautiful steel and glass structure resembles a modern hotel atrium, which made that front page resemble the cover an architecture magazine. Once again, this is the town of Livingston that will soon be home to similar fashion statements when the new courthouse by the interstate goes up in the next two years to complement the already existing parish governmental complex. Amidst the daily grind of stories about political conflicts, budget crises, crime and punishment, it is sometimes difficult to fully appreciate the relative significance of slow, steady change — in other words, “progress.” Yet anyone returning from a long absence in our community would certainly notice. This is a new world, with amenities unseen before and more coming. Soon the wider, smoother interstate with shopping centers and business services at every exit will redefine the image of this parish forever. Some might be leery of so much change, which will displace a once quieter community. Yet the tradeoff is more than just acceptable in the improvement it offers in educational resources, economic opportunity and quality of living. The library is a good microcosm of our growing prosperity. Not many years ago, many library patrons from Livingston Parish utilized mostly the services of the neighboring East Baton Rouge Parish library to meet their needs. Today, that is no longer necessary as our system rivals any in the state of Louisiana. This sort of advance will soon hold true for the entire spectrum of commerce. A new Livingston Parish is coming, one whisper at a time.

The new library is a microcosm of the new Livingston Parish.

the livingston parish news

tors opposed the Jindal version of “education reform,” because that version will result in fewer state funds for the Livingston Parish school system. Jindal will take money away from the functioning school districts and give it to “poor” students in the form of vouchers redeemable at the school of their choice, public or private. The Livingston Parish School Board, quite understandably, opposes the Jindal brand of education reform, as do I, and I would like to extend my personal congratulations and thanks to the three members of the current Legislature who have stood firm for the best interests of their constituents. A functioning public school system is at the heart of the Livingston Parish economy. Unfortunately, Jindal had the votes from the beginning to pass his education ideas into law. He has already packed the elected state Board of Secondary and Elementary Education which quickly adopted the Jindal budget for the Minimum Foundation Plan, the plan that proposes the amount of money to go for state aid to local PUBLIC school districts. The MFP proposal by BESE must then be approved by the Legislature which, oddly, cannot change the BESE plan but only approve or disapprove it. Early this week, the House Education Committee, which Rep. Pope quietly and wisely exited before the session began, approved without debate the MFP plan from BESE. There was testimony from the two major teachers unions and the Louisiana School Board Association who said they will definitely sue the state to prohibit implementation of the plan because for the first time it allocates some state funds for private schools. Article 7, Section 10 of the Louisiana Constitution says “no appropriation shall be made except

for a public purpose.” This section will form the basis of the legal challenge soon to be mounted by the forces opposing Jindal’s plan. The decision will ultimately fall to the seven elected members of the Louisiana Supreme Court, all of whom, it should be noted, receive their paychecks through a legislative appropriation. A win in court for the teachers unions would be akin to Southeastern beating LSU in football. Anybody wanna bet on that? No, there was no debate in the House committee on the Jindal plan to take state funds away from the Livingston Parish School system and turn them over to the inner city kids for use as vouchers. Nor will there be much debate through the House floor or in the Senate. The plan will pass, Jindal will sign it, and the Louisiana Supreme Court will approve it with a quick, expedited process. The effects here will be immediate. There will be pressure for larger class sizes, school consolidations, and even teacher pay cuts. Local taxes to make up the cut in state funds will begin to appear on ballots, and may or may not pass depending on the local school district. Bobby Jindal’s perceived political power coming off an almost uncontested reelection campaign coupled with his staff’s willingness of mete out rewards and punishments has won the day. A cut in MFP funds for Livingston Parish is a done deal. Jeff M. David is the Publisher of The Livingston Parish News.

Democrats look for little victories

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rriving for their day at the Legislature, the women of Alpha Kappa Alpha, clad in salmon and green, had no idea they were about to kill a bill. They dropped in on the House Education Committee as Rep. Chris Broadwater, R-Hammond, was explaining legislation he was carrying for state colleges to allow them to impose a “stabilization” fee, up to $300 per full-time student, to offset continuing cuts in state funding. Broadwater and college leaders did not expect HB 1078 to win two-thirds House approval, but they sought to get it to the floor as a show of good faith in their ultimate quest to have funding cuts restored. With minimal Republican support expected, committee approval rested heavily on the panel’s African-American members, who were said to be for the bill. AKA was about to change that. The author’s presentation completed, Rep. John Bel Edwards, D-Amite, chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, quickly challenged the bill’s solution. Walking through the round after round of budget cuts to colleges, matched with three straight years of tuition increases, Edwards concluded, “Rather than ever appropriating more money, we talk about putting it on students and their families.” He further argued, “Education cannot be the key to breaking poverty if the people in poverty can’t afford it.” Heads were nodding and murmurs arising from the sorority women, as Edwards went for the kill: “It’s har-r-r-d for me in one year to guarantee Tom Benson money for the Hornets and then tell our students and families they have to pay more.” “Amen!” rang out with a burst of applause from the AKA section. As the chairman gaveled for order, some of the black legislators realized they had urgent business to attend to outside the room. As other members began asking pointed questions, it became apparent that the only vote for Broadwater’s bill would be his own, and so he asked for it to be deferred. For Edwards, who was barely able to slow down the governor’s education package in that committee, thwarting the colleges’ effort was a little win, but also makes his point to students and families about whose side the out-numbered Democrats are on. With the Republican majority so broad that they have gone to fighting each other, Democrats, loath to get in the way, carefully pick their fights. On the sensitive retirement issue they found common ground with moderate Republicans to scale back administration proposals. On the floor, Edwards’ sharp questioning probes for weaknesses in GOP arguments.

Operating in hostile terrain is not new to the former Army Ranger and West Point graduate, who might lead the party into the 2015 elections as its candidate for governor. Tag-teaming with Edwards is Rep. Sam Jones pOLITICS of Franklin, former mayor John Maginnis and gubernatorial aide, who is both picky in his questioning and sweeping in his historical analogies. He goes to the mike often and sometimes goes too far, as when he compared Republican tactics on the education bills to the “brown shirts” of 1930s Germany, eliciting howls from the majority. No Democrat has better cause to be discouraged than Rep. Patricia Smith, D-Baton Rouge, given her mission is to reduce Louisiana’s world-leading incarceration rate. But her persistence is paying off as attitudes change. The House has passed her bills to increase good time and parole eligibility to non-violent habitual offenders and older inmates. If they pass, along with sentencing reform bills by Rep. Joe Lopinto, R-Metairie, it would mark the bipartisan success story of the session, the first small steps toward a sane corrections policy. If there is a brighter future for Democrats, they heard it early this session when freshman Rep. Katrina Jackson of Monroe rose to ask a question of venerable Appropriations Chairman Jim Fannin. He was trying to fend off attempts by opponents of the school choice bill to have it returned to his committee to determine its budgetary impact. The former director of the Legislative Black Caucus seemed to remember the same chairman last term insisting on the fiscal scrutiny he was now resisting. Fannin, knowing she was correct, fumbled for an answer: “I have hard time remembering what I did yesterday.” Heads turned as Jackson, with all due deference, pressed him, “If you don’t remember what you did in the last four years on indeterminable amounts, how can you be sure of being consistent?” Fannin’s side prevailed, but it was clear who had won the argument. Prudent Republicans made mental note to be prepared for when the young Democrat rises to ask a question of one of them. John Maginnis is a Louisiana political commentator and author and publisher of the Louisiana Political Fax Weekly. His web site is LaPolitics.com.


Thursday, May 24, 2012

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the livingston parish neWS A5

China and the lure of the status quo

EIJING — A rising Asian power with an unstoppable export machine, rapidly growing wealth and a sense that our time is past and its time has come: China in 2012? Yes -- but also Japan in the 1980s. Back then, many Americans thought Japan was destined to dominate the world economically. Japanese leaders had the same idea, and some were not reluctant to let Americans know. But the past is not always prologue. When things go well, they can distract from things that can go wrong. Japan got blindsided. The magic formula stopped working, and the country couldn’t find a new one. Its economic fortunes have come to be summarized in bleak phrases: the lost decade, the great stagnation. It’s not the world’s biggest economy, as people expected. In fact, it’s gone from No. 2 to No. 3, falling behind China. Over the past 30 years, China has been an economic success story without parallel in modern history. By abandoning the disastrous policies of Mao Zedong’s era and embracing the market, it attained growth averaging a stunning 10 percent a year, lifting hundreds of millions of Chinese out of poverty. It became the world’s big-

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Parish getting more than their fair share of money. My property taxes are going up again. Ever since Jeff Taylor got into the Assessor’s office, my taxes continue to go up. I have a small business with two employees and a small building. I got a notice that my property taxes are going up to 27 percent. I’m being hit with the equivalent

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GIVE US A CALL

| “Call and Comment” is an open forum in which readers are invited to speak their minds about any topic — local or otherwise. Callers do not have to give their names, but comments may be edited. Names that are not spelled out might not be printed. Selection of comments to be printed rests with the editors. Dial 665-7401 or submit your comment via our website at www.livingstonparishnews. com. Call 665-5176 or 567-9721 for subscription or other inquiries.

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government by taking refuge in the U.S. embassy. Domestic discontent is increasingly public: In 2011, there were an estimated 100,000 organized protests in various places, or more than 250 a day. The government felt the need to crack down on dissent to make sure the Arab Spring did not spread east. But the rise of mobile communications and social networks has left the censors constantly playing catch-up. Having abandoned the communist ideology of the past, China’s rulers have managed to retain power partly by delivering ever-increasing prosperity. If the economy suffers a “hard landing,” the people may be less willing to indulge autocracy. A serious slowdown of that kind is no longer out of the question. China can’t keep selling abroad if the rest of the world can’t afford to buy its goods. It’s common wisdom in Beijing that the economy needs to shift away from its traditional engines, exports and investment, and toward greater consumer spending at home. But saying it and doing it are not the same things. Americans, after all, know they need to put the federal government on a sustainable fiscal footing to avoid runaway debt or crushing tax

increases. But that understanding hasn’t yet forced the budget choices that must be made. We find it easier to put off the pain in hope of a miracle. China faces the same temptation to avoid what needs to be done. Chovanec explains why: “The shift is disruptive at a micro level. There are winners and losers. You wouldn’t want to be an exporter or a real estate developer or a heavy equipment manufacturer.” Nor would you want to be a worker at a company that is forced to downsize. Change means uncertainty, unemployment and hardship. It’s particularly hard to embrace change when the old way of doing things has worked so well. Not long ago, the assumption in America was that we no longer had to worry about severe recessions. That assumption held up, until the day in 2008 when it didn’t. The Chinese should keep in mind that there are two occasions when a country has to brutally acknowledge its errors and correct them: when it fails, and when it succeeds. Steve Chapman is a columnist for the Chicago Tribune. He blogs daily at newsblogs.chicagotribune.com/steve_chapman.

of about 300-500 dollars

a month in property taxes alone. This is ridiculous. I’m going to have to cut back one of these employees to part-time. I’m not rich and making money hand over fist, but Jeff Taylor seems to want more than his fair share. I had a feeling this increase was coming when I saw him campaigning for Layton Ricks. Now they are going to raid the tax coffers for their benefit. I have a small building that belongs to my father in Central. I’m selling out in Livingston Parish and moving my business to EBR. I can’t afford this anymore. Mr. Taylor can have all he wants now and he even though I only provide two jobs, plus my own, that’s jobs that are leaving the parish.

by the entities of government collecting the taxes, not the Assessor.

Record property taxes were collected and

the School Board still manages to run out of money. What a mess.

I just want to ask why

people post comments about Obama in this Call and Comment section? The Livingston Parish Council can’t do a thing about it. Why not keep complaints, since that’s all anyone can do lately, to things that the Livingston Parish Council and the mayors of the cities within the parish can actually do something about?

former council would confirm who Grimmer wanted to hire to work in his administration. It’s a shame this new council was sworn in back in January and haven’t attempted to work with Parish President Layton Ricks yet. Let’s hope they will start showing some signs of working with Mr. Ricks. If not, we will vote them out!

With the School Board

in such a financial bind, why don’t they trim the overpaid higher management positions that they really don’t need? Hopefully they won’t lay off the poor souls out there actually working.

elected officials.

If you really read your

history and studied it, not the liberal crap pushed on us today, you will see it was the Democrats who fought for slavery while the Republicans fought against it. When Democrats lost the fight for slavery, they turned to what is now considered social slavery and the name is Entitlement Programs. These are the programs the Democrats so dearly love.

This is regarding the

Editor’s note: The Assessor determines property values, not taxes. Those property values are the basis for taxes, but the millages themselves are determined

this new Parish Council attempts to block everything the new parish president tries to accomplish. When Grimmer wanted to hire people that had to be confirmed by the former council, at least the

When it costs more to file succession papers in the Livingston Parish Courthouse than it does for the lawyer to draw them up, something is wrong. Costs have more than doubled. Another job well done by our wonderful

comment stating that for over 100 years the American people have heard that it’s the Democrat party that cares about poor people. This person forgot to mention the robber barons of the gilded age who made billions at the expense of those having to live in company housing and buy food at the company store. It was Republicans who tried to corner the gold

reductions is 46%, or $7.4 million. And now we are facing an additional $3 million hit if the proposed 4% cut in the state budget stands. When coupled with federal Medicare cuts and the charity patient cases we write off, Medicaid reductions are chipping away at our ability to provide the full-scope of jobs and

services that our communities depend on, like our ER (ranked 3rd busiest in Louisiana) and neonatal intensive care (ranked among the top 25% for positive outcomes in the U.S.). We also are the 2nd largest employer in Tangipahoa Parish. Together with Southeastern Louisiana University — also fac-

ing severe budget cuts — we provide lifeblood to the local economy. More than 80% of North Oaks’ nearly 2,500 employees live in Tangipahoa and Livingston Parishes. Their buying power, coupled with our reinvestment in services, is valued conservatively at more than $219 million annually.

Ongoing reimbursement cuts will certainly mean devastating changes and difficult choices for North Oaks and other community hospitals. Until now, we have been able to strategically deal with the cuts, but we are fastapproaching our limit. Further reductions may jeopardize access to medical services and

It baffles me how much

market and abscond with our national oil reserves at Elk Hills and Tea Pot Dome. How about the savings and loan scam that implicated Senator John McCain and the conservative folks over at Arthur Anderson who approved Enron’s books just before it collapsed, sending millions of investors to the poor-house? How could we forget derivatives and hedge-funds that lost trillions, tanking the world’s economy? This month, JP Morgan-Chase lost another three billion. This is chump change to the one percent on Wall Street who complain about half of America getting a handful of food stamps while they have 95 percent of America’s wealth. The commenter missed the mark. It is Republican philosophy that has democracy heading toward extinction like the dinosaurs. CALL & COMMENT Page A6

LETTER

Dear Editor, As the President/CEO of North Oaks Health System, I am writing to express my grave concern over the proposed state budget cuts to community hospitals and to urge your readers to ask their legislators to protect our funding. For more than 52 years, North Oaks Medical Center has cared for one of the highest Medicaid and Medicare populations in Louisiana. For the past 27 years, we have operated solely on the self-generated revenue earned from our quality patient care. No tax monies are received. Any excess revenue is reinvested in our services to address the demand for health care in one of the fastest growing areas of our state and in the nation. In spite of growing demands, Medicaid reimbursement for Northshore community hospitals has been cut by more than $16 million in less than 3 years. North Oaks Medical Center’s share of the

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gest exporter. But all is not well. Thanks to the malfunctioning economies of the United States and Europe, demand for China’s exports is shriveling. Under pressure from Washington, it has Steve had to let its currency Chapman decline, which puts a drag on its sales abroad. Inflation is up and could soon approach double digits. Growth is down -- and anything the government does to combat rising prices may depress it further. Meanwhile, the real estate market, says Tsinghua University business professor Patrick Chovanec, “is in the process of crashing.” That process, as you may recall from the U.S. experience, can wreak havoc on banks. In the first quarter, GDP rose at the slowest rate since 2009. Not all of the country’s troubles are economic. The national leadership transition scheduled for this fall has been thrown into turmoil by a scandal involving a powerful member of the Politburo, former Chongqing Communist Party chief Bo Xilai. A blind dissident embarrassed the

CALL & COMMENT

Don’t worry about the

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Write Us

| We welcome your letters and do our best to publish them as written with no cuts whenever possible. Please remember to sign them and include your address and phone number (not for publication). Or you may submit a letter through our web site at www.livingstonparishnews. com.

the health of our local economies. Let your voice be heard. Contact your legislators immediately and urge them to protect funding for full-service community hospitals. Sincerely, James E. Cathey Jr. President/Chief Executive Officer, North Oaks Health System


I A6 the livingston parish news

Thursday, May 24, 2012

David Normand | The News

Special Olympics torch run Christopher Ballard (center) carries the Special Olympic torch through Walker Friday morning. Running with Ballard are law enforcement officers from Denham Springs, Walker, and the Livingston Parish Sheriff’s Office. Some City of Walker aldermen and Special Olympians also ran. Louisiana Special Games were held this past Friday through Sunday at Southeastern Louisiana University in Hammond.

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Special Olympians in Walker Local participants in the Special Olympics attend last Monday’s Board of Aldermen meeting in Walker. Pictured are (front, from left) Christopher Ballard, Lydia Roberts, Shane Holm, Heidi Neptune; (middle row) Bryson McCoy, Craig Simpson, Ryan Holm, Nathaniel Catalanto; (back row) Edmond Hodges, Stephen Harward, Krissy Peterson, Virgil Atkinson, and Shelby Billiot. The Special Olympics provide year-round sports training and athletic competition for children and adults with intellectual disabilities, giving them opportunities to develop physical fitness, demonstrate courage, and share friendship.

Call & Comment From A5

The Satsuma overpass that you are complain-

ing about is being done by a contractor for the Louisiana DOTD. It’s a state project for the repair and updating of bridges and overpasses. Chance Parent didn’t have anything to do with it. It’s all state and federal when it comes to the Interstate and the overpasses over the Interstate. I’m sure if you called the Parish Council Office or went to the website, you could get his phone number and actually give him a call and talk to him, instead of blabbing on Call and Comment with useless complaints. Maybe you could comment about how Mr. Parent should correct the problems with the FBI or the State Capitol Building. It would make sense after reading your comment.

Of course the Denham

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Springs motor officers

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are busy. They have to risk their lives idling through rush hour traffic in the opposite direction to look for those hardened criminals with expired inspection stickers. They need these competitions to stay sharp on their bikes because they can’t get the practice they need while doing inspection sticker duty Monday through Friday.

This is to the creepy commenter who remarked about Glen Beck’s conspiracy theories. I’d take Beck’s conspiracy theory every day for the rest of your life than to accept Obamaese diatribe as fact or truth. Someone once said to Obama in the Congress chamber: “You lied!” while telling the truth! My goodness! Chase Bank lost another two billion dollars this month. Some more

GIVE US A CALL

| “Call and Comment” is an open forum in which readers are invited to speak their minds about any topic — local or otherwise. Callers do not have to give their names, but comments may be edited. Names that are not spelled out might not be printed. Selection of comments to be printed rests with the editors. Dial 665-7401 or submit your comment via our website at www.livingstonparishnews.com. Call 665-5176 or 567-9721 for subscription or other inquiries.

hedge fund shell games going on over on Wall Street. The folks responsible for this will get over a million bonus for this, or a golden parachute, whichever comes first.

Somebody has finally tracked down the

source of the lie that Obama was born in Kenya. It turns out, that source was Obama himself, when he was trying to promote himself at Harvard. Your lies always catch up with you.


May 24 Opinion