By JOHN SACHS
Periodically I am asked why I’m screaming about what is taking place in our state government. It is suggested that I speak with more deference and respect to and about elected and appointed officials. I am reminded of the adage that one catches more flies with sugar than with salt. I listen to that advice and then I counter with the following explanation for my approach and call to action:
When you as an individual or through your business or when a government entity wants to make a change in service providers such as a pest control service, a janitorial service, or a building maintenance and repair service, it does not involve the lives and livelihood of employees or the ownership of the entity’s physical assets such as buildings. One simply contacts several competing service providers and after evaluating them, makes a decision as to which vendor will provide the specific service for a specific time period.
Now take the case of lease and rentals of buildings and equipment. This is a more complex transaction and generally extends over a longer period of time than a service contract. Except in the case of a rent/lease-to-own transaction, ownership of the assets remains unchanged. Thus, at the end of the lease the parties can agree to terminate the agreement and go their separate ways or to enter into a new contract. Ownership of the asset being rented or leased, however, remains with the original owner.
Finally, there are the types of transactions that are of a permanent nature with lasting consequences, and the ones that the Jindal administration is entering into that will for all intent and purposes change our system of government, alter the delivery of essential services, and transfer ownership of state physical assets forever. What Gov. Bobby Jindal is doing now will be felt for decades to come if not forever. And forever is a mighty long time for the state to suffer after Jindal leaves office for greener pastures (which I find myself occasionally hoping will have a name such as “Serenity Gardens.”)
The first of these “Forever” changes involves privatizing essential government services. When these services are privatized, the state employees almost to a man/woman lose their jobs, their retirement and their benefits. Moreover, their years of experience and expertise are lost to the state almost always forever. The state’s records generally become those of a private company accessible only by the state agency responsible for their administration.
And even that access can become iffy. Take the Office of Risk Management, for example. In less than a year after being privatized at a cost of $75 million to the state, the contract was transferred to a second and then a third company—in open defiance of the state contract requiring written authority for the contract to be transferred. Today, two years after the privatization, nothing has been done about the contract violation.
Records that should be open and public disappear behind a cloak of protection from prying eyes not afforded public agencies. Consequently, monitoring by state and even federal investigators charged with oversight of the function becomes difficult. And to the press, the fourth estate charged with keeping everyone honest and accountable, access to once public records becomes all but impossible. When one adds in the profit motive of a private enterprise and tax liabilities that are not a cost factor to a state operating department, the cost to administer an essential and rightfully state service escalates significantly to the detriment of the state.
The second “Forever” change is the most troublesome and is the one that makes me scream the loudest. That is when physical assets owned by the state and its citizens are sold to private individuals, companies, and corporations. When assets such as hospitals, prisons, schools, etc., are sold, ownership of those assets by the state is lost FOREVER. Let me say that again. When physical assets of the state are sold, ownership of them by the state is lost FOREVER.
We will never again own them. If we need those physical assets to deliver essential state services and programs, we have to enter into negotiations with the new owners to rent or lease those same facilities that we previously owned. And since we in almost every case have no alternative site from which to provide the service, we are held captive by the private owner of the former state facility paid for with taxpayer dollars.
If the new owner knows that he has no competition, is it reasonable to expect him to give us a fair, reasonable, competitive rent/lease term? Chances of that happening are so slight as to be incalculable. The only protection is the initial agreement. After that, it’s every man for himself.
And remember, these new owners will most likely be the contributors to Jindal’s political campaigns, his political slush fund, Believe in Louisiana, or his wife’s “charitable” foundation. They will be the ALEC-supported “One-Percenters” who feel that they are, by divine right, entitled to the spoils of political patronage. It is the finality of the “FOREVER” consequences of the sale of physical assets that makes me scream the loudest and that must be stopped before it ever happens.
Jindal has three years left to do his dastardly deeds. Everyone knows he has higher political aspirations (goals that he will never attain) and that he is a pathological liar who will say anything to portray himself as a caring and responsible keeper of the sacred trust placed in him by the Louisiana electorate. And our generally brain-dead media will drink his poisoned Kool-Aid, ask no intelligent and probing questions, and print verbatim his press releases.
Meanwhile, the Super Pacs will reward him for his unconscionable acts of greed on behalf of the One-Percenters.
So how can Jindal be stopped? There is only one way. Our legislators must muster the required two-thirds (2/3) vote to take back powers to act that in the past have been ceded to the governor and his appointees. That is the only way. And that must happen within the next year and certainly before the end of his term in office. Otherwise, Jindal will have sold ALL of the most marketable physical assets that the state must have in order to deliver essential services mandated by state and federal law and the state will be forced to contract with the new owners for these assets use at exorbitant rates and for terms favorable to the new owners.
That is why I’m screaming and you’d better scream too. Legislators, you’d better muster whatever it takes to act as a body politic united to preserve our state’s assets or your term in office will be forever tainted as a do-nothing, hear, see and speak no evil hand-maiden to the most corrupt governor in our state’s history. That’s a legacy that I would not want to bear.