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Archive for the ‘Higher Education’ Category

The fecal matter is poised to strike the Westinghouse oscillating air manipulation device (the crap is about to hit the fan) and the citizens of Louisiana have no one to blame but Bobby Jindal (sorry, but I still can’t bring myself to call him governor) and the brain-dead legislators who, like so many sheep, for eight years obediently allowed him to lead the state off the fiscal cliff into the abyss.

LouisianaVoice has received a two-page letter from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC) which, by comparison, is to Gov. John Bel Edwards’ warning Thursday as Black Sabbath is to Pat Boone. SACSCOC LETTER

The letter, dated Feb. 11 (Thursday) was sent to Edwards, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Sen. Eric LaFleur, House Appropriations Committee Chairman Rep. Cameron Henry, Louisiana Commissioner of Higher Education Joseph C. Rallo, Ph.D., the Louisiana institutional members of SACSCOC, and SACSCOC Board of Trustees Chairman Mark E. Keenum, Ph.D.

At least one source told LouisianaVoice that Edwards possessed the letter at the time of his televised statewide address on Thursday but chose to attempt to soften the impact of the letter’s contents as much as possible while still sending a clear message to the legislature and the citizens of Louisiana.

SACSCOC is the regional accrediting body for 800 public, private and for-profit institutions of higher education in 11 southern states, including Louisiana. It is one of seven regional accrediting bodies recognized by the U.S. Department of Education to assure quality in higher education and to serve as the gatekeeper to federal financial aid (Title IV) for students in the region (emphasis ours). http://www.sacscoc.org/

The letter was signed by SACSCOC President Belle S. Wheelan, Ph.D.

“SACSCOC has become aware of the fact that because of the lack of financial resources from the state, the institutions the commission accredits may have to cease operation prior to the end of the current semester,” she wrote. “This would mean (1) students would not be able to complete classes and, subsequently, earn no credit for courses taken this semester, potentially impacting their financial and eligibility, and (2) payroll will not be met and bills would not be paid placing employees in an untenable financial situation as well as negatively impacting the credit ratings of the institutions.”

She said federal regulations dictate that any institution suspending operations or closure in the next several months must provide SACSCOC with a plan for how students can continue at another college or university. The commission, she said, would have to approve such a plan and could send students to another state. “This would create a tremendous hardship on students who might be unable to get a job because the completion of their degree is needed or, worst case scenario, they might drop out of college all together (sic).”

She said if the schools are unable to demonstrate continued financial stability or continue to enroll students, “the board of SACSCOC would have to consider a public sanction of the institutions or a withdrawal of their accreditation. Public sanctions have a chilling effect on the enrollment of potential students and withdrawal of accreditation results in the loss of federal financial aid.”

Wheelan served as president of two institutions and as Secretary of Education for the State of Virginia. As such, she said, “I am painfully aware of the difficulty state leadership has in making budgetary decisions but the lack of state funding is putting Louisiana colleges and universities in serious risk and placing students’ academic careers in jeopardy. I know the challenges are many but I believe it is important for you to know the impact your decisions will have before you finalize your plans.”

Here is the response to the letter which Gov. Edwards gave LouisianaVoice on Friday:

“The previous administration’s choice to make the largest disinvestment in higher education in the nation over the past seven years was a choice that would inevitably lead to devastating results. It is time to turn that around. If the legislature chooses to raise no new revenue in the special session starting Sunday, universities and colleges across our state together will face more than $200 million in cuts this fiscal year—and will have to implement those cuts over the next four months. Even if the legislature chooses to raise the revenue I am proposing, higher education still faces $42 million in cuts and a $28 million TOPS funding shortage this year. This is unsustainable. I am working with our legislature to develop solutions to stabilize Louisiana’s budget this year and going forward. These responsible steps can only help us maintain accreditation for our higher education institutions, as our students deserve.”

Edwards, in his address Thursday, said that the TOPS scholarship program had suspended payments because of the state’s pending $870 million budget deficit and the looming $2 billion budget hole facing legislators for the next fiscal year which begins on July 1.

In order to awaken anyone who might have been dozing off or who were ticked off for missing Family Feud or Wheel of Fortune (one Baton Rouge TV station opted for Wheel instead of carrying the governor’s speech, choosing instead to stream the speech on its Web site), Edwards also threw in the biggest threat of all: the possible necessity of (gasp!) cancelling collegiate football in 2016.

Well, if losing TOPS didn’t do the trick, you can bet your school jersey that got the attention of Louisiana’s masses. I mean, how could we possibly survive without watching a bunch of oversized, tutored adolescents strut around on the field after pile-driving an opposing quarterback head first into the turf at Tiger Stadium to the delight of 100,000 screaming maniacs?

Why, it would be downright unamurican!

Sure enough, MSN.com covered Louisiana’s fiscal implosion with the headline “LSU Football in Danger?” http://www.msn.com/en-au/sport/golf/lsu-football-in-danger/vp-BBpqNEV

At least we know what’s really important in this state. Certainly it’s not the deplorable condition of the academic buildings falling down around LSU students that Bob Mann has been documenting in recent weeks. http://bobmannblog.com/2016/01/24/sinking-flagship-a-new-look-at-lsus-middleton-library/

The disgraceful windows of LSU’s Hatcher and Johnston halls

LSU library’s decay is symbolic of Louisiana’s misplaced priorities

Mired in mediocrity, has Louisiana higher education lost the battle?

But hey, who ever paid admission to watch a physics professor teach—other than students faced with ever-rising tuition costs?

And just how is all this legislators’ and Bobby Jindal’s fault?

The explosion of corporate tax breaks that were handed out during his administration, for openers.

Generous corporate tax incentives bleed revenue from state treasury, provide little other than political bragging rights

And there is the excellent series on corporate tax breaks published by the Baton Rouge Advocate: http://blogs.theadvocate.com/specialreports/

Along with the handouts to his corporate friends and supporters, Jindal also cut higher education more than any other state. State support to colleges and universities was cut by 55 percent during Jindal’s eight years with cuts having to be made up by painful tuition increases.

http://blueprintlouisiana.org/index.cfm/newsroom/detail/618

LSU President F. King (I would absolutely change my name) Alexander fired the first real warning shot across the legislature’s bow last April with he revealed he had already drawn up plans for financial exigency (bankruptcy) as yet another higher education budget cut loomed.

It worked, in a fashion. The legislature responded by passing a phantom tuition increase offset by a phantom tax credit, but only after consulting with the god of No New Taxes, Grover Norquist, who has never held public office but yet controls the puppet strings of legislators and congressmen as if holding the sword of Damocles over their collective heads.

And therein lies the real problem. Why in hell did our legislators, led by the man who would be president, answer to someone like Norquist and not the citizens of this state? That question needs to be addressed repeatedly to every legislator who went along with that shell game last year.

“For years, Louisiana’s colleges have stabilized funding with tuition and fee increases to offset declining direct support from the state,” said Public Affairs Research Council (PAR) President Robert Travis Scott when shown the letter by LouisianaVoice. “But we’ve reached the limits of those tactical maneuvers. Now we need a strategy to provide long-term financial stability for higher education while also getting a streamlined and accountable educational product in return,” he said.

State Rep. J. Rogers Pope (R-Denham Springs), a member of the House Education Committee, said the letter is “devastating to all parents and students as well as our colleges. I don’t see that the legislative body will permit that to happen.”

Pope, a former school principal and retired Superintendent of Livingston Parish Schools, said he hoped that the legislature and Edwards can “forget partisan politics and work together to get us out of this deep hole dug by the previous administration. Losing accreditation is a major blow to the state’s financial and workforce capabilities.”

Another source said the situation “is dire” and that was why football was mentioned by Edwards in Thursday’s address. “If we lose accreditation, it’s all over regardless of how much money TAF (the Tiger Athletic Foundation, which helps support LSU athletics) has.”

The source, who asked not to be identified said, “This is the beginning of the multi-institutional collapse of historic proportions I’ve been predicting for years.”

As I have said here before, if you, the citizens of this state, choose to sit idly by and not question the actions, motives and obligations of legislators to lobbyists and contributors, then you have become as much of the problem as Jindal and the legislators.

It’s up to you to hold your elected official accountable.

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Predictably, the business community is in high dudgeon over Gov. John Bel Edwards’ initial proposals to address the fiscal mess left by his predecessor—you know, the guy who thought he was presidential timber.

Judging from the early reaction of his die-hard opponents, including the Louisiana’s Rush Limburger wannabe Jeff (so) Sadow, Edwards is already a major flop just two weeks into the job. As much as I detest Mike Foster’s love child, I gave him nearly four years before abandoning any hope that he had the slightest concern for the people of this state.

Personally, I can’t think of a single person on the face of the good earth who could come into this job and successfully turn the state around in eight years, let alone four. It’s a daunting task that no sane candidate should relish.

In coaching, no one wants to be the one to follow a legend. You want to be the one who follows the one who follows the legend. Well, no one should want to be the one to inherit a disaster. You want to be the one who follows the one who tried to right the ship so if things are looking up, you can ride the momentum and take credit for the recovery.

With that in mind, here are a few observations:

The Baton Rouge Advocate on Sunday ran an outstanding analysis of the undeniable disaster in high education funding left by Jindal. The story was especially timely in light of Edwards’ announcement of even more draconian cuts facing high ed as he tries to cope with $750 million in budget deficits for the current fiscal year and a $1.9 billion budget gap for next fiscal year—all to be covered with shrinking revenues. http://theadvocate.com/news/14621878-123/special-report-how-startling-unique-cuts-have-transformed-louisianas-universities

LSU President F. King Alexander has gone on record as saying summer school may have to be cancelled at LSU. That’s the same type of dire warning as his “financial exigency” threat last year. That worked to get legislators’ attention and warded off the threatened bankruptcy. This threat of the cancellation of summer classes is a similar wakeup call to lawmakers—if they can get their heads from the place where only their proctologists can find them.

Even Jindal’s head cheerleader Rolfe McCollister inexplicably allowed Jeremy Alford to reveal in McCollister’s Baton Rouge Business Report that Edwards learned to his surprise that Piyush had approved millions of dollars in pay raises and made almost two dozen board and commission appointments that were not announced.

As a sign that McCollister may not be paying enough attention to his publication, he also allowed an Associated Press story that said Jindal left Edwards a gaggle of economic development deal IOUs.

But when Edwards suggested a tax package to help meet the fiscal disaster head-on, you’d have though from LABI’s reaction, that he was demanding the first-born of every businessman in the state.

Never mind that the Tax Foundation released a report last week that revealed that Louisiana has the sixth-lowest tax burden in America in the 2012 fiscal year.

While the rest of the country was paying an average of one dollar for every $10 earned in state and local taxes (exclusive of federal taxes), Louisiana citizens were paying only 76 cents for every $10 earned.

The per capita state and local taxes of $2,940 paid is fourth-lowest in the country and the state’s cigarette tax is one of the lowest. Edwards is seeking to increase the 86-cent cigarette tax to $1.08, which would bring Louisiana more in line with other states.

The state’s effective property tax rate of .5 percent is third lowest but the combined state and local sales tax rate (arguably the most regressive tax) of 8.9 percent is third highest.

Edwards says the days of using budget gimmicks are over. “This administration will remove the smoke and mirrors and provide the facts about where we are,” he said, in a not-so-subtle slap at Jindal. http://theadvocate.com/news/14619324-75/gov-john-bel-edwards-outlines-budget-options

State Sen. Jack Donahue, in a rare exhibition of lucidity for a legislator, told The Advocate, “…the proof of the pudding is in the eating, and so what did we spend (state revenue) on? Motion pictures; we spent it on solar power; we spent it on enterprise zone tax credits; we spent it on new market tax credits. We spent millions and millions and millions of dollars on all those things; so obviously, they were more important than our education.” http://theadvocate.com/news/14621878-123/special-report-how-startling-unique-cuts-have-transformed-louisianas-universities

Well, Senator, you said it. And you were oh, so accurate to employ the pronoun “we.” Hindsight, as they say, is 20/20 and yours is flawless. Other than Edwards, Rep. Rogers Pope, and Sens. Ed Murray and Dan Claitor, and maybe a couple others, I can’t recall many objections to the Jindal giveaway years coming from either chamber over the past eight years.

So now, Edwards wants to roll back some those insanely, ill-advised, foolish, thoughtless corporate tax breaks, and the corporate world is already screaming rape. Hey, guys, the honeymoon is—or should be—over. It’s way past time for the middle- and low-income citizens of this state to be relieved of the heaviest tax burdens while you guys get all those tax breaks, exemptions and incentives to create minimum-wage jobs—if jobs are even created at all. I mean, does anyone really think oil and gas will leave Louisiana when the oil and gas is here? To get to it, they have to come here. Do we really need Enterprise Zone credits for Wal-Marts in St. Tammany Parish?

As Edwards said, it’s time for the governor’s office to be “not business as usual.”

He will make mistakes. He will do things I don’t agree with. I was never under the illusion that I would agree with every single action he takes. No politician, like a rooster in a henhouse, could ever please everyone all the time.

And when he does displease me, I will say so. But for now, I’m more than willing to at least let him get his feet wet. We all owe him that much.

 

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Teresa Buchanan, welcome to the club. You’re in good company.

First it was Steven Hatfield. Next was Ivor van Heerden.

Then, in rapid-fire order came Drs. Fred Cerise and Roxanne Townsend followed by Raymond Lamonica and John Lombardi. The message, in no uncertain terms, was toe the line or clean out your desk.

And on Thursday (Jan. 21), The Daily Reveille, LSU’s student newspaper, apparently cratered to pressure from a state representative’s wife and killed an insightful column by senior political science major Michael Beyer—all because Beyer has the unmitigated gall to offer up a critical column of State Rep. Neil Abrabson’s torpedoing of Rep. Walt Leger’s election as Speaker of the House. Beyer’s online column may have been figuratively spiked by LSU, but thanks to Lamar White’s CenLamar blog, we’re able to link to it here: http://cenlamar.com/2016/01/20/speaking-truth-to-power-lsu-student-responds-to-state-rep-neil-abramson/

No wonder LSU hired Joe Alleva as athletic director. When the Duke lacrosse players were falsely accused of rape, he promptly suspended the remainder of the lacrosse team’s season before DNA test results were known and fired its coach—after DNA tests came back negative.

This is the same Joe Alleva who was forced to eat crow in the now-he’s-fired, now-he’s-our-coach Les Miles debacle back in November. Washington Post columnist John Feinstein (a Duke alumnus) said Alleva was “a pleasant man whose next original idea would be his first.”

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/05/28/AR2007052800929.html

Not to dump on Alleva too much, but his track record at Duke and LSU is pretty much the poster child for the LSU personnel handbook and HR policy. The Duke debacle was so bad that after the three players were cleared and their accuser exposed as a liar, prosecutor Michael Nifong was disbarred for dishonesty and ethics violations related to the case.

Let’s review that honor roll of rolled heads cited earlier.

  • Jesse H. Cutrer and Carl Corbin: LSU Reveille editor Cutrer of Kentwood and assistant editor Corbin were expelled and five others suspended when they refused to knuckle under to U.S. Sen. Huey Long way back in 1934. The issue was a letter to the editor by a sophomore student not even on the Reveille staff. The letter was critical of Long’s naming a star LSU football player to the state senate. Twenty-two other students who were suspended were reinstated and the seven who left LSU were all invited to the prestigious University of Missouri Journalism School, paid for in part by LSU board member J.Y. Fauntleroy of New Orleans. The man who executed the firings was LSU president James Monroe Smith, who later went to prison on corruption charges.
  • Steven J. Hatfill: Hired on July 1, 2002, Hatfill was placed on paid leave a month later after FBI agents conducted a search of his apartment in Frederick, Maryland on live TV—complete with helicopters circling overhead. His crime? He was suspected of being involved in anthrax mailings. Though he was familiar with the effects of anthrax, his area of expertise was Ebola and his job at LSU was training emergency personnel to respond to terrorist attacks and natural disasters. Saying LSU was making no judgment as to Hatfill’s guilt or innocence and that the decision “was not reached quickly or easily,” Chancellor Mark Emmert promptly fired Hatfill before his first day on the job. Hatfill was subsequently found innocent and six years later he was paid $4.6 million by the U.S. Department of Justice as settlement of his lawsuit. http://www.nytimes.com/2008/06/28/washington/28hatfill.html?_r=0
  • Dominique Homberger: The biology professor wasn’t fired but was removed from teaching in April 2010 for setting too high a standard for her students. She eschewed grading on a curve, insisting instead that her students achieve mastery of the subject matter instead of simply more mastery than the worst students in the class. In short, she refused to dumb down her course material. https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2010/04/15/lsu
  • Ivor van Heerden: van Heerden was fired by LSU in May of 2010 after he had the temerity to criticize the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ levee and floodwall construction designs. He also built storm-surge models, one of which predicted major flooding in St. Bernard Parish, eastern New Orleans and the Lower 9th Ward. Apparently the LSU administration did not care much for accuracy. He was also stripped of his title as deputy director of the LSU Hurricane Center. http://www.nola.com/news/index.ssf/2009/04/ivor_van_heerden_who_pointed_f.html
  • John Lombardi: The LSU system president was cut loose in April of 2012 because he didn’t go along with Bobby Jindal’s programs, including the privatization of the LSU medical centers. He also publicly opposed other initiatives advanced by Jindal. The firing was done by vote of the LSU Board of Supervisors, all of whom were appointed by Jindal. The board had a reputation of subservience to Jindal as expressed by board member Alvin Kimble of Baton Rouge. “We are laying a lot of blame on the wrong person,” he said. “It needs to be laid at the legislature’s feet and the governor’s feet. You guys (fellow board members) are doing what you have been instructed to do. http://www.nola.com/politics/index.ssf/2012/04/lsu_board_fires_system_preside.html
  • Drs. Fred Cerise and Roxanne Townsend: Two of the LSU Health System’s premier physicians, Cerise and Townsend were axed in September 2012 following a July meeting at which former Secretary of Health and Hospitals Alan Levine pitched a plan to privatize the state’s system of LSU medical centers. Cerise and Townsend made the mistake of expressing reservations about Levine’s proposal. But Bobby Jindal wanted the privatization done and he passed the word down the Board of Supervisors and two of Louisiana’s best doctors were gone. http://louisianavoice.com/2013/08/21/cerise-townsend-firing-came-soon-after-fateful-2012-levine-meeting-with-lsu-officials-to-discuss-lsumc-privatization/
  • Raymond Lamonica: The LSU System general counsel resigned under pressure as chief legal advisor to the university. He also was on the wrong side of Jindal. http://www.nola.com/education/index.ssf/2012/09/lsu_general_counsel_resigns_wi.html

As, apparently, was Teresa Buchanan. But she is fighting back. Like those Duke lacrosse players, the tenured associate professor of 19 years’ experience is determined to clear her name. She hopes to get her job back as well—and she has some big guns on her side. http://theadvocate.com/news/14637878-123/report-fired-lsu-professor-plans-to-file-lawsuit-against-school-for-violating-free-speech-rights

In her federal lawsuit filed Wednesday (Jan. 20) in U.S. Middle District Court in Baton Rouge, she is represented by the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education. FIRE, based in Philadelphia and Washington, D.C., has been around only since 2014. Already, however, it has negotiated favorable settlements in eight of 11 actions brought on behalf of students and faculty at colleges and universities in several states.

In firing Buchanan last June, LSU claimed her teaching methods violated sexual harassment policy for her occasional use of profanity and sexual language in preparing her students to become effective teachers, FIRE said in its press release Thursday.

“LSU’s policy mirrors the language of the ‘blueprint’ sexual harassment policy propagated by the U.S. Department of Education and Justice in 2013. FIRE and other civil liberties advocates have warned this controversial language threatens the free speech and academic freedom rights of faculty and students.

“FIRE predicted that universities would silence and punish faculty by using the Department of Education’s unconstitutional definition of sexual harassment—and that’s exactly what happened at LSU,” it said. “Now Teresa is fighting back to protect her rights and the rights of her colleagues.”

She was fired despite unanimous support from the LSU faculty senate which approved a resolution urged the university’s administration to reconsider its decision to terminate her. That resolution was ignored. Last September, the American Association of University Professors formally censured the LSU administration.

“You will not find another person who loves LSU more than I do,” she said at her press conference on Thursday. “I come from a line of LSU people on both sides of my family and I received two of my degrees from there.”

She said in firing her, the LSU administration “violated LSU’s promises of free speech and academic freedom for its faculty.

FREE said Buchanan “prepared her student teachers for the real-world rigors of working with children and parents from diverse communities. For this, LSU fired her. The LSU faculty senate and the American Association of University Professors have censured the LSU administration for its action. We think a federal court will likewise find its actions unacceptable.”

 

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Just as there are many deserving nominees for Boob of the Year, so are there those who deserve to be recognized for their work to bring the actions of those boobs to public light. Their efforts have helped to expose corruption in lieu of an ineffective State Ethics Board that Jindal gutted as his first action upon becoming governor.

And for those who think we’re too negative, here is our chance to put some positive spin on state politics. Unlike our Boob of the Year nominees, few of our nominees for the John Copes Beacon of Light award are public officials, though it would be unfair to say that no elected official is worthy.

Copes, a Louisiana Tech graduate, was one of the very first political bloggers in Louisiana, launching his website The Deduct Box in 1999. A resident of Mandeville, he died in October of 2006 at a time when his blog was getting about 10,000 hits per day.

Because any such list is subjective, some deserving candidates will be left out by oversight as occurred with our Boob of the Year nominees. Accordingly, you are free to make your own nominations.

So, with that in mind, here we go:

  • Former State Sen. Butch Gautreaux: All he did was to bust a gut in trying to save the Office of Group Benefits from certain corruption and mismanagement. He failed, of course, because Bobby Jindal wanted to privatize the agency and indirectly raid OGB’s reserve fund. Now the fund has been depleted, premiums have risen and benefits have been cut and Sen. Gautreaux has been proven correct.
  • State Sen. Dan Claitor: Claitor filed a lawsuit to nullify the illegal retirement increase of some $50,000 for State Police Superintendent Mike Edmonson. He won that suit and then filed a bill to make certain there were no more backdoor deals for Edmonson. He also objected to the administration’s less than ethical ruse to delay payment of Medicaid claims by two months, thus kicking the final two months’ problems into the next fiscal year—long after Jindal and his fraudulent cohorts will be gone. Sadly, Claitor’s objections to the move were ignored by the administration—and his fellow legislators who once again, allowed Jindal to have his way with them.
  • Lame duck BESE members Carolyn Hill and Lottie Beebe: Both stood up to State Superintendent of Education John White and both paid the price. Out of state money poured in for their opponents and both Hill and Beebe were defeated for re-election.
  • John Bel Edwards: It may be too early to call him a Beacon of Light. That will depend on what he does as governor. But he did fight Bobby Jindal for eight years and overcame mind boggling odds against a Democrat with little name recognition outside Tangipahoa Parish upsetting powerful (as in $10 million worth of power) U.S. Sen. David Vitter. While Jindal held onto his congressional salary right up to the time he took the oath as governor, Edwards has resigned from the Louisiana Legislature.
  • Tommy and Melody Teague: She was fired from her job (but won it back on appeal) for daring to testify before Jindal’s governmental streamlining committee; he for the audacity of taking over an agency (OGB) with a deficit of some $200 million and take it to a surplus of $500 million and then not falling all over himself to support Jindal’s proposed privatization of OGB. Jindal prevailed of course, and the surplus (reserve fund) was depleted, premiums increased, benefits reduced and many retirees now living out of state have lost their medical benefits altogether. At least Tommy Teague saw the danger way before the smartest man in the room.
  • Murphy Painter: As director of the Office of Alcohol and Tobacco Control (ATC), he refused to allow FOB (friends of Bobby) short circuit the regulations for an alcohol permit for Champion’s Square across from the Superdome. For insisting that the applicant comply with ATC regulations, he was fired and indicted on made up criminal charges. Rather than bene over and grease up, he fought back, was acquitted at trial and stuck the state with his legal bills of nearly $300,000.
  • Whistleblower Jeff Mercer: The Mangham, Louisiana contractor was harassed, coerced and intimidated when he refused to comply with a DOTD inspector’s demand that he give the inspector money and/or equipment (a generator). When he complained about the extortion attempt, more pressure was applied in the form of harsh inspections, delayed and denied payments for work performed. He went bankrupt as a result of the DOTD actions but determined to fight back, he sued and won a $20 million judgment from the state. A pity since the governor’s office was made aware of the inspector’s actions but chose to do nothing to avert the eventual courtroom battle.
  • Whistleblower Dan Collins: The Baton Rouge professional landman complained about things he observed in the Atchafalaya Basin Program and promptly got frozen out of future state contracts. Undaunted, he and his one attorney went up against the Department of Natural Resources and its four corporate attorneys and on Friday (Dec. 11, 2015) won treble damages totaling $750,000—all after complaints to the governor’s office had been ignored, leaving us with the unavoidable conclusion that the Jindalites would rather pay hefty lawsuit judgments than correct obvious problems early on. To paraphrase the title of Hilary Clinton’s book, sometimes It Takes a Pissed off Citizen….
  • Lamar White: This Alexandria native, along with Bob Mann, has been a persistent thorn in the side of our absentee governor, a couple of congressmen, and anyone else he sees tampering with governmental ethics. But more than merely badgering, Lamar thoroughly documents everything he writes. If any official has anything to hide, he will be outed by Lamar. He is the one who dug up the story about U.S. Rep. Steve Scalise’s close connections to David Duke. That story, said Baton Rouge Advocate reporter Billy Gunn, “exemplifies the power of the pen and its ability to challenge the mighty.” High praise for someone another blogger once ridiculed for his cerebral palsy affliction which makes it difficult for him to walk. “But there’s nothing wrong with his mind,” Gunn said. “He writes on subjects ranging from the rights of the disabled to racial inequity.” Walter Pierce, editor of the Lafayette news site The Ind.com, said, “He has a sort of selfless bravery.”
  • Bob Mann: Journalist/author/political historian Bob Mann holds the Manship Chair in journalism at LSU and has unflinchingly taken on the powers that be, including his bosses on the LSU Board of Supervisors. Mann, who writes a column for Nola.com and Salon.com, has become such an irritant that one LSU Board member, Rolfe McCollister, has even advocated Mann’s firing for his saying that the LSU Board was more loyal to Jindal than to the students at LSU. This is the same Rolfe McCollister, by the way, who publishes the Baton Rouge Business Report. So much for his defense of the First Amendment. McCollister quoted a “former seasoned journalist” as saying “Every good journalist knows that you cannot ethically cover the institution that pays your salary and the people who supervise the work you do for that salary.” So much for his defense of the First Amendment. But Rolfe, how about “ethically” serving higher education that your boss has tried to starve to death with repeated budgetary cuts that resulted in higher and higher tuition for students? How is that you’re able to “ethically” look out for the interests of students and faculty of LSU while giving $17,000 to Jindal’s campaign, serving as treasurer of his campaign, and treasurer of Believe Again, the Super PAC created to promote Jindal’s presidential campaign. I guess the question really comes down to who has the higher ethical standard, you or Bob Mann. We go with the Mann. Every time.
  • C.B. Forgotston: What can we say about this former legal counsel for the Louisiana House? C.B. has a political blog but he doesn’t post often. And when he does post, the dispatches are usually short. But what he lacks in verbiage, he more than makes up with impact. He is terse, to the point, and quite often vicious in his critique of anyone he sees in office who he believes is wasting time or state dollars. Most people who know him would rather be on the receiving end of volumes of criticism from Jindal and his minions than a single sentence of disapproval from C.B.
  • Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne: for having the courage to cross party lines and endorse Democrat John Bel Edwards over Diaper Boy Dave Vitter. Dardenne took a lot of heat for that but who could blame him after Vitter’s carpet bombing of him and fellow Republican Scott Angelle in the first primary? Some will say his appointment as incoming Commissioner of Administration was the payoff. Perhaps so, but if anyone can come up with a better person for the job, we’re listening.
  • State Treasurer John Kennedy: His ill-advised endorsement of Vitter aside, Kennedy has been tenacious in his guarding of the state treasury, taking on Jindal and Commissioner of Administration Kristy Kreme Nichols time after time when they tried to play funny with the money. He would have easily walked in as Attorney General after the first primary had he chosen to run for that seat, which we encouraged him to do. Instead, he has chosen to remain as Treasurer—at least for the time being. Remember there is Vitter’s U.S. Senate seat that opens up next year and Kennedy would like that job. Whatever his motives for endorsing Vitter (many speculate had Vitter won, he would have appointed Kennedy to fill the remaining year, thus giving him the advantage of incumbency), no one can deny that he has been a splendid foil for the Jindalites for eight years.
  • Louisiana Trooper Underground: This unknown author or authors undoubtedly has/have reliable links deep within the upper echelons of the Louisiana State Police command in Baton Rouge. A relatively new entry into social media, this a Facebook page that posts the latest developments in the unfolding saga involving various troop commands and LSP headquarters itself.
  • Finally, all the others who have been Teagued: Tommy and Melody were the inspiration for the term but they are in good company with a long list of those who attempted to do the right thing and were either fired or demoted by a vengeful Jindal. Despite the obvious reprisals that lay ahead, each of them stood up for what was right and paid the price. They’re the silent heroes.

There are our nominees. You are free to write in your own favorite’s name. It is our sincere hope that the response to this will be as gratifying as that of the Boob of the Year.

Go.

Vote.

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As we face the end of eight years of ineptitude, deceit, and whoopee cushion governance, LouisianaVoice is proud to announce our first ever election of John Martin Hays Memorial Boob of the Year.

There are no prizes, just a poll of our readership as to whom the honor should go in our debut survey.

Hays was publisher of a weekly publication called appropriately enough, the Morning Paper in Ruston until his death last year. He relished nothing more than feasting on the carcasses of bloated egos. He single-handedly exposed a major Ponzi scheme in North Louisiana, sending the operator to prison. That got him some major ink in the Atlanta Constitution and the New York Times.

The problem of course, is trying to narrow the field to make the final selection manageable.

The obvious choice for most would be Bobby Jindal, but there are so many other deserving candidates that we caution readers not to make hasty decisions. After all, we wouldn’t want to slight anyone who has worked so hard for the honor.

So, without further ado, here are the nominees, along with a brief synopsis of their accomplishments.

  • Bobby Jindal: Mismanaged the state budget for an unprecedented eight consecutive years. At least there’s something to be said for consistency. In his eight-year reign of error (mostly spent in states other than Louisiana) he managed to cut higher education more than any other state; he robbed public education to reward for-profit charter schools and virtual schools; he gave away the state’s Charity Hospital system (he awarded a contract to the new operators—a contract with 50 blank pages which is now the subject of what is expected to be a prolonged legal battle; he appointed political donors to prestigious boards and commissions, including the LSU Board of Supervisors which, under his direction, fired two distinguished doctors, the school’s president and its legal counsel; He trumped up bogus charges against the director of the State Office of Alcohol and Tobacco Control (ATC) to appease mega-donor Tom Benson and to appoint the husband of his children’s pediatrician to head up the agency; he forced state offices to pay higher rent in order to again accommodate Benson by signing a costly lease agreement with Benson Towers; rather than consider alternative ideas, he simply fired, or teagued, anyone who disagreed with him on any point; he refused Medicaid expansion, thus depriving anywhere from 250,000 to 400,000 low-income citizens needed medical care; he tried unsuccessfully to ram through pension reform that would have been devastating to state employees; he insisted on handing out contract after contract to attorney Jimmy Faircloth who is still searching for his first courtroom victory after receiving well more than $1 million in legal fees; he spurned a major federal grant that would have brought high-speed broadband internet to Louisiana’s rural parishes; he stole $4 million from the developmentally disadvantaged citizens so he could give it to the owner of a $75 million Indianapolis-type race track—a family member of another major donor and one of the richest families in the state; he abandoned his duties as governor to seek the Republican presidential nomination, a quest recognized by everyone but him as a fantasy; he ran up millions of dollars in costs of State Police security in such out-of-state locations as Iowa, New Hampshire, Ohio, and South Carolina; he had the State Police helicopter give rides to his children, and the list goes on.
  • Attorney General Buddy Caldwell: All he did was completely botch the entire CNSI contract mess which today languishes in state district court in Baton Rouge; He consistently turned a blind eye to corruption and violations of various state laws while ringing up what he thought was an impressive record of going after consumer fraud (Hey, Buddy, those credit care scam artists are still calling my phone multiple times a day!); and his concession speech on election night was one for the books—a total and unconditional embarrassment of monumental proportions.
  • Kristy Nichols: What can we say? This is the commissioner of administration who managed to delay complying to our legal public records request for three entire months but managed to comply to an identical request by a friendly legislator within 10 days; We sued her and won and she has chosen to spend more state money (your dollars, by the way) in appealing a meager $800 (plus court costs and legal fees) judgment in our favor; it was her office that came down hard on good and decent employees of the State Land Office who she thought were leaking information to LouisianaVoice (they weren’t); she first reduced premiums for state employee health coverage in order to free up money to help plug a state budget deficit all the while whittling away at a $500 million reserve fund to practically nothing which in turn produced draconian premium increases and coverage cuts for employees and retirees (and during legislative hearings on the fiasco, she ducked out to take her daughter to a boy-band concert in New Orleans where she was allowed to occupy the governor’s private Superdome suite.
  • Troy Hebert: appointed by Jindal to head up ATC which quickly turned in a mass exodus of qualified, dedicated agents; he used state funds to purchase a synthetic drug sniffing dog (hint: there is no such thing as a synthetic drug sniffing dog because synthetic ingredients constantly change; this was just another dog, albeit an expensive one); he launched a racist campaign to rid his agency of black agents; while still a legislator, he was a partner in a firm that negotiated contracts with the state for hurricane debris cleanup.
  • Mike Edmonson: Oh, where do we start? Well, of course there is that retirement pay increase bill amendment back in 2014; there is the complete breakdown of morale, particularly in Troop D; then, there was the promotion of Tommy Lewis to Troop F Commander three years after he sneaked an underage woman into a casino in Vicksburg (he was subsequently fined $600 by the Mississippi Gaming Commission but only after first identifying himself as the executive officer of Troop F and asking if something “could be worked out.”); allowing Deputy Undersecretary Jill Boudreaux to take advantage of a lucrative buyout incentive for early retirement (which, in her case, came to $46,000, plus another $13,000 of unused annual leave) only to retire for one day and return the next—at a promotion to Undersecretary. She was subsequently ordered to repay the $56,000 but thanks to friends in high places, the money has never been repaid (maybe incoming Commissioner of Administration Jay Dardenne would like to revisit that matter); consistent inconsistency in administering discipline to officers who stray—such as attempting unsuccessfully to fire one trooper for assaulting a suspect (even though the suspect never made such a claim) while doing practically nothing to another state trooper who twice had sex with a woman while on duty—once in the back seat of his patrol car.
  • David Vitter: what can we say? The odds-on favorite to walk into the governor’s office, he blew $10 million—and the election. His dalliance with prostitutes, his amateurish spying on a John Bel Edwards supporter, an auto accident with a campaign worker who also headed up the Super PAC that first savaged his Republican opponents in the primary, turning Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne and Public Service Commissioner Scott Angelle irreversibly against him and driving their supporters to Edwards’s camp. In short, he could write the manual on blowing an election.
  • The entire State Legislature: for passing that idiotic (and most likely illegal) budget on the last day of the session but only after Grover Norquist was consulted about the acceptability of a little tax deception; for allowing Jindal to run roughshod over them on such matters as education reform, hospital privatization, pension reform and financing recurring expenses with one-time money; for being generally spineless in all matters legislative and deferring to an absentee governor with a personal agenda.

Those are our nominees but only after some serious paring down the list.

Go to our comments section to cast your vote in 25 words or less. The deadline is Friday, Dec. 18.

As much as you might like, you are allowed to vote only once.

 

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