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“I pledge to continue diligent enforcement of our Open Meetings Law.”

—Attorney General Jeff Landry, in an effort to grab a share of the spotlight following a judge’s ruling that the Vermilion Parish School Board acted illegally in having a teacher arrested and ejected before approving a $30,000 pay raise for the board’s superintendent. (Landry is mandated to defend state agencies, boards and commissions in litigation over open meetings and public records and is prohibited by that same constitution from interfering in local matters unless requested to do so by the local district attorney.)

 

 

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A state district court last week knocked down action taken by the Vermilion Parish School Board for violations of the state’s Open Meetings Law. In what must surely be a first, I find myself in agreement with Attorney General Jeff Landry on the whole affair.

Suffice it to say, however, that Landry waited until there was a judicial ruling to take his courageous stand, a ruling 10 months in the making, while LouisianaVoice took a similar position on the removal of a teacher from a board meeting immediately.

For that matter, why the hell did it take 15th Judicial District Court Judge David Smith 10 months to issue a ruling on a matter that is supposed to be fast-tracked: the issue of public meetings of governmental bodies? To take 10 months to decide what was obviously a violation of state law is somewhat ludicrous.

Be that as it may, Smith not only ruled the school board violated the Open Meetings Law by having a teacher, Deyshia Hargrave, a Kaplan middle school English teacher, arrested and removed from the meeting because she questioned the board action of awarding Superintendent Jerome Puyau a $30,000 raise, from $110,190 to $140,188, while teachers have gone years without a pay increase.

Puyau, in an interview with a Lafayette television station, said, “By the time the teacher stood up in the audience to the time she was at the door, it was 53 seconds. During that 53 seconds, she was asked to sit multiple times, the gavel struck multiple times.”

Yes, she was asked to sit and yes, the gavel was struck multiple times in a desperate effort to keep Hargrave from further publicly embarrassing the board and Puyau. When the raise for Puyau came up on the agenda, Hargrave, the parish’s 2015-16 Teacher of the Year, attempted to ask how the board could award Puyau a raise “when you’re basically taking from the teachers.”

Board President ANTHONY HARGRAVE, an Abbeville attorney who should have known better, rapped his gavel while informing Hargrave she was not on the agenda and the item being discussed was the superintendent’s contract.

Hargrave was quick to point out that she was addressing the very issue the board was considering, his gavel-rapping notwithstanding. “This directly speaks to what you’re voting on,” Hargrave said as a city marshal moved in to slap handcuffs on her and lead her from the meeting.

To view the complete video, click HERE.

The video prompted a flood of outrage from throughout the country. News organizations, from the Charlotte Observer, to The Washington Post, to The New York Times, to US News & World Report, to NPR, to NBC, to the La Crosse (Wisc.) Tribune, and even the Baton Rouge Tiger Droppings picked up on the school board’s action.

Meanwhile, Fontana, referring to Hargrave as “the poor little lady,” said, “If a teacher has the authority to send a student, who is acting up and she can’t control, out of the classroom to the principal’s office, under our policy we have the same rules.” Apparently, Fontana believed he could treat teachers as children and that getting arrested is the equivalent to being sent to the principal’s office.

And perhaps Fontana, after 25 years on the board, should have retired before deciding he was the final authority on open meetings and freedom of speech First Amendment rights.

And while Judge Smith took his time in issuing his ruling, he did take it to its ultimate conclusion in negating the school board’s approval of Puyau’s contract and his $30,000 raise—because the action was taken in what Smith said was a meeting held in violation of the Open Meetings Law.

Puyau, obviously feeling he had been grievously wronged by the ruling (never mind the manner in which the board treated Hargrave—one of its teachers, no less), told Lafayette TV station KATC reporter Chris Wetly that he would appeal the decision.

“It has ruined myself and my family,” he sniffed. “It has broken me personally. It has changed me as a person…to understand that politics is ugly and they (whoever “they” is) will do anything they can to get rid of me as Superintendent.”

Hey, Puyau, trying getting arrested, being handcuffed, and led out a public meeting—for simply exercising your First Amendment right of free speech. Then you can talk about your life being “ruined” and your life “changed.”

And of course, there is Landry, always ready and willing to pick the low-hanging fruit. Here’s the headline from his news release on Monday:

Vermilion Ruling A Victory for Teachers, Public Declares Jeff Landry
AG Landry Pledges Continued Enforcement of Open Meetings Law 

“I applaud Judge Smith for remedying this injustice,” Landry said of the ruling, adding that Hargrave and her fellow teachers, “who have not received a pay increase in many years despite growing class sizes, should have absolutely been heard.”

Of course, that was an easy call to make for Landry, ever the politician on the prowl for votes wherever and whenever he can find them. “And I pledge to continue diligent enforcement of our Open Meetings Law,” he said.

That’s a curious “pledge” for him to make. The Louisiana Constitution prohibits his intervention in parish affairs unless specifically requested to do so by the local district attorney. And as attorney general, he represents state boards, commissions, and agencies, meaning he is mandated to protect their interest, not ours. That means that in litigation over open meetings or public records, rather than enforcing the law, he defends state boards, commissions and agencies.

As ample illustration of that important distinction, observant readers will note that while LouisianaVoice WEIGHED IN on the controversy immediately, Landry, once a ruling had been made, had an opportunity to characteristically grab the spotlight with his news release. Prior to Judge Smith’s ruling, however, he had absolutely zero to say about the matter.

Nothing.

Nil.

Zilch.

So much for “diligent enforcement.”

 

H24/7 WALL STREET, that independent service that publishes a multitude of surveys each day, has published a list of 38 metropolitan areas in the U.S. which have the highest poverty rates.

Four Louisiana metro areas made the list, ranging from 10th to 37th poorest.

New Orleans was not on the list, most likely because the affluent parishes of Jefferson and St. Tammany are included in the greater metropolitan area of the Crescent City.

The rankings are based on latest data released in September by the U.S. Census Bureau, the 24/7 Wall Street survey noted. And while poverty is on a general decline in the U.S. with 13.4 percent of Americans living below the poverty line, all four of the Louisiana metropolitan areas included in the list had poverty rates that exceeded 20 percent, as did 38 of the 382 metro areas reviewed in the U.S.

Seventeen of those 38 areas were in Texas and Georgia (5 metro areas each), Louisiana (4) and West Virginia (3). Texas had three cities ranked as the worst areas with McAllen, Texas ranked worst in the nation with a poverty rate of 30 percent, an unemployment rate in the highest 10 percent at 7.4 percent and a median household income of $37,106, also among the worst 10 percent.

All four Louisiana metropolitan areas—Monroe, Shreveport-Bossier, Hammond, and Alexandria—had unemployment rates that ranked among the highest 25 percent and three—Monroe, Shreveport-Bossier, and Alexandria—had median household incomes ranked among the worst 10 percent.

Monroe was the 10th poorest metro area in the nation, followed by Shreveport-Bossier (11th), Hammond (30th), and Alexandria (37th).

While the national unemployment rate was 4.4 percent in 2017, Monroe had a jobless rate of 5.3 percent, followed by Shreveport-Bossier (5.5 percent) and Alexandria and Hammond (5.7 percent).

To review the complete list, go HERE.

Louisiana followed the trend of having a high poverty rate that coincides with low educational attainment and a large share of available jobs in low-paying sectors.

It’s a familiar story for the state that seems to have become locked into an unbreakable pattern of low positives and high negatives. Elected officials, meanwhile, continue to ignore the factors that keep its citizens among the lowest paid, unhealthiest, and worst educated in the nation.

And whenever efforts are exerted toward reversing the trend, there are always certain self-serving or bought-and-paid-for legislators standing by to block those efforts and lobbyists with different agendas who will wine and dine the lawmakers.

Even more disheartening, we continue to re-elect them.

Whoever said we get the government we deserve…..nailed it.

For about 15 years, I fancied myself a stand-up comic. I guess it dates back to my senior year at Ruston High School. I had Miss Ruth Johnson for Algebra II. Her class was first hour and I was always tardy.

One day, fed up with me strolling in late each morning, she stopped me at the door. “You stand up here and tell us why you’re late….and it better be good,” she demanded. She wasn’t smiling. Before she started driving, she walked about a mile right past my house on her way to school—after feeding and milking a cow—so I couldn’t use the excuse of having to walk less than a quarter-mile.

So, I did my first stand-up bit, making the story up as I went along.

“Well, Miss Ruth (everyone called her Miss Ruth), this morning about 2 o’clock, we heard a noise out in the chicken house. My granddad thought it was the possum that had been killing our chickens. So, he grabbed his shotgun and stuck his magnetic flashlight onto the barrel. He was standing in the entrance to the chicken house waving the gun around, shining the light, looking for the possum. He had his long johns on because it was cold last night. But it wasn’t that cold, so he had the bottoms open. Our old blue tick hound came up behind him with his cold nose and, Miss Ruth, we been cleanin’ chickens since 2 this morning.”

If Miss Ruth had allowed it, I’d have gotten a standing ovation. The entire classroom exploded. She tried not to laugh and fussed at me over the laughter of the class. As of that moment, I had the bug. Many years later, I took a dare and went onstage at a Baton Rouge comedy club on open mic night. I was never so nervous in my life but the emcee, Spud McConnell asked me to come back. And I did. I became the house emcee at the old Funny Bone and stayed around for 15 years—probably about 12 years too long.

Funny Bone owner Mike Rogers tried to break it to me nicely, informing me that after 15 years, everyone in Baton Rouge had probably heard my joke. He brought me back for a 25th anniversary show, but that was it. So, I went back to my first love: writing. Some (perhaps many) think I’m still a joke, but that’s okay. This country was founded on the principle that everyone should have his say and if readers disagree with me, that’s their right to say so.

Having said that, there will be some who will suggest that I give up comedy and writing.

But for sheer audacity, no one can top Donald Trump.

Just look at some of his utterances:

  • “Putin told me he didn’t do it.”
  • “North Korea is no longer a nuclear threat.”
  • “I’m going to build a wall and Mexico is going to pay for it.”
  • “I’ve been treated very unfairly by this judge. Now, this judge is of Mexican heritage. I’m building a wall, OK? I’m building a wall.”
  • “The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing noncompetitive.”
  • “By the way, I have great respect for China. I have many Chinese friends. They live in my buildings all over the place.”
  • “My fingers are long and beautiful, as, it has been well documented, are various other parts of my body.”
  • “A certificate of live birth is not the same thing by any stretch of the imagination as a birth certificate.”
  • “They (The New York Times) don’t know how to write good.”
  • “All of the women on The Apprentice flirted with me—consciously or unconsciously. That’s to be expected.”
  • “Sorry losers and haters, but my IQ is one of the highest—and you all know it! Please don’t feel so stupid or insecure, it’s not your fault.” (Ranks right up there with “I’m a very stable genius.”)
  • “Nobody respects women more than me.”
  • “What’s that?” (his response to a question about his insulting a Gold Star family.)
  • “He’s not a war hero. He’s a war hero because he was captured. I like people that weren’t captured.”
  • “Lock her up! Lock her up!” (cheerleading his rabid followers in response to Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email account. Now you have to wonder if he is going to demand that IVANKA be locked up. Oops.)

Granted, some of those remarks weren’t jokes and they certainly weren’t very funny. Whenever he opens his mouth, something downright crude and/or stupid usually spills out. Sometimes, his remarks are outright lies, but all are typical Trump.

But for sheer stupidity, idiocy, lunacy, and absurdity, yesterday’s ADVICE on how California could reduce the risk of forest fires pretty much tops them all:

“You gotta take care of the floors. You know the floors of the forest, very important,” Trump told reporters. “You look at other countries where they do it differently and it’s a whole different story.  I was with the president of Finland and he called it a forest nation, and they spend a lot of time on raking and cleaning and doing things and they don’t have any problem. And when they do, it’s a very small problem.”

If I ever entertained any thought of returning to the stage, Donald Trump has laid those thoughts to rest. No one could possibly be funnier than our Clown in Chief, especially when he’s trying to be serious.

Well, while others (especially FINNS) are laughing their backsides off at the solution offered by our Forester/Scientist/Raker-in-Chief, I for one, am making a run to Lowe’s and Home Depot to buy up all their rakes. I have to do my civic duty. There’s a lot of wooded area between my house and the Amite River that needs raking. Of course, that’s the same river that overflowed back in August 2016, flooding half of Livingston Parish and destroying hundreds of homes, mine included. So, I guess I’d better rake the river bottom, too, to prevent future flooding.

John Sachs, a Ruston High classmate (who missed my comedic debut 57 years ago) said Trump needs to rake Central Park lest it catch fire and burn down Trump Tower.

There was a serious story in the fake news WASHINGTON POST that explains the real reason forest fires are a rare event in Finland—and it’s got nothing to do with raking.

Meanwhile, President Big Mac is taking a lot of heat (no pun intended) for letting his alligator mouth overload his hummingbird brain:

DAILY NEWS

GRAB A RAKE

SIGN OF THE TIME (in Helsinki)

LouisianaVoice has expressed concerns about the industrial tax incentives, aka giveaway programs, for years. It has been our contention that while welfare cheats are an easy target for criticism, the money lost to fraudulent welfare and Medicaid recipients is eclipsed by the billions of dollars stolen from taxpayers in the form of industrial tax exemptions, incentives, and credits.

Of course, the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry would never concede that fact. Instead, they use the stage magician’s tactic of misdirection by claiming runaway lawsuits, organized labor, higher wages (they are especially terrified of an increase in the $7.25 minimum wage) and poor public education performance are to blame for Louisiana’s economic and social ills.

Never (not once) will one hear LABI point to poverty as a cause of the state’s low ranking in everything good and high ranking in everything bad. Never (not once) will one hear LABI, the local chambers of commerce, or the Louisiana Office of Economic Development call attention to the billions of dollars in relief given businesses and industry—from Wal Mart to Exxon—in the form of corporate welfare—leaving it to working Louisianans to pick up the check.

And all you have to do to understand how this has occurred is to follow the money in the form of campaign contributions to legislators and governors and visit the State Capitol during a legislative session and try—just try—to count the lobbyists. Better yet, you may do better by counting lobbyists and legislators following adjournment each night as they gather for steaks, lobster and adult beverages at Sullivan’s or Ruth’s Chris—compliments of lobbyists’ expense accounts.

And while LouisianaVoice has attempted to call attention to this piracy, an outfit called Together Louisiana has put together a 15-minute video presentation that brings the picture into sharp, stark focus. The contrast between two separate economies living side by side is stunning.

Stephen Winham, retired director of Louisiana’s Executive Budget Office called the video “a super good presentation of facts our decision-makers choose to ignore as they have for many, many decades.”

Winham went a step further in saying, “Our leaders seem to think we are all too dumb to understand this—and that’s a positive assessment. A more jaundiced view would be that they don’t want us to understand it.

“All we can do is keep on keeping on with our individual attempts to communicate this and let our elected officials know that we do understand and that we hold them responsible and accountable. Unfortunately, when I attempt to talk about this with individuals and groups, their eyes glaze over within minutes. I’m not going to stop trying, though, and neither should anybody else.

“I am happy to have this information in such a tight presentation,” Winham said.

So, with that, here is that video:

 

And if that’s not enough to convince you, THIS STORY was posted late Friday.