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Kira Orange Jones prevailed in the challenge to her candidacy for re-election to the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education from the state’s 2nd District in a special court hearing in New Orleans on Tuesday, lending further validation to the theory that in Louisiana politics, anything goes.

That anything includes:

Jones listing at least three separate residents on various reporting forms submitted to the state;

Her failure to file Louisiana state income tax returns for the years 2015 and 2017 (a prerequisite to seeking political office in Louisiana, but…);

Her serving as executive director for Teach for America (TFA), which contracts with the Louisiana Department of Education (LDOE), a clear conflict of interests and a not-so-trivial ethics question;

Her chronic absence from BESE meetings—she missed more than one-third of all meetings last year;

Here several years’ delinquency in filing required annual financial disclosure forms with the state—another requirement of candidates and even in-the-trenches civil service employees;

Her serving as a board member for a non-profit called Instruction Partners (IP) which is listed by LDOE as a vendor for professional development for 2018-19—another potential ethics problem and conflict of interest.

But what I found most humorous was the suggestion by educator and blogger Mercedes Schneider: “Given that Orange-Jones’ uninterrupted residence in BESE District 2 is in serious question (Her husband was at one time during her tenure New Mexico’s top education official), it seems in (opposition candidates) (Shawon) Bernard’s and (Ashonta) Wyatt’s best interest to file a claim against Orange-Jones with the Louisiana Ethics Board.”

So, why would I find that so amusing? Simple. Not to make light of Schneider’s well-intentioned suggestion, but the Ethics Board is Louisiana’s single biggest political JOKE going and has been since Bobby Jindal’s ethics “reform” of 2008.

Eight years ago, special interests hijacked BESE from Louisiana’s citizens by buying the offices of the likes of Orange-Jones, Jay Guillot, Holly Boffy, and others so that people like John White could ram through education “reform” designed to benefit corporate ownership of virtual on-line schools and charter schools.

Boffy, who is seeking re-election to her District 7 seat, is manager of an outfit called EdTalents in Lafayette, which, according to its web page, works to support schools or districts “in creating an educator talent system to attract, hire, place, develop, leverage, and retain teachers for student success.” Go HERE for the Louisiana Secretary of State’s corporate report on EdTalents.

She also is an Educator in Residence for the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) for the central and southeastern states. CCSSO was instrumental in writing COMMON CORE standards for the state.

In other words, like Guillot when he served on the board, Boffy contracts for services with school districts that are governed and regulated by the board on which she sits.

No conflict or ethics problem there.

But let’s look at some of the results under the tenure of Orange-Jones, Boffy and White:

  • Today, every single charter school in New Orleans is FAILING;
  • Louisiana, after a decade of White’s leadership, remains the fourth-worst EDUCATED state in the nation;
  • While the state’s teachers were going without pay raises, 20 unclassified employees at LDOE raked in average PAY RAISES of nearly $27,000 each over a five-year period—that’s more than $5,000 per year, compared to the meager $1,000 raise teachers got this year—finally.
  • LDOE attempted to gloss over a major ERROR in the Minimum Foundation Program for fiscal year 2018-19 which created an actual $17 million surplus for LDOE, but instead of distributing the money to the schools as it should have done, LDOE made no mention of the error for fear of an audit. Instead, the money was expected to be used for one-time expenses for the department.

And did a single legislator raise the first question about the mistake?

Nah. It’s all good. Move along. Nothing to see here.

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A lawsuit was filed last Thursday in Civil District Court in New Orleans that seeks to disqualify Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) member Kira Orange Jones as a candidate for re-election to the 2nd District seat she has held since 2012.

While the petition of plaintiffs Linnell Steib and Michael McFarland cites only two causes for the disqualification of Jones, there appears to be an entire laundry list of reasons she should be disqualified as a candidate, some of which LouisianaVoice has addressed in previous posts.

Little is known about the plaintiffs other than a Google search turned up the name of one Linnell Steib as being manager of judicial courts of the State of Louisiana. There was another Linnell Steib, but his work address was given as Wichita, Kansas.

But as long as the plaintiffs are electors in Jones’s district, they have legal standing to bring the lawsuit to block her candidacy.

The two disqualifying points they list in their petition are:

  • Jones’s failure to file Louisiana state income tax returns for the years 2015 and 2017 as required for candidates;
  • Her failure to pay outstanding ethics fines and fees to the attorney general’s office totaling $8,800.

But there are other reasons, according to educator Mercedes Schneider, who has a web blog called DEUTSCH29 in which she points out Jones’s chronic absence from BESE, missing more than a third of its meetings altogether and either arriving late or listing alternatively no fewer than three separate residence addresses on various reporting forms—not counting the New Mexico address of her husband Christopher Ruszkowski, the former secretary-designee for the New Mexico Department of Education.

Schneider also questioned whether or not the New Mexico Department of Education had a contract with Teach for America (TFA), for whom Jones serves as an executive director (it does). Here is another of her posts about JONES.

LouisianaVoice had previously questioned possible conflicts of interest with Jones as an executive director for Teach for America (TFA), which had a lucrative contract with the Louisiana Department of Education (LDOE) even as she sat on BESE.

Schneider also noted that Jones sits on the board of directors for a non-profit called Instruction Partners (IP) which is listed by LDOE as a vendor for professional development for 2018-19, a relationship that also could be considered a conflict of interests or an ethics violation.

Finally, Schneider, on her blog, notes that Jones was “extremely delinquent” in filing her required annual financial disclosure forms with the state. In fact, Schneider said, as of August 11 of this year (last Monday), she still had not filed her annual disclosures for 2017 and 2018, only doing so on August 12 (last Tuesday), six days after she official qualified for reelection.

Apparently, there are those who worked for Jones at TFA who were less than enamored with her leadership. This from the website GLASSDOOR.COM.

Jones is opposed in this year’s election by Shawon Bernard and Ashonta Wyatt.

The Louisiana Democratic Party has Wyatt in the District 2 race.

“We’ve seen the effects of Democratic leadership versus Republican leadership on our educational systems,” Stephen Handwerk, Executive Director of the Louisiana Democratic Party said. “Under a Republican administration, we’ve seen underfunded education, underpaid teachers, and a lack of concern about investing in our children. Compare that to a Democratic administration who is putting teachers, students, and our educational institutions first and it’s clear why we need to support Louisiana Democrats for the Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education. The endorsements we made today will promote education reform and push our state forward and I’m confident we’ll see them making a difference this January.”

The following are candidates the Louisiana Democratic Party endorsed for BESE:

BESE District 2: 

Ashonta Wyatt

 

BESE District 6: 

Ciara Hart

 

BESE District 8:

Vereta Tanner Lee

Preston Castille

 

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Many years ago, 1974, to be exact, I was a reporter for the old Baton Rouge State-Times, mostly responsible for labor-related news coverage. But Edwin Edwards was gearing up to run for a second term with principal opposition expected from Lake Charles State Sen. Bob Jones. But another, lesser-known name was set to make a formal announcement. City Editor Jack Lord assigned me to cover the event at the old Oak Manor Hotel on Airline Highway in Baton Rouge.

I still believe the whole affair was a practical joke and I was set up, but that’s another story for another time.

I dutifully showed for the press conference in a red shirt and white tie that was about four inches wide and tied with a double Windsor knot at my neck the size of a baseball (yes, I was a fashion plate—women wanted to be with me and men wanted to be me) only to fine a large meeting room with about 200 chairs set up (there weren’t that many print and electronic media reporters in Baton Rouge, New Orleans and Lafayette combined).

I was the only reporter to show up for the announcement of “Cousin” Ken Lewis’s candidacy for governor.

Lewis eventually entered the room and went directly to the dais and read his somewhat lengthy, formal announcement as if the room were packed. When he finished, he announced that he would take questions.

I looked around the empty room and finally raised my hand.

Spotting me among the packed house cleverly disguised as empty seats, he pointed and said, “Yes, the gentleman in the red shirt.”

Again, I looked around the room to be sure he was calling on me before somewhat hesitantly asking, “Is this for real?”

Back at the paper, Jack Lord and the rest of the newsroom were thoroughly enjoying the whole affair and I had to admit the whole thing was rather amusing.

It conjured up memories of another character who relished the opportunity to take on the stuffed-shirt politicians by running outrageous political campaigns. That, of course, was long before the most outrageous of them all, one Donald J. Trump. But again, I digress.

Puggy Moity was something of a legend in Louisiana politics. He would run for anything—sometimes for more than one office in a single election. He ran in the 1971 gubernatorial race against Edwards. That was the race in which Edwards beat State Sen. J. Bennett Johnston for his first term as the state’s chief executive.

Moity, in that campaign, established himself as the candidate willing to do or say anything without fearing the consequences, legal or otherwise. Edwards, as most anyone knows, had a well-earned reputation as a womanizer but that didn’t stop Moity from calling him a homosexual. Edwards responded at a campaign event at the old Capitol House Hotel by walking up to Moity and planting a wet kiss on his cheek.

But now, the combined ghosts of Moity and Lewis have appeared in a single personage in Livingston Parish where a candidate for sheriff has launched his campaign in a most unusual fashion and with a platform that remains elusive and perplexing, to say the least.

Walter Ray “Beau” Wesley, of the Upper Sweet Gum Nation, has set up his campaign headquarters on the side of LA. 1019 across from Hunstock Road in Watson, north of Denham Springs.

It’s pretty well established that incumbent Sheriff Jason Ard was quaking in his boots until it was learned that Wesley had been disqualified because he was delinquent on his taxes. Word is he showed up in court looking the way he does in the photos below and was sent home to change into something more appropriate before being allowed in the court room for the hearing on his abortive candidacy.

Caution: Photos contain words and terminology that may be offensive to some:

PHOTOS

 

 

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A couple of things caught my attention this past week, neither of which should be a sign of encouragement for Louisianans.

First, during Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s testimony before the House Judiciary Committee, Louisiana 8th District Rep. Mike Johnson, a Shreveport Republican, had the unbelievable gall to tell Mueller that Donald Trump had “cooperated fully” with Mueller’s investigation.

That’s simply a damned lie and Johnson and all the other invertebrate Republican enablers in Congress are as well—and they know it.

How can threatening—and attempting—to fire Mueller be considered cooperation?

How can President Bone Spurs’ refusal to provide his income tax returns be considered cooperation?

How can President Bone Spurs’ refusal to appear in person before Mueller for questioning be considered cooperation?

How can President Bone Spurs’ incessant tweeting about the so-called “witch hunt” be considered cooperation?

How can President Bone Spurs’ constantly insulting Mueller be considered cooperation?

How can the repeated lapses of memory from President Bone Spurs (who, by the way, has repeatedly claimed he had one of the “best memories in history”) in his written responses to Mueller’s questions be considered cooperation?

Mike Johnson, there simply is no nice way to say it: You are a liar and an embarrassment.

Mike Johnson, you may wish to read what a friend sent me that was written by Paul Thornton of the Los Angeles Times (a conservative, Republican-leaning newspaper, by the way):

At almost any other time in American history, a decorated Marine with a highly distinguished legal and law enforcement career vouching for his 400-page report detailing a president’s impeachment-worthy conduct would be greeted with (at least) deference or (at best) bipartisan gratitude.

But Robert S. Mueller III had the misfortune of explaining his life’s most important investigation to a bunch of Republicans eager to engage in character assassination on behalf of the most amoral president in U.S. history, and in front of a media that valued “optics” just as much as the details of Mueller’s report.

The other attention-getter was the TV ad campaign launched by businessman Eddie Rispone in his bid to unseat John Bel Edwards for governor.

The best thing that be said about Rispone’s CURRENT AD is that he is just John Neely Kennedy 2.0—without the weed killer. Both are classic suck-ups running off someone else’s popularity with nothing of substance to offer. Some might call them political whores, but I would never be so crass. They’re just your typical political opportunists, folks, plain and simple.

Other than pointing out that he placed a Trump sticker on his truck, Rispone does nothing in the ad to address Louisiana’s problems or to offer solutions. Two words: sound bites.

Rispone even has a YOU TUBE AD (it may also have run on TV, but I haven’t seen it there yet) in which he proclaims, “It’s time to drain the swamp.”

Sound familiar?

Any questions as to how well President Bone Spurs has kept his promise to “drain the swamp”?

To give you an athletic analogy, in gymnastics, judges score contestants on, among other things, creativity and originality, degree of difficulty and execution.

Rispone’s pathetic ad falls flat on each of those categories. It’s nothing more than a dog whistle, to those poor souls who think President Bone Spurs actually has their best interests at heart and that he is really working on their behalf.

If Rispone is so devoted and loyal to President Bone Spurs, then that must necessarily mean that:

  • He condones adulterous behavior, even encourages it;
  • He is a racist;
  • He believes, like President Bone Spurs, that one does not need real solutions if he has enough money to purchase his office.
  • He supports a draft dodger who now hides behind the American flag;
  • He supports embracing shady characters like Jeffrey Epstein until they become a liability and then he “barely knows them”;
  • He believes the end justifies the means—regardless of who gets hurt in the process;
  • He believes that if President Bone Spurs can spout the rhetoric that resonates with his cult, then everything else he does should be ignored, even applauded.
  • He supports ridiculing physically-handicapped reporters;
  • He supports placing children in cages;
  • He supports tax breaks for the wealthiest Americans and corporations;
  • He supports Vladimir Putin, Kim Jung Un and Bashar al-Assad;
  • He would employ (but fail to pay) undocumented workers;
  • He would borrow (but fail to repay) hundreds of millions of dollars and would choose instead to stiff creditors by declaring bankruptcy—six times;
  • He supports increasing the national deficit by more than $1 trillion after promising to eliminate same;
  • He condones—encourages, even—serial lying;
  • He supports the idea of blaming others for everything bad and taking credit for all things good—like President Bone Spurs’ latest claim that the poor air conditioning in the White House is somehow the fault of his predecessor (really, he actually said that).

Rispone’s failure to publicly repudiate these suppositions should be considered affirmation.

Finally, there is THIS, and I think most of us can still remember the eight-year disaster that were the Jindal years.

So, if you liked Jindal, you’ll love Rispone.

If that doesn’t convince you that Rispone is about as phony as any political opportunist could possible be, then I have a mountaintop resort in Pierre Part to sell you.

 

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State Rep. Alan Seabaugh (R-Shreveport) has been kind enough to offer LouisianaVoice a clarification of Monday’s STORY about House Bill 346 which would have given civil service fire and police personnel the right to actively participate in and contribute to political campaigns to the exclusion of all other civil service personnel.

While Seabaugh was in agreement to our assessment that HB 346 was a bad bill, he pointed out that it was in fact the House and Governmental Affairs Committee that actually debated the merits of the bill and passed it unanimously to send it to the House floor.

LouisianaVoice said it was sent to the floor by the unanimous vote of the House Civil Law and Procedure Committee.

In fact, the Civil Law and Procedure Committee was only voting on the ballot language as all constitutional amendments are required to go to that committee for approval of ballot language.

The gist of our story was that seven of the nine Civil Law and Procedure Committee members either changed their votes to vote against the bill or did not vote when it got to the House floor.

That point didn’t change appreciably, however, confirming our initial position that approving the bill in committee and then changing votes on the House floor sends the wrong signals about legislators’ real motives and the courage of their convictions.

While all 13 members of the House and Governmental Affairs Committee voted to send the bill to the full House, six of those still changed their votes to no when it came to a full House vote, which failed, 29-84.

Representatives voting for the bill in committee but switching to no in the full House vote were committee Chairman Gregory Miller (R-Norco), Vice Chair Stephen Pugh (R-Ponchatoula), Ryan Bourriaque (R-Abbeville), Jimmy Harris (D-New Orleans), Dorothy Hill (D-Dry Creek), and Ed Larvadain, III (D-Alexandria).

Voting yes in both committee and on the full House vote were Reps. Roy Daryl Adams (I-Jackson), Lance Harris (R-Alexandria), Dodie Horton (R-Haughton), Barry Ivey (R-Baton Rouge), Sam Jenkins (D-Shreveport), John “Jay” Morris (R-Monroe), and Mark Wright (R-Covington).

Here is the full text of Rep. Seabaugh’s email:

From: Seabaugh, Rep. (Chamber Laptop) <aseabaugh@legis.la.gov>
Sent: Wednesday, May 22, 2019 6:35 AM
To: louisianavoice@outlook.com
Subject: Dodie Horton’s HB 346

I would like to start by telling you that I completely agree with your analysis of the bill. However, the portion of your article that references the actions of the Civil Law and Procedure committee is slightly inaccurate. The bill was originally referred to the House and Governmental Affairs committee who were the ones that the debated the substance of the bill and decided whether to send it on to the House floor for a full vote. It came out of that committee unanimously. I’m sure some of those members also voted against the bill on the floor so you could make the same point with respect to the Members of that committee. However, the House Civil Law committee was only voting on the ballot language. All constitutional amendments must to go to the Civil Law committee for approval of the ballot language. The committee does not have the authority to amend the bill or to kill the bill. All the committee can do is change or approve the language which will appear on the ballot when the measure is placed before the voters in the fall.

If you will go watch the video of the committee hearing, you will see that I handled the bill for representative Horton and explained that I was not for the bill and that I did not support the measure but that I was merely handling it for her to get the ballot language approved. Therefore, the unanimous vote by the Civil Law committee was not an approval of the substance of the bill. It was only a vote affirming that the ballot language fairly and accurately explained the substance of the bill.

 

Alan Seabaugh

Louisiana State Representative, District 5

401 Market Street, Suite 1120

Shreveport, LA  71101

Office (318) 676-7990

Fax (318) 221-0656

Aseabaugh@legis.la.gov

 

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