Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Cold, hard truth

This week's column considers the reality of Louisiana today and compares it to the business-as-usual approach of state leadership. As Winston Churchill once said, "The truth is incontrovertible, malice may attack it, ignorance may deride it, but in the end, there it is."

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Health care reform?

This week's column laments a missed opportunity to tackle health care reform in Louisiana.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Louisiana survey

This week's column analyzes the 2006 Louisiana Survey Link to column in Shreveport Times here. Link to survey info here. Column text copied here: "LSU released the 2006 Louisiana Survey last week. It offers the first comprehensive snapshot of public opinion in the state since last year’s devastating hurricane season. According to the survey, the mood of Louisiana has changed in the last 12 months. "For example, just 34 percent of people questioned said they believe the state is moving in the right direction – that’s down from more than 50 percent last year. This is a largely symbolic question gauging the overall sentiment of the people of the state, but it’s no coincidence this response corresponds closely to the governor’s current approval ratings. "There was also an almost 10 percent increase in the belief that Louisiana is growing more corrupt. No doubt reports about state legislators’ sweetheart deals on recovery contracts and Congressman William Jefferson’s current legal problems helped contribute to this discouraging result. For what it’s worth, current legislative efforts to prevent release of many executive branch proceedings probably won’t help raise this number for next year either. "Reading through the survey one gets a sense of what could be called “despondency.” And that impression stems from more than the fact that 59 percent said they felt depressed – although that is plenty disturbing. "Louisiana’s leadership should be concerned about state residents’ palpable lack of faith in state government’s ability to do the job of leading recovery efforts in an honest and cost-effective way -- if at all. Judging by these numbers, it seems Baton Rouge has done little to inspire confidence in the people of the state. "There’s also evidence that despite new problems raised by last year’s hurricanes, residents of Louisiana haven’t lost sight of the state’s chronic problems with education, public health and economic development. Indeed, when asked to choose between spending money on the rebuilding effort or on another high priority issue, people preferred focusing on the other high priority issues. "This should be seen as a reminder that “rebuilding” must be about more than a return to Louisiana’s pre-Katrina status quo because that status-quo was unsustainable as any number of national rankings placing Louisiana in the basement on basic socio-economic and public health indicators had often suggested. "The most disheartening finding in the 2006 Louisiana survey isn’t a finding at all. It doesn’t come from a question posed to respondents and it doesn’t come from a careful spin of the numbers. It comes instead from reading between the lines. In Louisiana today there is not only a lack of confidence in government, but also little apparent hope that conditions will improve any time soon. "These are not conditions conducive to a successful rebuilding effort. And that is depressing indeed. Recall the words of Martin Luther King, Jr., “If you lose hope, somehow you lose the vitality that keeps life moving, you lose that courage to be, that quality that helps you go on in spite of it all.” "Louisiana can’t afford to lose hope. There’s too much work to be done."

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

More prison horrors

This week's column comments on continued reports of inhumane conditions at Orleans Parish Prison as Hurricane Katrina came ashore. An earlier column commented on reports from adult prisoners about the horrors of OPP. Now it appears youth were also locked in cells as the flood waters rose. The Times Picayune reports today on these new details as does the New York Times. The new report was released by the Juvenile Justice Project of Louisiana. Human Rights Watch issued a report in October about the same issue. I blogged about this in October, here. My column this week column begins: "Earlier this month, a judge ended federal oversight of Louisiana’s state-operated youth prisons. That decision ended the 2000 settlement agreement mandating changes in the way Louisiana punishes and rehabilitates its youngest offenders. Although the state’s reform of its juvenile justice system is not complete, the end of this externally-imposed legal constraint on the state’s decision-making authority was a welcome sign of progress. "Unfortunately, the rosy glow surrounding issues of incarcerated youth in Louisiana has faded fast. Yesterday the Juvenile Justice Project of Louisiana released a profoundly disturbing report about the treatment of youth held at Orleans Parish Prison during and after Hurricane Katrina." It concludes: "Discouragingly, there are no signs of movement toward investigation of these charges at the state or federal level. But lawsuits filed by these prisoners will likely force official attention sooner or later. "A fifteen-year-old boy who survived the hell of OPP had this to say, “[I]t was a horrible experience… I know this will have a long-term effect on me until I am dead and gone.” "No one should have to live with memories like that."

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Change is possible in NWLA

My column this week considers the draft report released last week by Project SB and written about the The Shreveport Times. The column concludes: "The positive changes foreseen and the potential recognized by Project SB are welcome reminders to Shreveport-Bossier City that it can, and indeed, deserves to do better. But simply acknowledging that fact won’t bring about the improvements Project SB rightfully believes are possible. "Alas, the thing about change is that it usually requires doing things differently. So if there is no genuine desire to actually begin doing things differently, no bottom-up movement rejecting mediocrity as somehow always good enough, and no strong new voices rising in the community to call for change, then all the regionally-oriented development plans recognizing the vast untapped potential of the Red River Communities will never amount to anything more than another volume on the shelf labeled 'What Might Have Been.'"