Holden Plans Tax Increase Saturday, May 30 2009 

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Under Mayor-President Kip Holden, budget increases have been quite significant.    During his reign over East Baton Rouge Parish, Holden increased the budget over 24% in the last 3 years, more than double for the previous mayoral administration.

This is not surprising since Holden has always held fast a spendthrift mentality with tax dollars. 

Former Mayor-President Bobby Simpson, with an accounting background, was able to hold the budget to more desirable increases.  Under Simpson, the 2003 budget was $221 million, the 2004 budget was  $224 million, and his final budget presentation was $228 million in 2005.  The outgoing mayor presents the budget for the following year.  Previous figures are not available on the EBRP city government website.

Holden increased that budget by 24% since his election as Mayor of East Baton Rouge Parish.  Parish reports indicate a $235 million city-parish budget in 2006, increased to $254 million in 2007, $278 million in 2008, and finally $282 million for 2009

In 2004, total revenue for EBRP was $542 million, increasing to $588 million in 2005.  By 2006, EBRP revenue was up to $664 million.   Holden’s finance team has failed to list revenue figures for 2007 or 2008.  Surprising, given the public records requirements, unless there is a strategy here to not reveal a clearer picture of revenue to voters.

Simpson was working with less than desirable revenue, yet Holden, with more cash in the coffers, claims he still needs additional funds.  The Mayor-President plans to make his own dreams of spending more tax dollars come true through his proposed tax increase aka bond issue set for an upcoming fall election.

Regardless of some positive conditions Holden rallies around on behalf of  East Baton Rouge Parish, raising taxes is not desirable to voters who are reigning in their personal spending due to the recession.

Holden carries spendthrift baggage that he hopes voters will once again overlook.  Increasing revenues, along with increased budgets shows he failed to keep a campaign promise.  Holden promised to streamline EBRP government, and to meet bi-annually with each department head to justify spending and services.  No reports of these meetings have been given to his employer:  YOU, the taxpayer.

Our past is always a representation of our present mentality and things to come.  Holden has proven this point.

In 1992, as a representative in the Louisiana Legislature, Holden voted 100% against business, as noted by LABI (Louisiana Business & Industry) in 13 votes for business and industry. 

Continuing his plight against businesses, Holden targeted entrepreneurs by proclaiming his goal to ‘remove the corporate welfare’ by ending tax exemptions to businesses.  In 2002, he attempted to remove tax exemptions for Louisiana manufacturers and businesses.  

In a turnaround, Holden received a positive rating for voting against a sales tax in 2000 because LABI opposed a tax increase, but only because the tax would affect the needy.  Holden proclaimed, “sales taxes hurt the poor“.   Interesting, since he plans to tax everyone, including the poor, in his upcoming bond issue. 

In 1988, as a legislator, Holden won the ranking of #2 in the entire state for spending taxpayer monies to travel.  Enough said.

I have made it no secret that Mayor-President Kip Holden’s bond issue is nothing more than a tax on the citizens of East Baton Rouge Parish that we cannot afford. 

Some would ask how we can strengthen our infrastructure without a tax.  Easy.  Cut spending.  A cursory glance at the 2009 budget indicates expenses that can be easily cut without cutting essential services to taxpayers. 

Examples of cuts in contractual services in the 2009 budget that are non-essential include:

  • $233,000 to host the U.S. Bowling Congress
  • $284,560 for seasonal decorations, landscaping, arborist and plant maintenance
  • $250,000 for an airport and airline surveys/studies

Additionally, the list of annual contractual services below could be cut significantly.  Either they have not generated the desired results, are unnecessary at this financial level, or cut into monies that could have been spent on children and needy families in our parish :

  • $965,750 for medical services for EBR Parish Prison inmates
  • $500,000 for marketing services of the airport
  • $100,000 for mowing/trimming services of 4 facilities
  • $100,000 for marketing the garbage, trash and sewer services

These cuts alone equate to $2.4 million.  There’s plenty more fat in the budget.  We’ve all had to cut our personal budgets, why should city government be any different? 

This is not rocket science.  If we cut 12% of the annual city parish budget, we would not need tax increases.  That $33.8 million annually times Holden’s proposed 30 year tax/bond issue = over $1 billion.  Sounds tough to do?  Probably no tougher than it has been for you to make cuts in your family budget.  

Until next time,

Red Stick Republican

All the Kings Men Monday, May 25 2009 

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Coverage by Louisiana media outlets report that the current Legislative session is akin to a Battle Royale over the state’s troubled budget.  Like ancient gladiators, the media is in their own battle, vying for audiences by reporting every single move made by the Jindal administration.

The problem with this style of journalism is that it flys in the face of what readers really wants to know.

The public needs to understand why Jindal is being targeted for a budget crisis that reaches back far beyond his inauguration as governor of our state.  Voters are smart enough to know that the financial crisis we are facing didn’t happen overnight. 

In fact, the ‘get out of jail’ cards issued to Blanco, Foster and Edwards by this same media are mind boggling at best, not to mention the legislators who have spent our tax dollars for years like money was growing on trees around the state capitol.

It’s about as humorous as the comparison of former Governor Mike Foster being allowed to be a part time elected official while attending law school vs Governor Bobby Jindal being criticized for traveling around the country for political reasons.  Oh well, I digress.

Perhaps we are paying for the ‘sins of our fathers’?  Forefathers in state government, that is. 

It began with Governor Huey P. Long, and continues today.  A spendthrift mentality.  A chicken in every pot.  Textbooks funded by the state.  Let the government pay our way.  Just write another check.  Add another budget line item.  Conceal an amendment, if you will.  We’ll worry about the consequences later!

Everything we do has an effect on everything else.  This is not rocket science.  It’s the law of reaping and sowing. 

In our personal life, we have a budget.  We receive income and learn to live within our means.  If we do not live within our means, eventually the debt and interest catches up with us. 

Why do we continue to believe government can be run any different? 

In 1987, Roemer came into the governor’s office with $5.2 billion in state debt, and a $1 million daily deficit.  He fought for reform, but legislators stopped him from the onset, claiming they didn’t like his administration’s attitude.  Boohoo!

Fast forward to 1992 when Edwards was headed back to the helm of state government with a $500 million gap between revenue and spending.  The legislators loved working with Edwin W. Edwards.  That path led straight to federal prison. 

It’s as plain on the nose on our face.  We have been increasing state government spending annually, loading up on debt (and interest) and then going back to the trough to see who will throw us more feed.  

If we do not learn from our mistakes, history is sure to repeat itself.

By 2005, the state debt reached $24.8 billion, according to AARP.  Five times the debt Roemer tried to deal with in the 1980’s.  Do the math.  I could not locate more current information on Louisiana’s debt, but I am confident it has increased drastically. 

For decades, we have watched the legislature fight over budget deficits.  From each session, lawmakers have proposed the ‘answer to our prayers’ to become debt free or meet our annual obligations. 

The list is long.  The Louisiana Lottery.  A land-based casino.  Video poker.  Riverboat casinos.  Tobacco settlement.  The Stelly Plan.  Business taxes.  Individual taxes.  Sales taxes.  Bed taxes.  Sin taxes.  Federal stimulus money.    Homestead exemption tax increases.  All touted as answers to our  state’s financial dilemma.  Yet, here we are . . . again!

On the other hand, legislators and special interest groups fight fearlessly for earmarks each fiscal session. 

Universities fight for education funding.  Pennington fights for research funding.  Teachers, firefighters, and law enforcement fight for pay raises.  City government fights for economic development and infrastructure funding.  LSU Health Care fights for charity hospital and clinic funding.  DOTD fights for highway funding.  Another endless list. 

Republican or democrat.  Senator or Representative.  Elected official or voter.  State budget or personal budget.  There really is only one solution.  Cutbacks! 

Robert Penn Warren said All the Kings Men was not intended to be a book about politics.  Neither was the budget of the state of Louisiana.  Nevertheless, both are purely political.  For the state budget, that must change. 

The quicker we remove politics from our state budget, and run it like a business or household, the better off we will be.  Otherwise, we will continue to allow state spending to embrace political corruption and grow our enormous political machine. 

To Senator Lydia Jackson, Democrat from Shreveport, who says to the press that “No is not a solution” (referring to Jindal saying no to spending), I offer the opposite:  NO IS THE SOLUTION!  No is not a popular word in the world of politics, but one we need to be willing to stand up and shout from the rooftops.  NO!  NO!  NO to more spending! 

Until next time,

Red Stick Republican

Red Stick Unemployment Lines Growing Thursday, May 21 2009 

Updates!

  • Sunland Pipe, a Shaw Group company, laid off about 40 workers.  Last month they laid off 200 in North Louisiana.  Shaw claims this is due to the downturn in fabrication work. 
  • 100 contract maintenance workers at the Georgia Gulf plant have been laid off.  Reports indicate they are employed by Turner Industries as maintenance personnel. 

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Despite Mayor-President Kip Holden’s hyperbole claiming the Red Stick has been immune to the recession, news reports continue to prove otherwise.  Recent announcements were made that hundreds of jobs in the Red Stick are vanishing before our very eyes, and thousands of employees will feel the pinch of the cost of living while their paychecks shrink. 

It’s the tip of the iceberg since the news only reports on large employers or ‘newsworthy’ companies.  (No offense intended to every business that has closed or individual who has been laid off.) 

Capitol One Bank announced yesterday that approximately 22% of their work force, 180 employees, will be cut over the next few months.  

Chrysler and General Motor dealers in the Red Stick still await their fate, as do employees that earn in excess of $21 hourly.  According to Louisiana State Treasurer, John Kennedy, dealership losses are expected to deliver a blow of up to $350 million with a loss of up to $50 million in state taxes.  Dealers are being notified via mail.

Though Trinity Marine is located in Brusly, many employees travel from the Greater Baton Rouge area to work at the barge manufacturer.  Over 190 employees are expected to lose their jobs in the immediate future according to reports earlier this week.

The Red Stick’s pride and joy, Pennington Biomedical, chose the higher road by announcing no pay raises for 452 employees vs layoffs.  This could be a temporary measure, however, since Pennington receives significant funding from the troubled treasure chest of the state of Louisiana. 

The Advocate took the lower road by announcing that approximately 10% of their staff, 49 employees, will learn their fate  today when they receive their dismissal papers.

In June, Louisiana Civil Service will make a decision as to whether merit increases are eliminated in lieu of state worker layoffs.  This move stands to significantly affect Red Stick workers as agencies are headquartered in the capitol city.

Southern University, based in the Red Stick, is discussing layoffs and one-day-a-month unpaid furloughs for university employees.  LSU is in the news daily, discussing major cuts in personnel and services.

There are far too many stories in the naked city.  Troubling times.  Budget cuts.  Benefit costs being passed on to employees.  Unpaid furloughs.  Businesses shutting down.  Enough facts to challenge the ‘Baton Rouge has survived the recession without a blemish’ to say the least.

The problem with politicians like Mayor-President Kip Holden is that they cannot comprehend budget cuts.  Spendthrift is primary in Holden’s vocabulary evidenced by his plan to raise taxes on voters this fall.  It’s always easier to spend someone else’s money.  Business owners, on the other hand, are more in tune with strict budgets, the cost of doing business, and less than bottomless funding scenarios.

Loren Scott has continuously told us that the Red Stick is in good financial shape.  Now, he claims the third quarter predictions are grim for the parish.  I’m glad he is taking a peek into the real world the rest of us are already living in today.

What can we do?  Buckle down folks.  Shop mindfully.  Spend wisely.  Squeeze whatever you can into savings.  Take it on as a challenge. 

Reach out.  Share the fruit of your labors with those less fortunate.  These are the times that make us stronger and better. 

Let’s not do as the politicians, and bury our heads in the sand.  We can remain positive, cautiously.  This too shall pass.  And, if it doesn’t, let’s demand that elected officials cut the necessary fat, not raise taxes, and join the rest of us in working towards a sounder financial future in the Red Stick.

Until next time,

Red Stick Republican

Media Scrutiny Depends on Politician Monday, May 11 2009 

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I always find it curious when the media attacks one politician but gives another politician a free pass.  It is so glaringly obvious.

Governor Bobby Jindal has been highly scutinized by the media for appointments to Louisiana Boards & Commissions, for each expenditure, and for records not made public. 

On the other hand, the media appears to turn a blind eye to other politician’s hiring practices, oversight of unruly employees or ‘secret’ decisions and expenditures. 

As we speak, the media frenzy across our state is viewing Jindal’s practices with a microscope.  All the while, other politicians are carefully working behind the scenes like baseball players stealing bases knowing the media has allowed their eye to stray from homeplate.

For instance, what if a politician that was elected just over a year ago had purchased expensive furniture for his office, moved to another location, lost his second in command due to a coup-de-gras gone bad, hired one of his largest contributor’s wives in a key position, lost several key employees due to alleged criminal activity, and didn’t even show up on most days until late afternoon? 

Should this elected official’s disregard for ethics, taxpayer money and unacceptable activities go without scrutiny?  What if he was supposed to be the standard for upholding the law in our parish?

Why do we hold one politician’s feet to the fire, and not others?  How are some politician’s campaign promises important enough for daily fodder on the front page, but other politician’s false promises ignored by the media?

Do we really believe our ethics are in question because we ‘need to know’ every move our Governor makes in order to prove we are ethical?

Are we really that concerned about every expenditure?  If so, then let’s play fair, and scrutinize every politician, not just those who sell newspapers. 

I was a bit humored at the recent Tea Party at the State Capitol, when guards began hauling bottled water out to the crowds.  Water funded by taxpayers.  No one asked for the water, but it was freely given.  Of course, the employees didn’t pay for it, the taxpayers did. 

Another humorous incident was in Sunday’s newspaper when it was casually mentioned that all women in the Senate and House received bromalaid plants and roses respectively.  A nice gesture for Mother’s Day, but was it at the taxpayer’s expense?

Yes, these are small examples.  Does the phrase ‘tip of the iceberg’ mean anything to you?

At what point does the media decide for us, the taxpayers, what is ethical or acceptable?  Are we really concerned about state and city government in it’s entirety? 

What I have been witnessing is the ultimate form of prejudice and discrimination.  They have proven the argument that it depends upon the politician and the personal views of media and pundits as to who is criticized or who is given the ‘get out of jail card’.

Our ‘champions for ethics’ beg the question.

Until next time,

Red Stick Republican

On Jindal’s Critics: Nothing New Under the Sun Sunday, May 10 2009 

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The complete turnaround by statewide media and political pundits in regard to Governor Bobby Jindal over the past year is mind boggling.  From the time Jindal was donned the “whiz kid” by former Governor Mike Foster, and named as secretary over Louisiana’s health care, the media and pundits embraced Jindal with a fervor.  Now, they are like piranha, in a feeding frenzy.

In his second run for Governor, the media was head over heels with Jindal as evidenced by their endorsements:

  • The Times Picayune’s Editorial Staff endorsed the Governor on 10/29/06:  “U. S. Rep Bobby Jindal brings an impressive level of intelligence and energy to everything he does…”  They were so bold as to say Jindal was their unequivable choice!
  • The Monroe News Star Editorial Staff’s endorsement:  “Jindal for Governor?  You bet!  The state has long awaited such a gifted leader.”  More on the News Star’s endorsement is here
  • The Shreveport Times Editorial Staff said:  “The Times Editorial Board concludes there is one candidate who has the best shot at changing the landscape of state government and our economic future:  Congressman Bobby Jindal.”  More glowing endorsements from the Times can be read here or here
  • Alexandria’s Town Talk said, “We wholeheartedly endorse Bobby Jindal for Governor.” 
  • Sam Hanna of the Ouachita Citizen told us, “Readers of this newspaper should not be surprised that we endorse Republican Congressman Bobby Jindal for Governor.”
  • Gambit Weekly’s editor said, “electing Jindal was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and that “Jindal’s integrity is above reproach.”

The list is endless.  I won’t even quote the pundits who told us that Jindal was the next best thing to sliced bread during the gubernatorial election.

Now, Jindal stands as the most criticized man by statewide media across Louisiana.  

What is even more curious is that some of the political pundits had no problem with Jindal as long as the money train of political consulting steamrolled into their bank accounts.  Now, they have turned on Jindal like vipers with venomous poison.

Is this politics as usual?  What is the truth?  Was Jindal great when he ran for Governor and they were enamored with him, or, is Jindal, as they now proclaim, an ‘enemy of the state’? 

As I read the proliferation of hyperbole that is flowing from the same media and pundits that told us to elect him.  I ask myself when will we say “enough is enough”

Were they telling us the truth then, or now?  My Lord, the media and political pundits are worst than the politicians they push on us.

Who ordered the Code Red on Governor Bobby Jindal?  Are the democrats working behind the scenes to discredit him and bring their candidate in on a white horse?

So many questions, so little time.  

Do I hear the faint cries from pundits and media who criticized previous governor’s for not traveling to sell Louisiana?  At what point did statewide media and pundits change their tune and pride over Jindal being a great candidate for the white house? 

What if the answers are just simple?  What if Jindal really is the man they told us he was in the first place?  What if the truth is that Jindal is not willing to cow down to the media and political pundits?

Am I getting warm?  Yes, I’m burning up like a hot August day in the Red Stick!

Ask the right questions.  Do a little research.  History repeats itself, so do political pundits and the media.  There’s really nothing new under the sun. 

Until next time,

Red Stick Republican

Murderers Free on Bond Friday, May 1 2009 

Update:  State District Judge Mike Erwin released two men charged with attempted murder on $350,000 bond:  Melvin Vernell, Jr. and Marcus Roach.  Both men proclaim they are rap music executives.  To add insult to injury, Judge Erwin ‘sternly’ ordered the two subs to not engage in any contact with the victims, family members or witnesses involved in the case.  These same two men were charged with attempted murder in 2005, but the case was dismissed when witnesses feared for their lives and refused to testify.  Now, they are charged for the SECOND time, yet allowed on bond.  As you read this, they are walking the streets of the Red Stick. 

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Perhaps it’s the Red Stick murder rate that was the impetus this brought this issue to my attention.  Or, it could be the fact that I believe the prison system was built to house those who are a danger to society.  Either way, the last thing we want to see are violent offenders and murderers walking the streets of the Red Stick.

The justice system is broken.  Those words resonate with all of us.  Building larger prisons is not the answer.  If it were, we would gladly pay for a new prison in the parish.  We house criminals of all types, but allow those charged with murder to run free.  What’s wrong with this picture?

Today I am mindful of the role Judges play in allowing murderers to roam the streets of the Red Stick.  Judges are powerful individuals.  They are large and in charge of their courtrooms, and their decisions ripple throughout our community.  Judges have the power to hold or release murderers, and their decisions to set or reduce bail can be mind boggling.

When murderers are released back into society prior to their trial, I shake my head and ask one question:  “What was that judge thinking?”

Gregory Harris is charged with brutally murdering his wife, Chiquita Tate, a Red Stick attorney.  His bond was originally set at $500,000, but reduced to $300,000 by Judge Trudy White.  Harris is a convicted felon that was found to be in possession of stolen goods and driving around a stolen Mercedes.  Tate was stabbed 38 times.  38 times?  YES, 38 TIMES!  Harris is walking around the Red Stick right now on a reduced bond.

Some would argue this was a crime of passion.  Who cares?  Stolen vehicle + 38 stab wounds = danger to society!

Freddie Powell was charged with the 2004 murder of Andre Chinn in the Red Stick.  District Judge Chip Moore reduced Powell’s bond from $200,000 to $75,000.  The same morning of his court appearance in which his bond was reduced, it was later uncovered that Powell and his partners in crime broke into a home, held a couple and their children at gunpoint and robbed them of $800.  Powell was considered an armed and dangerous fugitive walking the streets of the Red Stick.  Fortunately, he was recently caught.

Some might say at least he’s been caught.  Murdered man + holding a family hostage = danger to society!

Denako Duheart and his brother, Dearieus, beat Jason Fourmy for 24 hours and then burned his body and dumped it in a remote wooded area.  The two eye witnesses to the murder were also killed.  Ironically, Chiquita Tate was Deanko’s attorney.  Judge Trudy White set his bail at $250,000, and he is currently walking the streets of the Red Stick as well.

Duheart’s brother, Dearieus, was also released on $280,000 bond.  Less than two months later, he was arrested in a traffic stop while driving at 11:20 p.m. with no headlights.  Officers found Dearieus in possession of liquid codeine packaged for sale, and for driving with an expired driver’s license.  Judge Lou Daniel set his bail in the second incident at $25,000.  He is roaming somewhere around the Red Stick as you read this post.

Some say innocent before proven guilty.  Man beat for 24 hours + burned to death + both witnessed also murdered = danger to society!

The stories are almost endless. 

They tell us that approximately 13% of criminals commit the majority of crimes, and that 50% of violent felons are repeat offenders.  Free on bond.  Violent perpetrators.  Walking around freely.  Driving alongside you in the Red Stick, passing by your children on the playground.  Dangers to society!

I find it most disconcerting that we scrutinize political candidates, but when Judges run for office very little media is focused on the men and women who will make some of the most critical decisions that affect public safety.  If we were provided with the disposition of Judge’s cases, would we be willing to re-elect those who cavalierly release murderers and violent offenders back into society? 

Let’s see if I get this right.  We won’t release Edwin Edwards, but we’ll release a murderer back on the streets of the Red Stick?  Yes, the system is more broken than we are willing to admit. 

Now, explain to me one more time why Mayor Holden’s tax to build a new prison is a good idea?

Until next time,

Red Stick Republican