Do we really want the truth? Monday, Jul 27 2009 

 afewgoodmenjacktruth

 

This morning The Advocate  issued an Opinion regarding the lack of transparency in state government in regard to a $134 million tax incentive to draw a vehicle company to Louisiana.  Jindal and Moret are being targeted as being secretive for not sharing all details of this tax incentive.

In their own words, here are some concerns from The Advocate:

  • “…the state’s taxpayers deserve more information…”
  • “…few documents concerning the deal are available for public review…”
  • “…a rationale for blanket secrecy about the use of taxpayer money…”
  • “where is the public accountability when key information isn’t recorded in writing?”

Perhaps the most prolific quote is the suggestion that DED “intentionally exchanged information by word of mouth to avoid generating documents.”

Now that we have established the need for complete, full disclosure, and documentation for all government spending of our tax dollars (according to The Advocate), let’s move forward!

While we are waiting for documentation from the Governor’s office and DED Secretary Stephen Moret on the details of a $134 million tax incentive, let’s make a request for information on a $880 million tax, okay?  After all, the city-parish tax is $746 million more than the state incentive!  Phew!

Where is the request or opinion from The Advocate for full details of Mayor Holden’s proposed tax?   Or, are they only targeting the Governor’s Office for issues of transparency? 

Why?  Do they realize that the fees associated with the bond issue will most likely cost more than the tax incentive Moret is discussing with that car manufacturer? 

Just in case this information is exclusively in the heads of a few key people, The Advocate might check their own archives for an expose’ done years ago by their own staff writer, Greg Garland, regarding incredibly high fees paid to those handling bond issues as consultants. 

Ironically, the expose included Walter Monsour and a cadre’ of his friends that were all receiving contracts for muncipal bond issues that were being handled by the LPFA. 

Remember now?

Maybe the most memorable quote was that of former Representative Sean Reilly who stated this is the greatest rip off of public funds that I’ve ever seen…”  Reilly also noted that fees paid were within the limits allowed legally, but were still excessive

Why did Reilly feel this way?  Maybe it was because there was no public bidding?  Or was it because Garland revealed that bond issues “include a large cast of characters”

Whatever it was that got Garland and Reilly fired up, we need that good ole’ investigative reporting and sharing of information with tax payers.  In the story Garland wrote, he revealed the fees behind bond issues and the ties that bound all the players in what appeared to be a confidential group of political allies and friends.

According to Garland, a $388 million bond issue netted fees of: 

  • $14.6 million to underwriters
  • $5.2 million for letter of credit fees
  • $810,000 in bond counsel fees
  • $615,000 in remarketing fees
  • $488,000 in administrative fees
  • $431,000 to the tax counsel
  • $303,000 to the program administrators
  • $165,000 to the trustee bank
  • $40,000 to the in-house counsel
  • $2,500 and a few other ancillary fees to various service providers

It seems The Advocate would pursue this information along with key questions as to the who, what, how of Mayor Holden’s bond issue/tax plan. 

After all, we do want the truth for the taxpayers, right?  Taxpayers are being asked to commit to a $880 million tax plan and bond issue for 30-years. 

Has The Advocate asked the total amount expected to be paid back over that time period?  Who will earn all the fees and what are those amounts?  Will they be publically bid? What about the specific building projects?  Are the studies available?  Does The Advocate realize that by the time we build the new prison, it will be too small for our needs based on what the Sheriff has stated?

So many questions, yet so little interest by the media that it’s mind boggling.  Once again, Jessup’s words ring true.

Do we really want the truth?  Do we really care?  Is the dog hunt by The Advocate pervasive and far-reaching enough to ask the same tough questions to Holden?  Or is this just another witch hunt exclusive to Jindal?

Do we really want the truth?  I hope so.

Until next time,

Red Stick Republican

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Holden’s Tax Plan: Follow the Money Sunday, Jul 26 2009 

 pay to play

The real beneficiaries of Mayor-President Kip Holden’s tax plan remain to be seen.  The Mayor is working hard on a public relations campaign showcasing his proposed $887 million municipal 30-year bond issue.  Holden is hopeful that voters of EBR Parish will say yes to a half-cent sales tax and 9.9 mill property tax the second time around.

Muncipal bond issues afford governmental entities the opportunity to borrow money at lower rates.  The bonds are paid back through the collection of taxes.  What is rarely discussed is the fact that municipal bond issues are huge money makers for the ‘chosen ones’ allowed to participate.

In politics, they say follow the money.  Who makes money on the issuance of muncipal bonds?

  • Public Relations consultants – designing a plan of action to market the bond issue
  • Counsel –  bond attorney serving as legal representation, providing legal opinions, preparation of documents, handling regulation and compliance issues
  • Investment banker – underwriter of the bond issue  that buys, markets, resells bonds
  • Financial advisors – design structure of bond issues, prepare  disclosure statements, solicits bids from underwriters
  • Trustee – paying agent representing the bondholders (i.e. bank)
  • Insurance company – guarantor of bond issue/credit enhancement

If the tax/bond issue passes, it will be interesting to see who is awarded these various components.  Each entity will be paid significant fees. 

These details are not part of the ‘public relations’ program currently being used to sell taxpayers.  Does it matter?   What if they have to pay to play

We are hearing a lot in the media about state government ethics in regard to those tied financially to the Governor’s office via political contributions.  The question is should those making political contributions be allowed to benefit by receiving contracts, positions, etc? 

Why isn’t anyone asking these questions about Holden’s bond issue? 

Municipal bond issues are also marketed to the public under the guise of creating jobs and generating income to local businesses.  Companies will be required to bid.  Few taxpayers, if any, will take note of the businesses participating in each project.    

Seldom does anyone have the time or information to research these tidbits of information.  Who has the time?  Even more important, who has the knowledge?  We already know The Advocate won’t be revealing these facts to us:

  • How much are consultants being paid to handle the public relations of Holden’s bond issue?  Walter Monsour is already on board as a consultant.  Who else?  What is this costing us?
  • Who is the bond attorney/counsel? 
  • What are the relationships of all of these entities to Holden? 
  • How much did they donate to Holden’s political campaign?
  • What contributions have been made to other elected officials such as Sheriff Gautreaux by these individuals and companies?
  • Who are the proposed financial advisors, bankers, trustees?   
  • Were or will these contracts bid out?
  • Who will share in contracts to build a $135 million prison? 
  • Who will move the dirt?  Hook up the electricity?  Provide the security system?  The list is endless.  The answers are key.
  • The same for a $44 million juvenile service facility, a $92 million public safety complex, $19 million for fire stations/EMS, $38 million for city hall remodeling? 
  • There are more projects including the largest of all for $255 million for a tourist attraction downtown.

The grand total for Holden’s tax plan/bond issue is $887,504,330.    In the plan shared with the taxpayers, as you can see, there is NO mention of bidding, percentages or fees to be paid. 

Why?

Let’s recap.  You are being asked to take on a 30-year loan in the amount of $887 million without all of the fee and contract details.  Are you willing to be a party to signing a note of that magnitude without the fine print?

Maybe they hope you are willing to blindly say yes?

This is government spending and politics as usual, once again, in its truest form.  It really isn’t really important.  It’s just your tax dollars. 

Or is it important to you?

Until next time,

Red Stick Republican

Bully Mayor Holden, Bully! Thursday, Jul 23 2009 

 

Baton Rouge’s Business Report Poll of the day Results indicates that 70% of the people believe that the entire parish should have the opportunity to vote on Mayor Holden’s $880 million bond issue/tax!  Over 1,300 individuals participated in their poll. 

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Bullies are normally reserved for the playground; however, it seems Mayor-President Kip Holden is proving that bullies are still alive and well in the world of politics and the ‘next greatest city’‘ —  the Red Stick. 

Councilman Joel Boe’ had the audacity to speak out publicly about his concerns regarding the Mayor’s proposed $880 million dollar bond issue/tax. 

Boe’ feels that excluding Baker, Central and Zachary from voting on Holden’s upcoming tax increase is divisive for the parish, and was a distinct move to make a previously failed tax pass on the second go round. 

It’s common banter that Holden’s tax proposal failed last year due to a lack of support from the northern part of EBR Parish.  In fact, polls were discussed post-election and political consultant, Roy Fletcher, made it very clear that polls reflected a message being sent by Central and Zachary that their wishes were being ignored by Holden. 

In turn, Mayor-President Kip Holden chastised Boe’ on television saying, “he needs to grow up”.  Holden further stated, “For Mr. Boe’ to come out and make an arbitrary statement without any findings that I tried to manipulate the system in order to win.  I think there is some growing up that needs to be done.”

If anyone reading this doesn’t believe that the Mayor read the same polls Roy Fletcher read, then I have some land to sell you. 

Do you think Boe’ failed to receive the memo stating that Holden has a strong preference for yes men?  Evidently so.

What is happening here folks is a public education in good ole’ Red Stick Politics. 

Registration in ‘Professor’ Holden’s political science class is normally open only to those in his inner circle.  Yet, it’s the tip of the iceberg and a very small glimpse into politics in its truest form.

In fact, Holden is so good at the game of politics, you may have noticed that neither the BR Business Report or The Advocate covered Boe’s comments or Holden’s public flogging of Boe’.  (Keep that breaking news a coming now, you great journalists of Baton Rouge!)

Kudos to WAFB for their exclusive coverage.

The voters elect officials to represent the people, ask questions, stand up, speak out, and bring their communities together for the greater good.  Councilman Joel Boe’ was doing exactly what he was elected, by the people, to do.

A little secret someone needs to let the Mayor in on:  the greatest leaders are those who surround their self with men and women who bring a different perspective, ask the tough questions, and seek out all options available for solutions to the issues.  Those willing to say no, or at best to not always say yes.

Boe’ evidently fits that profile.  Holden doesn’t like it though, and used his bully pulpit to attempt to demean Boe’ publicly for daring to voice an opinion opposite of the all-powerful, all-knowing Mayor-President Kip Holden. 

We were told we needed NEW, YOUNG, BRIGHT LEADERS with FRESH PERSPECTIVES.  We do, don’t we?  Please tell me that we really do want to elect these type of individuals?   I beg you to prove to me that a NEW, YOUNG, BRIGHT LEADER with a FRESH PERSPECTIVE can speak out, ask tough questions and not have to suffer being publicly flogged by our Mayor.

Tell me again.  How do we expect to get more people involved?  To believe?  To stand up?  To be accounted for?  To vote?  To listen?  To care?  Is this what they can expect from us when they step up to the plate for a thankless job as they stand in the gap for the people?

Sooner or later, we had better decide what we really want for the ‘next greatest city’.

Until next time,

Red Stick Republican

Investing in Our Youth, Our Legacy Sunday, Jul 19 2009 

our legacy

 

Perhaps kids had rights when I was young, but someone failed to inform us.  Our parents spoke.  We listened and obeyed.  If we didn’t, Dad’s razor strap showed us how to listen next time.  Dad worked.  Mom stayed home.  School wasn’t an option.  Hard work was a way of life.  Dinner together was a nightly event. 

The end result was that the investment our parents made in us paid off.  We are their living legacy.

Life was fairly simple compared to the complexity of today’s society. My Mom talked regularly with the Principal, our neighbors had the authority to punish us, and elected leaders sat around our kitchen table getting personally involved in our lives.  They were simpler and happier times.

Today, we have more single parents than in the history of the world.  They hold down two jobs, send the kids to daycare, buy dinner at the take-out, and have surmounting debt.  All of this, under the umbrella of worry should something happen if a catastrophic illness beset them because healthcare is not affordable. 

Worst yet, in some households, juveniles are running in the streets instead of sitting in classrooms.  Real guns have replaced slingshots and Mary Jane is no longer a candy, it’s the entry ticket to a world of endless drugs pouring into our neighborhoods at epic proportions.

Oh, how I long for the simplicity of yesterday in the neighborhoods of the Red Stick.  The difference began at home, and continued through the personal touch of leaders in our community.

The Joneses were watching after our children, and not someone we were trying to keep up with.  The Gautreaux’s weren’t trying to figure out who Daddy is sleeping with this time, because his legacy and family were far more important than anything another woman could offer.

If violent crime has increased and juvenile offenders are more prolific in the Red Stick, we need to walk down memory lane and understand what has changed to cause these phenomena. 

Juveniles are extremely vulnerable. 

We must reach children prior to the 7th grade to influence them.  In these formative years, they learn how to relate to others, the consequences of their actions, and what responsibility means.

While we are moving in the right direction by addressing truancy, there are other factors that require attention including teenage pregnancy, broken homes, absentee parents, and a lack of after-school activities that are appropriate.  Risky behavior eventually escalates into aggressive or violent behavior. 

Law enforcement doesn’t need bigger prisons; they need engaged parents, stronger laws, tougher judges, caring neighbors and employers willing to hire students for part-time jobs.  Time out doesn’t work for kid’s carrying around guns.

In order to take back our neighborhoods, we have to return to our roots.  Instead of turning a blind eye to what is going on, we need to clean up in our own backyard and spend time investing in what really matters — our youth. 

To be America’s next greatest city, we have to work with our young people and families to get them on the right track. 

We need our leaders to throw off their double-breasted suits and body guards and go back into neighborhoods, roll up their sleeves and sit around kitchen tables working one-on-one with parents who need guidance.  When our leaders are willing to set these examples, then we will begin to see a change. 

Everything comes back to where we are investing our time and money. 

It is a fact that we spend money and time on what is important to each of us.  When I review the City-Parish budget, I know that we need vast improvement. 

Last year’s proposed tax increase/bond issue proves we are seeking to invest further funds in buildings and not in people.  We don’t need new hotels, tourist attractions and parking lots, we need money and time invested in our at-risk youth. 

There is no argument that can win against investing time or money in our youth. 

Juveniles may not listen to everything we say, but they are always watching what we do.  What are we doing to influence our youth in a positive way?

Until next time,

Red Stick Republican

Why Gardere Crime Dropped Sunday, Jul 12 2009 

Connections Ministry

When there is a drastic change in a crime-ridden area, it begs the question.  So, I set out to see why murders are down in the Gardere area of the Red Stick.  What I found out was enlightening.

In the fall of 2008, faith-based groups came together to work hard in an effort to rebuild the Gardere area from the bottom up.  In order to accomplish this, it would require those living in the area to take back their neighborhood – and that they did.

While politicians would like to take credit for the drop in crime, I choose to applaud the unsung heroes that have paid a price with their love, sweat, prayers and tears to make a difference in the lives of Gardere residents:

drumgole

The response was so overwhelming, that other African-American churches joined them, as well as a Hispanic church.  By Christmas, other plans culminated: 

Manale

In February, 2009, over 11 churches joined in the efforts of the Gardere/GSRI area outreach with hands-on assistance.  Together, they planned for a May event to include different aspects including:

  • Garage Give-Away:  clothes, furniture, appliances, etc.
  • Picnic:  food planned for up to 2,000 residents to break bread together
  • Medical Screening:  doctors and nurses to do health evaluations
  • Kid’s Village:  kid’s activities, storytelling, and spiritual teaching
  • Spiritual Outreach:  prayer, counseling, faith-based outreach to all residents open to hearing the message of Jesus and how he can change your heart, mind and life

 Preparations began with another hard-working group of volunteers:

Eric Sanders

 Rodriguez

Jambalaya, clothes, health screenings, fellowship, faith, toys, furniture, bibles, face painting, appliances, electronics, and lots of love  coupled with the message of spiritual-life changing reality was shared at the May event in Gardere. 

This is the reality of where we must live.  Mayor Holden, take note! 

Buildings do not change people.  People reaching out change people.  Yes, truancy is a problem, but getting down to where people live by providing needs, empowering them to do for their own self, showing love is where the rubber meets the road.

If you can’t donate your time, donate your householditems, clothing, food, or cash to share in this PROVEN outreach.  It’s a faith-based effort that is worthy of the countless hours these men and women have spent in their heartfelt outreach that is changing lives. 

As a result, crime has dropped drastically in the Gardere/GSRI area.

The next event scheduled is a school supply give-away on August 1st at the BREC Park at Gardere.  To support this fruitful ministry that has obviously changed lives, contact clayton@connectionsministry.com or go to their website for more information by clicking here

Until next time,

Red Stick Republican

Valid Question for Red Stick Saturday, Jul 11 2009 

KidsPlaying

Whose life is more valuable? Mayor-President Kip Holden or witnesses to violent crime in our parish? Sounds like an ignorant question, but it is a valid one.

Records released last year showed that three bodyguards making between $42k and $68k each worked for Holden.  This means your tax dollars will pay between $336,000 and $544,000 over an eight year period while Kip Holden serves as Mayor.  Holden is currently serving his second term in office. 

Holden also is chauffered in a Lincoln Town Car that costs taxpayers $642 per month according to public records.  That equates to $61,632 for 8 years.  Can’t you buy a car for that leased price for less?  Don’t get me started on the extravagant spending that comes out of his office.  It is a slap in the face to taxpayers of our parish.

See how quick it is to find $600,000 in budget cuts?  This is not rocket science folks, and it doesn’t take a CPA to figure it out!

On the other hand, East Baton Rouge voters were recently told there is not enough money in the coffers to protect witnesses of violent crimes in our parish.  Newly elected District Attorney, Hillar Moore, found out he is fighting an uphill battle for funding to protect witnesses.  If there is a way out of this mess, I know Moore will find it.  He has my vote of confidence.

Therefore, the logical answer on the table is: 

Whose life is more valuable? 

You see, in order for us to clean up crime in our parish, we must ask the hard questions of ourselves. 

I have heard consistently from Chief Jeff Leduff that he does not have the resources to protect witnesses.  Recently, Sheriff Sid Gautreaux touted the problem with witnesses not coming forward.  And they wonder why?

Just two weeks ago, another witness to a violent murder in our city was killed.  I wrote about this in great detail in the story, 5 Related Murders in EBRP

The Mayor waited until AFTER we had one of the bloodiest months and highest incidences of violent crime in our parish to finally go on TV and say enough is enough. 

We have to pull the funds from ridiculous expenditures and spend the money where it is needed.  “Building new jails is not the answer” as told to us by former candidate for EBR Sheriff Dalton Honore’. 

Let’s dig deeper than talking about taxes to build new prisons.  We must drive much further into neighborhoods than talking on the news. 

So, back to the valid question of the day for Red Stick citizens:  Whose life is more valuable?

Until next time,

Red Stick Republican

Violent Crime Dominates EBRP Monday, Jul 6 2009 

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No, I don’t like the headline, but the truth hurts. 

It’s time for the Red Stick to call a ‘Come to Jesus Meeting’ regarding violent crime.  Denying that crime statistics are accurate is nothing more than ignoring the facts. 

In fact, let’s just let the facts speak for their self.  In viewing the Police & Fire Briefs in The Advocate for the month of June only, here is an overview of specific violent crimes reported on by the media in the Red Stick:

June Murders:

  1. Victim name unknown, Tecumseh/NBR area
  2. Myron Wright, 17, Greenwell Springs area
  3. Shelva Glasper, 33, North Baton Rouge area
  4. Kendrick Brown, 26, Brookstown area
  5. Ramon House, 56, North 26th area
  6. Juan Gonzales, 30, Ardenwood area
  7. Jarnell Anderson, 28, Zion City area
  8. Quincy Gibson, 33, Glen Oaks area
  9. Jermiah ‘Mico” Gibson, Baker area
  10. Anthony Laphand, 20, Perkins Road area
  11. Louis Deggs, Jr., 20, N. Acadian area

June Shootings:

  1. Mall City
  2. Chippewa Street area
  3. Off Burbank
  4. Baker/Zachary
  5. Zion City
  6. East Boulevard
  7. Brownsfield
  8. I-10 @ Essen Lane
  9. Village St. George

June Stabbings:

  1. Siegen/Perkins Road
  2. North Blvd/Convention

June Carjackings:

  1. Bawell off College Drive
  2. N. Acadian Thruway

June Armed Robberies:

  1. Baskin Robbins, Sherwood Forest
  2. Midsouth Bank, Jefferson Hwy
  3. Shell, Greenwell Springs Rd
  4. Cracker Barrell, Jefferson Hwy
  5. Buffalo Wings parking lot, Bluebonnet
  6. Individual on Scenic Hwy
  7. Individual in Gardere area
  8. Home Invasion, Eugene Street
  9. Jack-in-Box, Airline Hwy
  10. Pizza deliveryperson, S. Harrells Ferry Rd
  11. Southern Belle, Lobdell
  12. 5 minute Oil Change, Airline Hwy
  13. Individual O’Neal @ I-12

June Home or Business Invasions/Thefts:

  1. Conn’s, Airline Hwy
  2. Coastal Corrosion, Mammoth Dr
  3. Winn Dixie, Flannery Rd
  4. Cracker Barrel, Highland Rd
  5. Home, Charles Street
  6. Home, Central area

June Rapes:

  1. Airline near Jefferson Hwy
  2. Unknown location – multiple offenses
  3. Clayton area
  4. S. Harrell Ferry Road
  5. Unknown – child rape
  6. LSU area
  7. Airline @ I-12
  8. Area not given – 3 instances

June Attempted Child Abduction:

  1. Florida near Flannery

June Kidnapping of an Adult:

  1. North Baton Rouge

June Arsons:

  1. Zachary – two vehicles
  2. Zion City – home

June Violent Beatings:

  1. Baker

June Cyberstalking Cases:

  1. Red Stick resident
  2. Red Stick resident

This list is generated directly from the BR Police Department and the EBR Sheriff’s Office as provided to The Advocate.  These crimes do NOT reflect all crimes in the month of June, only those printed in the newspaper. 

I find it extremely offensive when officials try to convince us that the national crime statistics are not accurate.  All you need to do is read the daily newspaper or watch the local nightly news, and you will know that we have a violent crime issue in the Red Stick.

This does not scratch the surface of crime in our parish, as it does not have ONE drug incident listed – only TWO incidents listed mention domestic violence – only ONE crime listed mentions a juvenile.  It does not include all the 911 calls made daily regarding suspicious activities, disputes, the vast majority of home invasions, or car thefts. The newspaper doesn’t have enough allotted space to cover all criminal incidents in the parish.

Violent crime is defined by the use of violent force  in the commission of a crime or threatening to use violent force.  That’s a broad definition.  Do you have to walk in on a burglar and see a weapon to consider it a violent crime?  Do domestic violence situations where one party threatens to violently harm the other party fall under violent crime?  I believe it does.  

Where do we go from here to curb violent crime in the Red Stick?  We talk about education and economic development as the linchpins for “the next great city” – our future. 

Violent crime is a socio-economic issue. 

The lack of education in partnerships between our churches, schools, neighborhoods, businesses, families and law enforcement is a major key to the answer.  

Some of the key issues we must address include:   illegal drugs in our neighborhoods, easy access to prescription drugs in our homes, juvenile behavior that goes without proper punishment, a justice system that is too forgiving of violent offenders, corruption in political office that is accepted, turning a blind eye when witnessing a crime or injustice in our streets. 

Until next time,

Red Stick Republican