MOHSEP Grants Misused? Saturday, Nov 5 2011 

Update:  The Baton Rouge Metro Council met yesterday to delve into the details of the Homeland Security Grant debacle.  By a majority vote, they determined it was in the best interest of the taxpayers that a full investigation take place in regard to MOHSEP, Mayor Kip Holden’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness.  Unfortunately, they are giving MOHSEP until January 15th to resolve pending issues before pursuing the investigation.  Amazing how MOHSEP was able to ‘buy some time’ on the investigation.  Is this appropriate?

Perhaps a whistleblower among us might be able to shed light on the proposed investigation into the alleged misappropriations  of grant monies arising out of the office of the Mayor-President Kip Holden’s office and MOHSEP (Mayor’s Office of Homeland Security & Emergency Preparedness)?

According to OHSEP (Governor’s Office of Homeland Security & Emergency Preparedness), both Mayor Kip Holden and JoAnne Moreau, Director of MOHSEP, refused to follow state and federal guidelines.  Basically, they did not submit the proper paperwork as follows:

  • Failure to submit complete project applications
  • Failure to present potential expenditures to the Parish Emergency Management Advisory Committee (PEMAC)
  • Failure to get GOHSEP’s, the State Administrative Agency’s (SAA), approval on intended expenditures
  • Failure to obtain Environmental Historical Preservation (EHP) assessments as required by federal law

To add insult to injury, Mayor Holden and JoAnne Moreau misspent funds, did not receive approval for certain expenditures, and failed to supply details on past and future expenditures. 

Among those issues are the spending of $159,000 used for salaries while grant rules capped total salary payments at $95,500.  There is another $362,784 in spending that will not be reimbursed by OHSEP; that money will now have to come out of the parish general fund because the Mayor already spent the money!

There is a total of $1.3 million in spending that has already taken place by Mayor Kip Holden.  The potential exists that, without the proper documentation, that funding will not be reimbursed to the city-parish from OHSEP.  You should never spend money without funding, especially when the terms of reimbursement are clear. 

One of the precedents for grant receipt is to properly complete paperwork prior to receipt, to provide detailed confirmation on the spending of grant monies, and to be good stewards of the monies received.

Good stewards.  Sometimes this concept is foreign, once power and control take priority.

There is good news, however!  Chandler Loupe, a councilman on the EBR Metro Council, flanked by Mayor Pro-Tem Mike Walker, is making a move to request a full investigation and audit of funds received by the Mayor’s Office.  It is my hope that the full council votes next week to comply with this request.  No doubt, Mayor Kip Holden will be lobbying against this request.

Mayor Kip Holden has proven time and time again that he does not like being questioned — even when he is spending the taxpayer’s money — our money.  Nevertheless, it is the responsibility of all elected officials to comply with total transparency.  A concept that the Mayor does not embrace.

Where there is fire, there is smoke. 

The challenge set forth by anyone investigating the reason that OHSEP reallocated federal homeland security grant funding from Mayor Kip Holden and gave the authority to the Sheriff’s Office of EBRP and Ascension Parish is to find the truth.  The amount they were given authority over totals $4,033,033.

If Mayor Kip Holden and JoAnne Moreau of MOHSEP have nothing to hide, then they will embrace this investigation and provide detail necessary to get to the bottom of this issue.

Unfortunately, I fully expect Holden and Moreau to continue this debacle by not complying, refusing to participate with the investigation in a friendly manner, and continuing to hide the facts.

Holden and Moreau have been long-time compadres.  Yet, some believe that Holden will use Moreau as his scapegoat.  I disagree.  Anyone who has ever met Moreau knows she will not be thrown under anyone’s bus — including the Mayor’s.

The public deserves a full-blown investigation and the facts to be presented.  Of course, so did GOHSEP when they required that MOHSEP and the Mayor’s Office to supply details required by the grant.  All other parishes complied. 

Why didn’t Holden and Moreau comply?  The devil is in the details.

Until next time,

Red Stick Republican

EBRP Metro Council Attacked Saturday, Sep 24 2011 

Here we go again. 

Baton Rouge Business Report owner, Rolfe McCollister, Jr., has shown his disdain for the East Baton Rouge Metro Council in his most recent editorial focusing on a lack of vision for the Red Stick.

McCollister’s claim is that the EBRP Metro Council members lack understanding as to how a ‘vibrant riverfront’ will attract young residents that are educated as well as companies that will create jobs.

The claim is made that individuals against downtown progress want to preserve their cluster of suburbs and rarely leave a five mile radius except to travel to their jobs.

I disagree.   

On any given day, you can find venues from Perkins Rowe to shopping venues across EBR parish packed with residents from far outside of their five mile radius.  Restaurants are brimming to the gills with families and individuals (even educated ones) every day of the week. 

The other side of the coin should be considered. 

We are living in continuously changing times.  Priorities can and will evolve.  Still, a great deal of focus and funding in EBR Parish has been dedicated to the growth of downtown Baton Rouge.  

According to the Downtown Development District, over $1.8 billion was dedicated to the redevelopment of downtown from 1987 to 2008 alone, and $300 million more is on tap.  

According to the 2010 Census, the EBRP Population is 440,171.  The only figure I can find for downtown Residents is in the 4,000 range.  That is 1% of the population of our parish.  If funding for projects was determined on population alone, downtown would not have been a priority. 

There are, as we know, other factors to consider.  The question is are those factors of the utmost importance to all of the citizens of East Baton Rouge Parish?

The City of Pittsburgh was cited by McCollister as a ‘best practice’ example for a successful growth of city.  Former Pittsburgh Mayor, Tom Murphy, recently spoke at the Growth Summit hosted in Baton Rouge.  It was there that we heard the challenge of the importance of not pandering to the “lowest common denominator”. 

Unfortunately, this phrase is now being used to refer to anyone disagreeing with a $1,000,000 expenditure to build a stage canopy and art design in downtown Baton Rouge.

Furthermore, such characteristics as small minds, visionless, blind to the future, myopic, parochial, and hypocritical were ascribed to our current Metro Council members who are reconsidering this lavish expenditure.  If you disagree with this expenditure, these characteristics penned by McCollister might describe you as well.

Or, perhaps not?

The truth about downtown Pittsburgh is that they had their own challenges.  The steel industry was broken and their downtown was nothing more than a red light district with 20+ massage parlors.  They currently have approximately 5,000 residents and they are thriving. 

If we want to talk about an example, let’s take a harder look at former Pittsburgh Mayor Tom Murphy. 

In only two terms, Tom Murphy reduced their city workforce by 1,000 individuals (21%), and turned a budget deficit into a budget surplus. 

Murphy renovated almost 169 playgrounds, built world-class facilities for both baseball and football teams, and refurbished neighborhoods by a landslide.  He also attracted companies that created so many jobs that they cannot be filled — companies like Alcoa.

Under Murphy’s watch, the city of Pittsburgh experienced their lowest levels of crime in over 30 years.

Yes, Murphy is an example of ‘best practices’.  Addressing the entire city’s best interests was Murphy’s claim to fame. 

Anyone who considers downtown as our only crown jewel, and fails to consider the entire parish is truly the one who lacks vision.

Until next time,

Red Stick Republican

Top 10 Redstick Stories Monday, Dec 21 2009 

Update:  #8 indicates drops in sales tax revenue for East Baton Rouge Parish.  The Advocate released information that sales tax revenues for 2009 decreased by 6%, less than $2.7 million from the previous year.  Will Mayor-President Kip Holden adjust the city-parish budget now, or continue to be a spendthrift?

2009 is coming to a close, and it seems everyone is choosing their Top 10 Stories in East Baton Rouge Parish.  Unfortunately, at least from my perspective, it doesn’t seem that those stories are truly representative of what happened in the Red Stick.  So, I thought I would share my personal take on what impacted us as a community including the Good, the Bad and the Ugly.

  1. GOOD:  The swearing-in of new Metro Council members that are actively engaged and more representative of our community.  One example is Councilman Joel Boe’ who defied odds by leading the charge to include the entire parish in Mayor Holden’s proposed bond issue/tax increase.  This resulted in verbal attacks against Boe’ from the Mayor, but won the respect of voters and citizens in the Red Stick. 
  2. BAD:  An apparent escalation in violent crime in the Red Stick is definitely the tip of the iceberg in our community.  As 2009 approaches the same number of murders as 2010, it is painful at best to watch the daily news.  By August 1, murders were already 48% higher than the previous year.  UPDATE:  The Advocate reported a record high for murders in East Baton Rouge Parish of 86 murders (75 in the city limits and 11 outside the city limits) .  What happened to Mayor Holden’s no tolerance for crime in the Red Stick?
  3. UGLY:  Mayor Kip Holden is accused of having an affair, and turns on his alleged accusers by demanding a federal investigation.  After Holden claims he knows who is behind the expose’, he names numerous parties one at a time to no avail in a desperate attempt to put the focus on others.  The only thing Holden accomplishes is showing his character and consistent tendency to attack others.
  4. GOOD:  For the first time that I can remember, more citizens in East Baton Rouge Parish engaged in a proposed bond issue/tax increase.  With standing room only, EBRP Metro Council meetings took on hundreds of voters both for and against the bond issue.  Seeing our community become actively engaged in a critical issue that could have affected our parish over the next 30 years was refreshing and exciting!
  5. BAD:  Learning that Mayor Kip Holden and his entourage withheld critical information from the Metro Council and voters regarding his proposed tax increase/bond issue.  No doubt, it was the kiss of death to an untimely plan to build a “Holden Legacy” that our children would pay for over the next 30 years.  It was a huge blunder to build a campaign with dishonest intentions.
  6. UGLY:  The personal attack on Lee Domingue, candidate for Senate District 16’s beloved seat in the Red Stick.  Domingue laid his past failures open for all to read about in his book Pearls of the King.  His faith was attacked, and so was his church, Healing Place, and Pastor, Dino Rizzo.  To add insult to injury, the Pennington’s power and money reached down to the front page of The Advocate in an attempt to discredit Domingue about a seven-year old business disagreement.  It proved the point that Baton Rouge still has a small town mentality.
  7. GOOD:  Thousands of voters paid a visit to the Louisiana State Capitol to voice their disdain for the national stimulus package.  Made possible by the Red Stick Tea Party, citizens once again made the argument that wasteful government spending must end. 
  8. BAD:   Sales tax revenues continued to drop in the Red Stick resulting in a 4.64 decrease as of October, 2009.  Instead of paying attention to the Mayor and BRAC’s elusive reports of how the economy has not touched the Red Stick, the facts say otherwise.  Though Holden claims services will not be cut, it is inevitable that you cannot experience a reduction in income without a consideration in spending cuts.
  9. UGLY:  In a small downtown office in the Red Stick, a Ponzi scheme was birthed which took hundreds of trusting people to the cleaners.  Today, Stanford is a name that brings even the strongest of our citizens to their knees.  An estimated $8 billion scheme confiscated life savings and retirement funds from a large Baton Rouge contingency. Offshore banks, international funds and prospectus reports that were highly inflated devastated far too many of our Red Stick citizens.  Perhaps it is more proof that when it seems to good to be true, perhaps it is?
  10. GOOD:  LSU baseball Coach Paul Mainieri brought back the gold by clinching the 2009 College World Series title.  Mainieri also was honored as National Coach of the Year and Southeastern Coach of the Year for 2009.  Tiger fans retained the prestigious position of #1 in attendance in the nation, and enjoyed a luxurious new Tiger Box Stadium that rivals the best in the country.

Although life contains the good, the bad and the ugly, it is truly my hope that 2010 will bring more of the good and that we will learn from the bad and ugly of this year. 

Those things considered to be bad or ugly in the Red Stick surround the misuse of power in ethics, moral and criminal behavior.  Anytime someone takes the position that they can exercise power over others with no regard for their life or well-being, suffering is imminent.

The good things in our community were all made possible by the gathering together of citizens that care about our community and were willing to engage in what is important in the Red Stick. 

If we continue to invest in the greater good, surely we will have a fruitful year in 2010. 

Until next time,

Red Stick Republican

Red Stick on Need to Know Basis Saturday, Oct 10 2009 

 need to know basis

Whether you call Mayor-President Kip Holden’s Alive! bond issue Waterworld, KipWorld, KipLand, or what it really is — a tax increase — one thing is for sure:  Voters are on a “need to know basis”.

Government is famous for the “need to know basis” that is indicative of individuals who do not want unwelcome scrutiny of their work or project.  Yet voters are intelligent enough to know that anytime there is a lack of information there is a reason. 

Former shadow mayor Walter Monsour was awarded a new position with a compensation package of $365,000 as the head of the East Baton Rouge Parish Redevelopment Authority.  That’s quite a little compensation package given the fact that he has been totally free to spend the majority of his time as a consultant and advisor to Mayor Kip Holden on the Alive! project.  Then again, it’s tax dollars, so who cares.  Right?

Now, do you understand how Red Stick politics works?

JR Ball of the Baton Rouge Business Report is digging deeper into the Alive! controversy and painting it in a very accurate light.  Yesterday, Ball portrayed Holden’s bond issue as a campaign coming undone with Alive! barely hanging on life support.  His acknowledgement that anyone not agreeing blindly with Holden and his entourage are immediately attacked hit the nail on the head.  In fact, it’s just further proof of the “need to know basis” campaign that Holden and his entourage have been running.

It’s pretty simple folks, and I know you are smart enough (given the facts) to figure it out.  2 + 2 = 4  

Buyer beware!  There is not one investor worth his salt that would invest nearly a billion dollars without having every inch of the detail of the deal.  Ask the Donald.  Any acquisition requires an extensive Due Diligence in order to be assured you are making a wise decision.  It’s common sense!

Oh, I suppose if you are spending someone else’s money (like the taxpayers) you might not worry about doing a comprehensive checklist of crossing your t’s and dotting your i’s.  This is what our Mayor and his entourage have done.  It’s a sad commentary on city-parish government and what has been going on behind the scenes for years.

Alas!  We wanted NEW, fresh leaders on the EBR Parish City Council.  We got them.  Thank God!  They are like the new kids on the block and I feel like a proud parent cheering them on from the sidelines.  They are to be commended for their leadership and inquiring minds.  Joel Boe’ caught my eye as did Trae Welch, Chandler Loupe, Scott Wilson, Alison Cascio and Tara Wicker.  Go, Go, Go!  You do your jobs by representing the people:  VOX POPULI is your cry.  You are even converting and giving wings to potential leaders like Smokie Bourgeois.  There is strength in numbers!

Citizen Kane, also known as Lane Grigsby, has long been a huge supporter of electing fresh new leaders with a vision of the future and the ability to effect change.  Lane understands the principle that he will not be here forever and wants to leave a legacy of strong young leaders behind to carry on.  He has been highly criticized from time to time for his political antics, and I cannot always endorse his methods.  As they say, though, to know him is to love him if you understand his motivation to see new leadership rise to the top.   He was responsible for some of these new leaders.  Thank you Lane!

All of these things that I have screamed from my soap box for the last few years tie together.  The voters need to be informed, active and not dismissed.  Politicians need to be more open and honest.  We are adults here and we do not need to be coddled or treated on a “need to know basis”. 

As in my profile, I always say and believe that if the people are provided with the full picture they can make an informed decision.  All of our decisions may not be right, but at least we have the facts and will learn from our mistakes. 

Government spending is out of control.  No one will argue that fact.  At the same time, while we are excited about LSU, Pennington Biomedical, Perkins Rowe, and the widening of I-12, we still have a long way to go in properly funneling and controlling city-parish spending.  I will never give up my belief that the people of this parish need to be respected and treated like first class citizens and not sheep being led into the voting booth for slaughter.

Get out the black vote?  Give them info on a need to know basis?  Stand on polls that show a 93% favorable rating?  Promise no more downtown studies while we are studying away?  Tell them what we think they want to hear?  All of these things are based on political strategies that may have worked in the past, but no more.  Enough is enough! 

While Holden and his entourage may have the support of organizations that receive city-parish funding such as the Redevelopment Authority, Downtown Development District and Baton Rouge Area Chamber, there is a larger and more important constituency that is against the Alive! bond issue.

Never underestimate the power of the voters.  If you believe a woman scorned was difficult to deal with, welcome to the world of enlightened voters.

Until the next time,

Red Stick Republican