Monday, November 24, 2014

Reasons Mounting To Support Doucet In JP School Board Race



Early voting began Saturday and, while there is no early voting on Thanksgiving Thursday or Black Friday, the reasons to vote FOR Melinda Doucet in the JP School Board District 7 race keep increasing.

District 7 includes parts of Kenner (including where I live), Metairie, and River Ridge and Harahan on the East Bank and portions of Avondale and Bridge City on the West Bank.

In contrast to her opponent, incumbent Mark Jacobs, Doucet is staunchly opposed to Common Core, the set of National standards that were thrust upon, some might use the terms “extortion” or “blackmail”, states and local school boards in return for Federal funding (which we should be entitled to anyway), is creating a furor across the country as parents, teachers and school administrators are learning more about the Bill Gates-funded plan.

A huge issue for parents is the new computer-based surveys and questionnaires that are part of Common Core and the potential for abuse through data mining and privacy issues.

Jacobs was swept into office in 2010 in an anti-incumbency wave and power grab by business interests.

In addition to being opposed to Common Core, Doucet has been involved with JP public schools for the past 19 years as a parent of 3 (who all attended JP public schools), a PTO President and as “Volunteer of the Year” at Elementary, Middle and High Schools.

Doucet finished 1st in the November 4th runoff besting Jacobs, 45.6%-42.5%. Both are Republicans. Libertarian Jo Ann Scott finished 3rd with 12%.

This week, Scott endorsed Doucet.

In a statement, Scott said, “I ran for School Board because I had a calling to improve education and get Jefferson Parish out of Common Core. During the campaign and in subsequent conversations, I learned that Melinda’s educational philosophies are very much in tune with mine. Melinda believes in providing teachers with the tools needed to provide students with an advantageous curriculum; fighting waste and abuse in the Jefferson Parish Public School System; taking the ‘business’ out of teaching; and she is staunchly opposed to Common Core. Her tenacious attitude and beliefs will ensure that students will indeed be able to select their own path in life, not one that is nationally selected for them. Melinda’s background will make her an asset to the School Board.”

"I strongly encourage my supporters and every voter in District 7 concerned about our educational system to vote for and support Melinda Doucet."  

Scott is a retired teacher who spent 33 years on the frontline in Jefferson Parish public schools.

As if that wasn’t enough, there are even more reason to support Doucet.

Saturday, I received a mail piece from Jacobs touting his endorsement by Democratic District Attorney Paul Connick and quasi-Democratic Sheriff Newell Normand.

Now, before you start, I know Newell thinks that he should be involved in everything and a school board race where he can try to assert his influence(?) is right up his alley. Connick also feels the need to attempt to impose his will on voters too at every opportunity.

The mail piece, titled “A Message From District Attorney Paul Connick and Sheriff Newell Normand”, states: “The trends were alarming. Four years ago kids were dropping out of school at a disturbing rate; they had lots of time and little hope,” the piece continues, “Our public schools have made dramatic improvements. Drop out rates are down significantly and so is crime.”

What?

While it’s true that, according to JPSO crime stats, crime is down compared to 2010, reported crime in Jefferson Parish actually peaked in 2006 and has been slowly declining across the board.

For example, in 2010 there were 52 murders in unincorporated Jefferson Parish. In 2013, there were 44. Great right? Well, in 2012 there were only 33 murders and Sheriff Normand was getting back spasms from patting himself on the back for the decrease. Nowhere did Normand mention the JP drop out rate or the “dramatic improvements” made by JP Public Schools.

The reality that incumbent school board members like Jacobs and politicians like Connick and Normand, who keep trying to pull the wool over unsuspecting voters’ eyes, is that JP Public School rankings improved primarily due to the influx of Orleans Parish students that migrated to Jefferson Parish schools after Katrina working their way through the system and either graduating or returning to Orleans Parish schools.

 Jacobs is also endorsed by the pro-Common Core lobbying group, Stand For Children, which also sent out its own mail piece touting Jacobs and the fake “dramatic improvements” that have been made.

On the Jefferson Parish page of its web site, Stand For Children claims these “Successes”:
  • In November 2013, we advocated for a $23 million millage renewal for JPPSS’s budget
  • Stand has provided training for more than 75 JPPSS principals around how to communicate with families about Louisiana’s Common Core State Standards (CCSS)
  • We have presented Louisiana CCSS workshops that have reached over 100 families in the parish—with more still to come!
So, a group that advocated for the renewal of $23 Million tax (because Heaven knows there isn’t $23 Million that could be cut from a $550 Million budget), and presented “workshops” to a whopping 100 families in Jefferson Parish feels qualified to spend thousands of dollars to influence a local School Board race and tell you who to vote for?

Sorry, that doesn’t pass the smell test for me.

And it doesn’t take a workshop on Common Core Math to see that a parent of 3, with 19 years of experience working as a volunteer in JP Public Schools and endorsed by a retired teacher with 33 years of experience in JP Public Schools should merit more consideration than the endorsement of other elected officials and an out-of-state pro-Common Core group.

And if all of that wasn’t enough, did I mention that Jacobs has also been endorsed by Gambit and the Times-Picayune, along with the Jefferson Chamber, elected officials including Kenner Mayor Mike Yenni and JP Councilman Ben Zahn (no surprise that I disagree with them, right?), and groups who only rear their ugly heads around election time like The Alliance For Good Government and the Committee For a Better Jefferson, or is that just piling on?  

And, did I mention that Jacobs has received campaign contributions from the campaign accounts (not even their own money) of Normand and his BFF Danny Martiny, who conspired to take away the public’s right to vote on the Jefferson Parish Hospital lease fiasco, and ex-politicians like Tony Ligi and Art Lentini?

Sorry I opened three paragraphs in a row with 'and'. Guess I need some Common Core Remedial English classes. 

Hey, if an elected official or ex-politician wants to give money to a candidate, fine – but use your own money. 

Ex-politicians with money remaining in their campaign accounts should be mandated to give that money back to contributors or to charities.

These endorsements, along with the “Nod From Newell”, are all I need to support Doucet.

You should too.

Friday, November 21, 2014

JP Runoffs Dominated By Party-Changers, Common Core, Fake Business Groups



In addition to 11 proposed Charter Changes, which we will tackle in another post, there are 7 local runoff elections on the December 6th ballot in Jefferson Parish – 2 primarily affecting the East Bank; 4 primarily impacting the West Bank and one multi-parish runoff for the Public Service Commission.

The East Jefferson runoffs include seats on the 1st Parish Court and the District 7 School Board race.

The West Jeff runoffs are for seats on the 24th JDC, District 2 School Board, and Justice of the Peace and Constable for the 2nd Justice Court (I love that name – “Justice Court”. Isn’t the primary purpose of a court to mete out justice?).

4 of the 7 runoffs share some commonality: the PSC and 1st Parish Court runoffs feature long-time Republicans versus recent party-changers; and the School Board runoffs spotlight the issue of Common Core and the “influence” of fake business groups on the School Board.

The Party-Changers
As most of you know, earlier this year I changed political parties. After being a lifelong Republican, I finally woke up and realized that my personal political philosophy (less government, lower government spending and taxation) was not in tune anymore with the Republican Party. The Party had gravitated from Conservative Reagan Republican values to being more closely aligned with Moderate views and even embracing traditionally Democratic ideals.

So, while I am fiscally AND socially Conservative, Republicans are now neither. While the Libertarian Party is fiscally Conservative and Socially Liberal, I’ve always been a ‘glass half-full’ kind of guy and, when you’re dying of thirst, a glass half-full is clearly better than an empty glass, or a party devoid of integrity in this case.

To be sure, I could have changed parties before my last political campaign – it might even have helped me since there was no Democrat in the race. But, I didn’t. Changing parties before the election simply to hoodwink some voters and garner some support is completely lacking in integrity in my opinion. If someone changes political parties to curry favor, what else will they do?

In the runoff elections, one candidate in the PSC runoff and 1 judicial candidate are recent ‘party-changers’ and each changed parties not because their core values changed or because the party that they belonged to for decades changed their ideals. No, these two changed primarily to pull the wool over voter’s eyes and win an election.

The PSC
I’ve already posted about the obviously twisted soul that is Forest Bradley-Wright. Wright is competing with incumbent Eric Skrmetta for the District 1 seat on the Public Service Commission.

Wright rode a series of negative advertising funded by out-of-state interests to a surprising 1st place finish, narrowly edging out Skrmetta.Wright's vile attack on Skrmetta is repugnant and shows his true lack of character.

Rather than run on his own platform or ideas, Wright has stepped up the bashing and personal attacks.

The shocking thing to me is how gullible voters really are.

Who, in their right mind, would vote for a guy who just became a Republican a few months ago, is beholden to an industry that lives on government subsidies (the Solar Energy industry), and ran for another seat on the PSC as a Democrat two short years ago,when he doesn’t live in either District that he ran for?

In my view, not only does Forest Bradley-Wright have ZERO integrity, he has no moral or ethical compass either.

We’ll have more time soon to discuss Bradley-Wright soon and why his views aren’t “Wright for Louisiana” and aren’t even “Wright” for Forest.

1st Parish Court
The other ‘party-changer’ is 1st Parish Court candidate Johnny Lee. Lee is running against long-time Republican Pat Rooney.

Rooney became a Republican in 1981; Lee switched parties earlier this year.

Being a judge is pretty apolitical, and since there was no Democrat seeking the office, so it begs the question: if you’re the only D in a crowded field of Rs, why switch?

Because the powers that be guiding and pushing Johnny Lee determined that he couldn’t win as a D.

And, who are these “powers that be” behind Johnny Lee?

The usual suspects are supporting Lee: elected officials like Sheriff Newell Normand, State Senator Danny Martiny and State Rep Joe Lopinto, along with former elected officials like ex-State Rep Tony Ligi and former State Senator Art Lentini, each using their campaign accounts (otherwise known as “Other People’s Money”) in attempt to spread their “influence” on an unsuspecting public.

In fact, Martiny was the subject of a Fox8/Nola.com investigation that claimed he accepted tens of thousands of dollars from Political Action Committees above the maximum amount allowed by law. 

To me, giving money from one campaign to another is tantamount to fraud. In the cases of Ligi and Lentini, using campaign money when you quit in the middle of a term like Ligi to accept a position as a lobbyist and when you’re not running for office again in the case of Lentini, is downright criminal.

I know, our “Gold Standard of Ethics” in Louisiana (which Ligi and Martiny helped rewrite) allows the co-mingling of campaign funds. But, it doesn’t pass the smell test and should be outlawed.

Simply because something is “legal”, that doesn’t make it “right”. At least, not in my eyes.

In addition, I think it’s repulsive that a judicial candidate would seek not only the endorsement of a Sheriff, but take campaign money from money given to someone else’s campaign.

In the first case, a judge should be impartial and not beholden to law enforcement. How could anyone approach a court run by Johnny Lee with an idea that he/she will get a fair trial when the Lee is backed by the man running the largest law enforcement entity in Jefferson Parish?

Secondly, how can you have any ethics or moral fiber when you accept money from elected officials and ex-politicians that was given to them for prior campaigns?

I contributed money to Tony Ligi’s candidacy – I don’t support Johnny Lee. Hey Tony, why are you giving my money to someone I don’t support? If Ligi had any integrity, he would be cutting me a check, not Johnny Lee.  

So, let’s break this down, shall we. Changing parties to win an election; endorsed by Newell Normand; and taking money from other people’s campaign accounts all add up to a huge HELL NO for Johnny Lee.

Common Core and Fake Business Groups
The School Board runoffs in District 2 and District 7 also present a contrast between those opposing Common Core and those supported by fake business groups who claim to represent Jefferson Businesses.

In addition to costing Jefferson Parish taxpayers at least $35 Million to implement Common Core, the set of unproven national standards and testing included in Common Core, along with the potential for abuse due to data mining, has parents across the country in an uproar.

District 2
In District 2, 25-year-old Rickeem Jackson, who recently moved to the West Bank, faces off against 57-year-old Ricky Johnson. Johnson was born in New Orleans, went to West Jeff High School and resides in Gretna.

Jackson, who is supported by the likes of JP Councilman and ethically-challenged Mark Spears, supports Common Core. Johnson, who has 5 children and is a product of the JP public school system, is opposed to Common Core. Both are Democrats. Both are pushing for lower class sizes.




Huh?

Shouldn’t the Jefferson Parish School Board be singularly concerned with the Jefferson Parish School System and not any other School System?

Again, let’s break this down: A pro-Common Core candidate supported by Mark Spears and his gang who makes incomprehensible statements about what he will do on the School Board and who recently moved to the area, versus a lifelong resident who is a product of JP Public Schools and is opposed to Common Core.

Seems like a pretty easy choice in District 2.

District 7
The District 7 runoff between Melinda Doucet and Mark Jacobs also features a difference of opinion on Common Core along with the inclusion of fake business groups supporting Jacobs and meddling in the School Board (again).

In 2010, spearheaded by the anti-incumbent wave and failing Jefferson Parish Schools (primarily due to waste and abuse and the influx of Orleans Parish students displaced after Katrina), business groups like the Jefferson Chamber and JEDCO decided that they would put their own candidates on the School Board.

Business groups and the business community funneled hundreds of thousands of dollars into School Board races.

Jefferson Parish’s largest political campaign contributor, land baron Henry Shane allegedly conspired with JEDCO’s then Executive Director, to raise money to support business candidates on government equipment and on government time, both of which are illegal. JEDCO is a quasi-government agency that derives its funding from Jefferson Parish. Shane is a founder of JEDCO.

Now, the Jefferson Business Council, led by former State Rep Tony Ligi (there’s that name again), is interjecting itself into the School Board elections along with the Jefferson Chamber. Given the past controversy, JEDCO is taking a conspicuously low profile.

When they’re not disregarding the facts regarding the “progress” of the Jefferson Parish Public School System and pushing to keep the public out of the Jefferson Parish hospital debate, Ligi’s business group is staunchly supporting Common Core and railing against a “Washington takeover” of public schools.

So, what exactly is Common Core if not a “Washington takeover”?A set of standards forced down the throats of state and local school boards in return for Federal tax dollars that are rightfully ours anyway doesn't sound like a "Washington takeover" to you?

But I guess you expect that sort of double-talk from an allegedly Conservative Republican that supports a School Board that oversees a bloated $500+ Million budget that continues to grow and just borrowed another $50 Million on top of that.

Now you know why I’m no longer a Conservative Republican.

In the District 7 runoff, you have a parent in Doucet that is the former head of a Parent Teacher Organization and is deeply committed to improving public education in Jefferson Parish and staunchly opposed to Common Core versus an incumbent backed by fake business groups that combined represent about 1% of all the businesses in Jefferson Parish and support Common Core.

Listed among the donors to the Jacobs campaign, in addition to the Jefferson Chamber PAC and the aforementioned Henry Shane, you’ll also find the campaign accounts of Martiny and Ligi. No surprises there.

When you break things down to the issues that impact you, and Common Core and bloated government spending should concern everyone, the choice in this election become clear.

Early voting begins tomorrow (Saturday, 11/22). Let’s do the right thing folks.

Friday, November 14, 2014

No “Fat City Fest” For Me, Thank You



The inaugural Fat City Festival is this Saturday and, even if I wasn’t going out of town, I would not be partaking.

My distaste for the Fat City Fest is unusual, given that I normally enjoy the spirit of Louisiana’s many varied church and community festivals.

If you live in Louisiana, I’m sure you have your favorite festival. Whether it’s the Greek Festival in New Orleans, the Breaux Bridge Crawfish Festival, the Duck Festival in Gueydon, the Des Allemonds Catfish Festival, the Morgan City Shrimp & Petroleum Festival (truly an odd combination), or any of the church festivals like the recent St. Rita Pecan Festival or the St. Clement of Rome Oyster Festival, in Louisiana there truly is a festival for everything and everyone.

My personal favorite is the annual Giant Omelette Celebration in Abbeville. If you’ve never seen 5,000+ eggs, 50 pounds of onions, 75 bell peppers, 52 pounds of butter, 15 pounds of crawfish tails and various other ingredients mixed together and cooked in a giant skillet in a town square and then served to thousands of people, you really need to put it on your bucket list for next year.

Sadly, as much as I respect the history and character of Fat City, the good and the bad, the Fat City Festival will never be on my to-do list.

No, if the Fat City Festival were truly to celebrate Fat City, I would welcome it.

But the Fat City that was will never be again and, if you think that’s a good thing, you’re sadly mistaken.

Just as the French Quarter has its supporters and critics, so too did Fat City. And, just like the French Quarter, Fat City was either famous or infamous.

Whether you enjoy the history and character that Fat City was, or you feel that Fat City was a cesspool, you must admit that Fat City was ‘something’. Fat City had ‘something’. Unlike the homogenized urban planned space that is being thrust upon us by politicians and their contributors who are in search of more dollars and more power.

And, the Fat City Fest isn’t even being put on by people who are involved or invested in Fat City.

The Festival is sponsored by The Jefferson Chamber Young Professionals. On the web site promoting the Fest, it says “This festival will showcase the heart of Fat City and the changes that have been made over the years.”

What a bunch of crap.

Did I mention that there will be live music at the Fat City Fest?

If that sounds odd to you, it's because live music has been banned from Fat City for the past few years.

I guess, when you make the rules, you can change the rules whenever you feel like it. 

Included in the Festival are food trucks (which were outlawed in Jefferson Parish in 2007 and only brought back to Fat City this year at the behest of Councilwoman Cynthia Sheng for another fake festival), and a host of other food vendors who aren’t part of the Fat City landscape or history.

Food vendors include Lager’s, which is outside of the Fat City footprint as defined by Sheng; Hardee’s, which doesn’t have a location on the East Bank let alone in Fat City; and Mellow Mushroom, again outside of Fat City but owned by the former Chairman of the Jefferson Chamber.

Other vendors and sponsors include 1st Lake Properties (owned by the largest political contributor in Jefferson Parish), which was conveniently omitted from the Fat City Rezoning Ordinance pushed through by Sheng in 2010. The Rezoning, done under the guise of "redevelopment" and "crime abatement", drove out dozens of businesses from Fat City (including some that featured live music) and caused over 500 people to lose their jobs. No crime emanates from high-density apartment complexes right Councilwoman Sheng?

And, it wasn't just bars and strip clubs that were forced out by Sheng's onerous rezoning ordinance. Convenience stores, restaurants, a bakery, and numerous other businesses were also caught in Sheng's crosshairs in her zeal to create a legacy.

Also a sponsor is the Chateau Golf & Country Club, run by Kenner Mayor Mike Yenni’s wife and, obviously, never a part of “the heart of Fat City”. The Jefferson Chamber endorsed Mike Yenni in both of his Mayoral campaigns and heavily pushed Yenni's 2030 Plan, so perhaps this is quid pro quo for the Chamber's support of Yenni.

Yenni's political consultant, Greg Buisson, is also a sponsor. Why is a political consultant sponsoring a neighborhood festival? Just follow the money (and endorsements).

Other sponsors include Cigar Factory New Orleans with locations on Decatur and Bourbon Streets in the French Quarter (again, not a part of Fat City’s rich history);  and Microsoft. Yes, that Microsoft – the computer giant that wasn’t even a glint in Bill Gates’ eye when Fat City was in its heyday.

There will also be a couple of Etsy craft vendors selling their trinkets. 

What do any of these businesses have to do with “showcasing the heart of Fat City”?

Absolutely nothing, but their sponsorship dollars will surely make it into the Jefferson Chamber’s coffers.

And, since the Jefferson Chamber was one of the groups behind the destruction of Fat City’s “heart”, that’s pathetic but, this is Jefferson Parish after all.

Did Fat City need to be cleaned up? Without a doubt.

Did it need to be homogenized and have all of its character removed and changed into an ordinary neighborhood like every other neighborhood in suburban America? No, sorry Councilwoman Sheng.

So, if you’re going to the Fat City Fest, enjoy - but count me out.

I’m going to save my time and money for the REAL festivals that actually celebrate something in Louisiana that we can be proud of.  Tearing down the institution that was Fat City, trampling on individual’s property rights, forcing dozens of businesses to close and hundreds to lose their jobs while protecting the elite of Jefferson Parish and enriching your friends and allies isn’t something that I think we should celebrate.

By the way, Saturday is also the Rayne Frog Festival.

Maybe I’ll see you there.

Hey, at least frogs are cute and when was the last time you saw a frog race?

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Who Is Forest Bradley-Wright?



They say that when you face death you unburden your life. You toss the rules aside and begin to just live.

In my case, I’ve always tried to live with few rules and even fewer absolutes.

There are two absolutes that I do live by:

1). I believe in God. Don’t know if it’s a He or a She or Something Else, but I believe that God exists in some form.

2). I never trust a woman with three names.

I haven’t really thought long and hard about a man with three names. Now, there are men in Europe that have three names but, in America anyway, it is rare.

Which brings up the curious case of Forest Bradley-Wright.  There’s something about him that I don’t trust. Can’t put my finger on it but there is a gnawing in my stomach.

Wright is seeking the District 1 Public Service Commission seat currently held by Eric Skrmetta. 

The runoff is scheduled for December 6th along with the Senate runoff between Mary Landrieu and Bill Cassidy.

And, that seems like a good place to start.

Since Wright was the closest thing that Democrats had in the D1 PSC race and since many of his staffers are Democratic operatives, it was no surprise that Wright received many Democratic votes. 

However, besting an incumbent like Skrmetta was a shock to many.

Wright, who was a Democrat for almost 20 years prior to his conversion to the Republican Party in May of this year, holds much in common with Mary Landrieu. In fact, several members of Wright’s inner circle are former Landrieu campaign staffers.

Wright’s primary fundraiser is a long-time Democratic operative who has raised money for scores of Orleans Parish Democrats including State Senator Karen Carter Peterson (one of those 3-named women I don’t trust), State Rep. Austin Badon, former Gubernatorial candidate Carolyn Fayard, Orleans Parish Councilwoman Cynthia Hedge Morell (another 3-named woman),  and State Senators J.P. Morrell and Ed Murray.  

What’s even more curious about Wright is that this isn’t his first run for a seat on the Public Service Commission. In 2012, Wright ran unsuccessfully as a Democrat for the District 2 seat held by Republican Scott Angelle.

District 2 encompasses an area West of Metro New Orleans and includes Lafourche, Terrebonne, St. Mary and Lafayette Parishes along several other parishes.

So, if Wright ran for the District 2 seat in 2012, why is he running for the District 1 seat in 2014? He must have moved, right?

Wrong. Wright doesn’t live in either District. His residence is, and has been, in a portion of Orleans Parish that is included in District 3.

And, who is the PSC Commissioner from District 3? New Orleans Democrat Lambert Boissiere.

Can’t go up against another Democrat and can’t win as a Democrat, so let’s just switch parties.

It makes you wonder why Forest Bradley-Wright is trying so hard to get a seat on the Public Service Commission and it certainly makes you question his motives.

Wright is an energy consultant who was employed by The Alliance for Affordable Energy.

According to their web site, The Alliance for Affordable Energy claims “our policy work meets at the crossroads of social justice, sustainable economic development, and environmental protection.”

“Social justice”? What does that have to do with the cost of your electric bill?

During his tenure, Wright’s claim to fame with The Alliance is that he created a monthly Solar Roundtable discussion group that led to the foundation of yet another association, the Gulf States Renewable Energy Industry Association.

According to the Council of Small Business, Louisiana’s Energy Cost Index in 2012 was 2nd lowest in the nation, barely behind Arkansas.

We're finally good at something and a guy with three names who doesn't live in the District that he wants to represent wants to screw that up?

Since energy in Louisiana is already "affordable" isn't "The Alliance for Affordable Energy" really a group without a mission?

It is interesting that Nebraska, where Wright was born, is ranked 10th and Oregon, where Wright lived prior to moving to New Orleans to attend Tulane, is ranked 33rd.

Perhaps he should consider moving back to Oregon and lowering their utility rates before interjecting “Social justice” into our utility bills.

And, I would bet that there are far more Liberal Democrats in Oregon whose views are aligned with Wright’s than in the Conservative District 1 parishes of Jefferson, St. Tammany, Ascension, Livingston, Plaquemines, St. Bernard, St. Charles, St. Helena, Tangipahoa and Washington.

Can’t say that about Orleans Parish.

But hey, the PSC District where Wright lives already has a Democratic PSC Commissioner.