Louisiana editorial roundup
Recent editorials from Louisiana newspapers:
NOLA.com/The Times-Picayune on the new chief of New Orleans police:
Superintendent Shaun Ferguson is taking over a New Orleans Police Department that is in much better shape than it was just a few years ago.
The department is roughly six years into a federal court consent decree that ordered wide-ranging reforms to eliminate unconstitutional policing. U.S. District Judge Susie Morgan has praised NOPD for making significant strides in reforming the department.
But there is more work to be done, as federal monitors emphasized in a recent email exchange with the city attorney’s office. “As you know, substantial work remains to be done in, among other areas, bias-free policing, community policing, performance evaluations, and stops, searches, and arrests before the NOPD will achieve compliance with the Consent Decree’s requirements,” lead monitor Jonathan Aronie wrote Dec. 13 in response to a city email.
Superintendent Ferguson, who was sworn in Friday, acknowledged the importance of the consent decree during a press conference last week. He is committed, he said, to constitutional policing. “I’d like to see the department come full circle with the consent decree, we need to complete that process,” he said.
That is essential.
Superintendent Ferguson talked about other top priorities, including decreasing homicides and shootings and strengthening the relationship between police and residents.
To residents, he said, “I assure you that we will build on the positive relationships that have already been established, we will mend any relationships that may have been broken, as well as forge new relationships.”
The annual Crime Coalition survey last fall found an uptick in citizen satisfaction with the NOPD after a significant decrease the year before. The survey found that 55 percent of residents were satisfied with NOPD’s performance in 2018 compared with 51 percent in 2017.
These ratings are far higher than when the survey started in 2009 in the midst of federal investigations into Katrina-era crimes committed by police officers. Overall satisfaction then was at only 33 percent.
The improvement is a credit to former Superintendent Michael Harrison, who made implementation of the consent decree a top priority ...
The Advocate on a spending vote by the state House Speaker:
You can’t take politics out of politics, as the old saying goes, but when politicians decide that everything in government is political, facts be damned, then Louisiana is farther down a bad road.
The latest victim of partisanship at the State Capitol is a two-decade-old reform that helped minimize politics in the budget process.
The perpetrator is House Speaker Taylor Barras, R-New Iberia, who is abusing his position on a four-man committee where decisions must be unanimous.
Economists agreed that the state’s revenues are coming in better than expected, allowing room to pay for some prison costs and other matters that the Legislature in the spring anticipated could be funded if extra money came in. Barras did not object then.
The money’s coming in, but now Barras is the single “no” vote overriding the economists, the state Division of Administration, and Senate President John Alario, R-Westwego.
Barras’ vote blocks the improved forecast, meaning the money can’t be spent. He has vague questions about the impact of the federal tax changes, declines in oil prices and the state economy.
“I just feel that there is a good bit of uncertainty,” the New Iberia banker said.
There’s some uncertainty in every new day. That doesn’t mean that every decision must be put on hold, against expert advice. There is reason to doubt Barras’ sincerity, and that reason is politics.
If the forecasting committee cannot agree, it not only affects the current year’s spending. It also restricts the amount available to Gov. John Bel Edwards, a Democrat, when he by law offers the first draft of the fiscal 2020 budget next month.
Edwards intends to propose a state-funded teacher pay raise. With Barras’ veto, against the evidence, in an obscure panel like the Revenue Estimating Conference, Republicans get to say, later in the spring, that they proposed the teacher pay raise.
If this sounds petty, it is. Nor is it good politics. After all, we doubt teachers will care one way or another when in the long budget process raises are put on paper, or by whom. Barras is basically exposing the GOP game by his almost unprecedented action.
Edwards’ appointee on the REC, Commissioner of Administration Jay Dardenne, a Republican, said the reason for the Barras blockade is obvious. “We’re just playing a game right now,” Dardenne said. “It defies logic. It doesn’t defy politics; I understand that.”
We worry, as Dardenne said, that the Barras veto is another step toward every technical decision being driven not by the numbers but by the distortion of politics.
The Courier of Houma on the New Orleans Saints’ loss:
The New Orleans Saints and their many fans throughout south Louisiana enjoyed a tremendously successful season. But the magic ran out on Sunday as the Los Angeles Rams — with some help from the referees — defeated the Black and Gold and ended their season one game short of making a return trip to the Super Bowl.
Instead, the Rams will take on the New England Patriots Feb. 3 in Atlanta.
While the players, coaches and fans won’t soon forget the bitter sting of Sunday’s loss, they should all try to remember the many great moments they delivered this season. That’s not to say that fans should forget about the atrocious officiating, only that they shouldn’t lose sight of what a great season this was.
Sure, the nature of Sunday’s loss — coming as it did after the Saints looked to have a real chance to nearly run out the clock and kick a game-winning field goal — is particularly hurtful. And when even the NFL recognizes that the officials completely missed a potentially game-changing call, it is doubly frustrating.
In fact, Sunday’s loss in some ways was even worse than the heart-breaking play in Minnesota last year that ended the Saints’ playoff run. Last year, at least, fans and players knew that the team itself had delivered the loss. This year, it seems like near-certain victory was changed to an overtime loss by the failures of the officials.
None of that changes the fact that Drew Brees, Mark Ingram, Alvin Kamara, Michael Thomas and all the rest gave the fans a huge treat that lasted for months. It didn’t end the way anyone wanted, but was a tremendous journey for some of the best fans in sports.
Many are old enough to remember when the team delivered year after year of mediocrity and worse. Many remember — or even participated — in the paper bags that were mockingly meant to hide the shame of the long-suffering fans. And most remember the arrival of head coach Sean Payton and Drew Brees turning around the franchise, delivering one Super Bowl title and giving hope for more to come.
It won’t happen this year. But as long as this powerful team of coach, quarterback, young talent and improving defense can stay together, there is always hope for another.