Louisiana editorial roundup
Recent editorials from Louisiana newspapers:
NOLA.com/The Times-Picayune on Baltimore picking the New Orleans police superintendent to lead the Maryland city’s troubled department:
It took New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell nearly five hours Tuesday to issue a one-paragraph statement on the departure of Police Superintendent Michael Harrison for Baltimore.
Even then, it contained no explanation for the sudden retirement of the city’s top cop, no details about the process she will use to find a new chief, no reassurances of transparency during that process, no announcement of interim leadership for the department or even a promise of when one would be named.
There wasn’t even a thank you to Superintendent Harrison for almost 28 years of service to the New Orleans Police Department.
This is the mayor’s entire statement: “The progress the men and women of the NOPD have made towards reforming the department and achieving the goals of our consent decree has prepared Chief Harrison for this next step. We are approaching full compliance with the consent decree, and we stand ready to begin the next great era. It is a testament to the progress that’s been made that other jurisdictions have sought out our Chief. We wish him all the best going forward.”
That reads more like a Facebook status update than an announcement about one of the most important positions in city government.
It is hard to fathom how Mayor Cantrell’s office could have taken so long to communicate to citizens about a personnel change as significant as this one, and then to do so in a way that tells local residents nothing.
The news of Harrison’s pending departure spread quickly after a reporter with Baltimore television station WBAL tweeted it at 7:49 a.m. Tuesday.
At about 9:15 a.m. a spokesman for Mayor Cantrell confirmed to a NOLA.com/Times-Picayune reporter that Superintendent Harrison is retiring. The single paragraph from the mayor came by email at 12:35 p.m. As of 4:30 p.m., those were still the only words from the mayor on the issue. Her spokesman, Beau Tidwell, emailed reporters at 12:41 p.m., in response to an inquiry from NOLA.com/The Times-Picayune, that Cantrell “anticipates announcing a new Superintendent prior to Chief Harrison’s departure,” which raised more unanswered questions about the process.
The superintendent issued his own statement to reporters at 10:52 a.m. He expressed his “profound gratitude” to Mayor Cantrell for her support in the eight months he has worked for her. “To the citizens of New Orleans I would like to say, serving as your police chief for the past four years has been the highest honor and privilege of my 28-year career with the New Orleans Police Department. This city and its people will forever hold a special place in my heart.”
NOPD spokesman Andy Cunningham said Baltimore officials had approached Superintendent Harrison again after he said he wasn’t interested because a previous candidate withdrew. “The city of Baltimore has continued to show an interest in Chief Harrison for quite some time,” Cunningham said.
That suggests that the administration was aware that Harrison’s departure was still a possibility, which makes the mayor’s slow, inadequate initial response all the more perplexing.
The leadership of NOPD is vitally important to the city’s well-being. Superintendent Harrison, who was promoted in 2014 by former Mayor Mitch Landrieu, has been integral to the implementation of the federal consent decree. Those reforms were ordered in 2012 after the U.S. Justice Department documented systemic dysfunction and abuses in the department.
The next superintendent must be committed to completing those reforms. New Orleanians must be able to trust that person and trust that Mayor Cantrell will have an open, transparent and thorough search for Superintendent Harrison’s replacement.
Will she do that? We’re still waiting.
American Press on sports betting:
Another effort to legalize sports betting in Louisiana is expected to take place at this year’s legislative session, but don’t look for supporters to say it’s going to bring in millions of tax dollars. Instead, they will be talking about the fact other states are quickly approving sports betting and it helps the hospitality industry.
The Associated Press in a recent report said Nevada, which was first to legalize the new form of gambling, found that revenue from sports betting accounted for roughly one-half of 1 percent of the entire state budget. A major selling point is the fact sports betting is taking place anyway and it should be regulated.
Former New Jersey state Sen. Raymond Lesniak began the effort to legalize sports betting in his state, but admitted it wasn’t a major moneymaker.
It wasn’t intended to do that,” Lesniak said. “I was driven by the fact that the Atlantic City casino industry was dying and the horse racing industry was on life support. It needed an injection of new money and new people that would come, fill up rooms, eat in restaurants, spend money.”
Louisiana state Sen. Danny Martiny, R-Metairie, sponsored last year’s unsuccessful sports betting bill and said he plans to do it again this year. Martiny complained that the delay in approving sports betting was only going to hurt his state because Mississippi moved quickly to approve the new gaming venue.
Sen. Norby Chabert, R-Houma, said, “If we don’t address it, the world will be way out ahead of Louisiana and we’re going to be lagging behind.”
Supporters in other states are promoting sports betting by saying the new revenues will be directed to specific areas of the state budget. Louisiana promoted the use of lottery and other gambling revenues for educational purposes.
The AP said states that launched sports betting in 2018 expect it will bring in tax revenue that ranges from about $5 million in Mississippi and West Virginia to $25 million in New Jersey. The American Gaming Association said the estimated sports betting in Louisiana would total between $245 million and $288 million annually, producing from $52 million to $62 million in taxes.
Only time will tell whether those numbers become a reality, but Louisiana’s may be too optimistic. However, supporters will continue to insist Louisiana has to do it because other states are doing it.
The Advocate on how the partial government shutdown impacts an investigation into a Florida highway crash that killed five Louisiana children:
Last week, five Louisiana children on their way to Disney World were among seven people killed in a horrific multi-vehicle traffic accident near Gainesville, Florida.
Now, because of the ongoing federal government shutdown, the nation’s top investigators can’t start their work to determine what happened. Staffers for the National Transportation Safety Board, which gets involved in probing major crashes like the Florida accident, have been furloughed as part of the shutdown. It was prompted by a dispute between President Donald Trump and Congress over his request for billions of dollars to build a border wall near Mexico — a wall candidate Trump repeatedly promised that Mexico would pay for. Security is important, but key parts of the border already have a wall.
Accident investigations work best when officials can begin their work promptly. But because of pointless political posturing, Louisiana families who have suffered terrible losses are being denied answers about why their loved ones died.
Those families, and the rest of the country, deserve a government that’s open for business. What they’re getting, instead, is a national disgrace.