Recent editorials from Louisiana newspapers:
The Advocate, Baton Rouge, Louisiana, on politics and flood control:
On Thursday, the eve of the ninth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, a nominating committee for an area flood control board could demonstrate if anything's really changed in the local political culture that came under attack in the storm's wake.
Katrina revealed huge deficiencies in the levee systems that were supposed to keep Louisiana residents safe. Levee failures devastated New Orleans and surrounding communities. Those breaches underscored the need to reform local levee boards, long bastions of political patronage, so that these public bodies could more effectively accomplish their real mission — maintaining effective flood control.
The Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority-East was one of the political bodies created as part of legislation designed to professionalize levee protection. Legislation forming these new boards was meant to put in place board members because of their technical expertise, not political connections.
But in Louisiana — and, to some degree, anywhere else on the planet — wherever two shall gather, politics is sure to enter. The SLFPA has become a center of political wrangling since the authority's board voted to sue nearly 100 energy companies for damages, claiming that the industry's operations compromised the coastal ecology, raising the risk of flooding from storm surge.
The manner in which that suit was advanced, with board members developing the litigation largely in secret, then hiring a law firm without a competitive bid process, seemed like an exercise in political convenience itself. Now, champions of the suit seem surprised that opponents of the litigation are using similarly expedient tactics to try to kill it.
Although we doubt that politics can ever be fully removed from a public body, we hope that Thursday's meeting of the SLFPA nominating committee involves a thorough, thoughtful and transparent discussion of who should serve on the board and their qualifications for the post. That will allow the public to draw its own conclusions about political influence on the board — and hold those in charge accountable.
American Press, Lake Charles, Louisiana, on WISE:
The group that oversees the $40 million Workforce and Innovation for a Stronger Economy Fund continues to figure out how the money will be handed out to Louisiana's colleges and universities, a key step in the process.
The WISE Council met Monday and talked about four possible ways to dole out money from the fund, The Advocate reported. The council — made up of leaders in higher education and the workforce sector — will provide the state Board of Regents recommendations on spending.
From the looks of it, either the LSU system or the Louisiana Community and Technical College System could get the biggest chunk of money from the fund, but the WISE Council hasn't decided that yet. The Board of Regents has come up with outlines for the LSU system to get between $12.7 million and $14.8 million. The LCTCS could get between $11 million and $16 million.
The University of Louisiana system could get anywhere $8 million to $11.6 million from the fund. As much as $2 million from the fund would be available for the Southern University system, according to each of the four discussed plans.
State lawmakers approved the WISE Fund during this year's regular session in a bill pushed by House Speaker Chuck Kleckley, R-Lake Charles, and later signed by Gov. Bobby Jindal. The fund will help colleges and universities pay for degree programs that are in high demand, such as engineering, computer science and business.
The legislation is critical for McNeese State University and Sowela Technical Community College to pay for boosting those particular degree programs. Southwest Louisiana will need enough engineers and computer science graduates to fill the job opportunities once the $70 billion in industrial projects get underway in the area.
Schools must come up with a 20 percent local match from private interests, like a business, to gain access to WISE funds. But before that can happen, a formula for divvying up the fund must be set up so the schools can apply for the money.
Before that formula is decided, the WISE Council members should take into account the skilled workforce needed to fill the billions of dollars worth of announced industrial projects in Southwest Louisiana.
News-Star, Monroe, Louisiana, on Head Start:
Early Head Start, one of the most important programs for northeastern Louisiana's most vulnerable young mothers and children, is back in local hands.
The Children's Coalition of Northeastern Louisiana, our signature advocate for at-risk children, recently secured a five-year, $4.75-million grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to operate the three sites in Ouachita Parish.
Early Head Start is a federally funded community-based program for low-income families with pregnant women, infants and toddlers up to age 3.
Its programs are designed to support the physical, social, emotional, cognitive and language development of each child, with a special emphasis on educating and supporting parents.
Volunteers of America in Shreveport, using the needs assessment conducted by The Children's Coalition, operated the Ouachita locations until two years ago before pulling back to its core market.
Community Development Institute of Denver took over the past two years, and by all accounts, did a fine job.
But we believe the three Ouachita Early Head Start locations and those they serve can be even more effective under The Children's Coalition's watch.
The Children's Coalition has a sterling track record, and its insight into the specific nuanced needs of our community will elevate the work done at the Early Head Start locations in Ouachita.
Children's Coalition executive director Lynn Clark said Early Head Start has a holistic approach to child care and education that involves parenting, health, social and emotional development — aspects that are not always present in early childhood programs.
"This serves as a model for all ages, and we can use this as a jumping off point to grow our other programs in the Children's Coalition," Clark said.
We believe Early Head Start is in good hands with The Children's Coalition.