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Wednesday, March 14th, 2007

New Orleans, Louisiana




A number of candidates are posturing themselves in the coming fall gubernatorial election. And several new business and good government groups have sprung up in recent weeks to supposedly “set the agenda” for the political season. One candidate for governor is already on TV, talking about how citizens have to rise up and bring about change. But where are the specifics? Where’s the beef?


Look for most of the campaign rhetoric to center around traditional platform ideas of how to spend state funds. And invariably, the focus is using tax dollars to “educate, medicate and incarcerate.” Is there room in the coming campaign for specific proposals that go beyond just “cleaning up the mess” in Baton Rouge? Let’s hope so. And here are a few to begin the debate.


1) Have Louisiana create the nation’s first “e state” where free wireless broadband is available to everyone. We have a big education gap to fill. The reason that countries like India and China have made such quantum leaps in economic development is the fact that a kid in some remote mountain village now has access to the same information that our kids do at the best university libraries. The knowledge is now all there on line. Give kids in Louisiana as well as adults the option anytime and anywhere to go on line and have access to the world’s information. We are talking $50 million, and with a budget surplus of $2.5 billion at hand, this seems like a small investment for huge returns.


2) Louisiana has more people incarcerated per-capita than any state in the nation. And a large percentage are there on drug related crimes. But there is little rehab taking place. So how about combining programs with the state’s prison system and the Department of Health? The result could be a “meth prison” combining incarceration with intensive rehabilitation programs. The idea is to reduce the revolving conviction rate and save money in the long run by lowering the state’s cost of maintaining prisoners.


3) Insurance regulation has become dysfunctional in Louisiana. Abolish the elected office and form a new office of financial services and consumer affairs. Bring the Office of Financial Institutions into the umbrella for one regulatory body of banks, loan companies and insurance. Many more progressive states have such a combined office linked to a consumer affairs division. Isn’t the whole idea to protect the average citizen?


4) Spend more capital funds and put more emphasis on the Port of New Orleans. A major part of Louisiana’s economic future, if the state’s political leadership is smart enough to realize it, is the port system from New Orleans to Baton Rouge. Location is the reason here. But what’s happening in Latin and South America offers enormous opportunities for the state. The Panama Canal is being significantly widened offering real opportunities for tonnage through Louisiana ports from Asia. It is just a matter of time before there’s a change of leadership in Cuba. Louisiana was Cuba’s number one export and import entry pre-Castro. There are many other trading opportunities throughout South America. We need to quit trying to compete against other southern states for smokestack industries like steel plants, and start aggressively building relationships throughout Latin and South America. Louisiana has one thing, the port, that other states do not. Quite ignoring it.


5) If you don’t think the trashiness of Louisiana is not an impediment to attracting new businesses, give a call to State Senator Robert Barham up in northeast Louisiana. He was a guest on my radio show last week on theNew995FM.com. The Senator passed on comments from a major site locator for a Japanese car manufacturer that was considering locating in that part of the state. Two reasons were given for a lack of interest. The educational system and the litter that covers the highways. There’s been a lot of talk on “cleaning up Louisiana,” but little real action. How about a crash program in really cleaning up the state’s highways through use of prisoners, student groups, other volunteer organizations? Mandatory covers on any commercial truck carrying a load. Then make an example out of those who trash or state. Loss of driving privileges and jail time. Can you recall when anyone was arrested for littering the highways? .


6) Take a hard look at developing the commuter train link between Baton Rouge and New Orleans. There is dramatic growth between the state’s two largest cities and much more to come. The cost did not make sense pre-Katrina. But now it could. And what about a number of low rent hosing developments along the way? Rebuilding in New Orleans is static because of the lack of housing for construction and service workers. Restaurants and hotels can’t get help, even with higher pay, because of the lack of affordable housing. Las Vegas had a similar problem, but now transports thousands of workers to outlying lower income house units some 45 minutes away. Can a similar idea work here?


7) The U.S. constitution allows for the creation of a state militia, and 22 states have opted to create and fund what is considered a “state use only” national guard. There is proposed legislation in Washington to give federal funds for states that opt to create citizen soldiers. When Katrina hit, 60% of the Louisiana National Guard was in Iraq. There wasn’t the man power to make the needed quick response. Louisiana has a volunteer group of a few former guardsmen. Now Katrina and Rita have proven we need our people available and trained for what will inevitably been coming future emergencies.


8) Abolish Citizens Property Insurance Company and start from scratch. The present concept has proven to be a disaster as many have predicted long ago. Replace it with a new entity along the lines of the Louisiana Workman’s Compensation Fund (LWCC) created by Governor Mike Foster in 1991. When the naysayers holler that such a state created company will drive away existing companies, merely ask: “What existing companies?” Those like Allstate are using every trick in the book to bail out of south Louisiana. LWCC had state backing for six years, then was cut loose to make it on its own. And it was a major success story.


9) Implement the ideas that some of us proposed over a year ago. (See Brown Columns on website: March 2, 2006 “Property Insurance-What a Mess.”) Florida recently put into place a number of these vary suggestions, and local insurance officials and industry representatives in Louisiana hollered that the sky would fall. So what happened? Allstate just asked for a 14% reduction in Florida. The results speak for themselves.


There are just a few of the ideas that could work to bring about some significant improvements in the state. There are certainly a lot more. The point is that it’s time for specifics fro the candidates and the various new political support groups that are springing up. Like Sinatra said: “Don’t just bring me song titles. I want what’s deep down in your soul’’ Enough of generalities. Time to get specific for those who want to lead.




Pull the string, and it will follow wherever you wish. Push it, and it will go nowhere at all. ~ Dwight Eisenhower

Peace and Justice.


Jim Brown



3 Responses
  1. Hardy Parkerson

    Dear Jim,

    Will print out your new column and read it. Nice seeing you are still alive and kicking! Keep up the good work!


    Hardy Parkerson

  2. Jim:

    I’m glad someone is “thinking outside of the box.” At the National College of Natural Medicine (www.ncnm.edu) I learned of significant success in treating crack addicts using Homeopathy. There are solutions to all problems we merely need to let go of the status quo long enought to turn and face the future.


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