SHREVEPORT – The feud between Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards and Baton Rouge Representative Garrett Graves over the slow response of Louisiana in flood recovery efforts escalated last week when the Edwards camp accused Rep. Graves of spreading false information about the release of federal money given to the state.
Flood victims in need of assistance are waiting on the state government to act. The $1.65 billion that is available TODAY to the state of Louisiana for flood recovery will never be wired to a Louisiana-controlled account; that’s not how it works. It will stay at the HUD CFO Accounting Center in Fort Worth and the state will draw down the money as necessary.
The first step is for the State to upload its Action Plan to HUD’s software pictured in the screenshot. The reason it says $0 is because the state hasn’t uploaded its plan.
Once the state does upload the plan, the process will work like this:
Let’s say The Action Plan budgets $25 mm for drywall and the state needs to purchase $10 mm now.
The State submits a draw request for $10 mm and then the state gets paid within 72 hours. Now the state’s drywall budget is $15mm and so on…
The bottom line is that the state has known for more than 191 days (Sept. 28 is when Congress appropriated funds) that it would receive federal disaster money through the CDGB program, and should be ready to disburse those funds. They’re not ready.
Everything else you’re hearing is noise.
Louisiana is one of the most frequent users of DRGR. The state should be able to submit action plan in its sleep. Commissioner Dardenne is on the radio is saying it is being uploaded now – hurry up.
The spokesman for Governor Edwards, Richard Carbo, says “Graves’ information is inaccurate and the federal government hasn’t yet released the money to the state to spend. The line of credit “has not yet been set up.”
Clearly, the government hasn’t released the money because the state has not submitted an action plan as required or hired a contractor to oversee rebuilding. Why haven’t they done that?
Meanwhile, as I reported last week, Louisianians are not waiting on the politicians. The Cajun Navy worked alongside first responders when the floods happened in August 2016 to rescue people, pets, and property, and now the Cajun Relief Foundation is working through crowd funding to get people the financial help they need.
Nobody has made a full-on indictment of Edwards’ immediate response to the August floods, though he certainly wasn’t perfect – and it’s fair to say he got bailed out by the Cajun Navy, which filled in a lot of the gaps. But in the effort to get federal dollars into Louisiana to make flood recovery happen as quickly as possible, Edwards has been an unmitigated failure – and if Louisiana’s newspapers weren’t so nakedly partisan on his side the governor would have been thoroughly excoriated for it.
Hopefully the politicians can get their red tape untangled before the next flood hits.
SHREVEPORT – Bear with me, readers, for this week I’m bringing you a local problem but it is one that needs national attention in order for it to be rectified. Your help is needed.
Our local animal shelter is deplorable. The city of Shreveport has a population of just over 200,000 people, and we are the third largest city in the state of Louisiana, yet we can’t seem to figure out how to run a humane animal shelter. The problems at Caddo Parish Animal Services are epic and have been going on for years. Any attempt to solve the problem has only been a token one.
Consider the following:
July 2007: CPAS director fired for failing to properly perform his duties, for example: failing to do rabies tests on a racoon that had scratched a man, among other offenses.
October 2013: Karen Dent’s Golden Retriever escaped her backyard when a tree fell on a fence; CPAS picked up the dog. Dent called the shelter and was told she could claim her dog, but when she arrived the dog had been euthanized.
October 2013: A puppy was found in September in a Shreveport storage locker, abandoned and left to die. Literally at death’s door, he was rescued and taken to the emergency vet clinic and then transferred to Benton Animal Hospital. By October he was in foster care with a vet tech and making a nice recovery at which time CPAS comes to their home and seizes the emaciated, still very fragile dog, as evidence of the animal abandonment crime. “Braveheart” was heartlessly placed in a kennel at CPAS rather than allowed to stay in foster care under the attention of a vet tech. Massive public outcry resulted in animal cruelty charges against the owner of the storage locker. (Braveheart’s story has a happy ending.)
August 2014: Adoptions volunteer Reed Ebarb resigned his position at CPAS after director Everett Harris verbally attacked Ebarb and his attempts to move more dogs into rescue and off the euthanasia list. Ebarb was vigilant in compiling and reporting monthly euthanasia rates to the public which was often well over 70%.
March 2015: Two malnourished dogs, dubbed Lucky and T-Bone, were picked up by CPAS after a citizen complaint of neglect, found to be full of parasites, yet when PetSavers Rescue offered to take the dogs and vet them, director Everett Harris denied the request, igniting yet another firestorm of public outcry.
August 2015: Amanda Middleton was travelling through Shreveport, blew a tire, and her dog, Libby ran off and got lost. Libby was lost for two days before being found and taken to CPAS where a microchip was scanned and her family identified. A Humane Society volunteer had permission from the eight-months pregnant Middleton to retrieve the dog and meet Middleton halfway to return the pup, but director Everett Harris refused to release the dog to anyone but Middleton, despite written permission from Middleton to do so. Middleton drove all the way back to Shreveport from Houston to get her dog.
August 2015: CPAS director Everett Harris was placed on administrative leave, and then resigned, after posting an offensive photo on Facebook of dogs with a Star of David and Nazi symbols drawn on their heads and the caption “How to deal with the difficulties of life.” He said he meant to post the picture to a private account rather than the public CPAS page. Harris was on paid leave for several months, then terminated.
October 2016: Amber McMillan’s two dog were euthanized despite her multiple visits to CPAS searching for them. McMillan contends that her dogs were not in any of the stray hold kennels she was shown when she went to the shelter. She showed photos of her dogs to the employees at the shelter and filed paperwork. The dogs were killed nine days after intake.
November 2016: DeAnna Robinson adopted a large breed dog from CPAS; he weighed only 30 pounds when she brought him home. He was emaciated and could barely walk. He had been housed in a kennel at the shelter with five other dogs.
December 2016: A stray dog, “Ellie,” wanders into a man’s yard; the man brings his own dog outside and orders it to attack Ellie who subsequently dies from her injuries. The event is captured on video which creates a social media firestorm. CPAS fails to press charges, thereby sanctioning the inhumane attack.
December 2016: “Tini” was picked up by CPAS on December 30 after being hit by a car; her owners determined that Tini was at the shelter but they were not allowed to pick her up for four days, despite that fact that the dog had a broken jaw and other injuries and needed immediate medical care. Because of the New Year’s Eve holiday, Tini had to stay in the shelter rather than be reunited with her family.
January 2017: Big Fluffy Dog Rescue out of Nashville TN, came to CPAS to pull two dogs but left with 17, and later came back for more, because of the deplorable conditions in which they found the dogs in the CPAS shelter, which included inadequate medical care for broken bones, malnourished dogs, and overcrowded kennels. BFDR is urging public outcry against the abuses at the Caddo Parish shelter.
January 2017: A citizens meeting to discuss continued problems at CPAS is attended by two Caddo Parish Commissioners who cite lack of first-hand accounts as one reason why no change has been made at CPAS.
February 2017: CPAS kennel worker placed on leave, and then fired, for having sex with a dog. The act was filmed by another CPAS worker. Where this act actually took place has not been revealed; reports are that it was not at the shelter, but does it matter?
Obviously, the problems at the shelter are ongoing and it doesn’t seem to matter who the director is. Meanwhile, literally hundreds of dogs (and cats) are euthanized each month. The shelter’s euthanasia rate is right around 50 to 60% right now, down from previous years where there was a 77% or more euthanasia rate. This decline is due to the help of some tireless rescue groups and an improved willingness by the current director to work with rescues.
There are volunteer rescue groups that work to pull dogs from the shelter and take them to states “up north” where stricter spay/neuter laws have resulted in lower numbers of available pets. Our dogs have a much better chance at adoption there.
That being said, this shelter still needs major change. State inspections have taken place but they are announced at least ten days in advance which gives the shelter time to clean up their act. After the public meeting in January, two Caddo Commissioners toured the shelter, but again, it was announced.
The Parish Administrator, Dr. Woody Wilson, has control over this situation. He works for the Caddo Parish Commission, but his oversight of CPAS operates is completely independent. There is no system of checks and balances and Wilson has the final, and only, voice.
Granted, we have a huge problem here in unwanted animals; too many people in this area see animals as property and all too often refuse to get their animals spayed or neutered. The director’s job at the shelter is a huge one. But it’s clear to me that this director has lost the faith of the public by this most recent string of allegations, and something must be done.
For years, and years, we’ve been told by the Parish Administrator that they are revisiting and reviewing laws, policies, and procedures yet we are still battling this issue. The public outcry rises, we get lip service, public outcry dies down, and the cycle continues. When public outcry rises, we are dismissed as crazy animal people who get their information from social media. When citizens go to shelter board meetings to voice concern, they are quickly shut down if their experience is not first-hand.
It appears that the only thing that might work is a national outcry. This shelter administration needs to be completely rebooted. They all need to go. If qualified, they can be rehired; if not, more the better.
This shelter needs to be cleaned up, literally; all policies need to be examined, updated, revised. Dogs in stray/hold, for example, are kept in outdoor pens regardless of the weather. Too many dogs are crowded into pens thus creating feeding issues and fights. When Big Fluffy Dog Rescue pulled their thirty dogs, they wrote:
Caddo Parish Animal Shelter in Louisiana has been the subject of serious complaints for years. In January, Big Fluffy Dog Rescue took in more than 30 dogs from this shelter. Most of the dogs were emaciated, many had serious health issues and most had bite wounds consistent with fighting for resources. Big Fluffy Dog Rescue attempted without success to determine whether the cause of the animals’ suffering was the shelter itself or if the dogs came in to the shelter in that condition. Caddo Parish did not appropriately investigate the issue and the concerns of animal rescuers were largely swept under the carpet and derided by the local government as unfounded. Local media covered the story.
There is a veterinarian “on call” but not on site. Dogs with broken bones or other injuries languish. There is no feral cat or TNR program; there are no online records – everything is still done on paper. If a volunteer speaks out or complains about conditions or abuse, they are banned from the shelter. Quite often they choose to remain silent so they can continue to help the animals in the shelter. Any online presence is due to the work of volunteers. If you go to the shelter’s page and click on animals for adoption, you might find a few, but these are out of date and do not nearly reflect the number of available animals.
The issues are epic. But at the very least, the neglect, abuse, and miscommunication must be stopped. And sex with animals? Please. Is this the best we can do with vetting our employees (this woman was a paid employee – not a volunteer!).
To be clear, I’m not calling for the firing of current director Chuck Wilson; while he may not be perfect, many of the volunteers appreciate his efforts yet Wilson is hogtied by the current structure of oversight. The source of the problem lies in the fact that the control is all with the Parish Administrator Woody Wilson who has shown very little interest in making this shelter a safe and humane shelter for animals.
Please share this with any animal rights advocates or organizations you know that might be able to help the citizens of Caddo Parish clean up this shelter and turn this situation around. Ideally the shelter should be privatized or turned over to a competent, established rescue with a humanitarian mission. Please email or write letters, polite and respectful letters, to Parish Administrator Woody Wilson, and the Assistant Parish Administrator who is reportedly working Woody Wilson’s job while he is being investigated on a residency issue.
A national outcry is the only thing we haven’t tried. There are plenty of citizens here who want to make a difference; the problem is in the politics. We need help and you can contribute by helping to shine light on this issue.
SHREVEPORT – Loose thoughts this week from Northwest Louisiana:
Apollo 1 Memorial: It’s been fifty years since Gus Grissom, Roger Chaffee and Ed White died in a flash fire that engulfed their capsule during a routine training mission and as she has each year, Grissom’s widow, Betty, was in Florida at the annual memorial service. This story in the New York Times records the very humble beginnings of this memorial ceremony back to when it was just two space buffs showing up at Pad 34. Now, finally, the Apollo 1 astronauts have a tribute exhibit at Kennedy Space Center and the memorial ceremony is a pretty big deal.
I found this article timely as I’ve just completed a unit on the Apollo 13 story with my sophomores. As a baby boomer, America’s race to the moon enthralled me. I read everything I can on it and am currently re-reading The Right Stuff for probably the third time. I want to instill the history, drama, and American pride in my students when we do this unit. It’s hard in some ways for them to understand how exciting this period of our history was.
Politics: Can’t even go there right now. Let me just say this: when Obama got elected to his first term I was incensed, horrified, and rabidly vocal about the danger I believed he brought to our country and about what I perceived as his weakness and inexperience as a leader. I was chastised by liberal friends and family for not supporting the newly elected president because after all, that’s the process – the peaceful transfer of power. “He may not have been your choice but now you have a duty to support him.” Well, no, I don’t. I still blogged and railed against his policies and practices.
And now I have to listen to these petulant people whine and carry on about Trump? Why are they not supporting “our president”? Why was that duty of support assigned to only me?
The hypocrisy slays me and I can’t bear it. I’m on a politics boycott right now.
Mardi Gras: And so, on a lighter note, it’s Mardi Gras season in Louisiana and we are neck deep in king cakes, crawfish, and plastic colored beads from China. We are lighting fire pits and charcoal grills along the bayous, drinking beer in the streets, and dancing to brass bands. There might be a lot of problems in the country, and there are plenty in Louisiana, but for the next several weeks we are going to have a big party and pretend like they don’t exist! It’s a great time to come visit from the frozen north!
SHREVEPORT — As Donald Trump begins his first full weeks as President of the United States, I’m going to step back and just watch; I want to see what he does. I’m not the least bit interested in speculation or criticizing him for things he hasn’t done yet. The Women’s March that happened across the country over the weekend happened here in Shreveport, too, with hundreds of people crowded around the courthouse downtown waving Hillary signs and wearing pink caps. Okay. Whatever. I’m a woman – I don’t feel violated or threatened or victimized in any way. Perhaps I’ve missed the point of the protests, and that’s fine. I’ve been busy.
I’ve been on book deadline (which is why my weekly post didn’t appear hear last week) and other aspects of daily life have kept me occupied this week – too much so to make a poster about vaginas and go stand around at the courthouse. I fully respect the rights of those who felt the need to do so to be able to do that; it’s just not my thing. I’ll protest other things, perhaps. I just missed the point of this one.
At any rate, one woman in the Shreveport march was quoted as saying:
“I think we’re just living in such a politically cantankerous world right now, and this isn’t a protest against one person,” participant JayaMcSharma said. “It’s just sending a clear message to the administration that just took over, this is what we’re about: equality, peace, love and defending people who are marginalized. If you agree with that, fantastic. If you don’t, we’re not going away.”
So…okay…you’re protesting about something you think might happen, but then again might not?
The women said they were protesting against some of the comments made by Trump during his campaign, saying that wanted their voices to be heard.
That’s at least a little more clear, although I’m still not clear on which rights were lost by Trump’s election.
Another protester in NOLA said:
“We’re willing to come out and show our displeasure and to show that we’re not going to roll over and this administration is not going to be able to get away with anything they want.”
Well, that would be a different approach as the Obama administration certain seemed to be able to get away with anything it wanted.
As a woman, I’m certainly all for standing up for your rights, but I’m thinking how much more could have been done in communities had all these people not been standing in the streets dressed like vaginas and waving Hillary posters.
But, they still have the right to protest so I guess there’s that.
SHREVEPORT — South Louisiana is flooding. You may have heard about it on the news. It’s really bad. In a press conference Sunday morning, Governor John Bel Edwards said it is “plenty bad.”
Many homes that have never taken on water before have flooded with this storm and many of those people don’t have flood insurance. They’ve lost everything.
In the northern part of the state, we are dry: I haven’t seen rain for ages, but down south, this is a catastrophic disaster that is all too reminiscent of the flooding after Hurricane Katrina in 2005 although in the case of Katrina there were at least warnings and opportunities to evacuate. In this case, as the result of a tropical depression in the Gulf, it just started raining and did not quit. Some areas in and around Baton Rouge have received over two feet of rain in two days. Baton Rouge is, on average, about two feet below sea level although that varies widely across the city and the problem today is as the Amite River crests there is a huge backflow problem into bayous and streams which will cause more flooding in days to come.
The crest of the Amite River will be of primary concern in the next few days and could cause terrible flooding, perhaps worse than the devastating 1983 flooding there. Cresting is starting to happen but is moving slowly south and so more flooding is certainly anticipated and although rain in Baton Rouge abated on Sunday morning as the storm moved west, more rain is in the forecast. With saturated ground, “even a typical summer thunderstorm could cause flooding,” Governor Edwards said.
There were over one thousand vehicles stranded on I-12 and while the National Guard attempted to rescue those people, many chose to spend the night there and remain with their vehicles. On Sunday the first responders began bringing food and water in to them.
The Louisiana National Guard has deployed 1,700 Guardsmen as of Sunday afternoon but those numbers were expected to climb to about 2,500 before this all winds down.
The Advocate is providing excellent ongoing coverage of the flooding and has a heartbreaking slide show of flooded schools, homes, interstates, and highways as well as an interactive map of flooded areas. Much of the LSU campus is underwater.
What has happened down here is the winds have changed
Clouds roll in from the north and it started to rain
Rained real hard and it rained for a real long time
Six feet of water in the streets of Evangeline
The river rose all day The river rose all night Some people got lost in the flood Some people got away alright The river have busted through clear down to Plaquemines Six feet of water in the streets of Evangeline
In a Sunday morning press conference, Governor John Bel Edwards reported that over 7,000 people and 500 pets have been rescued; as of Monday morning the numbers are staggering: 20,000 rescued and 10,000 in shelters. There have been six fatalities. He has requested a major disaster declaration for the affected parishes from the FEMA Region 6 director.
The storm is moving west now and in Louisiana at least twenty-seven state offices are closed Monday as authorities attempt to respond and to keep people off the roads as much as possible. On Sunday, Louisiana State Police reported that there are over 1400 critical bridges that must be inspected before they can be reopened for safe travel; over 200 roads are closed.
If you want to volunteer or help, here is a list of everything from the Red Cross, Salvation Army, and the United Way may need. As I said, there are over 10,000 people in shelters with more to come. Pet shelters are still being set up as well as medical needs shelters.
My friend Rob Gaudet of Gaudet Media got out yesterday and was filming in Ascension Parish as he looked for places to volunteer and help. In true Louisiana spirit, as he and his friend Chris waded through six inches of water in the street in a neighborhood, people were outside watching the water and cooking gumbo in a large pot. They called Rob and Chris over and fed them some gumbo. They were offering it to anyone who passed by and even sent some home with Chris for his wife. They went on to a nearby middle school where David Duke was filling sandbags. Rob and many others will be out volunteering today.
While Governor Edwards in no way wants to compare this catastrophe to a hurricane, the local meteorologists have been calling this a “hurricane without the winds.” Governor Edwards is quick to point out that had this been a hurricane we would have much more infrastructure damage as well as widespread power outages.
Even though it isn’t a hurricane, it is still, as Governor Edwards said, “plenty bad.”
SHREVEPORT – As Louisiana struggles to keep the lights on in the state and as legislators continue to make cuts and raise taxes as they try to balance the budget, what most Louisiana residents were upset about last week was the luxury chicken coop Governor John Bel Edwards has had built (with his own money) on the grounds of the governor’s mansion. Inside the coop he has sixteen hens and hopes to have fresh eggs soon.
I’m no fan of John Bel Edwards, by far. He’s an Obama Democrat through and through, but if the guy wants to put a chicken coop in the yard, who cares?
Why begrudge the guy some fresh eggs?
Maybe he’ll inspire some kids to raise chickens.
But the whole affair is making for some really bad, and sometimes funny, headlines and newswriting, and some painful metaphors:
Caught smack dab in the middle of this political game of chicken is the TOPS college scholarship program. In plain speak: Funding for one of the state’s most cared about programs — from the every day voter’s perspective — is being held hostage until one side caves.
Sad, but true. Thousands of kids across the state, and their parents, are worried about college next fall where a couple of months ago they were depending on the TOPS scholarship program to see them through.
And while I’m certainly guilty of typos and the occasional sloppy writing, I don’t get paid by a news organization to write like this:
By the way, in addition to bringing recycling to the mansion, the Edwards have also added a chicken coup and a garden.
If the chickens are planning a revolution, perhaps Edwards needs to add a pig names Snowball to the mansion farm.
If you search Facebook for John Bel Edwards and chickens, you’ll find reams of outrage and approval.
Really, it’s just chickens, people.
And if you’re invited to dinner at the governor’s mansion, order the steak.DaTe
SHREVEPORT – Amazon is ending its Associates Program in Louisiana effective April 1. I received this email last week:
Greetings from the Amazon Associates Program:
We’re writing to inform you that the Louisiana state legislature has passed, and Governor John Bel Edwards has signed, a bill to establish tax nexus and impose tax collection requirements, which is forcing Amazon.com to end its advertising relationships with all Louisiana-based associates. You are receiving this email because our records indicate that you are a resident of Louisiana. If our records are incorrect, please update the details of your Associates account here before March 25, 2016 to avoid termination.
Please note that this is not an immediate termination notice and you are still a valued participant in the Amazon Associates Program. However, if this bill is not repealed or overturned prior to going into effect April 1, we will no longer pay any advertising fees for sales referred to Amazon.com or its subsidiaries, and we will not be able to accept new applications for the Amazon Associates Program from Louisiana residents.
The unfortunate consequences of this legislation affecting Louisiana residents like you were explained to the Louisiana legislature, including Senate and House leadership, as well as to the governor’s staff.
Over a dozen other states have considered essentially identical legislation but have rejected these proposals largely because of the adverse impact on their states’ residents.
Should you feel the need to voice your opinion directly, Governor Edwards’ office may be reached here.
We thank you for being part of the Amazon Associates Program, and wish you continued success in the future.
The Amazon Associates Team
Now, I didn’t make a lot from my Amazon referrals, not the kind of serious change Stacy McCain makes from them, but that little commission incentive was nice every now and then. Remember when capitalism was a good thing?
Louisiana considered passing the Amazon Tax in 2011 but at the time Governor Jindal vetoed the bill for the purpose of keeping his no new taxes pledge. There was little doubt this time that our new governor, Mr. “Tax to Prosperity” John Bel Edwards, would sign the bill.
Legislators don’t really know how much income this new tax will generate. Studies have shown that people don’t spend quite as much on Amazon purchases once the sales tax kicks in:
Indeed, the researchers found that low-income households reduced the amount they spent on goods on Amazon by 12 percent, while high-income households pulled back by 9 percent. The researchers suggested this makes sense given that low-income shoppers generally tend to be the most price-sensitive.
The Amazon Tax had an especially chilling effect on big-ticket purchases that totaled more than $250, the study found. On these transactions, Amazon sales declined 11.4 percent once the tax was put in place.
So, here ends my relationship with the Amazon Associates program. No more referral links at the end of my posts. No more little cash incentives for advertising.
SHREVEPORT – Tuesday afternoon of last week, I was anxiously watching the ominous sky as I closed up my classroom for the day. My student teacher had some last minute things that needed to be copied and run off for class the next day and as a result I didn’t get away from the school quite as early as I had wished. The local newscasters had been predicting a major deluge would settle over northwest and central Louisiana and we were in for heavy, heavy rainfall.
I still had to stop by the grocery store on the way home and as I drove through the rain I began to have second thoughts about stopping.
By the time I got home the rain was falling steadily, heavily and it did not stop.
It rained for hours.
By Wednesday morning it was clear that we had a problem. Subdivisions, streets, houses were flooding. My phone started blowing up with text messages from friends, co-workers, news reports, and flash flood alerts. People were being rescued from their homes via boat and the rain was still coming down. One friend lives on Cross Lake; his home is a good 100 yards from an inlet and he has never seen it flood there. By the end of the week his entire pier was under water and the lake was far up into his yard, almost to the house. Unprecedented. He and his neighbors put a boat in the water to make a grocery run as all roads leading into and out of his subdivision were closed and under water. It was four days before he could get out.
In one mid-city neighborhood there were reports of fish swimming in the streets; the dead carp in the streets when the water receded gave testament to the truth of this.
Golden Meadows subdivision in Bossier City, along with some thirteen other subdivisions, were ordered to evacuate: mandatory evacuation. When one reporter asked Sheriff Julian Whittington to define “mandatory,” the Sheriff replied, “Mandatory means mandatory. Get out of there.” Naturally there were those who refused and stayed behind to protect their homes and property. Some of them called later for rescue and some toughed it out.
My Facebook feed was a stream of pleas for people with boats to come get them.
Pets were left behind and people tried to get back into the subdivisions to rescue them. Cattle and livestock had to be moved to higher ground.
The entire community, anchored by personnel from Barksdale Air Force Base, came together to put thousands of sandbags on the levee around Red Chute Bayou which up until late Saturday was still expected to overflow and come over the levee, inundating yet another subdivision. So far the levee has held.
In an unprecedented move, by Friday both I20 and I49 were closed and under water; we truly were isolated. One back road after another washed out, bridges gave way, and yet people continued to drive around barricades. More than one ended up crashed into a washed out crater.
Schools have been closed for three days and word came down just Sunday afternoon that finally they would reopen on Monday, as best they could. Many kids won’t have school uniforms or supplies. The buses will pick them up at the evacuation shelters and make their way through altered routes to avoid unsafe roads. But some normalcy must now be restored. We need to clean up.
I’m not sure how many kids will show up for school; I know many of them were flooded out of their homes. I know at least four of my co-workers who flooded out and had to leave their homes. I’m not sure how many of them will be able to come to school.
Today, the sun is shining. But the danger is not over. Red River is once again at flood stage (we had an historic 100-year flood this past summer) and the high water is preventing the many bayous and tributaries from draining off. Twelve Mile Bayou, which cuts through downtown Shreveport, is still rising and will no doubt flood several neighborhoods in Shreveport this week.
Governor John Bel Edwards came on Friday and toured the ravaged neighborhoods, declaring that the state is “awash in red ink and water” right now.
I guess that’s an understatement.
As for now, we are drying out, hoping the rain stays away, and rebuilding. There’s an awful lot of mess and debris to be cleared and a lot of work to do. Thankfully loss of life was low. One man was swept away and drowned when he tried to drive through high water; his wife was found clinging to a tree awaiting rescue. Another man washed away and neither he nor his car have been found yet.
What has been good to see is the community coming together and helping each other.
SHREVEPORT – It was only a matter of time before Captain Clay Higgins of the St. Landry parish sheriff’s department drew the ire of the ACLU and frankly, it’s surprising that it hasn’t happened before now.
Captain Higgins makes Chuck Norris tremble. Captain Higgins is the tough talking, straight shooting spokesman for the St. Landry Sheriff’s Office and his weekly Crime Stoppers videos are a combination of John Wayne straight talk, Chuck Norris machismo, and tent-revival preaching. He doesn’t work from a script and generally nails the segments in just one take.
His most recent video targets at-large members of the Gremlins street gang who have been terrorizing at least four Acadiana parishes in recent months. The Louisiana State Police reached out to Capt. Higgins to use his popular Crime Stoppers platform to make the video which pulled together law enforcement officials from several parishes.
In this video, which you can watch here, Higgins stands in front of a veritable army of officers and growls straight into the camera. He begins the video in his beige uniform shirt and Smoky Bear hat, but by the end, after calling out the gang members by name, he is in SWAT gear and is heavily armed, as are those behind him:
The Gremlins street gang is responsible for hundreds of violent crimes: murders, armed robberies, witness intimidation, burglaries, drug trafficking, extortion, and brutal beatings. We’ve arrested ten of these thugs and have warrants on seven more. Every one of these thugs is most definitely armed and dangerous.….We have felony warrants for your arrest. You will be hunted. You will be trapped. And if you raise your weapon to a man like me, we will return fire with superior fire.
Darren Carter, you think men like these are afraid of an uneducated, 125 pound punk like you that’s never won a fair fight a day in your life and holds your gun sideways? Young man, I’ll meet you on solid ground anytime, anywhere light or heavy. Makes no difference to me, you won’t walk away. Look at you! Men like us, son, we do dumbbell presses with weights bigger than you! …
I encourage every citizen watching this to look into your own heart and find the American courage that conquers all evil. I implore you to listen to this message and stand up, take back your streets, take back your country. Come forward with information about these heathens that’ll terrorize your community.
And to those who would use this message as a way to create false racial division in our country, take a close look behind me. Standing next to every cop is a leader of our black community. This is not about race. It’s about right versus wrong. One last message to the Gremlins: you don’t like the things I’ve told you tonight? I got one thing to say. I’m easy to find!
The camera pans out, patriot music swells, and the ACLU goes nuts.
It took less than 24 hours for the ACLU of Louisiana to file a statement with the television station expressing concern that Capt. Higgins might just use vigilante force to apprehend these criminals:
“While we support legal law enforcement and certainly are as concerned as anyone about violence in our neighborhoods, law enforcement officers must be aware of the implications of their public statements. Assuming that what is reported is true, Mr. Higgins has suggested that those he seeks to arrest are subject to execution before trial. The statement that there is a “bounty on their heads” harks back to lawlessness, when people were killed first and questions asked later. That is not the way we operate in a free society, and regardless of Mr. Higgins’ opinions about the guilt of those he seeks to arrest, it is a felony to execute someone simply because you don’t like them.
They also expressed criticism over the use of the word “heathen” because *gasp* it is a “religious term” and we certainly can’t have that:
“He refers to those he seeks to arrest as “heathens.” “Heathen” is a religious term, and unless Mr. Higgins has specific information about the religious beliefs of those individuals, it is both inappropriate and incorrect. And even if it’s true that these individuals, or some of them, are religiously “heathen,” that is of no consequence to their status as criminal suspects. Unless Mr. Higgins believes that all law-abiding people share his personal religious faith – and if he does believe that, he should not be an officer of the law – to call someone a “heathen” and equate that to “criminal” is simply insulting, wrong, and potentially a violation of the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.”
He has somehow insulted hardened murderers by calling them heathens? We certainly can’t have anyone insulting criminals, now.
For the record, “heathen” is indeed a religious term, but in informal usage, it is also defined as “an unenlightened person; a person regarded as lacking culture or moral principles,” which certainly seems to apply here.
“The ACLU has a point that they feel is righteous, and of course they’re wrong, but that’s subject for debate. I invite them to that debate. I’d like to fill a 10,000 man hall in Baton Rouge. Whoever authored that letter, whatever team authored that letter, I’m sure they’d be happy to debate me in a public forum. We can sell tickets. 10,000 of them at $10.00 apiece and raise $100,000 for charity. I can certainly generate 9,998 of my followers, and they can bring both of theirs, and we’ll have a healthy debate and let the American people decide,” says Higgins.
No word yet if the ACLU will take Captain Higgins up on that offer. I’m betting they don’t.
SHREVEPORT – I wrote in this space a few weeks ago about the controversy surrounding the removal of four Confederate monuments in New Orleans. To recap briefly, Mayor Mitch Landrieu (brother of “Katrina Mary” Landrieu) has organized the removal of monuments commemorating P.G.T. Beauregard, Robert E. Lee, Jefferson Davis, and Liberty Monument. The Times-Picayune has photos and descriptions of each monument here. In the place of the Jefferson Davis monument, Mayor Landrieu would also like to rename Jefferson Davis Parkway in honor of a retired Xavier University president.
The City Council voted 6-1 in support of the monument removal despite public outcry from a majority of the NOLA citizens and local preservationists. Immediately after the Council’s vote, a federal lawsuit was filed to prevent removal despite the fact that Mayor Landrieu already had contractors in place to begin removal immediately.
So where are we today? The case is garnering national attention and has been covered by The New York Times, the New York Post, and The Atlantic as well as attracting the attention of bloggers throughout the country.
During the two hour and 30-minute hearing, U.S. District Court Judge Carl Barbier heard arguments after several plaintiffs, including the Monumental Task Force, went to court to block the city’s plan to remove four Confederate monuments.
Preservationists are looking for an injunction, stopping the city from removing the statues of Robert E. Lee, P.T.G. Beauregard, Jefferson Davis and the Liberty Place monument, which city attorneys called “monuments to white supremacy” during the hearing.
“It looked to me like the city was on stronger ground,” said Donald “Chick” Foret, WWL-TV legal analyst. “The preservationists are on very weak ground. They don’t have any law, they don’t have any evidence. The judge was searching trying to find some jurisdiction. To get into this building, you’ve got to have federal jurisdiction, some federal law that applies, and the judge said he just didn’t see it.”
If the judge does in fact toss the lawsuit, the only recourse preservationists will have will be in state court, an avenue they will certainly pursue. Meanwhile, Landrieu’s crews are out taking measurements and preparing to go ahead with removal once the injunction preventing that is lifted.
Landrieu will have to find a new company to do the removal, however, as the first crew he hired has walked off the job after having received death threats.
Yesterday, a small group of protestors was at the Beauregard statue making their case; photographers and tourists are snapping photos of the monuments in their rightful setting before they are removed.
My question is this: where does this stop? On a national level, where does this stop? If the case is, as the city attorney says, that these are “monuments to white supremacy,” are the old plantations next?
I’m really trying to see both sides of this but as a student of history I just can’t see it in this case; I find it extremely difficult to believe that someone walked by the statue of Beauregard one day and said, “Damn, I’m really offended by that.” Someone, at some point, decided we should all be offended and so here we are.
The Southern Poverty Law Center filed an amicus brief in support of the monument removal, again citing the white supremacy argument. The SPLC is an organization that preaches tolerance, something they seem to be short on in this case.
Perhaps we need these statues to remember what happens to a country when differing opinions and perceptions tear us apart.
Perhaps we all need to practice a little tolerance.
It’s always important to follow the money. Landrieu has said that the city of NOLA will not be paying for the removal, that this won’t cost the city one dime, however, the identity of his benefactor is a secret. Who is paying for this?
An anonymous donor has agreed to foot the bill for the removal of four Confederate-related statues, the city announced in a letter this week to the New Orleans City Council.
It will cost an estimated $144,000 to remove and transport the statues of Robert E. Lee, P.G.T. Beauregard and Jefferson Davis, as well as a monument to the Battle of Liberty Place, according to the letter. The donor agreed to pay for the entire operation.
The slippery-slope aspect of the whole operation concerns me. Just because some aspects of our history are ugly and unpleasant, we can’t erase them. We are to learn from them; we are to honor the sacrifices of our ancestors whatever they were, and we are to always remember. If we sanitize and attempt to erase history we are greatly diminishing our ability to learn from it.