Report from Louisiana: Governor Edwards breaks promise to teachers

By:  Pat Austin

SHREVEPORT – Really, who is shocked by this?

Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards is giving pay raises to his staff appointees but not to teachers. During his recent campaign, Edwards promised teachers he would bring their pay up to the Southern regional average; he even gave teachers a $1,000 per year raise, the first in over a decade, to show good faith. But when his new budget proposal came out, nada. Nothing. Except for his political appointees.

From The Advocate:

The Democratic governor’s chief financial adviser, Commissioner of Administration Jay Dardenne, mentioned the raises in his presentation of Edwards’ budget recommendations for the upcoming 2020-21 year, describing it to lawmakers as a “small increase.” The AP received the list after asking Dardenne’s office for specific details.

Dardenne said the “unclassified employees” across Louisiana state government hadn’t received pay raises over the governor’s first term, even as other rank-and-file civil service workers did. He said most of the increases are 4%.

So, for example, Edwards’ attorney’s salary will bump from $180,000 to $187,200 and his deputy chief of progams and planning goes from $125,000 to $150,000. 

If I, as a teacher, got a 25K pay raise, I’d be pretty satisfied.

Edwards spokeswoman Christina Stephens said the pay hikes represent a “tiny fraction of the overall state budget.” She said they “were included as part of the governor’s budget proposal only after two years of budget stability and an improved economic outlook for the state.”

Teachers across Louisiana are livid. 

Teachers turned out for Edwards across the state, well, some of them did. Not all of us were fooled.

Instead, Governor Edwards is sending more money to local districts and telling them to fund their own pay raises from that, however, the amount for local districts is not nearly enough to fund pay raises.

The Advocate:

 A Louisiana teacher makes an average is $50,359 per year compared with $52,178 in the 16-state region, according to 2017-18 tabulations, the latest available. That’s about what a manager at McDonald’s makes. But managers also get cash bonuses, profit-sharing and stock options. Plus, teachers need a college degree. And the average college student graduates with a debt of $29,800.

Relying on public school math, it cost Louisiana taxpayers about $101 million for last year’s raise, meaning another $200 million is needed to bring this state’s teachers up to the regional average of 2018. But that’s a moving target. Texas boosted salaries by up to $9,000. Teacher pay rose by $3,000 in Georgia and $2,000 in Florida, according to the Southern Regional Education Board.

Louisiana radio host Moon Griffon pointed out last week that teachers are 10-month employees, and that a family of two teachers makes 100k a year, if they both make the average 50k. “That’s not bad,” Griffon said.  In Caddo Parish, one of the larger parishes in Louisiana, beginning teachers make $44k and don’t approach that $50k figure until about year ten. It isn’t that different in neighboring Bossier Parish, where a teacher with a BA degree with thirty years experience will max out at $59k.  In DeSoto parish, a beginning teacher makes $49k – zero years experience. By year ten, that teacher is up to $54k and by thirty, $61k.

None of these salaries are anywhere near what a staffer for John Bel Edwards is making, yet Edwards loves to point out how valuable teachers are.

Apparently only as long as he needs our votes. Then our value goes down.

Pat Austin blogs at And So it Goes in Shreveport and is the author of Cane River Bohemia: Cammie Henry and her Circle at Melrose Plantation. Follow her on Instagram @patbecker25 and Twitter @paustin110.

Feds have their net out for Illinois’ kraken monster, Boss Michael Madigan

Photograph courtesy of Wikipedia

By John Ruberry

The new year isn’t here yet but 2020 is shaping up to be the Year of Many Political Indictments in Illinois.

Three months and a day ago I posted this story at Da Tech Guy: Feds setting up a massive corruption net in Chicago area. In that entry I gave a summery of the recent raids on offices of several politicians, all with ties to Boss Michael Madigan, the kraken monster of Illinois. As I’ve explained numerous times in this space, Madigan is the most powerful pol in the Prairie State. He has been speaker of the state House for all but two years since 1983. He’s served as chairman of the Illinois Democratic Party since 1998. He’s been committeeman of Chicago’s 13th Ward since 1969. It was from that perch in 2007 that Madigan nominated Joseph Berrios to be the chairman of the Cook County Regular Democratic Organization, better known as “the Chicago Machine.” Three years later Madigan greatly assisted Berrios in his election of the seemingly obscure post of Cook County Assessor. That office determines how much your property is worth in Crook County–and therefore how much it will be taxed–and it’s a position that has long been associated with graft.

Like the legendary kraken, Madigan has very long tentacles and of course a large reach.

Among the updates I have for you today is that Berrios, who was–gasp!–ousted by a reformer last year in the Democratic primary for assessor, is now under federal investigation. With his power base gone, Berrios stepped down as party chairman shortly after his well -deserved defeat.

Madigan is the senior party in the tiny law firm Madigan and Getzendanner, which specializes in corporate property tax appeals.

Hmmm.

Also in that September DTG post I reported on the indictment of Ald. Ed Burke of Chicago. He represents a ward that borders Madigan’s. Burke has been an alderman since 1969 and is the longest serving Chicago alderman in history. Burke’s a lawyer too. His specialty? Property tax appeals. 

In May, federal authorities raided the home former Commonwealth Edison lobbyist Michael McClain. ComEd is the electrical utility for northern Illinois and the utility, which is owned by Exelon, seems to be a major focus of the corruption probe. And that’s a big problem for Madigan and other Illinois politicians. Exelon is a public corporation and it’s difficult for it to hide its dirty laundry. And ComEd is subject to local government regulation, which of course is why the utility cozied up to Madigan and other big shots. And customers, such as myself, have to pay a ComEd bill every month. And every ComEd user believes they are paying to much for electricity. Now they have another reason to hate ComEd.

Clearly the feds are in the midst of a far reaching corruption investigation in Illinois, its target appears to be our kraken, Madigan. But Madigan has been under federal investigation before and the tangible results of those probes were as elusive as those efforts by photographers trying to get a clear photograph of Bigfoot, or a real kraken. 

Madigan infrequently speaks to the media and he never uses email.

Let’s take a look at where one of those tentacles reached. The City Club of Chicago is a tweedy, or seemingly so, good government group, dismissed as “goo-goos” by the cynics. It’s known for its weekly luncheons featuring prominent public officials. For years its president was Jay Doherty, a lobbyist for ComEd. He resigned earlier as head of the group after the feds raided the City Club offices and he no longer lobbys for Commonwealth Edison. Among the speakers at the City Club during Doherty’s tenure were ComEd reps–and Lisa Madigan, Michael’s daughter, who spoke to them in 2009. At the time Lisa was the Illinois attorney general and her office was investigating Doherty and the City Club.

The focus of this part of federal probe appears to be handing out of ComEd jobs for the politically connected in exchange for state actions favorable to the utility.

Last year a study by the University of Illinois at Chicago named Illinois the second most corrupt state. Louisiana was tops. 

Man oh man, Louisiana must be horrible. Illinois surely is. 

Here at Da Tech Guy Pat Austin regularly reports on Louisiana.

John Ruberry blogs at Marathon Pundit from Illinois, where is not under federal investigation.

Report from Louisiana: Four more years of decline

By:  Pat Austin

SHREVEPORT – I saw a meme on social media Sunday morning:  “Waiting for election results is like waiting for a grade on a group project. I know I did my part right but I’m scared the rest of you screwed it up.”

Well, they did.

We’ve got four more years of John Bel Edwards. Pete wrote about this yesterday.  It’s true, as he says, that Edwards is a pro-life Democrat and to a state that is heavily Catholic, especially in the southern regions, that matters.

However, I’d hardly say that his re-election is a mandate. The race was very close and for a lot of us who would like to see business returning to Louisiana, this is not really good news. It means:

Four more years of high taxes.

Four more years of trial lawyers running businesses out of the state.

Four more years of last-in-everything.

Four more years of shackles on the oil and gas industry.

Four more years of decline.

The race was close: Edwards received 774,469 votes and Rispone received 734,128, giving Edwards about 51% of the vote. Voter turnout was about 50% and it is worth noting that Orleans Parish went 90% for Edwards. 

The days leading up to the election were insane: Donald Trump lobbied throughout Louisiana for Eddie Rispone and his rallies drew literally thousands. In the Shreveport/Bossier City area here in northwest Louisiana, Trump visited on Thursday, before the Saturday election.

Interestingly, just days before Trump’s visit, the Shreveport mayor Adrian Perkins (D) issued a “stand-down” order, telling Shreveport police and fire responders to offer no assistance to the security of the President during his visit. Shreveport’s first responders had been in planning meetings and had assignments to assist Bossier City (we are divided only by a river). This stand-down order met with a backlash against Mayor Perkins that resulted in a local defeat of the Mayor’s bond election that was also on the ballot.

The only good news here is that this runoff election granted Louisiana Republicans a supermajority in both the House and Senate, and so Edwards will have a tougher time this term.

Looking at the numbers, it is interesting to consider for example that voters reinstated the Republican Secretary of State overwhelmingly over the Democrat candidate (59% to 40%), but only 51% of those same voters went for Edwards.

I think a lot of the problem for Republicans in this election can be placed on two things: a lot of people see Edwards as just moderate enough that they can take him. The second thing is that Republicans just did not offer up a top tier candidate. Rispone’s name recognition was zero coming into this election and he had no political experience. He’d just made lots of money in the private sector. He knows business and he touted himself as the Louisiana Donald Trump.

If Senator John Kennedy had run, we might be having a very different conversation right now.

Pat Austin blogs at And So it Goes in Shreveport and is the author of Cane River Bohemia: Cammie Henry and her Circle at Melrose Plantation. Follow her on Instagram @patbecker25 and Twitter @paustin110.

Pro-Life Democrat wins in Louisiana

Yesterday Jon Bell Edwards managed to do something a lot of people didn’t expect, he won re-election to the Governorship of Louisiana even after president Trump came down to support his opponent.

A lot of people on the left and in the media are publicly spinning this as a rejection of the president but there is one simple reason why Edwards was able to win, and it had nothing to do with Donald Trump, impeachment or anything else. Edwards won re-election because he is a creature even more rare than an honest journalist…a pro-life democrat who doesn’t equivocate when it comes to supporting life:

Edwards signed into law one of the most restrictive anti-abortion laws in the country, earning praise from groups like the Susan B. Anthony List, which applauded him for “leading the way in the bipartisan effort to bring our nation’s laws into line with basic human decency.”Edwards said, “The pro-life ethos has to mean more than just the abortion issue. It’s got to go beyond that. The job isn’t over when the baby’s born if you’ve got poor people who need access to health care.”
Source: America Magazine on 2019 Louisiana gubernatorial race , Dec 14, 2018

Unblemished anti-abortion voting record
John Bel Edwards says, “We need the exact opposite of what we’ve gotten from Bobby Jindal; he has sacrificed the state’s well-being to further his own self-ambition.” But in some ways, Edwards is more like Jindal than many might think. Like the governor, he is an anti-abortion, pro-gun rights Catholic; his voting record is unblemished on both issues.

It’s worth noting that the left hasn’t been shy about attacking him for it either:

A rarity in his party, Edwards’ anti-abortion stance provokes angry outcries on social media from Democratic voters and disappointment within the party’s broader ranks across the country.
“When Republicans are taking away women’s rights at every step, it’s on the Democrats to show that we are the party that will protect women. When we fail to do that, we make it absolutely hopeless for women around the country,” said Rebecca Katz, a progressive Democratic consultant.

Many Democrat candidates for president and national leaders hit him for the heartbeat bill, NARAL hit him particularly hard:

“Women are the base of the Democratic Party, leading the charge for equality by fighting for reproductive freedom,” NARAL Pro-Choice America Political Director Nicole Brener-Schmitz said in a statement. “Governor Edwards, and any other elected official attempting to use political overreach to roll back our rights, is mistaken to think our fundamental freedoms are up for debate….He won’t get a pass just because he is a Democrat.”

But in the end Edwards didn’t flinch from his position and as a result Democrats kept the governor’s mansion in a race where they lost the secretary of state candidate lost by almost 20 points.

Now the reality is that both candidates in the race were very pro-life and there are plenty of other reasons why a Republican victory in Louisiana would have been a better thing for the state, but I also think that if Edwards’ victory gives Democrats both in the south and elsewhere the courage to stand up for life when the national party and the left demand they abandon it if they want statewide or national office it is a fine thing.

the Democrats / left / media can spin this anyway they want, but today was a victory for life and I suspect the knowledge that they owe that victory to Edwards’ stance against them galls them almost as much as a GOP victory would have.

Closing thought: Abortion is a sine non qua for me. If I have the choice between a pro-life democrat like Edwards and a pro-abortion republican like Brown or Baker or even one who was with me on any other issue, the pro-life Democrat would get my vote every single time.

Nothing trumps life at the ballot box for me, NOTHING.

Report from Louisiana: Election Countdown

By: Pat Austin

SHREVEPORT – Saturday was the last day to early vote in the gubernatorial election and the turnout across the state has been quite heavy. The scene was surreal in Shreveport as the line to vote snaked outside the Registrar of Voter’s office out on to the street, extending at least two blocks. The day was clear and crisp, vibrant blue skies and bright sunshine.

As we stood in line, across the street at the Caddo Parish Courthouse, two rallies were in competition with each other to have their voices heard. One group of about thirty-five were there in support of the Confederate monument that stands in front of the courthouse. (Its fate is still in litigation). They waved various Confederate state and battle flags and marched around the courthouse square chanting about preserving history. A second group, a climate change activist group, held posters and signs denouncing drilling, global warming, and burning coal while marching the opposite direction around the square. At one point the climate change group stopped and faced those of us in the voting line and shrieked “ROCK THE VOTE, Y’ALL!”

It was a bizarre sight. People in the line around us snickered and wondered how many of those climate change folks rode their bicycles or their cars downtown. They were all wearing sneakers and plastic sunglasses…the hypocrisy was curious. On the other hand, the monument supporters were interesting too. All in all, it made the wait in line fairly interesting. It’s probably the most people I’ve seen in downtown Shreveport on a Saturday in quite some time.

President Trump has been spending some time in Louisiana these past few weeks as the election nears. Before the primary last month he spoke to a capacity crowd in Lake Charles in support of Republican candidate Eddie Rispone. Last week he spoke in Monroe, Louisiana and the local news there reported over 40,000 people requested tickets to that event. The overflow crowd was served by large screens outside the arena; and President Trump will be in Bossier City on November 14 to lobby for Eddie Rispone.

Election day is November 16 and currently the pollsters are reporting that the race is “too close to call.” It will come down to turnout. I’ll be honest – I’d be surprised if Gov. Edwards loses. Eddie Rispone doesn’t have any political experience which is not necessarily a bad thing; a lot of people see Edwards as just conservative enough on some hot-button issues that they can stomach him. Plus, Edwards is using fear, now telling voters that Eddie Rispone will “rip away their health care” and freeze Medicaid.

Fear is a powerful tool.

Thankfully this will be over soon.

Pat Austin blogs at And So it Goes in Shreveport and is the author of Cane River Bohemia: Cammie Henry and her Circle at Melrose Plantation (LSU Press). She blogs at And So it Goes in Shreveport. Follow her on Instagram @patbecker25 and Twitter @paustin110.

Report from Louisiana: An Edwards/Rispone Runoff

By:  Pat Austin

SHREVEPORT – It was a wild night in Louisiana Saturday night.  LSU defeated Florida in Death Valley and John Bel Edwards and Eddie Rispone will face off in five weeks for the runoff election for Louisiana governor.

Edwards finished the night with 46% of the vote while the Republican vote was split between Rispone and Ralph Abraham. Rispone captured 27% and Abraham 23%.  Other contenders in the gubernatorial race were mere blips.

Friday, President Trump visited Lake Charles, LA to lend support for the Republican candidates. He did not endorse either Rispone or Abraham until after the returns came in last night; now he has endorsed Rispone.   Trump, of course, takes credit for getting Rispone into the runoff, and he may well have contributed. Lines to get inside to see Trump in Lake Charles were staggeringly long and people began camping out far in advance of the event.

Most pundits across the state do not see an Edwards re-election as a done deal:

In either scenario, Edwards will have a much tougher time scooping up support from Republican voters than he did in his first election. Edwards’ Conservative-leaning stances that attracted Republicans during his first election could seem more moderate when compared to Rispone’s. Edwards also can’t count on the same wave of support from Republican voters who had become fatigued with their party as they had with Edwards’ predecessor, former Governor Bobby Jindal.

He’s also almost certain to face critiques from Republican officials who held onto seats in Statewide offices after the primary, including one of his harshest critics Jeff Landry. And, he can expect to fight off attacks from the major Republican competitor who failed to beat Rispone to secure the runoff, Ralph Abraham.

Rispone often compares himself to Trump as a self-made businessman:

The grandson of Sicilian immigrants, Rispone grew up with six people in a one-bathroom house near the plants in blue-collar north Baton Rouge. He and a brother, Jerry, built ISC Constructors to a firm with revenue of $364 million last year.

Though much more soft-spoken and polite than Trump, Rispone upended the Louisiana Republican establishment by running as an outsider willing to blow up the traditional politics and historical governing structure to get things done.

Late Saturday night, Ralph Abraham conceded and endorsed Rispone.

The run off election is November 16.

Pat Austin blogs at And So it goes in Shreveport and is the author of Cane River Bohemia: Cammie Henry and her Circle at Melrose Planation (LSU Press). Follow her on Instagram @patbecker25 and Twitter @paustin110.

Report from Louisiana: Does Edwards lose based on early voting?

By:  Pat Austin

ARNAUDVILLE LA – We are traveling this week and find ourselves in Arnaudville, LA, once again; we are about an hour to the west of Baton Rouge and twenty minutes or so north of Lafayette, in Cajun country.

Early voting has ended across the state for the gubernatorial election, as well as other local races, and The Hayride blog has some interesting predictions about John Bel Edwards: he loses.  Really, it’s a very dramatic headline: The Early Voting Numbers Signal John Bel Edwards’ Defeat.  Really?!  Is that premature?

Pundit Jeff Sadow believes Edwards may be in trouble:

Democrats have averaged 39.26 percent total turnout while Republicans have averaged 43.59 percent. In terms of early voting over this span, those means respectively are 8.47 and 10.14. Thus, the ratio for Democrats, is 4.65; for Republicans, it’s 4.35. This shows in recent history that of those who vote Democrats in comparison to Republicans disproportionately don’t vote early, with early votes making up 21.5 percent of their total while for the GOP its early voters comprise 23 percent of that total.

At the same time, the early voting average higher Republican turnout of 1.67 percent is 2.6 times smaller than the average gap in total turnout that favors Republicans by 4.33 percent. With early 10/12/19 voting encompassing 13.16 percent of Democrats and 16.91 percent of Republicans, the gap more than doubled to 3.75.

Using the historical ratios, this means trouble for Democrats. That would imply a 64.68 percent turnout for Democrats and 73.56 for Republicans. Such lofty numbers won’t happen because of the trend to substitute early for election day voting, for which these ratios don’t compensate. However, comparatively these do point to a significant GOP advantage.

I’ve been most worried that a Republican split between Ralph Abraham and Eddie Rispone would give Edwards an outright win but Sadow (who is smarter than me) does not appear concerned.

And for whatever it’s worth, early voting numbers have been record-breaking across the state, which seems to indicate that it is not just local races pulling people to the polls.

The primary is next weekend, October 12, which is also LSU-Florida game day which could contribute to some of the early voting numbers, but certainly not all. 

As I’ve said often, John Bel Edwards has killed economic growth in this state, and his pathetic attempt to buy teacher votes with a $1,000 annual pay raise is a joke. By the time taxes and insurance come out each month my raise might buy lunch one day at Chick-Fil-A.

At this point, I don’t care who defeats Edwards, just as long as somebody does.

Pat Austin blogs at And So it Goes in Shreveport and is the author of Cane River Bohemia: Cammie Henry and Her Circle at Melrose Plantation (LSU Press). Follow her on Instagram @patbecker 25 and Twitter @paustin110.

Report from Louisiana: Early Voting

By:  Pat Austin

SHREVEPORT – Saturday, my husband and I went downtown for early voting. The line snaked out the door and down the sidewalk and it stayed steady the entire day.  Saturday was the first day of early voting and apparently a lot of people wanted to take advantage of the opportunity. Of course, the LSU-Florida game is on October 12, the day of the primary, and maybe people are going to be out of town or otherwise occupied. 

Reports from across the state are consistent with what we saw in Shreveport. In New Iberia over 700 people turned out for early voting.

The gubernatorial race is what everyone is interested in. Current Governor John Bel Edwards (D) has two Republican challengers and both of those are too close in the polls to say either one is really ahead of the other.

What I am worried about it that they’re going to split the vote and Edwards will win outright without having to go to a runoff.

Edwards is just shy of 50% in most polls while the Republicans are both just above 20%.

Edwards has not been the worst governor we’ve ever had and as Democrats go, he’s pretty conservative on a couple of issues like gun control and abortion, but economically he has done real damage to the state through his alliances with trial lawyers. Companies are fleeing the state to avoid excessive litigation. There are no jobs here, no real industry, few Fortune 500 companies, and out children are running for the Texas border as soon as they graduate from college.  The outlook is grim.

Based on what I was hearing in the early voting line yesterday, there were a lot of Democrat votes cast yesterday. I know that’s far from official evidence, but I think this just might be one of those elections where every single vote counts.

Pat Austin blogs at And So it Goes in Shreveport and is the author of Cane River Bohemia. Follow her on Instagram @patbecker25 and Twitter @paustin110.