Monthly Archives: November 2009

Small Town Diplomacy

Over the years, I’ve come to find rural, small-town politics to be among my most favorite. Small towns often pride themselves on being direct in their dealings and plain in their speech; the towns in Louisiana are certainly no exception. As a result, small-town political exchanges tend to be pretty lively. With this in mind, I read this article in the Advocate the other day concerning Pointe Coupee Parish.

I wasn’t disappointed. I learned two things about Pointe Coupee from this article:

1) You must have a nickname in order to hold public office in the Parish, preferrably something juvenile such as “Dewey” or “Sassy”.

2) If you are an outsider, do not attempt to render aid or provide assistance. Your attempts will be futile and ill-received.

Case in point: Officials from Iberville, Livingston, and West Baton Rouge Parishes offered first-hand experience and anecdotes concerning Pointe Coupee’s pending decision to abandon its traditional Police Jury for a Parish President & Council form of government. Apparently, certain Pointe Coupee elected officials decided the real reason for this meeting was to  “embarass”  their Parish and highlight its failings. Specifically, Pointe Coupee Parish School Board President James “Bado” Cline said:

“Our schools are rated higher than Iberville’s, Livingston is the crystal meth capital of the world … we have some issues with infrastructure and traffic (associated) with the new bridge. Is a parish president going to cancel that?” Cline asked rhetorically.

“I’m tired of experts from out of town coming in trying to embarrass us,” Cline said. “We’re doing better than them in a lot of aspects.”

Sure, that’s a reasonable assumption. These outside Parish officials have absolutley nothing better to do with their time than to come to another Parish in order to lord it over them. Apparently, Cline’s worldview was formed from old Charles Atlas advertisements from the middle of the last century.

Pointe Coupee Parish officials have sent off for their free Charles Atlas book.

Maybe it’s just me, but it seems like Cline may have developed a bit of an inferiority complex. If Cline really thinks outside officials are there to simply kick sand in the face of Pointe Coupee rather than to offer advice, he probably shouldn’t be in government. Learning from those who have gone before you is a mark of wisdom; turning your back on the advice of others because you have an irrational fear that they’re trying to embarrass you is idiocy.

Plus, it looks like Pointe Coupee could use a little help. One of the benefits for abandoning the Police Jury, cited by a Pointe Coupee official, was that it would eliminate the ability of police jurors to demand parish workers cease working on a project in one district in order to work on a project in the juror’s own district. Are you kidding me? Apparently, Pointe Coupee has devolved into a series of fiefdoms. Granted, a Parish Council can still cause trouble. Come to think of it, Livingston Parish actually has experience in this area considering their recent run-ins with the State Auditor and their peicemeal approach to road repair and improvement (which sadly predates this blog, I really enjoyed following that one).

There’s no way I can close this post without commenting on the “fantastic” display of diplomacy on Cline’s part. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve made several jabs at Livingston Parish’s expense concerning their crystal meth problem, but I don’t think I would ever use that as part of a public political statement. Here’s hoping Pointe Coupee gets better leadership as growth comes to their area.


P.S. While it is true that the Pointe Coupee Parish School District performed better than Iberville Parish, there are a good 51 school districts with higher scores than Pointe Coupee… including both West Baton Rouge and Livingston Parishes.


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You Wouldn’t Like Him When He’s Angry…

Whoa Nelly!

The Roux House on Third Street has been a supporter of Mayor Holden’s Bond Proposal and has displayed a “Vote Yes” banner for quite some time. Apparently this exercise of free speech by the owners of the Roux House offended the sensibilities of off-duty BRPD officer Robert Moruzzi. He finally had to take action…

While the investigation into Officer Moruzzi’s antics is still on-going, the facts as currently reported are as follows:

1) While off-duty, Moruzzi decided that the “Vote Yes” banner at the Roux House presented a political opinion different than his own and must be stopped. He promptly began to tear it down.

Suspended BRPD Officer Robert Moruzzi

The weeks of being subjected to a business owner expressing an opinion contrary to his own caused a shocking transformation in BRPD Officer Robert Moruzzi on Thursday night... ROB SMASH!!!

2. An unidentified manager of the Roux House told Officer Moruzzi to cease and desist. Apparently, Moruzzi is used to giving orders rather than taking them and ignored the request.

3. Seeking to protect the restaurant’s property from damage, the manager forced Moruzzi away from the sign, causing the badly-behaving Law Enforcement Officer to fall to the ground.

4. Officer Moruzzi regained his feet and promptly started punching the manager in the face and threatening to kill him. After about five blows, the manager struck back.

5. At this affront to his perceived authority, Moruzzi drew a concealed firearm from his waistband and identified himself as a police officer.

6. After realizing the game of political vandalism, intimidation, and battery had just gone to the next level, one of Moruzzi’s more level-headed companions quickly disarmed him. The weapon was retrieved by a bystander and on-duty BRPD officers arrived at the scene to defuse the situation.

By my estimation, Moruzzi engaged in simple criminal damage to property, simple battery, aggravated assault, and likely violated a slew of BRPD internal regulations. According to news reports, the incident was caught on a BRPD crime camera, so these facts should be fairly easy to confirm. Once determined, I hope the full force of the law is applied against Moruzzi. Police officers are among our most trusted public servants; most citizens willingly defer to their instruction without question. It is absolutely unacceptable for a police officer to behave this poorly, even while off duty.

Honestly, it doesn’t surprise me that this kind of violent abuse of power and authority was perpetrated by an individual apparently aligned with or sympathetic to the anti-bond crowd. Before everyone gets up and arms and takes my words out of context, I’m not saying that everyone who votes against the bond proposal is a violent neanderthal incapable of participating at a mature level in the US political process.

Intimidation of Public Officials by Implied Violence? Check!

"Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering. I sense much fear in you." ~ Jedi Master Yoda

What I am saying is that an undue reliance on outrage and anger, while fantastically effective in motivating a disaffected base, has very real consequences. They’ve manifested here. Really, there’s only so much promotion and acceptance of fear and intimidation that can be done before the pot boils over. Our local newspaper even has an editorial devoted to this issue today.

It’s long past time for the leadership and figureheads of these organizations and movements to accept responsibility for the actions of their followers. Many will attempt to avoid responsibility and wave inconvenient actions away as “the will of the people”. I think we all know that this supposed “will” is often controlled by what these troubled individuals see and hear. It certainly was in the case of Jim David Adkisson, convicted murderer of members of a Unitarian Universalist Church, a denomination largely noted for its devotion to non-violence, in Tennesse in 2008.  According to his post-arrest interrogation, he murdered these people because of his hatred of Democrats, liberals, African Americans, and homosexuals. His personal library contained such noted luminairies as Mike Savage, Sean Hannity, and Bill O’Reilly.

Our city, not to mention the manager from the Roux House, dodged a bullet this time. This situation could have very easily escalated to murder. If the bond proposal passes today, Baton Rouge stands to gain a significant amount of interest from outside businesses who see a city willing to invest in its future. That interest is going to wane significantly if they notice one too many incidents like this one. To the leaders of these movements relying on fear and exaggeration to motivate their base which gives actions such as these a favorable light (and you certainly know who you are): Get control of your damn message. If you can’t, you shouldn’t be involved in politics.
P.S. While surfing the web for this article, I think I found my favorite editorial cartoon of the year. Having served in the military, I regularly followed Somalia over the last decade. This gave me a laugh.
Somalia Tea Party

Best Editorial Cartoon of 2009 - Hands's Down

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BR Tea Party = Outside Agitators?

Tea Party

The word you're looking for is: "Homogeneous"

Advocate investigative reporter Greg Garland apparently got tired of following the Mayor around and did a little digging into the Baton Rouge Tea Party. Actually, I guess it should be referred to as The Baton Rouge Tea Party of Iberville Parish. Yup, turns out the group was actually incorporated in the city of Plaquemine in Iberville Parish  (Search Baton Rouge Tea Party here). According to Plaquemine resident and Baton Rouge Tea Party President Jennifer Madsen, it was incorporated in Iberville Parish as “a matter of convenience”. Matter of convenience it may well be, but it lends the appearance of outside agitation in a local election and is a bit of a political blunder. After all, if these people expect you to believe they know what is best for this parish,  shouldn’t they be spending enough time in EBR that incorporating the organization in the parish in which the election is actually being held wouldn’t be such a problem?

Of greater interest to me are the reports found over on the Louisiana Ethics Administration’s website. The Baton Rouge Tea Party entry lists three reports, two financial disclosure reports and one statement of organization (P.S. If anyone from the Tea Party reads this, y’all really should electronically file your reports. The way you’re doing it now makes you look like a bunch of Neo-Luddites). Garland covers the most recent financial disclosure report in some detail, basically revealing that a mere two donors were responsible for 97.4%  of recent Tea Party fund-raising activities. Apparently, most Tea Party members are unwilling to financially contribute to the cause. I guess that isn’t really a surprise as the group’s anti-tax focus is intended to keep as much money in the pockets of its members as possible. It’s kind of a double-edged sword there, really.

Tea Party Claim

The word you're looking for is: "Disingenuous". Check out their Facebook Friends if you don't believe me. To their credit, the Tea Party has removed any references to political, social, and racial inclusiveness from their website.

But I digress…

What’s really interesting to me is the other two reports. The Statement of Organization is innocuous enough… except that it was filed September 14th, 2009. Normally, this wouldn’t be a big deal, except that their initial financial disclosure report covers a lot of calendar… all the way back to March 2009. Why is this a big deal? See for yourself. I’m not a campaign finance expert, but Section II, Sub-Section C of this document states (emphasis added):

“A PAC which organizes after January 31 or discovers after January 31 that its financial activity for the year will exceed $500 must file a statement of organization within 10 days of that date.

Based on the initial financial disclosure report, the BR Tea Party broke the $500 financial activity threshold back in March. According to the Statement of Organization, they didn’t organize until September. That seems like a little longer than 10 days to me.

Ultimately, incorporating in Iberville Parish and possibly failing to comply with campaign finance regulations, while amusing to Tea party opponents, are unlikely to have much of an impact on the election.Voters really don’t care about an organization’s possible mishandling of bureaucratic hurdles. Instead, voters care about issues.

The Mayor and his administration have presented the bond proposal more times than I think anyone would care to count. The opportunity to get educated on this issue has been there.  If you still don’t feel like you know enough about the proposal to make an educated vote, check out the resources available at the Progress Is website and the official City of Baton Rouge/Parish of East Baton Rouge website. These resources include a presentation of the bond proposal itself as well as the economic impact assessment prepared by former state economist Dr. Jim Richardson. I would include links to resources opposing the bond but, as of this date, there have been none that meet the same level of academic rigor achieved by Dr. Richardson. You can take that however you will, but I find it amusing that many of the questions that are asked about the proposal are answered in detail in the economic assessment. I guess some folks have better things to do than read…

The election will be this Saturday, November 14th. I will be voting for the bond proposal that morning before heading to work. I hope that each of you will read the proposal, read the economic assessment, and then make a fully informed decision behind the curtain. Emotion has its place when voting social issues, but factual information and informed conjecture are required when considering infrastructure improvements and economic development.


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