Tag Archives: Bond Proposal

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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Michelle Millhollon! Why you gotta do ANI that way?

MisdirectionOne of my favorite hobbies is reading the local paper. Occasionally, I have to chuckle at the amateur way some of the articles are framed. Editorial or reporter bias? Probably so, but you really can’t do much about it other than roll your eyes.

Take for instance this article in the Advocate, Baton Rouge’s daily newspaper: Audubon Lost Money in ’08 by Michelle Millhollon. The blaring headline clearly intends to lead the reader to the opinion that the Audubon Nature Institute (ANI) is a money losing enterprise or at the least has a questionable ability to generate a profit. But do the facts really support this? The article correctly reports and strongly focuses on the fact ANI operated at a $187,886 loss in 2008; a loss generated across its entire holdings of the Audubon Zoo, Aquarium of the Americas, IMAX theater, Insectarium, and other smaller (non-revenue generating) research and conservation holdings.

I know what you’re thinking, but I promise you I’m not missing any zeros. So, the “big news” is that ANI posted a $187,886 loss on reported revenue of $43,557,620 per their financial statements. That loss, as a function of revenue, was 0.43% (yes, that’s a percent). A 0.43% loss for a non-profit organization? Stop the presses, we’ve got a hot one! I’ve worked with a local charitable organization in the past to determine funding levels for supported entities and all I can say is that a 0.43% loss is pretty much a non-issue for a non-profit. The whole point of non-profit agencies is to reinvest any generated profit into a cause of some sort. In the case of ANI, it is research and conservation holdings. Some years you come out a little ahead, some years you come out a little behind.

While I think the reported loss is much ado about nothing, I think the real disservice is found later in the article. After spending several column inches reporting on the loss in 2008, the following sentence is buried deep in the article:

“Financial statements provided by Audubon show the institute had excess revenue in recent years — with 2008 being the exception.”

Wait… what? You mean to say that other than 2008, ANI has been generally operating at a profit? But sure, why should a newspaper include relevant historical information?

Even more amusing is the sentence that follows that one:

“But Audubon Zoo and Audubon Park consistently showed more expenses than revenues at the end of the year.”

That may be the case… except for, ya know, 2008, the year on which the article is focusing. According to the financial statements, Audubon Zoo and Audubon Park generated an $895,831 profit from operations. It’s a cute apples to oranges comparison, but if you’re going to report on a single year measure, don’t start throwing in multi-year measurements at other points in the article without clarifying the information.

Why is any of this even important to Baton Rouge? As most know, ANI is the entity that will presumably be running the Alive! project if the bond proposal is approved this year. If the facility experiences a loss, East Baton Rouge Parish will have to absorb it. Regardless of the amusing bit of reporting above, past financial statements generally point to the fact ANI understands how to run public venues intended to attract admission-paying patrons. The organization managed to survive a situation where nearly all of its holdings were subjected to the worst natural disaster in American history. Could a less capable organization manage that?


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So how much does it cost taxpayers to hold a Metro Council meeting anyway?

Mayor Kip Holden’s bond proposal seems to be the story du jour for the local media and the BR blogosphere.

In essence, the Metro Council held a special meeting today to discuss a motion calling for the deferral of a scheduled November vote on the bond proposal. The special meeting was called by Councilmembers Trae Welch (district 1), Chandler Loupe (District 3), and Joel Boe (District 9). After a good three hours of debate, the Council voted on the motion, resulting in a 6-6 tie. As the motion required a simple majority of the Council to pass, the tie vote resulted in the failure of the motion. What does this mean to you? It means EBRP residents will be heading to the polls on November 14th to determine the bond’s fate.

After observing the proceedings, I have to wonder why the meeting was called in the first place. For one, the public comment portion was (predictably) a waste of time. The Council requested speakers limit their comments to the pros and cons of holding the election in November. Unsurprisingly, speakers on both sides of the issue failed at this simple task. Guess what, it doesn’t matter if you think the Alive! project is a good or bad idea. That opinion is certainly important when you step into a voting booth to decide the proposal’s fate but is largely irrelevant to whether the election should be held in November or at a later point in time.

I also have to wonder if this meeting was called in order for opponents of the bond proposal to buy time to rally the troops. Ostensibly, the motion to delay the bond proposal was made in order to allow time to work out issues with the Alive! component of the bond proposal. While the Alive! project certainly has hurdles to clear when it comes to railroad right of way issues and state financing, does anyone honestly think that was the true reason for the effort to delay the vote? I have my doubts, particularly considering some of the councilmembers involved in calling for deferral of the vote have previously sided with those in opposition to the Alive! component. If they or their constituents oppose the Alive!  component, why would they seek more time to iron out potential problems that would increase its chances of passing? Something just doesn’t add up about that scenario. I think it’s far more likely they hoped to either find a way to scuttle the Alive! component in the intervening time period or to use that time to build stronger opposition to the proposal as a whole. At the beginning of the discussion concerning the 2009 bond proposal, there seemed to be very little opposition other than the ever reliable Fred & Elizabeth Dent of Taxbusters. The Baton Rouge Tea Party has, until recently, stood on the sidelines of the bond proposal debate. Obviously, bond opponents would much rather have these pieces fully in play and that takes time.

So if the special election is going to cost us $480,000 to allow the people to vote, how much tax money was wasted to hold this special Council meeting which served little if any purpose? Is the Advocate preparing an article?

As a final note, I want to give credit to Alex Velasquez of the Jeffersonians. While a bond proposal opponent, Velasquez was the only opponent who recommended the bond proposal remain on the ballot in November. He fully believes that the people will vote against the bond again. While that remains to be seen, I applaud his willingness to allow the people to make their choice.


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