02/20/2018

This show materialized when I could not find a guest to interview during the final week of 2017. So, I wrote up some notes and reminders and recorded a monologue about 2017 events that I thought were significant and had the potential to have an impact in the New Year which was just around the corner.

Most of this was about public events, but there is a segment that deals with some personal losses I experienced in 2017. Those losses involved my mom and my friend Jim Simmon. Mom’s death was not unexpected, she had been in a slow, steady decline for about 10 months. Still, despite having time to prepare for it, I was taken aback by how hard it hit me.

Jim Simmon and I had broken into journalism together at the Opelousas Daily World in about 1978. We did some work together interviewing candidates for governor in 1979. We also lived together in a drafty old farm house outside of Lawtell, LA, during a bitterly cold winter. Thankfully, Jim had a full-size Ford pickup truck and hundreds of trees had been cut along then-US 167 near Opelousas as it was being converted into I-49. We got a lot of free wood as a result and occasionally managed to get the house warm during that winter. We certainly chopped a lot of wood!

Anyway, this podcast was the final show of 2017. Sorry for the delay in posting it.

AOC Podcast NetworkComment
12/28/2017

John M. Barry‘s books have informed and moved people, but his greatest accomplishment may well be having singled-handedly (at first) changed Louisiana’s conversation about saving our coast.

Barry did this by working diligently and persistently to convince his fellow members of the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority–East (SLFPAE) to launch a lawsuit against what were originally 99 oil, gas and pipeline companies for damage their work inflicted on wetlands under its jurisdiction. The lawsuit drew the wrath of Louisiana’s political gods at the time — Governor Bobby Jindal and the oil and gas industry. Killing the levee board lawsuit became Jindal’s obsession.

Unlike much of Louisiana’s governing processes, the super levee boards created in the wake of the federal levee failures in New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina in 2005, were designed to move the politics out of what was recognized as an essential work of the state — protecting citizens and their property from flooding.

Members of the authorities (east and west) were nominated through a process of committees, who then submitted limited lists of nominees to the governor from which to choose. Terms for the members were fixed — they did not serve at the pleasure of the governor. As a result, Jindal could not replace the board with one more compliant to what had until then be the time-honored Louisiana political position that we knew the oil and gas industry had damaged our coastal wetlands, but our leaders (whose campaigns were financed by that industry) did not want the oil and gas industry to pay for that damage.

Barry’s term had expired by the time Jindal launched his war against the levee board. Barry was not renominated. Instead, he formed the non-profit Restore Louisiana Now where he led the public campaign to explain the logic behind the lawsuit and the fight to prevent Jindal and legislators from killing the lawsuit.

The official count is that 19 bills were filed in the 2014 session seeking various ways of killing the suit. One managed to pass but it was later declared unconstitutional because the Senate had violated its own rules in the manner it handled the bill.

The lawsuit bounced between state and federal jurisdictions before landing in the federal district court in New Orleans where it was struck down. Subsequent appeals upheld the decision.

But, while the rush was on to try to kill the levee board lawsuit, parishes operating in the Coastal Zone — where the damage occurred — started filing suits against oil and gas companies for coastal damages using their standing under the Coastal Zone Management Act. A total of six suits have been filed thus far. More are expected in 2018.

Governor John Bel Edwards succeeded Jindal in office and has been encouraging the other 14 parishes in the Coastal Zone to launch similar suits. Edwards deputized the Department of Natural Resources to be his vehicle to input in the suits after Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry, who campaigned publicly against the suits in 2015, sought to intervene in the suits to displace the parishes.

We’re a ways away from resolving the suits and we’re a long way from saving our coast. But, we will never go back to the days when everybody but the oil and gas industry is asked to do their fair share in what will be an intergenerational, multi-billion dollar effort to stop south Louisiana from sinking into the Gulf of Mexico.

We have John Barry to thank for that. And for his great books!

Matt RobertsComment
12/07/2017

An intra-party squabble involving Louisiana’s then-seven congressmen dominated the 2011 congressional redistricting process. Because other states grew faster than us, Louisiana lost a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives after the 2010 Census.

The Legislature has the responsibility to redraw the congressional district maps after each Census, but the congressional delegation is actively involved in the process. That was certainly the case during the 2011 special session on redistricting.

Congressman Charles Boustany‘s 7th Congressional District was being eliminated as the state went from seven to six districts. Boustany wanted to stay in Congress and was popular with his colleagues. Congressman Jeff Landry‘s 3rd Congressional District was adjacent to Boustany’s 7th and together they covered just about all of coastal south Louisiana.

The map that won the backing of the majority of the congressional delegation and the Legislature created the new 3rd District primarily out of Boustany’s old 7th. Landry’s old 3rd District (to which he’d won election in 2010) was carved up between the 1st and 6th Districts and Landry found him self running for re-election in 2012 against Boustany. Boustany won and Landry went off to work for the Koch Brothers for a bit.

The problem with the resulting map is that the jockeying for a favorable map between Boustany and Landry obscured what should have been the central consideration in drawing the new six-district map — Louisiana’s 37 percent non-white population warranted the creation of at least two congressional districts where minorities would have a chance to get elected (not to mention Democrats).

We are approaching the beginning of a new cycle that will give Louisiana a shot at creating a congressional district map that more accurately reflects the demographic reality of the state than the one we will have been saddled with for a decade by the time 2021 rolls around.

The key is citizen involvement. There will be plenty of opportunities to do that. There are tools that can enable you to develop your own maps to submit. Most of all, it’s clear that allowing a single party to dominate redistricting does not produce a map that reflects us as a people. Ultimately, that diminishes the ability of our congressional delegation, legislature and local governing councils to represent the people they are elected to serve.

In the podcast, I talk about the 2011 process (in which I was an active participant) and opportunities to learn about the upcoming process that will be upon us sooner than you think. Hint: the 2019 statewide elections will be crucial.

Matt RobertsComment