Category Archives: Opinion

Opinion

The Haunted St. Tammany Sheriff’s Race

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An Early October Ghost Story

“I Ain’t Afraid Of No Ghost!” –  Ray Parker, Jr.  “In folklore, a ghost (sometimes known as an apparition, haunt, phantom, poltergeist, shade, specter, spirit, spook and wraith) is the soul or spirit of a dead person or animal that can appear to the living.  They are believed to haunt particular locations, objects or people they were associated with in life.”  -Wikipedia

The general consensus among those that are inclined to consider the existence of ghosts is that an entity will be restless when there is unsettled business, or when justice has not been served.  New Orleans is long considered one of the country’s most haunted cities, and the Northshore has several ghost stories to call its own.

“Could It Be…SATAN?” – SNL’s Church Lady

Back in the mid 1980’s, investigative journalist Bill Elder hosted a series titled “Bill Elder’s Journal”, which aired on WWLTV.  In a two- part series on satanism, Elder travelled to rural Tangipahoa Parish to investigate cattle mutilations, which were described as “ritualistic”.  Some 20 years later, pastor Louis Lamonica admitted to a local sheriff horrific tales of child abuse and torture, animal abuse and sacrifice, all taking place under the auspices of Hosanna Church in Pontchatoula.

While the case involving ritualistic abuse and sacrifice was proven in court, the “ritual” aspect was kept to a minimum.  In the words of Don Wall, Tangipahoa Parish ADA at the time, “I kept this devil worshipping stuff to a small portion of the trial. Worshipping the devil is not illegal.  Child molestation is.  That’s what I focused on.”

The Church Lady would not approve.

“Any skeletons…hiding in the closet?”  Anthrax, Among the Living  Most folks paying attention to politics these days assume there are skeletons in every closet, it’s just a matter of what type of skeleton, how many there are, and the state of decomposition.  As the unsolved murder of Margaret Coon resurfaced in the last District Attorney’s race, the current St. Tammany Sheriff’s race is overshadowed by the unsolved murder of Nanette Krentel, the wife of a former district fire chief. 

After 2+ years, the case is still open and surrounded by controversy.  Recently, a former employee of the Sheriff’s Office was arrested for defamation in relation to the case because of emails that were sent to the victim’s family, stating that the correspondence, which criticized the office and an investigator, eroded the family’s trust.  The victim’s father responded to media that his confidence in the Office was never there to begin with, probably having more to do with the timeline of discovery.

Nanette Krentel was initially reported to have died in the house fire, which was determined to be arson.  Then the coroner discovered that she was shot, whereupon he ruled it a homicide.  Initially, STPSO disagreed with that ruling, then backed off.  A HuffPost article from 2018 posits that STPSO never considered it a murder;  the family, meanwhile, never considered it a suicide.  

As Sheriff candidate Tim Lentz stated to nola.com, the only people arrested in this high-profile case are the victim’s sister and a federal agent.  From an outside perspective, one could go even further and say that the only people arrested in this case are individuals critical of how the case is being handled.

Just the good ol’ boys.  Wouldn’t change if they could…  Waylon Jennings, Good Ol’ Boys

According to quora.com, the first recorded use of the phrase “good ol’ boy” was found in Volume IV of the Oklahoma Folk-Lore Society’s publication Folk-say, published in the year 1932:  “Some of the people cried unrestrainedly, ‘Yessir, Booger was a good ol’ boy’”These days, it is understood that the good ol’ boy network is the network of cronyism and corruption working behind the scenes, against the public interest.  How things have changed for poor Booger.

The other specter hanging over the Sheriff’s race is that of the Jack Strain administration.  The 20-year sheriff, who was defeated by Randy Smith last go round, is facing life if convicted of charges ranging from rape and incest to federal corruption, over 20 counts in all. Strain pled not guilty;  he was definitely one of the good ol’ boys.  But, will anyone appear at his trial to cry unrestrainedly,  “Yessir, Boo Boo was a good ol’ boy”?   Doubtful.

Making their way, the only way they know how.  That’s just a little bit more than the law allows…

Merriam-Webster defines ‘good ol’ boy’ as “a usually white southerner who conforms to the values, culture, or behavior of his peers.”  This definition is more accurate, as it precludes the idea that the word ‘good’ is literal.  It reinforces the concept that to the good ol’ boy, values, culture and behavior is relative to the situation that one is in.  If that culture is corruption, then there is conformity to corruption.  If the values are greed, then there is conformity to greed.  If the behavior is egotism, then there is conformity to egotism.  The opposite is of course true, and that’s where the election comes in, because it doesn’t look like the good ol’ boy network is going to put St. Tammany’s ghosts to rest.

Opinion -Timothy Gates  covweekly@gmail.com

Opinion

A Hierarchy of Underpaid Wizards

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You’re Suggesting A Hierarchy of Organizations

2019 finishes up the 7th year that the Covington Weekly has been in downtown Covington.  Five of those years were spent understanding how economic development happens on the parish scale.  The first article written on that topic, under the title of CW’s “Economic Development Series,” garnered the attention of Senator Donahue and Larry Rase, who directed the Chamber of Commerce to call and find out what I was up to. 

It did not occur to me to question why the Chamber was calling on behalf of a Senator and a private businessman.

The phone conversation lasted about 45 minutes, during which I was told that the article written presented a “hierarchy” (their terminology) of organizations, to which I wholeheartedly agreed.  That, in fact, was the point.  During the conversation, our tech guy at the time beeped in to tell me that the CW website was being hacked, while I was arguing Civics with the Chamber.

Pay No Attention To The Man Behind the Curtain

Everyone knows and has opinions about the Chamber of Commerce and the Covington Business Association, but what about the Northshore Business Council?  Unless you are a member of the invitation-only business club, you probably don’t know much.  Both Pat Brister, our current Parish President, and Kevin Davis  (previous Parish President) came from the NBC Political Farm Club, so why shouldn’t we know about them?

I remember Trilby L’Enfant, assistant to Pat Brister circa 2014, presenting information at a Covington Business Association meeting regarding…. economic development. I waited until the end of the presentation, but I had some specific questions about the open-ended documentation and lack of publicly accessible information regarding the revenue bonds that the St. Tammany Economic Development Foundation (a problematic agency that no longer exists) was fond of tasking their Super Lawyers with writing.  I was pulled aside by the CBA president, who addressed the fairness of my question.  

“It’s regarding economic development,”  I said.  

“Fair enough,” he replied.  

What he meant was, she didn’t have permission from the man behind the curtain to answer my question.

 “What we do up here, we don’t get paid enough”

These words, in whatever context, came out of the mouth of Parish Council member Rykert Toledano, who was married to the president of the St. Tammany West Chamber of Commerce at the time.  After watching the nine- second clip from a council meeting on the Concerned Citizens of St. Tammany Facebook page, what he could be saying is how difficult it is for the members of the Parish Council to do what the public is asking of them, because of the little amount of money the council members receive compared to the time that is put in listening to the public and stuff.  Or maybe he was saying that he doesn’t get paid enough to do what the public wants as opposed to what developers want, which seems to be the case since his record indicates favoritism to developers.  

I think that what Rykert wants is not to be questioned;  unfortunately, public office is not the place one should go to escape accountability.  Covington Weekly has shown through the years that the parish council gets their house and senate picks to write bills that allow them to do things like exempt themselves from state ethics laws in order for their insiders to serve on multiple boards of conflicting government agencies, all while presenting a shining Chamber of Commerce endorsement.

 “I know it feels like, somebody’s watching me…”

I very much dislike politics.  Like disconnected childhood traumas, election cycles can inflict quiet wounds, just for being in the wrong place at the wrong time.  Last sheriff’s race, for example, there was an individual assigned to me for the simple reason that I omitted Strain’s name from any coverage because I already knew some things and did not think he was relevant.  Turns out he wasn’t.

Since then, that same individual was arrested for cyber-stalking, confirming my assessment of the time that they appeared in my life.  It also exemplifies the lengths that politicians will go to to exert their will onto others. 

I dislike lies and intimidation more than I dislike politics, and I will deal with politics in order to confront some lies and intimidation, even more so if it is coming from the publicly elected but privately selected.  I can agree on one thing:  I don’t get paid enough either.  Such is the way of the Hierarchy of Underpaid Wizards.

Timothy Achan Gates, CW Correspondent –  opinion

Opinion

Broken Trust by Nick Tranchina

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Trust in public office is a hard thing to come by. It takes hard work to foster and build on trust and only a moment to destroy it. The recent indictment announcement regarding Mr. Strain has me thinking more about the future of St. Tammany Parish more now than ever. Mr. Strain’s alleged behavior is a breach of public trust and he is now in the hands of the criminal justice system. The process has started and he will be judged by his peers as a result and a verdict eventually handed down.
However, my attention is on the future of the St. Tammany Parish Sheriff’s Office and how we are viewed currently. We as a community want to trust our leaders and believe they have our best interest in mind and will do the right thing when no one is looking. That is really a simple expectation and not far fetched – Right?
I was excited to see change come to the Sheriff’s Office in 2016 and had an expectation that the new administration would bleed integrity and trust. No one more than me wanted to see that positive change so we could watch our law enforcement community grow back in touch with our citizens.
I quickly learned that applying my individual expectations to someone else’s moral compass was a mistake and led me to disappointment.
Since I’ve been on the campaign trail my message to people has been one of rebuilding trust. Rebuilding trust through transparency, honesty, and accountability. Unfortunately we quickly find that a politician’s goals are often in direct opposition of that message and are primarily interested in political office for selfish or short-sighted reasons.
I’m sure some will say, wait Nick you’re a politician now – All I can say is God I hope not now or ever. However, I do want to be a great representative for my community – I certainly hope that doesn’t make me a bad fit for the job. Needless to say, if your character is weak, then your weaknesses will eventually show.
Over the last 10 to 12 years our failures in local government have been character failures and not necessarily competence failures. Pay attention to what is happening around you because the future of our community will depend on it.

Nick Tranchina, candidate for St. Tammany Parish Sheriff

Opinion

Whatever Happened to the Kids on the Milk Carton? Human Trafficking as an Institutional Problem – Opinion

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When I was a kid, I remember reading the backs of the cardboard milk cartons with great concern. I wondered if the missing children ran away, or if they were kidnapped, with the hope that ultimately, they were o.k.
Today, missing and exploited children are still very much a reality that needs to be addressed more aggressively.
In January of this year, candidate for St. Tammany Sheriff Nick Tranchina was instrumental in exposing an alleged trafficking ring extending to Florida. The perpetrators lured the minor away from home using an encrypted video game messaging app called ‘discord’.
The main issue with uncovering trafficking operations is that in many cases, it is discovered that people in official positions are helping to facilitate the operations. One of the stranger stories I heard while working for Covington Weekly came from an individual who claimed to work for the New Orleans Port Authority.
In a discussion of cargo tugboats owned by St. Tammany Parish, this individual revealed that the Port Authority initiated an internal investigation with regard to human trafficking (circa 2014), with the investigation allegedly “shut down” following diplomatic action from a foreign lobbying entity local to New Orleans.
I was not able to corroborate the individual’s claim, nor do I have the resources to deal with a defamation lawsuit. However, the point is clear: How does one conduct an investigation when systemic forces do not allow the investigation to proceed? For nearly 20 years, I followed the Jeffrey Epstein story, only to be told by anyone that would listen that it would never see the light of day.
The evidence that is coming to light related to that case delves into the darkest corners of the intelligence community, revealing a picture that is very disconcerting and unbelievable to many. His connections include military defense contractors, world banks, royal families, hollywood elite, and of course, our beloved politicians.
Nick Bryant, a journalist whose work focuses on the plight of disadvantaged children in the United States, wrote “The Franklin Scandal: A Story of Powerbrokers, Child Abuse & Betrayal” in 2009. This book details corporate corruption and government cover-ups implicating businessmen, senators, media corporations, the CIA and the Boys Town organization. This writer personally viewed the 60 Minutes documentary about Boys Town in Ohio, which never aired (but may still be available online).
Locally, Rusty Burns (R.I.P.) detailed abuse at the hands of a sitting judge of the 22nd Judicial District. The text of the websites he kept is uploaded to Covington Weekly, and in it, he claimed that his biggest regret was not testifying when approached by the St. Tammany Sheriff’s Office. The judge allegedly solicited some of the Sheriff’s Deputies at some point as well.
Former Sheriff Jack Strain was recently arrested for sex crimes involving mostly family members, the earliest incident going back to the 1970’s at age 14. In studying cases of abuse, it is often clear that the abuser was also abused, establishing a cyclical pattern. It is time to end the cycles of abuse. No individual has the right to harm another, and all have the right to safety and protection.
Which leads me to the conclusion that abusing children and trafficking children is not a case by case situation, it is an institutional problem, meaning there are individuals within the system that prevent information from being made public, much like a diplomatic agency shutting down an internal investigation conducted by a local agency because they don’t like the implications of the investigation. It is time that those who stand as an impediment to justice were removed.
– Timothy Achan Gates, CW Correspondent

Opinion

Reed/Strain Legacy Demands Re-examination of Arrests and Convictions

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Editor’s Note/Response to D.A. Montgomery’s Press Release with regard to former Sheriff Strain’s Arrest. Louisiana is identified as a prison state, evidenced by the fact that during the Reed/Strain tenure, St. Tammany had, per capita, the highest rate of incarceration in the world. When the subject of prison reform is discussed, the scare tactic of violent offenders being released is the immediate image conjured. The reality is, people are still going to jail for a plant, when the state of Louisiana is ham-handedly trying to address the issue of access to “medical marijauna”. This is an insult to anyone sitting in jail for a Victimless Crime, when our former D.A. is currently in prison and our former sheriff is facing life in jail if convicted. The information being revealed in the current political climate should warrant a re-examination of arrests and convictions under the apparently corrupt two decades of Reed/Strain.

Opinion

STP Candidate for Sheriff Files Ethics Complaint Against Incumbent

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Nick Tranchina, a candidate for St. Tammany Parish Sheriff, has filed an ethics complaint with the Louisiana Governmental Ethics Committee alleging the misuse of parish resources to promote the re-election campaign of incumbent Sheriff Randy Smith.
Tranchina outlines three specific ethics violations covered under the ethics code in his complaint (see ethics complaint attachment). The first of a four-part video series produced by the Sheriff’s Office on its “Crisis Intervention Team,” was uploaded February 5th to the St. Tammany Sheriff’s Office YouTube page, and also posted on the “Re-Elect Smith Sheriff 2019” Facebook and Twitter pages the same day.
Sheriff Smith announced his bid for re-election February 11th and two of the videos were subsequently posted on the sheriffrandysmith.com re-election website and the remaining three videos were posted on the campaign Facebook page shortly afterwards.
“It is highly improper and inappropriate to use videos made and paid for by the Sheriff’s Office to promote the sheriff’s own re-election,” according to Tranchina, who is a first-time candidate for elected office. “Further, the timing of the production and release of the videos to coincide with Smith’s campaign announcement is highly suspect.”
He notes that the Sheriff’s Office during Smith’s tenure has not produced any other videos on department-wide programs or initiatives such as the four-part “Crisis Intervention Team” video which, coincidentally, was one of Smith’s campaign promises. The sheriff even references the issue in the second video, saying: “During my campaign for sheriff I realized that mental health was a very important issue and a hot topic not only here in St. Tammany but throughout our country and I wanted to create this crisis intervention team.”
Elected officials cannot use resources paid for by taxpayers for political purposes, explains Tranchina. “Other states and indeed Congress forbids lawmakers from using resources like House videos for political purposes.”
The Advocate reports a response from Smith’s campaign:
The complaint is a “baseless grievance by a fledgling candidate who is hoping to gain media attention since he doesn’t have the resources to deliver his message appropriately.”
The statement continues: “It is shameful for any candidate, much less a former lawman, to manipulate state rules to force a state agency to review such a thinly veiled, desperate complaint.”
Tim Lentz, former Covington Police Chief and third candidate for St. Tammany Parish Sheriff, has not released a statement about the Ethics Complaint, pending a decision by the LGEC.

Opinion: Ethics, Mud vs. Water-Slinging

While the social media trollers have already relegated the ethics complaint filed by St. Tammany Parish Sheriff candidate Nick Tranchina to political mud-slinging, it seems fairly clear to anyone with an objective viewpoint that the issue here is keeping public officials accountable.
The parish government is no stranger to skirting ethics laws, as Covington Weekly has reported in the past with legislation written by former Representative Tim Burns exempting parish council members from state ethics laws in place to prevent conflicts of interest.
In the situation of campaign ethics, it appears that the only manipulation of state rules is a public agency using public dollars to produce material for use by a candidate running for public office, but that is for the Louisiana Governmental Ethics Committee to decide. Further, the statement “he doesn’t have the resources to deliver his message properly” implies that it is fortuitous that one has access to high-quality production because of the position they are currently occupying.
In light of the recent track record of high-level parish officials, it is more appropriate for any parish agency to take issues involving ethical violations more seriously, rather than attacking the character of the individual bringing the information to light. Nick Tranchina is not involved in a mud-slinging campaign; he is involved in a water-slinging campaign. Water has the power to erode stone over time. Bringing an ethics violation to light is not a negative tactic, it is balancing out the playing field by ensuring that everyone is adhering to the same rules; that is the reason there is a code of ethics to follow.
The critical and belittling response for someone who is simply alleging that specific campaign rules in place are ignored is disappointing; a more appropriate response would be to acknowledge a commitment to performing one’s duties according to law, including running a re-election campaign. Our public officials are entrusted with the appropriate use of our tax dollars, and the public has a right to know how they are used.
If campaign videos were produced using public resources, then that is a clear violation of the ethics laws in place. We’ll see what the LGEC decides.
CW Correspondent Timothy Gates

Opinion

Opinion: ITEP Problematic, Free Market Vs. Interventionism

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Recently, the Industrial Tax Exemption Program is in the news. According to the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy (ITEP.org) in “Tax Incentives: Costly for States, Drag on the Nation”, August 2013, “…state and local tax incentives come at an enormous cost. While a comprehensive accounting of these programs is impossible, the best available estimates suggest that states and localities are devoting some $50 billion to tax incentives every year… …despite the enormous expenditures being made on these programs, the evidence suggests that tax incentives are of little benefit to the states and localities that offer them, and that they are actually a drag on national economic growth.”

The irony of the situation is that while these programs are derived mainly from tax dollars and fall within the spectrum of public policy, the decision making process is often made at a regional level, which as developers have admitted, is necessary to ensure there is no opposition.
ITEP is simply a tool of the State and local government to sustain an Interventionist Market, as opposed to a true Free Market in the Constitutional Republic envisioned, where the role of government is limited to the protection of life, liberty and property. While the state touts the 80 year history of ITEP, if ITEP were actually a beneficial program, Louisiana should be a more successful state.

Free Market Vs. Interventionist State

In “The Free Market versus the Interventionist State”, (Foundation for Economic Education, January, 2008), Richard Ebeling describes interventionist economics. While interventionism generally refers to the actions of nations and militaries, Austrian economist Ludwig von Mises related interventionism to economics in a 1929 collection of essays, “Critique of Interventionism”. He describes it as a “system of private property that is hampered, regulated and directed through government intervention and other social forces…”. Ebeling lists seven points defining an interventionist economy, pointing out that they can only be implemented through violence via the threat or use of force.

7 Points That Define an Interventionist Economy

  1. The private ownership of the means of production is restricted or abridged by the political authority.
  2. The use of the means of production by private owners is subject to government prohibition or regulation.
  3. The users of the means of production are prevented from being guided solely by consumer demand.
  4. Government influences or controls the formation of prices for consumer goods and/or the factors of production, including labor. Government reduces the impact of supply and demand on the success or failure of various enterprises while increasing its own influence and control over market incomes through such artificial means as pricing and production regulations, limits on freedom of entry into markets, direct and indirect subsidies, and redistribution of wealth.
  5. Free entry into the domestic market by potential foreign rivals is discouraged or prevented through import prohibitions, tariffs, or quotas. Freedom of movement is prohibited or abridged.
  6. The monetary system is regulated by government for the purpose of influencing what is used as money, the value of money, and the rate at which the quantity of money is increased or decreased. All of these are used as tools for affecting employment, output, and growth in the economy.
  7. Government’s role is not limited to the protection of life, liberty and property.

8 points that define a genuine free-market economy:

  1. All means of production are privately owned.
  2. The use of these means of production is under the control of private owners who may be individuals or corporate entities.
  3. Consumer demand determines how the means of production will be used.
  4. Competitive forces of supply and demand determine the prices for consumer goods and the various factors of production, including labor.
  5. The success or failure of individual and corporate enterprises is determined by the profits or losses these enterprises earn, based on their greater or lesser ability to satisfy consumer demand in competition with their rivals in the marketplace.
  6. The market is not confined to domestic transactions and includes freedom of trade and the free movement of people internationally.
  7. The monetary system is based on a market-determined commodity (for example, gold or silver), and the banking system is private and competitive, neither controlled nor regulated by government.
  8. Government is limited in its activities to the protection of life, liberty and property.
    In Ebeling’s estimation, if our fellow citizens have a clear and persuasive vision of a genuine free-market economy, the interventionist state can be replaced with a new era of human liberty.
    Visit fee.org for more information

Local News Opinion

Covington Mayor’s Race 2019: S & W

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Covington’s front running candidates for mayor are Mark Johnson, Rick Smith and Candace Watkins. A few weeks ago, Covington Weekly ran a recap on the forum hosted by the St. Tammany Chamber West and the Covington Business Association. This week, we will look at a few of the finer details in the issues discussed at the forum.


Sewerage and Water Infrastructure – On a municipal level, the flooding Covington experienced in 2016 revealed weaknesses in the system that are a current point of discussion; one issue is the effect of outlying developments on the city system.
At the Chamber forum, Johnson stressed the need to improve communication between municipalities, parish-level organizations and committees with regard to infrastructure. With regard to residential annexation, Johnson stated, “Annexation should, as it always has been, be judged on a case by case basis. Each site should be weighed on its own merit as to whether it is in our (the citizens of Covington) best interest or not.”
Smith discussed the concept of complementary growth, stressing the need for infrastructure before development takes place. Smith is also of the opinion that improved communication is vital to solving our infrastructure issues, stating that any growth should “enhance and complement the quality of life of our residents and existing businesses.”
Watkins elaborated on the distinction between sewer discharge levels and drainage. “Anyone who discharges into the Tchefuncte river affects the city’s discharge limits. It does not affect the drainage issues.” If elected, she plans to meet with DEQ officials to understand who is currently discharging into the river and how that is affecting the city’s discharge limits.
“Residential annexation is a completely losing proposition for the city. Property taxes are proposed to provide 14% of the revenue and cover on 9% of the expenses in the city’s 2019 budget.” When a new residential area is considered for annexation, the burden of paying for the remaining 91% of those expenses falls to the existing citizenry.
Watkins added that Covington can amend the sewer ordinance and bring outside of city customers into the sewer system. They can be charged an adjusted rate and help close up the $1.6 million deficit in the utility fund. That way the environmental threat is eliminated and the city doesn’t have to take care of their streets, drainage, police and fire protection, etc.
Ed. Note: If you build it, they will come. Regionalism dictates the new development standard, and while it exemplifies the essence of representative government from a business point of view, it often does so in a way that excludes, or precludes, the public. We elect people to represent us, and we find that those elected tend to represent not the people, but their own private interests or the interests of industries the representatives are tied to in some way.
This is a core principle of a control that exists without discussion; it is the control of information. In the public realm, control of information has no place. The parish is clear on their objective to grow the tax base, and they have exceeded their original expectations.
While many of the infrastructure issues may be due to lack of planning, the problems also indicate that our infrastructure was in need of attention before the influx of new Covington, greater Covington and Parish Citizens. Thank you to the candidates for bringing the issues facing Covington forward in a public dialogue.

Opinion Shop Local

Three Rivers Art Festival Suggestion Box

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While the Three Rivers Art Festival is a fine event that brings revenue to the City and Downtown, there are a few minor details that if addressed realistically, could make this event even more successful. After collecting feedback from businesses along Columbia St. for the last several years, there are some simple suggestions that would foster a greater sense of cooperation between the organizers of the festival and the downtown businesses.

1. Broaden the Scope of the Festival. Instead of two rows of tents lining the entirety of Columbia Street, put one line of tents down the middle of Columbia and one line of tents down the middle of New Hampshire.
2. Stop Blocking the Fronts of Businesses and Allow Local Businesses to Participate For Free. The businesses that exist downtown pay premiums in rent and taxes. They do not need to pay an event to represent their own business that they are already paying for. The event organizers should work with existing businesses rather than work against them.
Instead of setting up a food tent and music stage on the same block that has three businesses with food and music, encourage patrons to shop at the local businesses that are already there, and book music acts in the local venues.
3. Prioritize the Participation of Local Artists. It’s fun to see new things and discover a different perspective from artists in other areas of the country, but if it’s called the Three Rivers Art Festival, referring to the confluence of the river systems here, then the festival should feature exclusively local and regional artists.

Featured Posts General Opinion

Stirrings by Beverly Hobbs Shea

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I love the honesty of country songs. Raw emotion, shared with an audience of neutrality, ignites a hidden spark and moves us quickly from untouched to identifiable.
Funny how we begin with a clean slate – ignorant of influential voices and with no opinions preconceived. Yet we learn to both adapt and adopt. And as we go through life, we begin to sift through all we’ve collected, and then decidedly take stock of what to believe, disbelieve, keep, or simply let go. We learn that the knowledge to which we claimed we acquired has become the wisdom by which we now live.

I love the authenticity of contemporary country songs. Unafraid to be transparent, their authors cloak their relatable words into catchy melodies and refrains that take up residence in our hearts and heads until another one comes along and takes its place. The artists who sing and breathe life to the words and feelings perfectly introduce, resolve, and let it go all within a passionate 3 minute delivery. Reminds me of Richard Carlson’s profound declaration “Wherever you are, be there.”
I may not be able to write a country song, but I can certainly write the story.
Beverly Hobbs Shea is Consulting Realtor at High Road Properties. 504-669-8826 Beverlyhobbsshea.com

Featured Posts General Opinion

What We Think We See

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By Beverly Hobbs Shea

There’s a line in a popular country song that goes “I can’t un-see it.” How simple but how true and profound! Being the English major word bird I am, at first it bothered me but not enough to have its meaning impress me to where I could really appreciate that little two letter prefix.

 

It would be easy to demonstrate the multiple uses of the unlimited phrases (no pun intended) or words. But instead I’m thinking of the correlation between remembrance, forgetfulness, and un-seeing. As we get older, only the latter seems truly etched into the mind like a branding iron – something powerful enough to exceed the will to either remember or forget.

It’s part of the lesson of forgiveness – and not an abstract concept. We’ve all heard that we’re called to forgive, and I think most would agree it’s much easier said than done. Especially when, in a small community, chance run-ins are likely to happen; when it happens, we can’t “un-see it” but hopefully we’ve learned to evade any invisible flaming arrows so that they crash and burn.
Beverly Hobbs Shea, Consulting Realtor
High Road Properties 504-669-8826

Featured Posts General Local News Opinion

Social Media Watch: Rural Hwy Traffic Safety

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Editor’s Note: Safe and conscientious driving is an issue very close to Covington Weekly. Our personal opinion is that it should be illegal to operate a phone while driving, unless it is hands-free operation. Even then, some people still may not have the capacity to carry on a conversation while paying attention to the road. The following social media letter was brought to our attention regarding traffic deaths and accidents in newly developed areas of the parish, along with a response from the Parish President’s Office:
Subject: Highway 22 Accident “I read that state police will be investigating to figure out what happened. This area of Hw y22 is not rural anymore. We have more than a dozen subdivisions on each side of Hwy 22 from the Madisonville bridge to Bedico water tower by the new supermarket. We have many businesses along this stretch and a school. We have subdivisions being built on roads that turn off Hwy 22 like Byers Lane (off Byers Road). A huge subdivision is being built quietly back there with 800 homes.
It’s insane that with all the new houses no one is factoring in infrastructure! How in the hell will all these people get from point a to point b? Where are all these children going to go to school? Anyone can do the math if they take the time to drive around. There are thousands of people living along this state highway with a 55 mile an hour speed limit. Who actually does the speed limit? I have people passing me all the time on the shoulder! Yes, the wrong side to pass that’s also entrances to these subdivisions!
Poor lighting and poor road markings. Yes, this horrible accident occurred before dark. As our population has increased and is already busting at the seams, more development is happening. More teens will be driving. More people will age. This is all a recipe for disaster if the state or parish doesn’t address the problem. I’m no expert. I can’t offer the solutions, but I can suggest ideas.
How about lowering the speed limit like most towns do. How about turning lanes into subdivisions. How about protecting the children at the school. How about caution lights at the grocery store and junctions of
1077, 1085 and 445. How about better lighting. How about signs that state you are entering a residential area. Surely if our governor can place signs stating he was born there this should not be a problem. Also, if you drive a little further down Hwy 22 by Hwy 445, you will see Horton Homes is developing yet another huge subdivision!
The stretch of highway on 445 from Hwy 22 to I-12 will soon become the next death trap. Not to mention Champ Cooper school is right there. All this is not limited to this corner of the northshore, but many areas of the northshore. I-12 by the Pinnacle Overpass still has not been addressed after the horrific accident a few months ago. Life lost there too. What’s it going to take? How many more (lives) will be lost due to poor planning of infrastructure?” – Barbara May

Parish Response, RE: Dangerous Roads
Dear Ms. ————-,
President Brister is extremely concerned about the intersection at LA22 and LA1085, as well as others along LA 22 and throughout the parish for that matter. Because these numbered highways, i.e., 22, 1085, 59, etc., are under the jurisdiction and control of the State of Louisiana, she has been in contact with LADOTD requesting that emergency safety improvements be implemented as soon as possible.
Last year, the DOTD completed a traffic study along LA22 and according to their study, a roundabout was recommended for the intersection at LA22 and LA1085. The study determined a traffic signal was not warranted. Due to the time it would take to fund, design, and construct a roundabout, we have requested that life-saving, traffic-slowing measures like a temporary traffic signal be immediately implemented at this intersection to prevent further tragedy until their permanent solution can be installed.
We are also scheduling a meeting with the DOTD District Engineer to discuss all previous studies and recommendations for this corridor and will urge implementation of both temporary and permanent improvements to this and other intersections along LA22. We are hoping that we can help expedite these state planned improvements. Thank You,
Laurie C. Ojeda, Executive Secretary, Office of the Parish President, St. Tammany Parish

Opinion

St. Tammany Parish Can’t Color Within the Lines

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The HUD Office of Inspector General released a report detailing the deficiencies found in the administration of funds by the St. Tammany Parish Government in language that sounds very familiar for those that recall the quiet disappearance of the St. Tammany Economic Development Foundation.
What are the odds that a former inter-governmental foundation sharing membership with the parish council and the parish government itself do not follow the rules and procedures laid out before them with regard to public dollars? The odds are undeniable.
What the report found The Parish did not always administer its disaster recovery program in accordance with HUD requirements and in line with its certifications to HUD. Specifically, it did not (1) support that it performed an independent cost estimate and adequate cost analyses or maintained complete procurement files; (2) maintain a complete monitoring policy and finalize and fully implement its policy to aid in detecting fraud, waste, and abuse or have an internal audit function; or (3) include all required information and understand the program and its requirements. As a result of these systemic deficiencies, the Parish could not provide reasonable assurance to HUD that it would properly administer, adequately safeguard, and spend its remaining $8.67 million allocated for CDBG disaster recovery funds in accordance with requirements, and paid more than $400,000 in questioned costs. Full report posted at hudoig.gov & view @ covingtonweekly.com
State Supreme Court Rules in Favor of DA
In another slam to St. Tammany Parish Government’s fragile ego, the Louisiana State Supreme Court Ruled in favor of District Attorney Warren Montgomery by reversing a previous lower court decision regarding parish council and administrative representation. The irony in the decision is that before the lawsuit, the Parish Government attempted to change language in the parish’s Home Rule Charter that supported their interpretation by putting it to a vote.
The public voted it down.
Ignoring the results of the vote, the Parish Government chose to move forward with the lawsuit anyway, resulting in nearly 1/2 million dollars wasted. It is amazing what 30 years of comfortable impropriety will do to rational thought process. I seem to recall the public being chastised for the suit that was pursued in relation to the hydraulic fracturing situation, and that was only a couple hundred thousand. But the public should accept the parish fighting its own duly elected District Attorney? What about the parish government suing its own constituency over drainage issues it is ultimately responsible for? It was written before, and it is now written again: the transparency is there, but the accountability is still lacking.

Editor’s Note: The blatant disregard for the rules shown in the HUD OIG report is a mirror image of the St. Tammany Economic Development Foundation. Rather than address those problems, it was decided that it was time to pull the plug, much easier than the possibility of something incriminating to surface. I speculate that a portion of the revenue bonds are fraudulent to begin with; the parish gets property and improvements upon default.
Maybe they should do the same thing with the parish government, just pull the plug on it and start over from scratch. At best, the council and administration is filled with fancy* liars; at worst, it is filled with thieves who do not care about serving the public at all.
As editor and contributor of the Covington Weekly for going on 7 years now, I refute being told by peers that my presentation of views is uncooperative or trouble-making. I publish public information that is kept from the public. It is becoming clear to everyone that it is our parish leadership that is uncooperative.
Our parish leadership is telling us that they have no money while they are diverting disaster relief funds to their pet government projects. Our parish leadership is telling us that we need to dredge rivers, when it is the rampant development of wetlands (thanks to Steve Scalise) that is contributing to “historic floods.”
Our parish leadership needs better stories.
Timothy Achan Gates Email: covweekly@gmail.com

* “fancy” denotes a law degree

Featured Posts General Opinion

Culture

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by Beverly Hobbs Shea

Culture is a word that’s been over-used and, frankly, has been relegated to connote a collective mentality that is typically vague and rarely accurate. Whether it be a small town or large city, or an entire state, the word culture seems over-employed even with its lack of specificity.
I submit that as a society, we’ve been conditioned to accept status quo. Witness the noticeable “dumbing down” in every segment of daily life. When I was growing up, adults had a nickname for this malaise (“a lack of the give-a-damn factor”). No one within earshot of that phrase wanted to be even remotely considered for that!
Let’s talk about corporate soul. Although being the word-bird I am, I don’t believe this is entirely accurate. Where there is soul, there must be spirit. Again, I submit that perhaps corporate spirit might be a better description. The spirit of an individual or collective group defines the principles they embrace and by which they choose to live, work, and even play with others.
Twice in my career I’ve witnessed huge shifts in company culture. The spirit that once defined core values not only died, but was intentionally executed and then buried beneath layers of deception that spread like the manure it truly was. Lessons learned.

Identifying company culture is a little bit like understanding the Hans Christian Andersen fable “The Emperor’s New Clothes” for those old enough to remember that many stories once contained morals. Ultimately the choice is ours to make – know what you believe and why you believe it – even if you’re a company of one. beverlyhobbsshea.com

General Healthy Living Opinion

Can Industrial Hemp Save Louisiana?

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In the nola.com article “Toxic sites in Louisiana: 15 of

the state’s most polluted places” (Feb. 2017), Scott

Threlkeld details several areas of environmental concern

across the state. Louisiana is home to 15 Superfund sites

on the EPA’s national priorities list. St. Tammany Parish

has two Superfund sites, the former American Creosote Works

in Slidell and the former Madisonville Creosote Works in

Madisonville. Contaminants are still being removed from

the groundwater at both sites.

In June 2014, The Times-Picayune/ nola.com reported that

Louisiana waterways were among the most polluted in the

nation, with industrial facilities releasing more than 12.6

million pounds of toxic chemicals into rivers, bayous and

other waters in 2012, as per a report by the Environmental

America Research and Policy Center.

In 2017, CBS News reported that Italian farmers in Taranto,

Italy are using industrial hemp crops in order to

decontaminate the soil. Contaminants from a local steel

plant polluted the area, causing a build up of dioxin in

local grazing animals. The solution: Plant Hemp.

By Barbetorte (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

In phytoremediation, contaminants are absorbed by the

fast-growing roots of the cannabis plant which either store

or transform toxins into a harmless substance. The process

is proven to pull heavy metals from the soil, and

industrial hemp was used following the nuclear disaster at

Chernobyl, removing strontium and cesium.

While industrial hemp is still a controlled substance in

the United States, Kentucky Senator Mitch McConnell wants

to mainstream hemp production by removing it from the list

of controlled substances. Kentucky is at the forefront of

the industrial hemp comeback with approval for more than

12,000 acres grown in the state in 2018, with 57 Kentucky

processors turning the raw hemp into a multitude of

products.

The crop was historically used for rope, but other uses

include clothing, mulch, hemp milk, cooking oil, soaps,

lotions, building materials, plastics and biofuels.

Industrial hemp has the potential to provide needed

products at a fraction of the environmental impact as

conventional methods of production using petroleum, which

is the cause of much of the pollution in Louisiana in the

first place. Let’s give hemp a chance.

Questions or comments: covweekly@gmail.com

General Local News Opinion

Blind Faith & Informed Decisions

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When I was younger and asked questions, I remember being

told to have faith in the (political) process, and also in

our elected officials, that they make the right decisions.

This response always seemed more odd than logical to me, in

the sense that it relegates our understanding and control

of the political spectrum, which is a physical

manifestation, to the will of a non-material being.

One can vote and still be apathetic. Blind faith in the

political system can create apathy in the same way that

indifference can, by yielding uninformed decisions.

I was told recently that too many facts will confuse

people. I would revise that statement to the effect that

too many facts will confuse ignorant people.

Covington Weekly is an educational process on my part as

correspondent, and education for the public who may or may

not be aware of how the political process works. Some feel

that the majority of the public really does not want to

know, and they may be right in that assertion.

On the other hand, there remains a portion of the public

that does want to know what their public officials are up

to, as well as who is pulling the strings behind them. I

do not intend to be abrasive, but I sometimes am. I am not

always 100% correct in all of my conclusions either, but I

am willing to admit error and learn new things.

This weekend, the Parish is asking for two tax renewals.

If you think the parish is spending the money it gets from

its citizens wisely, then vote to renew. If you think that

there are problems with how the parish administration is

operating, then vote down the renewal and demand that some

explanations be given.

In my experience as correspondent, the administration and

state agencies of this parish are evasive, defensive, and

misdirecting with regard to simple information that should

be public to begin with. Blind faith in the system? No

thanks, I will continue to ask questions.

Cooperation, Competition & Complicity

Wikipedia defines cooperation as “the process of groups of

organisms working or acting together for common or mutual

benefit, as opposed to working in competition for selfish

benefit.”

Years ago, I left a position at a broadcast television

station over the news department’s refusal to run a story

about a proposed ethanol plant in a rural farming

community. The station shared legal representation with the

bidding energy company, which also happened to be owned by

the governor’s brother.

From the station’s point of view, I was “uncooperative”,

despite the obvious ethical issues. Relationships built on

conflicts of interest undermine supposed free-market

competition and erode the public trust.

Conflicts of interest benefit a select few while soaking up

public dollars destined for people and organizations that

have a legitimate need for those funds.

The original intention behind Covington Weekly is to

promote downtown Covington’s unique historic district. It

has also served as a lively platform to generate public

discussion on the process of economic development and other

topics of political interest.

The ultimate goal of Covington Weekly is to offer positive

and viable solutions to issues that exist among the

residents and business owners who live and pay taxes here,

not issues that are of anyone’s personal creation.

Competition is great! My general philosophy revolves around

the concept that we are here to help one another. Let’s

compete to see who can offer the most helpful solutions

that benefit everyone.

Intimidation, threats and abuses of power are not

legitimate modes of operation, and no one should expect

cooperation on that basis. Sanctioning that behavior will

only result in complicity. Diplomatic solutions are not

produced by entertaining negative intentions.

Covington Weekly accepts submissions from the public. CW

ran pieces on this weekend’s tax vote by CCST (against),

Mr. Goodwin of Mandeville (against) and the BGR (Bureau of

Governmental Research, in favor of the jail tax)

in the spirit of cooperation.

Contact Timothy Achan Gates Email: covweekly@gmail.com

Opinion

Why St. Tammany Parish is in Need of an Inspector General

Published by:

The St. Tammany Parish Government has talked the public out of an Office of Inspector General for over a decade, but they will try to pass the same tax renewal three times in a year after the public already voted “no”.  According to the HUD Office of Inspector General in an April 2017 Report with regard to HUD disaster relief assistance (see The Resiliency Games, CW 2015) “deficiencies occurred because the Parish did not follow and understand the program and its requirements.”

Legal Fees As of 2016, the Parish Government paid $1.58 million in legal representation, but they are not able to follow standard procedures in the distribution of funds from another government agency?  Nope, not buying it.  Oh wait, too bad, we already did.

The scare tactics the Parish is using to frighten voters into voting “yes” on the tax renewals are the creation of the Parish itself.  One reason for the increase in crime is the natural result of the Parish’s aggressive population growth (increase the tax base at all costs) before the proper infrastructure is in place.  Generally speaking, higher populations will yield higher crime statistics.  The typical model is called Problem – Reaction – Solution, wherein a problem (usually one that is self-created) is presented to get reaction from the public and outcry for redress.  Then a solution is offered, the outcome of which is what the administration wanted in the first place.  The public then feels safe again, until the introduction of the next problem.

The all-time problem is that while our public officials pronounce to represent the public, policy is made behind closed doors by corporate representatives.  St. Tammany saw this clearly during the proposed hydraulic fracturing project brought forward by Helis Oil Co.  It became clear that state level agencies can override local control, and in the specific case of mineral extraction, legislation must be changed at the state level for local agencies to regain that control.  The quiet dissolution of the STEDF after years of avoiding simple questions is just another reason for an Inspector General in St. Tammany.

In “St. Tammany Parish should have its own inspector general:  Opinion (6/28/2017), Jeff Crouere writes:  “While politicians don’t like them, voters do.  In Orleans and Jefferson Parishes, voters approved the creation of inspector general offices.  In St. Tammany Parish, voters would surely register their approval as well, but they have never been given the opportunity.”

Back in 2013, Parish President Pat Brister was offended by the words of Ed Quatreveaux, N.O.I.G., such that political offices are not immune to lying and thievery, delivered in a statement to the inspector general task force assembled for St. Tammany Parish.  In 2009, voters were offended by the actions of St. Tammany Parish Council Member Joseph Impastato, who was sentenced to 18 months in prison for soliciting and receiving kickbacks after Katrina.  In retrospect, there is no reason to be offended by a statement with regard to targeting liars and thieves in political office unless one condones or protects that behavior.

The ongoing legal debate between the District Attorney and the Parish Administration represents a struggle over the control of information.  The checks and balances in government are in place to prevent undue influence from one agency to another.  Dictating the duties of another government branch’s employees would indicate an undue influence, which from this writer’s estimation, is what District Attorney Montgomery is attempting to eliminate with the current lawsuit.

Recently, District Attorney Montgomery referred a case involving a St. Tammany Parish Sheriff’s Deputy to the State Attorney General in an action that he referred to as “fair and prudent” while taking criticisms for the decision.  The citizens of St. Tammany would benefit from creating an office of Inspector General, and one elected by the people and not appointed by a board, committee or task force of corporate cronyism.

Timothy Achan Gates email:  covweekly@gmail.com

Opinion

Justice Center Tax Vote – B. Charles Goodwin

Published by:

In our research, we have found many areas of spending that can better be used to fund the justice center than their present uses.
But first, let’s clarify some misstatements and/or misperceptions. One is that the parish stresses their new renewal is to fund just the “Maintenance and Operation” of the justice center. That is simply not true. The wording of the renewal itself says it is also for “Acquiring and Constructing and funding into bonds…”
Worse, the parish has intentionally left in the money in the new taxes to do just that, and even cites the very need to build a new parking garage at $15 million (see Capital Improvement Budget) plus a storage center.
The parish originally requested one fourth of a cent to do that. Then it reduced it to one fifth cent. If it were only for Maintenance and Operations, it would have been for one twelfth of a cent.
The parish misleads us by saying that it cannot bond these over a 10-year period. That also is not true. It can bond for 10 years, amortized over 20 years, with balloon due in the tenth year, and then pay off the balloon. The collateral to pay off the balloon is the structure itself. Alternately, it can accumulate the funds over the ten years, and on the tenth year pretty much make a lump sum purchase.
Again, if the parish had no intention to “Acquire and Construct” then it would not have left money in the Renewal to do just that!
As for the storage building, during this time of alleged tight finances and unsure income, why would the parish not just temporarily rent a storage facility until other debt on other structures is paid and/or when revenue is more certain? Why not THEN present this to the voters?

We would like the parish to answer why this is not being considered.
As for a parking garage, I’ve been to the JCC several times and have always been able to find a parking space. Always. But even if there is an occasional need, then let’s just live with that occasional extra block walk. Walking an occasional extra block does not justify a $15 million dollar remedy. Now, let’s look at some alternatives that make this tax renewal not necessary. You have probably heard of the exponential growth in the Administration’s legal staff. It’s grown from some 2 people at the beginning of this administration to 16. That 16 consist of 6 attorneys and 10 support staff. Its legal cost is now $1,114,919.62 and growing.
WORSE, this legal cost does not even include the legal fees for outsourcing an assortment of legal items that are more expensive than the in-house attorneys are.
The Administration was well aware that it had a pending revenue reduction. One would think that would call for trimming costs, not adding to them. Yet, with that knowledge, it raised salaries in unconscionable amounts. Here are some examples.
2017 salary and benefits increased 10.02% over 2016, and another 1.2% in 2018 for a total 10.22% over those 2 years. Now, if we factor in the 100 or so employees no longer on the payroll due to workforce reductions, the increase is more like 14% from 2016 to 2017. In 2018, the increase was 2.4% for a total 16.4% increase over 2 years. That’s an average of 8.2% per year. In effect, they paid an 8.2% increase a year in advance. That’s an increase of $1.9 million dollars that we have to pay into perpetuity at the very time Pat Brister is crying Wolf.
Now, if we add the 1 million or so to the exponential in-house attorney growth to this 1.9 million of payroll growth, we’re at 2.9 million. Add a conservative half million wasted to fight a law suit for 2 citizens wanting nothing more than to keep the parish from sending septic across their lots and we’re at some 3.4 million. Add for two extra times to vote on this a third time, plus 77,000 to hire a Public Relations firm to “rebrand and educate the voters” and we’re over $3.6 million. Add in the hours of the parish employees handling and promoting this 2nd and 3rd vote and we’re probably around $4 million.
And that’s $4 million before we’ve even touched on any other savings. It appears the parish is trying to generate money it doesn’t have to solve a problem it doesn’t have.
In summary, if there is any doubt about the pros and cons of the Jail and Justice taxes, CCST feels that these Maintenance and Operations issues should be voted on separately, not co-mingled with “Acquisitions and Construction or Bonding” so each proposal gets a true and honest discussion of pros and cons based on facts, not questionable parish representations.
Submitted by B. Charles Goodwin, Mandeville

Local News Opinion

BGR Examines Tammany Tax Proposals

Published by:

On March 2, 2018, BGR released “On The Ballot: St. Tammany Parish Sales Tax Renewals, March 24, 2018”. On March 24, St. Tammany voters will decide whether to renew two separate parish wide sales taxes. The report and a one-page summary of each renewal proposition are available at bgr.org.
Proposition No. 1: Justice Center Tax Renewal
Proposition No. 1 would renew the sales tax dedicated to the Justice Center facilities, which include the courthouse in Covington and an annex in Slidell. St. Tammany Parish has levied the tax for 20 years at a rate of 0.25%. Voter renewal would extend the tax for another 10 years at a reduced rate of 0.20%. It would also expand the dedicated purposes to direct at least 10% of tax revenue to the 22nd Judicial District Specialty Courts. This will be the Parish’s third attempt to renew the tax. If voters reject it again, the tax will expire March 31, 2018.
BGR Position on Justice Center Tax Renewal: Against Given the Parish’s small amount of unrestricted revenue, the Parish needs a dedicated funding source for the Justice Center facilities. However, the Parish has not clearly demonstrated to voters how much revenue is required to meet the Justice Center’s future operating and capital needs. In addition, the proposition dedicates a portion of revenue to the Specialty Courts which, despite any benefits they provide to the community and the local criminal justice system, currently are self-sustaining and are not a mandatory function of the district court. Voters should let this tax expire and require the Parish to come back with a tax proposal it can prove to be appropriately scaled based on a clear plan for future spending. The Justice Center is funded through 2018 and has enough funding without the renewal to postpone further budget cuts this year. The Parish should present voters with its new tax proposal later this year on the November or December 2018 ballots.

Proposition No. 2: Jail Tax Renewal
Proposition No. 2 would renew a sales tax dedicated to the parish jail. St. Tammany Parish has levied the tax for 20 years at a rate of 0.25%. Voter renewal would extend the tax for another 10 years at a reduced rate of 0.20%. This will be the Parish’s third attempt to renew the tax. If voters reject it again, the tax will expire March 31, 2018.
BGR Position on Jail Tax Renewal: For
The Jail Tax provides significant revenue for the Parish’s and Sheriff’s obligations to support the parish jail. Renewal of the tax would help secure the jail’s future for another 10 years at a slightly reduced cost to taxpayers. Loss of the tax would result in new budget cuts that would reduce Parish services in other areas and potentially undermine jail operations and the quality of law enforcement.
BGR notes that renewing the tax at the proposed rate would leave some jail costs unfunded. Based on the sheriff’s projections, the jail will need additional funding to offset future deficits and make necessary capital investments in jail facilities. To better inform the public on the jail’s financial condition, the Parish or the Sheriff should post online the jail accountability reports.
BGR is a private, nonprofit, independent research organization. Since its founding in 1932, it has been dedicated to informed public policy-making and the effective use of public resources in the Greater New Orleans area. For more information, call 525-4152 or visit BGR online at bgr.org.

Featured Posts General Healthy Living Opinion

Women, Men & Trauma: Time For A Reformation

Published by:

by Lindsay Reed

This past World Cancer Day (February 4) inspired me to consider the environment(s) contributing to emotional and physical health, and how that relates to men and women. Cancer is a heavy subject in terms of cost; health care cost, lost productivity and the loss of life. According to the International Agency for Research on Cancer (2012), 8.2 million people died of cancer, 14.1 million new cases were diagnosed and 32.5 million people were survivors within 5 years of diagnosis. The pervasiveness of cancer is enough to elicit our deepest health fears as well as inspire our sincerest hopes for a cure. The results are physical and emotional trauma for the patients as well as that of friends and family.

While the exact causes of cancer are not always known, the factors that contribute to cell mutation are known. Laine Bergeson points out that “almost all cancer experts agree on one factor: inflammation” in her article Whole Person Cancer Care. She also points out that modern research acknowledges there are other possible “contributing triggers for cancer: mitochondrial function, microbial DNA, even the effect of our thoughts and beliefs on the immune system.”
The CDC’s website confirms that a history of abuse and neglect from an early age contributes to physical illness including cancer, as well as psychological illness and a continuing cycle of inability to maintain healthy relationships. Sexual harassment, trauma and abuse can happen to either sex. If suppressed, it creates a loop of hurt, anger and sadness that can damage every facet of society. Men and women should have equal opportunity to express painful sexual experiences, whether derived from physical or emotional trauma or illness. Both pelvic pain and sexual dysfunction desperately need to be taken seriously and treated compassionately.

The message of “This is Water,” by David Foster Wallace, is optimism in the face of challenges both outside and inside ourselves. His metaphor of our environment being the “water in which we swim” is used in this essay to describe the environments that contribute to our physical and mental health, and the relationship to those factors across the sexes. This metaphor inspired me to consider the fluid that bathes every cell in our bodies, and how that relates to factors in our surrounding physical environments. Tumor cells swim in interstitial fluid, meaning that cancer includes an environment and not just mutated cells. What is the difference between interstitial fluid in tumors and the fluid surrounding healthy cells?

Marek Wager and Helge Wiig explain some of the differences in the article “Tumor Interstitial Fluid Formation, Characterization and Clinical Observations”. Their work focuses on the tumor microenvironment and biology to improve treatment methods, early detection and monitoring of the disease. The water surrounding the tumor cells is highly pressurized with minimal drainage due to improper functioning of the lymphatic vessels, creating a poor environment for the cells.
The outpouring of perspectives and emotions relating to sexual trauma seems a fitting analogy for the cancer cells’ pressurized environment that must be released in order to heal. We are all “in this water”, like every cell in our bodies, and all of the suppressed pain contributes to a high pressure environment. As a society, we need outlets and treatment the same way a tumor needs functioning lymphatic vessels to drain the excess fluid and restore a healthy balance.
A discussion of the disparity between sexual experiences in women and men, which has resulted in a revelation and quantification of pain stemming from sex, is addressed in the recent article “The female price of male pleasure” by Lili Loofbourow. She expresses concern over the normalization of the pain women experience related to sex, pointing out that there is a disparity in medical treatment for pelvic and genital pain women feel during and after intercourse (dyspareunia) compared to treatment men receive for sexual dysfunction. Women’s issues need to be acknowledged and treated, but the “water in which we swim” also includes men’s issues. While dyspareunia affects women much more frequently than men, issues ranging from lower back pain to cultural norms for sexual attractiveness can make sex painful or unpleasant for men.

The entire environment needs to be treated, and that should include a more holistic approach than the pharmaceutical protocol for treating sexual dysfunction. Anatomically, hormonally and psychologically, there are more issues than one pill can treat. To this end, both sexes need outlets and resources to treat the underlying causes of pain surrounding sex.
According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (2016), men in America took their own lives 3.5 times more often than women, although women made more attempts to take their own lives. This data indicates that both sexes are suffering from physical or emotional trauma, and equality means more awareness for male-specific cancers and sexual traumas, as well as those suffered by women. Testicular self-exams should receive equal promotion and instruction as breast self-exams. October is recognized by the WHO as Breast Cancer Awareness month, but no cancer overwhelmingly affecting men has its own month recognized.
The Movember Foundation works to raise awareness for men’s health internationally and their website is a great resource for men and women to learn more and be involved in keeping men healthy. A greater awareness of the language used in discussing male health is necessary, and male rape should not be reduced to a joke about prison. Prostate and cervical screenings are necessary and should be addressed without making light of the fact they are invasive and frightening for both sexes.

As embryos, both sexes develop from the same tissue, and our sex organs, testes and ovaries for example, are biological homologues. I attended a cadaver lab where a comparison of a complete female and male pelvis allowed me to see those homologues in person. That experience changed my perspective in thinking that men and women are fundamentally different; we are actually more similar than dissimilar. Unfortunately, it was a female only lab; it is hard to reach inclusion with exclusionary beginnings. Discussion of anatomy and pathology among the sexes should be both comfortable and compassionate.
Lastly, does hand dominance affect the “water in which we swim”? Having a dominant and non-dominant hand affects the structure of our entire bodies. As a massage practitioner, I see visible imbalances that make it physiologically impossible to have optimal function of the pelvis. That includes all the reproductive processes, male and female, as well as balance, gait and stability. Brain asymmetry is accepted as a functional necessity, but what if that asymmetry is increased by hand dominance? In my personal experience, this relates to elements of power differentials, pelvic imbalance and engaging a greater percentage of the brain and spine. Perhaps encouraging ambidexterity could contribute to a fuller functioning of the brain, resulting in a stronger overall system to confront health issues in general.
I realized I didn’t want to only sign my name with my right hand because my left hand is equally me. It has challenged everything within me to be able to do everything I can do with my right hand, with my left hand. It also resulted in an appreciation of how much my left hand does to stabilize and support when I am focused on what my right hand is doing.
Lili Loofbourow points out that “sex is always a step behind social progress because of its intimacy.” What if an important part of treating sexual trauma and pain is taking care of the organ that controls all of our movements and hormonal functions? Maybe fully engaging both sides of the brain and body could be integral to the process of bringing social and sexual progress into balance.
Rather than believing that men and women are from different planets, focusing on similarities may encourage the unification process necessary to address illness and trauma in a responsible and compassionate way. This includes safe outlets for men and women to discuss overall health, sexual health and trauma. Together, problems can be addressed and solved; divided, problems are only perpetuated. It is time to address the role emotional health plays in our physical health, and it is time to recognize the responsibility we each have to our own and to each other’s emotional and physical health.
It is time for a reformation.

Submitted By Lindsay Reed


Lindsay Reed grew up in Lafayette Louisiana and attended LSU. She graduated with a degree in English and moved to Colorado in 2007, where she has enjoyed practicing massage therapy and studying alternative medicine. She loves poetry, movies and crafts as well as good-natured arguments.

Comments and questions? : covweekly@gmail.com

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