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Local News Opinion

STEDF Update: Following The Money

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Recently, Covington Weekly reported on changes in the composition of economic development in the parish. The following exchange between CW Correspondent Timothy Gates and the St. Tammany Economic Development Foundation took place this past week:
Email to St. Tammany Economic Development Foundation on Tuesday, September 12, 2017:
“Good Morning Tracy,
Thank you for your response in regard to my inquiry. The changes reflected in the legislation are significant.
1) I am curious about the relationship between the Northshore Community Foundation and the Parish Government; I am aware of cooperative endeavor agreements, etc., but specifically, what gives them the authority to issue a study that impacts your office, resulting in sweeping changes that include eliminating the leading 20-year+ economic agency in the parish? My understanding is that non-profit corporations (501 c3’s) are unable to influence legislation (upon review by IRS). Any commentary on this would be helpful.
2) How will these changes affect the public disclosure process, in terms of real-time information?
3) Because Mrs. Bertus represents the EDD as well, does the manager’s response to the LLA constitute an official statement from the parish with regard to the matter?
Thank you for your time. Timothy Achan Gates”
The STEDF replied with this response:
“In response to your questions:
1) For inquiries regarding the Northshore Community Foundation, the St. Tammany Parish Government, and their relationship, please contact the Northshore Community Foundation and/or the St. Tammany Parish Government directly.
2) The St. Tammany Parish Development District’s role is expanding. Beginning 1/1/18, the St. Tammany Parish Development District will be equipped to operate as the lead economic development organization in the parish.
As a political subdivision of the state of Louisiana, the St. Tammany Parish Development District will continue to be subject to Louisiana laws pertaining to open meetings, public records, official journals, etc.
3) Brenda Bertus serves at the Chief Executive Officer of the St. Tammany Economic Development Foundation (STEDF) and the Executive Director of the St. Tammany Parish Development District (STPDD, or “the District”).
The District’s response to the LLA does not constitute an official statement from the St. Tammany Parish Government, as the District is a political subdivision of the state of Louisiana, and is not a division of the parish government. I hope that these answers provide clarity.
Sincerely, Tracy Clanton, SPHR, SHRM-SCP, CLED
Records Custodian, St. Tammany Parish Development District, 21489 Koop Drive, Ste. 8, Mandeville, LA 70471
(985) 809-7593 phone (985) 809-7596 fax”
“Thank you for your time and the symbolic representation of answers to the questions sent. Best Regards, Timothy Achan Gates”

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St. Tammany Parish Government has yet to respond with a statement regarding this matter. The only thing clear in the answers from the STEDF is that our government is over-complicated to the degree that one must be a lawyer or a robot to understand how it actually operates. Since CW began writing about the STEDF, we have seen the termination of Don Shea from the STEDD for agency to agency emails that were derogatory to the public, changes in the board composition such that public officials are no longer allowed to serve on the STEDF board (circa 2014, both Mayors Cooper and Drennan were members), and now, the apparent end of the STEDF in its current role in January 2018.
Ch-Ch-Changes… Time to Face the Strange The Parish Government deflects when it should cooperate. In the St. Tammany Chamber West’s recent letter to Mrs. Pat Brister, it is stated that the recent EDD tax should be repealed, in very strong language, referring to it as Taxation Without Representation and discriminatory with regard to application. At this point in the game, a third run may be a shot in the foot for Brister & Co.
Timothy Achan Gates, covweekly@gmail.com

General Local History Local News Opinion

Voter Apathy? Princeton Found That the Elected Don’t Care What We Think Anyway

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by Timothy Achan Gates, Covington Weekly Correspondent

Considering the importance of the issues in the October election, St. Tammany experienced a rather low voter turnout.  While media portrayed an “Anti-Incumbency” sentiment among voters, at the polls that sentiment was reserved for the Sheriff, who is now in a runoff with Slidell Police Chief Randy Smith. The incumbents in Parish Administration won by crushing margins.

Just How Much Of A Role Does Money Play? A good bit. For a brief comparison, Parish President Patricia Brister listed $250,000 in campaign funds.  Her closest challenger managed to garner 17% of the vote with a mere $500 declared.  If that candidate were able to access a quarter of a million, one could venture to guess the race would have been a lot tighter.  That’s not the way it’s supposed to work, though.  Candidates are supposed to be selected based on their merits, not their pocketbooks.

It Works The Same On The National Level.  In a new study by Princeton University, reviewing 20 years of data showed that public opinion has a near zero impact on U.S. Law.  Professors Martin Gilens of Princeton and Benjamin I. Page of Northwestern University state in their findings:  “The preferences of the average American appear to have only a miniscule, near-zero, statistically non-significant impact upon public policy.”

One Thing That Does Have Influence: Money  While the opinions of the working class have little to no effect on public policy, the economic elite and business lobbyists are influencing legislation to their benefit.  Gilens and Page found that in the last five years alone, the 200 most politically active companies spent 5.8 billion dollars in lobbying and campaign contributions.  In return, the same 200 companies received over 4.4 trillion dollars in taxpayer support.  That is a return of over 750 times the investment.  No wonder politicians spend so much of their time fund raising for the next election.
Explainer_prob3Ending Legalized Corruption.  The organization represent.us suggests that the solution is for locales to pass their own Anti-Corruption Laws.  The American Anti-Corruption Act is model legislation making it illegal to purchase political influence, and putting political power back in the hands of the people.   Goals of the act include stopping political bribery, ending secret money and giving every voter a voice.  With regard to voter apathy, a corrupt system is not an excuse to abstain from voting, but if voters had confidence in the system they are participating in, they would certainly be more likely to participate.

E-mail Timothy at covweekly@gmail.com

Local News Opinion

5 Reasons Karen Champagne Might Be A Good St. Tammany Parish President

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By Timothy Achan Gates, Correspondent

Karen Treadway Champagne is challenging Pat Brister for Parish President in this coming October election. Karen is active in lobbying efforts at the state level with a focus on individual liberties and constitutional action/remedy. Recognizing the need for oversight of corporate influence on legislative activity, Karen co-founded The People, LLC in order to address issues of civil and personal liberty.  The following are five reasons why Karen Champagne might make a good parish president of St. Tammany.
1. Champagne understands what is happening.
In June of 2014, Covington Weekly published How The EDF Can Operate Outside Of State Ethics Laws, detailing legislative maneuvering inconsistent with constitutional law. As the legislative session was happening, Champagne was in Baton Rouge, actively working to convince LA Rep. Tim Burns to pull the bill. Angela Alef recounts: ‘Burns laughed and responded, I’m not pulling that bill.’
2. Champagne would like to do better things with your money. After taking some heat for her stance on fracking, Champagne claims misquotation in a local paper with regard to this issue, in which she was quoted that she would not fight to keep it out. She has released a video clarifying that the issue resides at the state level, and she would not use tax dollars to fight fracking at the parish level. Conversely, her stance on representational and limited government would indicate that Champagne is not in agreement with business dealings pursued by St. Tammany Parish that occur outside of public knowledge.
3. Champagne is already working for the people.
Champagne formed The People, LLC along with Angela Alef in 2010 as a lobbying force in Baton Rouge. Their blog contains a list of legislative action influenced by The People, LLC (thepeoplellc.weebly.com).

The People, LLC

The People, LLC

At karenchampagneforparishpres.blogspot.com:
“I co-founded The People, LLC. This way, I could answer the question that most lawmakers wanted to know before they would speak to me. They would ask, Who are you with? I could then answer, The People.”
4. Champagne is responsive to the increasingly difficult situation of small business. From her campaign website: “I have first-hand knowledge of the endless regulations and the taxes and fees that go along with them; as well as, how they negatively affect a businesss ability to stay afloat, expand, or even get off the ground. The cycle of investing our tax dollars into businesses from outside of St. Tammany must stop and returning tax dollars to the homegrown business owners in the form of decreased regulation, reduced taxes and fees must start.” Karen Champagne
5. Champagne’s disillusionment with the action of the local Republican leadership is refreshing. While the concept of partisanship does an excellent job of maintaining a polarized voting base, it is increasingly clear that corruption is found rampant in both parties. In order to address the problems successfully, Republicans, Democrats, Independents, Libertarians, Socialists, Greens and everything in between will need to work together in order to restore local and regional government to something more in line with what was originally intended, with Liberty and Justice For All People, regardless of familial relationship, socio-economic or corporate status.
Contact Timothy Gates: covweekly@gmail.com