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Opinion

A Hierarchy of Underpaid Wizards

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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

21st Century Carpetbaggers in the New Reconstruction

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Note: This essay was published April 24, 2015 on Catastrophe of Infinite Regression Blog

21st Century Carpetbaggers In The New Reconstruction:

Let The Good Times Roll, But Don’t Let Them Tread On Me

By

Timothy Achan Gates

 
The Greater New Orleans area is home to a variety of establishments that cater to anonymity, dark caves offering nearly any kind of vice imaginable, but the English Tea Room is not one of those. Located north of New Orleans in Covington, the Tea Room is a brightly lit, high profile, mid 20th century cottage with an authentic, red London Telephone Box on the front patio. A life-size cardboard cut out of Queen Elizabeth II, always available for picture opportunities, greets visitors to the “Queen’s Parlor.”

The idea of an English tea room in historically confederate territory may seem odd, but Covington was actually a refuge for British Loyalists after the Revolutionary War, and the St. Tammany delegation voted not to secede from the Union during the War Between The States. The genteel air of the place is not conducive to the gritty realities of piecing together the more sinister aspects of local political motivation, but it does generate a sense of stillness in time that allows thoughts to gather. Sitting in the Churchill Room, enjoying exotic teas from around the globe and surrounded by obscure memorabilia of the British Bulldog, the situational reality of one of his more infamous statements hit home:

“Never let a good crisis go to waste…”

South Louisiana has been in crisis mode for the last decade. The five year anniversary of the BP Disaster recently passed, and the ten year anniversary of Katrina is approaching. The consequences of those events are still realized on a near daily basis; it was recently announced that all that oil… yeah, it’s still on the floor of the Gulf, and there’s a lot more than was initially reported. Which, for those paying attention, was already well known.

Standing in the kitchen of the tea room, looking off the back porch on a dark, misty Louisiana winter night, I spoke briefly with Bo, the head dishwasher, before closing. It was Mardi Gras time, and Covington was sleepy; everyone seemed to be somewhere else. Addressing the quiet of the street, Bo offered with a slight lament,

“Just think. This is how it was before Katrina.”

I exited silently as Bo finished his closing duties.

Jesus, I thought, he was only ten during Katrina.

Nostalgia is a prevailing sentiment among those that lived here before that fateful storm. The area is considered a refuge from the city and a place of healing. The Northshore is home to the affluent, and it is also largely rural, to the disdain of well-connected developers and crony public officials. While the Parish Governments work to grow the tax base and Governor Jindal dreams of the Presidency, Louisiana is far behind in education, it has the highest incarceration rate, per capita, in the World, and it is very polluted, with one of the highest cancer mortality rates in the nation.

Welcome To The New Reconstruction

The prevailing post-disaster economic directive appears to be a consolidation of corporate control in a part of the country that continues to struggle for a more cultural identity, separate of its pop culture persona. Not to undermine the daunting task of recovery in a city with loosely defined economic goals (it’s not called the Big Easy for nothing), the consequences of those decisions have changed the landscape: The New Orleans Superdome is now the “Mercedez-Benz” Superdome, and the New Orleans Arena is now the “Smoothie King” Arena.

The standard operating procedure is based on what Hunter Thompson identified as the “Death of the American Dream.” Privatize everything. The free market was never really free, and like fame, even black mold has its price.

Local media outlets have picked up on the nuances of the larger picture with features like “Louisiana Purchased” and “Selling Louisiana,” but wholesale dissemination of information is still challenged by the annoyance of reading and comprehension. Besides, if you are a Louisiana native, the inherent corruption is expected and most would rather not be bothered by it.

In early 2014, former Chocolate City and Vagina-Friendly Mayor Ray Nagin was convicted on twenty of twenty-one charges of wire fraud, bribery and money laundering in relation to pre and post Katrina activities, just the latest in Louisiana’s rich history of public corruption trials. Detailed in his 2011 book, “Katrina’s Secrets: Storms After the Storm,” Nagin recounts some bizarre fears he developed during the aftermath of the 2005 hurricane experience:

“I started wondering if during the night I would be visited by specially trained CIA agents. Could they secretly shoot me with a miniature, slow-acting poison dart?”

It is unlikely that Nagin is the first mayor of a fairly well known city to worry about being offed by the CIA, but he is the first in recent memory to voice it in such a hauntingly specific fashion. Thanks to the writers of the Sony release “The Interview,” it is now widely known that the CIA prefers adhesive strips with ricin on one side; if only Nagin had that knowledge, he could have simply avoided shaking hands, rather than obsess about arcane, low-tech assassins.

Very recently, the CIA has undergone major restructuring, with a speculated “lock down” incident. Greg Miller of the Washington Post reported CIA Director John Brennan describing a reorganization of the intelligence agency, with the aim of placing it in the position to “cover the entire universe, regionally and functionally, and so something that’s going on in the world falls into one of those buckets.” Frequent checks will ensure the buckets do not have holes in them. Perhaps someone at CIA HQ spiked the punch again.

As New Orleans prepares for another Royal Dutch Shell sponsored Jazz & Heritage Festival, it is fitting to see The Who and Sir Elton John in the line-up, an entertaining reiteration that the Imperial Structure persists in the Land of Napoleonic Code. Follow the Yellow Brick Road, and pay no attention to the Man Behind The Curtain.

When Abby Hoffman ran onstage during a break in The Who’s performance at Woodstock to rant at the crowd about the jailed John Sinclair, The Who (allegedly Townsend) knocked him into the audience, with the reasoning that they didn’t care about his politics, he was hogging their stage and they were there to play music. Today, the political landscape of the marijuana issue is still highly relevant and rapidly transforming, with the emerging sentiment that nobody should spend any time in prison for simple possession of a medicinal plant, much less a decade, in 1969, now or ever.

A posthumous nod to John Lennon, who was assassinated on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception in 1980 by Mark David Chapman, a religious fanatic who admittedly fantasized as a child about exerting king-like power over little people living in the walls of his bedroom. Lennon, along with a small group of performers that included Stevie Wonder and Bob Seger, organized a Crisler Arena concert at the University of Michigan, ultimately resulting in Sinclair’s freedom.

The Who chose to behave like cheap thugs, using musical instruments to assault unsuspecting, well-intentioned freaks attempting to express, at least by Hoffman’s tripped out estimation, a very important statement at the time. The implications of this narrow world view are supported by its jaded practicality, and that is why The Who are a logical choice to play a major, global oil conglomerate-sponsored festival showcasing Louisiana music, while the Northshore of the Greater New Orleans Metro Area is working overtime to stop the controversial practice of hydraulic fracturing in the wilds of St. Tammany Parish.

I Can See For Miles And Miles…

St. Tammany sits just north of Lake Pontchartrain and New Orleans, and it was named by William Claiborne in 1810 after Delaware Chief Tamanend, who is not technically a Saint. Tamanend is a notable historic figure; he was integral to relations between the natives and settlers in the North East during the late 17th century. With a strong reputation for peaceful negotiation, “Tammany” societies and festivals in his honor became commonplace across the country. Covington is the Parish Seat of St. Tammany, its City Logo a rendition of Tamanend sitting on top of the Parish, holding a staff that penetrates the lake, emanating slight ripples in the water.

St. Tammany is historically known as the “Sanitarium of the South,” and before the role of ozone was understood properly, the north shore was promoted for its ozone belt. For many visitors, simply having the variation of trees as opposed to concrete environments makes a great difference. The nearby town of Abita Springs is named for the pure artesian well water that is available, and it continues to provide a destination point for healing. During the Yellow Fever epidemic in New Orleans in the mid -1800’s, people flocked to the north shore to recuperate, and to avoid the disease altogether. These days, the Parish Government is quick to promote the natural, scenic beauty of St. Tammany, while privately discussing plans to capitalize on the Tuscaloosa Marine Shale formation that lies beneath our sole-source aquifer, extending for miles and miles.

The Industry was talking about the Tuscaloosa Marine Shale in 2011, and although local media reported on the speculation, the fact that there was a plan was not understood. The groundwork was being laid to introduce hydraulic fracturing in St. Tammany for at least three years, but the general public was not aware of any proposal until April of 2014. As soon as the operations were disclosed, a flurry of activity ensued. Events were organized, stances were taken, meetings were attended and lawsuits were filed.

After frustration from a lack of progress with the St. Tammany Parish Council, a small group of “fractivists” decided the best course of action would be to fire them all. Recall petitions were filed with the Office of the Secretary of State for every council member, including the Parish President. With a press conference in downtown Covington, the event became even more controversial when it was discovered that the petitions were not filed properly, by the fault of the state office.

To correctly file a recall petition for a parish council member, the filer must be a resident of the council district represented. The clerk allowed two citizens of the same district to file petitions for every council member from every district in the parish. Those petitions became null and void, but the petition to recall St. Tammany Parish President Patricia Brister was still valid.

“Meet the new boss, same as the old boss…”

“Let them recall Brister, we’ll just put someone else in there who will do what we want.” This statement was overheard at a popular Covington restaurant shortly after the recall petition debacle. Not only does it demonstrate clearly the influence existing outside of the Parish Government, it reveals an underlying contempt for basic principles outlined in documents like the State and Federal
Constitutions. Who are the elitist controllers of the Parish President, wielding their confidence with such hubris, and within earshot of the profane? After initiating a series about economic development suggestive of a hidden control structure in St. Tammany, the Chamber of Commerce was first to respond.

The St. Tammany West Chamber of Commerce called, on behalf of Larry Rase, Executive Director of the Northshore Business Council, and DonahueFavret Contractors. The main criticism was that the writing inferred a “hierarchy of organizations,” exemplified by the use of the word “above.” The St. Tammany West Chamber of Commerce is, of course, open to the business community as a paid membership group. On the other hand, the Northshore Business Council is a private, invitation only group of “CEOs, Presidents and Market Managers” which oversees the three parishes of Tangipahoa, St. Tammany and Washington. Therefore, St. Tammany West Chamber of Commerce is a public business organization, representing the western half of St. Tammany Parish, while the Northshore Business Council is an invitation only group representing three entire parishes, but they are lateral organizations.

It was agreed that a formal response to the economic development series would be offered, which ultimately came from Don Shea, former Economic Development Director of St. Tammany Parish. Shea also sat on the board of the St. Tammany Economic Development Foundation, a non-profit corporation that receives public money and acts as the management arm of the District, a political subdivision of the state, within the boundaries of St. Tammany Parish. If that’s not confusing enough, the Parish Government also creates new Economic Development Districts within the Development District, literally a subdivision of the state upon a subdivision of the state.

Shea is now the first casualty of the fracking fracas within the Parish Government, although not admittedly. The official story is that he was asked to submit his two weeks’ notice; when he asked for more time, he was refused, then he asked for termination. This action came on the heels of an email communication made public in which Shea referred to the fracking opposition as “loonies”.

The legislative process is indeed similar to a form of magic, whereby control of one’s immediate environment can literally be created from nothing, simply by declaring it so. After the formal responses and heated conversations, what no one has been able to explain is the absent public oversight of the process in which quasi-public agencies work with private organizations to divide up public money among certain members of the business community.

“tip my hat to the new constitution…”

In the summer of 2014, this writer sent a list of questions to GNO, Inc., an economic development and retention organization that works with ten different parishes regionally:

1) What specifically is GNO, Inc. doing to explore and implement emerging renewables such as solar and industrial hemp?

2) Does GNO, Inc. pay an excise tax?

3) Is there a mechanism in place to prevent the cross pollination of board members from other organizations?

4) How would you describe the working relationship with the Bureau of Governmental Research and the Northshore Business Council?

5) The NBC has formal research indicating that St. Tammany Parish is best suited for heavy industry and defense industry contracting, which seems contradictory to the message that the Northshore is a destination point for scenic beauty and healthy lifestyles. What is GNO, Inc.’s position on heavy industrial operations in St. Tammany?

There was no reply. Incidentally, the same day the questions were sent, Louisiana State Attorney General Buddy Caldwell advised Governor Jindal to reject a bill that would kill a lawsuit between the Jefferson Parish Levee Board and ninety-seven different oil companies, including BP, Helis Oil Co. and Manti Resources. Rejecting the AG’s advice instead, Jindal signed the bill and killed the lawsuit.

The Pinball Wizard Is A Real Good Looking Boy

In the Fall of 2014, GNO, Inc. held a gala launch party to re-introduce Biz New Orleans, originally founded in 2003, but defunct since Katrina. The October Premiere Issue featured a playful color cover with “Mr. Business” standing before the twilight backdrop of downtown New Orleans, like a statue, part of the machine. Michael Hecht is “Mr. Business,” the young and established Ivy League CEO of Greater New Orleans, Inc., and the new Pinball Wizard of the southern-fried economic development game.

“How do you think he does – it? I don’t know…”

Hecht worked for Mayor Michael Bloomberg running a post-9/11 small business initiative when he was first contacted by former Louisiana Economic Development Secretary Mike Olivier. Louisiana was looking for a “similar program,” and Hecht worked with Olivier until his installation at GNO, Inc. in 2008. In the Biz piece “Selling New Orleans,” Hecht explains that whether it’s bringing 47 different entities to the table to persuade GE Capital to move to New Orleans, or coordinating 250 entities across the country to fix flood insurance, GNO, Inc. found that being a trusted coordinator, intermediary and project manager is a role that people want filled.

Now that New Orleans is packaged and sold, perhaps the next series will be, “Frying New Orleans And Eating It,” in which the city is cooked to golden perfection and chomped on like a hush puppy. Only time will tell just how supple Hecht’s wrists are.

Get On The Magic Bus For A Quick One While He’s Away

Have you seen the Bus, the Magic Bus? The Louisiana Legislative Express runs non-stop to Baton Rouge and D.C., at all hours. Heck, it might even be invisible. It is Magic. One thing in Louisiana that is not magic is The Army Corps of Engineers; they tend to get thrown under the Magic Bus. For years, politicians have been blaming the Army Corps for levee failures and incomplete projects. The Corps of Engineers responds that the funds allocated for said projects have a tendency to disappear before the projects are completed. Interesting Louisiana storm trivia: Hurricane Katrina traveled straight up the controversial “Mr. Go” canal, one of the last Corps projects completed at the time.

“I want it, I want it, I want it…”

Despite the protestations of swollen bureaucrats, there is evidence to support the idea that the Army Corps of Engineers plays a more active role in attempting to curb rampant industrial development, particularly in wetlands areas, of which St. Tammany Parish is about 45%. In 2008, the Army Corps of Engineers introduced the Modified Charleston Method to Louisiana as a means of mitigation for
wetlands development, requiring 3-4 mitigated acres to 1 developed acre. A campaign to dismantle the Modified Charleston Method was launched by Greater New Orleans Inc. and the UNO’s Institute for Economic Development & Real Estate Research before the public was even aware of its existence.

Congressman Steve Scalise was quick to respond. “The Modified Charleston Method is a radical environmental regulation that stunts economic development in Louisiana,” Scalise states on his official website. The main argument is that the MCM has a negative effect on the real estate market, driving developers away. While Congressman Scalise describes the MCM as crippling and unrealistic to business, exempting Louisiana from it paves the way for industries like hydraulic fracturing, which are crippling and unrealistic to the public, the sector that Scalise supposedly represents.

“I’m so nervous, I just sit and smile… too much, magic bus”

In November 2014, the second issue of GNO Inc.’s regional new/old business publication, Biz New Orleans, featured a black and white cover of Congressman Scalise resting in an armchair, appearing in charge and slightly strung-out on the political high, facilitating an inviting, wide open crotch-shot. The photo is reminiscent of the scene in Scarface where Tony Montana is slumped in his chair in front of a mountain of cocaine, right before he introduces everyone to his little friend. Unlike Montana, Scalise is presented as a negotiator, offering the conviction that in any relationship, differences should be confronted and gotten out of the way.

Presented next is quoted material about Congressman and Majority Whip Steve Scalise, from the Biz New Orleans article, “How To Play The Game” By Jeremy Alford. Note that the passage is taken directly from the article, but appears out of order and context.

“By 1972, when his twin engine Cessna disappeared over Alaska, somewhere between Anchorage and Juneau, Hale Boggs (the last Louisianian who served as whip) had climbed up to majority leader, as many whips do. It’s not unimaginable that Scalise could accomplish the same… That evening it was as if the street were curving downward in a slight bend, stretched by the weight of Scalise in the middle as he was coming into his own…. The smell of seafood in the air mixed with anticipation as Scalise addressed his team inside a private room in Acadiana, a fish house in Washington, D.C. with a New Orleans chef and menu… He had also taken up with a group of conservative lawmakers who refer to themselves as “The Jedi Council,” one of Washington’s best kept secrets…. Acadiana is located on K Street, one of Washington’s major thoroughfares of power and home to the offices of the nation’s most influential lobbyists and special interests…. Scalise handed out red Marucci baseball bats to his whip campaign team… Inscribed on the bats: “Bring the Wood”” – Jeremy Alford, “How To Play The Game,” Biz New Orleans

While this paragraph is a journalistic mess of quoted material taken out of context, albeit from one single article (my apologies to Jeremy Alford and Biz New Orleans), some undeniable truths prevail: 1) Scalise has the possibility of disappearing somewhere between Anchorage and Juneau in a Cessna twin engine plane after reaching majority whip status 2) Scalise creates his own gravity 3) Scalise enjoys the ambiance of a southern style fish house 4) Scalise is a “Jedi” 5) K Street is the source of most, if not all, problems in this country and 6) Scalise is fond of red baseball bats inscribed with the phrase, “Bring The Wood”.

The Biz article was released prior to reports of Scalise’s controversial speaking engagement to a white supremacist group. David Duke even popped into that media storm from out of the shadows, threatening everyone to lay off Scalise, or he would name associates on both sides of the aisle. Congressman Scalise works hard at fostering an image of leadership that illustrates the ability to compromise across the aisles, or within his own party, for that matter. In fact, the entire focus of the Biz article is to point out the differences between Hollywood and reality with regard to Scalise and the character depicted in the fictional “House of Cards” Netflix series.

“You’re house is only another mile… too much, Magic Bus”

Observing Scalise personally, one can attest to the fact that the same degree of difference exists between Scalise, The Article and Scalise in Real Life. His appearance at a WRNO Town Hall Meeting (as a panel member) at the Covington Trailhead, held shortly after Covington Mayor Mike Cooper announced his disagreement with the “proliferation of hydraulic fracturing operations,” was a stumping session for the November elections, where he (Scalise) relentlessly blamed ethanol, the EPA and common core issues on the lacking Democratic leadership.

As the meeting degraded into a shouting match between the panel and those opposed to fracking, Moderator John Osterlin made the statement that “they should frack in the poorest neighborhoods of New Orleans, to give them jobs.” Although Osterlin is no longer with WRNO (and not expressly due to his sociopathic statements), in that one shining moment he and the WRNO Town Hall panel got a good, rollicking belly laugh.

Too Much, Magic Bus.

#End Part One

General Local News

Safe Haven Continues Forward Momentum

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With accessible, sustainable behavioral health care at the forefront of its mission, Safe Haven, continue to move forward in St. Tammany Parish as the search for a facility operator begins in earnest this week.
Pat Brister, St. Tammany Parish President, in 2015 assembled a team to create Safe Haven, a local, multi-agency behavioral health facility that will address the needs of not only St. Tammany and the surrounding region, but also serve as a replicable model for the state as a whole.
“The Safe Haven Advisory Board has worked tirelessly to bring our vision to life,” said Pat Brister. “The dedication of each member from various areas of the public and private sectors, has resulted in this endeavor clearly beginning to take shape, and with each phase brings our community closer to an accessible, collaborative, continuum of care of behavioral health services.”

In addition to the search for a full-time operator of the facility, plans are currently underway for renovation of various buildings on the campus; one to house a peer-run drop-in facility in partnership with the National Alliance for Mental Illness, St. Tammany Chapter, and one to house the Family Promise Day Center.
The Safe Haven operator is expected to be selected in early fall of 2017. To sign up for updates on the progress of Safe Haven, visit online at safehavenstp.org.

Featured Posts Local News Non Profit Spotlight Opinion

The Northshore Community Foundation: What’s In A Name?

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The Northshore Community Foundation is recently in the news with regard to a controversial “Bike-Share” program supported by St. Tammany Parish President Pat Brister. The Foundation wants each municipality to pay $25,000 for a feasibility study costing $170,000, paid to a firm in Baton Rouge (Bantam Strategy Group). The mayors of Abita Springs and Mandeville are enthusiastic, and Covington Mayor Mike Cooper referred to the idea having merit. According to Bob Warren of nola.com, “Bantam Strategy Group will eventually do the feasibility study”, so it’s not a question of if, but when. And, even if the $170,000 study is conducted, there is no guarantee that the program will even be implemented.
The controversy, as reported in The Advocate, is that there are three businesses in the parish that rent bikes, and municipalities are being asked to contribute to an out of town firm that will not only be in direct competition to existing businesses, but also appears to have an existing relationship to the Northshore Community Foundation. The St. Tammany Parish Tourist Commission refused to provide any funding for the study, citing state law with regard to the commission: “The commission shall not exercise any function which results in competition with local retail businesses or enterprises.”
Considering a role of municipalities is to encourage, support and represent local business, this law should also apply to municipalities: “the (city) shall not exercise any function which results in competition with local retail business or enterprises.” If this sentiment is not already on the books for the City of Covington, then here is the suggestion, for whatever it’s worth.
Where is the CBA in all of this? Considering that the Covington Business Association states on their website that they “represent and advance the interest of local businesses”, there is an obligation on the part of the organization to prepare a statement in support of Patrick Brooks, who is a current CBA board member, and Brooks’ Bike Shop, a business which rents bicycles on the trace. With regard to the Parish Government, rather than presume that something is going to happen, the correct approach is to talk to the existing businesses before hand. Brooks presented a similar idea (to be funded by him) several months prior, and was told “no” by the Parish.

So what exactly is the Northshore Community Foundation? In the spirit of transparency as a public charitable trust, the NCF posts financial reports and IRS returns on their website. As usual, the disclosure of this information just leads to more questions. The NCF’s 990, 990T and 926 Redacted Federal Tax Return Form may be found at their website (northshorefoundation.org).
According to Grantspace.org, organizations considered public charities are not required to publicly disclose names and addresses of contributors. From the start, if Bantam Strategy Group contributed anything to NCF, the public would never know because the information is redacted. The document shows that NCF held net assets of $16,372,556 in 2014. Why do they need money to conduct a study for the tiny sum of $170,000?
Listed as “Supported Organizations” is the Baton Rouge Area Foundation. According to IRS.gov, “A supporting organization is a charity that carries out its exempt purposes by supporting other exempt organizations, usually other public charities. This classification is important because it is one means by which a charity can avoid classification as a private foundation, a status that is subject to a more restrictive regulatory regime.”

The NCF owns 1,000 Shares Hornbeck Offshore Services, Inc, 1,534 Shares Hancock Horizon, and 169.1891 Shares Walt Disney Co. BRAF Investment Pool is listed under “Investments – Other Securities” – $13,561,270, which would seem to indicate “Baton Rouge Area Foundation”. The section “Statement of Activities Outside of the United States” lists Central America/Caribbean Investments totalling $3,954,540. The section “Grants and Other Assistance” lists the City of Covington awarding a $95,300 grant to the foundation, along with a non-cash award of $141,00 in Land. And another $25k?
What is unsettling is that all this suggests that financially, an organization named the “Northshore Community Foundation” seems to be more involved in Baton Rouge (which is where Bantam is located) and outside of the United States, rather than in St. Tammany Parish.
The concept of Local Control isn’t going away. If you support the continuation of local business, please call or email your Covington City Council representative to voice your opinion about separating corporate influence from our local government, or at the very least, supporting the local businesses in our community.
Contact Timothy Achan Gates: covweekly@gmail.com

Local Events Local News

St. Tammany Litter Abatement Labor of Love

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St. Tammany Parish Government, Keep St. Tammany Beautiful, and the St. Tammany Parish Sheriff’s Office announced today the kickoff of a full-time, joint, litter abatement initiative to clean up Parish roadways. The collaborative endeavor, and labor of love, will utilize two litter abatement vans as well as St. Tammany Parish Jail trustees, who will deploy Monday through Friday, and execute cleanup operations assigned to them by the St. Tammany Parish Litter Abatement office. The Litter Abatement cleanup crew kicks off on Tuesday, February 14, 2017 at 8 a.m.
“We are committed to maintaining our quality of life here in St. Tammany, and as such, we must be committed to continued beautification which includes purposeful, consistent and uncompromising litter abatement efforts,” said Pat Brister, St. Tammany President. “When we collaborate with other agencies in our Parish, we can use complementary resources to achieve continual, extraordinary results.”

“We take litter seriously here in St. Tammany,” said Randy Smith, St. Tammany Parish Sheriff. “It is an eyesore and a tax burden. This joint operation will give our crews, the opportunity to give back to the community, and at the same time, help to tackle a challenging issue here in St. Tammany.”
In addition, Brister also announced plans to roll out litter abatement initiatives including: the increased awareness of the trash hauling regulations, and penalties that will be incurred when regulations are violated, for local hauling companies; work with local dumps and transfer stations to help enforce their own rules as well as Parish ordinances; litter sweeps by Parish Code Enforcement officials; and to work with Justices of the Peace and Constables, who enforce litter laws, to encourage them to stay the course and maintain aggressive enforcement.

Residents can learn more about the various initiatives through Keep St. Tammany Beautiful or sign up to volunteer, at keepsttammanybeautiful.org.  Parish officials also encouraged local businesses to come together and show their love for St. Tammany and to encourage residents and employees to keep their parking lots and business sites clean by encouraging the proper disposal of trash and debris.

Littering is a crime under state law, as well as a violation of Parish Ordinances. State fines can range from up to $250 per incident to up to $1000 an incident for illegal dumping sites. Ordinance violations at the Parish level carry a fine of no less than $250 for a first offense.  To report litter violations, please complete a Litter Prevention Form found on the Keep St. Tammany Beautiful Website.  To request cleanup of a roadway in St. Tammany, please submit a Road Cleanup Request form found on the St. Tammany Government site.

Local News

St. Tammany Parish Government Awarded Excellence in Financial Reporting for 13th Consecutive Year

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The St. Tammany Parish Department of Finance was awarded the Certificate of Achievement for Excellence in Financial Reporting from the Government Finance Officers Association of the United States and Canada, for the 13th consecutive year.  This is the highest form of recognition in the area of governmental accounting and financial reporting.
The comprehensive annual financial report, or CAFR, is evaluated every year and the award is given based on standards reached in the report.  These include, demonstrating a constructive “spirit of full disclosure” to clearly communicate its financial story, and motivate potential users and user groups to read the CAFR.
Leslie Long, Chief Financial Officer, Laura Reine Lyons, Senior Accounting Manager and Annie Perkins, Assistant Director of Finance, are the recipients named on the award.
“This is a testament to the meticulous and efficient work of our Finance Department, and it also speaks to the level of care Parish Government expends in the use of taxpayer dollars,” said Patricia Brister, St. Tammany Parish Government.  “We are pleased to have earned this prestigious recognition again.”

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

Local News Opinion

St. Tammany Home Rule Charter Review Committee Assembled

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The St. Tammany Parish Council adopted an amended version of the resolution to assemble a committee to conduct an institutional review of The St. Tammany Parish Home Rule Charter. The committee has been formed by appointments from various entities. The appointees are as follows: St. Tammany Parish President: Ed Dillard, Jeannine Meeds; the St. Tammany Parish Council: Richard Tanner, Steve Stefancik; the Northshore Business Council: Danny G. Shaw; the East St. Tammany Chamber of Commerce: S. Michele Blanchard; the St. Tammany West Chamber of Commerce: Andrew Gibson; the NAACP: E. Rene Soule; Leadership Northshore: Van Joffrion; Leadership St. Tammany: Antonio ‘Tony’ LeMon; and the St. Tammany Parish Legislative Delegation: Colonel Evans Spiceland. Every citizen is encouraged to offer input as well.

“I would like to thank everyone involved for their support in this endeavor,” said Pat Brister, St. Tammany Parish President. “As stewards of public trust and public money, citizens hold Parish Government to a high standard, and it is our civic responsibility to assess every area in government to ensure that we are meeting that standard. It is a healthy step that is necessary in building on the tenants of this administration — customer service, transparency, accountability and cooperation. I encourage every citizen to get involved and be that 12th member by adding your suggestions into the process.”

The Preamble of the St. Tammany Parish Home Rule Charter, approved by voters October 3rd, 1998, states:
“We, the people of St. Tammany Parish, in order to establish an elected and accountable government that is responsive to and representative of all the citizens of the parish; that recognizes and acknowledges all constitutional rights granted by federal and state sovereignty; that undertakes planning and policy making to preserve and enhance the quality of life and the environment for ourselves and future generations; and that provides services and leadership needed and desired by the citizens in an efficient and effective manner, do ordain this charter in trust with God for St. Tammany Parish.”

Wikipedia describes home rule as “the power of a constituent part (administrative division) of a state to exercise such of the state’s powers of governance within its own administrative area that have been decentralised to it by the central government.” – sourced http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Home_rule

The Home Rule Charter is available for review at www.stpgov.org/home-rule-charter. To offer you input, visit, www.stpgov.org/speakup.

General Local News

CW Economic Development Educational Series: How Major Economic Development Occurs In St. Tammany Parish

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Covington Weekly began after pitching an idea to the Covington Business Association at the request of our friend who is no longer with us, David Barfield (rest in peace). Not long after starting the newsletter we became board members of the CBA, and began learning the ropes around the local business community, with our main focus on the downtown area. After a couple of years, we were aware of the St. Tammany West Chamber of Commerce, but what is beyond that?

Above the Chamber of Commerce is the Northshore Business Council. The NBC is an invitation-only organization of more than 50 presidents, CEO’s and market managers along the I-12 corridor, inclusive of the parishes of Tangipahoa, St. Tammany and Washington. The group promotes policies that enhance the quality of business and civic life through activities of advocacy and opposition. Larry Rase (Governor’s Advisory Council on Coastal Protection, Restoration and Conservation, Lake Pontchartrain Causeway Commission) is the current Executive Director of the NBC, replacing former Executive Director Pat Brister, our current Parish President. The Northshore Business Council works with the St. Tammany Economic Development Foundation on development projects. The NBC is your link to Louisiana Economic Development tax exemptions, tax credits and other loan programs. According to NBC, the results of formal research show that the region has been determined to be incredibly well suited for companies of the following industries: International Trade, Energy, Material Supplies, Logistics & Distribution and Aerospace & Defense Manufacturing. Find out more information at www.northshorebusinesscouncil.com.

Above the NBC is the Bureau of Governmental Research. The BGR is a private, non-profit independent research organization. Founded in 1932, it informs public policy making and the effective use of public resources in the Greater New Orleans area. Two board members of the Bureau of Governmental Research active in St. Tammany include David A. Kerstein (President, Helis Oil & Gas Company, LLC) and Shelby P. LaSalle, Jr. , LLC Professional Project Services (also Vice Chairman of STEDF). BGR is a member of the Governmental Research Association, a network of independent organizations studying government and public policy. “Good government requires constant vigilance on the part of the governed.” www.bgr.org

Next week in the CW Economic Development Educational Series, we will introduce and provide resource information about GNO, Inc. and the Committee of 100!