Friday, November 21, 2014

JP Runoffs Dominated By Party-Changers, Common Core, Fake Business Groups

In addition to 11 proposed Charter Changes, which we will tackle in another post, there are 7 local runoff elections on the December 6th ballot in Jefferson Parish – 2 primarily affecting the East Bank; 4 primarily impacting the West Bank and one multi-parish runoff for the Public Service Commission.

The East Jefferson runoffs include seats on the 1st Parish Court and the District 7 School Board race.

The West Jeff runoffs are for seats on the 24th JDC, District 2 School Board, and Justice of the Peace and Constable for the 2nd Justice Court (I love that name – “Justice Court”. Isn’t the primary purpose of a court to mete out justice?).

4 of the 7 runoffs share some commonality: the PSC and 1st Parish Court runoffs feature long-time Republicans versus recent party-changers; and the School Board runoffs spotlight the issue of Common Core and the “influence” of fake business groups on the School Board.

The Party-Changers
As most of you know, earlier this year I changed political parties. After being a lifelong Republican, I finally woke up and realized that my personal political philosophy (less government, lower government spending and taxation) was not in tune anymore with the Republican Party. The Party had gravitated from Conservative Reagan Republican values to being more closely aligned with Moderate views and even embracing traditionally Democratic ideals.

So, while I am fiscally AND socially Conservative, Republicans are now neither. While the Libertarian Party is fiscally Conservative and Socially Liberal, I’ve always been a ‘glass half-full’ kind of guy and, when you’re dying of thirst, a glass half-full is clearly better than an empty glass, or a party devoid of integrity in this case.

To be sure, I could have changed parties before my last political campaign – it might even have helped me since there was no Democrat in the race. But, I didn’t. Changing parties before the election simply to hoodwink some voters and garner some support is completely lacking in integrity in my opinion. If someone changes political parties to curry favor, what else will they do?

In the runoff elections, one candidate in the PSC runoff and 1 judicial candidate are recent ‘party-changers’ and each changed parties not because their core values changed or because the party that they belonged to for decades changed their ideals. No, these two changed primarily to pull the wool over voter’s eyes and win an election.

I’ve already posted about the obviously twisted soul that is Forest Bradley-Wright. Wright is competing with incumbent Eric Skrmetta for the District 1 seat on the Public Service Commission.

Wright rode a series of negative advertising funded by out-of-state interests to a surprising 1st place finish, narrowly edging out Skrmetta.Wright's vile attack on Skrmetta is repugnant and shows his true lack of character.

Rather than run on his own platform or ideas, Wright has stepped up the bashing and personal attacks.

The shocking thing to me is how gullible voters really are.

Who, in their right mind, would vote for a guy who just became a Republican a few months ago, is beholden to an industry that lives on government subsidies (the Solar Energy industry), and ran for another seat on the PSC as a Democrat two short years ago,when he doesn’t live in either District that he ran for?

In my view, not only does Forest Bradley-Wright have ZERO integrity, he has no moral or ethical compass either.

We’ll have more time soon to discuss Bradley-Wright soon and why his views aren’t “Wright for Louisiana” and aren’t even “Wright” for Forest.

1st Parish Court
The other ‘party-changer’ is 1st Parish Court candidate Johnny Lee. Lee is running against long-time Republican Pat Rooney.

Rooney became a Republican in 1981; Lee switched parties earlier this year.

Being a judge is pretty apolitical, and since there was no Democrat seeking the office, so it begs the question: if you’re the only D in a crowded field of Rs, why switch?

Because the powers that be guiding and pushing Johnny Lee determined that he couldn’t win as a D.

And, who are these “powers that be” behind Johnny Lee?

The usual suspects are supporting Lee: elected officials like Sheriff Newell Normand, State Senator Danny Martiny and State Rep Joe Lopinto, along with former elected officials like ex-State Rep Tony Ligi and former State Senator Art Lentini, each using their campaign accounts (otherwise known as “Other People’s Money”) in attempt to spread their “influence” on an unsuspecting public.

In fact, Martiny was the subject of a Fox8/ investigation that claimed he accepted tens of thousands of dollars from Political Action Committees above the maximum amount allowed by law. 

To me, giving money from one campaign to another is tantamount to fraud. In the cases of Ligi and Lentini, using campaign money when you quit in the middle of a term like Ligi to accept a position as a lobbyist and when you’re not running for office again in the case of Lentini, is downright criminal.

I know, our “Gold Standard of Ethics” in Louisiana (which Ligi and Martiny helped rewrite) allows the co-mingling of campaign funds. But, it doesn’t pass the smell test and should be outlawed.

Simply because something is “legal”, that doesn’t make it “right”. At least, not in my eyes.

In addition, I think it’s repulsive that a judicial candidate would seek not only the endorsement of a Sheriff, but take campaign money from money given to someone else’s campaign.

In the first case, a judge should be impartial and not beholden to law enforcement. How could anyone approach a court run by Johnny Lee with an idea that he/she will get a fair trial when the Lee is backed by the man running the largest law enforcement entity in Jefferson Parish?

Secondly, how can you have any ethics or moral fiber when you accept money from elected officials and ex-politicians that was given to them for prior campaigns?

I contributed money to Tony Ligi’s candidacy – I don’t support Johnny Lee. Hey Tony, why are you giving my money to someone I don’t support? If Ligi had any integrity, he would be cutting me a check, not Johnny Lee.  

So, let’s break this down, shall we. Changing parties to win an election; endorsed by Newell Normand; and taking money from other people’s campaign accounts all add up to a huge HELL NO for Johnny Lee.

Common Core and Fake Business Groups
The School Board runoffs in District 2 and District 7 also present a contrast between those opposing Common Core and those supported by fake business groups who claim to represent Jefferson Businesses.

In addition to costing Jefferson Parish taxpayers at least $35 Million to implement Common Core, the set of unproven national standards and testing included in Common Core, along with the potential for abuse due to data mining, has parents across the country in an uproar.

District 2
In District 2, 25-year-old Rickeem Jackson, who recently moved to the West Bank, faces off against 57-year-old Ricky Johnson. Johnson was born in New Orleans, went to West Jeff High School and resides in Gretna.

Jackson, who is supported by the likes of JP Councilman and ethically-challenged Mark Spears, supports Common Core. Johnson, who has 5 children and is a product of the JP public school system, is opposed to Common Core. Both are Democrats. Both are pushing for lower class sizes.


Shouldn’t the Jefferson Parish School Board be singularly concerned with the Jefferson Parish School System and not any other School System?

Again, let’s break this down: A pro-Common Core candidate supported by Mark Spears and his gang who makes incomprehensible statements about what he will do on the School Board and who recently moved to the area, versus a lifelong resident who is a product of JP Public Schools and is opposed to Common Core.

Seems like a pretty easy choice in District 2.

District 7
The District 7 runoff between Melinda Doucet and Mark Jacobs also features a difference of opinion on Common Core along with the inclusion of fake business groups supporting Jacobs and meddling in the School Board (again).

In 2010, spearheaded by the anti-incumbent wave and failing Jefferson Parish Schools (primarily due to waste and abuse and the influx of Orleans Parish students displaced after Katrina), business groups like the Jefferson Chamber and JEDCO decided that they would put their own candidates on the School Board.

Business groups and the business community funneled hundreds of thousands of dollars into School Board races.

Jefferson Parish’s largest political campaign contributor, land baron Henry Shane allegedly conspired with JEDCO’s then Executive Director, to raise money to support business candidates on government equipment and on government time, both of which are illegal. JEDCO is a quasi-government agency that derives its funding from Jefferson Parish. Shane is a founder of JEDCO.

Now, the Jefferson Business Council, led by former State Rep Tony Ligi (there’s that name again), is interjecting itself into the School Board elections along with the Jefferson Chamber. Given the past controversy, JEDCO is taking a conspicuously low profile.

When they’re not disregarding the facts regarding the “progress” of the Jefferson Parish Public School System and pushing to keep the public out of the Jefferson Parish hospital debate, Ligi’s business group is staunchly supporting Common Core and railing against a “Washington takeover” of public schools.

So, what exactly is Common Core if not a “Washington takeover”?A set of standards forced down the throats of state and local school boards in return for Federal tax dollars that are rightfully ours anyway doesn't sound like a "Washington takeover" to you?

But I guess you expect that sort of double-talk from an allegedly Conservative Republican that supports a School Board that oversees a bloated $500+ Million budget that continues to grow and just borrowed another $50 Million on top of that.

Now you know why I’m no longer a Conservative Republican.

In the District 7 runoff, you have a parent in Doucet that is the former head of a Parent Teacher Organization and is deeply committed to improving public education in Jefferson Parish and staunchly opposed to Common Core versus an incumbent backed by fake business groups that combined represent about 1% of all the businesses in Jefferson Parish and support Common Core.

Listed among the donors to the Jacobs campaign, in addition to the Jefferson Chamber PAC and the aforementioned Henry Shane, you’ll also find the campaign accounts of Martiny and Ligi. No surprises there.

When you break things down to the issues that impact you, and Common Core and bloated government spending should concern everyone, the choice in this election become clear.

Early voting begins tomorrow (Saturday, 11/22). Let’s do the right thing folks.