The nerve of some people! After Gov. Mike Foster appointed a special task force to look at highway safety issues, they had the gall to suggest that lawmakers repeal Foster's pet law -- the one that allows people to ride motorcycles in Louisiana without wearing a helmet. And they did it at the request of a guy who owes his job to Foster.
Fortunately, Gov. Warbucks knows how to deal with such people: he threatened the job of the offending administration employee.
"I know this will not make me popular on the fourth floor," said Highway Safety Commission Executive Director James Champagne. Foster's office is on the fourth floor of the state Capitol.
"I continue to believe that Mr. Champagne forgets who he is working for," Foster said in response to the task force's recommendations. Foster added of Champagne, "He is dead wrong."
Actually, it's 60 people a year who are "dead" as a result of motorcycle accidents in Louisiana -- up from an average of 23 a year before Foster muscled his no-helmet law through the Legislature. I suspect Foster never grasped the irony of his statement, but then what should we expect from a guy who thinks it's fine to ride a hawg without a helmet?
In fact, the whole no-helmet thing illustrates perfectly how Mike Foster sees himself as governor -- and the role of government itself. If he believes something is good for Mike Foster, then it must also be good for Louisiana. Make it the law. Period. End of story.
L'etat c'est moi.
Foster has stated unequivocally that he will veto any bills that require motorcyclists to start wearing helmets again. At least two bills already have been filed that would reinstate the helmet requirement. Current state law only requires people under age 18 to wear helmets on motorcycles.
This might be the perfect issue -- and the perfect time -- for lawmakers to finally stand up to Foster. It's not as if voters are clamoring for less highway safety.
The Governor's Task Force on Driving While Intoxicated and Vehicular Homicide is the group that endorsed (by a vote of 11-1) legislation to mandate helmets for all riders. Champagne prodded the group to take the stand.
No doubt that's what fuels Foster's personal pique at Champagne. But here again, Foster misses the irony of his own statements. In truth, both men "work for" the citizens of Louisiana. Perhaps it's Foster who has forgotten "who he works for" -- and that a big part of his job is to protect the health, safety and welfare of all people in Louisiana.
Foster also challenged Champagne's statistics, saying the number of fatalities per accident are down since the helmet requirement was repealed.
But he didn't stop there. He had to make it personal.
"There are some people who have a nanny complex," Foster said. "If you didn't drive, you wouldn't get hurt. If you wore your seat belt, you'd get hurt less. If you didn't ride a motorcycle, you wouldn't get hurt. I don't really think our statistics prove a helmet makes it a safer thing or hurts people less."
Champagne's job title is executive director of the state Highway Safety Commission. Golly, what could that possibly have to do with looking out for people's safety on our highways?
Champagne at least is not dumb to the potential for political reprisals. "It doesn't make me happy to be in opposition to my governor on this," he said. "I have a responsibility to recommend safety measures. ... A helmet is the only thing between your head and the pavement."
As for Foster, well, maybe he doesn't need a helmet. His words and actions suggest that his head is hard as a rock.
- David Richmond
- The whole no-helmet thing illustrates perfectly how Mike Foster sees himself as governor. If he believes something is good for Mike Foster, then it must also be good for Louisiana.