Last week we issued our recommendations for the statewide constitutional amendments and for seats on the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education. This week we continue with our recommendations in several statewide races as well as for the ballot proposition and contested races in Jefferson Parish. The last of our endorsements will appear in next week's paper. We remind our readers that early voting began Oct. 8 and will continue through this Saturday, Oct. 15.
In the absence of a hotly contested governor's race, the contest for lieutenant governor has become the "main event" this political season. It features two Republicans — incumbent Jay Dardenne and Plaquemines Parish President Billy Nungesser. Though both are Republicans, the two men have very different styles. Dardenne is low-key but effective; Nungesser is passionate but sometimes ill-spoken. In the 10 months that Dardenne has been lieutenant governor, he has "done more with less." Instead of appointing a secretary of the state Department of Culture, Recreation and Tourism, which the lieutenant governor oversees, he took the job himself and saved taxpayers $130,000. He also resuscitated the prestigious Louisiana Book Festival in Baton Rouge when it was in danger of dying from budget cuts, and he is Louisiana's best hope for drawing visitor dollars during next year's statehood bicentennial celebration, which has been underfunded. Most of all, should Gov. Bobby Jindal move on during his second term, we believe Dardenne is best suited to step into the Governor's Mansion with a minimum of drama — but a wealth of experience.
Secretary of State
This contest also features an all-GOP field — incumbent Tom Schedler, who got the job on an interim basis when Dardenne won a special election as lieutenant governor last November, and state Rep. Jim Tucker, R-Terrytown, who has served as House Speaker since 2008. We like both men very much, but we give the edge to Tucker. He proposes to expand the office's usefulness to businesses by linking its website to state and local economic development and licensing agencies. He also promises to improve the Elections Department's website, which in recent years regressed in usefulness, speed and navigability. As House Speaker, Tucker proved his mettle time and again by holding the line on spending, by championing controversial but needed reforms, and by not using his position to advance a partisan agenda. He appointed Democrats to key committees (including chairmanships) and did not hesitate to show his independence from Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal — to the point of seeing Jindal veto key economic development projects in his district. We think that kind of independence and vision will serve him well as secretary of state.
The Jefferson Parish Ballot
Charter Amendment – Inspector General — FOR
Jefferson voters will be asked to amend the parish home rule charter to establish the Office of Inspector General and an Ethics and Compliance Commission. These two entities will institutionalize recent reforms and bring greater accountability and transparency to parish government. The IG will report to the commission, the members of which will be nominated by area university presidents. The commission also will review, interpret, render opinions on and enforce parish ethics policies and standards of conduct for public officials, parish employees and those who interact officially with the parish and public officials. We urge voters in Jefferson to vote FOR the charter amendment.
Millage Realignment – Inspector General — FOR
To be effective, the OIG and the Ethics and Compliance Commission must be independently funded. This proposition is a companion to the charter amendment; it would realign an existing half-mill property tax from the parish's Consolidated Road Lighting District and dedicate it to the OIG and the commission. Taxes would not increase. This proposition merely reallocates an existing tax and keeps it at the same level. We recommend voting FOR the millage realignment.
Normand has been Jefferson Parish's sheriff for only four years, but he has spent more than 16 years in the office, serving as the late Harry Lee's chief deputy from 1995 until Lee's death in October 2007. Since becoming sheriff, Normand has put his own stamp on the office — and crime in Jefferson has decreased significantly. His accomplishments include maintaining a five-minute response time to emergency calls, stepping up code enforcement to reduce blight, integrating technology to enhance crime fighting efforts, working closely with clergy to mentor youth — including an after-school tutoring program and the "band of excellence," which steers kids into music and off the streets — and reorganizing the department to provide more pro-active patrols. Normand also has put in place some $30 million in capital improvements, including a new crime/DNA lab. He has earned a second term.
Council District 1
State Rep. Ricky Templet, R-Gretna, served two terms on the Gretna City Council before winning a legislative seat in 2007. Templet has shown that he knows how to work with others to get things done on the local and state levels, and that experience will enable him to serve his constituents well as a council member. He is committed to building upon the recent reforms enacted by parish leaders, particularly in the areas of accountability and transparency, and improving flood protection on the West Bank.
Council District 4
This district includes most of Kenner and parts of Metairie. Zahn is in his second term as a member of the Kenner City Council, where since 2006 he has pushed for stronger code enforcement — an initiative he promises to take at the parish level as well. He is a staunch supporter of the proposed Office of Inspector General and has endorsements from across the political spectrum, including Sheriff Newell Normand and Parish President John Young.