Haik Terrell a Bad Santa?
Suzanne Haik Terrell says she isn't the only outgoing state commissioner to give raises to her staff, but is the only one being called irresponsible, politically motivated, and, as a recent Shreveport Times editorial put it, a "bad Santa." Terrell, who leaves her job as Commissioner of Elections on Jan. 12, gave a 10 percent pay raise to 153 staff members shortly before the Oct. 4 primary, in which she lost the state attorney general's seat to Orleans Parish Criminal Sheriff Charles Foti. She gave the $280,000 in pay hikes "to classified employees who have never received a raise except the 4 percent annual that all state employees get," Terrell says.
The action drew fire from critics who said Terrell was currying favor before the primary and sticking incoming Secretary of State Fox McKeithen -- whose office is absorbing the elections commission next year -- with the bill. Terrell says the timing was coincidental.
She also says there's enough money in her 2004 budget plan to pay for the raises, and that if McKeithen is careful with his own budget, there should be no problem. "I do find it a little disappointing that at the end of my term they are going to overlook that we've returned more than $25 million to the state, we've established a voter fund integrity unit, and have worked with local, state and federal authorities to get arrests and convictions," she says.
"If having done all of this in four years, and giving state employees their first meaningful adjustment, makes me a bad Santa -- so be it," Terrell says. "I guarantee you in the next legislative session the first step is going to be to give statewide elected officials a 50 percent pay raise." -- Eileen Loh Harrist
Morning in Louisiana?
Bobby Jindal is rejecting any suggestion that his race contributed to his defeat in the Nov. 15 run-off race for governor. In a column emailed to newspapers around the state, Jindal wrote: "Some analysts have blamed my defeat in part on skin color. One of my favorite passages of the Bible says this -- "Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart" (1 Samuel 16:7). I believe the vast majority of voters in Louisiana heeded this directive, and voted on issues other than skin color.
"Many well wishers and kind folks have asked me over the past few weeks how I'm doing. A few ask in a rather hushed-tone, as if they are speaking to a friend who recently lost a loved one.
"Here is how I am doing -- I have a great wife, a loving family, a healthy two-year-old daughter, and a new baby on the way this spring. ... As far as I'm concerned, the only way to approach life is to adopt the outlook of former President Reagan -- "It's morning in America."
Other losing candidates are not so sunny. Fifth-place finisher former state Sen. Randy Ewing, in a letter posted on his campaign Web site the day after the Oct. 5 primary election, wrote: "We set out to conduct a campaign that was statewide, all-inclusive, and positive.
"We got caught between the allegiance of voters to the extreme right agenda of guns and abortion and the continued practice of some on the other end of the political spectrum to exploit African American voters. We also suffered from the apathy of so many voters. I had thought we had moved beyond the self-serving mindset that has held us back for so long and would focus on the common interests we have in creating quality jobs and good schools for all our people." -- Allen Johnson Jr.