People look forward to a new year because it brings hope and promise -- hope that things will get better and promises not to repeat the mistakes of the past.
This year brings an extra dose of each for Louisiana because we'll soon choose a new governor. All statewide elected officials and legislators as well as scores of local officials likewise face re-election this year. That offers hope that things will get better.
But will we avoid the mistakes of the past?
Right now all across the state, candidates and potential candidates are assessing their chances and lining up support. Most if not all are following the time-honored methods of winning elections in Louisiana. To be sure, certain campaign mechanics cannot be avoided, but too often candidates (and the media) are so focused on the mechanics of a campaign that they lose sight of its substance, if there is any substance in the first place.
Lest I be guilty of that myself, I've drafted a New Year's list of issues (each with a set of questions to be answered) for all persons running for governor, lieutenant governor, state senator or state representative. I hope readers will use this list (and add to it) when candidates come a-calling later this year.
1. Economic Development. If you don't think this is the number one issue, stop right now and find something else to do for the rest of the year. Otherwise, what specifically can and should the state do to promote economic development? What programs would you institute? Which would you change or eliminate? What specifically are your economic development plans and goals? What specifically would you do to reverse the "out-migration" of our best and brightest young people? What specific industries would you seek to attract, and how would you do it? How would you keep existing industries from leaving or closing? Which states would you emulate and why?
2. Education. What specifically do you think is wrong with public education in Louisiana, and how exactly would you fix it? What should be the state's role in public education, from policymaking to funding? Should teachers be allowed to strike? Do we have too many colleges and universities? If so, which would you combine or eliminate? Which states would you emulate and why?
3. Environment. Do you think Louisiana has adequate laws but not enough enforcement/funding? Which laws, if any, would you change? What new laws, if any, do we need? Do you support "self-reporting" by industries that pollute? What would you do about coastal erosion, and how would you pay for it? Which states would you emulate and why?
4. Taxation. What is your definition of fiscal reform? Have we had enough already, or do we need more? Is Louisiana over-taxed or under-taxed, and what evidence do you have in support of your answer? Which taxes -- and exemptions -- would you increase, decrease, or eliminate -- and why? Which states would you emulate and why?
5. Spending. What specifically are your spending priorities? In which areas should the state stop spending? What new areas, if any, would you add? Should we keep the legislative "slush funds?" What states would you emulate and why?
6. Gambling Regulation. What forms of gambling do you support/oppose? Does Louisiana have enough gambling, too much, or about what we need? What new laws, if any, would you push? Which, if any, would you repeal? What states would you emulate and why?
7. Transportation. How would you get our highway construction program back on track? How would you pay for it? Which states would you emulate and why?
8. Political and Legal Reform. Do you think our ethics laws are adequate? Which would you keep, change or eliminate and why? Should judges be appointed or elected? What specific changes, if any, would you propose in that regard? Which states, if any, would you emulate and why?
As you can see from my questions about emulating other states, I'm a firm believer in the notion that we don't need to re-invent the wheel. We just need to find one that works.