Righting an historic wrong

Righting an historic wrong

The Colfax Massacre – considered the bloodiest incident of the Reconstruction era – occurred in the seat of Louisiana’s Grant Parish. That’s where 165 white men slaughtered up to 81 Black men who had occupied the local courthouse to defend the officials they had helped elect. A marker at the site in Colfax, erected in 1951, memorialized the incident as “the end of carpetbag misrule in the South.” As Charles Lane writes in The Washington Post, that sign finally came down this spring thanks to the work of a descendant of one of the perpetrators – and Mandi Mitchell, the assistant secretary of economic development. 

A Black Louisianian (and new mother), Mitchell, 44, determined that LED was the sole legal owner of the marker. Therefore, the LED could uproot it without prior approval from Grant Parish authorities, even though the parish owns the small patch of ground on which it stood. Invited by Cephas Bowie Jr., 67, the only Black member of the parish’s eight-member local council, Mitchell went to Colfax on March 11 to lay out LED’s plans to remove the sign, calling it a blot on the state’s image that “we could not have on our conscience.” 

The story is a helpful reminder that government is comprised of people – and that sometimes the right person can make a big difference. 

The wrong way to fund road construction 
The latest plan for addressing Louisiana’s large backlog of transportation needs involves raiding the state general fund for about $375 million a year that is generated through a vehicle sales tax. An Advocate editorial notes that the plan by Sen. Rick Ward – which awaits final approval by lawmakers this week – would finance roads and bridges at the expense of investments in health care, higher education and other vital services. 

Like Ward, we want Louisiana’s transportation solutions to be funded. But the proper way to do that is with user fees, such as fuel taxes, which legislators haven’t had the courage to raise for more than 30 years. Picking money out of the general fund, the source of funding for a host of government services, destabilizes state revenues in the name of building projects. … The general fund is the mainspring of Louisiana’s government mechanism. Raiding it as Ward proposes would help to create a new fiscal “cliff,” like the ones that legislators faced in 2016 after the financial failure of former Gov. Bobby Jindal’s administration.

A legislative double standard
The faith-based Together Baton Rouge coalition is decrying a legislative “double standard” that favors the interests of large corporations at the expense of ordinary citizens. As Blake Paterson reports for The Advocate, the group held a news conference on Tuesday calling on Gov. John Bel Edwards to veto a bill by Sen. Bodi White that creates an exception to state ethics laws by allowing large corporations like ExxonMobil to have seats on the board that regulates drinking water in Baton Rouge.

Compare that to the fate of House Bill 346, which would have granted new trials for about 1,500 mostly Black inmates convicted for serious crimes years ago by non-unanimous juries. The U.S. Supreme Court previously outlawed the Jim Crow-era system but opted last month against applying their ruling retroactively. The measure, sponsored by Rep. Randall Gaines, a LaPlace Democrat, would have spelled relief for those inmates, but it failed to advance out of committee. “We hope that the public will pay attention to this dangerous juxtaposition where some people get a chance for retroactive justice and other folks are denied it in the same session, in the same House in the same state,” said Rev. Theron Jackson, a pastor at Morning Star Baptist Church in Shreveport. 

Cassidy is a key figure in infrastructure negotiations
Sen. Shelley Moore Capito is out and Sen. Bill Cassidy is in. That’s one takeaway from the latest round of infrastructure talks on Capitol Hill. President Joe Biden has made gaining bipartisan support a top priority for his infrastructure bill and has set his sights on the bipartisan G20 Senate group, of which Cassidy is a member. Politico’s Ryan Lizza, Rachael Bade, Tara Palmeri and Eugene Daniels report on a conversation between the president and Louisiana’s senior senator: 

The call with Cassidy was longer and filled with the heightened expectations of a new relationship. They talked numbers. Biden liked the sound of some half a trillion dollars in new spending, and Cassidy opened up about how the way to his heart is “flood resiliency and energy provisions.” Biden explained that while it was an awkward time to be starting something new — he’s leaving for Europe today for eight days — he “would be in contact” “by phone.”

Number of the Day
$375 million – Amount of state general fund dollars – which fund our state’s hospitals and universities, among other priorities – that would be diverted to road and bridge repair under a proposal by Sen. Rick Ward. (Source: The Advocate)