The last couple of weeks have not been the best for Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal. His decision to sign a proposed "birther" bill and his decision to not be present at ceremonial groundbreaking one of the biggest economic development projects in the state are evidence of serious problems in the Jindal administration. And heading into the legislative session, Jindal has important issues that need leadership to steer through to passage. With higher aspirations constantly influencing his choices, Jindal must decide whether the good of Louisiana is more important that his desire to become President of the United States.
Jindal's decision to sign the "birther" bill indicates a weakness of character and his decision to push the oversized LSU hospital down the throats of New Orleanians is worse than raising taxes. Nationally, mainstream Republicans are faced with the harsh reality that the extreme right wing of the party continues to perpetuate misinformation about the birthplace of President Obama. Despite legal proof, including the release of his actual birth certificate and an independent birth announcement in a Hawaiian newspaper at the time, the latest New York Times-CBS news poll shows that 45% of Republicans said they believe Obama was born in another country and another 22% said they do not know. While most Republican Party leaders acknowledge the "birther" movement is a distraction from more serious issues facing the country, Jindal and other "birthers" continue play to the basest nature of their constituents. Meanwhile, valid discussions about policy are left to the devices of those who prefer to operate without much public scrutiny.
Meanwhile, the relentless assault on New Orleans launched in Baton Rouge is no longer limited to education and housing. On the surface, a $1.2 billion economic project in the city of New Orleans seems like the kind of economic development the city needs. But closer examination of the details reveals the project to build a new hospital in the city is poorly planned, under-funded, over arcing, and ego driven. So Jindal's no show at the ground breaking of one of his biggest pet projects is much more than just a scheduling conflict. Jindal's conspicuous absence is only evidence that the administration is realizing the project will have to be reconstituted. With too many beds and no real business plan and nearly $500 million short, proceeding as planned could cost tax payers hundreds of millions. During a budget crunch, starting a project that is unnecessary — rebuilding and restoring the old charity would cost half and could be completed in a third of the time — and underfunded is fiscally irresponsible. In fact the net effect of moving the project forward as planned will have an immediate equivalency of a 7% tax increase. And if opened as planned, the economic consequences of a government sponsored hospital in an open market will hurt private businesses in the city and region.
Louisiana needs a strong and vibrant economy. The people of New Orleans deserve a first class hospital. However, as displaced home and business owners complain of low-ball, strong-arm tactics used by the state in their land grab, this project has been beset with problems from the beginning. A strong leader must admit mistakes, and change course. The LSU Hospital must be reduced to around 250 beds. The supporting biotech companies will still open. The economic impact, while less than originally projected will not be at the expense of existing hospitals. Coupled with a smaller hospital in New Orleans East, the state will spur much greater economic growth and help build a stronger city. In any regard, proper birth records will undoubtedly be a specialty of the new hospital when it opens in the next few years.
Jeff Thomas is publisher of sync504 newsletter, he may be reached via email at email@example.com.
Photo courtesy of the LSU Medical Center.
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