Jim Beam | Mar 17, 2019
Every time I drive along the mostly two-lane Country Club Road in Lake Charles, it tells me some of our past leaders who failed to widen the road lacked vision. Many years ago while visiting Lafayette, I noticed construction had just been completed on a five-lane thoroughfare around the western part of the city that was named the Ambassador Caffery Parkway.
I wondered why at the time they needed to build such a major roadway that far out of the city, and now I know. Drive the parkway today and you will see someone had the vision to do it, and it has become a major economic development area.
The same thing happened here when Louisiana 14, Nelson Road and McNeese Street were widened. And who would have ever thought Interstate 210 that was constructed a long time ago would ever become the traffic lifesaver it is today? Vision is what got it done.
Vision is the key word here, and state officials need to recapture the vision they have lost over the last decade. I’m not the only one who thinks it’s going to take forward thinkers to lift Louisiana off the bottom of almost every ranking known to man.
The Council for a Better Louisiana and others remember Vision 2020, a strategic plan created for the state during the administration of Gov. Mike Foster. CABL thinks with elections coming up this fall that it’s time once again to consider the type of vision we want for Louisiana.
Foster and former Gov. Kathleen Blanco got things done. CABL notes that the Louisiana Community and Technical College System was created, pre-K education was expanded to 4-year-olds, school accountability and school choice became a focus, strong investments were made in higher education and the Stelly tax reform plan improved Louisiana’s financial stability and competiveness.
Melissa S. Flournoy, chairperson of Louisiana Progress Action and a former state legislator, talked about Vision 2020 in a recent letter to The Advocate. Flournoy said the plan put together by government, business and community leaders had an end game in mind.
“Louisiana would have a vibrant, balanced economy, a fully engaged, well-educated workforce and a quality of life that places it among the top ten states in which to live, work, visit and do business,” the leaders said.
The state never came close to achieving that goal. Some folks don’t like to hear it, but Flournoy said former Gov. Bobby Jindal “tried to cut his way to prosperity by decimating education, health care and childserving organizations.”
“… The gap between the haves and have-nots is expanding in every region of the state,” Flournoy said. “Louisiana is failing our families and our future by not focusing on livable wages and helping Louisiana families raise their standard of living with better jobs and safe housing, better schools and opportunities.”
Bill Jones of Ruston, a former state senator, in a guest column in The Advocate, said many of Louisiana’s young people today are unable to work their way through college like they did in years past because we are unwilling to tax ourselves to keep tuition low enough to make it happen.
Jones said in the 1950s and 1960s minimum wage earners could support their families, but increases in the cost of living make that impossible today. He said being able to deal with these issues reflects, “What kind of people we are and what we value.”
CABL said with elections this year and 2020 getting ever closer, perhaps it’s time to consider again the type of vision we want for Louisiana. The non-partisan organization said it’s a good time for citizens to ask the people who want to be our leaders — candidates for governor and the Legislature — what’s their vision for Louisiana.
For example, “What do they see Louisiana looking like in 10 or 20 years and what’s their road map for getting us there?”
The questions are relevant, CABL said, because most of the last decade the state’s biggest focus has been on the budget and piecing together enough revenues to keep the state from going underwater.
CABL said it is joining with the Public Affairs Research Council and the Committee of 100 for Economic Development to develop and promote an election-year agenda.
One item is budget and tax reform, which legislators promised us in 2017 and failed to deliver.
The House Republican leadership’s focus for the last three years has instead been on defeating Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards’ bid for re-election.
CABL said we need to hear the candidates’ answers about strengthening education at all levels and improving workforce development and infrastructure. “Because if they’re not talking about it, and we’re not asking them about it, then we know where we’re going to end up. And it’s probably not a place where we really aspire to be.”
Vision, my friends, it’s all about vision!