APPEL: Reflections On Time Spent In The Louisiana Legislature

Those first questions of anticipation as sleep creeps away to be replaced by our own version of sensibility. Such a metaphor of early morning touches upon the filaments of my psyche as I muse back over my decade of public service in the Louisiana legislature.

Sensibility, that great describer of what is lacking in our capital, is supposed to return as we wipe the sleep from our eyes. But somehow that is all reversed in our political world. Instead of the act of awakening clearing cobwebs from the corners of our mind, our governance world works in reverse. In Baton Rouge the longer we meet the more convoluted our thinking becomes.

Perhaps this phenomena is to be expected. After all our legislature is by its very nature a headless body. Each member has the right, even duty to present ideas for debate and disposition. By its nature that process tends to lead to high level, global logic becoming lost in a fog of well-intended but non-aligned ideas. In Louisiana, the duty to fashion long term, high level policy and strategy is expected of the governor. Unfortunately, as we all know, when we seat a governor who lacks any vision or a governor who is carried away with his own ambition, then we just fall back upon a legislature wandering through that fog! Think about your cobwebs in the morning, you know that it is a new day but somehow you just can’t get those thoughts to connect. That is where our beloved state has been for years.

To reiterate, my belief is that, just as we try to focus on the positives of our day ahead, our state just can’t get ahead because it we can’t see through the fog of awakening. In effect our whole thought structure is disconnected. Perhaps the most damaging result of weak leadership is that we spend our whole time struggling to find resources and to make policy decisions to help those who are dependent upon government. This when instead we should be focusing on growing our state’s economy and the resulting state resources in order that those who are currently needy would not have to be forever dependent upon government. A vast majority of our conversation in the legislature revolves around helping or subsidizing the low income segment of our society through government. The result is that we fail to succeed in that much needed service because in effect we eat our own seed corn and we don’t end up with resources to succeed at anything. Just as in the morning we cannot see a clear path to our future and the result is that we end up just muddling about in the weeds.

If our state and its people are ever to get ahead and finally find a way to break the nagging cycle of poverty we must clear the cobwebs; we must make a radical change in direction by getting out of the weeds and changing our focus to high level thinking. Change relies upon a clear strategy based upon long and short term paths toward a common, defined goal.

I sincerely believe that we have great people in government. And I believe that those people know what should be done, but our political history tamps down forward thinking policy. Instead of working toward building the wealth of our whole people to the benefit of all, we spend our time fighting over the crumbs of a weak economy. No one could have ever devised a weaker design for a government structure.

The next two years will present a clear fork in the road. Do we continue on the same path that we have been embarked on for so long, a path with predictably bad outcomes, or much like awakening, do we elect people that have vision and drive to grow our state that will allow us to clear the fog? It is a simple choice really. Are the people of Louisiana finally finished with always ending up last in everything and do we finally reject the shackles of government as usual by taking a risk that we could be far better off? The other path, the one that we have been on for so long, is clearly defined by our own history, a rich state filled with poor people.

To me it is an easy choice; we can’t get any worse off, so why not clear the cobwebs and strive for a better future? The beauty of our republican form of government is that the people have the final say. So in two years the people will make their choice and determine for themselves their future!

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