It seems that every day local news features stories of soaring violence and crime; murder, shootings, carjacking, robbery, and on and on. Yet we hear nothing from the governor of Louisiana.
Of course, if there were to be a response from the current governor, I am confident that it would be something like “those are local issues, the cities and parishes must take care of their own problems”. But silence from the leader of the state only leads to more death and mayhem on our streets.
What most people don’t understand, and what local and state leaders don’t want them to understand, is that all cities and all parishes are political subdivisions of the state. And though Home Rule charters and the Constitution define responsibilities, it is the governor, whether by direct action or by political power, that has an ultimate duty to the people to protect their lives and property.
So, when local government bows down to social justice warriors and substitutes Woke policies for the people’s safety, the governor must step in. Yet as crime and violence on our streets soars the sounds of silence from the Administration are truly deafening.
But what can a governor, any governor, do to supersede local government that to the detriment of the citizens demonstrates misplaced priorities? The most obvious answer is to use the Bully Pulpit to emphasize the danger to our society and to call out mis-guided politicians and policies. Should we expect a Democrat governor to focus attention on what are generally the policies of Democratic leaders, policies that have led to the breakdown of law and order? Should we expect a governor who promised but hasn’t overseen that savings from the Justice Re-investment Act would go to helping convicts re-enter society? Not a chance. So, the Bully Pulpit is out and with it probably any hope of intervention by this governor.
In a better world a strong governor’s next option would be ratcheting up his efforts against intransient local leaders following unheeded warnings from the Bully Pulpit. Louisiana government is fundamentally executive strong and that carries with it the power of the purse strings. The governor should warn local politicians that if they don’t place public safety first and take action to promote it, they will find it increasingly difficult to secure funds from the state. Distasteful raw power politics, but in the interest of the people, so very necessary.
The final approach that a strong governor would take is through the courts. In concert with the Attorney General the governor would challenge local District Attorneys and local Parish and city leadership to properly fund and uphold state law. For instance, most crimes of violence are violations of state, not local, law and DA’s are state officials, not local officials. Any DA that refuses to prosecute or any that place criminals’ wellbeing ahead of that of citizens should be dragged into state court and forced to uphold their oath to the people. The same goes for jails, state crimes carry specific penalties and parishes that refuse to properly fund jails or DA’s that egregiously seek lesser penalties must be challenged in court. Of course, such action requires an Attorney General willing to work with the governor and vice versa. In our state that seems only a fond wish.
I don’t believe that this governor will ever tackle, or even acknowledge, the explosion of criminal activity in our cities. Because he is a political animal he won’t challenge local government, so much of which comes from his own party. Therefore, what I write here is a roadmap, not for the current governor, but for the future.
When within any jurisdiction local politics results is a breakdown of public safety, the governor of Louisiana must take affirmative action to protect the people. Though such action may be politically distasteful or uncomfortable it doesn’t matter, the people come first and a good governor must use whatever legal or political powers he has to protect the people and to enforce the law he has sworn to uphold.