Political History: A Bankrupt Affair

Jeremy Alford Thursday, December 7, 2017 Comments Off on Political History: A Bankrupt Affair
Political History: A Bankrupt Affair

By Jeremy Alford and Sarah Gamard

Saturday, Nov. 11, marked the 33rd anniversary of the closing of the 1984 Louisiana World Exposition, which had the distinction of being the only World’s Fair to declare bankruptcy during its run.

According to The Times-Picayune’s coverage from that time, fair organizers initially projected that they would draw 11 million visitors. Only 7 million showed, however, and $100 million was lost.

Here’s more from the 1984 coverage: “The fair’s most visible attraction was a $10 million gondola ride that crossed the Mississippi River 200 feet in the air. Builders envisioned that the gondola would carry on after the fair, conveying commuters from the West Bank to the Warehouse District. The attraction got off to a rough start when Archbishop Philip Hannan blessed the gondola on opening day, boarded a car headed for Algiers and got stuck dangling over the river …”

Peter Spurney, the man hired to run the fair, offered this summary to The Times-Pic: “I always wanted to know if I could do something like this from start to finish. I guess the answer is no.”

Turnout Looks Bleak

First, the bad news. Secretary of State Tom Schedler said in a recent interview that he fears turnout could be as low as 10 percent for this month’s run-off elections on Nov. 18.

Now for something with a more positive spin: the early voting process started Nov. 3 — one day earlier than usual; it continued through Saturday, Nov. 11.

Legislators changed the law a couple of years ago to permit Schedler’s office to add more days to early voting when holidays populate the early voting calendar. (Veterans’ Day was Nov. 11, and state offices were closed.)

The forecast for early voting is 60,000 votes, according to the secretary of state’s office, with maybe 240,000 additional voters showing up on Election Day. If that is the case, says Schedler, it would “truly be historic in terms of turnout for a statewide election.”

Moreover, it would definitely add support for Schedler’s argument that election fatigue may warrant a change to state law to replace major special elections with temporary appointments. “It costs the same to host the special treasurer’s election as it did the presidential election in 2016, when close to 70 percent of voters participated,” the secretary said.

John Couvillon of JMC Analytics and Polling offered an analysis of the early voting process and suggested that the “already minimal enthusiasm of primary voters has declined even further.”

Medicaid Contracts

How do you grant $15.4 billion worth of state contract extensions? If you’re on the Joint Budget Committee, you take your time.

After postponing a major contract in late October, the committee once again opted to delay action in case there were any cost savings being overlooked.

The extensions were needed for the five companies that manage health insurance for most of the state’s Medicaid enrollees. The massive contracts involve another 23 months of operations.

Many committee members initially wanted more time with the supporting documents, but conservatives dug in for an additional pause this month because of fiscal concerns.

House Appropriations Chairman Cameron Henry, R-Metairie, in particular, wanted to be sure the Louisiana Dept. of Health could create additional cost savings in the contracts before the end of the calendar year.

Senate President John Alario, R-Westwego, among others, doubted the department would be able to find any reductions.

Gov. John Bel Edwards said the contracts were crafted with an “unprecedented attention to detail and represented the high quality work we should expect of state agencies on behalf of taxpayers.”

The governor added, “It is a shame that after an extra two weeks to prepare for this meeting, and despite unanimous, bipartisan support from all of the senators on the Joint Budget Committee, some House Republicans again found a way to obstruct the important business of our state. Notably, these are the same people who, during the previous administration, rubber-stamped similar contracts, though poorly constructed, and, in some cases, missing entire pages.”

Governor Expects Toughest ‘Re-election’ In U.S. 

Gov. John Bel Edwards is reminding his donors that he is the “only Democratic governor in the Deep South” and that he’ll be “tested with one of the toughest re-elections in the entire country,” according to his recent fundraising appeals.

It’s an early indication that Republicans will be targeting Edwards heavily in 2019, and that the governor’s campaign staff is expecting nothing less.

Those involved with the Edwards re-election campaign say the fundraising team is on pace to meet this year’s goal, although it’s unclear whether that’ll match the $3 million collected in 2016 by the governor.

GUMBO PAC, the pro-Edwards vehicle from 2015, is still kicking around. The super PAC is more organized for the 2019 cycle; it recently hosted a well-attended alligator hunt fundraiser.

They Said It

“If you rob a bank and pay the money back three years later, you still robbed the bank.”

— New Orleans mayoral candidate Desiree Charbonnet’s spokesman Kevin Stuart, on opponent LaToya Cantrell’s alleged use of a city credit card, in The Times-Picayune.

For more Louisiana political news, visit www.LaPolitics.com or follow Jeremy Alford on Twitter @LaPoliticsNow.

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