Recent editorials from Louisiana newspapers:
The Advocate on the anniversary of a shooting at a Lafayette movie theater:
Five years have slid past Lafayette since a madman fired 13 rounds from a .40-caliber handgun at his two dozen fellow moviegoers there. Then he reloaded and fired again.
A din of deadly gunshots that hot summer night, long silent, still pains that jewel of a Louisiana city, long after the gunman lay dead by his own hand on the floor of the Grand 16 Theatre. Long after the question “Can it happen here?” was firmly settled, a second question, “Will it ever stop hurting?” holds an answer just as plain: Not yet. If time heals all wounds, Lafayette may need more time yet.
The July 23, 2015 theater shooting on its own did not halt the mojo that had seemed to make Lafayette a daily celebration for 120,000 people that lived there then. A downturn in global oil prices had cast some concern over the energy-centric economy. A flood the next year drove many Acadiana people from their own homes. Deadly shootings involving police, here and in Baton Rouge, still reverberate across South Louisiana. The political climate turned bleak, then stormy. Now, COVID-19.
Does it seem so long ago that Lafayette and its environs were celebrated for their food, music, Cajun and Creole culture and international ties? The city was, by more than one measure, judged to be “the Happiest City in the U.S.A.,” a festive place where so much was going right. That was then.
But what Lafayette lost five years ago was precious to the community. Start with Jillian Johnson, 33, of Lafayette and Mayci Breaux, 21, of Franklin, both fatalities that night. Johnson was an artist, musician and local businesswoman with deep roots in the community. Breaux was a nursing student, and students are treasured in Lafayette, a university and community college town.
The city may have lost, as well, some of the boundless self-confidence it held before that terrifying night in 2015. Those interviewed for a weekend story suggested Lafayette has changed over the last five years — not necessarily for the better — with more divisiveness.
One woman interviewed noted cracks in the community spirit. “You see a microcosm of the nation,” she said, citing unwillingness by some locals to wear masks during the pandemic to protect their neighbors.
One source suggested that Lafayette doesn’t seem to prize its culture or its environment like it did.
Another source, a professor, said local moderates and conservatives seem to “share a disaster narrative.”
All of that lost, and this, too: A city’s innocence, its belief such a tragedy couldn’t happen here. But it did.
Five years back, a local editorial about the mass shooting suggested Lafayette would recover, given time.
More time, maybe.
The Houma Courier on construction of a permanent floodgate:
Amid the coronavirus pandemic, a dose of good news is refreshing. Houma-Thibodaux was fortunate enough to get two doses last week.
Tropical Storm Hanna, later Hurricane Hanna, spared the area as it it churned west toward a landfall in Texas.
And state and local officials announced that construction has begun on an $80 million floodgate on Bayou Chene, just south of Morgan City, that will protect parts of Terrebonne, Lafourche and four other parishes from river flooding.
The permanent structure, expected to be complete next summer, will replace a temporary one that has been assembled on an impromptu basis four times since 1973 to stop backwater flooding from the Atchafalaya River. The most recent was last year, when rain and snowmelt swelled the Mississippi River and prompted the Army Corps of Engineers to consider opening the Morganza Spillway to protect cities downstream, including Baton Rouge and New Orleans. The action, which the corps later deemed unnecessary, would have sent water from the Mississippi south through mostly open land toward the Gulf of Mexico. Thousands of homes in the floodway, which includes parts of northwestern Terrebonne and Lafourche parishes, could have been inundated as a result.
In 2011, when the spillway was opened, the temporary floodgate -- a barge reinforced with steel sheets stretched across Bayou Chene -- stopped about 3 feet of floodwater from swamping about 3,000 homes in Gibson and Bayou Black, officials said.
The state Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority and St. Mary Parish Levee District are overseeing construction of the permanent, automated barge floodgate. The money, from federal offshore oil revenue that comes to Louisiana through the Gulf of Mexico Energy Security Act, was approved last year by Gov. John Bel Edwards.
This is great news for several reasons:
– Foremost, the new floodgate will protect an estimated 100,000 residents in six parishes from a flood that could occur any spring.
– The temporary structure, also used in 1973 and 2016, costs about $5.5 million to construct. So it’s already cost state and local agencies an estimated $22 million to hurriedly assemble the floodgate four times. The new floodgate will not only provide better protection, but it will negate the cost of constructing a temporary one every time a flood threatens. And that savings helps justify the cost of the permanent structure.
– Several companies based in Terrebonne and Lafourche are involved in the new floodgate’s construction, injecting money and jobs at a time when the pandemic has taken a toll on both.
The whole idea of constructing a temporary barge in the first place is a prime example of how ingenuity, a can-do attitude and cooperation among state and parish agencies and local businesses can produce a win-win for everyone. Officials took a chance and it worked, producing immediate benefits in the short term and, now, permanent flood-protection for the long run.
The Advocate on aid packages for child care services and child caretakers:
They’ve largely been overshadowed by the great debate over how and even whether to reopen schools this fall, but the coronavirus pandemic is also forcing child care centers to face a moment of truth.
Some have temporarily closed due to public health concerns, and others are experiencing both reduced income because of capacity limits and higher costs from stringent new safety demands. Many are in danger of going under, even as their services are more badly needed than ever. The Center for American Progress estimates that the pandemic could reduce availability of child care spots in Louisiana by more than one-third.
Congress can, and should, help. A memo to members signed by economic development groups in 40 states, including the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry, argues that the new relief package under consideration must offer emergency assistance to these small businesses, many of which operate along slim margins even in better times.
“For millions of Americans, returning to work is not just contingent on the lifting of stay-at-home orders and their employer reopening, but on securing care for their children,” the memo said. If the country is going to get back to business, child care can’t be an afterthought.