Recent editorials from Louisiana newspapers:
The Houma Courier on preparing for hurricane season:
Terrebonne and Lafourche escaped the major rain and potential flooding earlier forecasts had predicted as Tropical Storm Cristobal swept across the area Sunday and Monday.
Grand Isle was not as lucky, as officials said floodwaters covered much of the island and damaged a hurricane protection levee that could leave the small town vulnerable to future storms. But thankfully few buildings there took on water and no injuries were reported.
As of late Saturday afternoon, forecasts predicted Cristobal would make landfall around Morgan City. That would have put Terrebonne and Lafourche on the storm’s northeast side, where the strongest winds and rains were.
A jog east and a patch of dry air spared the area the 10 inches of rain or more, along with the potential flooding, that had been predicted. Most areas locally saw no more than 3 inches of rain between Saturday and Monday. And that is something for which all of us can be grateful.
A similar stroke of luck spared Terrebonne and Lafourche the damage that had been predicted during the last major storm -- Hurricane Barry last July. As much as 20 inches was predicted locally, but the storm jogged farther west just before landfall, and the area only saw only 1 or 2 inches of rain.
Every storm brings lessons. Here are three from Cristobal:
1. Preparation is key. Terrebonne and Lafourche officials credit storm plans and execution by parish employees, law enforcement and many others for securing the area as the storm threatened. Both parishes opened shelters that followed social-distancing and other recommendations aimed at preventing the spread of the novel coronavirus. Levee systems and floodgates proved up to the task just as they did, with a few minor glitches, last year during Hurricane Barry.
2. Things can change quickly. In the case of Cristobal and Barry, those changes helped spare the Houma-Thibodaux area more serious damage. Hurricane forecasting is not perfect; it puts things in terms of probability and not certainty. In Cristobal’s case, the odds landed in our favor.
3. Every storm is different. Grand Isle officials say Cristobal caused more flooding than Hurricane Isaac did in 2012. Once again, it shows a tropical storm can sometimes cause more damage than a hurricane. Storms might bring only a few inches of rain to a wide area, but if your home or neighborhood is swamped by an isolated rainstorm or even a tornado, that changes everything.
Hurricane season is just getting started, and forecasters have said it will likely be a busy one. Be prepared.
The American Press on summer reading programs:
Summer is the best time to read for fun, and the annual summer reading program provides even more incentives to read with awesome prizes for achieving reading goals and a wide array of programs planned to encourage learning, growth and discovery throughout the summer months.
Summer reading programs began in the 1890s as a way to encourage school children — particularly those in urban areas and not needed for farm work — to read during their summer vacation. The hope was the children would use their local library to develop the great habit of reading.
Summer learning loss or setback — often referred to as the “summer slide” — is a devastating loss of academic achievement students experience during the summer months. It is estimated that, on average, students lose two months of grade-level mathematical computation skills over the summer, and low-income students can lose up to two months of reading achievement. Those numbers might be worse this year because school campuses closed early due to coronavirus.
Research also suggests that two-thirds of the reading achievement gap between high-low socioeconomic statuses in ninth-graders can be explained by unequal access to summer learning opportunities during elementary school.
One of the most effective means of improving reading achievement levels is supplying students with engaging and comprehensive reading materials. Our area libraries offer that and so much more, providing a foundation for academic success.
Southwest Louisiana’s all-ages programs encourage participants not only to read, but to experience new activities and explore the world around them. The summer reading program is designed for toddlers, school-aged children, teens and adults. This year’s theme is “Imagine Your Story.”
The area is blessed with an array of public libraries — all set to slowly start physically reopening Wednesday, June 17 — with reading and educational programs for children of all ages. Until all the branches physically reopen, curbside service is available as well as free access to online books.
There’s a world out their at one’s fingertips. Now, get out there and discover what’s inside the pages.
The Advocate on State Senator Karen Carter Peterson blocking several appointees from being selected to work in agencies or serve on boards:
With an ally like Karen Carter Peterson, a governor should be used to surprises. But the state senator’s latest power play, exploiting an abusive Senate rule to block two highly qualified appointees, appears to have come as a surprise to Gov. John Bel Edwards.
The root of the problem: an ancient Senate practice that allows individual senators a blackball when the body is called upon to confirm gubernatorial appointments.
Senators can block the appointment of someone who is a registered voter in their district. In years past, it was a way to check a governor who might be setting up a potential opponent to a legislator, for example.
For whatever reason, it is a unilateral power in a body that is supposed to act through majority rule and transparency. Both parties have been known to abuse the confirmation process, such as it is. But it’s particularly jarring that a Democratic governor is so ambushed by a state senator who is also chairwoman of the Louisiana Democratic Party.
Republicans must be chortling.
Senators typically give the governor or the appointee a heads-up if they have any concerns. Peterson did not do that with several appointees that she blocked, sources told this newspaper. Those rejected, in a secret Senate session, are only informed after the fact.
The two most significant names on the Peterson hit list were Ronnie Jones, longtime chairman of the Gaming Control Board, who is in the midst of overseeing reopening of casinos; and Walt Leger, the former New Orleans legislator named to be chairman of the Ernest M. Morial Convention Center in the city.
“It was a total surprise to me,” Jones told The Associated Press. “After the Senate had adjourned, I got a call from a staffer with the Senate and Governmental Affairs Committee. He said, ‘I have to tell you that you were not confirmed.’ I said, ‘Excuse me?’ He said it again, and I said, ‘Wow.‘”
What a perfect political set-up: a secret session, no public statement or discussion of the nominee’s unfitness, other senators winking at the maneuver because they might want to do the same thing one day.
Peterson’s action is an abuse. And it invites speculation that in Jones’ case this was personal, as 15 months ago she was forced to admit that she had a gambling problem after someone leaked to WWL-TV that she had violated a ban on entering Louisiana casinos. Peterson was issued a summons for violating a self-imposed ban.
Leger’s blackballing might have something do with the controversies over control of the convention center’s funds, but we can’t know that because of the secrecy surrounding Peterson’s actions.
She should explain herself, if she can. And the Senate should take a long-overdue look at the confirmation process.