Summary of recent Louisiana newspaper editorials

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Recent editorials from Louisiana newspapers:

June 15

The New Orleans Advocate, New Orleans, Louisiana on the Housing Authority of New Orleans:

After more than a decade in federal supervision, the Housing Authority of New Orleans is back in local management — a significant advance for the city.

We hope that the city government and a more normal partnership with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development will make the most of this achievement.

The local authority was taken over in 2002 after a long series of scandals. The well-connected were making money as the tenants were in miserable conditions. Many of the housing projects dated from the New Deal, and the decades since the 1940s had not been kind to them — nor to the eroding social structures that plagued the inner city during the same years.

Crime and rats ruled. The sad decline of historic properties was punctuated by headlines in the newspapers about HANO administrators stealing enough from the taxpayer to fund Florida mansions.

There is no one who will say that the arrival of hurricanes Katrina and Rita, and the collapse of the levees, were a good thing. But there is no question that after major projects remained shuttered for years that the urgency of change was appreciated.

Shaun Donovan, the head of HUD, unquestionably deserves his victory lap as he returned HANO to local control.

He hired an outside contractor as the sole board member and backed the sometimes contentious process of bringing new strategies to the building and management of public housing.

"We've been able not only to help it operate more effectively, but we've been able to make affordable housing available to thousands and thousands more families," Donovan said.

It hasn't been without controversy, but New Orleans has followed the national trends, seeking to end the practice of building project blocks. In their places are a mix of multifamily buildings and townhouses designed to blend in with surrounding neighborhoods.

That means fewer units, about 1,825 compared to more than 6,000. Some complexes remain under construction and others, like St. Bernard, have been restructured to include a mix of public, affordable and market-rate housing.

We think that this is a positive trend, even when there is a serious need for more affordable housing the city.


June 15

The News-Star, Monroe, Louisiana on protecting Louisiana's coast amid oil exploration:

Louisiana residents understand the importance of protecting and restoring our fragile and rapidly receding coast. They also understand the oil and gas industry has been the lifeblood of the state's economy for generations.

But for some time, the need to protect the coast and the need to have a strong oil and gas industry have been at odds with each other, after the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority-East filed suit against 97 oil and gas companies over land loss they said was caused by drilling operations and digging the network of canals that crisscross the coastal parishes.

Legislation recently signed into law ended the lawsuits. Among other things, it excludes government agencies like the SLFPA-East, better known as the levee board, from suing oil and gas companies.

Amid the bitter debate and legal wrangling, one overriding fact seems to have gotten lost: The interests of the oil and gas industry and environmentalists are not — or shouldn't be — mutually exclusive. There can be a thriving petroleum industry in this state without sacrificing Louisiana's environmental well-being. ...

We urge oil and gas industry representatives and parish officials to work together to find mutually acceptable solutions. We urge the oil industry and its affiliated landowners to step up with realistic solutions, including financial solutions.

Surely, these problems can be resolved outside the courts and outside the Legislature.


June 13

American Press, Lake Charles, Louisiana on reforming TOPS tuition program:

Both chambers of the Louisiana Legislature have been dark for less than two weeks, but already there's a push to study ways to reform a popular college tuition program.

The initiative started on the final day of the regular session earlier this month when state lawmakers passed a resolution for several groups to study TOPS, aka the Taylor Opportunity Program for Students.

Formed in 1999, TOPS has proved popular with parents and students alike, covering tuition costs to public universities in the state for those who meet certain academic requirements.

A bill that would have raised TOPS' academic standards in future years passed the House but failed in the Senate. The legislation would have raised the minimum scores to qualify for a TOPS scholarship to 21 on the ACT, up from 20, and to a 2.75 grade-point average, up from 2.5. Those higher standards would not have been applied until the 2017-2018 school year.

But some legislators argued the stiffer standards would hurt minority students.

Most rational minds comprehend that on its present cost trajectory, TOPS is unsustainable. Projections are the program will cost $300 million in the short term and $387 million by 2018-2019 if no reforms materialize.

But like their D.C. counterparts who rail against the nation's rising debt but do next to nothing to address it, state lawmakers appear to be incapable of embracing reality.

Gov. Bobby Jindal has been part of the issue here, opposing any changes to TOPS. But what does he care? He already has one foot outside of the state's borders as he nourishes his presidential ambitions and besides, it'll be another governor's headache by the time 2018 rolls around.

The resolution requires that state to collect data on TOPS recipients' race, gender, household income, standardized test scores and GPA.

State lawmakers and university officials have been troubled by the number of students who qualify for TOPS but either drop out early in their college careers or fail to maintain required academic standards.

What will come of this?

Probably very little because 2015 is an election year and there will likely be minimal appetite for reforming TOPS before a new legislative body is sworn in in 2016.


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