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This page contains a single entry by Westley Annis published on June 7, 2010 8:57 AM.

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Oppose Louisiana House Bill 1287: Battle of New Orleans Bicentennial Commission

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By John Scurich

Once again, there's that word again to be afraid of - "commission." This time it's to form a commission for the Battle of New Orleans Bicentennial. I do believe an organizing-commemoration committee should be formed, but not on the state level. Frankly, I'm surprised Nita and Reed are going along with a bill originally and solely authored by a New Orleans legislator from the Lakeview area.

So what's the harm in this? Ah, you have politicians creating this beast and setting the rules who will make up this committee - need I say more? Better yet, can you say "what a wonderful opportunity to rub shoulders and a photo op with Washington elites and foreign dignitaries while some volunteer schmucks actually do all the work?" Yep, you got it right! Of course what will get lost in the process is the sincere meaningful reason why this is all supposed to take place.

Think I'm getting way ahead of myself? Unfortunately my working several years in Baton Rouge exposed to me to way too much of this. Believe me, I can see how this is going to play out because I've seen it too many times prior. Okay, I'll back what I'm saying with just a snip from the bill showing how the "commission" is to be comprised (see attached pdf of the bill):
(1) The commission shall consist of members appointed as follows:

(a) Two members appointed by the governor.

(b) Two members appointed by the lieutenant governor.

(c) Two members appointed by the president of the Senate.

(d) Two members appointed by the speaker of the House of Representatives.

(e) Three members shall be appointed by the state legislators whose districts include any part of the Chalmette Battlefield or the Chalmette National Cemetery. The legislators shall act jointly in making such appointments.

Any one seeing St. Bernard parish getting strong representation on this commission? I say we'll be lucky if five of members of this commission end up being from the New Orleans vicinity. If I'm wrong, just look at who gets to make appointments to the commission: the Governor, Lt. Governor, House Speaker, Senate President....why? Oh, and earlier you thought I might be a littel overboard in this thing becoming a PR highlight for those appointed.

Based on my past experience let me tell how this thing is going to work. You'll have some big names appointed, probably some notable politicians - past and present. Naturally they will only be "front" men. They'll bring in volunteers to form "subcommittees" - you know, the people who actually do all the work. But when the event arrives, along with all the D.C. politicians and possible British dignitaries for the photo ops, trust me when the champagne corks start popping and h'orderves are being served, these people who did all the "real" work won't be allowed anywhere near the party or a media camera. The real workers will be lucky to get an acknowledgement (only as a group) in the ninth paragraph of a post-event press release. I've seen it all before. If I come across a bit skeptical about this - you know why.

The politicians trying to create this commission aren't stupid - they know there's a very good chance the President of the United States will likely come down for this, as well as the Prime Minister of the UK. Talk about your ultimate photo op and shoulder rub!

Let me now interject the common sense question: Why couldn't this commission be comprised entirely of locals from St. Bernard and New Orleans who long standing ties to the Chalmette Battlefield. Locals who have a love and passion for the Battlefield and the history of the event. Oh sure, they could possibly get appointed to the commission - but don't hold your breath on it. A commission made of these type of local enthusiasts could report directly to the Governor's or Lt. Governor's Office without having one of their designees apointed to the commission - taking up a valuable seat that could easily be better filled with a local who is excited about serving for this important event.

So, what would I do if I were an Battle of New Orleans enthusiast and wanted to make sure local state politicians didn't ruin this? I would contact each of the candidates seeking Charlie Melancon's congressional seat this fall, as well as Landrieu and Vitter. I would speak with them and get commitments from each that the winner will propose a bill in Congress setting up a committee on behalf of the local interests and that this committee is the "only" committee the Department of the Interior and National Parks will officially recognize to coordinate activities related to the event - and this would also secure federal funding for the event. The federal bill would specify only locals with historian interest backgrounds to comprise the committee who are not elected or previously elected officials. This way the committee remains a committee truly of "the people." Of course the Interior and Park Service would work closely with the committee, as well as the White House and State Department.

While all this makes sense, it's probably a long shot - probably because it does make sense.


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