Louisiana editorial roundup

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Recent editorials from Louisiana newspapers:

August 18

The Advocate, Baton Rouge, Louisiana, on board splits go to voters:

While this fall's Louisiana election for U.S. Senate will get most of the spotlight, area school board races also are worth watching.

Election qualifying, which includes races for nine seats each in East Baton Rouge and Lafayette parishes, is Wednesday through Friday. Who signs up to run will be closely parsed for clues as to the direction of the Lafayette and East Baton Rouge boards.

In Lafayette, in part because of battles over patronage and in part because of the advent of charter schools, controversy has dogged the last four years of the current board. Having hired the highly regarded superintendent Pat Cooper, a bare majority of the board fell out with him. This year, the superintendent and board have unresolved issues over the school budget, even though the fiscal year began July 1 and another school year has commenced.

In Baton Rouge, the board has decided not to offer a contract renewal to Superintendent Bernard Taylor, who has led some improvements in academic success in schools. But the improvement is not fast enough, as some other, larger districts — Jefferson Parish, for one, led by retiring Superintendent Jim Meza and a board elected four years ago — have outpaced East Baton Rouge. Lafayette also has made considerable progress under Cooper's leadership.

The Baton Rouge board also will be smaller after the fall election — down to nine members after a bare majority decided to shrink the board by two seats. That was controversial, as the board had been redistricted only a couple of years ago after the 2010 census.

The Baton Rouge Area Chamber suggests that smaller boards, particularly in urban districts, can be more cohesive and avoid political battles. We do not see any magic in nine versus 11, and Lafayette is Exhibit A, as the 5-4 split there demonstrates.

The election on Nov. 4 should advance school board members who are dedicated to progress and not political turf battles; members should see themselves as a board of directors, not as a mini-Legislature working for the multitude of constituencies interested in schools.

It is quality that matters, and this Nov. 4 will be more significant for public education than many others in past years in both Baton Rouge and Lafayette.

Online:

http://theadvocate.com

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August 18

American Press, Lake Charles, Louisiana, on waste tire program:

Louisiana has one of the better waste tire programs in the country, but it does have its problems. The legislative auditor in a recent report said the program operated by the state Department of Environmental Quality needs to ensure that waste tire fees are paid to the department on time.

Two years ago, a report by the auditor covering a two-year period was critical of the time it took DEQ to reimburse tire processors and shredders. Some had to borrow money to stay afloat while waiting for DEQ payments.

One processor said, "The bank would ask why the state owes us for 12 months. It was a lot of aggravation."

Despite the complaint, the processor praised the program and said he understood it needed more management.

Consumers pay a $2 fee for each new passenger tire purchased, $5 for medium-sized truck tires and $10 for off-road tires. That revenue is used to reimburse processors and shredders. Certified tire haulers are paid after they deliver a load of tires to a processor.

DEQ did a better job of paying processors after the 2012 audit, but now it has a problem getting tire dealers to turn in the fees that they have collected from consumers on a timely basis.

There is no system in place to follow up with businesses that accept tires when that business doesn't report as required, the auditor said. He added that DEQ has no way of knowing whether those who collect fees are turning all of them into the state.

As for penalizing anyone, he was adamant.

"Am I interested in penalizing anyone? No," he said. "Some people pay their bills late."

Legislative audits play a vital role in keeping government agencies and political subdivisions on their toes. Those who fail to follow sound business practices need to be held accountable. DEQ is no exception.

Online:

http://www.americanpress.com

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August 19

The News-Star, Monroe, Louisiana, on STDs in the state:

When it comes to learning about — and practicing — safe sex, it appears that northeastern Louisiana still has quite a bit of a way to go.

We're distressed to learn that Louisiana, specifically northeastern Louisiana, is among the nation's leaders in the number of sexually transmitted diseases.

Consider the following facts from the Centers for Disease Control using the latest figures available from 2012:

— Ouachita Parish was one of 11 with gonorrhea case rates greater than 300 per 100,000 people.

— Northeastern Louisiana had 3,103 cases of chlamydia, 1,220 cases of gonorrhea and 13 cases of syphilis in 2012.

— Rates in African-Americans were the highest among all sexually transmitted diseases.

— Young people — those between the ages of 15 and 30 — make up the majority of people infected with STDs statewide.

"We obviously have an issue," said Missy McNabb of St. Francis Medical Center in Monroe "The numbers tell us the story. A lot of people are still uneducated regarding safe sex. People think they can be promiscuous without any consequences."

Education and prevention are critical, but so is treatment because it prevents spreading the diseases to other people.

The state Department of Health and Hospitals has done its part, increasing the number of clinics and screenings. That's a huge step in the right direction.

However, those who are sexually active must be responsible for their care and that of their partners. That leads to the question of how to legislate responsibility.

While there may not be an easy answer to that question, McNabb has three solutions to cut the numbers of those with STDs and prevent new cases from taking their place.

"It is just a matter of abstinence, being monogamous or wearing a condom," she said.

Getting the word out also helps. Communication between partners can go a long way toward ensuring that Louisiana — including out part of the state — is off a dubious list once and for all.

Online:

http://www.thenewsstar.com

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