Political Horizons for Jan. 27, 2013

Jindal policies not inclusive

State Rep. Regina Barrow recently hiked a mile and a half on the shoulder of a busy Airline Highway to call attention to the trek some poor and uninsured must make to get health care now that LSU is privatizing its clinics and hospitals.

While Barrow says the quality of medical service is excellent at the private south Baton Rouge facilities, the Jindal administration forgot that the patients using the soon-to-close LSU Earl K. Long Medical Center lived near the north Baton Rouge hospital.

Now, instead of walking or taking the bus to doctors or labs, some patients — not all — can make an appointment for a free van ride. Thousands of other patients, family members and the uninsured must hoof across town, with many having to use uncertain public transportation.

State Sen. Richard Gallot, D-Ruston, says the many critics of Barrow’s demonstration raised valid issues about costs and responsibilities, but they missed the real point: However well-intentioned, the policymakers simply overlooked a key element — accessibility — because nobody was at the table who could tell them how the poor and uninsured live.

“As leaders you owe it to the people to think through this stuff before you go out and do it,” said Gallot, who has long criticized Gov. Bobby Jindal for delegating to people who do not reflect the state’s diverse culture and population.

“If they would take time to be more inclusive, they would get some of the practical challenges to implementing some of these grand ideas,” Gallot said.

As president of the LSU Faculty Senate, Kevin Cope says he watches higher education. Except for the historically black Southern University system, the boards that run the state’s four-year colleges and universities are populated mostly by white businessmen who have shifted the academic focus from the forward-thinking research that has kept America ahead of the rest of the world to vocational training, he said.

Cope argues that the addition of board members from the middle-class, faculty, public service and religious communities would broaden the ideas for how to improve higher education.

“Great universities routinely have persons who provide different vocational interests and perspectives,” Cope said.

Only 6 percent of the members of the LSU Board of Supervisors, the University of Louisiana System board and the Board of Regents are black, one per board. Thirty-two percent of the state’s 4.5 million people are black. Four women, or about 9 percent, are scattered across the three top boards, though women make up 51 percent of the state’s population.

The LSU Board of Supervisors oversees the 10 charity hospitals and many clinics around the state, as well as about 44,000 students at four universities, two medical schools, and a law school. The 15-member governor-appointed board (the 16th member is a student) has voted in lockstep with Jindal’s efforts to consolidate the universities, purge malcontents and privatize the hospitals.

The LSU board has one black member, former state Sen. Ann Duplessis, who also is the only woman. The only members approaching “middle class” status are the two former aides to GOP governors, Stephen Perry and Scott Angelle.

The rest are white businessmen: owners and executives of energy producing and servicing concerns, processed meats and publishing companies, fast food franchisers, hotel developers and corporate lawyers. Together, these “non-political” supervisors, their immediate families and their companies donated nearly $300,000 to Jindal’s campaigns, according to disclosures filed with the Louisiana Board of Ethics.

Jindal, who seems irony impaired, on Thursday addressed a Republican National Committee meeting that was, at least partially, trying to figure out why the GOP message fails to resonate with minority voters.

Jindal then was scheduled to appear before The Alfalfa Club, which was founded in 1913 to celebrate the birthday of Confederate Civil War General Robert E. Lee.

Jindal did not respond to a request for an interview about his board appointment strategy.

He did, however, speak about it when auditioning for Republican kingmakers.

“We must reject the notion that demography is destiny, the pathetic and simplistic notion that skin pigmentation dictates voter behavior,” Jindal said, according to a copy of his speech. “The first step in getting the voters to like you, is to demonstrate that you like them.”

Mark Ballard is editor of The Advocate’s Capitol news bureau. His email address is mballard@theadvocate.com.