Our Views: BGR helped shape 2013

After a deeply partisan 2013, where will Americans find common ground in 2014?

During a recent speech in New Orleans, syndicated columnist Steve Roberts suggested Americans can find unity of purpose in nonpartisan organizations such as the Bureau of Governmental Research, which featured Roberts as the main speaker at its recent annual luncheon.

We’re not surprised Roberts would flatter his host organization by commending its good sense. That’s par for the course on the lecture circuit where Roberts and his fellow pundits spend so much of their time.

Even so, Roberts’ comments about the value of BGR and similar groups is still worth noting. These nonpartisan public policy organizations do much good work in advancing progress. Louisiana is lucky to have a number of government watchdog groups, including BGR, to help hold public servants accountable to the people they’re supposed to serve.

BGR, which studies civic and government issues in the New Orleans area, kept busy in 2013 with several newsworthy studies. The group issued findings on sewerage and water board reform, school governance, judicial staffing, firefighters’ pensions and Jefferson Parish service contracts. BGR also released studies on the New Orleans World Trade Center and hotel taxation. Additionally, BGR analyzed and took positions on three tax proposals in Jefferson Parish and two proposed charter amendments in New Orleans.

In politics, as in war, truth is too often the first casualty. Research organizations such as BGR can act as honest brokers on controversial issues, and in an age increasingly dominated by partisan sound bites, the need for objective information about the work of government is more important than ever.

We commend BGR for its hard work in 2013. We’re sure that it will continue to be an important voice in the future of New Orleans in 2014.