Monday, April 24, 2006

Louisiana: Fixing the Problem

I went to a round table discussion tonight that included a panel of 3 very interesting people: one public policy think tank representative, one Advocate editorialist, and one person from the LA Division of Administration - Disaster Recovery Unit - Office of Community Development. Very cool. The topic of discussion was the past, present, and future of Louisiana. As you could imagine, the conversation turned to hurricane recovery pretty rapidly.

As a non-native resident of Louisiana who does not work for a company in the state, I sometimes feel like I lead a sheltered life that does not include as much public awareness as I would like. However, I stay relatively up to date with current events and would consider myself someone with relatively informed and educated opinions. Most importantly, I try to be very aware of when I form opinions without a good knowledge of the facts. I can’t prevent the opinions, but I can recognize that I may be missing some critical information.

That said, it is pretty apparent to me that the state is suffering a crisis in leadership across the board. We have been hit with one of the biggest natural disasters on record and appear to be still reeling from the blow. To my knowledge, there is no well communicated, rally cry vision for citizens of the state to get behind. I am talking about a vision that consists of a great deal of substance as well as a well crafted PR campaign. In order to organize large groups of people behind a common vision, implement measurable goals, and achieve these goals, you need to have:

  1. Substance – People don’t even need to agree with your substance. You just need a vision combined with the next ingredient.
  2. The ability to distill that substance down into a quick 5-6 word phrase that can get plastered on every billboard and bumper sticker in the state. If it fits on a ribbon, you’re golden. The 5-6 word phrase needs to be non-offensive from almost every angle. Example: Support Our Troops. By the way, don’t knock PR as a valid way to govern. Look what it did for the war in Iraq.

Louisiana lacks the second ingredient. There may be someone with a vision out there, but I am doubtful. I will go so far as to say we may lack both ingredients. Thus, I am taking a first crack. The first steps I would take, from my relatively informed transplant native soapbox are:

  • Build Levees that won’t break. No plan or program is worth anything unless you can prevent this from happening again. There may be substantive progress being made here, but that appears to be up for debate based on where you choose to get your news. I tell you what though, I am nervous that we won’t be ready. This should have been started from day one and it better be finished when the next season hits.
  • Craft a slogan. For lack of any other current suggestions: “Louisiana: Fixing the Problem.” This works on many levels for me. We need to be fixing the infrastructure problems that contributed to this disaster. We need to fix the perception and public opinion about the state. Louisiana has long been synonymous with corruption. I am afraid that this perception is changing to Louisiana being synonymous with incompetence. Finally, we need to actually fix the corruption and incompetence - not just the perceptions. During the round table, someone stated: “A tragedy is a terrible thing to waste.” I couldn’t agree more. Let’s fix it.
  • Billboards, bumper stickers, and ribbons. Sell them everywhere, get them donated, increase your revenue and get people behind some sort of vision for this nebulous thing called “recovery.”
  • Fix more of the problem: I honestly believe that new officials in government are probably needed. I find it hard to believe that any prominent official associated with the state will be able to escape the stigma of the visions we all had on our TV (regardless of whether or not they are to blame). If you can’t escape that stigma, can you really be the visionary leader that is needed? Maybe someone could and if so, then power to them. But my bet is that we need to re-elect and then move ahead.

Two cents cashed.


SINEDDIE said...

very well written my friend...

Susan said...

Did you ue word or some other editor to write this? If so, it has broken your xml feed. I used word to write one of my posts and apparently the tags it uses breaks the feed. You will need to repost the entry without the offending tags. I couldn't tell you what they are - that is the scope of my knowlege. I took my entry and pasted it into notepad and copied it back into blogger. With your bullets - it might not be so easy.

wilablog said...

I did use word. When I get a chance I'll need to fix it. Thanks for the tip.