After many years in the Louisiana Legislature, Sharon Weston Broome has to know that one of the worst signs for an official is to be in the sights of John N. Kennedy.
As Stormy Petrel, which might as well have been his official title, the state treasurer made a career out of criticizing others, flying caustically above the OB markers of his own relatively limited role in the State Capitol.
After many years, and three attempts, Kennedy has been promoted to the U.S. Senate. And he continues to meddle in state politics, as though he never left for Washington; he is a political albatross from the “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner.”
And now, with the Senate and the federal government in chaos, Kennedy has cast a beady eye on the minuscule contracts in Baton Rouge for the likes of Arthur "Silky Slim" Reed.
Broome must know that this does not bode well.
There are different phases of the John N. Kennedy School of Scapegoating. Usually, there is an appearance of fact-finding before hen-pecking the data; this month, he has quick-stepped to the beating phase.
“These actions call into question the tactics your administration is using to fight the ever-increasing violent crime rate in Baton Rouge,” Kennedy wrote in his first letter to Broome about BRAVE.
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The wonder is that Kennedy is leaving in qualifying adverbs in sentences referring to the “seemingly blatant waste of our federal tax dollars.”
The new mayor-president simply cannot win in the BRAVE battle. On the one hand, she is publicly committed to continuing it, and influential members of the community — such as District Attorney Hillar Moore — see it as a great success in curbing juvenile crime in the mayor’s turf of north Baton Rouge.
On the other hand, the mess surrounding its administration has her, in the words of aide James Gilmore, in constant "clean-up and asking-for-forgiveness mode since we took office.”
If one can say that Broome’s relationship with her predecessor was not already poisoned, Kip Holden is positively scabrous at her suggestion all the administrative screw-ups came on his watch.
Finally, there seems almost no way for the mayor to clear the air.
The program is being mischaracterized, in part by Kennedy, who is less than scrupulous when it comes to sinking his claws into the data of others. The 63 youths “served” at what was said to be a cost of $30,000 apiece are only part of the BRAVE initiative, and to reduce the various costs of research and interventions into that kind of factoid is easy grist for Kennedy and other critics.
Rather, it was intended to be intensive intervention after the more threatening rounds of “call-ins” for youths identified as potential troublemakers, warned off of crime; the money spent on data at LSU is a lot of the cost. That is a critical component if you’re going to have a data-driven approach to fighting the gang problem.
If that’s not enough, the since-canceled contracts to agitators like Silky Slim are fodder for the criticism.
The administration is aloof. That's not necessarily a bad thing, given the hothouse atmosphere at the Municipal Building these days, but the new mayor seems to absent herself from Metro Council meetings when controversial subjects are apt to arise.
Where is Broome when something like this is said at a Metro Council meeting: “I know what it means to get a call at 3 o'clock in the morning: ‘come get me, my mom just overdosed. Come get me, my dad just hit my mom,’” Tremaine Sterling patronizingly lectured the officials. He runs the 29:11 mentorship program and received a recent $5,000 BRAVE contract. “We spend time in the community. We deserve to get a piece of the pie.”
Whoever was present representing the mayor might have stood up right then and disavowed the notion that BRAVE contracts are a pie divided by the politically deserving of the African-American community. No one did, and can anyone doubt that Kennedy will swoop on that one?
Email Lanny Keller at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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