After The 2011 legislative session, one thing is clear; there is no vision for the future of Louisiana. What was the biggest accomplishment? Our elected officials’ ability to balance a state budget which included less cuts than it did when the “sky was falling” back in April.
Our leaders have failed to take the bold steps which are needed to move Louisiana forward. We must move beyond tinkering around the edges of our problems and embrace real reform.
What will it take?
First, we need urgency. It’s time to get serious about the fact that we have the nation’s highest incarceration rate, poverty rate and dropout rate. We must start the hard conversations about how to solve problems, at the policy level — not continuing to debate whether it exists, or how bad the problem really is.
Second, we need strong state leadership to set the framework for reform priorities. We have to stop being satisfied with simply kicking the can down the road on major reforms simply because not all the stakeholders can agree.
We need our state leaders to lay out a bold road map for the future so we can make progress for all of our citizens, and not just the select few.
Finally, We need informed and empowered stakeholders to shape the implementation of reforms at the local level. Local leaders need structure and guidance from the state, but they also need the flexibility to mold those frameworks in a way that will work for their particular communities.
The truth is, embracing and enacting real change in this state will require a transformation in the way we all approach policymaking. We’re fortunate enough to have some independent and courageous legislators. However, in order to move away from the policies and the politics that are shackling us to the past, more smart and savvy leaders are needed.
If good people don’t run, good people don’t win.
Let this be the last year that we have to look back at a legislative session and say that when it comes to fundamental change, “we got nothing.”
Melissa Flournoy, Ph.D.
director, Louisiana Progress