Former Gov. Bobby Jindal loved to talk about lists. He particularly loved to talk about lists that give Louisiana credit for having achieved some benchmark or risen in some ranking, usually in the area of ethics or business-friendliness.
If he were still in office, I doubt he would be going around citing the results of a new Robert Wood Johnson Foundation report ranking the states on how well prepared they are to handle a major health emergency or disaster. At the end of Jindal’s eight-year tenure, Louisiana ranked dead last.
In some ways, the news is not really shocking. The state tends to rank at or near the bottom of most roundups involving things like health risks, government resources, safety net protection and environmental challenges. That was true before Jindal’s tenure, and it continues to the be the case three months into Gov. John Bel Edwards’ first term.
Still, this goes right to what were supposed to be the former governor’s strengths. Bureaucrat-bashing rhetoric notwithstanding, Jindal had a long career in government before he ran for office. And much of his resume consisted of jobs overseeing health care, from his early years as Louisiana secretary of health and hospitals to a stint as an assistant health secretary under President George W. Bush.
Disaster management was supposed to be another Jindal forte. Elected in part due to Gov. Kathleen Blanco’s perceived shortcomings, Jindal sought to build a reputation as capable steward during major storms and the BP spill, the biggest disaster to happen on his watch. It was no accident that he titled his pre-presidential run book “Leadership and Crisis.”
To be fair, not all the variables that the ranking took into account are under the control of government, even though many are. Factors that contributed to Louisiana’s dreadful showing included a dearth of mental health resources, a high concentration of environmental contaminants and high risk factors among the population.
But the showing does point to yet another lost opportunity for a governor who couldn’t wait to land the next job, even when he couldn’t be bothered to finish the one he’d started.
‘Grace notes’ is a daily feature by Advocate columnist Stephanie Grace. To read more of her content, including her full columns, click here.