I'm starting my annual New Year's prediction column with an easy one: If 2017 was a bad year for Mike Edmonson, the belatedly controversial former Louisiana State Police superintendent, 2018 will be worse.
Edmonson was the subject of two devastating recent reports, one from his own former agency and one from the state legislative auditor, both brimming with the type of allegations that are bound to attract further investigative interest. While there's some gray area over the free housing he received with approval from Govs. Bobby Jindal and John Bel Edwards, the reports outline plenty of other serious allegations, from self-dealing to evidence tampering.
Same goes for Irvin Mayfield, the celebrated trumpeter and close associate of former Mayor New Orleans Ray Nagin, who's accused in a new federal indictment of pocketing nearly $1.4 million donated for the city's struggling library system. Mayfield's still performing and he certainly has a right to try to make a living. But while he may be a master of compartmentalization, but I don’t see audiences giving him a pass.
This will be a better year, I predict, for those who lived through the emotionally-charged debate over removing four Jim Crow era monuments from New Orleans' streets. They finally came down in 2017, and life has gone on. Next up is the discussion over what should replace Robert E. Lee and P. G. T. Beauregard in the prominent traffic circles they once guarded, which is an opportunity for the city to focus on what unifies rather than divides. Also, the warehoused statues are still available, if anyone out there wants them.
In his year-end news conference Wednesday, Gov. John Bel Edwards once again held out hope that legislators, particularly the House Republicans…
New Orleans will mark its 300th year by swearing in its first female mayor, LaToya Cantrell. Expect plenty of pomp and circumstance, but also some difficult moments between Cantrell and equally willful outgoing Mayor Mitch Landrieu during the unusually long transition. It would be great if Cantrell would start off the new year by finally naming a transition team and letting the people who elected her know who's in her inner circle — and ensuring them that questionable characters such as former state Sen. and convicted money launderer Derrick Shepherd, who showed up at her meeting with the city's current legislative delegation, are not.
It would also be nice to believe that lawmakers will put aside their differences and quickly agree with Edwards on a plan to avert the $1 billion fiscal cliff they created in 2016 by passing a temporary one cent sales tax hike. The governor gave the Legislature until Jan. 19 to do so if they want to take care of it in a February special session rather than scramble at the last minute in June.
But I'm going to predict the opposite: That legislative leaders, particularly in the House, will put things off until the fiscal year's final days. I also predict they'll punt on a comprehensive tax plan and wind up extending the penny tax. It's not an option anyone espouses, but given that people are already paying the tax, it is the path of least resistance.
It's tempting to say that Mayor-elect LaToya Cantrell made her stunning Saturday night victory look effortless.
One obvious prediction about Edwards is that national profile will continue to grow as Democrats seek models for success in conservative states. His 65 percent approval rating in a recent Southern Media & Opinion Research poll sure doesn't hurt, and may give Republicans considering challenging him in 2019 some pause.
Expect Landrieu's profile to grow too. In fact, I'm guessing that by the end of the year, the outgoing mayor will have departed for some place like New York or Washington and taken on a position with a think tank or advocacy group. He's already deeply involved in national affairs as head of the U.S. Conference of Mayors, so it wouldn't be much of a stretch.
Elsewhere on the national scene, U.S. Sen. Bill Cassidy says he's going to keep trying to repeal the Affordable Care Act, despite his failure to do so last year. With the Republicans down a Senate seat and mid-term elections looming, I predict the effort will go nowhere.
Last summer, House Majority Whip Steve Scalise survived the harrowing ambush of a Republican practice for the annual Congressional baseball game. After many surgeries and much rehab, he made an inspiring return to Capitol Hill, and is now considered a candidate to move up to House Speaker — if rumors that Paul Ryan will retire come true, and if the GOP keeps control of the House.
In the meantime, here's a prediction that's a lot less iffy: Scalise will throw out the first pitch at the 2018 ballgame. And he'll get a rousing, bipartisan ovation.