With the state budget hemorrhaging hundreds of millions of dollars in red ink, you’d think lawmakers would have their hands full just trying to staunch the bleeding.
But remarkably, state Sen. Beth Mizell, a Franklinton Republican, has found enough time on her hands for a pet project — running the city of New Orleans.
Apparently, Mizell would like to take the same management genius that’s made state government such a smashing success and apply it to the Crescent City. Give Mizell credit: She is nothing if not audacious.
Mizell is sponsoring Senate Bill 276, which would create a statewide commission to manage how local governments deal with memorials to a “historic conflict, historic entity, historic event, historic figure or historic organization.”
The language is broad, but no one has to guess what memorials Mizell is talking about. Her bill, which would require local officials to get a waiver before changing or moving such historical fixtures, was obviously inspired by an ongoing controversy about Confederate-themed statues in New Orleans.
New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu has spearheaded a drive to take down several such monuments in the city, including the likeness of Robert E. Lee that looms over Lee Circle. The New Orleans City Council has gone along, and public bids to remove the monuments are due April 22.
It’s been a messy fight, with critics of the Confederate monuments claiming that they romanticize a racist past and defenders pointing to the historical significance of the statues. While the dispute has attracted national attention — and seems in danger of running longer than the Civil War itself — the outcome should be decided by New Orleans residents, not state bureaucrats.
Even if Mizell’s bill becomes law, the New Orleans monuments in the mayor’s bull’s-eye could be taken down by the time the new statewide commission meets.
It’s still ironic, though, that a Republican legislator, hailing from a party that preaches the virtue of local control, would champion the creation of a state committee to micromanage how local communities curate their history — a passion for centralized planning worthy of “Obamacare.”
Mizell’s colleagues should kill this bill, then get on with the more important business of rescuing state government from a budgetary Appomattox.