Sometimes luck is better than skill in politics, and it even overcomes bad intentions and gross dereliction of sworn duties.
A glaring example of the principle is Kenny Matassa.
Let’s take a phrase from the Watergate hearings: What did he know and when did he know it?
Before boarding his plane for his taxpayer-funded trip to Las Vegas for a convention, the president of Ascension Parish government had declared a state of emergency in his jurisdiction because of the gathering storm in the Gulf of Mexico that would become Hurricane Barry.
He knew it was an emergency and left town anyway.
That should be shameful enough.
Ascension Parish President Kenny Matassa was attending a conference in Las Vegas while Hurricane Barry rolled into the state but said Monday h…
Where did his duty lie?
At a Vegas hotel for the National Association of Counties convention? Or among his constituents who feared that the dreadful flooding of 2016 that ravaged the greater Baton Rouge area would be repeated by Barry?
Matassa had no way of knowing that Barry would lose its hurricane status so quickly, and that the rain events, though bad, were not going to be catastrophic.
During his doubtless diligent devotion to the dinners of the NACo meeting, Matassa’s constituents were filling sandbags and making other storm preparations. From the governor on down, public officials were worried about forecasts of 20 inches or rain or more; the president of the United States personally called to assure state leaders that help would be available should it be needed.
Throughout the Barry event, state and local leaders were showing how to act. From Gov. John Bel Edwards and mayors Sharon Weston Broome in Baton Rouge, to Joel Robideaux in Lafayette, to LaToya Cantrell in New Orleans, public officials across the state were briefing their constituents, not listening to speeches in the pleasure capital of Nevada.
Matassa’s resolution to stay close to the desert city of fun and frolic held firm even as Edwards and other officials on Monday were visiting areas where damage occurred.
The parish president said that Ascension’s affairs were in good hands, with the longtime parish finance director — several of Matassa’s top aides were with him in Vegas — delegated to take any action needed.
Luck was really with Matassa. No catastrophe occurred during his jaunt.
We don’t object to public officials going to meetings of national organizations like NACo. How many of the thousands of elected officials and public managers, though, had declared an emergency in their cities or towns, and then set out for Las Vegas for the meeting?
Phone-it-in Kenny got lucky. With this example for leadership, or even basic concern for others, maybe his constituents were better off with him out of town.