Traffic problems defy quick solutions _lowres

Advocate staff photo by HILARY SCHEINUK -- Traffic backs up on westbound Interstate 10 over the Mississippi River, Friday, July 25, 2014 in Baton Rouge. Congestion into East Baton Rouge Parish can be seen beginning around 3pm. ORG XMIT: BAT1407251812162651

For the hard-pressed drivers on Interstate 10 in New Orleans, Interstate 110 in midtown Baton Rouge, and Interstate 20 in Shreveport and Bossier City, a pointless political debate before the State Bond Commission should show who is not on your side: State Treasurer John Schroder and U.S. Sen. John N. Kennedy.

The two did some political grandstanding before a basically technical discussion of issuing bonds for major projects on all three interstate highways.

The phony issue: Kennedy, R-Madisonville, and Schroder are angered by some big businesses, including banks who do some business with the state, who have placed "anti-gun" restrictions on their private clients.

That led them to try to use their influence on the bond commission — Kennedy is the former state treasurer, who has been doing the state's business through the same banks for years — to make the body a battlefield over gun rights.

As if a private business, banks included, should be bullied by the state government over its decisions that have nothing to do with the task at hand — issuing bonds for desperately needed highway projects.

This makes no sense, but politics makes for strange decision-making. After all, what Citigroup and Bank of America do in the course of a national debate over gun control is very unlikely to be affected by a few dimes of Louisiana business.

The banks have made a lot more from Kennedy 's patronage over the years than this particular bond issue, a $600 million bundle of three projects: an interchange for metro New Orleans' new airport, widening the interstate in midtown Baton Rouge and building an exit for Barksdale Air Force Base. These projects are needed.

Schroder as chairman of the commission picked this fight, and he was, regrettably, backed by the House GOP leadership, who it might be noted by motorists have done nothing to deal with Louisiana's transportation crisis over the past few years.

We commend Gov. John Bel Edwards and other statewide elected officials on the commission, and leaders from the GOP-led Senate, for putting the interests of transportation ahead of political posturing. Attorney Gen. Jeff Landry backed Schroder. But the 8-6 vote surely showed Louisiana drivers that showboating is more important to Schroder and the legislators than fixing one of the state's most pressing problems.

This was a political stunt by two men who ought to know much better. That they were backed by the GOP House members was another instance of partisanship overruling common sense.