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Editorial: CABL efforts integral to state’s advancement

Last Modified: Friday, December 28, 2012 8:03 PM

A surfeit of riches blesses our state — natural beauty, energy resources, cultural treasures, a colorful and diverse population — but Louisiana’s outcomes have sometimes, historically and tragically, fallen short of what our assets promised.

A half-century ago, two New Orleans business leaders met for lunch and decided that the state deserved better than it was getting. Once a prosperous state, Louisiana’s fortunes had tapered off. The state was beset with significant public problems. Major corporations shunned Louisiana. The political leadership was in tatters. Racial division undercut our ability to advance. From that first conversation between Darwin Fenner and Edgar Stern Jr., the Council for A Better Louisiana was launched.

That’s not to say that 50 years of CABL’s good influences have cured all that ailed us. But as Louisiana closes the book on 2012, it should be noted that CABL has been a part of much that has improved in our state.

Initially, CABL’s focus was fourfold, according to a history of the organization: Target state problems and enlist new thinking for solutions; encourage economic growth; enlist collaborative efforts with other civic-minded organizations; promote our advances to the rest of the nation. In 1962, Louisiana had no Code of Ethics; CABL took on the job of fighting for one in 1963. In 1964, CABL promoted the idea of investing idle tax dollars. In 1965, CABL helped Gov. John McKeithen establish a bi-racial commission that addressed race relations. In 1967, CABL touted the state’s improved financial health to Wall Street, which helped improve the state’s bond rating.

CABL has, of course, expanded its citizen-based efforts in myriad directions since those early years. It worked with the Public Affairs Research council to promote establishment of a board over higher education. Its Tax Institute has promoted tax reform. It has helped in such public-spirited efforts as landing the 1984 World’s Fair, in developing Louisiana Public Broadcasting, and in establishing and operating Leadership Louisiana, which has helped develop citizen leadership around the state.

CABL’s The People’s Agenda promoted term limits for politicians, the elimination of retirement benefits for lawmakers, the betterment of school standards and the establishment of the community college system.

Much of what has benefited Louisiana in the last half-century has been birthed or aided by CABL, which remains a viable, independent resource of citizen power in Louisiana.

There’s plenty left to do. Barry Erwin, CABL’s president, said that the organization will continue to promote the advancement of the state’s colleges and universities, which has been hard-pressed over the past few years. As an independent force, it will continue to stand for meaningful ethics reform, responsible economic growth and good schools.

That’s what CABL set out to do a half-century ago. God speed.

• • •

This editorial was written by a member of the American Press Editorial Board. Its content reflects the collaborative opinion of the Board, whose members include Bobby Dower, Ken Stickney, Jim Beam, Crystal Stevenson and Donna Price.

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