Last Modified: Wednesday, July 25, 2012 7:50 PM
State Rep. Chuck Kleckley says there is nothing questionable about 11 emails involving himself and constituents concerning efforts to steer $1 million in capital improvements money to Barbe High School. Maybe not.
But Kleckley’s refusal to allow public inspection of the emails sent to and by him this month may further deepen the distrust that people harbor over his aborted efforts to secure state funding for the Barbe pet projects. If folks were proud of Kleckley’s efforts, they should be glad to share their emails.
The bulk of the taxpayer money would have been used to build an artificial turf football field at Barbe, where the current football field is both relatively new and quite functional.
As speaker of the House of Representatives, Kleckley, R-Lake Charles, was well positioned to grease this unholy project through the state budget. He said he was doing so after conversations, some long ago, with some Barbe coaches.
Neither Kleckley’s good intentions nor his good character are at issue. His actions are. In trying to steer this pork project toward Barbe, Kleckley was trodding the same well-worn path to financial ruin that other elected officials have taken in this state. He was using his powerful position to snag something extra for his own district, perpetuating the belief in Louisiana that the quality of some state-funded pet projects can be less important than the influence of the individual lawmaker. (We thought Gov. Jindal ended that.) When the bill comes due, taxpayers pay.
It’s important to view this million-dollar effort in light of recent news that, due to a Medicaid shortfall, Louisiana finds its new budget seriously out of whack, perhaps by more than $800 million.
In attempting to capture the taxpayer money for a football field, Kleckley was promoting a pet project that came with no specific written request, was done without study or accompanied by numbers that would point to a public benefit, and was discussed in written communication within his district only in emails now considered secret. Except for Kleckley, nobody’s fingerprints are left on this less-than-urgent project.
In hindsight — it’s always 20/20 — that makes the process for seeking and securing such an unexpected windfall as the proposed Barbe project seem almost cavalier. With foresight, Kleckley would have avoided this situation altogether.
It’s one thing for a candidate to bill himself a conservative at election time, but quite another to behave as a conservative and protect the taxpayers’ resources once he has climbed into power.
With resources diminishing and genuine needs pressing the state and its people, the gentleman from Lake Charles would have been better advised to prune unnecessary projects from the state budget, not add them.
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, Dennis Spears, Crystal Stevenson and Donna Price.