Editorial: CABL efforts integral to state’s advancement

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.

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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.