Thankfully, the Caddo Commission should see several new faces after the fall elections this year. For sure there will be 3 – Mike Thibodeaux read the handwriting on the wall and decided to not seek a third term; Lindora Baker did not want to pay her outstanding ethics fine and bolted for a full time job; and David Cox was term limited. Of the remaining 9 seats at this table, 7 of the incumbents face opposition and it is likely that many of these will be defeated. Sooo… there is hope that substantial reform can take place on the Caddo Commission starting next year.
For those voters who really want to check out the candidates, the following list of questions (if asked and answered) should provide real insight into who should be seated at the Commission table. Actually there are 2 lists—one to be asked of all the candidates, and a second list to be asked of the incumbents. These are not totally exhaustive and they are not intended to limit inquiries by voters—but they should serve as a good start to separate the pretty faces from the candidates with merit.
So, starting with all the candidates, the following are suggested:
1. How long have you lived in the district?
2. Have you been convicted of any crimes and if so, what crime, what court and what year?
3. What is your employment history for the last 10 years?
4. Do you own real estate in the district and if so, what are the addresses and how long have you owned each property?
5. Have the read the Caddo Parish Home Rule Charter?
6. Have you held any other elected office and if so, what offices and for what years?
7. Have you served in the military and if so, what branch, what years and what was your rank upon discharge?
8. What community organizations have you been a member of in the last 10 years, and what offices if any have you held in them?
9. Are you aware that the Caddo Commissioners are the highest paid part-time elected officials in Louisiana?
10. If elected, will you vote for ballot proposition to amend the Charter as it applies to automatic pay raises for Commissioners?
11. Are you aware that the Caddo Commissioners have a $15,000 per year travel/education allowance that does not require any approval for expenditure?
12. If elected, will you vote to lower this allowance and to place controls on these expenses?
13. Are you aware that the Caddo Commission has a retirement plan for Commissioners known as CPERS?
14. Are you aware that the Louisiana state auditor has rendered an opinion that CPERS is illegal?
15. Are you aware that the Commission has hired attorneys to defend CPERS in pending litigation and has spent over $30,000 of public funds on attorney fees?
16. If elected, will you vote to stop funding this litigation?
17. If elected, will you vote to stop funding CPERS for Commissioners?
18. Are you aware that effective January 11, 2016 Commissioners (and their dependents) are eligible to participate in the group medical benefits and life insurance plans offered by the parish to its classified and appointed employees on the same terms and conditions afforded those employees (i.e. subsided premiums)?
19. If elected, what changes do you hope to make on the operations of the Commission?
20. Are you aware that Commissioners who have served 2 terms have voted themselves 6 pay raises totaling almost $2800 per year?
21. Are you aware that Commissioners who have served 1 term have voted themselves 4 pay raises totaling almost $1300 per year?
22. Are you aware that the Parish has contributed to CPERS over $25,000 for John Escude and Jim Smith; over $24,000 for Ken Epperson; over $22,000 for Matthew Linn; over $13,000 for Lyndon Johnson; over $10,000 for Michael Williams; and almost $6,000 for Jerald Bowman?
23. If elected, what changes do you hope to make on the operations of the Commission?
And for the incumbent Commissioners, the following additional questions are suggested:
a. How much Parish money have you expended on travel/education expenses since January 1, 2014?
b. How many pay raises have you voted for that increased your commission pay?
c. Are you still participating in the CPERS plan?
d. Did you vote for the acquisition of the GM plant by the Parish?
e. What benefits has the Parish received from the purchase of the GM plant?
f. Did you vote for the group medical benefits and life insurance identified in paragraph 19 above?
g. Do you plan on participating in either of these plans if you are re-elected?
These lists could go on and on. Hopefully they will serve some purpose—that being to help citizens scrutinize the candidates and see through the smoke and mirrors of campaign rhetoric. Unfortunately many of the incumbents who are being opposed have displayed an attitude of entitlement—and are upset and dismayed that they must defend their actions, and inaction, while on the public payroll. Democracy works best when candidates are opposed and this year is a great opportunity for voters to grade out incumbents who want to be re-elected, – – as well as their opponents and those candidates running for open seats.