Hey Louisiana State Legislators, I Found Some New Jobs

Before we get to these new jobs I found for our state, I have a question. What profession has 10x the education/training requirements of an Emergency Medical Technician? If you guessed Cosmetologist, you are correct! I’ve written about the grossly inequitable occupational licensing schemes in Louisiana before, but the Institute for Justice has a new report out that shows us just how bad it is.

Some highlights from the results of the study in Louisiana include our state ranking 43rd in most burdensome licensing laws, and the 8th most extensively and onerously licensed state. Out of 102 occupations in the nationwide study, Louisiana licenses 71. That’s more than any other state and 28 more than the national average.

If our state legislators want to get serious about improving entrepreneurship and income inequality in Louisiana, they should start by taking a hard look at eliminating a large number of these arbitrary impediments.

Council Gets Back to Black vs White Version 2.0

Unfortunately, it appears I was correct in my last post. Possibly overlooked as a result of the more advertised decision to support NIMBYs and hamper Tulane’s new football stadium plans, was this little nugget from Thursday’s (May 3, 2012) New Orleans City Council meeting.

Seriously, what else could Hedge-Morrel and Johnson’s childish reaction signal? Yes, race politics are still alive and well in this city.

I had hoped to use this post to take the rare opportunity to praise Johnson and Hedge-Morrel for opposing the vote yesterday on the Interim Zoning District, but alas, it must be overlooked as a result of their final actions of the day.

Council Gets Back to Black vs White

Don’t worry, I already expect racism accusations in response to this post, but it’s something I feel needs to be put out there before any decision is made by the New Orleans City Council.

There’s been a lot of discussion recently about changing the way we elect Councilmembers At-Large. Currently, all candidates run together on one slate and the top two vote getters receiving over 25% of votes are elected. Apparently, a number of elected officials have a problem with this. Their stated reasoning is that those elected are not chosen by a 50%+ majority, and therefore do not “represent” the majority. Their solution is to have two separate seats on the ballot so winners have a clear majority.

I do not believe their stated reasoning is the truth, unfortunately. Based on the comments centered around the council runoff between Stacy Head and Cynthia Willard-Lewis, I fully believe what’s actually going on is a way to underhandedly assure that one at-large seat is held by a white person and one seat is held by a black person. Of course no one could ever publicly state that that is what’s happening, but why wouldn’t it be? Members of the black New Orleans political class continually insist that race is the reason for every perceived slight.

How else could you interpret comments like Willard-Lewis saying in reference to all portions of the community feeling “they have access and that their voices will be welcome, respected and heard?” Or even more blatant, New Orleans native and former mayor of Atlanta, Andrew Young, stating “If you don’t have somebody representing you in public office, you really don’t get your share.” Translation; white people only represent other white people.

As a white person, I find these comments to be completely offensive. Also, Willard-Lewis and Young are being incredibly irresponsible. Instead of using their positions of influence to try and help remove economic, societal, and governmental barriers they prefer to hold their community back. Real opportunity and achievement is colorblind and until they stop viewing the world through a racial lens they will only fall further out of touch with the New Orleans of 2012 and beyond.


City Council Not Hailing A Cab Anytime Soon

Numerous times I’ve pointed out some of City Councilman Jon Johnson’s dumber comments and ideas. However, I’m happy to say I agreed with him last week. While reading over the Times-Picayune wrap-up of the new taxi regulations, was this encouraging statement, “I don’t know how we can rationally say to someone that … (the) investment can be taken away from him or her without properly compensating that person.”

Johnson’s comment was in reaction to the terrible passage of changing the characterization of Certificates of Public Necessity and Convenience (CPNC) from property owned by driver’s or cab companies to privileges bestowed to them at the mercy of the city council.

It’s bad enough that New Orleans arbitrarily limits the number of CPNCs, but now they’ve made a cartelized system even worse for individual owner-operators and smaller cab companies. What single driver would go to the effort and expense if his livelihood could be revoked at any moment, while also prohibiting him from selling his CPNC to start another career? I highly suspect this was a move requested by companies like United Cab to give them some protection on the back end to make up for the costs they will incur to make the required upgrades. Under the guise of “consumer protection” and “tourism” the council was only too happy to oblige.

Not Stopping For Directions

Were it not for GPS I would probably get lost driving around New Orleans quite frequently. The network of street signs in this city is deplorable! However, instead of just complaining about it, I did some research into how it could be better.

The Traffic Division of the Office Of Public Works is responsible for maintaining city traffic signs and lights. This entire division has 11 employees. They have an annual budget of around $1,800,000. That amount is only 10% of the total public works budget and only 0.36% of the total General Fund of the city of New Orleans. Based on 2010 Census figures, that works out to $5.25/year that is paid per resident of New Orleans to finance this aspect of the city. How many other things in life do you pay just $5.25 a year for that affect most people daily?

I bring up all these numbers for one reason. The city of New Orleans should issue a request for proposals to interested companies to take over maintenance and installation of traffic signs and lights from the city.

Other U.S. cities have already done this, notably, New York City, so it’s not like this is a revolutionary idea. The two biggest arguments in favor of this are cost and accountability.

The private company managing this will undoubtedly have lower labor costs mostly due to using private health insurance for their employees (if they choose to provide it) and 401k retirement accounts instead of high cost public employee pensions. Second, this aspect of daily life will finally have accountability on its side. The city can write into the contract a clause that allows the contract to not be renewed if the company isn’t performing to the public’s satisfaction.

So, what we have here is a win-win. Taxpayers pay less for better service and new jobs would most likely be created (I am not aware of an existing company that could absorb the increase of work here without adding staff). To prevent job losses by privatizing this function of Public Works, existing city employees can be shifted to other vacancies or apply to join the new company.

Ideally, not only will this lead to all streets being clearly and properly marked but this also opens up New Orleans street signage and lighting to innovation. Can you imagine a world where major thoroughfares have all traffic lights synchronized? How many of you would benefit from that? Here’s hoping to a future of New Orleans drivers not spent slowing at an unfamiliar intersection searching frantically for a street sign.