Recent editorials from Louisiana newspapers:
The Courier of Houma on a resettlement having consequences beyond a local island:
Residents of Isle de Jean Charles are closer to getting a new home to escape the flooding, hurricanes and rising seas that have eroded the island over the years.
The state and the Biloxi-Chitimacha-Choctaw Indian tribe are nearing the purchase of land in Schriever that will allow them to build a neighborhood there.
The island is one of Terrebonne Parish's most isolated communities, home to generations of mostly poor Native Americans. Its plight serves as a harbinger for more populated local communities farther inland that scientists predict will soon face similar fates as the Gulf of Mexico encroaches.
Isle de Jean Charles' population has dwindled to about 100 people in three dozen families. Hundreds of others have left as the island has eroded from about 22,000 acres six decades ago to 320 acres today.
Some environmental groups and media outlets have misleadingly characterized the island's residents as America's first climate change refugees. But the real culprits have been at work for decades:
—Construction of levees to prevent flooding along the Mississippi River cut off the sediment that built and sustained the island and most of south Louisiana.
—Without the Mississippi's sediment and fresh water, land within the delta has sunk more rapidly as the mud compresses. In recent years, scientists have measured sea levels along parts of the Gulf Coast rising at about 2-3 millimeters a year. That alone wouldn't be a cause for major alarm. But the land is sinking at about twice that rate — 6-7 millimeters a year.
—Wave action from the Gulf has eroded the island.
These same problems threaten the rest of Terrebonne and Lafourche with major flooding scientists predict will worsen over the next 50-100 years. Global warming will increase the number of coastal communities that face similar consequences. Rising seas will exacerbate the problems south Louisiana has dealt with for decades.
That is why this experiment, funded by a $48 million federal grant, has consequences for everyone in Terrebonne, Lafourche and other coastal communities. The effort seeks to resettle communities that face inundation while maintaining their cultural identity.
That's an important goal, one that will require working through a lot of complicated and emotional issues. Let's root for its success, with the understanding that there will be some trial and error along the way.
The Advocate welcomes the head of the Louisiana Treasury:
While the agenda was mostly routine this month, it was a big meeting of the State Bond Commission for its new chairman, John Schroder.
The former state representative from Covington is now head of the Louisiana Treasury, having been elected in a November runoff to fill the unexpired term of John N. Kennedy.
Kennedy was elected to the U.S. Senate in 2016, and in the meantime his top assistant, Ron Henson, capably filled in as treasurer until a special election could be held.
It was a challenging campaign, in part because the treasurer's office — despite Kennedy's high profile in state politics — is relatively obscure to voters. As treasurer, Schroder will chair the bond commission, sometimes an arena of controversy but most often a body that — as it did in December — reviewed and approved plans for bond issues, and thus borrowing money, for local governments and occasionally the state government.
The treasurer's main power is to set the bond commission agenda, but he can be heavily outvoted by the governor's designees and legislative leaders. Schroder will also oversee the state's bank accounts, including making sure that the state earns interest readily on any idle funds.
Again, that's not a particularly gripping role to voters when compared to a governor who wields a lot of power over agencies that more directly affect lives and the future of local communities.
For that reason, voter turnout in the October general and November special elections was pretty dismal. Much of the turnout was in Orleans Parish, where the election coincided with voters choosing a new mayor and City Council. Still, the treasurer's race attracted several Republican candidates and Democrat Derrick Edwards, with Schroder facing the latter in a runoff and winning fairly handily in a largely Republican Louisiana.
"I'm humbled and honored to serve, and you have my commitment and word that I'll work very hard," Schroder said at his first meeting of the bond commission.
We congratulate him on his election and hope that he will be a constructive public servant. This is a job where performance is more important than posturing, although Kennedy did his share of that as a self-appointed overseer of state spending.
Perhaps an underappreciated role of the treasurer is as one of the state's spokesmen and liaison with Wall Street bond rating agencies. The state's borrowing is cheaper with better bond ratings, but Wall Street is not concerned with how loud a treasurer we have but rather wants to hear in collaboration with the governor's office what the state is doing to responsibly manage its money.
The treasurer doesn't spend the state's dime; he watches it in the state bank account. It's an important distinction that Schroder should keep in mind.
Lake Charles American Press on Pinnacle Entertainment being acquired by Penn National Gaming:
Penn National Gaming will become one of America's leading gaming companies after an announcement earlier that they are acquiring Pinnacle Entertainment in a $2.8 billion cash and stock transaction.
The deal means Penn National will grow from 29 properties to 41. Four properties in Louisiana are leased and operated by Pinnacle, including L'Auberge Casino Resort in Lake Charles, L'Auberge Casino and Hotel in Baton Rouge and the Boomtown Casino and Hotel properties in New Orleans and Bossier City.
Casino-goers may be concerned about any changes that could occur with this kind of acquisition. But Pinnacle and Penn National officials both said it will make the gaming company more efficient.
Eric Schippers, Penn National's senior vice president of public affairs, said they intend to keep the L'Auberge brand name and "think very highly" of the brand. He added that the Lake Charles casino resort is "really one of the best-in-class."
It's clear that both companies have a shared respect for each other and how they run gambling operations.
Schippers said the deal "combines two of the leading gaming companies" and will offer a better experience for guests.
The deal won't likely close until nine months or a year from now. Gaming boards in each jurisdiction have to give their approval.
Troy Stemming, Pinnacle's executive vice president of government relations and public affairs, said Pinnacle wants the transition to be as seamless as possible until the deal closes. He said the acquisition provides the best for shareholders, guests and employees.
With the deal, Penn National will have access to new markets in Lake Charles and Baton Rouge.
A major acquisition like this is certainly a big gain for Penn National. What's encouraging is that they and Pinnacle plan on working together to ensure a quality experience at L'Auberge in Lake Charles and other casino properties.