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New Leaders Council Names 2013 Fellows

NLC training 2012

NLC Fellows at a training in 2012 – photo courtesy NLC-Louisiana’s Facebook page

Louisiana’s chapter of New Leaders Council just announced the 2013 class of Fellows for what will be their 4th annual statewide institute. The impressive, diverse group includes educators, attorneys, business and non-profit leaders, public servants, activists and social entrepreneurs.

Since 2010, NLC has conducted progressive leadership training for small groups of emerging young leaders. There is a rigorous selection process for the free program which is part of national network of chapters. In the Institute, Fellows meet monthly over five weekends to learn “political entrepreneur” skills – which emphasizes the application of risk-taking in the civic arena to achieve political goals.

NLC has a likewise impressive list of backers and alumni. The national alumni page includes current and aspiring elected officials, including State Representative Ted James of Baton Rouge who was part of the inaugural Louisiana class in 2010. Donors include former Governor Kathleen Blanco who also served as the chapter’s initial honorary co-chair.

While NLC has been operating across the country quietly since 2005, people are starting to take notice. In fact, last Sunday, the discussion on MSNBC’s Melissa Harris-Perry show included New Leaders Council. Washington Monthly also published an article in September that sums up NLC’s work well:

The NLC is strikingly different from the typical DC think tank or policy shop focused on electioneering or fighting in the cable news trenches. For the last six years, its main operation is to run a kind of mini-graduate school in cities across the country for up-and-coming progressive political entrepreneurs, or “Fellows,” as they call them. In five weekends over five months, a class of around twenty fellows take classes in things like business, media and communications, campaign management, or political strategy. These fellows then serve as a network of communication and support as they move into their careers throughout the country.

And the NLC’s goal is not just to build a stable of potential congressional candidates—it has its eyes on every potential position of influence nationwide: city councils and school boards, boards and chairmanships of corporations, and of course state and national elected offices. The idea is to “infiltrate and take over all the levers of power—public and private, national and local,” says the NLC’s Executive Director Mark Riddle.

While local media and political commentators write off Louisiana as a permanent conservative stronghold, it will be interesting to see what kind of impact progressive groups like New Leaders Council can have.

Dirty Politics with Education Reform

FIRST: In case you missed it, noted education reform expert Diane Ravitch was in Lafayette recently speaking to the Louisiana School Boards Association about Jindal’s education reform plans. She wrote about her thoughts on the proposed reform:

The bill is as punitive as possible with respect to public education and teachers. It says nothing about helping to improve or support them. It’s all about enabling students to leave public schools and creating the tools to intimidate and fire teachers. This “reform” is not conservative. I would say it is radical and reactionary. But it is in no way unique to Louisiana.

Gov. Jindal is in a race to the bottom with other Republican governors to see who can move fastest to destroy the underpinnings of public education and to instill fear in the hearts of teachers.

You can read the rest of her scathing comments here – she closes with some good questions:

Why does the media let them get away with it? Why does anyone think that this will be good for our society in the short term or the long term? Why have the monied interests decided to privatize large swaths of public education? What happens to our democracy when the public sector is effectively whittled away or purchased by big money?

SECOND: Raise your hand if you’ve heard of Louisiana BAEO (Black Alliance for Educational Opportunities). This group is helping push Jindal’s reforms statewide among the African-American community, but let’s just skip the bullshit and see it for what it is — an organization pushing for the commercialization of education that is playing dirty politics in the process. Let’s check out the evidence.

LaBAEO’s leader is Eric B. Lewis, a black Republican activist and “consultant” from Baton Rouge. It seems he owns “Sable International,” a consulting firm through which he provides business advice to companies hawking education services while simultaneously pushing the legislation that would push more black kids into for-profit charter schools.

Here’s a release encouraging parents to attend an “educational conference” hosted by LaBAEO that says the following:

In addition to its support of the SSEE program, LaBAEO has worked closely with allies to create awareness and support for charter schools, homeschooling, magnet schools, and supplemental educational services or afterschool programs. LaBAEO has been committed to providing parents with information on a range of existing and emerging educational options in Louisiana.

When pitching the same “educational conference” to SES providers (supplemental education services – a cottage industry that has emerged since the passage of No Child Left Behind), LaBAEO called it what it was — a way to make money off parents -

LaBAEO is hosting the perfect opportunity for SES providers servicing schools in Baton Rouge, Louisiana  to engage parents and market their services (Brand Awareness).

It is difficult to say this isn’t another case of dirty politics when the guy trying to pitch Jindal’s plans to the black community is an active Republican operative. Here is Eric Lewis’ Republicans for Black Empowerment page.

Some African-American Democrats seem all too eager to jump on this bandwagon. State Representative Patrick Williams stood next to Lewis when he held a press conference in Shreveport in February and has worked closely with the organization.

Crawford Opts Out, No Challenger for Fleming in LA-4

Louisiana’s 4th congressional district has been represented since 2009 by John Fleming, a physician and Subway sandwich baron from Mississippi. He is best known for saying really stupid things and being completely out of touch with average people.

For example, does anyone remember how much he needs to feed his family each year? Anyone? Bueller?

If you said $200,000, YOU’RE RIGHT! (He said it all on live television – more at TPM.) To Fleming, class warfare means pesky sandwich artists having the gall to ask for health insurance or other benefits.

Let’s also not forget his wonderfully eloquent ramblings on the godless socialism of democrats – and of course his political partnership with conservative moral champion David Vitter -

We are either going to go down the socialist road and become like western Europe and create, I guess really a godless society, an atheist society. Or we’re going to continue down the other pathway where we believe in freedom of speech, individual liberties and that we remain a Christian nation. So we’re going to have to win that battle, we’re going to have to solve that argument before we can once again reach across and work together on things.

And to add insult to idiocy, the honorable congressman apparently doesn’t know the difference between real and satirical media outlets. He stood strong on his Facebook page against Planned Parenthood’s new $8 billion “Abortionplex” as reported by The Onion.

Wow.

So, the good ‘ol resurgent Louisiana Democrats have a candidate, yes?!

No.

First, it was rumored that Bossier City trial lawyer Kyle Robinson was considering the seat. Then he “told friends” he wouldn’t.

Next, former Shreveport fire chief Brian Crawford was said to be considering the race. Some reports said he was being courted heavily by Democratic officials in Washington, D.C., and Crawford himself even contributed to the speculation by releasing a statement:

While I would be humbled for any national party to consider me a worthy candidate, ultimately, it would be the great people of our City, District, and/or State that would be the ultimate influence on any decision I would make, now or in the future to seek elected office. It is in that light, of local interest and growing concern, that I am presently evaluating the level and quality of representation we currently and have experienced in Louisiana’s 4th Congressional District.

Some say Fleming would have a big race on his hands should the attractive and hard-working Crawford decide to jump in. Everyone loves a hero, right?

But, alas, the Daily Kingfish has learned that Crawford has decided not to challenge Fleming in this year’s congressional race, citing family concerns.

So where does this leave Democrats? Back at square one, it seems.

More importantly, where does it leave people who live in the 4th district? Stuck with an out-of-touch, ultra-conservative member of the 1% for at least 2 more years.

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