Posts tagged #Elliott Stonecipher

STONECIPHER: Initial Data ... Louisiana Flood of 2016

Photo source: KPEL 96.5

Photo source: KPEL 96.5

August 23, 2016

In the wake of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, I hit the road from the undamaged north to the devastated south ... all along I-10 and I-12.  The need for demographic information was pronounced, and given that Louisiana governors and legislators have never seen the need for a state demographer, I took up the slack.  That pro bono work, as it turned out, continued for years.

For this latest natural disaster hammering a huge part of Louisiana, no name will be assigned.  Regardless that nearly 1-of-3 parishes in our state have been to relative degrees damaged by rising rainwater, there is no such shorthand.  To the victims, it is just plain hell.

The damage assessments we are now beginning to analyze clearly measure the depth and breadth of the suffering.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency - FEMA - has already included 20-of-64 Louisiana parishes in last week's initial "major disaster declaration," as listed here.  

The Baton Rouge Area Foundation (BRAF) and Baton Rouge Area Chamber of Commerce have initially reported additional assessment data, published by The Advocate newspaper.  That report can be read here

Included in that analysis are nine of the hardest-hit FEMA-identified parishes ... Ascension, East Baton Rouge, East Feliciana, Iberville, Livingston, Pointe Coupee, St. Helena, West Baton Rouge and West Feliciana.

In these 9 parishes alone:

...  110,000 homes, just under one-third or 31%, are in areas which received flood water.  That is 34,000 homes ... the equivalent of all housing units in Lake Charles, reported by the Census Bureau to be 32,000. 

...  There are some 281,000 people in flooded areas.

...  Sixty-six percent (66%) of these homes were owner-occupied, 22% rented and others vacant; 

...  In the overall region, including homes flooded and not, only 15% have flood insurance.

In hard-hit East Baton Rouge and Livingston Parishes:

...  Just under 208,000 residents live in flood-affected areas, i.e., "experienced flooding."

...  Just under 82,000 housing units in these two parishes are within the areas with flooding, 17% of East Baton Rouge housing and 87% of homes in Livingston. 

...  In East Baton Rouge, 61% of these homes were owner-occupied, as were 70% in Livingston Parish.  Seventy-five percent (75%) of those East Baton Rouge homes carry mortgages, and 67% of those in Livingston do.

...  In flooded areas of East Baton Rouge, the total value of homes is $5.7 billion.  The comparable value of Livingston Parish homes is more than $9.0 billion.

Who Stays, Who Goes?

Given that Louisiana is already prone to population out-migration - just under 600,000 of us, net, have moved out since 1985 - should we now expect a new wave of such losses?

The most important part of that answer is that we were likely already experiencing the front edge of that even before this disaster.  The implosion of oil and gas jobs has previously caused that response, and may well have already done so again.  Whoever now moves away, we cannot expect to ever know the reason. 

Next, we must remember how many important ways this is not Hurricane Katrina.  Thank Goodness, we have not lost over 1,000 lives.  This is no political or other cause celebre.  There will be nowhere near $140 billion in combined public and private "storm relief."  This is not about race:  albeit early, this flood seems to have hit as many black as white residents. 

Too, about six-of-ten households with damage causing displacement are in residences owned or being bought.  The inability to sell a home and move, as with those who have lost their jobs to collapsing oil and gas prices, is determinative.  Throughout my career, the results of every polling question even remotely related to home ownership feature such attachments. 

More likely to leave are those who were renting their homes.  Still, will these be in a position to walk away from their job, the school in which their children are enrolled, or the needs of other dependent family members?  It is these tethers, renter or not, which matter most.  

A different question entirely is whether or not those hardest-hit will rebuild only to stay and face a repeat event in their lifetimes.  What is the chance that 20-inches of rain will again fall in 48 hours ... on the same householders?  Each who lost their home in the past two weeks will make that decision in coming months, if they have not already done so.

As we already know, there is nowhere near enough housing stock in this region.  This is another way to understand that all things considered, residents fare best - whether insured or not - staying and repairing their homes.  Those who are in a financial position to do so, and simply do not care to run this risk again - relatively few of the total - may well move.

All said, it is far, far too early to reliably predict any of these answers.  In fact, it was four years after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, in preparing for the 2010 United States Census, that I first believed I could "see" the Louisiana which emerged.

In short, Louisiana is taking another one on the chin.  My prayer is simple:  may all necessary help reach every soul who needs it, with real dispatch.  And, may no one use the attached, dramatic suffering to advance any partisan political agenda

Elliott Stonecipher


Posted on August 24, 2016 and filed under Louisiana.

STONECIPHER: Governor Edwards: Honor Louisiana's Taxpayers

Photo source: KPEL 96.5

Photo source: KPEL 96.5

 June 19, 2016

No matter anything else, many Louisianans believed John Bel Edwards would shoot much straighter with us than did ex-Governor Bobby Jindal. It gives me no pleasure to say that he is busily proving us wrong.

Our governor's already infamous tax-and-spend war against Louisiana's bedraggled taxpayers is anything but straight-up, regardless that his campaign portrayed him as honor-bound by his military code to so act. 

Many a fact and truth clearly debunk the governor's most basic assertions about Louisiana's financial condition. Although it is tempting to accuse him of taking advantage of a "crisis," such assumes there even is a crisis. 

Our here in the real world where Louisiana's tax payers live, labor and, well, pay taxes, basic facts - truth - instead expose tax-and-spend dogma, not a crisis. 

A key such fact is this:  with "only" the $2 billion in new taxes Governor Edwards has already authored and the state legislature raised, core state spending, after adjustment for inflation, is already set to be +23.8% higher than only 11 years ago.
The Numbers

Louisiana's budget and spending for fiscal year 2004-2005 is the perfect baseline for such analysis. As that spending ended, Hurricane Katrina hit, followed during the period since by Hurricanes Rita, Gustav and Isaac, the Great Recession's "Obama Stimulus" windfall, and the BP disaster.

... Louisiana's core, general fund budget for fiscal 2004-2005 was $6.8 billion (here). Adjusted for inflation, that is equivalent to $8.4 billion today (calculator here).

... Our comparable general fund budget for the current, now ending, 2015-2016 fiscal year is just over $9.0 billion (here).

(The exact amounts are $8,360,420,415 in 2004-2005, inflation-adjusted, and $9,042,826,000 in fiscal year 2015-2016.) 

... That is a real increase of $682,405,585, or +8.2% in core state spending since 2004-2005, before any new taxes.

... A bedrock fact in all of this should be population growth rather than partisan political whim. Between July 1, 2005 and July 1, 2015, our population grew a very weak +3.3% ... from 4,523,628 to 4,670,724 (data here and here). Now, it may well be dropping. 

... An on-going drop in Louisiana government employees should greatly impact any need for more spending. A go-to Associated Press article from 2014 (here) - still applicable I am told - explains this simply:

"Today, thatworkforce (of 93,500) hovers at 62,000 employees - fewer than it's been in more than two decades. Spending on payroll has decreased by about $1 billion annually."

With $2 Billion in New Taxes Already Raised, Edwards Threatens Doomsday 
Using ages-old tax-and-spending doomsday hokum,our governor bangs the table saying he MUST have another $800 million in new taxes in the five final days of the special legislative session. 

Bullfeathers. As explained, the $2.0 billion in new taxes already raised is +23.8% higher than in fiscal 2004-2005. Since then, Louisiana hauled in some $160 billion in extraordinary, never-budgeted revenue - over $140 billion from Hurricane Katrina alone. When that gusher of money ended, many programs - and much spending - remained in place. 

That is our problem ... it is a spending problem, not a revenue problem. That gusher significantly grew state government, and Governor Edwards & Friends are hellbent on locking it in with fiscal madness. 

An honorable state budget would match spending to available, existing revenue. 

Nothing in Louisiana is more endangered than a tax payer. State government has called the dance as 558,000 of us - net - moved away since 1985. Those remaining pay Louisiana's bigger and bigger tax-and-spend band. 

Governor Edwards does not care. If he did, he would honor tax payers.

Elliott Stonecipher

(Elliott Stonecipher does this work pro bono ... no compensation of any kind is solicited or accepted. He has no client or other relationships which in any way influence his selections of subjects or the content of any article. Appropriate credit to Mr. Stonecipher in the sharing - unedited only, of course - is expected. The use of his work without such credit to him is unethical and will not be quietly accepted.)

STONECIPHER: Shreveport Population Drops Below 1990 Census Count

May 19, 2016

The U. S. Census Bureau Population Estimates data for American cities shows Shreveport falling below its 1990 population total.  Between July 1, 2014 and July 1, 2015, Shreveport lost another -1,114 residents, dropping its total population to 197,204.  The third-largest city in Louisiana, Shreveport's population total in the 1990 decennial Census was +1,321 residents larger, at 198,525.  (SEE data here.)

In this most recent year of official Estimates data from the Census Bureau, Louisiana's recession deepened in some areas, but had not yet done so in others.  Lake Charles led in percentage population gain, up +1.76%, followed by New Orleans (+1.37), Bossier City (+1.35%), Lafayette (+0.96%), and Monroe (+0.11%).  Population losses in that most recent annual count hit Baton Rouge (-0.18%), Alexandria (-0.54%) and Shreveport (-0.56%).

Since the 2010 decennial Census, Baton Rouge (-0.39%) and Shreveport (-1.06%) lost population.  New Orleans, continuing to rebuild after Hurricane Katrina in August 2005, grew its population the most among top Louisiana cities, up +13.32%.  Also showing gains were Bossier City (+11.06%), Lafayette (+5.83%), Lake Charles (+5.66%), Monroe (+1.60%), and Alexandria (+0.35%).

Louisiana's population increased by +3.0% between the 2010 Census and July 1, 2015, below the national gain of +4.1%.  That gain of +137,425 Louisianans was the result of +107,922 from "natural increase," or births-minus-deaths, and +28,906 from net migration*.  While Louisiana, during the period, lost -10,567 residents who moved away to other states, it gained +39,473 international in-migrants.  That population subgroup is disproportionately traceable to undocumented workers, it is broadly accepted.  Later U. S. Census Bureau results from its American Community Survey data will be studied for confirmation / refutation of that assertion.

July 1, 2015 Total Population

New Orleans   389,617
Baton Rouge   228,590
Shreveport    197,204
Lafayette     127,657
Lake Charles   76,070
Bossier City   68,094   
Monroe         49,598
Alexandria     47,889  

July 1, 2014 to July 1, 2015 Population Change

Lake Charles    + 1,318    +1.76%
New Orleans     + 5,257    +1.37%
Bossier City    +   905    +1.35%    
Lafayette       + 1,212    +0.96%
Monroe          +    53    +0.11%           
Baton Rouge     -   417    -0.18%    
Alexandria      -   258    -0.54%
Shreveport      - 1,114  -0.56%  

2010 Census to July 1, 2015 Population Change

New Orleans     +45,788    +13.32%
Bossier City    + 6,799    +11.06%    
Lafayette       + 7,034    + 5.83%
Lake Charles    + 4,077    + 5.66%
Monroe          +   783    + 1.60%           
Alexandria      +   166    + 0.35%
Baton Rouge     -   903    - 0.39%    
Shreveport      - 2,107  - 1.06% 

*Total population change as reported by the U. S. Census Bureau includes a residual that cannot be attributed to any specific demographic component.

Elliott Stonecipher

(Elliott Stonecipher does this work pro bono ... no compensation of any kind is solicited or accepted.  He has no client or other relationships which in any way influence his selections of subjects or the content of any article.  Appropriate credit to Mr. Stonecipher in the sharing - unedited only, of course - is expected.  The use of his work without such credit to him is unethical and will not be quietly accepted.)

Photo source:  USA Country Pics

Photo source: USA Country Pics

Posted on May 19, 2016 and filed under Louisiana.

STONECIPHER: C.B. Forgotson: He Could Not Have Loved Louisiana More

January 5, 2016

No doubt surprising to many, there are among us in Louisiana a tiny number who have loved our state nearly every day of their lives.  This rare breed of Louisianans go to work for us in their teens.  Among them I have known and worked with more than a few, with none more remarkable than C.B. Forgotston.

Oh, yes, these are dyed-in-the-wool LSU sports fans.  We read T. Harry Williams' Huey Long not long before or after Catcher in the Rye, and while intending no slight to Mr. Salinger, Huey Long speaks more directly to our hearts.  Heck, many have carefully preserved their vinyl of Randy Newman's Good Ol Boys, and can to this day recite, if not sing, "Rednecks," and "Louisiana 1927," and "Kingfish."  On the radio, Irma Thomas, Doug Kershaw and Aaron Neville put our souls to music. 

These of us, northern and southern, Catholic and Protestant, country and citified, stand out in our measure of caring about Louisiana, and the next calamity always and certainly just ahead.  Going back to Huey Long at least, up to and including John Bel Edwards, these can name our governors, in order.  They not only know that the "W" in Governor Edwin W. Edwards' name stands for "Washington," they know Governor Edwards.  These have hands scarred and callused by politics and government, the true, and often awful, test of this commitment.

These are our very own endangered few.  They work for no pay, no matter how full-time the job.  There are almost none of these waiting their time and turn to work for Louisiana.  Such is fact for many reasons, not the least of which are the costs of loving too much when so outnumbered. 

These Louisianans are almost never in any way honored because they are not politicians.  They are, in fact, anti-politicians.  They know more than others, yet never cease their studying.  Thus armed, they come out firing names and acts of those who so terribly damage us from within.  No, there is no Hall of Fame for these.  If we cared enough, perhaps there would be.  Then and certainly, the first inductee would be C.B. Forgotston.

Regardless that most Louisianans did not know him, he was working for all of us, all the time.  He lived - lived - his hope for a Louisiana which would, at least, care enough to save itself.  I was blessed, truly, to be his friend and fellow laborer.  What he knew about us was encyclopedic.  How much he cared about our place was epic.

C.B. loved Louisiana enough to fight for it.  Yes, fight, for it.  He did not hide in the relative safety of merely umpiring our unruly contest for Louisiana's heart and soul, he batted and caught and ran the bases ... then called the balls and strikes.  No one I have known in a lifetime here ever did more, or did it with more love of what Louisiana has been before, and could yet be again.

No, C.B. never ran from our can-to-can't fight for a decent Louisiana future.  He was thus attacked from every one of the 360 degrees of our political and governmental compass.  To their regret, I trust, he was as likely to be disrespected by some in our news media as he was disrespected by the army of those in politics and government who, after they fake their Oaths of service, never give us meaningful thought.  Their studied self-service is our curse, and no one knew that better, or fought it harder, than C.B.

We the people of the Louisiana who C.B. so loved, cannot replace him.  That, to those who care, is his measure. 

Very soon, we will say our last goodbyes to this remarkable man.  I will do so with certain knowledge that I have never known a person who loved Louisiana and its people more.

Elliott Stonecipher

Photo source: NOLA

Photo source: NOLA

Posted on January 5, 2016 and filed under Louisiana.

STONECIPHER: Will Gov.-Elect Edwards See What Bobby Jindal Never Did?

Photo source: Flickr

Photo source: Flickr

Just after Saturday's election, I read yet another article with yet another warning to us about a smoldering fire in our oil patch.  Knowing one part of that subject very well - related population loss - I immediately thought about Governor-Elect John Bel Edwards, and wondered if he is aware of the urgently important details.  As far as we know, Governor Jindal never was.

Although the writer did not specifically direct his article to Louisiana, he might have justifiably done so.  Oil prices and what they mean to our state's already difficult financial condition is serious stuff, perhaps as serious as the last time all of this hammered us.  That was 1986 ... when the price of oil dropped 67% in just four months. 

Truth be told, Louisiana never recovered from that hit, a fact notably highlighted by our population drop-turned-stagnation since.  A solid marker of remembrance is our loss since 1990 of two of our then-eight seats in the U. S. House of Representatives.  That is a key measure of any state's national political clout, driven solely by population gain or loss.

The article detailed how the price of a barrel of oil might be headed to $25 in the near term unless OPEC takes its heavy foot off the production accelerator.  As I write this, with oil at $43, that price would equal a $200 million direct annual loss in state revenue.  Already underway are the hits to corporate income taxes and many other losses attached to every worker who will leave to find a job he or she loses here ... exactly as we suffered in the late '80s.

That is what we must focus on:  the loss of those workers, and the resulting population hit Louisiana may suffer.  We learned this lesson last time, but far after its fact.  We were hampered by how long it took to see critical yet basic such data from the Census Bureau and other sources.  By the time the data could be assembled, analyzed, reported and then tracked, our state, parishes and cities were already suffering, mightily.  We will have no excuse if it all happens again.

It is history worth specially noting ... right now.

In October 1973, when Israel attacked Syria and Egypt in its Yom Kippur War, OPEC declared an oil embargo to punish it, the United States, and other allied nations.  The harshly negative impact in the U.S., however, was mitigated in Louisiana and other oil-producing states by a resulting quadrupling of oil prices - $3.00 to $12.00 a barrel - in a 14-month period.

In July 1973, just before OPEC launched the oil-price rocket, Louisiana's population was 3,788,375.  As that rocket rose, so did our population, peaking twelve years later - July 1985 - at 4,408,113, a gain of 619,738 people ... 16.4%.  In case that gain does not impress, consider this:  over the thirty-year period since, our population has risen only 5.7%.  The U.S. population gain over those 30-years has been 6-times ours, 34.0%.

Neither I nor John Bel Edwards has a crystal ball, but I am certain we each understand that notwithstanding our state's budget mess and battles over the past several years, our condition can certainly worsen, and in a hurry.  As if Louisiana is not population- and economic growth-challenged enough, we should note that retiring boomers need move no further than Texas or the Florida panhandle to escape paying our state income tax.  Such is a striking seducer, and a danger both explicit and inherent in any tax increases.  

If, as the last time, job losses already underway are the canary in a coal mine of more trouble ahead, our governor-elect may serve but one term in office, as Governor Buddy Roemer did.  Given my presence on Governor Roemer's political team, I learned that the hell such a downward spiral causes is a thing we should always prepare for, in every way possible.

Plenty of us who keep up with these subjects can make a case for $70 West Texas Intermediate crude a year from now.  But, even if we are thus blessed, and oil prices change only positively into and through our state's economic future, there remain many, many more population and demographic risks ahead for Louisiana than at any time in our history.

Necessarily, we can do nothing about these very real risks unless and until our leadership acknowledges their existence.  With our new governor, we at least have that hope.

Elliott Stoneciper
Shreveport, Louisiana.

(Elliott Stonecipher is in no way affiliated with any political party, and has long been a registered "Other," or Independent.  He has no client or other relationships which in any way influence his selections of subjects or the content of any article.  His work is strictly in the public interest, with no compensation of any kind solicited or accepted.  Appropriate credit to Mr. Stonecipher in the sharing - unedited only, please - of his work is appreciated.)