By Joey Kennedy
Alabama Political Reporter
HOUMA, La. – I’m in what I call my hometown. Deep south Louisiana, about 50 miles southwest of New Orleans. Yes, SOUTHWEST! In Terrebonne Parish. A hurricane alley. We’ve had many hurricanes down here. Hurricanes that played with us. Hurricanes that hurt us. Hurricanes that made us better than we were before they landed. Hurricanes that humbled us and emboldened us. South Louisiana, sadly, is hurricane friendly.
This is the real Cajun country. Not the touristy Cajuns of New Orleans or other southern parishes. Real Cajuns. The Cajuns of Dulac and Montegut and Theriot and Chauvin. The Cajuns who will sell you dried shrimp from their carports and give you something wonderful to eat from their kitchens – if they like you.
These people have been battered by storms and the economy. They’ve put up with horrible state services and predatory bankers. They hate politics and politicians.
They know they live in one of the most corrupt states in the nation.
Louisiana. Home of Huey Long. Former New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin. Former Gov. Edwin Edwards.
Corruption central. In 2011, Louisiana was judged America’s most corrupt state with the highest rate of convictions for people in public office. “WE’RE NUMBER ONE!!!”
That’s old news. Like Sheriff C.P. Rozands, who I covered as a cub reporter for the Houma Daily Courier in the 1970s. Rozands was always associated with corruption. But as a true politician, Rozands never closed his office or shut off media reports. He always welcomed reporters. Gave them access.
Indeed, he welcomed scrutiny, even when he knew that scrutiny would reveal his crimes – crimes, of which, he’d never be convicted.
April 19, 1987: Sheriff Dies in Hospital:
“The guilt or innocence of the Terrebonne Parish sheriff who faced more than 130 criminal charges will never be determined in court. Sheriff Charlton P. Rozands, 61, died of an undisclosed illness Sunday. Rozands had been hospitalized for nearly two weeks. His illness caused him to miss his latest arraignment hearing last Thursday. Numerous indictments handed down since December accused him of malfeasance in office and payroll fraud, among other things.”
Edwin Edwards was a popular governor of Louisiana. Maybe the most popular ever. When he won his last election to the governor’s mansion, bumper stickers declared: “Vote for the crook. It’s important.” Edwards was running against Ku Klux Klan official David Duke. Edwards won, which was right, but he eventually served eight years in prison for corruption. Well, he was corrupt. I spent a few moments with Edwards, in limos or sheriff’s vehicles as he visited Terrebonne Parish. He cared about people, no doubt about that. He didn’t care about corruption, no doubt about that. But he never closed his office to reporters. He just didn’t.
A Louisiana icon.
I say all of this to note that my home state, Louisiana, is not the most corrupt state anymore. Alabama probably has that title.
Our last elected Democratic Party governor, Don Siegelman, is in federal prison for corruption. Our first 20th Century Republican governor, Guy Hunt, was booted from office for corruption. We’ve had numerous legislators charged and/or convicted of corruption. County and city officials in Alabama have been convicted for corruption. We are corrupt. Accept it. And get rid of it.
And our current speaker of the House of Representatives, Mike Hubbard, is facing more than 20 charges for corruption, for using his office for personal gain and soliciting things of value.For being corrupt. A criminal. And unlike Rozands or Edwards, he closes his office. He won’t talk. He’s a hermit, where his corruption is concerned.
Of course, all politicians who have been charged with corruption believe they can still lead. Sheriff Rozands. Gov. Edwards. Gov. Hunt. Gov. Siegelman. Speaker Hubbard.
And about Hubbard . . .
He’s one of the big reasons we can’t pass a decent state General Fund Budget (SGF) to make Alabama work for its citizens. Hubbard is so concerned with defending his allegedly illegal activities, that he can’t gather the support needed to make Alabama whole.
We are lost. Because Hubbard thought, as Rozands did here in Terrebonne Parish and Edwards did here in Louisiana, and Hunt did in Alabama, and Siegelman did, again, in Alabama, that theycould get away with anything. Everything. Then, nothing.
So we suffer. We all suffer.
And our corruption wounds us. And we bleed out. And it kills us.
We, in Louisiana and Alabama, are us. And we’re dead. But I can’t wait to get my dead self back to Alabama. I am not fond of Louisiana.
Joey Kennedy, a Pulitzer Prize winner, writes this column every Wednesday for Alabama Political Reporter.
Email: [email protected].