by Lawrence Chehardy
This past week candidate Eddie Rispone make two by mistakes in his campaign for governor raising deep concerns about his character and his position on issues.
At last Wednesday night’s debate Mr. Rispone proposed a constitutional convention to rewrite our state’s constitution. Without saying just what the convention would look like or what changes to the existing document he would want to make and what parts he would want to keep, Mr. Rispone would only say that as a business person he and his cronies would know best how the constitution should be written.
Throughout my career as Jefferson Parish Assessor, I fought against efforts by industry, big business, LABI, and so-called good government groups that had their eyes focused on their number one goal of destroying the homestead exemption. Even the media acknowledges that Mr. Rispone has left himself the option of going after the homestead exemption if a convention is convened. Calling for a constitutional convention was simply a way of sounding like good government but really calling for higher property taxes on homeowners and small businesses. Gov. Roemer tried this trick, and it effectively ended his tenure as governor before it got started. Others tried the same thing and failed as well. These forces will never quit.
One thing you can count on. If Eddie Rispone is elected governor, a serious effort will be made to shift the property tax burden from big business and industry to homeowners and small businesses. I have fought that fight in the past as an assessor. I know the signs, and I know the tactics. The homestead exemption as we know it will be attacked; and, if successful, higher property taxes will be on the horizon. Even the media acknowledges that the homestead exemption, supplemental pay for first responders, and state funding for elementary and secondary education can be a target for such a convention.
Eddie Rispone should be clear on just what he wants a new state constitution to look like. All he has to say is that he will protect the homestead exemption and oppose any effort to weaken it. His problem now is if he said that it would be too little too late. At this point it would look like he has bowed to public pressure and changed his position for the sake of his campaign meaning that voters will not know what his real position is. Will he later change his mind and revert back to the position of the special interest groups supporting his campaign?
Mr. Rispone’s position on the issue of a constitutional convention is a risky one at best. He won’t say what he has in mind. His failure to outline his goals of such a convention is dangerous. We should not be electing a governor who says that he will do what he thinks is best for the people of Louisiana. Voters have a right to know what it is that he proposes to do as governor, and so far, he has chosen to keep that a secret.
This past week Mr. Rispone attacked Governor John Bel Edwards’ military service and career. He criticized Gov. Edwards education at West Point as well as his service in the U. S. Army. Mr. Rispone also criticized the governor for coming home after his military service to set up his small-town law practice in Amite, Louisiana where lawyer Edwards wrote wills, contracts, and represented the people of Amite and the surrounding area in their legal issues.
Not only was Mr. Rispone out of line with his attack, he doubled down and refused to apologize for his outrageous remarks. In my mind this alone disqualifies Mr. Rispone from serving in any public office especially the Office of Governor. I hope voters send him a loud and clear message by rejecting him at the polls.