It was a local edition of "Wingin' It Wednesday" today as panelist Mike Stagg, Raymond "Lala" Lalonde, and Carol Ross joined "Mornings with Ken and Bernie" to discuss the controversy at the District Attorney's office, as well as the shortcomings of the Lafayette Parish School System.

Here's what the panel had to say:

1. Recently there's been plenty of turmoil in Lafayette Parish District Attorney Mike Harson's office.  Your thoughts on the revelations.

Mike Stagg started us off:

I guess people are surprised that there's a "pay to play" system in place in the OWI program.
It's a growth industry. It's a bubble. There's a lot of people being arrested. The TV stations warn you about the checkpoints. It's a little industry of its own, so getting out of the bust has become an industry of it's own.
Anytime you have this kind of power and influence over peoples lives, people are going to try to take advantage of it one way or another. It doesn't surprise me that there are "crimes" taking place within the justice system with people taking advantage of the power they have.

Carol Ross added:

Let me stipulate up front, I do like Mike Harson a lot, but the DAs office is not the place to say "I know nothing". There's a reason Louisiana is listed as the most corrupt state in the nation.
The local DA's office will not prosecute anyone that is even slightly politically connected. There's something wrong with that. And there's something fundamentally wrong with this 894 program. Allowing OWI defendants to avoid prosecution in exchange for a fee. That's just inviting corruption.
When it comes to your own office and you know nothing about it, it does not reassure the citizens that their interest are being vigorously defended. This is very disturbing.

Raymond "Lala" Lalonde countered:

Like Carol said, the 894 program, I don't remember exactly when it was passed, but it certainly needs to be tightened up.
Of course the DA by statue is probably the most powerful person in any jurisdiction, because he can determine if you're going to get prosecuted or not, he can drop the case, ect.
I subscribe to the Harry Truman philosophy, "The buck stops here", it stops with the person who is in charge, and when you are in charge and there's corruption in your office, you have a problem.


2. Lafayette Parish School Superintendent Pat Cooper is asking the School Board to appoint a cross section of Lafayette residents to a committee that will evaluate his recommendation for a $560 million tax proposal.  Cooper's proposal would result in about $560 million to fund programs and facilities. The money would come from a combination of property taxes and sales taxes over several years.  Do you think Lafayette Parish residents will go along with a proposal for more taxes?

Carol commented:

Dr. Cooper, I must say, I had high hopes for him. I'm slightly disappointed in this, because he said he would not come back to the people until there had been measurable improvements in outcomes. He said it's about $500 million less; wrong. They were asking for $561 million, and it was turned down by almost 70% of the voters. What part of this do people not understand? Forming another committee to waste people's time? This has got to stop. They need to sit back and look at this realistically. This will not pass, especially not a property tax.

Lala responded:

I tend to agree with Carol, I just hope I'm not asked to be apart of that committee because I would decline.
This is not a time for new taxes. We already have tax payer fatigue. I may be off a little bit, but I believe that Lafayette should go with independent school districts. The closer your district is to the people involved, the better chance you have of it being successful. Texas has something like 1,200 independent school districts, and they have excellent schools because they're local and people support them.
There are problems that need to be solved before we start looking at taxes.


Mike surmised:

I find it interesting, Texas has independent school districts, they also have very high property taxes that support those districts. Lafayette Parish should be ashamed of itself. You go to other parishes that are much poorer than Lafayette Parish and they have better funded school systems and they have better physical plants, and those physical plants affect students' ability to learn.
Who is this Butler guy? He's honored with more buildings than any other person in Lafayette Parish. You go to any school in Lafayette Parish and they're flooded with these butler buildings. You cannot have a secure campus with butler buildings because you could not execute a lock down if something happened.
My daughter went through the Lafayette Parish school system and went to great schools. She went to LJ Alleman and Lafayette High, the biggest problem with Lafayette High is that it was built in the 1960s for like 1,200 students and there's over 3,000 students there now. You cannot educate people in those conditions.
Lafayette Parish is being left behind, and in a global market Lafayette is not good enough to leave behind more than 50% of the students in this parish in an inadequate school system. You are going to wake up one day and there won't be a school system and you won't be able to attract the businesses you want here.

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Now it’s your turn to tell us what you think about today’s Wingin’ It Wednesday topics. Who got it right, who got it wrong, and who was way off? Let us know in the comment section.