Friday, May 20, 2005

It's all about Delay: The Bond Commission

The Advertiser has a good, fleshed out story on yesterday's bond commission vote that approved the date for Lafayette's fiber optic referendum. I recommend you sit down and read it through; this little moment has produced a nice view into the inner workings of this debate. And the view isn't pretty. You'll be treated to a glimpse of the proverbial sausage being made—and it's both distasteful and fascinating.

What we are seeing is a game of position and maneuver. The side of light in our story, the pro fiber optic side, is working to shorten the game, to reduce its exposure to attack and to drive on to the final, decisive battle as quickly as is possible and with all its forces intact. The dark side, aka the incumbents Cox and BellSouth, wants to stretch out the process in order to give itself more opportunity to develop effective lines of attack and peel off the popular and institutional support of what it regards as an illegitimate rebel alliance against the natural order of things. The massive dark star of an unstoppable public relations blitz hangs on the horizon, adding unspoken tension to the scene: when will it arrive? And when it does arrive, will BellSouth and Cox have developed any, any at all, ammunition which will be effective against the people of this unique Acadiana community?

With that in mind let's take a look at this latest skirmish. We have a white knight, Lady Blanco, letting the commission clearly know that her hometown has her support. Reports from beyond the newspapers indicate that the secretary of the treasury, Mr. Kennedy, was also instrumental in establishing a supportive atmosphere for the partisans from Lafayette.

Lafayette came asking the commission for two things: to be allowed to have the vote on July 16th and to be given permission to sell the bonds—without returning to the commission—if the referendum is successful. Every visit to the bond commission is an invitation to an ambush from the point of view of the Lafayette partisans and they weren't interested in exposing themselves again.

BellSouth and Cox inserted themselves into the discussion in order to try and delay matters as much as they could. For their forces, every visit to the state capital is an opportunity to roll out the dark-suited forces of their legions of lobbying commandos. They know that the light of public exposure will soon fade and that they only have to wait until it does to regain their accostumed influence.

There were all sorts of feints offered by the corporations. They want to say that the law that Lafayette is using is the wrong one. (They got lucky on that one before.)

BellSouth attorney Gary Russo objected to the state statute under which LUS plans to issue its bonds. It was the same argument BellSouth and Cox used successfully in court in February to stop an earlier bond sale and pressure LUS into calling the July 16 election.

But that was parried by:

Jerry Osborne, bond attorney for LUS, argued that LUS is using one of several laws available in which to borrow money, the second oldest in the state that has been used hundreds of times.

Nicholas Gachassin Jr., first assistant state attorney general, after a quick review of the district judge's ruling and state statutes, said he saw no reason the Bond Commission could not approve the bond sale Thursday contingent upon voter approval in July.

The committee went with LUS...

Then there were several different ploys trotted out to try and force a third feasiblity study onto LUS. (These guys like repetition: Cox's bill, (2) which is prefiled in the senate, is designed to force a second election—and fine the city 900,000 dollars we have the gall to vote against the desires of the corporations.) Apparently the outcome of the previous two studies didn't come up with figures that Cox and BellSouth like. So they went out and hired the Heartland Institute to retread a study that sounds an awful lot like the one that SBC (another baby bell like BellSouth) apparently commisioned during the Tri-Cities fight. I bet you can guess what that "study" showed. We've reported on the Heartland Institute before and they are no more credible today than they were then. So maybe, the corporate lawyers suggested, the bond commission should do their own study. Or maybe wait until the Public Service Comission sets up some new rules. But they should wait.

Delay, obscure, and obfuscate. That's the tactic.

The word on the street is that the lawyers for the incumbents will file suit today. That, should it happen, will be more of the same. Really, you don't need all the details that exert such a fascincation for me. It's all about delay....

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