Monday, December 14, 2009

America's next great West Virginia

Courtesy of WAFB television, here's another dispatch from my hometown, delusionally referred to by its mayor as "America's next great city."

There's an old "Boudreaux" joke about how Boudreaux goes to the Westerns with his podnas and bets them John Wayne won't get his horse shot out from under him. About two hours later, as Boudreaux is paying off them ol' boys, he laments that he'd seen the movie twice before.

"Dey ain't no way I thought John Wayne would fall off dat damn horse three straight times," he says ruefully.

DEY A LOT of Boudreauxs in Baton Rouge.

here's what happens when you think the city will quit looking a little more Third World every year -- and that people with brains will one day quit leaving Louisiana and start flocking to the Gret Stet -- if only they vote down yet another bond issue. If only they keep looking at the public school system as OK for black folks but nothing they'd want little Johnny anywhere near . . . or is even worth caring about.
After starting up in Baton Rouge 25 years ago, Innovative Emergency Management is leaving the capitol city. They're moving their headquarters 900-miles east to Durham, North Carolina, saying Louisiana can't lure the kind of workers they need.

IEM officials say for the past several years it's been hard to get educated technology professionals to move to Louisiana. One of the biggest issues their potential employees have with the state - education.

"Telling them they have to put their kid in private schools, this is an additional cost and these are just practical considerations," said IEM technology vice president Ted Lemcke.

Lemcke says struggling public schools are just one concern his company's potential workforce has with Louisiana. IEM workers advise federal agencies on how to manage threats to public safety and property.

"Young technology professionals are attracted to centers like Raleigh-Durham or Austin or other places, and they don't see Baton Rouge as one of those technology clusters," said Lemcke.

Lemcke says it's the main reason IEM is moving it's headquarters and about half of their 200 employees from Baton Rouge to North Carolina.

"These are perceptions these candidates have, and these perceptions have caused us some challenges with getting candidates to accept positions here," said Lemcke.

LONG GONE are the days when you could have a sixth-grade education, hire on at Standard Oil and make enough money to buy a bass boat, with enough left over to move far away from the "colored" folks. In fact, the very dream of a middle-class life with three cars and an oversized house in suburbia is all but gone -- even if Boudreaux happens to have a degree from LSU.

And Boudreaux has seen this movie over and over again the past three decades or so.

Big John Wayne keeps getting his horse shot out from under him, yet no one ever thinks that a different movie -- with a different screenplay -- might be in order.

Such is life in America's next great West Virginia.

1 comment:

KeepDurhamDifferent! said...

LA is rising, despite our politicians and alleged shortsightedness. Dat Boudreaux is smart enough not to flush more money down the public school drain.

I have a home in Durham and in Baton Rouge, and I can tell you that while the schools are cheaper in Derm the flavor is not there. I have a daughter in NC who will probably go to public school; if she comes to live with me I will put her in the EBR public schools but only because I am an engaged parent who knows how to work the system: magnet schools such as BRHS and the Gifted and Talented program.

The savings in property taxes (they are high as cotton in NC) will make up for the cost of private schools, if required. Plus I get teachers that will listen to what I say and can be fired if they don't perform.