National Conference of State Legislatures
[A report on the conference, held in New Orleans, Louisiana, 23-25
GroundSwell, July-August 2008]
It was 3,000 people smaller than the 2007 conference in Boston. The
NCSL reported numbers from 4,500 to 6,500 including 968 legislators.
Public Revenue Education Council paid for and manned an exhibit
Driving to New Orleans from St. Louis was easy and enjoyable. As
usual finding the Inbound Material Yard is tricky for exhibitors.
Getting to the convention hall dock requires getting a pass in to the
dock area and finding dock space to unload. A private SUV being
unloaded without dockhand help is not appreciated and must be done as
quickly as possible and get the hell out of the way. Outbound was less
difficult. David Geisen was available to take all remaining boxes out
the front door while security was encouraging us to get the heck out
of the way of the front door. (Thank You David.)
Another problem was the high cost of lodging with parking so I could
be near the convention center. David and I had a high traffic booth
near the Philadelphia booth, the host for the 2009 conference. The
aisle also led to the lunchroom. We were across from the popular
Terminix booth where everyone likes to collect a handful of rubber
roaches and a canvas totebag. We were also across from the National
Beer Wholesalers Association which many legislators had to pay homage
to since John McCain's wife is a major member owning a huge Budweiser
distributorship in Phoenix.
Before the opening of the exhibit hall David and I toured the Ninth
Ward and St. Bernard Parish areas hit hardest by Hurricanes Katrina
and Rita. The area included Chalmette National Cemetery and Chalmette
Battlefield (Battle of New Orleans). The cemetery was disgraceful. The
weeds were tall, the gravestones were covered with black fungus and
the walls and fencing were not repaired. The visitor center
at the battlefield was closed.
The area of the hurricane destruction was not as bad as I expected.
We noticed Home Depot was booming. Wal-Mart was rebuilding. Soulless
churches stood forgotten We saw many shotgun houses on concrete blocks
that did not float far because they were so close to each other. Many
of the homes were marked with Xs and Os and other letters and symbols
of which we did not know the meaning.
Homes were being repaired surrounded by neglected homes. There were a
lot of empty lots. I found it unusual that most of the empty lots were
clean with the grass cut. Homes far from the city core were being
repaired by the workers who worked at the nearby oil refineries.
People in large trailer camps were unaware of who owned the land the
trailers were on. The sprawl was awful and many buildings should never
be repaired, especially with government help. From the surface the
canals looked clean. I am assuming they were dredged. We heard
complaints that the new / repaired floodwalls are leaking. We were
told the Office of Land Deeds was flooded and most deeds destroyed.
Land ownership and land titles are being reestablished. We saw most of
the telephone poles with a dozen or more signs advertising various
real estate activities. It was also obvious that some of the
unoccupied homes were being stripped of useable building materials. On
the last day of the conference the local newspaper had an official
notice listing hundreds of properties to be demolished. Owners were
given 30 days to present written objections. There have been several
such notices and many buildings demolished.
My view of New Orleans was influenced by the Sun. The Sun does make
things look cleaner and brighter. When I told legislators that the
devastation wasn't as bad as I thought and that St. Louis has more
devastation than New Orleans they listened. Many parts of St. Louis
looks like a war zone. The big difference is the buildings in St.
Louis are made of brick. St. Louis once had nearly 900,000 people and
now has about 350,000. The destruction took decades instead of days
but there is more of it in St. Louis. East St. Louis is even worse.
New Orleans is Soul Food Heaven. David was skeptical when I took him
to the Dooky Chase Restaurant. He wasn't when we left. He didn't want
to share the air light garlic bread. He spooned his bowl of gumbo
clean. And of course wanted more bread pudding. The Chase family was
extra gracious. We had a wonderful meal.
David is a gifted exhibitor. He can attract and hold folks'
attention. He often had six or seven people focused on his Uniblocks
used to show a tiny city and its land values. He squeezes in a lot of
information on the proper way to pay for government while he is
squeezing a small rubber ball imprinted with a map of the Earth. His
squeezing of the ball (tiny Earth) is like the landowners squeezing
out economic ground rent for their benefit instead of for the
community's benefit. David often finishes his presentation without
handing out any literature we had available on the exhibit table.
This year the legislators were focused on flood recovery, clean
energy sources, the mortgage crisis, deteriorated infrastructure (and
wanting more federal money for public works) and off-shore drilling.
The Louisiana lawmakers were upset that the Governor vetoed their
$16,800 to $37,500 pay increase. The New Hampshire lawmakers laughed
at their friends from Louisiana and told them they are paid only $100.
The legislators from Pennsylvania were complaining that efforts are
being made to reduce the House from 203 to 161 and the Senators from
50 to 40.
We listened to many esoteric problems. From a booklet titled The
Earth is the Lord's by Dr. Robert V. Anderson we get a warning
from a legislator to always separate public policy from religion. She
explained that hours are spent by legislators not debating public
policy but on over and over and over dealing with legislators who have
literacy problems understanding current public policies and / or
proposed public policies. She went on to say mixing religion in to
public policy totally befuddles most legislators. Most lack literacy
in comprehending religions and even less in comprehending public
North Carolina Speaker of the House Joe Hackney is the new president
of NCSL. Because he won office after a major scandal in North
Carolina, he is now the leader to watch because he is going to bring
transparency to government. Transparency is a new buzzword in
government. As explained above most legislators will have to be taught
the meaning of the word transparency. Another word that caught my
attention is "state-friendly". It is used to imply that the
federal government is not always friendly to the states. State
lawmakers want federal lawmakers to make state-friendly policies and
remove policies that are not state-friendly.
We had a lot of information on PREC's exhibit table. Most of it came
from Common Ground USA, the Center for the Study of Economic and the
Robert Schalkenbach Foundation. Mark Sullivan and Nadine Stoner gave
PREC all the material they did not want to transport from the Kansas
City CGO conference.
We met a fellow whose father was named Henry George. Of course, he
wanted copies of the booklet Who was Henry George?
PREC was 59 in the pecking order out of 297 exhibitors for selection
of a booth at the 2009 NCSL conference in Philadelphia. PREC ordered a
larger booth for next year because it will be manned by Georgists from
the Philadelphia area.
For information about NCSL search NCSL.org. We plan to have four
people man the booth. We are also seeking legislators who will request
that the NCSL have a workshop on LVT and the Mayor of Harrisburg be
invited to address the NCSL.
Going to the conferences gives me a chance to go sightseeing. I took
a side trip to Avery Island, home of the world-famous Tabasco pepper
sauce and Jungle Gardens. To get on the island a gatekeeper pokes a
stick in your passenger window with a wooden cloths pen attached and
requests a dollar. On the tour you receive tiny sample bottles of the
Tabasco sauces. You learn the history of the sauce and see the
bottling and packaging of the Tabasco products. There is a Tabasco
Country Store with the Tabasco logo on every item sold. You get
numerous samples to taste including Tabasco ice cream.
The waste from making the sauce is not thrown away. It is used for
favoring of candy, gum, medicines, various food products etc. While in
nearby Iberia, Louisiana I ate the best seafood po-boys at Duffy's
In Sikeston, Missouri I stopped at the always busy Lambert's Cafe,
the home of the Throwed Rolls. You must stay alert because the waiters
are seeking your attention
to throw rolls to / at you.. You see rolls flying everywhere across
the restaurant. I ordered a carry out Chicken Liver (Fish Bait)
Dinner. With it I received Hot Rolls, cups
of Black-eyed Peas, Fried Okra, Macaroni & Tomatoes (Salad),
Fried Potatoes & Onions. The meal was huge, enough for three
meals. Across the road I bought a huge Black Diamond Watermelon. It
would not fit in an empty file box I had in the SUV.
My last stop was at the National Shrine of Our Lady of the Miraculous
Medal in Perryville, Missouri eighty miles south of St. Louis. Since I
am the Treasurer of the Jefferson Barracks (Nation Cemetery) Chapel
Association, I enjoy seeing various sanctuaries. This shrine was worth
the stopping. It is miraculously beautiful.