It’s not often that this space features a state level candidate, but the opportunity to visit with Louisiana Lt. Governor candidate John Young provided a discussion the result of which strongly suggests that local voters pay more attention to this race because there’s a whole lot more to this office than most of us might know.
This isn’t Young’s first foray into politics. His extensive background includes experience as a prosecutor and assistant district attorney, Chairman of the Jefferson Parish Council, Councilmember-at-Large, and Jefferson Parish President – among other elected and appointed positions.
“First and foremost,” Young said, “ what I want to do is work as part of a team with the new governor and legislature to secure a better and stronger future not only for ourselves, but for our children and our grandchildren.”
He went on to explain the functions of the Lt. Governor’s office, which in large part concentrate on culture, recreation and tourism. From the culture standpoint, most of the state’s museums fall under the Lt. Governor’s office – although some are administered by the Secretary of State’s office. Every state park falls under the jurisdiction of the Lt. Governor, and Young lamented that both the museums and parks have suffered significant funding cuts in the last couple of years.
Concerning the parks, Young said, “Those are economic engines for the communities that they’re located in. When people go to these parks, they buy gas, they buy groceries, they buy food.”
Further, said Young, “Tourism – a lot of people who are not in the tourism business or industry say ‘why does tourism matter?’ Well, tourism matters because it’s an $11.2 billion industry in the state of Louisiana, and these are all based on official numbers from the Lt. Governor’s office. It brought 28.7 million people to the state of Louisiana in 2014, employs over 200,000 people statewide, and here’s the big number — it generated, in 2014 alone, $836 million to the state treasury. That’s $836 million we don’t have to collect from you and me … money we can use to provide necessary goods and services to our people.”
“Bottom line here is the Lt. Governor’s office, unlike most state offices and agencies, is a net producer of revenue. It produces much more revenue than it costs to operate. For every dollar we invest in tourism, we get a $38 return,” Young explained.
Young noted that the Lt. Governor’s office also administers the Main Street Program, which helps revitalize downtown and historic areas throughout Louisiana, “… which brings blighted properties and vacant properties that are non-producing properties back on the tax rolls … eliminates blight and it also increases economic activity …”
And, said Young, every dollar invested in this program sees a $28 dollar return.
He also detailed the Lt. Governor’s office’s responsibility to promote retirement in the state of Louisiana, noting, “ … we’re about to see the wealthiest class of retirees this nation has ever seen with the baby boomers approaching retirement.”
According to Young, our relatively low cost of living, relatively moderate climate, and the proximity of residential areas to university or college campuses (desired by many retirees) ought to put us at the top of the list. Instead, said Young, Bank Rate recently rated Louisiana fifth from the bottom of desirable retirement destinations.
“… We ranked fifth from the bottom for one primary reason: crime – the reality of it and the perception of it,” said Young.
“So that’s the one thing that separates me from all the other candidates in this race. I’m the only candidate in this race that has worked as an assistant district attorney and prosecutor and has any law enforcement background. So not only does it (crime) raise its ugly head in terms of retirement, but in tourism,” said Young.
“But we do have to fact this one fact: New Orleans is not the end all, be all, but it is a magnet that draws people to the state of Louisiana and if we don’t get crime under control in New Orleans and particularly in the French Quarter, we are going to kill the goose that laid the golden egg.”
Reducing crime and increasing international tourism are priorities on Young’s list of to-dos, along with ensuring the consistent expansion of the state’s tourism industry.
“It’s a growth industry and it’s a clean industry,” he said. “You know, in 2013, we had a Super Bowl in the state and a female Final Four, so two major events. And to a lot of people, those numbers couldn’t be surpassed. But in 2013 we generated about $786 million to the state treasury, and without one in 2014, without a Super Bowl or Final Four, $836 million. So it’s a growth industry.”
Young is also a strong advocate of establishing a “major events or special events fund” in the Lt. Governor’s office to allow for “flexible and nimble” responses to major sporting event or any major event seed money to compete with other states in attracting major events to Louisiana.
“So what I want to do is work with the new governor and new legislature and with local governments to make sure that we make our great state an even better and safer place to live, work, raise a family – and visit,” said Young.
Marty Carlson is a columnist for the BPT. She may be reached at email@example.com