Carlson: Citizens have info resources

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Following last week’s column regarding the state budget issues, I had an opportunity to visit with a reader/friend who shared with me that until that column, he hadn’t really been aware of the work of the Public Affairs Research Council of Louisiana (PAR).

But he had checked out the organization’s website and found it most informative.

I am delighted that he did so and hope that many more local readers, voters and/or interested citizens will take advantage of the multitude of avenues to participatory government and to better understand not just state government issues, but the opportunities to become more familiar with always important local issues as well.

PAR has been around for over 60 years, and is a nonpartisan, private, non-profit organization.  It’s described as an “independent voice offering solutions to critical public issues in Louisiana through accurate, objective research focusing public attention on those solutions.”

Looking for a non-biased, comprehensive review of the issues involved with Common Core in Louisiana?  Check out PAR’s “High Stakes for High Standards” discussion.  For a thorough look at public records issues, PAR is Sunshine Headquarters.

PAR publications (available online) include subjects ranging from education and health care to state finance, ethics and transportation.

And PAR’s guides to constitutional amendments consistently provide voters the best overviews of legislatively proposed changes to the state constitution.  Voters will see four constitutional amendment propositions on the October 24, 2015 ballot and many are probably looking for information on what passage or failure of the measures mean – and PAR provides that information.

PAR isn’t the only organization in Louisiana to provide such information.  The Council for a Better Louisiana (CABL) was founded in 1962, and defines itself as a “nonpartisan statewide organization working in the public interest to focus attention on issues most important to moving Louisiana forward.”

CABL “… works to improve quality of life for Louisiana citizens by raising awareness of critical issues, promoting sound policy, fostering civic leadership, and championing government accountability.”

Similar to PAR, CABL also features an informative website, although recently some if it’s information appeared a little dated.

Yet another source of information, particularly as it concerns business and industry in the state, is the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry (LABI).  While the organization serves as a powerful lobby for business, it’s website is filled with information that can give additional, and often important information about how state policy and prospective law can impact business, industry – and jobs in Louisiana.

Not surprisingly, local issues are the ones that often have the most immediate impact on our tax dollars, and fortunately Bossier City now offers live streaming of City Council meetings so voters can watch their local lawmakers at work.  To tune in from the electronic devise of your choice, simply go to bossiercity.org, and select the City Council – from there it’s pretty easy to watch each voting meeting’s discussion’s and the votes of your three council members.

Although the Bossier Parish Police Jury doesn’t yet feature internet streaming of its meetings, comprehensive minutes of those bi-weekly meetings are available online at the Jury’s website.  The same is true for the Bossier Parish School Board.

Information – accurate information – makes a difference in how we evaluate political, education, fiscal, and many other issues that affect our pocketbooks and our way of life.  And the better informed we are, the better decisions we make at the voting booth and beyond.

Marty Carlson is a columnist for the BPT. She may be reached at martycarlson1218@gmail.com