General Honore’ says ‘Do a gut check’, Louisiana deserves better leaders

Throughout the 2015 legislative session you could find U.S Army Retired Lt. General Russel L. Honore in the political trenches explaining to legislators and citizens the results of environmental policies on the state. In his most aggressive stance, Honore started the GREENArmy, an alliance of citizend and groups focused on environmental policies.

Today, (July 1) the 68-year-old leader released an open letter through the New Orleans Agenda asking citizens to ‘do a gut check’ and answer “are we happy with the government we have?”

He, emphatically, is not.

“We desperately need better political leadership in Louisiana,” Honore wrote.
For nearly two years, he had been looked to as a formidable candidate for governor.

But, he stated he will not run for governor. Instead, he will keep “working with the good people of Louisiana to reorder our political priorities and hold all of our elected officials accountable to the people they swear to serve.”


His letter explains: 

“My fellow citizens of Louisiana, I come to you today as a humble son of this great state and servant of this great nation. I was fortunate enough to spend 37 years in the United States military, retiring in 2008 from the U.S. Army after my life’s work as a soldier. Today, I come to you with a heavy heart and request your understanding At the urging of many of my fellow citizens, I’ve spent the last few months thinking about running for governor of the State of Louisiana. I’ve been humbled by the support of so many, and it has laid heavy on my mind after observing the 2015 Louisiana legislature, which made it abundantly clear that we desperately need better political leadership in Louisiana.

As we look at the state of our State and its current affairs, I recall the stories the old folks used to tell on the front porch of our farmhouse. My family were subsistence farmers and they would gather on rainy days, talking about the promises of President Roosevelt and Governor Huey Long. Times were hard and the crops were thin. That conversation should have changed a long time ago. It has not. Times are still hard and the challenges–maybe you could say disasters–we have in Louisiana today are very much like they were in my youth.

Do a gut check: are we happy with the government we have? With who represents us? Think: Who has a record of working for us, and who promised to but actually went to work for their biggest donors? We must reshape our politics and reorder our priorities. We must get comfortable with speaking about the unspeakable, about how is it that we can be the nation’s third largest energy producer and second poorest state.

We must demand that our politicians put a priority on working for citizens, not their donors. Yes, I know, money has always influenced American politics – so much and for so long we’re not even very angry about it anymore. But if someone robbed your house, you would be angry. I’m telling you, big donors are robbing your house. For instance, donors were behind a law that allows hundreds of manufacturing facilities to enjoy a 5-year tax exemption, and then apply for a 5-year renewal, courtesy of our Legislature. Because of these tax exemptions, local governments are denied the tax revenue they need to provide essential services, including schools, police and fire, parks, roads and libraries, thereby increasing the tax burden on our working families. If that sounds too crazy to be true, please see the GreenARMY scorecard to learn how your legislator voted on that are important to you and your family.. Most of our professional political class put industry profits and their own over the safety of our citizens. That’s you and your family I’m talking about.

The tax code they’ve shaped has looted our state. That’s your money and your home. Your politicians argue and sign petitions and accuse the federal government of overreaching for trying to protect our air from being poisoned by coal plants, yet Louisiana can provide all the cheap natural gas our state needs. While we are champions of fossil fuels, we must understand that there is an expiration date on the Louisiana fossil fuel supply. Still, the Legislature and the Public Service Commission have all but gutted the solar industry in Louisiana — that means fewer new companies and fewer jobs — and last year our Governor signed a retroactive law that prevents our citizens from holding companies accountable for the destruction of our wetlands. Look, we all need our oil industry to be successful, we all depend on the gasoline they produce — I filled two cars up this week — but that does not give them the right to pollute our state and destroy our coast. My parents taught me to fix what you break and clean up after yourself. Your parents taught you the same.

We should have the best schools, hospitals, and roads in America because we’ve got the money, muscle, and brains to build them. But our politicians take pledges that drag our state into near bankruptcy, and our natural resources get looted by out-of-state and foreign companies that continue to reap tax breaks and pollute our home. Candidates running for office have to make their donor list public, and if you look at it, you’ll see the top contenders appear to have more donors from out-of-state industry than Louisiana donors. We must flip the script. Business-friendly doesn’t mean handing out corporate welfare. Pay your way and clean up after yourself.

That’s what those old farmers on the front porch used to say. When times were hard and getting worse, they still held themselves accountable. We should demand no less from those we elect. But those conversations people used to have on the front porch — one thing they always included was hope. They had hope. And today so do I. We are on the eve of a great time to be a Louisianan but only if our leaders are on our side.

I moved back to Louisiana after 40 years because I love Louisiana. In my youth sometimes Louisiana didn’t love me, but Louisiana gave me a great education at St Alma Elementary in Lakeland and Rosenwald High in New Roads. Louisiana gave me opportunities: I was able to put myself through Southern University because Mr. Grover Chustz, Mr. Raymond Honore, and Mr. Al “Carburetor” Davis gave me work. Every kid who grows up in Louisiana should have the opportunity to learn and work hard. Every school child from pre-K to twelfth grade should have an I-Pad and two teachers in an air conditioned classroom 10 months a year We need TOPS for all students in their junior and senior years of college, and if they stay here in Louisiana for five years after graduation, or teach in our schools for four years, they should have four years of TOPS. Kids who go to one of our great tech schools or community colleges should not pay tuition for their first two years of study. We need to recognize that our natural resources belong to us, not whoever donates the most to a candidate, and our resources include air and water that don’t poison people. Our hospitality and agriculture workers, our teachers and First Responders need to make a living wage. Our air and water quality must be monitored with 21st century technology, not 1970’s machines. Water management needs to move out of the Department of Natural Resources, because oil and water don’t mix.

For those who have offered themselves as candidates for governor and the legislature, please keep in mind that public service means serving the public, honoring the public trust and putting the people before donors and special interests We need politicians who stand up and lead, not lay back and cash checks. We need to stop being stuck on stupid, stop believing that slash-and-burn business methods create jobs, stop believing that starvation wages are good for the people of Louisiana. We need to invest in ourselves, not out-of-state political donors. Louisiana belongs to Louisianans. We must take care of our own because it’s our own who take care of Louisiana.

I want to continue to serve the people of Louisiana, as an advocate for the government we all deserve. . . but after nearly four decades as a loyal and proud soldier serving country, after much thought and reflection over the past several weeks, I’ve concluded that I can best continue to serve the state I love by, not by becoming a politician and running for governor, but by working with the good people of Louisiana to reorder our political priorities and hold all of our elected officials accountable to the people they swear to serve. The coming elections represent a golden opportunity for all of us: an opportunity to hold our elected representatives accountable and demand that those seeking our votes propose real solutions to the big problems facing our state and its hard working families. And to hold them to their campaign promises.

I look forward to spending the coming weeks before our statewide elections encouraging our citizens to become actively engaged in examining the records and policy platforms of the candidates for governor and the legislature. Our future is at stake, and we need everyone who cares about Louisiana to do their part by becoming informed, actively involved and turning out to vote.

Finally, I want to most sincerely thank my fellow citizens for their encouragement and prayers, and for the opportunity to continue to serve my state as a private citizen and advocate for a government of the people, for the people and by the people.

Follow Gen. Honore’ on Twitter @LtGRusselHonore


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