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Letters to the Editor 

HARRY CONNICK RESPONDS

I am responding to the "brickbat" you delivered to me and my administration in the Nov. 3 Gambit Weekly. You say that "the state auditors questioned the validity of more than $2.5 million the office charges to federally funded grant programs," that "essential payroll documents were missing from 10 programs," and that "auditors found several other laws in the accounting system." 2002 was my last full year in office, so I am compelled to address the criticism.

To begin, you are wrong to say that state auditors questioned the validity of our actions in 2002. The state did not criticize us at all; the state did not conduct the audit. The incumbent district attorney hired a private firm to conduct the audit, and it is the conclusion of their audit you have elected to publish.

When I left office on Jan. 13, 2002, there were no missing documents and we had ample support for all of the expenditures. The proof of this is in the fact that in all previous years relative to every state or federal grant our records were deemed more than sufficient to pass muster under any audit.

It is obvious that the people responding to the current auditor's requests or inquiries were not and are not familiar with the accounting system or the record keeping of the district attorney's office as it existed when I was district attorney.

I was district attorney just short of 29 years. Responsible and competent professionals administered my grant programs. We had absolutely no complaints from either state or federal officials about our financial system or methods. In other words, there were no "flaws."

Your "brickbat" was the first time I became aware of this audit. No one connected with this audit ever contacted me about any problems regarding its preparation. Had they done so, these problems would have readily and easily been resolved.

I am confident that a check of the public records of any of our grants will support what I say.

--Harry Connick

Editor's note: The audit was conducted by the private firm Luther Speight & Company, LLC. "It was a regulatory requirement of the State Legislative Auditor; it's required by the state," Speight told Gambit Weekly.

'A JOAN COLLINS MOMENT'

I am an openly gay man who lives in and loves the city of New Orleans. I own businesses and properties together with my partner, and we pay our taxes and take advantage of everything this city has to offer its citizens. I applaud the past and present administration for having an advisory committee for gay issues. I also think that Randal Beach and his fellow members have done a great deal to aid in the advancement of the "community" ("MAC Attack," Nov. 18).

But he and his committee's decision to leave the current administration was a disgrace and a letdown to every gay individual who has decided to stand up and fight for what is their own opinion and right. I can't believe that the gay community was helped in any way from such a Joan Collins moment. We all would have been better served if the issues would have been discussed and brought to the media table. Nothing speaks louder than standing your ground and making sure the issue never dies. I only hope that the menbers of the new advisory committee take their positions seriously.

Hopefully, Mayor Ray Nagin will also realize that gay issues in this city affect everyone. The new committee should not just be involved with typical issues such as Southern Decadence and Gay Pride. We all don't wait for those dates to come out of the closet. The gay community continues to be the wealthiest, most traveled minority in the nation with the largest disposable income. The city has a lot of gay tourist dollars that can easily go elsewhere. Mr. Beach has shown how fickle and temperamental some of us can be.

--Dean Howard


'MARX WAS RIGHT'

Your cogent column ("A Long Shadow," Politics, Nov. 18) concerning the lasting effects of the entitlement programs of the Huey Long era hopefully will be taken seriously by our new governor. Unfortunately, special interest groups expect something for their votes. It leads to Marxism: "From each according to their means; to each according to their needs." That is the Huey Long legacy. It didn't work in the old USSR, and it hasn't worked here, although we tried for decades.

Marx also said that capitalism didn't have to be defeated by force because it would self-destruct. People would discover that, by using their votes, they could get politicians to vie to see who could give them the most. Then, fewer and fewer people would be paying for entitlement programs for those with no stake in the system. That's why initially only property owners could vote. Perhaps that was too radical, but look at where we are today. The top 50 percent of wage earners pay about 96 percent of federal income taxes. The bottom 50 percent can keep voting more and more for themselves. Marx was right. Capitalism can implode.

We must all hope that Gov. Kathleen Blanco can say "no" frequently. Others haven't.

--Wayne Blankenship Jr.

ENVIRONMENTAL ACTION NOW

As mentioned in your Nov. 11 story "When the Smoke Clears," both gubernatorial candidates stated that they were too busy to fill out an environmental questionnaire in the primaries and to attend an environmental forum during the runoffs. At this rate, one would assume the candidates would be "too busy" to acknowledge the issues during their tenure as governor as well. This is not acceptable.

President George W. Bush has displayed through his actions that the federal government should not take a strong role in maintaining a clean, healthy environment, leaving it up to the state and the individual to take action. Therefore, the governor, the chief executive officer of the state, must lead this campaign. The already failing air quality in many parts of Louisiana is progressively getting worse, and -- through changes that Bush made in the Clean Air Act -- 1,000 facilities in Louisiana will be able to increase their air pollution.

While it is essential for our next governor to focus on improving our economy and education, it is not efficient to ignore Louisiana's environmental problems. If individuals and our leaders wait too long, the effects might become irreversible and/or overwhelmingly expensive. We need to see action now.

--Andrea Caldwell

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