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Our Best Defense 

Confused by having to choose among so many candidates for governor and other statewide offices? Not sure where any of them stand on the issues? You're not alone -- but there is help.

The Council for a Better Louisiana (CABL) has an election season Web site,, and it's a one-stop, nonpartisan election guide for anyone who cares enough to do some homework. The site has basic information about candidates as well as objective data about major issues confronting Louisiana. Best of all, the site is easy to navigate and fully integrated -- you can get to any of the major pages from anywhere on the site.

Because of Louisiana's shortened election season (a mere 45 days between qualifying and Election Day), CABL was not able to gather in-depth information on legislative candidates. However, the group has done a great job of tracking down the major candidates for governor and making them answer wide-ranging questions about the future of Louisiana. CABL's questionnaire topics include image and leadership, the economy (including jobs and coastal erosion), all levels of public education, fiscal responsibility, health care, public safety and public trust. You can search and view the candidates' answers by candidate or by topic, so comparisons are easy.

For example, if you want to see Kathleen Blanco's answers to all the questions, just go to the Web site, click on "Answers from Candidates for Governor," and then click on her photo. You'll see a biographical sketch as well as all her responses.

On the other hand, if you want to see how all the candidates addressed the issue of coastal restoration, you can click "How Do the Candidates Compare" and see their answers on that or other topics.

In addition to information about candidates for governor and their responses to issue-oriented questions, the CABL site also has biographical information about other statewide candidates and a brief interview with each. CABL asked each "down ballot" candidate two questions -- one about the importance of the office they seek and the other about their three top priorities once in office. It's not as in-depth as the survey of governor candidates, but it does offer a lot more information (and insight) than voters are likely to get from any other single source at one sitting.

The new Web site is part of CABL's "People's Agenda" civic engagement project, which the organization launched in 1995 to raise awareness of important issues at election time -- and to try to keep the debate focused on issues.

"We hope this election season will be about issues and substance, not personalities and political distractions," says CABL president Barry Erwin. "The more information voters have about the issues facing our state -- and how the candidates plan to address them -- the greater the opportunity we will have to move Louisiana forward."

While the Web site is extremely helpful at election time, CABL also has published a "fact book" about Louisiana that will help voters and elected officials at all levels get objective data about important "issue indicators." The 20-page "Louisiana Fact Book for the 2003 Election Year" is a timeless look at who we are, what we're doing and how much we spend in a variety of areas -- and more. You can call CABL at (225) 344-2225 for a copy, or you can download it from the CABL Web site. (From the home page, click "Library" and then "Publications.")

The Fact Book has already found its way into many candidates' hands. I've heard several of them spout statistics that come right out of the booklet. It's good to know that some would-be governors value objective data as much as we do.

So, if you're tired of the spinmeisters telling you what to think and where candidates stand on the major issues, check out CABL's Web site and get the facts. Knowledge is our best defense against the same old, same old.


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