Sunday, November 11, 2018

Honor to Whom Honor is Due


(This column originally appeared in the Town Talk on Sunday, November 11, 2018.)

Honor to Whom Honor is Due

One hundred years ago today, on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month of 1918,  the “war to end all wars” finally came to an end. “The Great War” mobilized over 70 million military personnel making it one of the largest wars in history. The following year President Woodrow Wilson issued a proclamation declaring the nation’s feelings about what the day meant to Americans. That was just the beginning of recognizing today, November 11, as a special day to honor our military veterans.

We honor our veterans for their service. Whether they were drafted or volunteered, they served us and our country, fulfilling their obligation with honorable service. For that we are grateful.

We also honor our veterans for their sacrifice. Many of us will never know the cost of their service. Boot camp alone is an incredible sacrifice! But long tours away from family, emotional hardship, physical danger, some were even wounded or injured – all of these are sacrifices that we honor.

We also honor our veterans for their love. Soldiers learn to love in a very unique way, a way that can best be summarized by what Jesus said in John 15:13. “Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.” We honor our veterans because they exhibit the greatest love of all – the willingness to lay down their life for their friend.

The word veteran is generally understood to describe a former member of the armed forces. However, it comes from the Latin word “veteranus” which simply means mature, experienced or old. I believe that by extension all Christians are called to be veterans in our service of Christ. We’re not to be “flash-in-the-pan” Christians or “one-hit-wonders” but rather to develop a life of consistency as we serve Jesus.

Jesus talked about this in Luke 9:62 when He said, “No one, after putting his hand to the plow and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.” Jesus called us to keep looking forward, not looking back over our shoulder at what we’ve left behind. He tells us to fix our eyes ahead. You don’t become a veteran over-night. And you don’t become a veteran by fixating on your past. Once you’ve committed your life to Jesus it’s time to follow through.

And there are no guarantees that things will be easy. Sometimes people have mistakenly communicated the idea that when you accept Jesus life becomes a bed of roses. But the reality is that Christians enlist in a spiritual battle with unseen forces that war for our soul. Paul described this warfare in Ephesians 6:12-17 when he urged us to “take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day.” 

We can’t give up just because it gets tough. In 2 Tim 2:3 Paul urged young Timothy (and us) to “suffer hardship with me, as a good soldier of Christ Jesus.” And in Gal 6:9 he calls on us to “not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary.” So press through and don’t give up, Christian, because you, too, are called to be a veteran – a veteran follower of Jesus!

Today on this Veteran’s Day we pause to honor the veterans among us because it is proper to give honor to whom honor is due (Rom 13:7). Thank you for your service, your sacrifice, and your love. We are grateful for your example of setting others before self and pray that you will feel our appreciation and honor. And we never get tired of saying, “Thank you for your service!”

Friday, October 26, 2018

2018 Election Recommendations

Source: Public Domain
I'm honored that many of my friends ask for my recommendations on elections. Hopefully it's because they trust me, even though I am involved in politics! LOL! In previous years I would give my recommendations on candidates for specific offices, but I've largely stopped doing that. In the last few years I’ve essentially limited my recommendations to Constitutional Amendments, mainly because they are often hard to understand, and only occasionally have I spoken about a candidate or cause I feel strongly about.

This year the main elective offices before us are the following:
  • LA Secretary of State
  • US Representative in the 5th Congressional District
  • District Judge for the 9th Judicial District
  • Several Rapides Parish School Board members
  • Mayors of Alexandria, Ball, Boyce and Lecompte
  • Councilman-at-Large and District 2 Councilman of Alexandria
  • Aldermen/Councilmen of Ball, Boyce, Glenmora, Lecompte, Forest Hill, McNary, and Woodworth
  • Some area-specific taxes and propositions.

I'm going to keep my mouth shut in those races and just share some thoughts about the Constitutional Amendments. 😃

There are six amendments on this ballot, plus a state-wide vote on the expansion of gambling for fantasy sports. I'll give my quick recommendation on each issue, and then a more detailed explanation for each one below. BTW, a GREAT resource is the Public Affairs Research Council of Louisiana's excellent non-partisan guide, which I highly recommend. And please note that the wording of some amendments can be confusing - sometimes you vote "YES" for something you DON'T want and "NO" for something you DO want! Whew! So without further ado, here are my recommendations:


  1. AMENDMENT 1: Felons in Public Office. YES.
  2. AMENDMENT 2: Unanimous Juries for Felony Cases. YES.
  3. AMENDMENT 3: Allow Local Governments to Share Resources. YES.
  4. AMENDMENT 4: Diversions of Dedicated Transportation Funding to State Police. YES.
  5. AMENDMENT 5: Tax Exemptions for Property in Trust. YES.
  6. AMENDMENT 6: Large Tax Increases on Homes. YES.
  7. BALLOT ITEM: The Louisiana Fantasy Sports Contest Act. NO.


Now let's take a look at each amendment a little more closely:

1. AMENDMENT 1: Felons in Public Office.
This amendment would prohibit felons from holding or seeking elective public office for five years after completing a sentence. (This restriction would not apply to felons who are pardoned.) Voters in 1998 approved a similar constitutional amendment that prevented felons from seeking and holding public office for 15 years after completing their sentence. However, in 2016 the Supreme Court threw out the amendment because the wording on the ballot didn’t exactly match what was passed by the Legislature. This new effort continues the same philosophy of trying to clean up the reputation of Louisiana having "the best politicians money can buy," but shortens the time that a felon can’t seek or hold public office to 5 years. In my opinion, this is needed if Louisiana is going to break its reputation for corruption in politics.
MY RECOMMENDATION: YES

2. AMENDMENT 2: Unanimous Juries for Felony Cases.
US President John Adams wrote, "...it is the unanimity of the jury that preserves the rights of mankind." However, Louisiana is one of only two states that allow for felony trials to be decided without a unanimous decision (Oregon is the other). Only 10 out of 12 jurors have to vote guilty for a person to be convicted. This was originally instituted in the 1898 Louisiana Constitution as 9 out of 12, and then revised in the 1974 Constitution as 10 out of 12. The reason appears rooted in racism of the past, as the Official Journal of the 1898 Constitutional Convention states, “Our mission was, in the first place, to establish the supremacy of the white race in this State to the extent to which it could be legally and constitutionally done.” (Thomas J. Semmes, Chairman of the Committee on the Judiciary, explaining the rationale behind many of the proposals put forth and adopted in the Constitution. ) This is a stain on our state that needs to be reversed.
MY RECOMMENDATION: YES

3. AMENDMENT 3: Allow Local Governments to Share Resources. 
The state Constitution prohibits donations or loans by governmental entities except in cases of emergency. This causes political subdivisions to duplicate resources, for example, having to purchase expensive equipment that they only occasionally need. The amendment would allow cities, towns, villages, police juries, etc to loan equipment to each other as long as they have a written agreement, making sure such loans are kept in the public eye for the public benefit.
MY RECOMMENDATION: YES

4. AMENDMENT 4: Diversions of Dedicated Transportation Funding to State Police.
In 1990 the Transportation Trust Fund (TTF) was created to ensure that state fuel tax dollars would go to transportation projects. A portion of the fund was allowed to support the state police for traffic control purposes, but that amount ballooned to about $700 million since its inception, causing many people to “not trust the trust fund.” Since 2016 the current administration has NOT used TTF monies to fund the state police, trying to reestablish “trust in the trust fund.” This amendment would ensure that future administrations would not return to the practices of old, while having NO impact on the operations of the state police.
MY RECOMMENDATION: YES

5. AMENDMENT 5: Tax Exemptions for Property in Trust. 
It is becoming increasingly common for people to place their home into a “trust” that will insure that their assets go to who they choose after their death. Current law allows for the homestead exemption to be applied to property placed in a trust. However, there are other exemptions passed by the voters (i.e., not increasing assessments for those over the age of 65, surviving spouses of military personnel killed in action, or the permanently disable, etc), that are not being applied to properties in a trust due to a 2017 opinion from the Attorney General. This amendment would allow properties placed in trust to continue to receive ALL the normal exemption as long as the the original owner continues to live in it, not just the homestead exemption. This clarifies and codifies the will and intent of the Legislature and public. (NOTE: This section was edited for clarity.)
MY RECOMMENDATION: YES

6. AMENDMENT 6: Large Tax Increases on Homes. 
Every four years all taxable property is reassessed. In addition, property is also reassessed when it is sold. Sometimes the property owners can receive large increases in their property tax bill. This amendment would allow tax assessors to gradually increase the assessment of a property owner’s primary residence over four years whenever a properties reassessment is greater than 50% of the prior assessment. That means that if the tax assessor raises the value of your home over 50%, your tax burden would not increase immediately, but would be phased in over 4 years.
MY RECOMMENDATION: YES

BALLOT ITEM: The Louisiana Fantasy Sports Contest Act.
Although not a constitutional amendment, this item will appear on ALL ballots statewide on November 6. This act would allow for the expansion of gambling in Louisiana by allowing betting on “fantasy sports” to take place.  According to some research, Louisiana is the 5th most gambling addictive state in the United States. Do we need more gambling?
MY RECOMMENDATION: NO


Well there you have it. For what it’s worth, those are my recommendations, which you’re free to accept or ignore. But no matter how you feel on the matter, please don’t forget to vote! It’s both a right and a responsibility of citizenship! And pleas note that  EARLY VOTING is going on Oct 23-30 (except for Sunday) from 8:30AM to 6:00PM. And you can early vote at either the Registrar of Voter's office in the Rapides Parish Courthouse OR at Kees Park Community Center on Hwy 28E in Pineville!

And wherever you live in Louisiana, you can get your custom sample ballot by simply going to https://voterportal.sos.la.gov/Home/VoterLogin - just input your info and you’ll find every option on your ballot coming up in the November 6 primary election! 

BTW, if you have any thoughts or think I overlooked something, please don’t hesitate to comment and let me know. I enjoy the feedback and look forward to some good dialog!

And one more BTW - there will be another election in December for those races that end up in a runoff. BUT WAIT, THERE'S MORE! December 8 is when the citizens of Pineville will vote on 5 different options regarding alcohol sales within the city limits. The story behind that upcoming vote is both deceptive and intriguing, and the options will be CONFUSING. I'll try to break it all down for you shortly after the November election. So stay tuned!!!

            Sunday, October 07, 2018

            Beauty for Ashes

            (This column originally appeared in the Town Talk on Sunday, October 7, 2018.)

            Many of us are familiar with the phrase “beauty from ashes.” It evokes a sense of comeback, of a phoenix rising from destruction, of finding something good in the midst of so much evil. Throughout history ashes have represented loss and mourning. So the idea of finding beauty rising out of the ashes strikes a chord of hopefulness within all of us.

            Many people believe this phrase comes from the Bible. But they’re mistaken. However, there’s actually a very similar phrase found in the book of Isaiah. Looking forward to the coming Messiah, Isaiah wrote that the Redeemer would “appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness…” (Is 61:3 KJV)

            Did you catch it? The prophet did not say that God’s promise was to bring beauty FROM ashes, but rather He would give beauty FOR ashes! There’s a big difference between the two!

            We like the idea of God making something beautiful from something ugly. And He can certainly do that. But His promise in Scriptures is to actually replace our ashes with something else!

            I believe this points to the salvation that God provided through Jesus Christ. When God saves us, He doesn’t simply improve us, He creates something new! Consider what Paul wrote to the Corinthians:

            “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.” (2 Cor 5:17 KJV)

            When you repent of your sins and confess Jesus as Lord, having believed that God raised Him from the dead, God doesn’t just “improve” you. He re-creates you! Salvation doesn’t make you a better version of your old self. It creates a whole new you!

            This is why Jesus spoke of the “new birth” as being necessary to be part of the Kingdom of God. When He spoke with Nicodemus, a learned religious leader, Jesus said, “unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” (John 3:3 NASB).

            It’s not the amount of religious education you have, or even how often you go to church. The question is, have you experienced the new birth that Peter described when he said, “for you have been born again not of seed which is perishable but imperishable, that is, through the living and enduring word of God.” (1 Pet 1:23 NASB)

            While we may not understand all the nuances of this “born again” language, there is something within our hearts that cries out for a new beginning. We long for “old things” to pass way and for all things to become new! There’s something within us that cries out in our broken condition for a new beginning. Not for beauty to come out of our ashes, but to be given beauty in place of our ashes.

            I’ve got good news for you! This is the hope of the Christian faith! And it’s something we cannot earn – it’s the free gift of God! There is hope for a new beginning!

            That hope is the very message that many churches from many denominations across Central Louisiana have come together to present at the Rapides Parish Coliseum on Oct 14-17. The event is called #Hope4U2018 and the goal is present this message of hope to every citizen of Cenla!

            You don’t have to live in the ashes of your failure and brokenness any longer. There is #Hope4U! And it’s found in Jesus Christ, who fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah 63. In fact, He quoted from it when He taught His first ever sermon in Luke 4, and after reading the prophet’s words He simply said, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” (Luke 4:21 NASB)

            How could He say that? Because Jesus IS the Hope for you and me! Please join me Oct 14-17 at the Rapides Parish Coliseum for #Hope4U2018 and let God replace your ashes with His beauty! Because there is hope!

            Sunday, September 02, 2018

            How to Pray for Your Pastor

            (This column originally appeared in the Town Talk on Sunday, September 1, 2018.)


            Recently the news has carried disturbing stories of yet another pastor committing suicide. Pastor Andrew Stoecklein of Inland Hills Church of Chino, CA, attempted to take his life at his church on August 24, and sadly passed away in the hospital the next day. He was just 30 years old, married, father of three, and the lead pastor of a “megachurch” that his father had founded 20 years ago.

            I wish this were an isolated story, but a simple Internet search for “pastors and suicide” will give you literally millions of results. One laments that “the pastoral profession has one of the top 3 suicide rates of any profession.” Another points out how the vast majority of pastors feel like the ministry has had a negative impact on their family. And yet another simply asks, “Why are so many pastors committing suicide?” And that’s just on the first page of results!

            Ministry today is harder than it’s ever been before. The pressures on a pastor are great and the expectations are high. Paul Valo, the lead pastor of Christ Church in Orlando, FL, summed it up well: “In this generation, pastors are expected to be business savvy, Instagram quotable preaching celebrities, fully accessible, deeply spiritual, not too young, not too old, and if a pastor doesn't quite measure up to someone's expectation at any given moment, they are given a two out of five star rating on Google. Wow! We have reduced the ministry to star ratings on Google!”

            I’m not claiming that a pastor’s job is more difficult than everyone else’s. Many professions deal with extreme levels of trauma and stress. But because of the unique role of pastors as role-models, and the high expectations of near-perfection placed on them, many pastors don’t seek care or share their struggles. So they suffer alone.

            Your pastor needs your prayers! Even the great apostle Paul asked for prayer on many occasions in the Scripture (Rom 15:30-32; 2 Cor 1:11; Eph 6:18-20; Phlp 1:19; Col 4:3; 1 Th 5:25; 2 Th 3:1-3; Phlm 1:22; etc) And if Paul, with all his spiritual strength, needed prayer your pastor does, too!

            So how can you best pray for your pastor? Perhaps by reading some of Paul’s prayer requests we can get a better idea. Here are just a few:

            Pray for God’s anointing when they speak. In Ephesians 6:19-20 Paul them to pray that when he spoke he would communicate well the mystery of the Gospel. Every pastor I know wants to communicate God’s Word faithfully and accurately. And most feel like this is one of their greatest struggles. So pray for God to anoint them when they speak. And let them know when you’ve heard God speak through them.

            Pray for their protection, physical and spiritual. In Philippians 1:19 Paul’s prayer request was for his “deliverance.” Some say this was to be delivered from prison, but others suppose it was from whatever spiritual oppression he was suffering. Pray for your pastor’s spiritual, emotional, mental, and physical protection. Pray that they be delivered from evil, from temptation, and from the snares that the enemy would set before them.

            Pray for their rest. In Romans 15:30-32, after asking them to pray that he would be rescued from those who opposed his messaged, Paul asks them to pray that he would be able to find “refreshing rest” in their company. Most pastors work 55-70 hours a week and don’t know how to set boundaries. Pray that they will understand that even God rested from His labors, and so should they!

            There are many other areas where your pastor needs your prayers. Go back through some of the scriptures I shared earlier and make a list of how to pray for your pastor. Or even more personally, ask him how you can pray for him. And then do it! Nothing will encourage a pastor’s heart more than a congregation praying for him!

            Finally, understand that depression is real, and pastors can struggle with it just like anyone else. But if you are struggling with depression, whether you are in the ministry or not, please reach out for help. Talk to someone and let them in. Call the Suicide Hotline at 1-800-273-8255. Or call me. You’re not alone.



            P.S. Here's a great article based on the Rom 15:30-32 passage that you might find interesting: http://myfaithfamily.com/how-to-pray-for-your-pastor/

            Sunday, August 05, 2018

            When We Mess Up

            (This column originally appeared in the Town Talk on Sunday, August 8, 2018.)

            Have you ever messed up? Have you ever made such a mistake you thought you could never get over it? Have you thought about just quitting? Then this message is for you!

            One of the common occurrences of the human condition is that we mess up. No matter how hard we try, from time to time we just blow it! We miscalculate, we procrastinate, we overestimate – and the result is we let someone down in a big way.

            The Bible doesn’t hide the stories of failure of even its biggest heroes. Rather than sugarcoat their lives with pretend perfection, the Bible paints vivid pictures of passionate, alive men and women who live life loudly, and sometimes mess up loudly as well!

            Peter is one of those passionate protagonists whose story makes us all feel a little better about ourselves. If any of the apostles were going to put his foot in his mouth, it would be Peter! He was quick to judge, quick to offer an opinion, even quick to rebuke Jesus Himself when he thought Jesus was wrong.

            But on the biggest night of history, the night Jesus was betrayed, arrested, tried, and condemned to die, Peter made his biggest screw-up of all! When given the opportunity to stand with Jesus, which he had so boldly declared he would do, he denied ever knowing Him. Not just once, but three times! (And the third time he included some choice words to get people off his back!)

            That was when he knew he blew it! Luke 22:61 tells us that after Peter’s 3rd denial that Jesus turned and looked at Peter. And that’s when Peter knew he’d blown it. The next verse tells us “he went out and wept bitterly.”

            But thank God that Jesus doesn’t leave us in our failure! After Jesus rose from the dead Mark reports that He specifically sent word to Peter to meet Him in Galilee (Mark 16:7). And when Jesus met them on the seashore He made sure to get across to Peter a very important message – that not even his failures could separate him from God’s love!

            The scene was carefully set. Just like the night that Peter had denied Jesus there was a charcoal fire. And just as there had been three opportunities to acknowledge Jesus, Peter is now asked three times, “Do you love Me?” (See John 21:1-19 for the full treatment.)

            Serious students of the Scriptures recognize that Jesus used a Greek word for love (“agape”) and that Peter responded with a different Greek word (“phileo”). It’s as if Peter couldn’t accept the restoration Jesus was pouring out on him. So the third time Jesus asked the question, He used Peter’s word, “phileo” – fully coming down to Peter’s level in order to lift Peter back up again.

            But there’s more to the story. Each of the three times that Jesus restored Peter back to love He reminded Peter that he was still useful to Jesus! Each time He reminded Peter of God’s call on his life to shepherd, feed and tend God’s sheep. Each time He reminded Peter that no matter how much he had messed up, God still loved Him and had a purpose for his life!

            So let me ask the questions again. Have you ever messed up? Have you ever made such a mistake you thought you could never get over it? Have you thought about just quitting? Don’t do it! Jesus still loves you and has a purpose for your life, and even for your scars.

            Paul understood this when he wrote about the “God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.” (2 Cor 1:3-4 NASB)

            Could it be that God will use your failure, and your recovery, to encourage someone else? Could it be that your scars will give someone else hope? Could it be that you’re still useful to God? Yes, it could be! In fact, it is! Just don’t quit!

            How do you take back that lost ground? Do what Peter did. Run to Jesus. Talk to Jesus. Listen to Jesus. And tell Him you love Him! He’ll take care of the rest.

            Sunday, July 22, 2018

            Alcohol Sales in Pineville???

            I recently returned from vacation to the news that two local "big-box stores" (Walmart and Super 1) had combined forces in a common venture (as reported by KALB and The Town Talk). These normal competitors were working together to seek to put a petition before the registered voters of Pineville in order to allow them to sell alcohol in their stores. Their primary claim seems to be that Pineville is missing out on the sales taxes paid by customers who drive to Alexandria to purchase alcohol, and make other purchases while in Alexandria stores. While there probably is some truth to that, there is always more to the story. Allow me to share some perspective from my understanding.

            (If you want to skip all the history and perspective, jump down to the "Getting to the Point" section at the bottom.)

            For many years Pineville has been a "dry" community, meaning no alcohol sales of any kind within the corporate limits. From what I"m told this dates back to the post-WW2 era as a reaction to the many bars that were located along Main Street to serve the hundreds of thousands of soldiers who were trained in Central Louisiana, many of them right here at Camps Beauregard and Livingston. Following the war the residents of Pineville chose to make Pineville a "dry" community, a decision that many communities across Louisiana also made in the interest of improving the quality of life.

            In the early 1980's there was a "local option" petition for all Wards 9, 10 and 11, all north of the river. That local option election differentiated between "low" and "high" alcohol content, low being less than 6% (basically beer and wine) and high being greater than 6% (hard liquor). Initially it appeared that all options were defeated. However, some eagle-eyed observers noted that the small portion of Ward 9 OUTSIDE the corporate limits of Pineville had actually approved the sale of LOW alcohol content. And that's the reason that several convenience stores along Hwy 28E, Hwy 107 and in Wardville do sell beer and wine, because they are in the portion of Ward 9 that is outside the city limits. And because of the way Pineville's city limits have expanded the last 35 years, many Pineville residents now live and drive home every day past establishments that currently sell beer and wine.

            Folks seemed fairly content with this setup, although the alcohol question raised its head at pretty much every election, and most candidates pledged to keep Pineville dry. When I first ran for election as City Councilman in 2003 the question of alcohol was the most frequently raised question I got. My consistent response was that I was opposed to the sale of alcohol in Pineville, specifically in bars and liquor stores, but that ultimately it was the decision of the voters. That still remains my position today.

            The most consistent concern expressed during that first campaign, and through the years, seemed to be that people wanted nicer restaurants in Pineville and felt they were staying away due to Pineville being dry. Many people who didn't drink said they wished Pineville allowed alcohol in restaurants only, as several other communities had done (i.e., Ruston, Minden, Mansfield, etc), thinking that would entice the nicer restaurants to locate in Pineville. That continued to be a constant point of discussion among citizens and developers alike. However, no action was taken and it just remained speculation.

            Fast forward a dozen years or so when I was contacted by a local businessman who wanted to open a drive-through daiquiri shop on Hwy 28E in Pineville. He told me that he was aware of the ground-swell of opinion regarding the desire for nicer restaurants in Pineville, and that he planned to capitalize on that to circulate a petition for another "local option" election. He had already purchased the list of registered voters and had run polls indicating that people would overwhelmingly sign the petition to call for the local option election because they wanted restaurants.

            This raised all sorts of red flags for me. My concern with the local option election was that it didn't just let people vote on alcohol in restaurants, but opened up the possibility of bars and liquor stores in our community, something that had been rejected for over 60 years. Bars and nightclubs would bring their own set of zoning issues into our "bedroom community." And I hated the idea of liquor stores in vulnerable areas of our community providing easier access, because multiple studies show that there is a direct relationship between alcohol and any number of negative outcomes, including violence, crime, road incidents, negative health impacts, and for some, alcohol dependence (See here, here, here, and here among others).

            According to Louisiana Revised Statute 26:588, a successful petition for the local option election requires that five options (paraphrased below) MUST be placed on the ballot:

            1. Allow LOW content alcohol sales by package only (Sale of beer/wine in grocery stores, convenience stores, liquor stores, etc).
            2. Allow LOW content alcohol sales for consumption on premises (Sale of beer/wine in restaurants, bars, nightclubs, etc).
            3. Allow ALL alcohol sales of any content for consumption on premises (Sale of ALL alcohol in restaurants, bars, nightclubs, etc).
            4. Allow ALL alcohol sales of any content by package only (Sale of ALL alcohol in grocery stores, convenience stores, liquor stores, etc).
            5. Allow ALL alcohol sales of any content in restaurants only (This is currently the standard in Pineville).
            I've paraphrased the options, but there they are. If that businessman had been successful in getting 25% of the registered voters to sign his petition, then the City Council would have been required by law to call for an election with all five options on the ballot. And this would open up a whole Pandora's Box of issues. And all because people wanting nicer restaurants were in favor of option 5.

            There was another alternative to the local option. Several communities around the state had successfully petitioned the legislature to allow for their city council to call for an election with ONLY option 5 on the ballot. After much discussion, deliberation and debate, in 2013 the City Council and Mayor chose to pursue that option and asked the legislature for permission to call for such an election for restaurants only. I voted for that measure because I felt it would essentially prevent Pandora's Box from being opened. I knew many people, even those who didn't drink, were in favor of allowing restaurants to sell alcohol if that would bring nicer restaurants to Pineville.

            Source: LA Secretary of State
            In October of 2013 the citizens overwhelmingly approved that option by a 78% to 22% margin, and since that time a number of alcohol licenses have been issued, some to existing restaurants, some to restaurants who annexed into the city, and some who built after the "restaurant only" option became a reality. In fact, there are about a dozen license holders right now, including Red River Steak and Seafood, El Parián Mexican Restaurant, Genghis Mongolian Grill...and most recently, new constructions in Buckets Seafood and RibFins Smokehouse & Seafood, among others. And while we haven't seen a "national chain" open in Pineville yet, I'm aware of at least 3 different national brands looking closely at Pineville because of the opportunity to offer their full menu. This seemed to be an acceptable compromise, giving people what they wanted (the option for nicer restaurants) without opening the can of worms of a local option election, which could conceivably open the door to bars and liquor stores in Pineville.

            Getting to the Point


            But now we find that two large, out-of-state retailers are pushing for the petition to allow them to sweeten their bottom line by selling alcohol. And while they tout the benefits of the sales tax collections on alcohol, they don't tell the whole story. They make it seem like the petition is only to allow the sale of alcohol in grocery stores, but the reality is the election will allow for the possibility of bars, nightclubs, liquor stores and other elements that Pineville's citizens have traditionally rejected.

            To me this is significantly different from the "restaurant-only" initiative that the citizens asked for. This is not a grass-roots effort by citizens, nor is it the result of years of collectively expressed desire for the perceived quality of life improvements that nicer restaurants bring. This is largely an economic question, driven by the bottom line of multi-billion dollar corporations who don't really care about our community standards. They care about profits. They won't have to deal with the negative fallout that eased access to alcohol will have on the more vulnerable parts of our society. They'll simply laugh their way to the bank. At our collective expense.

            Some would say that the citizens deserve a right to vote on the matter. And perhaps they do. If the high-dollar firm hired by these two conglomerates gets their way there will indeed be a vote. But it will be a somewhat confusing vote because of the 5 options. And the outcome might not be as neat and pretty as the signature gatherers make it out to be. If it passes, alcohol won't only be sold in the grocery stores - it might just be in a "convenience" store next door to you, with bars on the windows and traffic all night long. Or it might be in a nightclub/bar not far from you with music blaring until 2AM and all the other issues that come with the package.

            Personally I will NOT be signing the petition and I urge my friends to NOT sign it either. I think the minor inconvenience of not having easier access to alcohol is worth maintaining our healthy community standards and quality of life. And I'm willing to sacrifice the "sales tax revenue" to not have to have the negative impact on our community that relaxed access to alcohol is sure to bring. I don't want to see an increase in juvenile drinking, spousal abuse, and alcohol addiction/dependency because we're hungry for a few more sales tax dollars.

            But that's just my opinion.


            UPDATE:


            One 7/24/18 I posted the following on Facebook:

            I received a lot of great feedback on my blog about the Walmart/Super1 alcohol petition at https://www.facebook.com/NathanCCI/posts/10156605856647704 and I appreciate everyone's feedback, whether you agreed with me or not.
            Several folks have asked about what they could do to express their disagreement with the petition. Some have asked about setting up tables next to the petition folks, but those stores are private property and I don't think the managers would give permission for that. And I think protests and placards outside would give them more exposure and would ultimately be counter-productive.
            However, there is something that those who are opposed to the petition can do. This afternoon I spoke to Shane McDaniel, manager of the Pineville Mac's Fresh Market, and son of Reggie McDaniel, the owner of the 18 Mac's Fresh Markets across Louisiana, Arkansas and Mississippi. Shane told me that his father has a firm stance against selling alcohol, tobacco or lottery tickets in any of his stores, even where it is perfectly legal. Just look at the Mac's Fresh Market on Jackson Street in Alexandria - legally they could sell those products, but they choose not to. He said it is a company principle that will not change, event after his father is gone.
            So, for those who are upset that out-of-state companies have initiated this attempt to change our community standards, here's a suggestion. Perhaps drop a line to their corporate offices to let them know your feelings. You can contact Walmart at https://corporate.walmart.com/contact-us and Brookshires (parent company of Super 1) at https://www.brookshires.com/contact-us/ - be respectful, but let them know your feelings. Then, consider supporting a locally owned and operated business that agrees with your values - and make sure the folks at Mac's know why you're there. Thank them for choosing community well-being over profits.
            Just my opinion...

            Sunday, July 01, 2018

            We Hold These Truths...

            (This column originally appeared in The Town Talk on Sunday, July 1, 2018.)

            One of the best-known sentences in the English language is the second sentence of the Declaration. It opens by stating there are times when one people must separate themselves politically from other people and that when this happens, there should be an explanation. The second sentence then establishes the core value behind the Declaration:

            “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

            “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness” are held forth as being basic rights of all men, and the Declaration goes on to explain all the ways that Great Britain had violated these basic rights. It contained a whole list of charges against King George III, basically attempting to show how he violated the colonists’ rights and was therefore unfit to be their ruler.

            All of the stated reasons for declaring independence from England were based in a core value held by our founding father. The underlying belief of those brave signers of the Declaration of Independence was that rights were given, not by men, nor by governments, but by the Creator!

            For the founding fathers, the most important core value of all was a belief in a Creator God. That was a truth that was “self-evident” – that is to say, universally accepted as true, just as we accept that the sun is hot and rain is wet. No one has to prove these things – they just are.

            While it is fashionable among some to point to a few of the founding fathers as “deists,” it is undeniable that the Judeo-Christian faith and ethic had a tremendous impact on the founding of our country, which we celebrate this week. Allow me to share just a couple of examples.

            John Adams, a signatory of the Declaration of Independence, and the second president of these United States, wrote the following to Thomas Jefferson: “The general principles on which the fathers achieved independence were the general principles of Christianity. I will avow that I then believed, and now believe, that those principles of Christianity are as eternal and immutable as the existence and attributes of God.”

            John Quincy Adams, the sixth president of the United States, in reflecting back on an anniversary of the Declaration of Independence said, “The Declaration of Independence laid the cornerstone of human government upon the first precepts of Christianity.”

            James Madison, another signatory of the Declaration of Independence, and the fourth president of the United States, wrote these words 2 years after signing that famous document: “We have staked the whole future of American civilization, not upon the power of government, far from it. We’ve staked the future of all our political institutions upon our capacity…to sustain ourselves according to the Ten Commandments of God.”

            This is the same James Madison who conceived the three branches of government while reading the words of the prophet Isaiah who said, “For the LORD is our judge, The LORD is our lawgiver, The LORD is our king; He will save us.” (Is 33:22 NASB)

            There are countless more quotes from our founding fathers that demonstrate a foundation of faith that underscored their actions. While not all were professing Christians, there was a common understanding that God’s hands were involved in directing the affairs of men.

            The point is simply this – we would not have this great nation if it had not been for the core values of faith in God held by our founding fathers. So as we celebrate the 4th of July this week, let’s think back to the purposes God may have had for our nation and thank Him the faith of the founding fathers. And may we hold dearly to the self-evident truths that they enshrined in that amazing Declaration of Independence some 242 years ago this week. Happy 4th of July, y’all!