Blue tarps cover maps at LSU Cartographic Information Center. (WBRZ screen shot)
Blue tarps cover maps at LSU Cartographic Information Center. (WBRZ screen shot)

By Robert Mann

It’s the best of times, it’s worst of times.

It’s great times, in fact, for former Gov. Mike Foster. His protegé and former aide is the current governor, Bobby Jindal. So, he gets almost $2 million to create a library and museum in Franklin for his gubernatorial papers and artifacts.

Never mind that several existing libraries, staffed by professional archivists, could easily handle Foster’s papers. That’s why Louisiana has a State Archives. And LSU’s Hill Memorial Library holds the papers of many former state officials, including U.S. senators Russell Long, John Breaux, and Bennett Johnston.

No, we can’t have those papers tainted by resting on shelves next to Democratic papers. So, Foster gets almost $2 million in taxpayer money to show off his knickknacks and catalog his papers at his own facility in Franklin.

Meanwhile, it’s the worst of times for LSU.

The state’s broke, we’re told. There’s little money for repairs and maintenance. All across campus, buildings are in disrepair, and Jindal and legislators are unable to find the money to do much about it. It’s the same sad story on every campus in the state.

If you’re interested in time travel — back to, say, the 1960s — you should visit the Middleton Library on LSU’s Baton Rouge campus. It’s a creaky, musty old building in dire need of an upgrade. Don’t step into one of the bathrooms unless you’ve lost your sense of smell. And don’t open your eyes. You’ll be appalled. I’ve seen gas station bathrooms in better shape.

Then, take a stroll over to the Department of Geography and Anthropology’s Cartographic Information Center. There, you will see blue tarps draping much of the center’s collection of rare maps, protecting them from the water that sometimes pours into the building because of the building’s leaky roof.

“Not being able to access the collection underneath the tarps as readily and quickly as possible, the constant shifting from one place to another, sometimes I liken it to one of those Chinese tile puzzles, where you move things around until you get to where you want,” center director John Anderson told WBRZ-TV for a report last August.

Jindal can’t find the money to protect the state’s collection of priceless maps. But $1.8 million for his patron’s library is no problem. (No other former governor has ever been awarded such a generous arrangement.)

Blogger Tom Aswell helpfully notes in a post on Thursday some of the spending Jindal has recently vetoed after arguing that the state lacks the money:

Has anyone taken a look at some Jindal’s veto messages?

  • He killed a $190,000 appropriation for support services to the elderly;
  • He slashed $500,000 for the arts;
  • Appropriations for individuals with development disabilities in Jefferson Parish ($50,000), the Florida Parishes ($200,000), Capital Area ($200,000), the Metropolitan Human Services District ($50,000), the Northeast Delta ($50,000), Acadiana ($200,000), Calcasieu ($50,000), Central Louisiana ($50,000), Northwest Louisiana ($50,000): all vetoed because of a reduction to Medicaid utilization;
  • Continued operation of the Children’s Special Health Services Clinics across the state ($794,000);
  • Prevention and Intervention Services Program for the Family Violence Program ($1.17 million);

There’s so much we could say about this rotten library deal and the misplaced priorities it represents.

No one, however, said it better and more succinctly than a commenter, using the pseudonym “fauxpaws,” who posted the following below Tuesday’s Times-Picayune | story: “He’s sucking up to his old benefactor…..with our money.”

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