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Attorney Locke Meredith interviews Louisiana’s Lieutenant Governor, Jay Dardenne, to talk about what he is doing for the State of Louisiana.
As Lt. Governor, Dardenne runs the Department of Culture, Recreation, and Tourism. Two of Dardenne’s assistants include Randy Davis, Undersecretary of Finance, and Kathy Berry, Chief of Staff, who help coordinate activities of various entities under the department. These entities include: the State Library, State Museum System, Office of Tourism, and the Office of Cultural Development, which includes the arts and the Office of State Parks.
The Office of State Library is downtown, near the State Capitol. While it does not offer public access to its books, it does have a huge online database that is for public access. The Library System also provides a tutorial service. There are two museum systems in Louisiana: The Secretary of State Museum System and the State Museum System. Under Dardenne’s authority is the State Museum system, which includes the Cabildo and the Presbytere, the U.S. Mint in New Orleans, and the Capitol Park Museum, downtown next to the State Capitol. Under Louisiana’s Park systems are also many important sites in Louisiana, and more than twenty parks.
The Office of Cultural Development is another office under Dardnenne’s authority as Lieutenant Governor. This office is responsible for the visual, graphic, and performing arts of Louisiana. Ballet, Symphony, Festivals, musical groups, and studio artists all fall into this category.
Dardenne also is in charge of the Office of Tourism. This office is responsible for promoting Louisiana to the rest of the nation about what a great place it is to visit. Dardenne has been a part of a new brand for the State of Louisiana, which includes two exclamation points for the I’s in Louisiana, as well as the slogan “Pick your Passion” underneath Louisiana. For every one dollar Louisiana spends on tourism, we make seventeen dollars back. Tourism is a business that can really help Louisiana fund state issues like healthcare and education. One out of every ten people in Louisiana is employed by the tourism industry. Funding is an issue, though. Currently tourism gets 3/100th of a penny from state sales taxes for funding, with no federal government help either. Furthermore, with budget cuts, there have been many proposal to channel some of the money allocated to tourism to things that the Office of Tourism does not feel is appropriate. The current budget the Office of Tourism has is about $22 million, from the dedicated sources of revenue.
Dardenne feels strongly about investing a lot of money into national advertising to promote Louisiana tourism. He wants to target places like Atlanta, Houston, Memphis, and Little Rock via The food channel and the travel channel to market Louisiana. Dardenne explains that the BP oil spill has caused a wave of negative thought toward the entire gulf coast, especially regarding the healthiness of eating Louisiana seafood. Dardenne assures us that Louisiana seafood is not only healthy, but the most tested seafood in the history of the world, with 300,000 individual pieces tested, none of which were found to be contaminated.
Dardenne explains that the fishing industry, which was devastated after the oil spill, is still suffering because people don’t know that 99% of the waters are back open for fishing and that everything is back how it was. In the wake of the oil spill, BP has paid $15 million to Louisiana to help with advertising its tourism. $5 million went to New Orleans, $5 million to a coalition of convention and visitors bureaus on the coast, and $5 million to the Office of Tourism. More money came in from BP this year to help Louisiana rebound from the oil spill. $18 million went to ongoing seafood testing by the Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, while the Seafood Marketing and Promotion Board is getting $30 million.
The tourism efforts of Louisiana are also getting an additional $30 million this year, which will be divvied out to each parish, in proportion to how the oil spill affected them and their size. Allocation varies from $6 million to Orleans Parish to $2,000 to some rural parishes up north. Other sources of finances to help Louisiana during this time include federal funding to help with coastal erosion. Dardenne feels that we must be very careful at getting a large sum from the Federal Government for this now, because it may be hard to get later.
Due to constitutional mandate, in the case of the Governor becoming incapacitated, the Lieutenant Governor would step in and fill that role. Dardenne has been filling in as Lt. Governor ever since Mitch Landreau has stepped into the office of Mayor New Orleans. Now he is going to run for the full four-year term.