We have all heard the common phrase “a picture is worth a thousand words.” But do we know from where the phrase originates? Many would attribute it to Confucius. While others would more generally claim it is Japanese or Chinese in origin. The truth be told… it an American phrase! And like many phrases and words used in various context it can have more than one meaning.
NO PUBLIC FUNDS SHALL BE USED…
Most of us are familiar with the strong language contained in the First Amendment to the United States Constitution which reads “Congress shall make NO law…” However, you are probably not as familiar with similar language found in our state Constitution. As we enter an election year this appropriate provision is found in Article 11, Section 4 of the Louisiana State Constitution. “NO PUBLIC FUNDS shall be used to urge any elector to vote for or against any candidate or proposition…”
This same language can be found codified in Louisiana Revised Statue 18:1465 which provides penalties. These include up to a one thousand dollar fine and imprisonment with or without hard labor for up to two years, or both. Additional restrictions can be found in Louisiana Revised Statute 43:111.1. There, the law prohibits “advertisement containing therein the name of any public official.” We provided examples of this one a few weeks back. That’s when we brought attention to the ad published by the Port of Iberia District Board of Commissioners through its Executive Director Craig Romero. By all appearances, they were skirting the line (or perhaps outright violating the law) in a piece they recently published.
Our focus has shifted while we await a date to make our public records inspection. However, with a little more digging, or dredging may be a more appropriate term, we will likely uncover more detailed information worthy of sharing with the public.
LOOKING TO LIVINGSTON
Appearing before the voters of Livingston Parish on the March ballot is a NEW tax proposition being put forth by the Livingston Parish School Board. With the election just weeks away it is would be difficult to conduct a deep dive into their finances and report accurately. Instead it is the messaging which has caught our attention.
We live in a time where everyone is constantly bombarded by messaging. It is no longer just the spoken word on radio or the persuasive imagery of a television commercial that gropes for our attention. Most of us now roam around with handheld technology in our pocket that connects us to the world wide web. Various social media apps keeps us in constant contact with family and friends. All of this is available at the push of a button.
When the phenomena of text messaging originally began, people typically corresponded using complete sentences and proper grammar. But text messaging today is more like trying to read Egyptian Hieroglyphs without the benefit of the Rosetta stone. There are many various Emojis and abbreviations in circulation and it can be confusing. But there also exists imagery that clearly relays a message of support.
A CHECK MARK MEANS “YES”
Over the past few years of internet censorship (real censorship not the kind left wing nuts yell about at library meetings) a blue check mark became synonymous with things that are verified or credible. However, the check mark (✅) also commonly denotes approval, much like a thumbs up (👍). While a red x-mark (❌) or thumbs down (👎) indicates disapproval.
So does this same messaging and iconography cross over into the political world? Absolutely. And politicians and political consultants know it. This is why in Livingston Parish you find signs which feature a “blue checkmark” on them. While the establishment has taken the stance that they are not using public funds to urge for a vote in favor or against the upcoming tax proposition, they absolutely are.
The beauty of the language in the Louisiana constitution is that it is a complete bar against the use of public funds against everything other than the “dissemination of factual information relative to a proposition appearing on an election ballot.” You can tell the voters when the election will be held. You can tell the voters what the ballot measure is about. BUT YOU CAN’T PROVIDE A MESSAGE TO THEM ON HOW TO VOTE!
Nor is messaging limited to the spoken or written word. The prohibition is against any form of messaging which seeks to use public funds in support or opposition to a matter. A blue check mark is clearly a sign of support for the proposition. It appears on signs paid for and put up through the use of taxpayer dollars, on the website of the Livingston Parish School Board, and even a whole separate website created just for the tax. And most of all it appears to be a violation of the law!