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The Saints, Politics, Serendipity...and Chickens

Those Saints fans out there who have really been paying attention to the new deal between the team and the state know that there actually is no deal. Not yet anyway. It's just a proposal for a deal and it doesn't become official until it gets passed by the state legislature. A legislature that isn't as gung-ho about signing off on this proposal as you and me.

This is politics. Worse still, it's Louisiana politics so you know it ain't gonna be easy. While anyone reading this post probably wants to see this deal get done, there are some lawmakers in Louisiana who feel there are more pressing needs in our state. Better ways to spend $85 million in state surplus. They're not wrong.

"We have tremendous needs in this state. ... That $85 million can go a long way toward helping Louisiana citizens,"

- State Rep. Eddie Lambert, R-Prairieville

Many or most of these lawmakers standing in the way are from north Louisiana. While we know how important the Saints are to New Orleans and how important New Orleans is to the state, legislators from north Louisiana do have their own, varied interests at heart as well. Some of which don't revolve around the Saints or the Superdome. Can you believe it?

"The Saints resonate in New Orleans," said state Rep. Avon Honey, D-Baton Rouge. "Outside New Orleans, people love them, but not to that extreme."

Lawmakers are divided. Now, as this deal makes its way to the legislature, local New Orleans officials will have the difficult task of gaining approval from their north Louisiana counterparts. So how the heck is this proposal going to get passed?

Chickens, I tell you...chickens.

That's only a slight exaggeration. I was enjoying a nice lunch at the world famous Camellia Grill yesterday while perusing through the latest issue of Gambit Weekly. After getting my regular fix of NOLA history from Blake Pontchartrain and deciding who to love or hate from Bouquets & Brickbats I ran across this article by political writer Clancy DuBos. Not only does he think the deal will get done, he also knows how it's gonna happen.

When dealing in politics, as in many other aspects of life, it's always nice to have something your opponent wants. Fortunately, the politicians who want to see this Saints deal go through have their own trump card. Though lawmakers from north Louisiana currently hold precious votes that their New Orleans-area counterparts really need to gain funding for the Superdome, legislators from south Louisiana hold their own votes on an issue that happens to be very near and dear to lawmakers from the north: a chicken processing plant bailout.

While we here in south Louisiana have been worried to death about keeping our beloved sports teams in New Orleans, our north Louisiana brethren have themselves been freaking out about the disappearance of something they  too hold dear...their livelihoods. The Pilgrim's Pride chicken plant in Farmerville, Louisiana provides jobs to thousands of families in the area. But it's in danger of shutting down and putting all of it's employees out of work. A deal is currently in the works to sell the plant to a California company called Foster Farms thus allowing it to remain open but the deal is contingent upon a $50 million state funded buyout. A buyout which would require some law changes by the state legislature. And just as local legislators in New Orleans are worried about gaining approval from the rest of the state to fund the Saints, north Louisiana lawmakers are just as nervous about having their bailout passed.

“I think there’s certainly the possibility of resistance from south Louisiana legislators who feel this is a north Louisiana bailout,” state Rep. Rick Gallot of Grambling said. “But you have to look at the big picture. I supported spending to help keep the Saints and Hornets here a few years ago, because I saw the benefits received by the entire state.

“You never know when it’s going to be your turn.”

So here we now sit in this wonderfully ironic predicament. One part of the state wants $85 million, the other needs $50 million. It's the classic "I scratch your back, you scratch mine" situation. Because they each have something the other wants, they will both probably get it. DuBos put it clearly...

Cut through all the fine print in the contracts and the rhetoric from rural lawmakers about subsidizing Saints owner Tom Benson, and the cold, hard political reality is that both deals need legislative approval — and that means they need each other.

Call it serendipitous. Call it fate. Call it good timing. Whatever it is, I'll take it. And let's not forget about the unsung heroes in this entire deal. The chickens. Thank you, chickens.