An obscure New Orleans tax assessor was ticketed for allegedly using flashing blue police lights illegally mounted on his car to weave his way through a traffic jam, says the Chicago Tribune. As public corruption allegations in Louisiana go, it was penny-ante stuff. This is a legendarily crooked state where a former governor has been keeping a federal prison cell warm for more than six years for extortion, racketeering and fraud; a recently defeated congressman is about to go on trial on allegations he stashed $90,000 in loot in his kitchen freezer; and a suburban New Orleans mayor is under scrutiny for receiving gift cards, a hunting bow, and a gun cabinet bought with donations to a Toys for Tots Christmas fund.
The minor story of the tax assessor with the police emergency lights was major news in New Orleans. That, local corruption fighters are daring to hope, is a measure of progress. Said Rafael Goyeneche of the Metropolitan Crime Commission, a corruption watchdog group: “We have noticed a shift in the public’s attitude toward corruption. It’s no longer a spectator sport. People don’t want to tolerate it anymore.” Ranked according to corruption convictions per capita from 1998-2007, Louisiana is No. 3, well ahead of Illinois at No. 19. (Only Washington, D.C., and North Dakota ranked higher–and in North Dakota’s case, the results were skewed because of its extremely small population.)