For starters, let me state unequivocally that I don't give a duck's rear about Phil Robertson, his family, his religious views, his business or the reality television show he was apparently part of until he said dumb stuff to a reporter. Never seen it, never paid attention to it and, having finally done so, am not much impressed. Bunch of guys marketing camo gear and duck calls and praying on TV. Good on 'em. When's Sherlock Holmes starting back up?
But, being a taxpayer in Louisiana, I help pay for the budget of Lieutenant Governor Jay Dardenne and the Department of Culture, Recreation and Tourism that he runs, and part of my civic duty and self-interest is keeping an eye on his office and how he's spending my dough.
This weekend, the lieutenant governor announced that he would encourage the state to act as a go-between in finding a new network home for the now-suspended Duck Dude and his fowl-blasting family's show, citing the A&E program's importance to tourism.
To which I can only respond, "Not with my money."
Lt. Gov. Dardenne cites no numbers in claiming the program has caused an upswing in tourism in the West Monroe area (which is, note to national writers, not "Cajun country," thank you), saying only that, since the family's television success,
So many fans visit the Robertsons' business offices and warehouse in northeast Louisiana that the family has opened a gift shop on the property. People now come to West Monroe for their spring break vacation, hoping to get a peek at the family.Though I'm happy that this business may have boosted visitors to the state, to claim that it has had an "inordinate" impact on the economy of the Monroe area, so much so that the state has an interest in investing time and resources in helping the family break their legal contract to one network and jump to another, requires backing with real research.
Economic impact of events and campaigns, while tricky, can be made. For instance, New Orleans' annual celebration of gay pride, the Southern Decadence festival, has an actual, measurable effect in terms of number of event-specific visitors, average amount spent by each attendee and surveyed attitudes of attendees.
With marketing campaigns luring gay newlyweds to the city tied in, and social media campaigns organized by the New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau and the New Orleans Tourism Marketing Corp (not, it should be noted, with assistance from Mr. Dardenne's state tourism department), it's estimated that this year's festival brought in as may as 125,000 visitors and had an economic impact of over $100 million dollars for the state.
This despite vehement and vocal protests by conservative Christian groups who come to protest the event, ironically adding to its economic punch.
While events like Decadence really are a palpable plus for our state's economy, Mr. Dardenne, who is reportedly planning a run for governor in 2015 and presumably eager to boost his statewide recognition--why else weigh in on a ridiculous controversy about a duck hunter reality TV show?--has, to the best of my ability to research, offered no support, official, personal or lip-serviceable, to the New Orleans event.
Politics, apparently, unmakes strange bedfellows as well.