Friday, August 31, 2007
Rank and homophobic hypocrisy?
A week after La. Sen. David Vitter admitted to an affair with a prostitute, he received "thunderous applause" from his GOP colleagues at a party luncheon. State Republicans were particularly supportive, and Vitter's close ally, gubernatorial candidate Bobby Jindal stated that, "While we are disappointed by Sen. Vitter's actions, Supriya and I continue to keep David and his family in our prayers. This is a matter for the senator to address, and it is our hope that this is not used by others for their own political gain."
But Jindal and his GOP colleagues haven't been so forgiving with another recent "family values" party member caught soliciting sex – this time from another man. Jindal has been quick to join a chorus of House Republicans calling on Idaho Sen. Larry Craig to resign following an incident in which he allegedly solicited sex in a men's bathroom.
The apparent double standard hasn't gone unnoticed. Matt Foreman, Executive Director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, released this statement: "Let's see - one Republican senator is involved in soliciting sex from a man and the Republican leadership calls for a Senate investigation and yanks the rug from underneath him. Another Republican senator admits to soliciting the services of a female prostitute and there's not only no investigation but the senator is greeted with a standing ovation by his Republican peers. What explains the starkly different responses? I'd say rank and homophobic hypocrisy."
Sports Illustrated: Saints win Superbowl XLII
The NFL's 2007 season debuts Thursday at 7:30 p.m. with the New Orleans Saints taking on the Colts in Indianapolis. NBC will broadcast the game.
Juvenile facility heading to Acadia Parish
AMI has a contract with the Louisiana Office of Youth Development to house young boys convicted of non-violent crimes. The facility will be 10,000 square feet and will house 36 at-risk youths who have been referred to it by the OYD, each staying for six months to a year. The school is scheduled to open in January 2008.
For the past 40 years, AMI has been helping troubled youths become responsible adults. In 2006, 86 percent of the organization's graduates in Louisiana has no new adjucations or law convictions.
Voter purge draws NAACP lawsuit
On June 15, Secretary of State Jay Dardenne mailed out more than 55,000 letters to Louisiana voters living out of state following Hurrincane Katrina, whose names and birth dates matched registered voters in other states. The letters told voters they must give up their registration in other states or lose the right to vote in Louisiana. One month later, on August 17, nearly 20,000 voters were dropped from the rolls, 7000 of them from Orleans Parish.
According to the Times Picayune, State Rep. Juan LaFonta, D-New Orleans and chairman of the Legislative Black Caucus, wrote a letter to the Justice Department calling Dardenne's action "a veiled effort to bleed the voting rolls of African-American and minority voters before an important election season in the state of Louisiana."
Dardenne is a Republican. Defendants named in the suit are Dardenne, Gov. Kathleene Blanco, Attorney General Charles Foti and Louisiana Elections Commissioner Angie LaPlace.
Sons of William at the Blue Moon
Thursday, August 30, 2007
LUS fiber service to include wifi "feature"
Huval says that the difficulties associated with wireless almost always result in spotty coverage for city networks. Walls and even moist vegetation can block signals. "To sell a service for wireless without having some degree of assurance that customers can really enjoy, that is not something that at this point we would want to do," Huval says.
He adds that LUS' city wifi will be more of a hotspot versus a mesh network. While there won't be blanket coverage, the network – tied directly to fiber – will provide up to 1 megabyte download speeds in certain areas. LUS is currently building out the wifi network and testing communications in its utility vehicles for mapping and work orders. Within a month, Huval hopes to have the service ready for regular use by city police and other government departments.
Local CW station airing Ragin' Cajuns Saturday
The season opener in Columbia, S.C., is also available to cable and satellite users who subscribe to ESPN GamePlan.
Don't expect to see Gamecocks starting quarterback Blake Mitchell on the field. The controversial redshirt sophomore and two other players were suspended from the opening game for skipping summer school classes.
Sagging: social statement or indecent exposure?
In response to the rush to legislate attire, Dr. Benjamin Chavis former executive director of the N.A.A.C.P. and a chairman of the Hip Hop Summit Action Network says his organization will take the ordinances to court. Dr. Chavis told the New York Times,
I think to criminalize how a person wears their clothing is more offensive than what the remedy is trying to do. The focus should be on cleaning up the social conditions that the sagging pants comes out of. That they wear their pants the way they do is a statement of the reality that they're struggling with on a day-to-day basis.
DMX was in Baton Rouge
Yesterday, the producers of Lockjaw, K2 Pictures released a statement saying that Simmons was in Baton Rouge during the time of the raid. CEO George M. Kostuch stated: "We remain very sensitive to Mr. Simmons' feelings and saw nothing but intense professionalism on the set of the film we recently shot with him in Louisiana called Lockjaw: The Kulev Serpent, a sci-fi thriller where DMX plays the hero and saves the day."
Wednesday, August 29, 2007
Brain gain floods into the Big Easy
According to Richard Campanella, associate director of the Center for Bioenvironmental Research at Tulane University, 2,000 to 3,000 college educated young people are working in New Orleans, counteracting to some degree, the "brain drain" that was occurring before the storm. They bring with them the kind of energy and hope that even those of us of a certain age, who dearly love New Orleans, cannot provide.
I know this firsthand, because my 22-year-old daughter, Katie, newly graduated this spring, packed up her car and moved to New Orleans without even having a job. Her motivation was to be part of the rebirth of the city at the ground level. Her new job, in tourism, lets her be an ambassador for the rich culture that drew her there in the first place. "This is where I need to be," she says, along with her three roommates, all new college grads, all there, deliberately there, with the intent of rebuilding New Orleans.
Nancy Landry drawing Republican heavy hitters
KXKC's hoax exposed
Last Thursday, Aug. 23, the flakes - along with 20-something-year-old morning show producer and Erath's Miss 4th of July DeLannie Langlinais (a self-professed "Festival Queen") - enraged local listeners who were left wondering if they'd stumbled across shock jock Howard Stern's satellite radio show.
Read the rest of the story and hear the audio in this week's issue of The Independent Weekly.
KATC promotes Walker to news director
Walker worked as a reporter at KATC from 2002 to 2004 and in various news department roles at KLFY-TV10 from 2001 to 2002 and WBRZ in Baton Rouge from 1998-2000.
A Chalmette native, she left Acadiana in 2004 to work as a middle school teacher in St. Bernard Parish and returned to Lafayette after Hurricane Katrina. Her husband is an educator with the Lafayette Parish School System.
Two years later
Tuesday, August 28, 2007
What's behind Kennedy's GOP switch?
Kennedy, who has been clashing with top state Democrats, including Gov. Kathleen Blanco and Agriculture Commissioner Bob Odom, has served two terms as a Democrat. He says he spent more than a year on the decision to switch parties, which comes as little suprise. In recent months the state treasurer met with White House political strategist Karl Rove, who has since resigned, and state Republican leaders.
The state treasurer has $2 million in his campaign war chest and no opposition thus far. He had considered running for attorney general but decided to seek re-election. The primary is Oct. 20.
In 2004 Kennedy ran for the U.S. Senate, losing to David Vitter.
Microsoft offering "software relief" to La. small businesses
Matthew Cormier funeral arrangements
A wake will be held today at
Former film head pleads not guilty
Prosecutors say Smith accepted envelopes of cash passed by the movie industry executive through a third party, collecting more than $65,000 in the alleged bribes. They were the first charges resulting from an investigation of the movie industry incentive program conducted jointly by federal prosecutors, the FBI and the IRS.
A pretrial hearing is scheduled for Oct. 18, and the trial date set for Oct. 29.
Part of Langlinais' sentence is 480 hours of community service. However, Langlinais' hours working under Mayor Carol Broussard of Delcambre also seems to have caught Conery's attention. The judge ordered that "none of the community service done for the City of Delcambre shall consist of any political activity or attendance at any fairs, festivals or social events of any type." (Delcambre celebrated their annual Shrimp Festival the week of August 15-19.) Conery has extended Langlinais' period of home incarceration for two additional weeks.
Lafayette native takes over Basin program
Since he may only have a few months to make an impact from the top, Fruge says his goals are very specific. "I've been looking at the master plan for the basin and looking at ways to sharpen our focus on natural resources in the basin, improving water management and trying to address sedimentation issues," he says.
The ABP was established in 1998 by state law to work with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and other entities for the federally sponsored Atchafalaya Basin Floodway System, Louisiana Project. – Jeremy Alford
Monday, August 27, 2007
A vote for Edwin
Romero adamant about not running for office
After an unsuccessful race against Democrat Charlie Melancon for Congress last year, Romero says he is going to stay home and raise his seven children. While he says constituents are constantly asking him to stay in politics, he's serious about giving more time to his family. "There's not a place I go, day or night, and that's [politics] all people want to talk about, but I got to think about my kids at the end of every day. And the beginning of every day. That's what really governs my life right now. I've got to spend as much time as I can with my children and my wife. I've been lucky I've had her 26 years in government, lucky because Pam doesn't get into politics. She doesn't care about any of that. She says take care of your kids. That's number one."
Musician Matthew Cormier dies at 22
On Thursday, while on the job in Church Point, Cormier sustained head injuries that resulted in a coma. His family later removed him from life support, and he died Saturday at Lafayette General Medical Center, and his organs were donated.
Cormier came from a family of musicians - his father, Barry, and his grandfather, Elton "Bee" Cormier - are respected Cajun musicians. The elder Cormier formed the Church Point Playboys in 1949, and Matthew played in a later version of that outfit, as well as with the band Feufollet.
Funeral arrangements are pending and will be posted today on the websites of Guidry Funeral Home in Church Point and Travis Matte and the Zydeco Kingpins.
Obama latest Dem with big promises for N.O.
According to a story in today's New York Times, he outlined a plan to help restore the region by:
—providing grants for community policing in New Orleans, which has struggled with violence since Katrina;
—offering incentives such as loan forgiveness programs to try to attract doctors and college students;
—ensuring displaced residents who want to return have a place to stay; and
—creating a national catastrophic insurance reserve, which he said would help homeowners struggling with their premiums.
The other two leading Democratic candidates, Hillary Rodham Clinton and John Edwards, also have outlined rebuilding plans with similar themes.
Presidential hopefuls from both parties are expected to visit New Orleans this week for Katrina's Aug. 29 anniversary; President Bush also is scheduled to visit the Gulf Coast.
The Ragin' Cajun goes to bat for Landrieu
Friday, August 24, 2007
Heart Hospital, Lourdes take another shot at merger
Our Lady of Lourdes Regional Medical Center and the Heart Hospital of Lafayette are close to finalizing a partnership agreement, according to sources close to the negotiations. Should the merger come to fruition, sources say strong consideration is being given to shutting down the 3-year old Kaliste Saloom Road heart center, a small, 32-bed facility, and moving those services to Lourdes' planned complex on Frem Boustany Drive. In April, Lourdes purchased a 45-acre tract near the intersection of Ambassador Caffery Parkway and Verot School Road for $14 million. Lourdes is planning to relocate most of its services to the new site.
"We're hopeful in the very near future we have an announcement to make," says Lourdes spokesman Berch Stelly, who characterizes the potential deal as a "merger [or] joint venture." A Heart Hospital official could not be reached for comment.
The Heart Hospital is a for-profit specialty — or "boutique" — facility owned by local physicians and an out-of-state company. Located at St. Landry and St. Mary streets, Lourdes has operated as a not-for-profit community hospital for almost six decades.
This new arrangement between Lourdes and the Heart Hospital comes after a failed takeover of the specialty hospital by local doctors who own 49 percent of the facility. Included in the local group of Heart Hospital physician-owners are primarily cardiovascular surgeons and cardiologists, among them Drs. Ed Nagem, Edgar Feinberg, David Baker and Jon Leleux. Nagem, however, is retiring and relocating to South Carolina. In February the physicians signed a letter of intent to buy out their North Carolina-based partner, MedCath Corp., but the deal soon began to crumble. The physician-owners then rekindled
Crabcakes, the other burger
The Nation looks at New Orleans
LRA orders review of Road Home Program
Thursday, August 23, 2007
Gubernatorial candidate Georges mulling party switch?
Successful businessman Georges is the wild card in the governor's race, in no small part due to his massive $7 million campaign war chest. And he's clearly unhappy with the Louisiana Republican Party, making the next two weeks leading up to Sept. 4-6 qualifying especially interesting. "The state Republican Party refuses to do any mailouts with my name on it," says Georges. "They're promoting only one Republican, and that's probably why Walter Boasso switched parties."
With that in mind, Georges is considering all his options. "I'm certainly keeping the party switch open," he says. "It depends; we're going to do a poll and see how many Republican votes I'd get.
"The big question," Georges continues, "is whether Louisiana voters would support an independent candidate." Georges also notes, "I'm getting a lot of love from the Democrats."
Lafayette Parish outpaces state in tourism growth
Orleans Parish, which includes the city of New Orleans, was the most severely affected area by the hurricanes, and domestic travel spending declined 35.5 percent from 2005 and 50.7 percent from 2004 to $2.2 billion in 2006. Travel-generated employment, payroll and tax receipts declined dramatically as well.
East Baton Rouge Parish posted $678 million in domestic expenditures to rank second, up 16.9 percent from 2005. These expenditures benefited parish residents with nearly $124 million in payroll as well as 6,300 jobs.
Jefferson Parish, located adjacent to New Orleans, ranked third with $514 million in domestic travel spending in 2006. This parish was heavily hit by the hurricanes. Travel spending declined 28.4 percent from 2005 and 45.7 percent from 2004. Similar to Orleans Parish, travel-generated employment, payroll and tax receipts in Jefferson Parish dropped off dramatically.
Ed Poullard: Creole accordion maker
See the article to also watch a video of Poullard and hear clips from his CD with Cedric Watson and James Adams, Les Amis Creole.
New Orleans flood risk maps released by Corps
Donald Powell, federal coordinator for Gulf Coast rebuilding, lauded the release of the maps. He told the Times Picayune, "If I were in the real estate business, or if I were anticipating coming to live in New Orleans, the first thing I would look at are these maps we're releasing today."
Some city and parish officials however felt that depicting a total failure of the pumping system, which has been upgraded since Katrina, is misleading and does not help the image of the Crescent City. The increased flood protection system depicted in the new maps is projected to be completed by the Corps in 2011.
Manning vs. Bush: bring it on
Going after go cups
Wednesday, August 22, 2007
Attack ads heat up in governor's race
Acadiana Business launches today
Also inside this week's issue is veteran reporter Angela Simoneaux's look at Lafayette Parish's housing sector, along with local columnists' take on commercial construction, business politics and the stock market.
Acadiana Business' goal is to provide in-depth analysis of commerce in south Louisiana. You can find it bundled with The Independent Weekly's fourth issue of each month and on its own at dozens of targeted locations around the market.
Abita goes nuts
Bishop Gerard Frey sure loved his 8 a.m. cup of coffee.
He could be a demanding boss, too, when he needed letters sent to other bishops or the wristband broke on his watch. Otherwise, he was sensitive, calm, remarkable, humble, strong, kind, gentle, unruffled, stable, understanding, cool and collected, extremely family-oriented, even and balanced and had a firm and sturdy character.
That's how The Daily Advertiser remembered Frey, who died last Thursday at the age of 93. In three successive days of coverage, The Advertiser wrote of Frey's long service to the Catholic Church and the Lafayette Roman Catholic Diocese, also highlighting noteworthy Frey accomplishments such as his extensive work with the Second Vatican Council and tenure as a pastor with churches in Houma, New Orleans and Taft. ...
For too many people, Frey's passing and The Advertiser's coverage provoked a terrible sense of déjà vu.
Read the whole column here.
Tuesday, August 21, 2007
Downtown restaurants could win exemption from alcohol ordinance
The proposed ordinance has already drawn the ire of Downtown Development Authority and First Baptist Church, both of which wrote letters to the council opposing the ordinance because of the precedent it may set. Councilman Bruce Conque, who favors the bill, says he is planning to offer up an amendment tonight that he hopes will assuage some of the concerns. He says his amendment will allow restaurants to appeal to the council for an exemption on a case by case basis – without a letter of approval from the impacted church or school, as is now required. "The concern is," Conque says, "the way churches and schools have been expanding downtown, they are removing commercial property from the possibility of operating as a restaurant."
Carencro's Faulk buying up Burger Kings
Burger King is trying to make inroads in areas with high minority populations and is also trying to increase its minority ownership. Faulk's partners are NFL Hall of Famer Marcus Allen, New York Giants defensive end Michael Strahan, Caron Butler of the NBA's Washington Wizards and Donnie Edwards of the Kansas City Chiefs.
Though he is venturing out into the business world, Faulk has remained close to his roots, generously supporting fund-raising efforts of United Way of Acadiana. Let's just hope this role model is able to help young children understand that you don't make it in the big leagues on a regular diet of super-sized Whopper meals.
Ambassador Ross lecture slated for next week
For more than 12 years, Ross played a leading role in shaping U.S. involvement in the Middle East peace process. A highly skilled diplomat, Ross was U.S. point man for negotiations in both the George H. W. Bush and Bill Clinton administrations. He was instrumental in assisting Israelis and Palestinians to reach the 1995 Interim Agreement; he also successfully brokered the 1997 Hebron Accord, facilitated the 1994 Israel-Jordan peace treaty, and intensively worked to bring Israel and Syria together.
A scholar and diplomat with more than two decades of experience in Soviet and Middle East policy, Ambassador Ross worked closely with secretaries of state James Baker, Warren Christopher, and Madeleine Albright. Prior to his service as special Middle East coordinator under President Clinton, Ambassador Ross served as director of the State Department's Policy Planning Staff in the first Bush administration. In that capacity, he played a prominent role in U.S. policy toward the former Soviet Union, the unification of Germany and its integration into NATO, arms control negotiations, and the 1991 Gulf War coalition. During the Reagan administration, he served as director of Near East and South Asian affairs on the National Security Council staff and deputy director of the Pentagon's Office of Net Assessment. Ambassador Ross was awarded the Presidential Medal for Distinguished Federal Civilian Service by President Clinton, and Secretaries Baker and Albright presented him with the State Department's highest award.
Ross is now counselor and a Ziegler distinguished fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. His new book, Statecraft: How to Restore America's Standing in the World, has been excerpted internationally in news magazines, including U.S. News and World Report, and was called "important and illuminating" by The New York Times. Ross is also an analyst and contributor for Fox News.
Volunteerism key to recovery
Donald Powell, federal coordinator for rebuilding the Gulf Coast, addressed a gathering of volunteers yesterday in St. Bernard Parish. "The generosity of the American people has been overwhelming," he said.
Public meeting tonight on LINC
Monday, August 20, 2007
Craig Romero eyeing Iberia Parish President race
LRA sees state being shortchanged again
"According to the currently proposed allocation for distributing disaster relief funds to the shrimp, oyster, and fishing industries devastated by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, Louisiana stands to receive less than half the amount of funding available. This proposed allocation directly contradicts NOAA's own assessments, which estimate Katrina's financial impact on Louisiana's fishing industry to be $2.1 billion. That's two and a half times more damage sustained in Mississippi, and nearly 75 times the amount estimated in Alabama.
"While we do not begrudge our neighbors, we have been left once again asking for equity. Louisiana generates more than 76 percent of the annual catch landings in all the disaster declared parishes and counties in the Gulf Coast, and we bore the brunt of two storms in 2005."While Louisiana is grateful for the limited relief these recovery funds will provide to our devastated industry, we call on the U.S. Department of Commerce and NOAA to reconsider their proposal to make these allocations fair and consistent with the congressional directive PL 110-28, which explicitly states that the allocation of these funds should be based on need."
The problem with Jena? Outsiders
While newspapers across the country have reported out of Jena with such headlines as "Racial demons rear heads," a number of the city's residents are ready to stand up and defend the community they call home.
In a July 31 editorial, The Town Talk wrote:
News organizations, editorial writers, television stations and Web sites with all kinds of agendas have zeroed in on the trials and the community as being the epicenter of all things racist. They are wrong, of course, and they need only look in their own front yards to see that. But it is so much easier to go to Small Town, America, deep in the heart of Dixie, to find and point at ugliness.
LaSalle Parish Sheriff Carl Smith tells The Town Talk today:
One of the main things I see and hear in both the black and white community is that there are so many people that are voicing their opinion that don't know what is going on, on either side of the issue. … They don't know the people in Jena, black or white, yet they have their grand opinion about what to do in the situation.
The article also introduces Jena residents who say the situation is being blown out of proportion by the "international and national media, national civil rights activists and Internet bloggers." Most believe Jena's "a safe, nice place to raise a family."
Crissey Hart of Jena doesn't agree. She said race is definitely an issue in Jena -- enough of an issue that she sent her 16-year-old son to South Carolina to live with family instead of having him go back to Jena High this year.
Read how The Town Talk's readers are responding.
10 Time Inc. mags revisit New Orleans
It was 10 of the individual editors' decision to assign stories when they returned home, but once they did, the magazine group coordinated a package to coincide with next week's two-year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. Time's story tackles the misguided policies and bureaucratic bungling that left New Orleans defenseless; Essence profiles three families that had been displaced by the storm, Fortune Small Business catches up with area business owners, and Fortune explores why billions in relief money is not reaching the local economy. The package also includes Web exclusive stories from Entertainment Weekly and Sports Illustrated.
The idea for the trip sprung from People Group Editor Martha Nelson, who attend a wedding in New Orleans. "I came back thinking that the Katrina story really wasn't over — and while some people had moved on, the city of New Orleans was still dealing with it in every aspect, environmentally, socially, politically," she told The Times. "It was still a really important and unsettling situation."
To keep New Orleans in the spotlight, Time Inc. hopes to sponsor a presidential debate there next year, The Times reported.
The state vs. the Corps: the saga continues
Various Corps representatives have promised Louisiana officials in the past that the state's master plan would be relied upon heavily for the development of the federal plan, which will undergo a lengthy public-comment period before being presented to Congress for authorization in the summer of 2008. The CPRA, the state's guiding recovery agency, spent considerable resources developing Louisiana's master plan for coastal restoration, hurricane protection and flood control, and the Legislature endorsed the blueprint earlier this year, Coffee says. It includes regional and local projects that have been prioritized following months of community meetings. If Louisiana's priorities are not spelled out in the Corps report, the state could face a never-ending road of feasibility studies and bureaucratic hurdles to overcome in order to bring vital projects to construction, adds Coffee.
The state's master plan cannot be presented to Congress; only plans presented by federal agencies like the Corps can be introduced and authorized.
Despite the disparities in what the state is expecting and what the feds might produce, Corps spokesperson Vic Harris says any concerns at this point in the process are unwarranted. "Critiquing a plan that hasn't come out yet is like critiquing a book that hasn't been written," he says. – Jeremy Alford
Friday, August 17, 2007
Former La. film head charged with bribery
According to the Bill of Information filed today, between 2003 and 2005, while serving as Director of the Louisiana Film Commission, SMITH approved fraudulently inflated movie budgets submitted by a film production company in order for the film company to receive state tax credits. In return, SMITH accepted cash bribes totaling over $65,000.00. The Bill of Information further alleges that a businessman wrote corporate checks to a third party who cashed the checks and passed the cash to SMITH.
The Times-Picayune reports that Smith is expected to plead guilty and cooperate with the investigators. The charges come as a result of a federal investigation into Louisiana's film industry. If convicted, Smith faces up to 10 years in prison on the bribery charge, five years on the conspiracy charge, and a fine of $250,000.
Cockerham running unopposed for school board
Cockerham has represented District 7 since April, when the school board appointed him as an interim replacement to the late Dr. David Thibodaux. The seat will be up on the Oct. 20 election ballot to determine who fills out the remaining three years of Thibodaux's term. Cockerham, who announced his intentions to run for the seat at the beginning of the summer, says it didn't take him long before he knew he wanted to remain on the school board. "Within one meeting I knew," he says. "I just started loving it. Granted, it's been a tough year but nothing has deterred me from wanting to do this." The 31-year-old, who works with his family's oilfield supply company, Land and Marine Supply, is one of the youngest board members to ever serve in Lafayette Parish. "I think it benefits me," he says. "I bring a youth to the board that hasn't been there for a long time."
Score tailgating touchdown with new handbook
Corps of Engineers acknowledges piecemeal work in New Orleans
Col. Jeffrey A. Bedey, commander of the corps' Hurricane Protection Office, acknowledged that the work so far has been piecemeal, because the scale of project is so enormous. The drive to provide protection against that 1-in-100 storm by 2011, Colonel Bedey said, is more thorough.
And so, he said, the analysis that many people will have to make is, "Am I really willing to take the risk between 2007 and 2011" that no big storm will overpower the work done so far?
That requires more than an analysis of risk; it requires a calculus of hope. And it is not a question that needs to be asked only in New Orleans. It is the same question that comes up when a steam pipe in New York City explodes or a bridge 1,200 miles up the Mississippi from New Orleans collapses. Getting infrastructure right is hard, and keeping it strong takes vigilance. And that means safety, uncomfortably, is a relative thing.
One of the people quoted in the story is engineer Matt McBride, who's led a crusade to hold the Corps accountable. McBride relentlessly catalogued Corps documents, projects and missteps in his "Fix the Pumps" blog, and recently made the decision to leave the city because he felt the Corps' work was unacceptable. But all of McBride's extensive work can still be viewed at his blog, and should be required reading for anyone interested in reviewing the Corps' work.
Bishop who presided over pedophilia scandal dead at 93
The high-profile scandal involved former priest Gilbert Gauthe, who in 1985 at age 40 pleaded guilty to molesting altar boys and served 10 years in prison. Gauthe admitted under oath to sexually molesting 37 youngsters in hundreds of incidents while a priest in Broussard, New Iberia, Abbeville and Henry. He is believed to have had many more victims.
Deposed in the civil proceedings before the trial, Frey testified that he learned of the molestation at least a decade earlier but thought that counseling has resolved the problem.
Gauthe was again accused in 1997 of raping a 12-year-old Vermilion Parish girl, but his earlier plea bargain granted him immunity for crimes committed before the date of the plea agreement.
Thursday, August 16, 2007
One school board member leaving, another staying put
Following Meyer's announcement, board member Mike Hefner broke the news that he is dropping out of the race for the District 5 city-parish council seat and committing to filling out his current term on the school board, which ends in Dec. of 2010. Hefner, who is entering his final year of law school with Concord, a correspondence school out of California, says the rigors of learning a new office would stretch his time too thin. "I've got a lot of background with [the school board]," says Hefner, who is now in his 18th year on the board. "I can keep up and take care of problems that constituents have. The thing that was concerning me was you got seven out of nine possible new members on the council and it's going to be a lot of meetings and orientation and getting up to speed on issues. If I'm trying to do that in the middle of trying to prepare for the bar exam, I'm not going to do my constituents any favors. It's just going to take too much."
With Hefner out, the race for the District 5 city-parish council seat will now be between planning commissioner John Barras, landman Jared Bellard and Linda Duhon, owner of Acadian Food Mart in Scott.
Plans for birding tower hatched at Lake Martin
photo courtesy of Texas Parks and Wildlife Department
Free legal seminar Saturday at Hotel Acadiana
For more information on Saturday's schedule, click on this pdf file.
Made in the shade
The Building Institute, under the UL School of Architecture and Design, allows university students to take their design ideas and apply them in the real world. Director Geoff Gjertson says that with grants and the work of the students, professors and local architects like Mark Stielper of the MBSB Group, the $200,000 project was created at a cost of only $60,000. Shades of Blue will be unveiled today at 5 p.m. at the Granberry Boys & Girls Club at
Tauzin No. 6 on GQ's "50 Most Powerful in Washington" list
In 2006, the four interest groups [Kohr, Novelli, Lapierre and Tauzin] command spoke for 40 million members and thirty-two drug companies, racked up $43 million in lobbying expenses, and threw their considerable weight around to keep a slew of unpopular laws on the books and uphold the status quo. … Thanks to the influence their groups wield that's both detectable (money given to campaigns) and subtle (the personal relationships built with committee members of both parties), don't expect any big changes to our Israel or prescription-drug policies in coming years.
Wednesday, August 15, 2007
Dodging the debates
Earlier this week at the Lafayette Hilton, Every Child Matters in Louisiana held a gubernatorial forum on children's health care issues. The two-hour forum boasted a number of major sponsors, and KLFY's Darla Montgomery moderated the event. Republican gubernatorial hopeful John Georges, Democratic candidates Walter Boasso and Foster Campbell, Independent Tony Gentile and Libertarian Lee T. Horne were all present to offer their vision for health care in Louisiana.
The forum was an opportunity for Republican frontrunner and U.S. Rep. Bobby Jindal to highlight his extensive health care knowledge. In 1996, Jindal was appointed secretary of the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals. Two years later, he was named executive director of the National Bipartisan Commission on the Future of Medicare. After serving in that capacity for two years, Jindal was appointed Assistant Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and became a senior health policy adviser to President George W. Bush.
Jindal, however, was conspicuously absent from the Every Child Matters forum, and his campaign waited until last week to inform organizers that Jindal would not be participating. His decision is particularly disappointing, considering the back story. …
Conventional political wisdom holds that frontrunners have the most to lose by debating, as they risk opening themselves up to opponents' barbs and unexpected questions. But if there were ever an election that warranted throwing away the script, it's this one.
Read the full column here.
Alley Broussard heading to Bama?
Lafayette native Alley Broussard disappointed many LSU fans when he announced last month that he would not be returning to the Tiger football team for his senior season. The former Acadiana High standout, who holds LSU's single game rushing record (250 yards vs. Ole Miss in 2005), stated that his heart was no longer in the game, and that he wanted to focus on getting his degree. The move had many speculating that Broussard was planning a transfer to a smaller school in order to have a better chance at a starting role, and a possible shot at the NFL. At LSU, Broussard struggled to recover from a torn ACL suffered in '05, and was used sparingly by coach Les Miles last season, facing stiff competition for playing time from a stable of up and coming Tiger running backs. The latest report on Broussard is that he may attempt to revive his football career with the Division II University of North Alabama Lions. According to the Florence, Ala. Times Daily, Broussard visited the Lions practice yesterday and is expected to make a decision on transferring this week. Under NCAA rules, he still has one season of eligibility remaining.
Abbeville's Shucks sold for $1.2 million
Owners Jack Phares, his wife Diane Hebert Phares and Linda Hebert sold the restaurant Friday, Aug. 10, to locals David Bertrand and Bert Istre, who took over Saturday. Bertrand owns Meche's Donuts in Abbeville, and Istre manages Golden Corral Family Steakhouse. - Tonya LaCoste
Abbeville theater star of historic restoration plan
Vermilion Parish has been the location of a number of films. Glen Pitre's Belizaire The Cajun was shot there in 1986. Still talked about is a 1988 Hollywood remake of The Blob that was filmed in downtown Abbeville and included many residents as extras. Scorchers, a 1991 movie with Faye Dunaway and James Earl Jones, was shot in town, as was the comedy Jail Birds with Dyan Cannon.
"We're hoping to make the theater available for performing arts, classic movies and meetings," says Allumé Society treasurer Lloyd Dore. "The theater has 990 seats; restored, it will be the largest auditorium in the area." The society will have a public meeting tonight at the Vermilion Parish Library, 6 p.m. For information call 893-5400 or check out their website.
One of Jena Six appeals conviction
Yesterday, Martin Luther King III visited the
LHC Group's CFO resigns
Stewart joined the Lafayette based health care provider in June of 2006 as CFO, executive vice president and treasurer. Prior to accepting the LHC Group post, he served as CFO of Rotech Healthcare, a provider of home respiratory care and durable medical equipment and services to patients with breathing disorders. Before that, he was CFO at Evolved Digital Systems, a health care technology solutions company.
Citing personal reasons, Stewart said in a press release that he and his wife have decided to relocate. He could not be reached for comment this morning.
Corporate Controller Pete Roman has been named acting CFO.
LHC Group provides post-acute health care services primarily in rural markets. Its common stock is traded on the Nasdaq market under the symbol LHCG.
Tuesday, August 14, 2007
National Day of the Acadians tomorrow
Beginning at 10 a.m., the city of St. Martinville will throw open its doors, welcoming visitors and pilgrims to some of the most significant sites in the settlement of Louisiana by the Acadian deportees of Nova Scotia. All day long, speakers, films, restaurants, theatrical performances and a French Mass will pay homage to our Acadian roots. All museums will be open free of charge. At 11:30 a.m., at the Acadian Memorial, the maps of the Atchafalaya Trace, a Federal Heritage Area encompassing a 328-mile driving route circling the Atchafalaya Basin, will be unveiled. Long in the works, the trace will be marked with road signs and information about the culture, environment and history of the basin. Significantly, the Atchafalaya Trace begins at the doors of the Acadian Memorial. The new brochures will be available there. For more information, call the Acadian Memorial at 394-2258, or check their website for a complete schedule of tomorrow's events.
Mall of Acadiana launches unique Internet service
Now, Acadiana shoppers can visit the mall's Web site to find more than 600,000 items and brands at its stores (sales, coupons and promotions, too). When you find the product you want, you can reserve it, prompting the store to hold it until you arrive. Also, when you're at the mall, you can send a text message — text the letters "TA" to "NEARBY" (632729) — to receive instructions on how to find stores selling a specific product.
Blanco still keen on selling tobacco settlement
Jim Baronet, a spokesperson for the Division of Administration, says there is no deadline in particular, but staffers are monitoring the bond markets. "We still have plans to do it," he says, "we just don't know when. It's a simple matter of monitoring the markets and making a decision that's appropriate."
Largely opposed by Republicans and fiscal conservatives, the settlement sale would possibly generate billions – the tally is a moving target, sometimes ranging upwards to $3 billion – for education, health care and coastal restoration. Opponents argued during the recent regular session that the timing was poor and Louisiana stood to lose money due to market conditions. - Jeremy Alford
GO Zone benefits Tuscaloosa
About 10 condominium projects are going up in and around Tuscaloosa, and builders are asking up to $1 million for units with granite countertops, king-size bathtubs and 'Bama decor, including crimson couches and Bear Bryant wall art. ...
"The GO Zone extends so damn far, but the people who need it the most can't take advantage of it," said John Harral, a lawyer in hard-hit Gulfport, Miss.
"It is a joke," said Tuscaloosa developer Stan Pate, who has nevertheless used GO Zone tax breaks on projects that include a new hotel and a restaurant. "It was supposed to be about getting people ... to put housing in New Orleans, Louisiana, or Biloxi, Mississippi. It was not about condos in Tuscaloosa." ...
On the storm-raked shores of Lake Pontchartrain in Slidell, Chad Mayo, a pawn shop operator whose business was flooded by Katrina, asked: "The GO Zone? What's that? We're in the dead zone."
Monday, August 13, 2007
Sharpton to return to Jena with MLK III
Here's a clip of Sharpton's last visit to Jena:
The Town Talk has also posted an edited video of Sharpton at the pulpit, as well as a longer 16-minute version.
Candidates focus on children
Tell it like it is
The T-P in particular seems to be responding to Time's Aug. 13 cover story, "Special Report: Why New Orleans Still Isn't Safe," by listing what they see as three troubling "myths" about the city that are being perpetuated in the media.
Myth 1: New Orleans is not protected from flooding and--worse--it can't be protected.
Myth 2: New Orleanians are foolish to rebuild in areas flooded by Katrina.
Myth 3: The city is still a mess.
The T-P's response is that New Orleans' flood protection is already better than pre-Katrina, that people are rebuilding smartly and that 80 percent of the metro area's 1.3 million residents have returned. Get it right, tell the full story, the paper implores.
New Orleans is far from normal and...we have a formidable task ahead. Residents here know that well. But they deserve that the nation gets the full story as well. One that highlights our challenges as well as our progress.
Stirling Properties' north Lafayette center filling up
Last year, the Lafayette City-Parish Council approved a 1 cent sales tax to create a TIF district for the new Target development. The State Bond Commission then approved the TIF bonding in October, the last regulatory hurdle in the lengthy approval process for the north Lafayette center. The 1 cent sales tax will be levied only in the district, and the state will match the TIF tax with 1 percent of the 4 percent tax it collects on retail sales in the district. In addition to $8 million in TIF bonds, which will be paid off by these local and state sales taxes, the project also was approved for use of $40 million in Go Zone bonds, the private portion of the financing guaranteed by the developers.
No sales tax is currently being collected in that TIF district because it has no retail stores.
Funding from the TIF district will pay for public infrastructure like access and service roads, traffic signals, water, electricity and sewer service to the site.
Stirling officials say small shops on outparcel pads are available from 1,200-3,200 square feet while in line space available ranges from 4,000 to 30,000 square feet.
Lafayette Parish School System's 2007-2008 school year kicks off
Friday, August 10, 2007
Starry night on Sunday
Meteor showers are the cosmic dust shed by meteors as they streak through the heavens. When the grains of stone and metal called meteoroids hit earth's atmosphere, they light up, arcing across the night sky. While the Perseid shower originates from the Swift-Tuttle comet, identified in 1862, the shower has been seen since ancient times, and is named for the constellation Perseus, the Greek hero, which ancient astronomers thought was the source of the shower.
The best place to watch the show is in the country, away from city lights. Take a sleeping bag and some bug spray and make a night of it. The shower, at its height, should blaze with streaks of light every sixty seconds, so even if you blink, or nod off, you won't miss this show.
FEMA buying back toxic trailers
Finally addressing the issue of toxic formaldehyde in the trailers, Paulison also wrote that FEMA "will NOT continue to offer recreational vehicles as a temporary housing option in future disasters." He urged FEMA officials to "develop and implement an aggressive program" to move thousands of trailer and mobile home residents in Mississippi and Louisiana into rental apartments.
FEMA has not yet publicly announced the buy back (there is no mention of it on the agency's Web site). The trailers were sold at a rate of about 1,200 per week. Read more about FEMA's latest debacle in this week's cover story.
Walking to New Orleans
"My body was really getting broken down there toward the end," he said. "With the humidity, and the sun beating down, I just felt like I wasn't going anywhere after a while."
The 820-mile trek took 45 days to complete, a week under what Poor had projected it would take him. He had hoped to raised $2,000 but secured $10,000 in donations for Emergency Communities, the nonprofit organization where he'll volunteer his time before returning to school.
Treasurer Kennedy staying put - for now
The announcement did little to quash ongoing speculation that Kennedy, a Democrat, might switch parties. Republican strategist Karl Rove courted Kennedy in a Louisiana visit earlier this year, and as recently as last week, Kennedy continued to publicly buck Gov. Blanco's efforts to sell the state's tobacco-settlement funds. One theory holds that if U.S. Rep Bobby Jindal wins the gubernatorial election, Kennedy would then switch parties and run for Jindal's open congressional seat.
Thursday, August 09, 2007
Iberia Parish president's salary increased by $24,000
Former Iberia Parish President Will Langlinais' retirement, based on the highest figures he was paid over his last 36 months, will reflect the first increase. Langlinais resigned his office on July 25. Newly appointed interim Parish President Caesar Comeaux will benefit from the raises as well until he steps aside in January. Elections for Iberia Parish President will be held this fall. Qualifying is September 6, the election will be held October 20.
NOAA updates 2007 hurricane season forecast
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has just released its latest update for the 2007 Atlantic Hurricane Season – and it maintains its May forecast of an above-normal season. NOAA scientists' latest predictions: 13 to 16 named storms, with seven to nine becoming hurricanes, of which three to five could become major hurricanes (Category 3 strength or higher on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale). One area of concern is signals pointing to a return of La Niña-like conditions, according to Gerry Bell, Ph.D., lead seasonal hurricane forecaster at NOAA's Climate Prediction center.
"The biggest wild card in the May outlook was whether or not La Niña would form, and if so, how strong it would be," says Bell. "Today's El Niño/La Niña forecast from the Climate Prediction Center indicates a slightly greater than 50 percent probability that La Niña will form during the peak of the hurricane season. But more importantly, we are already observing wind patterns similar to those created by La Niña across the tropical Pacific Ocean and Caribbean Sea that encourage tropical cyclone development. The conditions are ripe for an above-normal season."
Airport Commission dismisses Fournet's escalating debt
"It was like drawing blood out of a turnip," says Commissioner Brenda Burley, who voted against suing Fournet. Burley says she tried to get the commission to enforce the lease agreement with Paul Fournet Air Service a decade ago but could not get enough support. "I'm only one vote," she says. "This should have been done 10 years ago, the repairs, the maintenance, but no, people buckled to the Fournets."
Fournet's lease on 125,000 square feet of terminal, hangar and office space expires in December. His father, Paul Fournet, started the fixed base operation, which serves the general aviation population, at the airport more than 50 years ago. Today the facility is in deplorable condition; when Fournet leaves, a portion of it will be taken over by an out-of-state group, Million Air, which breaks ground on its new FBO Aug. 16.
Commissioner Paul Colomb supported the decision to forego the lawsuit, with Allen Dugas, Jim Nunn and Dr. Chuck Wyatt voting against it. The tie was broken by Chairman Carroll Robichaux.
Burley says it was apparent at the meeting that Bacque had thoroughly researched the issue and was able to make an informed decision. "The lawsuit could have been drug out in court for years," she says, noting the possibility that Fournet may have used the suit to stay in the facility beyond December. "[Don] spent a lot of time and consideration on this," she says.
An improbable Hurricane Season
For the past three decades, Class 2A high school football in Louisiana has been dominated by one team: the John Curtis Christian High School Patriots. A family-run school in the small town of River Ridge in Jefferson Parish, John Curtis still has no campus stadium, maintains a no-cut policy where every kid gets a chance to play, and prides itself on running a predictable old-school, triple-option-based offense. It's been a formula for success for Coach J.T. Curtis, who has 21 state championships over his 33-year tenure, including in 2005 — a year that many of the team's players were displaced by Hurricane Katrina. That improbable championship is the subject of author Neal Thompson's new book, Hurricane Season. Thompson chronicles the Patriots and star player Joe McKnight, the No. 1 college football recruit in the nation last year. (McKnight devastated LSU fans by enrolling at USC this year.) Hurricane Season is now available at all local bookstores. -- Nathan Stubbs
Life after the hurricanes
Another study conducted by LSU takes the pulse of residents still living in Louisiana's FEMA trailer parks. Eighty percent of those still living in FEMA trailer are making less than $15,000 a year. Seventy-one percent of the population was employed before the storms, compared to only 34 percent now. Now 44 percent are looking for work, while 66 percent of those not looking for work cite health limitations.
Over 500 south Louisiana residents living in FEMA campers have filed a class action lawsuit against the manufacturers for dangerous levels of formaldehyde. For more on FEMA's attempts to quell testing for exposure to the chemical, read this week's cover story in The Independent Weekly - "Running on Fumes."
(photo by Tracie Morris Schaefer)
Wednesday, August 08, 2007
State Ethics Board searching for new administrator
House Bill 532, signed into law by Gov. Kathleen Blanco July 11, stipulates that the board's ethics administrator, a state Civil Service position, must focus his full time efforts on the agency job by August 2008 and also requires disclosure of private clients and business dealings within 30 days of the bill becoming law. The day after the signing, Sexton told the board that his resignation was "absolutely" the result of the new law, saying he wanted to keep his private business affairs confidential.
Lafayette attorney Hank Perret, chairman of the ethics board, said last month that Sexton's expertise was needed for the heavy workload during the upcoming elections, according to The Times-Picayune. Perret could not be reached for comment this morning.
However, Kenyetta Sewell of the State Department of Civil Service tells The Independent Weekly that the ethics board apparently changed its mind because her office, which would have to approve Sexton's new position, was never notified.
Depending on the new administrator's qualifications, the salary will be $67,000 to $140,000. The Louisiana Board of Ethics oversees state ethics and campaign finance laws. For more on the search and qualifications of candidates, click here.
Boasso hits Jindal on Iraq
Vermilionville touts Acadiana Culture Day
There will be bands morning and afternoon as well as Cajun dance lessons. Demonstrations will include building with bousillage, blacksmithing, dyeing fabric with native plants, palmetto weaving and pine-needle basket making. Louisiana Folk Roots is lending support for hands-on activities for kids such as making bamboo fishing poles to fish for sunfish and bream in Vermilionville's pond, rag-doll making, and old-timey jewelry stringing. For Francophones and those who would like to learn to converse in Cajun French, guests can take lessons in the morning, then practice their skills at a Table Française in the afternoon. Story teller Alan Simon will be on hand to discourse on traiteurs and tell stories. And of course there will be food. An authentic Cajun buffet of smothered steak, corn macquechoux, smothered okra, white beans and sausage, corn bread and peach cobbler fits the noon bill. For more information call Vermilionville at 233-4077.
Ernest Gaines and Barry Bonds
Aaron, who had distanced himself from Bonds's pursuit, offered a congratulatory message in a videotape that he recorded about a month ago and that was played on the scoreboard. The message received a huge ovation, too, because, in some ways, Aaron's blessing of Bonds's performance sanctioned Bonds's achievement. Aaron said Bonds's accomplishment required "skill, longevity and determination," and said that he was privileged to hold the record for 33 years.
"I move over and offer my best wishes to Barry and his family on this historical achievement," Aaron said. "My hope today, as it was on that April evening in 1974, is that the achievement of this record will inspire others to chase their own dreams."
Independent Weekly Editor Scott Jordan, a huge fan of Gaines' work, disagrees with the premise and much of the logic Gaines used in his letter to Aaron, and requested to interview Gaines in the hopes of some healthy dialogue regarding Bonds and race relations. To his regret, Gaines declined. Read Jordan's column "The Author and the Slugger."
Tuesday, August 07, 2007
Durel touts Blueprint to state mayors
Downtown's FNB Towers now Chase Towers
Constructed in 1975 to house the Moody family's First National Bank, the downtown office building's top floor also at one time was home to the City Club, which moved to River Ranch in 2002.
Ted Menard, who manages the building, told The Independent Weekly in mid-2004 that there were no plans to change the building's name, despite that a new First National Bank (formerly FirstBank of Crowley) had begun operating in Lafayette's River Ranch and two of the nation's biggest banks, Chase and FNB Towers tenant Bank One, were in the midst of a merger.
"Some years ago, they were not open to that idea," says Barry Berthelot, president of Chase's Acadiana market. In Chase's recent lease renewal, however, Berthelot says the family changed its mind and agreed to negotiate a price for the name change. In addition to the small signage that's already been replaced, Berthelot says a large Chase sign will be added as part of an exterior facelift that's expected to take about six months. The building's interior has already been renovated.
August is for locals in New Orleans
Participants include 7 on Fulton, Antoine's, Arnaud's, Attiki Bar and Grill, Bacco, Begue's, Bombay Club, Bourbon House Seafood, Brennan's, Broussard's, Bubba Gump Shrimp Co., Cafe Adelaide, Cafe Degas, Embers (the Original Bourbon House) and Emeril's Delmonico's.
Also the flagship Emeril's, Galatoire's, Gumbo Shop, La Cote Brasserie, Mr. B's, Mulate's Cajun Restaurant, NOLA (an Emeril restaurant), Olivier's Creole, Palace Cafe, Pascal's Manale, Pat O's Courtyard, Ralph's on the Park, Red Fish Grill, Rib Room (Omni Royal Orleans), Table One Brasserie, the Pelican Club and Tujagues's.
But eating isn't everything, Ball has catalogued every adventure from saltwater fishing expeditions at Woodlands Plantation in Point à la Hache to sipping wine at Pontchartrain Vineyards in the Covington. There's clearly something for every appetite. It's a good way to fall in love with Louisiana all over again.
Kennedy: Blocking tobacco settlement sale the right move
According to Treasurer John Kennedy, who led a high-profile opposition campaign against the move, the state would have lost an estimated $240 million in bond proceeds if Gov. Kathleen Blanco's financing plan was approved in June. "It's a good thing the Legislature didn't approve these transactions, especially because the municipal bond market for tobacco bonds continues to deteriorate," he says.
Kennedy has heard rumblings, however, that the proposal isn't dead. "There's now talk that the administration could bring a tobacco proposal up for a legislative vote by mail ballot in the near future," he says.
Blanco wanted to sell off the state's remaining payments from a 1998 tobacco settlement for a lower lump sum that could be pumped into education, health care and coastal restoration. – Jeremy Alford
Katrina's musical effect
But it remains to be seen how long a loose-knit band of charities can stand in for coordinated economic development in one of New Orleans's most important business sectors. Although New Orleans is one of the country's most culturally distinct cities, a large-scale recording industry never took root here, even before Katrina. Yet the informal music sector, the kind visitors find in clubs and bars, and large-scale musical events like Jazz Fest, is a mainstay of the city's tourism business.
In fact, local authorities say, music and cuisine are the twin pillars of the tourism industry here; the leisure and hospitality businesses account for almost 63,000 jobs in the city and for about 35 percent of the sales taxes. Both of those figures are larger than those of any other business sector, including the energy industry. ...
New Orleans acts like George Porter Jr., Papa Grows Funk, Big Sam's Funky Nation, Theresa Andersson and Galactic have landed more gigs recently in Lafayette, at clubs like 307 Downtown and Grant Street Dancehall.
It's an article of faith among New Orleanians that the music scene is an indelible part of the city's appeal. But the city and state historically haven't recognized the role that musicians and other creative workers play in driving tourism and improving the quality of life, advocates say. As a result, they say, the city and state have underinvested in the cultural sector of the economy.
Monday, August 06, 2007
Freetown receives $200,000 donation
The commission is holding a public meeting tonight at 5:30 at the Jefferson Street Market to begin discussing possible uses for the funds. Commission member Istvan Berkeley says the committee already plans to use approximately $28,000 to commission a UL graduate history student to research and document Freetown's history. The neighborhood was settled by free men of color in the 1840s, and was the site of several legendary standoffs with the Ku Klux Klan and the Riders of the White Camellia. Freetown was also home to one of the city's first annual street fairs, as well as Good Hope Hall, which hosted jazz greats like Louis Armstrong. Berkeley says having an official history should make Freetown eligible for grant funds which can go toward further neighborhood improvements. Other ideas in the works include a possible Freetown museum and park.
Vita Shaw bridge gets reprieve
Those who want the bridge replaced say they fear that the one-lane structure isn't safe, a concern amplified by the collapse of the Mississippi River bridge in Minneapolis last week. "That's not comparing apples to apples," says Burton. "If you go out there the bridge is fine, the structure is sound. It's not about to fall into the water." For the time being, the question of safety is moot. New approaches to the Vita Shaw bridge were engineered by the parish this year, and have malfunctioned, leaving the bridge stuck in the open position. "So nobody's at risk until this thing gets settled," Burton says.
Also, anyone who donates blood through September will be eligible to win a 2007 Pontiac G6 from Courtesy Motors. Twenty finalists will receive a key on Tuesday, Oct. 20, one of which will start the car.
The UBS donor center is located at 1503 Bertrand Drive. Call 235-5433 for hours of operation or to hold a blood drive at your place of business.
Sharpton supports Jena Six
"You cannot have two levels of justice," he said. "Some boys assault people and are charged with nothing. Some boys hang nooses and finish the school year. And some boys are charged with attempted murder."
Sharpton indicated that other national civil rights leaders intend to visit Jena as well, including Martin Luther King III, Rev. Jesse Jackson, and members of the Black Congressional Caucus.
See also The Town Talk's "Jena residents have mixed reaction to Sharpton's visit."
Wildlife and Fisheries secretary running for Senate
After serving 15 years in the Louisiana House of Representatives, including seven years as chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, Hammett was term-limited from running for re-election. He stepped down last July to become the infrastructure manager for the governor's Disaster Recovery Unit before Blanco offered him the Wildlife and Fisheries post. Now Hammett's out to fry bigger fish, and has declared his candidacy for Senate District 32. Hammett's lone declared opponent currently is Republican Neil Reiser.
Friday, August 03, 2007
Page Cortez launches campaign for state rep.
Is your company one of Acadiana's best?
Companies of any size are eligible but must be headquartered in Acadiana, including Lafayette, Iberia, Vermilion, St. Martin, St. Landry and Acadia parishes.
A sales tax holiday
Attorney General documents: release or destroy?
A special grand jury recently refused to indict Dr. Anna Pou on July 24 for a set of reported deaths at the New Orleans hospital during the early, desperate hours following Hurricane Katrina. The following day, after several media outlets, including WAFB in Baton Rouge, were provided with files related to case, Attorney General Charles Foti also asked a state judge to unseal all of the documents pertaining to Pou.
Wartelle says the defense countered by requesting that some of the records be destroyed. "What don't they want us to see?" she asks.
A hearing scheduled for Aug. 6 will determine what happens, she adds. Until then, options are limited. "You can always get a good lawyer and take it to court," Wartelle says. – Jeremy Alford
End of an era, Langlinais sentenced
It was clear from the onset that Judge Conery, opening the sentencing hearing of Will Langlinais with a quote from Shakespeare's Julius Caesar, was looking not only at the laundry list of crimes the Iberia Parish president had pled guilty to, but also at his 30-year legacy of public service. A sheaf of 128 letters from family, friends, political allies and the community, outlining Langlinais' drive to help the people of Iberia Parish, begged for leniency. Two Iberia Parish council members took the stand to counteract the outpouring. Finance committee chairman Bernard Broussard and councilman Ray Fremin, citing clandestine illegal contracts, obstruction of releasing parish budgetary and financial documents, and a nearly $300,000 campaign war chest obtained in part by sending parish employees out to solicit funds on public time were the cornerstones of their testimony.
After three hours of emotional speeches, Conery sentenced Langlinais to the most extreme penalty, five years in prison at hard labor, but suspended the sentence to five years of supervised probation. He also set several special conditions. Langlinias had to report to Iberia Parish Sheriff Sid Hebert immediately to be booked, and will serve 480 hours of community service as dictated by the sheriff. He must spend the first six months of his sentence under house arrest wearing an electronic bracelet, and can only leave to visit family or go to church. He is forbidden to use his campaign monies to fund any political activity, and under CPA supervision must either give it to charity or return the funds to contributors. Langlinais has already resigned as parish president, agreed to pay $100,000 restitution, and as a convicted felon lost his right to vote and run for office. The 61 year old will keep his state retirement, approximately $100,000 a year, as well as tax-payer funded health benefits.
Citing Langlinais' remorseful attitude and willingness to plead guilty and end 16 months of political and personal turmoil in Iberia Parish, Conery closed the hearing with a benediction for Langlinais. "He is a man of compassion, a man who does not know how to say no."
Thursday, August 02, 2007
Lafayette, New Orleans law firms merge
Gannett's capital bureau chief to retire
Reached by phone at his second home in New Orleans, Hill says a replacement has not been named to fill his position. "There will be no replacement," he says. "Mike Hasten will be the single correspondent."
Just two months away from Louisiana's next gubernatorial election, Hill says he has wanted to retire since December, but just recently came of age to retire and managed to work out a retirement buyout with Gannett. "And the idea of avoiding having to cover an election campaign is really delicious," he adds.
White House threatens WRDA veto
Louisiana lawmakers expressed shock and disappointment over the veto threat. Gov. Kathleen Blanco issued a statement this morning, stating, "I wholeheartedly agree with the sentiment expressed by Senator David Vitter regarding this veto threat. Louisiana has waited seven years for these projects critical to our fight to restore and protect Louisiana's coast. With many coastal residents still rebuilding after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita - still vulnerable to future storms, I fail to understand how President Bush can choose to abandon their protection."Vitter, who has been at the forefront of the WRDA negotiations and is often a Republican ally of President Bush, told the Times-Picayune that he was "stunned" by the president's actions and would "work enthusiastically" to override a veto. "I'm afraid the promise the president made to the nation in Jackson Square comes across as hollow today," he said.
Small businesses still overlooked in Gulf Coast rebuilding contracts
The committee's review found that small businesses in Louisiana had an overall net loss of $8.9 million in contracting dollars since April, when the agencies reaffirmed their commitment to give smaller companies a share of the work. The loss was due in part to a decision at the Homeland Security Department to modify several existing agreements instead of awarding significant new contracts.
In addition, the review found the five agencies — Homeland Security, General Services Administration, Defense, Veterans Affairs and Small Business Administration — had claimed falsely that 259 contracts were awarded to small businesses when in fact they went to large companies or ineligible recipients. That created the false impression that more than $95 million in contracts was awarded to small companies, when they actually went elsewhere.
Unusual timing in latest Iberia Parish ethics questions
"Without a doubt it was a targeted release," says councilman Ray Fremin. "Now who pulled the trigger?" he asks, rolling his eyes at the ceiling. Two weeks ago, councilman Joe Boudoin was busted by State Police for running a gambling operation at his house. Boudoin has also been the target of an ethics board investigation for his daughter-in-law's employment by Iberia Parish Government.
At an April council meeting, Langlinais delivered an impassioned three-minute speech that ended in what some council members regarded as an attempt at intimidation. "There are some possible improprieties by some council members," Langlinais said that night, "that I feel I should have the opportunity to address."
"I'm sure this will not be the last thing," predicts council member Bernard Broussard.
Wednesday, August 01, 2007
Dr. Charles Boustany Sr.'s sudden resignation
Dr. Collie Trant, a forensic pathologist who worked as a deputy coroner for the office for about 18 months, leaving his $130,000-a-year job in December, claims Boustany has not been in control of the office for some time due to health reasons. He says Boustany once told him he went to the gas station but had to ask for assistance because he could not remember how to work the pump. During the time Trant was with the office, the pathologist contends he had no more than a handful of conversations with the coroner, maintaining that Boustany rarely inquired about his work; when the coroner did have a question, Trant says he had to repeat himself several times.
The Independent Weekly began requesting an interview with Boustany last Wednesday, July 25, and called again Thursday and Friday to check the status of the request. Boustany's administrative assistant, Carolyn Bouillion, said she had given him the messages and also said that he and his family had not yet decided whether he would seek re-election.
The next day, Saturday, July 28, Boustany unexpectedly announced his retirement, effective tomorrow, Aug. 2.
Read the whole story from Senior Editor Leslie Turk – "Pulling Back the Sheet" - in this week's Independent.
Commentary: Corruption and Justice
The findings of that investigation were released earlier this year, and they weren't pretty. Louisiana Legislative Auditor Steve Theriot's report found that Langlinais directed public funds to improve private property; was inappropriately reimbursed for meals already paid for with parish and state monies; entered into contracts in violation of the parish charter; used public funds for charitable donations and to pay for employee meals and social events; and pressured parish employees to solicit donations and work on his campaign fund-raising golf tournament during parish work hours.
Those charges were so disturbing and widespread that The Independent Weekly called on the Iberia Parish Council to impeach Langlinais and remove him from office ("Impeach Will Langlinais," March 14). Langlinais decried the audit and subsequent investigation by 16th Judicial District Attorney Phil Haney as nothing more than a political witch hunt and steadfastly maintained his innocence.
Read the whole editorial from this week's issue.
Cox adds Saints opener – for a price
La Fayette's 250th birthday anniversary sets sail
Here in Lafayette, La., plans for celebrating the 250th birthday of the marquis include an exhibit and Lafayette in History lectures at UL's Dupre Library on August 31, a Gala Birthday Party and the opening of the Marquis de La Fayette exhibit at the Natural History Museum on Sept. 6, a Commemorative Concert at the Heymann Center by the Acadiana Symphony Orchestra on Sept. 7, a Commemorative Mass at St. John Cathedral on Sept. 9, and more events through the end of the year. For a detailed schedule of events call the International Center of Lafayette at 291-5474 or check out their website.
New Orleans' "perilous future"
Global warming is boosting sea-surface temperatures in hurricane alley - the tropical Atlantic and Caribbean - and warm seas are rocket fuel for stronger hurricanes. Before Katrina made landfall, it had exploded from a Category 3 storm to a Category 5 in 12 hours, partly because it stirred up a deep pocket of warm water in the Gulf. Only when it reached the Louisiana coast did the storm weaken again to a Category 3, sparing New Orleans an even greater catastrophe. If global warming produces stronger storms on top of the decadal cycle, 2005, with Katrina, Rita, and two other mega-hurricanes in the Atlantic, could be a stormy precursor of the coming century.
Despite increasing hurricane strengths and activity, a sinking city, and insufficient levees, Tulane geologist Torbjörn Törnqvist offers this reasoning for rebuilding New Orleans in the face of all of the obstacles:
"The situation here is a huge opportunity for the city and the nation," says Törnqvist, who says he can't imagine Holland turning its back on Amsterdam, or Italy giving up on Venice. "If we walk away, we'll miss a fantastic opportunity to learn things that will be useful in Miami, or Boston, or New York in 50 years." That kind of revival, however, would require a massive infusion of federal help, better engineering than ever before, and more social and urban planning than regulation-loathing Louisianans have ever stomached.
Montesano sells Chateau apartments for $19.3 million
For more than four years, Montesano has been planning to develop a golf course community on the property, the first phase a patio home development called Chateau Mirage. The nearby 180-unit Chateau Des Lions apartment complex opened in 2002. He has said the project would include 331 golf course lots and 71 patio home lots.