Friday, September 28, 2007

And the first gubernatorial debate winner is ...
Louisiana insomniacs were the big winner after last night's gubernatorial debate, as the forum featuring Democrats Walter Boasso and Foster Campbell, Independent John Georges and Republican Bobby Jindal was largely an uninspiring snoozefest.

Random observations on each candidate last night:

No surprises on the Bobby Jindal front. He never strayed far from his central platform plank of ethics reform and talking point of directing voters to his Web site to see his policy plans. Still, after watching his performance, it hammered home why his campaign has avoided televised debates. Jindal cannot shed his overcaffeinated policy wonk speaking style, and crammed a gazillion statistics, studies and anecdotes into every breathless one-minute answer. That was never more apparent than in the lightning round of questioning, as Jindal was incapable of providing simple yes or no answers. He also might have created an opening for opponents with his qualified endorsement of teaching intelligent design in Louisiana classrooms.

Foster Campbell repeatedly talked up his oil and gas processing tax, inevitably circling back to its promised revenue as the baseline solution for coastal reform, education reform, etc. So there's no question where he stands, but that's a double-edged sword that also portrays him as a one-trick pony. Comedy is not his forte; his multiple attempts at humor fell flat.

Walter Boasso gave the night's most puzzling performance. With all his big-guy swagger and latest round of hard-hitting ads against Jindal, he was so subdued you wonder if he took a sedative prior to the debate. That effect was compounded by too many answers short on specifics. He uttered what should have been the strongest answer of the night when asked why he switched parties. "My party left me in the water for eight days after Hurricane Katrina. My party lied to me. President Bush stood in Jackson Square and promised to rebuild. I have 120,000 reasons to be a Democrat today," he said, referring to the residents of his hard-hit Senate district. But he said it somewhat flatly; where's the fire in his belly?

If forced to pick a winner for the debate, I'd give John Georges the nod. He was hoarse and looked a bit over-rehearsed at times, but he gave the most specific answers; drew a sharp contrast between himself and the other candidates on race relations by repeatedly noting that he was the only candidate to go to Jena; and used his business experience to note that he's traveled to every parish in the state and also jab Jindal. "Unlike the Congressman who hasn't created one job his entire life, I have created many jobs," he said.

Final note: Inexplicable that Boasso, Campbell and Georges would never refer to Jindal by name, only calling him "the congressman."

Council passes 2008 budget
The Lafayette city-parish council approved consolidated government's 2008 budget at a special hearing yesterday. The $548.3 million budget represents an 8.3 percent increase from the '07 budget, with the city enjoying steady growth in revenues. Lafayette Utilities System's contribution alone to city-parish government's general fund – based on a percentage formula – is projected to rise from $17 million to more than $19 million.

New big ticket items in the budget include LUS' plans to spend the majority of its $110 million bond issue over the next five years for its fiber-to-the-home network. For the '08 fiscal year, $1.2 million is being allocated for new police vehicles and $178,475 for a new initiative to attract the entertainment industry to Lafayette. Earlier this year, city-parish president Joey Durel awarded that contract to Believe Entertainment, headed by local actor Marcus Brown. Also in its '08 fiscal year, Lafayette Consolidated Government is allocating $452,752 to continue to assist a slew of social service agencies including the Council on Aging, St. Joseph's Diner, the Performing Arts Society of Acadiana, the Acadiana Arts Council and the Lafayette Community Healthcare Clinic. In the past, Durel has indicated this is an expense he would like local government to move away from. The funds were approved this year with little discussion.

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