CRAIG ROMERO EYEING IBERIA PARISH PRESIDENT RACE Sources close to term-limited Republican state Sen. Craig Romero confirm that he is exploring a run for Iberia Parish president. Romero met with some city and parish officials last week to discuss his candidacy. Residents of the parish polled over the weekend were asked if the race would be held this week, who they would most likely vote for ' announced candidates Ernest Freyou, a former secretary-treasurer of the Iberia Parish Police Jury and retired Regions Bank president, Ronnie Migues, who works for an oilfield service company, or Romero. Those polled were asked to rate Romero's performance as Iberia Parish president from 1984-92, when he succeeded his father, Francis Romero, in office. It also asked about his effectiveness as state senator from 1992 until the present. The poll concluded by asking if the respondent were Democrat or Republican, and whether he or she would be more likely to vote for gubernatorial candidate Bobby Jindal, Walter Boasso or Foster Campbell. ... MEYER AND HEFNER CHANGE THEIR MINDS The Lafayette Parish School Board meeting last week yielded two surprise announcements from board members. Russell Meyer, who just began serving his first term on the school board this year, announced he will be stepping down effective Nov. 1. Meyer is planning a move to Grand Junction, Colo., to take a new job with an oilfield supply company. Meyer, a former school principal who runs Romero's Grocery store in Ossun, says the job will be something entirely different for him and that last week was the first that many school system officials and board members heard of the news. "They were very surprised," Meyer says, "and like I told them afterward, I was surprised myself because this was something that just came out of the blue. It wasn't expected, but sometimes it happens and I just couldn't pass this up." Prior to Meyer stepping down, the school board will appoint an interim replacement to serve until a special election can be held for his seat. 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 December 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." 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. ... FORMER LA. FILM HEAD CHARGED WITH BRIBERY U.S. Attorney Jim Letten announced last week that Mark Smith, the former head of the Louisiana Film Commission, has been charged with bribery and conspiracy. According to the Bill of Information filed, 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 more than $65,000. 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. ... TAUZIN LANDS AT NO. 6 ON "MOST POWERFUL" LIST The lobbying power of former U.S. Rep., Democrat-turned-Republican and Charlie Melancon predecessor Billy Tauzin has earned him the No. 6 spot in GQ magazine's "The 50 Most Powerful People in Washington" list. Tauzin tied with AARP's Bill Novelli, AIPAC's Howard Kohr and the NRA's Wayne Lapierre. Chackbay native Tauzin is currently president and CEO of Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America and lobbies on behalf of pharmaceutical companies. Here's what GQ had to say about Tauzin, whose legacy is forever intertwined with his leadership role in the controversial Medicare Prescription Drug Bill: "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. â?¦ 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."
MAY 17 Here's a column from James Gill, this time in the Advocate. Gill, who has jumped ship from the Picayune, writes about the absurdity of dueling polls in this post. The numbers are so wildly different, it is obvious that both sides are "cooking the books," he writes. In particular, he looks at Sen. Mary Landrieu, and how her recent actions in DC have been received by those polled. Gill's acerbic, amusing prose is a welcome addition to a paper so conservative as to be occasionally lacking in personality.
MAY 17 Blogger Tom Aswell continues delivering bombshells about the state education department and Gov. Jindal's education "reform" efforts. In this post, he reports that students in the Shreveport area have been signed up for a charter school without their knowledge or consent. Most interesting to Aswell is how this Texas-based charter (with ties to GOP types) got the personal student information it has, if the students didn't give it.
MAY 17 This post by JR Ball in the Baton Rouge Business Report is an interesting tongue-in-cheek look at recent Baton Rouge economic development efforts. Among the items he examines is the idea that gaining a Costco makes BR a "world-class city." (Really? All you need is a different brand of Sam's? MK!) This effort, and other recent ones, are all built on the taxpayer's back, with tax zones, tax incentives and tax rebates, Ball writes.
MAY 17 Blogger CB Forgotston is critical of the legislature's reliance on a revenue-estimating committee's decision to include projected tax amnesty income in this year's forecast. That's a problem, CB posts, because the deadline for these people to pay their taxes is June 30, 2014. So when do you think these people who haven't paid taxes in years are going to pay their taxes? Surely not before June 30, and that means the money won't be there for this year's budget, he argues.
MAY 17 Here's an interesting blog out of California by a Hollywood writer, attorney and academic named Brian Alan Lane. He blogs about higher ed, and was a whistle-blower in a scandal over false credentials. In this post, he takes aim at LSU's new top dog, King Alexander. It's convoluted and a little confusing, but it sure makes Alexander a lot more interesting than he was yesterday.
MAY 17 Blogger Robert Mann writes about the LSU Board's refusal to allow Dr. Fred Cerise to testify before the legislature about Gov. Jindal's plan to close down all the state's charity hospitals and dump the poor on the private system. It's hard to imagine anyone more qualified than Cerise to testify about that, so why would anyone try to prevent him doing so? Mann thinks it is because the powers that be aren't interested in hearing any truth about the plan.
MAY 17 This post on the Louisiana Sinkhole Bugle, a blog that notes developments in the Bayou Corne and Jefferson Island salt domes, talks about a proposed expansion of the salt dome storage under Lake Peigneur in Iberia Parish. Residents are working against it for several reasons, including two biggies: the sinkhole disaster in Bayou Corne and the continuing, unexplained bubbling on the surface of the Lake.
MAY 17 NOLA police arrested more people Thursday accused of either being involved in the Mother's Day shooting or hiding the suspect afterward, this Gambit story reports. The NOLA police chief said he suspects the whole thing was gang-related and throws out a challenge to the gangs: he's got informants now, he says, and he knows a lot more than the gangs want him to know. The people who live in the neighborhoods terrorized by gangs are ready to talk, he says.
Is it a crime for citizens to photograph, video, or take notes of a police officer in the line of duty, or a right protected by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution? Locally, such activity, as witnessed recently, will at the very least result in a night spent behind bars.
David Calhoun and Elizabeth “EB” Brooks are the first two employees of Lafayette Central Park Inc., the nonprofit charged with turning Lafayette Consolidated Government’s 100-acre Johnston Street Horse Farm property into a passive public park. Calhoun was named executive director, and Brooks is director of planning and design.
Episcopal School of Acadiana’s Dr. Joshua Caffery, chair of the school’s English Department, is headed to Washington, D.C., and the Library of Congress as the latest winner of the Alan Lomax Fellowship in Folklife Studies.