State Rep. Don Trahan of Lafayette calls it “an opportunity that I could not pass up.” Last Tuesday he was named director of external relations for the Louisiana Department of Education, a newly created $110,000-a-year position. “It is with a great deal of mixed feelings that I announce my resignation as State Representative from District 31,” Trahan said in his prepared statement. “With my background and experience in education I believe my talents can best be utilized if 100% of my efforts are put towards improving public education in our state.”
In his new job, Trahan will be charged with promoting the department’s agenda, trying to build community buy-in with local business and public interest groups statewide. Since taking the helm of Louisiana’s public education system last year, Superintendent Paul Pastorek, Trahan’s new boss, has launched a number of new initiatives, including the expansion of charter schools and a new public high school redesign. Trahan will be traveling across the state to meet with local chambers of commerce, school boards and public education policy groups. “I’ll act as a liaison between them and the department,” he says.
Trahan chaired the House Education Committee this year, where he carried water for the administration on a number of initiatives, including a bill to lift the state cap on charter schools and a controversial scholarship program in New Orleans to help students attend private schools. Trahan also occasionally butted heads with Pastorek and the administration, including an issue over changes he and other legislators wanted to make to the LEAP test. Pastorek must have seen something he liked, as Trahan’s new post makes him one of the department’s highest ranking officials, just under the superintendent and legislative liaison Joe Salter.
The job also means a raise of almost $78,000 from Trahan’s annual compensation as a state legislator. A former teacher who has worked in both city and state government, Trahan is now also on track for a sizeable state retirement package — up to 100 percent of an average of his top three salary years.
BOUSTANY WON’T COMMIT TO KLFY DEBATE
KLFY-TV10 News Director Dwight Dugas is patiently waiting to hear back from U.S. Rep. Charles Boustany’s campaign so the station can finalize what’s scheduled to be the district’s only live televised debate between the incumbent and his challenger, Democratic state Sen. Donald Cravins Jr. After receiving a request about a month ago from Cravins’ campaign to host a debate, the station contacted Boustany’s campaign, which Dugas says was “gung ho” at the time.
Boustany, however, appears to have had a change of heart. The first date Dugas proposed — Monday, Oct. 20, in the Clifton Chenier auditorium — didn’t work for the congressman because of a prior commitment with Acadia Parish’s Citizens for Good Government. By press time Monday, the station and the Boustany camp had yet to settle on a date, despite KLFY bending over backwards to accommodate Boustany. “I offered to them to give me a date between now and election day,” Dugas says. “I gave them everything I had, and we still can’t come up with anything.” Dugas is adamant that the candidates owe it to their constituents to explain why they are best suited for the job, and he feels an obligation to do his part by bringing the debate into the households of the station’s audience — which spans the 7th Congressional District. “I’m not sure why someone would turn down an hour to talk about their campaign,” Dugas adds. “Right now, I’m waiting for a call.”
The Independent’s e-mail request to the Boustany campaign seeking the status of the proposed televised debate was not answered by press time.
One option KLFY may have is to film a debate UL is hosting Oct. 22 in the Student Union’s Bayou Bijou, but details for that were still pending Monday. “If I’m going to go through that type of effort, I’d like to do it live myself,” Dugas says.
The UL debate, which is being organized by political science professors Pearson Cross and Ryan Teten, is also sponsored by the College Democrats, College Republicans and the American Democracy Project. Cross says the event is open to the media.
The first face-off for the 7th Congressional District is set for this Wednesday, Oct. 8, at the Calcasieu Parish Police Jury building in Lake Charles. The League of Women Voters in Lake Charles is sponsoring the 6-7 p.m. debate, which will be broadcast on the government-access channel there. On Tuesday, Oct. 21, the candidates will debate at noon at Opelousas’ Indian Hills Country Club.
ESQUIRE ON JINDAL
In its October issue, Esquire marks its 75 anniversary with a cover story that takes “an epic look at the people and ideas shaping our world, including the 75 most influential people of the 21st century.” Included in that list is Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal.
In the nine page in-depth profile, “Bobby Jindal, All American,” Mike Sager details Jindal’s Baton Rouge upbringing and his rise to become the first Indian-American governor in U.S. history.
Esquire’s Editor-in-Chief David Granger writes:
“In this issue, we name the 75 Most Influential People of the 21st Century. We’re mostly wrong, of course. But you will read about people — some you know, many you don’t — from all over the world and from every area of endeavor, who will take your breath away. People whose influence will extend beyond their own fields and their own geography. People who, because of the tools and technologies and ideas some of them are creating, have the potential to influence our lives personally in ways that few individuals have in history. It is in the interaction among people such as these — and in the tension between them and many others as their interests collide and intersect and overlap — that the new century is being created.”
Contributors: R. Reese Fuller, Nathan Stubbs and Leslie Turk
MAY 21 Gambit columnist Clancy DuBos writes about the Mother's Day shooting, and how the stages of shock and blame and healing mirror those traveled by the same city following Hurricane Katrina. The city will recover, just as it did following the storm, by reaching out to help the people injured most seriously by the event, DuBos writes. It's how we heal, he says.
MAY 21 Here's a post on the Advocate (but buried on a subpage, not on the front) that reports something Louisiana Voice reported some time ago: a top DOE official lives in Los Angeles and "commutes" to Baton Rouge. The positioning of the story caused a stir on Facebook Monday, with several posters asking if the Advocate was covering someone's hiney. Sentell's stories on DOE are notoriously soft, and this one is no different: don't expect any hard questions in here.
MAY 21 Here's another post from blogger Tom Aswell about the "course choice" program. He's already reported on kids being signed up without their consent or knowledge, and has more here: For example, he tells of a six-year-old who was signed up for high school Latin. He also digs a little deeper into the sister companies of the main one operating in Louisiana; all of them seem to have complaints against them. Stinky.
MAY 21 Given the 80 percent cut in higher ed funding since he's been in office, it's clear Gov. Jindal would rather give tax cuts to out of state companies than have a functioning system, blogger Dayne Sherman argues in this post. The cuts have been such a disaster, Sherman says, that it will take 30 years to fix what's been broken. He says he believes the aim is to shut down most of the schools before Jindal leaves in 2016.
MAY 21 Blogger CB Forgotston says there are too many elections in Louisiana, and they're costing us too much money. The proof is in the pudding: turnout for most of these nonsensical pollings gets worse and worse, CB opines, even as millions of dollars that could be spent on health care or higher ed go down the tubes. The legislature must take action to stem the tide of pointless elections, he says.
MAY 21 Here's an interesting investigative piece by WVUE on the retirement benefits of some Jefferson Parish public employees. According to the story, the taxpayers are paying 100 percent of the retirement contributions of employees who started work prior to a certain date in April 1986 -- and have done for more than 30 years. It costs the parish millions annually, and might not be legal, the story reports.
MAY 21 This post on Bayou Buzz provides insight from Louisiana's intrepid pollster, Bernie Pinsonat, on the winners and losers from this year's legislative session. But to hear Bernie tell it, there's almost nuttin but losers: Jindal, the Republican party, the Fiscal Hawks all get big goose eggs in his win column.
MAY 20 This post on The Lens takes a look at a huge (either $500K or $250K) bill that one NOLA charter now has for school lunches. The RSD says the charter group didn't fill out the proper paperwork for federal reimbursement, but the story details how the RSD didn't ensure the people running the charter had the proper training, despite requests from hapless charter employees trying to fill out forms. Either way, somebody's asleep at the wheel.
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.
There will soon be a whole lot of shakin’ going on at Benny’s Sportshack Supplement Depot, a new concept by Opelousas native Benny Nele. Located at 2002 Johnston St., the supplement shop, smoothie bar and café, featuring hot off the press paninis and wraps, plans to open in late May.