When you’re at the top, as they say, there’s nowhere to go but down. Just ask GOP Gov. Bobby Jindal, whose superstar poll numbers are finally beginning to reveal that he’s human and not some unstoppable, robotic machine capable of political supremacy. Well, at least a little bit.
In a poll released last week by WAFB-TV in Baton Rouge, 66 percent of voters surveyed had a favorable opinion of Jindal. That’s down from an August poll conducted by OnMessage and commissioned by the Louisiana Republican Party that showed Jindal’s favorable rating at 76 percent.
Ed Renwick, a New Orleans pollster who carried out the WAFB survey, says Jindal’s on-again/off-again support for a legislative pay raise earlier this year is one of the likely culprits for the fall. But he adds that Jindal is still enjoying a “strangely unusual” popularity for any sitting governor, despite the numerical dip. So, for now, Jindal is safe and still the state’s top Republican. “Nobody ever lost an election with 66 percent,” Renwick says.
FEMA RESPONDS TO STATE’S ALLEGATIONS
Last week, Paul Rainwater, executive director of the Louisiana Recovery Authority, fired off a letter to FEMA Administrator R. David Paulison after attempting for weeks to get the federal agency to send temporary housing to residents of coastal parishes. FEMA has responded to the state, precisely laying out what the agency can and cannot do, and has detailed what has been provided to those whose homes were damaged or lost in hurricanes Gustav and Ike.
In Cameron Parish, the eye of the state’s complaint, FEMA has, to date, provided $6,237,460 in grants for home repair, given 749 households rental assistance and placed 144 families in hotels. The sticking point is sending “park model travel trailers” (not the travel trailers that had formaldehyde contamination) to provide temporary housing on private property in low lying Cameron Parish. The LRA wants homeowners who live and work in coastal Cameron to be able to put FEMA mobile homes at their homesites. Whether FEMA wants to satisfy the state is not the issue. By law, it cannot.
According to FEMA public affairs lead Manuel Broussard: “Executive Order 11988 (Floodplain Management), as implemented at 44 Code of Federal Regulation Part 9, FEMA is not permitted to place federal assets in a V Zone or Coastal High Hazard Areas (V, V1-V30, or VE zones). Placing units in these high risk areas will jeopardize the health and safety of families residing in these temporary homes and send a false sense of safety.” Broussard, who is from Vermilion Parish and well acquainted with the people and terrain of coastal Louisiana, says the agency is working hard to find housing solutions for people impacted by the storms. “We will maximize the placement of temporary housing units in non–V zones within Cameron Parish. We also plan to place families in temporary housing units in commercial sites outside of the V-zone.”
However, Rainwater argues that FEMA is making decisions on flood zones using brand new Digital Flood Insurance Rate Maps, which have not yet been published, nor has the parish had time to appeal them. Instead he requests that FEMA use the parish’s already adopted Advisory Base Flood Elevation requirements, which are currently in use in Cameron Parish.
The impasse, according to Rainwater, is that FEMA is being unreasonable in expecting the parish to adopt a new code that has not been analyzed. He says forcing vital oil and gas and seafood industry workers to commute long distances is not conducive to helping Louisiana recover from the storms.
EARLY VOTING MORE THAN DOUBLES STATE RECORDS
Last week, on the final day of early voting, a long line snaked out of the Iberia Parish Registrar of Voters office, curled around the rotunda and stretched as far as the art deco doors of the Iberia Parish Courthouse. Everybody was talking about how surprised they were that there was about a 45-minute wait, but nobody seemed to mind. “I brought my mother,” said one voter, who declined to give her name. “I might be busy on voting day, and I didn’t want to miss it. This vote is too important.”
That seemed to be the attitude statewide, where early voting numbers exploded past records by over 50 percent. In the 2007 statewide race for governor, 140,933 voters turned out early to cast their ballot. According to Secretary of State Jay Dardenne’s office, this year’s total early vote count came in at 266,880. Of the early votes cast statewide, 58 percent were by registered Democrats, 28 percent Republican and 13 percent other.
Lafayette Parish cast 9,194 votes, 4,994 more than in 2007. Of those, 4,709 were by Democrats, 3,021 by Republicans and 1,468 by those registered as other. The voting numbers were also broken down by race; whites cast 5,736 votes, blacks cast 3,134 votes, and those who listed themselves as other cast 328. Women out voted men by 489.
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.