COUNCILMAN OPPOSES BOND ISSUE
There was little discussion when the city-parish council voted this week to schedule a parish-wide election in April for a new $26 million bond proposal — to be paid back with existing tax revenue — for road and bridge maintenance in the rural, unincorporated part of Lafayette Parish. But now, the lone vote against the election is speaking out about reasons why he is opposed to the proposal. District 8 Councilman Keith Patin calls Lafayette Consolidated Government “broken.”
“There are so many inefficiencies and inequities in the model we’re using,” he says. “I don’t want to put a $26 million quart of oil into an engine that’s ready to blow up.”
Patin says he received more calls from constituents on the bond proposal than he has any other issue since he’s been on the council. He says city residents, which make up a majority of the parish’s tax base, should not be subsidizing the infrastructure for parish residents who pay lower property tax rates. He also points out that the parish has 25 “islands” of unincorporated areas, which are surrounded by the city limits but have yet to be annexed. Annexation requires a majority vote from the people in any given area.
Further complicating the picture has been aggressive expansion from the smaller parish towns like Broussard and Youngsville. As the towns have encroached on the parish’s sales tax base, the unincorporated areas have been left with not enough tax revenue to support their needs. “They’ve expanded to the point where the dynamics have changed,” Patin says. “Consolidated government is allowing the smaller municipalities to feather their own nest at the detriment of the parish, and the people in the city of Lafayette end up having to pick up the tab. That’s wrong.”
City-Parish President Joey Durel takes a different view on the issue. “To be overly parochial is, in my opinion, being very short-sighted,” he says. “We can’t deny the moral obligation that we have as a parish to take care of our parish.” Durel points out that the smaller municipalities complain they don’t get enough of their parish property taxes back, and residents in the unincorporated areas argue that the city keeps all the sales tax money they spend in Lafayette. “The arguments go both ways,” Durel says.
Durel adds that this issue is not one that was brought on by consolidation and that the municipalities have always subsidized the rural, unincorporated areas. Prior to the 1996 merging of Lafayette city and parish government, all parish-wide property taxes went to parish government, which used the majority of those funds in the unincorporated areas, leaving the cities and towns to fund their own projects with municipal taxes.
LANDRIEU TO HEAD BUSINESS COMMITTEE
U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu, a New Orleans Democrat, has been appointed as the new chairwoman of the Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee. In political terms, it’s a major bump in influence and rank for Landrieu, who already was chairing a subcommittee of the powerful Senate Appropriations Committee and sitting on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. “Bolstered by my seats on other key committees for our state, this assignment provides the seniority to fight even harder for Louisiana’s more than 350,000 small businesses,” she says.
While serving on the small business committee, Landrieu has developed a strong coalition with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and taken a lead role in disaster recovery legislation. She recently met with President-elect Barack Obama to “emphasize the importance of American small businesses to the economic recovery of the nation and any community affected by future disasters.”
Landrieu replaces Sen. John Kerry, a Democrat from Massachusetts who was appointed recently as the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. In a prepared statement, Kerry said small businesses should feel “proud” to have Landrieu at the helm. “As small business committee chairman, I traveled to Louisiana with Mary and I saw firsthand her passion for helping small-business owners in her state and across the country. After Louisiana was walloped by hurricanes Katrina and Rita, Sen. Landrieu put Washington on notice that she wouldn’t accept a second-rate federal response and she fought for aid to rebuild her state’s economy.”
RAGIN’ CAJUN LEGISLATORS
“A slap in the face to our university and to Louisiana taxpayers.” That’s what state Sen. Mike Michot called the Independence Bowl’s recent decision to pass on UL and instead invite the Northern Illinois Huskies to play in its Dec. 28 post-season matchup against La. Tech. Many Ragin’ Cajuns fans have questioned why the Shreveport bowl, which received a $359,160 state subsidy last year, would give preference to an out-of-state school. The Cajuns and the Northern Illinois Huskies both finished the season 6-6, but UL finished higher in its conference standings and is a relatively short drive away from Shreveport.
Last week, Michot and two other Lafayette lawmakers and UL alum — Reps. Joel Robideaux and Page Cortez — told Louisiana Gannett News that the bowl’s officials will have some explaining to do when they show up before the legislature next year, hat in hand. “It’s very frustrating,” says Cortez. “There’s no chance that Northern Illinois will bring the fan base to spend money in the hotels and restaurants that the Acadiana community would. Forget the money that would have gone to UL Lafayette. It’s ridiculous how much better Louisiana schools were passed over. They get state funding, so they should keep the dollars at home.” Adds Robideaux, “They’re going to have to answer for it, that’s for sure.”
MAY 24 Blogger Robert Mann posts this entry about the Baton Rouge Chamber's recent report on Louisiana's higher education system. It's critical to economic development, and yet our system is facing a "funding crisis" with no way to resolve it, the report says. The Chamber says control of tuition and fees must be returned to the higher ed governing boards.
MAY 24 Here's a NBC33 story about Tyrann Mathieu. He has signed with the Arizona Cardinals, inking a $3 million, four-year deal. He gets a signing bonus of $265K, but gets another, larger bonus if he doesn't get cut from the team for doing drugs. The deal reportedly includes mandatory tests and meetings for the player.
MAY 24 Jarvis DeBerry posts here about the redonkulus rhetoric that would have us believe NOLA is a safe city with a murder problem. Maybe the city's crime stats don't compare with its murder stats because you can't manipulate a murder, he says: a dead body's a dead body. It just doesn't make sense, he says, and his readers agree: a poll asks if they believe the city is safe, and more than 90 percent say no.
MAY 24 Jindal administration officials announced Thursday that the privatization of public health care is going to cost a lot more than they budgeted for, the Advocate reports here. "I'm so surprised," said no one. Anywhere. The cost they're projecting now is more than $1 billion - a lot more than the $626 million budgeted for it. And, it's more than it cost the state to operate those hospitals. So why are we doing this again?
MAY 24 Blogger CB Forgotston ridicules the recent PR campaign by the state GOP in the wake of a legislative auditor's request to both major parties. The GOP (apparently unaware that the Dems got the same request) started yammering about being targeted because it had "killed" a tax increase. CB finds that laughable, but it's also pretty funny that the GOP was comparing this episode to the IRS scandal (Because the President has so much to do with our state auditor. Right?).
MAY 24 Politico details some recent fund-raising efforts by Sen. David Vitter, which have raised the question of his future political plans. This time, it is a $5,000 per head "bayou weekend" that includes "Cajun cooking" and an all-caps "alligator hunt," the story reports. Funds raised go to a super PAC that can spend money to support Vitter in federal or state races, the story points out.
MAY 24 The pink building on Royal in the quarter was sold at a sheriff's sale Thursday, this Picayune story reports. An injunction that would have halted the sale wasn't enforced because the family failed to post a $150,000 bond, the story reports. So the owner of the mortgages on the building bought it, for nearly $7 million. Now the feuding family will have to negotiate with that company to get a lease on the building that has housed their business for close to 60 years.
MAY 23 This post in Louisiana Voice tells us about a bill by a Winnsboro lege that would require all public high school students to take at least one Course Choice online class in order to graduate. (What?) Blogger Tom Aswell says it's a monument to "waste and corruption," especially in light of the problems he's exposed with the program in recent weeks. Idaho had a similar program, but voters removed it by a 2-1 margin, Aswell says.
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.
Philip deMahy Sr., a once respected New Iberia ad exec, was sentenced May 2 to spend the next two years (he faced up to 100 years) in a state penitentiary after state and federal investigators found dozens of images depicting children engaged in lewd sexual acts on his personal computer.