St. Thomas More grad Mark Graham, critically injured in Iraq Friday, March 2, died last Wednesday. In its initial report, CNN wrote, "Two American soldiers and an interpreter died and a third U.S. soldier was wounded when a roadside bomb exploded northwest of the capital, the military said. The soldiers, from Multi-National Division-Baghdad, were on a routine route-clearance patrol northwest of the capital ' to assess the safety of the road ' when the incident occurred."
Graham was flown to San Antonio after the attack. His wife, Stephanie, and his parents, Neil and Kim Graham, were with him when he died. Both Mark and Stephanie McElligott Graham graduated from STM in 2002. ' Leslie Turk
BERTRAND RUNNING FOR CITY-PARISH COUNCIL
Don Bertrand, an independent petroleum landman and until recently "Rightblog" columnist for The Daily Advertiser, is running for the District 7 city-parish council seat being vacated next year by Marc Mouton. An active member of the parish Republican Executive Committee and the Lafayette Transportation Policy Committee, Bertrand says he was inspired to run partly by the large turnover on the council this year. Four councilmen are prevented by term limits from seeking re-election, and Councilmen Bobby Badeaux and Marc Mouton are opting not to run again this year. "It's a watershed moment," Bertand says. "I think it's kind of exciting times; Lafayette has a lot going for it, and I think it might be time for a facelift on the council." Elections for city-parish council will be held in October. ' Nathan Stubbs
OLD ABDALLA'S SITE GETS MAJOR OVERHAUL
On March 6, Lafayette real estate developer/broker Cecil Trahan purchased the old Abdalla's Oil Center building, 900 E. St. Mary Blvd., from co-owners Charles Chatelain and Barbara Abdalla Black. Trahan paid $4.5 million for the building and is converting it into office spaces. "Once it's complete, the building will be worth $10.5 million," Trahan says.
Lafayette architect Jay Chase is turning the two-story, 72,000-square-foot space into an office complex with suites that will rent for $19 to $22 per square foot. Renovations to the box start in two weeks and should take five months, at which time tenant improvements will begin as leases are signed. "I can't disclose anything at this time," Trahan says of potential tenants. ' LT
LA. REPUBLICAN PARTY GUBERNATORIAL ENDORSEMENT?
Rep. Bobby Jindal's massive campaign chest and sizeable lead over incumbent Gov. Kathleen Blanco is creating one headache for the Louisiana Republican Party. The party always endorses the Republican candidate if only one is running, but now that state Sen. Walter Boasso's officially in the race, it gets a little trickier. Endorse Jindal now to try and coalesce support around him? Endorse neither and let 'em duke it out? Or wait a while before choosing to endorse Jindal, Boasso or another Republican candidate? And if the wait-and-see approach prevails, how long does the party wait?
The Louisiana Republican Party starts trudging through that sticky wicket at the Cajundome this Saturday, March 17. The one-day meeting is open to the public, and endorsement policies are on the agenda. For more info on the meeting, call (225) 928-2998. ' Scott Jordan
HIT THE BOUDIN TRAIL
The Southern Foodways Alliance ' an institute of the Center for the Study of Southern Culture headquartered at the University of Mississippi in Oxford, has launched an oral history initiative to capture the stories behind the great cooking of the South. Naturally, Louisiana is a destination for food folklorists, and they have created two online chapters ' the Boudin Trail and the Gumbo Trail. Local boudin maven Bob Carriker, who created the Boudin Link, a comprehensive boudin-rating Web site, weighs in as an authority on our favorite snack, and an interactive map gives locations and driving directions for those who can't make it to The Best Stop blindfolded. For more info, visit southernfoodways.com. ' Mary Tutwiler
COUNCIL GRANDFATHERS DOWNTOWN PEANUT VENDOR
Last year represented the first time in the past 16 years that 85-year-old Vic Kilchrist wasn't out on the Jefferson Street sidewalk selling his roasted peanuts during Festival International. That's because city police informed him that his old mobile peanut roaster was in violation of a new city-parish ordinance governing pushcarts. Last week, the Lafayette City-Parish Council approved an ordinance that exempted "antique pushcarts" from the new rules. Councilman Chris Williams says the ordinance will grandfather in Kilchrist to any regulations for downtown vendors. "He was downtown when nobody else wanted to be downtown," Williams says. "Now that downtown is hot they want to regulate him out. This is geared specifically towards him to help him out as an icon in the city of Lafayette." ' NS
11.5 ACRES NEXT TO PINHOOK HILTON BOUGHT FOR $3 MILLION
Dr. S.L. Sethi of Canton, Miss., developer/owner of the Hilton Garden Inn on UL Lafayette property on West Congress Street, purchased 11.5 acres that adjoins the Pinhook Road Hilton hotel site for approximately $3 million. According to records in the Lafayette Parish Clerk of Court's office, Sethi's company, Lodging America at the Vermilion River LLC, purchased the land ' which has about seven vacant buildings on it, most in disrepair ' from River Plaza Corp. of Lafayette. River Plaza is owned by several Ashy family members and attorney Bennett Voorhies Jr.
Eddie Mouton of the local real estate company J. Alfred Mouton Inc., who brokered the real estate transaction, says several of the buildings were leased until a couple of years ago by different entities, including Seabulk Shipping, Langford Engineering and the Louisiana Department of Corrections. He says the buildings were originally constructed for oilfield companies like Exxon, Chevron and Texaco and that all but one will be demolished. Mouton is unaware of Sethi's plans for the property, but speculation in real estate circles is that Sethi will likely construct a hotel and restaurants at the site. The property has Pinhook Road frontage, is bordered by the Hilton and Vermilion River on the south and is accessed by Calco Boulevard. Reached on his cell phone, Sethi declined comment. ' LT
STATE'S BUSINESSES REBOUNDING POST-KATRINA AND RITA
The new Louisiana Business Recovery Report finds that business is finally rebounding from hurricanes Katrina and Rita. The groundbreaking report shows the storms' major impact on companies in St. Bernard, Orleans and Cameron parishes. Initially the state lost upwards of 5,000 businesses and continued to lose more through the first quarter of 2006. However, the tide began to turn during the second quarter, and a year after the storms the state had 2,270 fewer firms.
"This report confirms what we've heard anecdotally from employers and business owners across the state," says Lafayette businessman Matt Stuller, chair of the Louisiana Recovery Authority's Economic and Workforce Development Committee. "The back-to-back storms devastated thousands of Louisiana businesses." Stuller says retail trade and service sectors were particularly hard hit. ' LT
ETHICS BOARD RULES ON BODIN
At a March 8 meeting, the Louisiana Ethics Board issued a ruling concerning the hire of former New Iberia Mayor Bobby Bodin for Iberia Parish Government chief administrative officer. The board concluded that the Code of Governmental Ethics would prohibit Bodin, who has been an independent insurance agent for AFLAC for the past 13 years, from "providing compensated services to AFLAC Insurance Co. who has existing contracts with parish employees while he serves as CAO." Bodin has said that he will cease working for AFLAC should he be hired by Iberia Parish President Will Langlinais, a move that should clear up any conflict of interest concerning the ethics board.
On March 14, the Iberia Parish Council is slated to vote on the hire based on the ethics ruling. If Bodin is hired, he will assume parish duties the next day. ' MT
FX DEBUTS LOUISIANA'S RICHES
On Monday, the FX Network introduced us to The Riches. The new TV series focuses on Wayne and Dahlia Malloy ' Louisiana con artists out on the road with their kids in their RV ' who stumble upon an affluent and dead couple named Rich. The Malloys assume their identities, and a television series ensues. Cross-dressing British comedian Eddie Izzard portrays Wayne ("patriarch to a family of Irish Travellers in rural Louisiana") and British actress Minnie Driver is Dahlia. The Riches was created by the Moscow-born Dmitry Lipkin, who moved to Louisiana at the age of 10 and learned to speak English by watching too much television. ' R. Reese Fuller
BRANDON STOKLEY A SAINT?
The New Orleans Saints visited last week with free agent wide receiver Brandon Stokley, the Comeaux and UL Lafayette grad cut recently by the Indianapolis Colts in a salary-cap move. Stokley was put on injured reserve last year after rupturing his Achilles Tendon but hopes to be ready for spring workouts.
If 30-year-old Stokley's healthy, he could be a good match for the Saints. He's a high-character guy that fits the mold of Sean Payton's team, and the Saints need a gritty possession receiver now that Joe Horn's officially gone over to the dark side and signed with the Atlanta Falcons. ' SJ
GRANT STREET'S ORIGINAL OWNERS BUY SOMEWHERE'S ELSE
The Somewhere's Else Lounge has been purchased by the duo that started the downtown Lafayette musical landmark Grant Street Dancehall in 1980. Loren Farmer says he and partner Mike Hanisee believe live local music for patrons has become "obscenely over-priced." He adds, "We intend to bring extraordinarily talented people at very reasonable prices." Farmer says there will be few tables and chairs in the club, leaving plenty of room for dancing, with an emphasis on showcasing younger regional bands. "It's not going to be tried and true stuff," he adds. The Surrey Street club is scheduled to re-open in April. ' RRF
CITY GARDEN MARKET CLOSES
The bustling Saturday farmer's market on the Town Square at River Ranch is no more. After a year-and-a-half, the customer base had dwindled down to too few shoppers to make it worth the trek from her farm in Scott, says organic farmer Dawn Gotreaux. Her family farm sells vegetables, free range chicken and turkey, and tilapia. Started in June 2005 by horticulturist Leslie Barton, who had participated in the New Orleans Crescent City Market, the City Garden Market offered fresh produce, prepared foods, crafts, plants and entertainment. "It was great in the beginning," Gotreaux says. "After about 10 months, though, we just didn't have the traffic. I'm not sure why." Gotreaux is actively looking for another location to market her produce and says that other vendors from the market are searching as well. Gotreaux can be reached at 873-0383. ' MT
DISNEY'S FIRST BLACK PRINCESS IS FROM NEW ORLEANS
In New Orleans last week, Walt Disney Studios announced its next animated musical will feature its first black princess ' who will also be from New Orleans.
"From the heart of Louisiana's mystical bayous and the banks of the mighty Mississippi comes an unforgettable tale of love, enchantment and discovery with a soulful singing crocodile, voodoo spells and Cajun charm at every turn," Disney proclaimed in its announcement.
The Frog Princess, set for release in 2009, will introduce Maddy, "a young African-American girl living amid the charming elegance and grandeur of the fabled French Quarter." Legendary songwriter and Oscar and Grammy-winning composer Randy Newman has been tapped for the film's musical score, and the story was penned by John Musker and Ron Clements, the duo behind The Little Mermaid, Aladdin and Hercules. ' RRF
MELLINGTON LEAVING DDA/LEDA FOR HOMEBANK
Brett Mellington, who for the past two years has served as downtown business services development manager, a $60,000 post funded by DDA and LEDA, is cutting his three-year contract short to join HomeBank. Before taking the DDA/LEDA economic development position, Mellington worked at Our Lady of Lourdes for three decades. At HomeBank, Mellington says he will manage the Jefferson Street operations and focus on business development, primarily in the downtown area.
Mellington, 56, is an active community leader who serves as chairman of the board for the Louisiana Community and Technical College System. LEDA's Gregg Gothreaux says no decision has been made on his replacement. "We're going to take some time to see where we are and how best to move forward with our partnership with DDA," he says. ' LT
COCK OF THE WALK
Louisiana is used to the spotlight every year when the Legislature debates a ban on cockfighting. But right now the New Mexico Legislature is grabbing headlines for its cockfighting prohibition, largely because the state's two-term Democratic governor, Bill Richardson, is vying for his party's presidential nomination. Pinckney A. Wood, president of the Health, Education and Abuse Resolution Taskforce, says the Louisiana Legislature will be heeing and hawing over the issue again soon: "Sen. Art Lentini, [a Republican from Metairie] says he is ready to continue his anti-cockfighting efforts of last year, and he intends to file an anti-cockfighting bill in the upcoming session that begins April 30th." ' Jeremy Alford
The fight to clean up Lafayette Parish could get some added ammunition with two ordinances up for votes Tuesday by the City-Parish Council targeting litter-bugs.
By striking a deal to lessen the blow of health insurance changes on state workers, school employees and retirees, Gov. Bobby Jindal's administration lowered the volume of criticism but gave itself and local school boards a new budget headache.
With the airport tax coming up for a parishwide vote in about a week, the Broussard City Council and its mayor have come out in support of the proposal.
Protesters rallied peacefully in several Louisiana cities in the wake of the Missouri grand jury decision not to indict a police officer in the fatal shooting of Michal Brown.
US cities bidding on Olympics; Guard prevents more Ferguson riots; storm threatens travel and more national and international news for Wednesday, November 26, 2014.
Wednesday's Blogs from the Bog!
The U.S. rep billed LSU for work allegedly performed on the same days Congress voted on major legislation and held important committee hearings on energy and the ACA.
Abysmally low participation by the public has prompted the council to scuttle the 2014 survey with plans to simplify it and try again next year.
The village now says the ordinance will likely be overturned and authorities will more vigorously enforce existing leash laws.
Bill Cassidy cast an early ballot Tuesday, seeking to draw renewed attention to a race that has fallen off newspaper front pages and away from people's minds as they plan holiday meals and shopping schedules.
Battered all night by Baltimore's relentless pass rush, Drew Brees could feel his protection collapsing and Terrell Suggs getting ahold of him as he urgently unloaded a pass to the right flat toward tight end Jimmy Graham.
After a convincing defeat at the polls on Nov. 4, Earl “Nickey” Picard has decided to let bygones be bygones with his former right-hand man Brian Pope, announcing his support for his former employee’s runoff bid to become Lafayette’s next city marshal.
Saturday the athletic department did everything possible to ensure the 2014 Ragin’ Cajun seniors remembered fondly their last home game. Rain and lightning never arrived but turbulence did in the form of the Appalachian State Mountaineers.
Even stranger than the Republican Party’s decision to hold a “unity rally” earlier this month for Congressman Bill Cassidy in a Baton Rouge bar, Huey’s Bar, was the fact that the establishment was named after Louisiana’s most famous Democrat.
Bar Code is not a gay bar.
After failing to pass a medical marijuana bill last year, state Sen. Fred Mills, R-Parks, is telling supporters he will return in 2015 with legislation that focuses on different applications like oils and pills.
Voters, obviously, are not yet tuned into the 2015 ballot, despite the intriguing races it will host.
By now, the story of how longtime LSU coach Dale Brown discovered Shaquille O'Neal has been told many times: Brown happened upon a massive 13-year-old at an army base in Germany, stayed in touch with him and eventually became like a second father.
Fate simply wasn't ready to give the New Orleans Saints a break from longtime nemesis Steve Smith.
Lafayette Police have had a busy day.
Gov. Bobby Jindal's administration will use $130 million in patchwork financing from a tax amnesty program, insurance settlement, uninsured motorist penalties and other excess funds to close most of the state's midyear budget deficit.
Democratic U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu said she disagrees with President Barack Obama's actions on immigration, hoping the latest controversy doesn't worsen her campaign difficulties.
Gay-rights advocates challenging Louisiana's same-sex marriage ban announced Thursday that they have asked the U.S. Supreme Court to review their case before it is heard by a federal appeals court.
Thinking himself the “son of God,” the man charged with the 2013 killing of an officer of the Chitimacha Tribal Police will not stand trial following a ruling Thursday on his mental competency.
Either Saints coach Sean Payton doesn't want to tip Baltimore off as to who'll start in New Orleans' secondary on Monday night, or he really doesn't know yet.