There is little relief in sight for growers of mudbugs and satsumas and sugar cane, as the U.S. Department of Agriculture has yet to create a program for the distribution of $250 million in aid ' even though availability was originally announced in late October. And U.S. Rep. Charlie Melancon isn't happy about it. When Hurricane Charley hit Florida in August of last year, it took only two weeks for President Bush to get the program moving. But in Acadiana, Louisiana farmers are still waiting for a simple sign-up procedure.
"While I can appreciate the damage brought by the storms of the past few months differ from what took place in Florida, our producers deserve, at a minimum, a response similar in size to that which was provided for Florida only one year ago," Melancon wrote in a letter recently to Andrew H. Card, the president's chief of staff.
And it's not as if USDA is strapped for cash. Records indicate that there was $778 million as of mid-October sitting in the department's Section 32 account, which contains disposable, non-obligated monies. ' Jeremy Alford
CAILLIER TO FACE FEDS
Former Opelousas Police Chief Larry Caillier will face federal charges, ending months of speculation. Last week, U.S. Attorney Donald Washington announced that Caillier had been charged with presenting a false claim to a federal agency. If convicted, Caillier could face up to a $250,000 fine and imprisonment for five years.
According to a press release issued by the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Western District of Louisiana, the Opelousas PD was responsible for a bicycle patrol that was funded through the Opelousas Housing Authority, which received federal funds of $225,000 from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban and Development. Washington says Caillier submitted claims for payment "that he knew were false, fictitious or fraudulent."
Caillier already faces state charges of malfeasance in office, money laundering, public payroll fraud, forgery and obstruction of justice that stem from a state audit of the Opelousas Police Department. And this isn't his first encounter with the feds. In 1996, Caillier was acquitted of federal charges of conspiracy to aid the escape of federal prisoner Barbara Jenkins.
On Nov. 15, Caillier resigned after 15 years as chief. He goes to trial on state charges in March. ' R. Reese Fuller
REDUCED TARIFF MONEY COMING
Even though the future of the Byrd Amendment is in question, Louisiana crawfish processors stand to collectively reap about $2.1 million at the end of the year from tariffs collected on their Chinese counterparts. About 27 processors in the state will benefit from the 2005 collections. And while the award is being welcomed with open arms, Commissioner of Agriculture and Forestry Bob Odom says it seems a bit short. "It's a nice Christmas present for the processors, but unfortunately, it's a lot less than what should have been collected," Odom says.
In recent years, the processors, who filed an anti-dumping petition against the Chinese in 1996, have been eligible for amounts ranging from $7.4 million to $9 million. The U.S. House of Representatives voted last month to repeal the Byrd Amendment, which triggers payments to companies that petition and support anti-dumping actions. Dumping is an illegal act in which a foreign product is sold below the cost of production.
As to why the 2005 tally is lower than usual, Odom says the federal government isn't doing its job. "The amount is definitely a letdown from what they've received in the past, and I've been told that uncollected duties total more than $32 million this year," he says. The legislation to repeal the Byrd Amendment is now pending a House-Senate conference committee hearing. ' Jeremy Alford
STORM GROCERY SHOPPING AND NAPPING
The more than 100,000 pages of e-mails and documents released to Congress earlier this month are providing plenty of fodder for critics of Gov. Kathleen Blanco's response to Katrina. The recently released documents also reveal a few punchy remarks made by our public officials.
"I am in the mood to kick anyone named Katrina right now," Blanco wrote on Aug. 26, two days before the hurricane made landfall. She also mentions a "probable evacuation" will soon need to be called. The following day, as e-mails fly back and forth in preparation for the Category 4 storm, Kim Hunter Reed, deputy chief of staff, asks Communications Director Bob Mann if she could tend to some important business: "I assume I am safe to go grocery shoppingâ?¦?"
And the most notorious e-mail of the batch? Department of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff was trying to reach Blanco early Sunday afternoon before the storm hit, and one Blanco aide e-mailed the rest of her staff and said, "I think she's sleeping now." Blanco spokeswoman Denise Bottcher denied that Blanco was napping. ' Jeremy Alford
A NEW GRANT STREET TWIST
Grant Street Dancehall owner Don Kight has been singing the blues about disputes with his landlord and says they are a factor in his decision to move the legendary live music venue out of downtown, but Grant Street Dancehall landlord Tim Mahoney is singing a different tune. Mahoney,Â a representative of Garden Properties, says that disputes with Kight "have been settled for quite some time" and that he doesn't know why Kight and Grants Street Partners LLC opted not to renew its lease. Mahoney also says he has been talking with several interested parties about keeping the Grant Street building open as a live music venue. "It's a landmark," he says, "and we hope to keep it that way." ' Nathan Stubbs
ADVERTISER DITCHES DOWNTOWN
The oldest continually operating business in Lafayette Parish has moved out of downtown Lafayette. For 140 years, The Daily Advertiser has called downtown Lafayette home. But on Monday, the newspaper (along with its sister weekly publication The Times of Acadiana) moved to a new location on Bertrand Drive.
Jim Bradshaw, a veteran Advertiser reporter for 40 years, says the daily newspaper has been at its present Jefferson Street address since 1949. Ted Power, president and publisher of the Gannett-owned newspaper, says the new facility, in addition to the company's production facility at the same location, accounts for 96,000 square feet.
The paper's 300 employees now have a fitness room and new community room that can hold 100 at the Bertrand building. "We'll let employees host their alcohol-free birthday parties maybe, rehearsal dinners, or those kind of family things that employees have that they might need a little more room for," says Power. He hopes the new facility will also facilitate better communication inside the company.
The Advertiser's downtown property ' which includes some 38,700 square feet in four buildings, as well as two parking lots ' is listed for sale on Van Eaton and Romero's Web site for $2.2 million. ' R. Reese Fuller
BERARD STRIKES AGAIN
Dailey J. Berard is back publishing letters to the editor at The Daily Advertiser that have striking similarities to Wall Street Journal editorials. The Independent Weekly first reported on Berard's letters in July 2004, noting how in one instance Berard published a 21-sentence letter to the editor that included 20 sentences from the WSJ.
At the time, former Advertiser Executive Editor Juli Metzger stated that the paper was addressing issues to ensure that letter writers were submitting their own words to the paper. After the article appeared, Berard wrote another letter to The Independent: "The recent attack in The Independent is meritless. I'm guilty of relying on my total recall memory base. It appears I was singled out for personal criticism because of my conservative views."
But Berard's letter in The Advertiser of Nov. 7, titled "Production limits push energy prices," again resembles another WSJ editorial published on Oct. 18. Berard's letter begins: "We better quickly realize that a major cause of high energy prices is the limits imposed on oil and gas exploration." The WSJ editorial's last line reads: "They need to start telling voters that a major cause of high energy prices are limits on oil and gas exploration and production."
Elsewhere, Berard wrote, "Compounding the problem is the special gasoline blends that are required in different parts of the country to supposedly reduce pollution," while the WSJ wrote:Â "These special gasoline blends are required in different parts of the country in the name of reducing pollution."
There are at least another half dozen phrases that are common to both Berard's letter and the WSJ editorial. ' R. Reese Fuller
KATC's FRYE MOVES ON
Change is the one certainty at KATC TV-3. And once again, the local ABC affiliate's general manager is moving on; actually, she's moving home. After 3.5 years at the helm and a term that took the station to the top of the local ratings, Nannette Frye is returning to her 80-acre plantation home in Summerton, S.C., where her husband, Edward, works as a hospital administrator.
When she accepted the post, Frye says her husband indicated he would be retiring soon, but that's not turned out to be the case. "I think he wanted to encourage me in my career," she says. Frye isn't sure what her next move will be, though she may stay on with the station's parent company, Charleston, S.C.-based Cordillera Communications. "Right now we're talking about a couple of different options."
The company has named Andrew Shenkan to replace Frye. Shenkan, who is director of sales for the company's station in Lexington, Ky., assumes his new role Jan. 3. The Pittsburgh native and Tulane grad also worked as sales manager at ABC affiliate WBRZ in Baton Rouge from 1994-2002. ' Leslie Turk
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.
Odell Beckham on the catch; chaos in Ferguson; snowstorm set to snarl travel and more national and international news for Tuesday, November 25, 2014.
Tuesday's Blogs from the Bog!
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.
The Ethics Board gives the lame duck Youngsville mayor permission to offer a sweet parting gift to the community he’s presided over for three terms.
The money came through a general obligation bond sale Thursday.
A legend in the Acadiana Oil Patch, Comeaux died Monday, Nov. 17.
With a growing number of alleged sexual assault victims coming out against Bill Cosby in recent weeks, upcoming projects have been canned by NBC and Netflix, but that won’t affect the once-loved comedian and actor’s scheduled performance in Lafayette.