Satellite voting centers for displaced residents will not be set up around Louisiana for the November congressional primaries, but a state election official says mail ballots will still be allowed for those claiming residency. Ten satellite voting centers were established around the state for voters who couldn't make it back to New Orleans for the April municipal elections, but it was only a one-time deal. The feat won't be repeated for south Louisiana's congressional districts because the fall elections are held on a larger scale, with more candidates and the entire state voting, says Jennifer Marusak, an assistant in the secretary of state's office. But mail ballots, an election tool that has been on the books for decades, can still be used as a long-distance proxy. "We contacted all of these voters already when we did it for New Orleans," she says. "We sent instructions to everybody, telling them to contact their registrar or clerk to see how they could participate." There are no plans to send out another direct mail piece to follow-up with voters in coming weeks, Marusak adds. There's also no chance the candidates could get hold of the mailing list, which was compiled by the Federal Emergency Management Agency and confined to government use only. "It's a bum list anyway," Marusak says, adding it dates back to December, and the information hasn't been updated. ' Jeremy Alford
MR. ROCKEY GOES TO WASHINGTON
The persistence of St. Bernard Parish resident Rockey Vaccarella paid off. Two weeks ago, Vaccarella left his home in Chalmette with a FEMA trailer in tow. He intended on making his way up to Washington, D.C., to meet with President George W. Bush and have dinner with him in his trailer, to thank him for his efforts and to remind him that there is still much recovery work to be done along the Gulf.
En route, Vaccarella garnered national media attention and initially was informed that he would not be meeting with the president; by the time he made it to D.C., he had done enough media interviews to prove to the White House that he came in peace. Vaccarella got his meeting with the president in the Oval Office and later in a press conference on the South Lawn. Vaccarella did thank Bush for his recovery efforts, asked him not to forget about the Gulf Coast and its people who still need help, and said he wished that President Bush could serve a third term. Democrats pounced on the meeting as a staged attempt to blunt negative coverage of the president on Katrina's anniversary, noting that Vaccarella's a registered Republican who once ran for elected office. ' R. Reese Fuller
COULD POPULATION NUMBERS BE GLOSSED OVER?
Last week's Independent Weekly "Power Shuffle" story detailed the various ways south Louisiana is getting updates on population numbers. Shreveport demographer and political analyst Elliott Stonecipher is now concerned about one survey due out soon, because it involves the state. The survey is a cooperative endeavor agreement between the Centers for Disease Control, Health and Human Services, Census Bureau and the Louisiana Recovery Authority. It's the final agency in that grouping that bugs Stonecipher. "That really worries me," he says. "I think they might be acting too positive."
Stonecipher believes two groups are possibly being miscounted. Blue-collar residents displaced by the storms are moving back and forth, and they may be giving the perception of real action on the ground in New Orleans and elsewhere. Also, illegal immigrants and hordes of government workers might be helping to gloss over the head count for people living in the state today. And since federal funding is linked to population counts, it's no wonder the state would hope for higher figures, Stonecipher says. Meanwhile, Lester Brown, president of the Earth Policy Institute, is touting a study that identifies Katrina's mass migration as the first exodus of "climate refugees" in the world. Brown concludes that "250,000 of the 1 million Gulf Coast residents" that fled Hurricane Katrina will not return, and they represent a class of people driven from their homes due to inclement weather associated with global warming. ' JA
STATE FARM INSURANCE AND ABC NEWS' 20/20 TRADE FIRE
Last Friday, ABC News' 20/20 news program aired a blistering segment on State Farm Insurance where two sisters that worked as independent adjusters for State Farm in Mississippi alleged that they witnessed State Farm supervisors altering Katrina-related policyholder claims to avoid paying full damages. Kerri and Cori Rigsby said State Farm pushed for engineering reports claiming properties were damaged by wind, not water, since water damage is not covered by State Farm. The insurance giant immediately fired back the same night the report aired, saying it was "outraged" by the "misleading story," noting that the company sought engineering reports on less than 2 percent of the 84,700 property claims it handled in Mississippi. (State Farm has handled 295,000 Katrina property claims to date.) The 20/20 report is the latest salvo in the increasingly contentious insurance crisis in Gulf Coast states. ' Scott Jordan
LEBLANC REBUKES KENNEDY
Commissioner of Administration Jerry Luke LeBlanc was less than pleased with State Treasurer John Kennedy last week. In an interview with WAFB-TV Baton Rouge, Kennedy asserted that Louisiana had lost additional recovery money by failing to place federal recovery funds in interest-bearing accounts. LeBlanc responded by sending media outlets a copy of a letter he sent to WAFB-TV management asking for a correction. "Such an assertion is totally incorrect," wrote LeBlanc. "... It should be obvious that the federal government requires these agreements to prevent any state from doing exactly what the Treasurer suggested in the interview he gave your station yesterday." ' SJ
PLAY IT AGAIN, RAY
On Sunday, New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin got a taste of his own foot ' again.
On CBS' news program 60 Minutes, reporter Byron Pitts asked Nagin why there was such a delay in cleaning up the city. Nagin responded, "You guys in New York can't get a hole in the ground fixed, and it's five years later. So let's be fair." The mayor's remarks were in reference to the destruction caused by the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center five years ago, where 2,750 American citizens lost their lives. On NBC's Meet the Press, Nagin said the comment was taken out of context but still apologized. "I meant no disrespect for anyone," he said.
Despite his latest public blunder, a recent Zogby poll indicates that most Americans share the mayor's view that it will take quite a long time for New Orleans to recover. Eight-one percent of 1,108 adults polled say the city will take at least five years to recover from Katrina. Nearly half, 44 percent, believe the city will never be the same again, and 73 percent think the federal government's relief money is being poorly spent. ' R. Reese Fuller
THE NEW YORKER'S KATRINA COVERAGE
The non-stop media coverage this week of hurricane Katrina's one-year-anniversary makes it difficult to cut through the sheer volume of stories and television specials, but the Aug. 21 issue of The New Yorker provides one of the clearest explanations of what happened post-hurricane Katrina in the last 12 months, thanks to Dan Baum's story titled "The Lost Year." Baum takes a long look back into the history of the city, particularly the development of the Ninth Ward, and focuses on how the Lower Ninth Ward has become the symbol of the disenfranchisement of poor African-American residents of the city.
The many voices in the story ' politicians, urban planners, governmental agency heads and property owners from the Lower Nine ' ponder whether it's to the advantage of anyone, particularly the former residents of the Ninth Ward, to rebuild in an area known for its crime, poverty and lack of services such as hospitals and supermarkets. Former residents of the Lower Ninth Ward present their case for the re-establishment of the fabric of their neighborhood and community. Baum makes no ultimate recommendation but clearly lays all the cards on the table. The story isn't available on The New Yorker's Web site, so finding it at local newsstands is your only chance to read it. ' Mary Tutwiler
Local and state agents Thursday night raided The Keg, the popular college bar located in the area known as The Strip, leading to the (at least) temporary closure of the venue.
Here's your daily look at late-breaking national and international news, upcoming events and the stories that will be talked about Friday, April 18, 2014:
Friday's Blogs from the Bog!
Time and time again, the Lafayette Parish School Board shows an overwhelming tendency toward idiocy, but Wednesday night’s contentious discussion over Northside High School’s teen mother program tops the list of dumb discussions.
“The accomplishment of this goal within the next ten years is not only critical for the region to effectively compete with other regions for residents and businesses, but also to provide an amenity for everyone in Acadiana to enjoy.”
Education Superintendent John White says a continued push to try to keep Louisiana from using tests associated with the Common Core education standards are creating "a state of chaos" for public school teachers.
Gov. Bobby Jindal's plan to use $210 million in surplus and one-time money to help balance next year's budget received the backing Thursday of the State Bond Commission, support that was needed for the maneuver to work.
State wildlife and fisheries agents have arrested a 39-year-old man accused of stealing crawfish.
An East Feliciana Parish lawmaker has jettisoned his proposal to make it harder for a condemned prisoner to appeal a death sentence.
Senators advanced a proposal Wednesday that would let the governor remove New Orleans-area levee board members for violating what he considers to be public policy, despite concerns it would introduce political meddling into state flood protection.
The Lafayette City-Parish Council on Tuesday will vote on a resolution that if approved would clear the way for a December ballot proposition asking voters to approve a 1-cent sales tax parishwide to help fund the construction of a new terminal at Lafayette Regional Airport.
Just days before the fourth anniversary of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster and oil spill, the Coast Guard has moved cleanup of Louisiana's coast to a new phase, allowing BP to end its "active" efforts in the area.
Legislators still must leave their guns at the door of the Louisiana Capitol.
Sen. Fred Mills may have an "R" behind his name, but his actions in the Louisiana Legislature transcend the established boundaries of his party.
The Louisiana House overwhelmingly rejected a repeal of the state's unconstitutional anti-sodomy law Tuesday.
The Louisiana Senate sided with Gov. Bobby Jindal and the oil industry Tuesday, agreeing to void a lawsuit that a south Louisiana flood board filed against more than 90 oil and gas companies for coastal damage.
Acadian rep notifies would-be supporters that an April 25 fundraiser for the embattled U.S. rep won’t go on as planned.
While it isn’t all too unusual for public bodies to have hired security present during meetings, the LPSB’s push to do so is arguably a response to the antics of one board member.
“I’m running. Why would I be raising all this money? Just to have to return it to people?”
With incumbent U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu watching from afar, and with a united Democratic Party in her corner, the fight to get the GOP officially behind Congressman Bill Cassidy is gaining just as much momentum as it is hushed controversy.
15th Judicial District Judge Durwood Conque has announced that he will not seek re-election after 27 years on the bench.
The controversial standardized tests are set to be used in third-grade through eighth-grade public school classrooms next year.
The Louisiana Senate has agreed to prohibit unmanned aircraft from flying over chemical plants, water treatment systems, telecommunications networks and other items considered "critical infrastructure" in Louisiana.
It didn’t take long for KATC TV 3 to jump all over the news of a dead body found in Girard Park, but in its rush to produce headlines, the local TV station got sloppy.
An unholy trinity of civil-society upheavalers whose first names are not Conner, Tanner or Logan are facing charges in Eunice.