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
So far the Democratic agenda includes proposals to expand Medicaid; increase the minimum wage; offer equal pay to women; heighten regulations on predatory lending practices, like payday loans; and add more transparency in the governor’s office.
Hot-button education issues ranging from Common Core to charter schools have some lawmakers pushing to scrap the appointing process and go back to electing the state's super.
Police say the handcuffed man fatally shot himself in the back, but his family isn't buying the story.
Gov. Bobby Jindal offered a budget proposal that suggests new education and health care spending, pay raises for state workers and an incentive fund to encourage colleges to enhance their science, engineering and technology training.
Here's your daily look at late-breaking national and international news, upcoming events and the stories that will be talked about Tuesday, March 11, 2014:
Hopefully he’ll be better prepared today than he was in that Feb. 20 deposition.
They came by the hundreds, arriving from all regions of the state to gather on the steps of our Capitol in protest of the Legislature’s long tradition of giving industry the go-ahead to abuse our air, our water and our coastline, all in the name of good economics.
Gov. Bobby Jindal’s recent rhetoric against President Barack Obama has failed to boost his standing among the conservative base.
Louisiana's annual legislative session begins.
The state has hired marksmen to shoot feral hogs from helicopters at two wildlife management areas in south Louisiana.
The Board of Elementary and Secondary Education has stalled action on a $3.5 billion annual school funding formula due to state lawmakers by March 15.
The New Orleans Saints have yet to make it official as of this writing, but popular wide receiver Lance Moore has reportedly been cut by the team to free up salary-cap space on the roster.
While two medical marijuana bills are slated for the upcoming legislative session, what some Louisianans might not know is that the plant was approved for therapeutic use by state lawmakers in 1991.
The agenda is shaping up to be lighter than in previous years. But Jindal is term-limited, with fewer than two years remaining in office, and he saw his last big initiative — a proposed rewrite of Louisiana tax law — collapse without getting a vote in 2013.
Sharper has been held without bail because of an arrest warrant issued by Louisiana authorities accusing him and another man of raping two women.
Two Lafayette men have been revealed by police as the infamous duo behind a caper that shook our fair city to its core.
The Lafayette Parish School Board has received a second letter of demand related to last year’s insurance debacle, this time from Key Benefit Administrators claiming it’s owed $93,000 from the school system.
The Louisiana coastline is vanishing faster than mappers can keep track.
A bill that would have overridden local ordinances prohibiting public and private employers from discriminating against lesbian, gay and transgender people has been pulled within less than a week of being filed.
The panel that selects nominees for a controversial New Orleans area flood control board — a board that is suing more than 90 oil, gas and pipeline companies — is set to discuss legislation affecting its independence.
State prison officials cannot keep secret the seller and manufacturer of the two drugs purchased for executions at the Louisiana State Penitentiary, a federal judge ruled Wednesday.
State lawmakers will not appeal a judge's ruling that it was improper to use $3.7 million from a probation and parole officers' retirement fund to balance the state's operating budget.
Conservatives have been losing their minds over this satirical bit on the Colbert Report.
The Lafayette Parish School Board leaves a lot to be desired, but is scrapping the election process in favor of an appointed board the answer?
The House approved legislation Tuesday night to roll back a recently enacted overhaul of the federal flood insurance program, after homeowners in flood-prone areas complained about sharp premium increases.