Four years after a contentious city council election in St. Martinville that ended with the winner, Pam Thibodeaux, pleading guilty to voter fraud, a federal court has sentenced the councilwoman to three years probation, eight months of home confinement with electronic monitoring, a $2,000 fine and $1,500 restitution for the cost of the hearing.
Thibodeaux, who is white, defeated opponent Mary Francois, who is black, by 13 votes for a St. Martinville council seat in April 2002. Francois challenged the outcome of the election, contending that people who lived outside the district, in collusion with Thibodeaux, had filed voter registration cards with false addresses in order to be able to vote for Thibodeaux. In May 2002, a judge ruled that 12 voters were registered illegally, one vote short of overturning the election. The allegations of voter fraud were raised at a particularly sensitive time for St. Martinville, which had not had a city council election between 1990 and 2002, because of a redistricting battle with the voting rights division of the U.S. Justice Department over the racial makeup of District 3, the seat won by Thibodeaux.
Although Francois lost her state challenge, she filed a federal suit that resulted in an FBI civil rights investigation. Thibodeaux and co-conspirators pled guilty in April 2005 of altering voter cards. Thibodeaux resigned, and St. Martinville musician and artist Dennis Paul Williams was appointed by Mayor Eric Martin to serve out Thibodeaux's term.
Thibodeaux will also lose her license to sell insurance and the right to vote in future elections. Her husband has also resigned his position as an electrical foreman for the city of St. Martinville. ' Mary Tutwiler
BLANCO'S DREAM TEAM
Gov. Kathleen Blanco has hired what she dubbed a "dream team" of nationally acclaimed planners ' Peter Calthorpe, AndrÃ©s Duany, and Ray Gindroz, all proponents of "New Urbanism" ' to design the recovery. Working under the auspices of the Louisiana Recovery Authority, which will finance the effort privately, planning recently began at 31 "open houses" inside and outside the state, where input from Louisiana residents and evacuees was the first step toward rebuilding communities. ' MT
CIGARETTE TAX: THE REBIRTH
After a successful campaign with the Mississippi Legislature, the American Heart Association has set its sights on the Bayou State. "We are exploring the possibility of a tobacco tax increase campaign in Louisiana," says Terri R. Broussard, the group's local advocacy director. She was mum, however, on who the AHA has been meeting with in Louisiana, as well as what form the proposal might take.
The tax recently passed by lawmakers in Mississippi was a swap ' a tobacco tax increase for a grocery tax decrease. Gov. Kathleen Blanco tried to institute her own tobacco tax increase last year, without the AHA taking the lead, and it failed miserably. The issue was so embroiled in controversy that it never managed to garner a floor vote. Such a tax could not be introduced during the March regular session, but it could be debated during the 12-day special session that begins Feb. 6. Blanco says her official call for that gathering will be released no later than Jan. 31. ' Jeremy Alford
The winds of the hurricanes not only ravaged physical sites, but they have also taken their toll on every aspect of culture in south Louisiana, and French culture is at risk, according to Council for the Development of French in Louisiana President Warren Perrin. Faced with severe budget cuts that will hamper its ability to promote French in Louisiana, CODOFIL will hold a public meeting hosted by Pierre Lebovics, Consul General of France, at the New Orleans Historic Collection (533 Royal Street, New Orleans) on Jan. 28 at 10 a.m. ' MT
KENNEDY LOOKING OUT FOR THE LOCALS
State Treasurer John Kennedy is publicly urging the governor to add an authorization of new money for local governments to her agenda for the special session. Since the hurricanes made landfall last year, parish governments and municipalities in south Louisiana have been struggling to find ways to replace their destroyed tax bases.
Kennedy has long warned that without sufficient cash, local governments would be forced to miss scheduled payments on bills or make other fiscal mistakes. "Just one local default could have a detrimental impact on all levels of government in the state," Kennedy says. He wants the Legislature to authorize the issuance of $200 million in Gulf Tax Credit Bonds to help locals make debt service payments. The state would essentially pay the principal on the bonds, and the feds would pick up the interest.
But to use the federal bonds, the state would also have to match the staggering amount, which Kennedy says can be done without raising taxes. One recommendation he offers is to sell off the remaining 40 percent of the state's multi-million dollar tobacco settlement, and then pay off state debt to free up cash. This, however, would require statutory as well as constitutional changes, a decision that would ultimately be up to voters. ' JA
If you love Louisiana shrimp, then you know domestic prices have increased dramatically over the past two decades. To make matters worse for local shrimpers, the price hikes occurred while the U.S. marketplace was being flooded with cheaper imported shrimp. Now, roughly 90 percent of the shrimp consumed nationwide come from overseas. Louisiana's shrimpers won a trade battle last year to level the playing field via a tariff on imported shrimp, but the tariff has not been uniformly collected ' nor have shrimpers realized the subsidies they expected from tariff collections. In addition, local shrimp have not captured more of the market.
Why so many troubles for domestic shrimpers? Slate.com, a widely-read Internet magazine, blames Popeye's Chicken and Biscuits. In a recent article, Slate reports that farmed shrimp from overseas have gained in popularity because they're available year-round, and low-priced eateries have organized entire menus around them. "The real watershed, however, came in 1985, when the fast-food chain Popeye's introduced Cajun Popcorn Shrimp, a deep-fried dish meant to compete with McDonald's Chicken McNuggets," the report states, recalling a time when the staple was still under Louisiana ownership. "Suddenly, shrimp was an everyday food, rather than a special treat." ' JA
SURVIVAL TRAINING BOLSTERED AT UL
The Marine Survival Training Center at the UL Lafayette recently opened a 12,000-square-foot facility that offers unparalleled training for offshore and maritime workers. The center now includes two swimming pools and an additional Modular Egress Training Simulator, which mirrors underwater emergencies, like a crashed helicopter. The new equipment could help the university better target the petroleum and aviation industries as well, thus opening new economic channels. It's a set-up that cannot be found anywhere else in the South. "Prior to this, only military personnel could obtain this level of training," says MSTC Director Jim Gunter. The center is housed on a 60-acre lake site located near Lafayette Regional Airport. Since 1989, MSTC has brought more than 50,000 offshore workers up-to-date in water safety and survival techniques. ' JA
Mike Harson's coffers show the advantage of incumbency.
The Lafayette City-Parish Council will vote on an ordinance for final adoption Tuesday that, if approved, would give the city the green light to take over a stretch of Verot School Road from the state Department of Transportation and Development.
The Louisiana Association of Educators filed a lawsuit challenging the $60 million in spending through Louisiana's public school financing formula.
He's been out of office for nearly a decade, but former U.S. Sen. John Breaux is back on the campaign trail, urging voters to support his one-time colleague, Democrat Mary Landrieu.
The unresolved fate of the ashes left behind after Ebola waste was destroyed in Texas highlights the problem U.S. hospitals and communities could face in disposing of their own waste.
While much of the talk was about whether New Orleans could win a big game — or any game, for that matter — on the road, the conversation in the Saints' locker room was about something completely different.
State health officials told thousands of doctors planning to attend a tropical diseases meeting this weekend in New Orleans to stay away if they have been to certain African countries or have had contact with an Ebola patient in the last 21 days.
Republicans are calling on Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu to apologize after she suggested Thursday that President Barack Obama's deep unpopularity in the South is partly tied to race.
Compared to the rest of the country, Lafayette has it pretty good when it comes to the cost and speed of our Internet.
Hello Kitty turns 40; police ambush suspect caught; Knicks surprise Cavs and more national and international news for Friday, October 31, 2014.
Friday's Blogs from the Bog!
The Lafayette City-Parish Council will consider on Tuesday a revised plan to the transform a block in Downtown Lafayette into a mixed-use residential-retail-commercial development that doesn’t include giving title to the property to the Lafayette Public Trust Finance Authority, an arrangement the council rejected earlier this month.
Trying to combat the national undertones of Louisiana's U.S. Senate race, Democratic incumbent Mary Landrieu is traveling the state this week on a sort of pork celebration tour, telling voters about the projects and aid she's delivered to Louisiana.
Ever thought that big, pink Gulf coast shrimp you ordered at the restaurant or bought from the store didn't taste juicy or salty enough? Maybe it wasn't from the Gulf.
The state treasurer won't sign financial documents needed for $200 million in borrowing or for a refinancing of existing debt until he believes they accurately explain the surplus disagreement.
Bill Cassidy voted for 97 percent of the bills signed by Barack Obama.
Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal is joining South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley on her campaign bus tour.
A New Iberia man has been sentenced to life in prison for killing a 4-year-old girl and scalding her 3-year-old brother.
A district judge decided Wednesday against sanctioning attorney/school board candidate Dawn Morris for her behind-the-scenes role in a lawsuit against Mark Cockerham.
Secretary of State Tom Schedler says Gov. Bobby Jindal's administration may have improperly destroyed records in the state employee health insurance program, in the middle of a heavily-criticized rewrite of benefit plans.
Paper cites the former ADA's "experience as a prosecutor, his demonstrated integrity, and his ideas for reshaping the [DA's] office" in urging voters to support Keith Stutes Nov. 4.
Louisiana officials have sent a letter to the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene un-inviting members of the group who have recently been to ebola-affected West African countries from attending the group’s annual conference in New Orleans next week.
Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints have to find a way to win on the road if they plan to take over first place in the NFC South.
"It is obvious that Louisiana economic performance has not outperformed the South or the United States as a whole and, in fact, has substantially underperformed..."
A state district judge said he will rule Friday on a preliminary injunction to keep some charter schools from receiving $60 million through Louisiana's public school financing formula.