No single issue in 2006 infuriated Lafayette residents and cast our elected officials in such a negative light as the bitter impasse over renaming a Lafayette street after civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. The Independent Weekly's Oct. 11 cover story, "Where's the Leadership," noted there was plenty of blame to go around for the divisive standoff, especially Councilman Chris Williams' demagoguery, the City-Parish Council's insensitivity and City-Parish President Joey Durel's apparent unwillingness to take the lead and work toward a solution.
So it was unexpected good news last week when the council announced that it was considering a resolution at its Dec. 19 meeting to designate Willow Street between Teurlings Drive and Ambassador Caffery Parkway as "Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Parkway."
Most important, the Council's news release stated, "This resolution is recommended for adoption by City-Parish President Joey Durel and is co-authored by District 2 Councilman Dale Bourgeois, District 3 Councilman Christopher J. Williams, Ph.D., District 4 Councilman Louis C. Benjamin Jr., District 6 Councilman Bruce Conque, District 7 Councilman Marc Mouton and District 8 Councilman and Chair Rob Stevenson."
Even with District 1's Bobby Badeaux, District 5's Lenwood Broussard and District 9's Randy Menard MIA on the resolution, it's still a heartening sign that the rancor that characterized so much of the council's 2006 actions could be a thing of the past. "The designation of this memorial parkway for Dr. King will honor his legacy and, at the same time, will not require a change of address for businesses and homes on Willow Street or Martin Luther King Jr. Drive," the council wrote. "It is our hope that this proposal will help us end the year and begin the holiday season in a positive way for the administration, city-parish council, and our community." We hope so, too. ' Scott Jordan
LEGISLATURE TAKES UP STREET RACING
The state Legislature adopted a resolution last week in special session that promises to be the first step in stiffening penalties for illegal street racing. The bill comes on the heels of an accident, allegedly involving street racing on Ambassador Caffery Parkway, that killed four people in October. Brian Verret, 22, of Lafayette faces potential criminal charges from the accident.
The resolution, which passed unanimously through the House and Senate, charges the Department of Transportation and Development, the Louisiana Highway Commission and the state Department of Public Safety and Corrections with educating the public on crimes associated with street racing and reporting to the Legislature with suggestions on improving these laws. The resolution was sponsored by state Sens. Don Cravins Jr., Mike Michot, and Nick Gautreaux.
Meanwhile, District Attorney Mike Harson said last week that it remains inconclusive whether street racing played a part in the fatal Ambassador Caffery collision. Police initially alleged Verret was involved in a street race that caused him to lose control of his Ford Mustang and hit an oncoming vehicle.
Harson is wrapping up an investigation of the wreck and is expected to bring Verret before a grand jury early next year to determine what, if any, criminal charges he may face.
Sarah Meche Arceneaux, whose 26-year-old son Jeremy Meche was killed in the crash, says the Legislature's resolution is an important first step in addressing state laws on street racing. She expects a bill to stiffen penalties for the offense to be brought up next April, in the Legislature's regular session. Arceneaux has been spearheading efforts to raise public awareness on the issue, including raising funds for a billboard campaign. She remains convinced that a street race caused the fatal Ambassador Caffery collision. "In my opinion, it is definitely the factor that caused my son's death," she says, but would not discuss why she believes Verret was involved in a race. "I feel at some point that will be proven," she says. ' Nathan Stubbs
DONNA LANDRY LEAVING LGMC
Longtime Lafayette General Medical Center official Donna Landry is leaving the local not-for-profit for a position with The Schumacher Group of Lafayette. Landry, LGMC's chief operating officer, will be assistant COO at The Schumacher Group, a fast-growing hospital-based physician staffing organization that also has a hospitalist program and physician recruitment division.
Calling it the "toughest decision I ever made," Landry says she accepted the job because of the strong reputation and appeal of The Schumacher Group and the chance to apply her skills in a different area of health care. "I get to stay engaged in health care, still in the Lafayette community, with another highly reputable organization that's very mission-driven and focused, at a very high-energy pace," she says.
LGMC has 1,600 employees, and Schumacher just under 600 ' though it operates in 15 states. The outgoing chairwoman of the Greater Lafayette Chamber of Commerce, Landry has been with LGMC for almost two decades. She starts the new position Jan. 15.
Landry will oversee key departments in the corporate office that support Schumacher's hospital contracts throughout its 15-state region. Owned by Dr. William Schumacher, an emergency medicine physician, the company is in its 13th year of business.
Patrick Gandy, administrator of the Lafayette General Surgical Hospital, will replace Landry. He has been with the hospital for 13 years. ' Leslie Turk
UL LAFAYETTE ZEKING OUT
Zeke, UL Lafayette's computing node on the Louisiana Optical Network Initiative, was launched last week. The supercomputer housed in Abdalla Hall is named after former mathematics department head and computer science pioneer Dr. Z. L. Loflin, who died in 1982. The IBM P5-575 has enormous computing capabilities. In the time it takes a bullet to travel one foot, Zeke can complete 330 million calculations; in the time it takes to blink an eye, the supercomputer can complete two billion calculations. Zeke is part of a fiber-optics network interconnecting high-performance computing resources at major Louisiana research universities, initially including UL, LSU, Louisiana Tech, Southern University, the University of New Orleans and Tulane University. The state has pledged $40 million over 10 years to support and maintain LONI. Its value to Louisiana is enhanced by its connection to the National LambdaRail, a grid-computing infrastructure expected to have the same effect on our nation's technological development as the interstate highway system has had on interstate commerce. Southern University will come online early in 2007. "The network is already delivering significant benefits for Louisiana's research institutions, but next year LONI will begin to show its true potential for our state, not only for our universities, but also for our economic future," says Louisiana Commissioner of Higher Education Joseph Savoie. ' Jeremy Alford
MERCURY SUIT COULD BE COMING TO A HEAD
A coalition of Louisiana environmental groups has announced its intent to file a federal lawsuit against EnerVest Operating, a major operator of natural gas wells in the Monroe Gas Field. The groups want the company to clean up mercury-contaminated wetlands and other soils at gas fields in Ouachita, Union and Morehouse parishes. The intent was filed by the Tulane Environmental Law Clinic and could open up the floodgates for related litigation. Backing the move are the Louisiana Environmental Action Network, Louisiana chapter of the Sierra Club, Gulf Restoration Network and Louisiana Audubon Council. The law clinic alleges that EnerVest has allowed its mercury meters, which are attached to its oil wells and contain as much as 10 pounds of mercury, to pool in certain places and contaminate surrounding soil and wetlands. Mercury meters have been phased out in other parts of the country and on federal property in Louisiana in favor of non-mercury flow meters. "Why are they continuing to contaminate private property?" asks Barry Kohl of the Louisiana Audubon Council. Currently, there are 41 mercury-in-fish advisories statewide, including seven within the Monroe Gas Field. The coalition asks EnerVest to reply and to present a plan to clean up the mercury waste. If it does not, the environmental organizations say they are committed to filing a federal suit to force the cleanup. ' JA
State Rep. Lenar Whitney — one of a handful of Republican candidates vying for Louisiana’s 6th Congressional district — has been described by Cook Political Report analyst David Wasserman as one of the most “frightening or fact-averse candidate[s]” he’s ever met following her reaction to an interview last week.
Mid-August hearing dates have been set for dueling lawsuits over Louisiana's use of the Common Core education standards in public schools.
An investigation into the last-minute passage of a pension hike for the state police superintendent continues, despite Col. Mike Edmonson's decision not to accept the increase.
Safety Jairus Byrd practiced with the New Orleans Saints on Tuesday for the first time since his signing in March.
Sentencing has been delayed for a businessman who provided key testimony in the corruption case that resulted in the conviction of former New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin.
The spectre of priest sex abuse has returned to haunt the Roman Catholic Diocese of Lafayette following the recent release of an investigative report by Minnesota Public Radio, revealing new allegations of another child predator hiding behind the clerical collar.
Wednesday's Blogs from the Bog!
Times Square impersonator crackdown; Israel shells Gaza school; Russia hit with sanctions and more national and international news for Wednesday, July 30, 2014.
The sponsor of a Louisiana law that requires doctors that perform abortions to have hospital admitting privileges doesn't believe the provision is in jeopardy after a federal appeals court struck down a similar Mississippi law.
Louisiana's state school board has jumped into a lawsuit against Gov. Bobby Jindal that accuses the governor of illegally meddling in education policy through his efforts to block Common Core education standards.
Here's how one nationally recognized conservative political pundit reacted upon hearing the news Monday that the U.S. Chamber of Commerce was leaning toward an endorsement of Louisiana’s lone Democrat senator.
With the qualifying deadline for Lafayette Parish School Board elections quickly approaching, a series of candidate forums have been announced by the Lafayette Parish Public Education Stakeholders Council.
The investigation and potential prosecution of the man charged in the recent hit-and-run death of a Youngsville cyclist won’t happen overnight, according to local law enforcement officials.
Louisiana's state school board is holding a special meeting to consider whether to sue Gov. Bobby Jindal in an ongoing dispute over the Common Core education standards.
A bipartisan congressional deal to help improve veterans' health care access includes approval for new veterans clinics in Lafayette and Lake Charles.
It wouldn’t be a first, however, as the Chamber has thrown money behind Landrieu before.
The Democratic incumbent, seeking her fourth term in office, is a strong supporter of the Export-Import Bank, which helps finance exports of U.S. companies.
The world is a politically tense place these days with hot spots ranging from the Middle East to Ukraine. In Louisiana and Mississippi, where the political chessboard tends to be a lot less threatening and at times entertaining, this election season is living up to expectations.
Louisiana has joined nine other states in support of Indiana’s appeal of a federal judge’s ruling that the Hoosier State’s ban on sam-sex marriage violates the Constitution.
The Saints are being cautious in an effort to minimize risk of re-injury.
LSU Health Sciences Center says people with a common, hard-to-treat kind of lung cancer can join a new national trial to test drugs faster.
As New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton and general manager Mickey Loomis spoke about the opening of training camp, steep, tree-covered mountains were in full view behind them.
The family of fallen cyclist Lon Lomas is speaking out after the release this week of the man charged with his death.
"The solutions are obvious: undo consolidation, or amend the charter to make this hybrid attempt at a new form of government work better."
The Board of Elementary and Secondary Education is considering whether to get involved in a lawsuit against Gov. Bobby Jindal for his attempts to undermine use of the Common Core education standards in Louisiana's public schools.