Wednesday December 28, 2011
It's Good, It's Bad, It's Just Plain Crazy
By The Independent Staff
As years go, 2011 was fairly unremarkable, but it did have its remarkable moments, perhaps none more so than the flat-out surprising and inspiring success of the Ragin’ Cajun football team closing out the year with a heart-stopping win in the New Orleans Bowl. Practically nothing brings a community together like athletic success, and we at The Ind are huge UL athletic supporters.
Kidding. But the year was indeed bookended and peppered by UL athletic success, with the Cajun men’s basketball squad engineering that monster “Fear the Beard” win streak to close the regular season in late February and the Lady Cajuns softball unit fielding another stellar performance in the spring.
But we’re a newspaper devoted more to news and politics, and in that respect 2011 was kind of “eh.”
The ugly Lafayette Housing Authority saga spilled over from 2010 with the release in January of an independent audit showing just how dysfunctional the agency is. Three of its board members fired by City-Parish President Joey Durel and later reinstated by Judge Ed Rubin continue to hold “meetings,” although they may have absolutely no authority to do so since HUD has taken over the beleaguered agency.
State Rep. Joel Robideaux, bless his heart, switched from independent to Republican, certain he could secure the speaker gig in the GOP-controlled state House of Representatives. Then Gov. Bobby Jindal’s countenance shined upon Lake Charles Rep. Joe Kleckley as his favored candidate.
Robideaux threatened a roll call vote come January, but later backed off. All he had to show for his party switch was an R, which in Louisiana is increasingly synonymous with white.
The Lafayette area did pick up an extra seat in the state House thanks to redistricting, but it was mostly the usual suspects running for re-election or sliding up to the Senate, with few contested races this fall. Boring, save for the somewhat unexpected ouster of Rep. Rickey Hardy in District 44, pushed out by old guard standard bearer Vince Pierre.
The property tax proposition that would have bankrolled the first half of the school system’s $1 billion facilities plan was brought behind the electoral wood shed, vigorously spanked by voters and sent to bed without supper, as was the proposition to undo consolidated government and return to separate governments for the city and parish — a prop borne of the idea that while the country folk would still be allowed to come to town, they shouldn’t get a say in how we run things.
Last spring we began a running series, “Fair Share,” highlighting valuable property in commercial corridors in Lafayette that’s being taxed at an insanely low agricultural rate — a loophole many prominent, affluent land owners and developers have taken advantage of for years to the detriment of local government’s revenue stream.
One of the developers exploiting that loophole, Glint Skewer I think his name was, did a swan dive off sanity and, well, it got pretty ugly for a while there.
Arguably the most uplifting story, and the one that occasioned the most pleasant surprise by this paper, was the way a reform majority coalesced on the Lafayette Parish School Board, highlighted in last week’s cover story and underscored by the hire of Dr. Pat Cooper as our next superintendent. The way a simple majority on the board — black and white, Democrat and Republican, old and young — gelled into a positive force was something few saw coming.
On the flip side of the “Gang of Five” was the “Sore Four,” as we labeled them, led in volume by Tommy Angelle, who embarrassingly characterized Cooper as a “carpetbagger.” There’s definitely some reconstruction to do in Lafayette public education, but carpetbagger? Really?
It’s why Angelle is the honorary grand marshal for this year’s Parade of Couillons. His candidacy for the board — and now his residency on it — seems in retrospect all about Tommy Angelle’s need for playing politics and not at all about education.
Last year we debuted the Pooyie issue, a compendium of news highlights pulled from the eponymous weekly news feature covering the good, bad and just plain crazy that is local, regional and state news.
We’re doing it again. Enjoy. And here’s to 2012.
Lafayette Parish School Board
City-Parish President Joey Durel pours gasoline on a fire by referring to former Lafayette Housing Authority case manager Chris Williams, with whom Durel had a widely publicized row a few years before in the MLK Parkway fight, as a “piece of garbage” in an article in The Daily Advertiser.
State Rep. Rickey Hardy, famed for such whackadoo legislation as banning saggy pants and barring senior citizens from seeking public office, one-ups the bigots by co-sponsoring — with Metairie Republican John LaBruzzo, heir to David Duke’s old district — a bill that would require recipients of state welfare to take random drug tests. The bill fails in the session.
City-Parish Council candidate Craig Spikes mails a fundraising letter accusing his presumed opponent, District 7 incumbent Don Bertrand, of taking LCG “in the same direction as our Federal government has gone in the past few years.” But two days before the letter is mailed, the CPC votes on a redistricting plan that moves Spikes’ residence into District 8, where incumbent Keith Patin handily whooped him on Oct. 22.
Wa$hington Mayor Joseph Pitre, who is black, suggests his town — and towns run by black mayors in general — is being racially targeted by the state, which insists the little town with the big speed trap return to state coffers the more than $200,000 in illegal speeding fine revenue it pocketed.
In an effort to sour the grapes and get a Tea Party library named after him, former state Rep. Ernie Alexander spews bile in a local daily newspaper story about Rep. Joel Robideaux’s switch from independent to Republican. Robideaux is angling at the time — and seems to have a realistic shot — of ascending to House speaker, which would have been a political boon for Lafayette.
| Commercial real estate developer and erstwhile physician
Glenn Stewart went ballistic after The Ind exposed his
exploitation of a property tax loophole. Stewart waged
an ugly, embittered billboard campaign against Ind
staff members and even hired homeless people to stage
protests, paying them in warm plate lunches and cold cash.
U.S. Rep. John Fleming, R-1%, demonstrates an utter detachment from the reality in which most Americans live. The millionaire physician and restaurant franchisee whose businesses made $6 million in profits in 2010 lays out his opposition to President Obama’s deficit-reduction plan by telling MSNBC, “[T]he amount that I have to reinvest in my business and feed my family is more like $600,000 of that $6.3 million, and so by the time I feed my family I have, maybe, $400,000 left over to invest in new locations, upgrade my locations, buy more equipment...”
After going all bat crap over a string of late-night vehicle burglaries, the Ville Platte City Council eats some (Jim) Crow when it elects to suspend a stupid, racially targeted ordinance prohibiting residents from walking the streets after 10 p.m. on weekdays after the ACLU files suit against the city.
U.S. Rep Steve Scalise shouts into the Fox News echo chamber when he equates a National Christmas Tree Association push to self-impose on member sellers a 15-cent-per-tree fee to fund a promotional campaign with — all together now — President Obama’s tax-spend-and-regulate War on Christmas. Scalise tells a New Orleans TV station, “This new tax is a smack in the face to each and every American who celebrates Christmas, and may be the best example to date of President Obama’s obsession with taxing and regulating hard-working American families.”
| Cyber douche Christopher Hebert, the 36-year-old mastermind
behind the pathetic, bottom-feeder Facebook phenomenon that
was Busted in Acadiana, was arrested on stalking/cyber-stalking
charges, putting at least a pause on his megalomaniacal reign of error.
| A handful of Lafayette Utilities System customers donned their
figurative tin-foil hats and pushed back against the utility company
installing efficient, modern, remotely read “smart meters” on
homes and businesses, citing way-out-there health hazards
and even more way-out-there “Big Brother” privacy concerns.
| The Greater Lafayette Chamber of Commerce, lead by President
and CEO Rob Guidry, continued dabbling — badly — in politics,
smacking longtime chamber supporter and Senate Finance
Committee Chairman Mike Michot, a Republican and dean of
the Lafayette delegation, with an F on its first-ever (and likely
last-ever) legislative report card. The chamber later outdid itself
by endorsing Cajun comedian/attorney Jonathan Perry over
chamber member and major Acadiana “job creator” Nathan
Granger in a state Senate race.
(Self-aggrandizement alert) The IberiaBank/Independent Lecture Series brings Davis Guggenheim’s acclaimed documentary Waiting for Superman to Lafayette for free public screenings, helping spark a community conversation about reform in public education in Lafayette.
Precious, pudgy Jacee Badeaux, a sophomore in Lafayette High’s Performing Arts Academy, makes an amazing run on American Idol, impressing even creepy rocker-judge Steven Tyler with his angelic voice.
Former Acadiana High standout pitcher Gil Meche retires from Major League Baseball at age 32, forfeiting $12 million. Meche cites an inability to contribute to his team, the Kansas City Royals, due to nagging injuries, striking a blow against the me-first selfishness of professional athletic culture.
Youngsville resident Ginger Rabalais generously donates a portion of her property for a temporary bypass so the south Lafayette Parish town can save its majestic Heritage Oak slated for destruction during a road project.
The Ragin’ Cajuns men’s basketball team rips off an 11-game win streak as power forward J.J. Thomas’ facial hair inspires a “Fear the Beard” fan craze in the Cajundome.
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development announces it is finally taking over the troubled Lafayette Housing Authority, evaporating a pall hanging over our fair city. Little does HUD know that three persistent board members will remain thorns in the agency’s side heading into 2012.
Louisiana riverboats, racetracks and casinos announce they’ll join forces with the state Department of Children & Family Services to bust deadbeat parents by comparing gambling winners’ names to the agency’s list of delinquent child supporters and diverting those winnings to the right place: the children.
In an exercise known as “old hat,” UL’s Lady Cajun softball team wins another Sun Belt Conference title, ousting the nation’s No. 5 five squad, Texas, in the first round of the regional.
State Sen. Robert Adley, R-Benton, takes another stab at making Gov. Bobby Jindal’s “gold standard” for ethics applicable to the governor himself, offering legislation that would make records from Jindal’s office open to public scrutiny. Adley’s bill would ultimately fail.
As Acadiana Outreach goes through death throes brought on by financial mismanagement at its Abbeville treatment center, we learn that several board members have been keeping the nonprofit afloat by dipping into their own wallets to make payroll, some ponying up as much as $10,000 each.
The Lafayette Little League All-Stars baseball team bulls its way through regional play to reach the coveted diamonds in Williamsport, Penn., and the Little League World Series. Not outdone, Lafayette’s Little League Challenger team, comprising special-needs athletes, is one of only two teams nationwide invited to play an exhibition game in Williamsport.
With a parishwide vote on whether to scrap consolidated government looming and a lot of hard feelings bubbling to the surface, former Charter Commission members Don Bacqué and Bruce Conque — Bacqué favors consolidation, Conque favors deconsolidation — demonstrate how opposing views and strong feelings can be civilly discussed during a series of presentations before area civic groups.
The Ragin’ Cajuns, LSU Tigers and New Orleans Saints each win a game on the same weekend, a rare occurrence. The three football teams will go on to win games on four consecutive weekends — amid a remarkable six-game Cajun win streak — something that had never happened before.
Former congressman and Louisiana Gov. Buddy Roemer fine tunes his message that money is rotting the American electoral process and cozies up to the Occupy Wall Street movement. Roemer, however, gets no traction in mainstream Republican circles as he tries to secure the GOP presidential nomination.
The Ragin’ Cajuns football team is invited to play in the Dec. 17 R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl, only the third bowl appearance in UL history and first as a Football Bowl Subdivision (formerly Division I) team. The squad will go on to a stirring 32-30 victory over San Diego State in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
Bath salts? Now we’re snorting bath salts? Louisiana isn’t shy about getting its buzz on.
The much-anticipated audit of the Lafayette Housing Authority goes public, confirming many of our suspicions about an out-of-control agency that opened the cookie jar to far too many hands.
The Lafayette Parish School System’s Schools of Choice program is unquestionably neat-o, but how successful has it been for students? That’s a good, unanswerable question, since an investigation by The Daily Advertiser reveals that LPSS apparently doesn’t track the program’s progress.
Lafayette resident Henry Mouton, a former commissioner with the state Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, is indicted on — and later pleads guilty to — charges of accepting almost a half a million dollars in bribes from a landfill company looking to cash in on New Orleans’ post-Katrina wasteland.
Faced with a potential state takeover, the Lafayette Parish School System chooses to close N.P. Moss Middle School and reopen it as Thibodaux Career and Technical High School, only to hear months later that there may have been a way to save Moss from state control.
The Agency for Toxic Substances & Disease Registry releases a report on “disease clusters” in the U.S., including a clump of breast cancer cases near a former Superfund site in New Orleans, a brain cancer outbreak in St. Mary Parish, and — closest to home — a cluster of childhood leukemia in Iberia Parish.
That sinking feeling again. With the opening of the Morganza Spillway and the ensuing waters making their way down the Atchafalaya Basin, hundreds of homes, camps and businesses are threatened by floodwaters. Most, however, escape the doomsday flood predictions made by a frantic national media.
For the second time in about four years, an employee of the UL Lafayette Parking and Transit Office is arrested, this time for pocketing roughly $85,000 in cash over 20 months.
A bill that would have banned smoking in bars in Louisiana is up in smoke following a 22-15 vote in the Senate. Acadiana Sens. Elbert Guillory and Fred Mills join the pro-carcinogen contingent. (Lafayette Sen. Mike Michot is absent for the vote.)
The Senate & Governmental Affairs Committee subpoenas a financial analysis on the Office of Group Benefits, the agency with a $500 million surplus in charge of the health insurance plans for roughly 60,000 state workers — a plan Gov. Bobby Jindal wants to privatize.
Jindal vetoes a bill that would have required him to make public and to preserve for a decade all his office’s documents pertaining to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill and aftermath, allowing his administration to keep a big, honking umbrella over his office.
AGL Resources is still trying to build two more natural gas storage caverns under scenic Lake Peigneur in Iberia Parish, running headlong once again into the Save Lake Peigneur folks. If approved, the project would siphon unprecedented amounts of groundwater from the Chicot Aquifer, which supplies drinking water to more than 15 parishes.
Incumbent Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne and Plaquemines Parish President Billy Nungesser all but take the gloves off, roll up the sleeves and step into the alley amid their contentious, mud-slinging battle for lieutenant governor. Dardenne later prevails over Nungesser.
The City-Parish Council adopts a controversial ordinance to block construction of a waste facility already permitted and under way on Sunbeam Lane, heralding a showdown in court and what could result in LCG paying millions in damages.
Lafayette Parish School Board member Rae Trahan fails to attend a single interview for the top 10 candidates who applied for the LPSS superintendent’s position. Her status quo counterpart on the board, Tommy Angelle, attends 1.5.
With eight resignations, five layoffs, one known termination and two position eliminations, Chief Operating Officer Monica Lavergne’s departure from LITE marks even more dysfunction for the place that does technology stuff — or something like that, we think.