Robin May, The Independent’s photo editor, and I went to photograph the Landry and Williams families for our story on an ordinance prohibiting horseback riding in Breaux Bridge. Robin got her first horse when she was 10 years old and has owned and ridden horses for the last 30 years. When we arrived at Joyce Landry’s house, we found two horses and a pony. The stable is a homemade affair. An abandoned car holds saddles and bridles.
“Initially, when we arrived, it was a real nice scene,” says Robin. “Horses saddled up, kids everywhere, summer in a neighborhood. But upon a closer look, there were things that alarmed me. The poor condition of the horses — skinny, bony, very thin. The stalls were filthy: horses were standing in water and piles of old manure. The hay was old and moldy. The stalls hadn’t been cleaned in a while.”
Robin scolded some of the kids, who said they cleaned out the stalls every day, but that was obviously not the case.
We were both disturbed, and I understood the emotional impetus for the proposed ordinance from Mayor Jack Dale Delhomme. He is concerned for the welfare of the animals.
Robin and I talked about this in the car on the way back to the paper and concluded that while there certainly needs to be more supervision and possibly some intervention to protect those horses, the proposed ordinance is not the way.
The town is considering a new ordinance to prohibit riding horses, even though the Breaux Bridge City Council passed a law to regulate riding on city streets just three months ago. Rather than regulate behavior, which is within the jurisdiction of city government, the mayor wants to shut down the whole activity, despite its positive side.
First of all, horses and kids are a great combination. Joyce Landry says in the story that the horses keep her grand kids and nephews out of trouble. Caring for horses or any animal should teach responsibility and compassion. But the knowledge of how to care for large animals is not innate; children need to be taught what to do.
Banning horses from city streets doesn’t do anything to help kids learn how to care for horses, and it flies in the face of a long-standing tradition of horse culture in the Creole community. That tradition is obvious. There are more than 200 horses kept in back yards in an area close to city hall that is approximately the size of Lafayette’s Freetown neighborhood.
We suggest the city partner with the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals or the Humane Society or a 4-H club and perhaps the local feed store to set up an educational program on how to properly care for a horse. It’s not unreasonable to require folks who keep horses in the city limits to take a course and earn a certificate on horse management and care. The existing ordinance regulating riding horses in town already takes care of how to behave on horseback while on city streets.
While we do agree that some of the horses we saw need assistance from the Humane Society, we think the problem is neglect through ignorance rather than willfulness. The boys and young men Robin and I met were clearly proud of their horses and their riding club. Horsemanship is a positive force in a community struggling with poverty, crime and a lack of adult male leadership. We suggest Mayor Delhomme take a serious look at whom his proposed ordinance targets. It will not affect those with property outside the city limits, ostensibly more prosperous horse owners, like the mayor himself. Leadership requires clear vision, good judgment and fairness. It’s important that Delhomme demonstrate the kind of compassion and understanding for his human constituency that he has for the town’s equine residents.
MAY 21 Gambit columnist Clancy DuBos writes about the Mother's Day shooting, and how the stages of shock and blame and healing mirror those traveled by the same city following Hurricane Katrina. The city will recover, just as it did following the storm, by reaching out to help the people injured most seriously by the event, DuBos writes. It's how we heal, he says.
MAY 21 Here's a post on the Advocate (but buried on a subpage, not on the front) that reports something Louisiana Voice reported some time ago: a top DOE official lives in Los Angeles and "commutes" to Baton Rouge. The positioning of the story caused a stir on Facebook Monday, with several posters asking if the Advocate was covering someone's hiney. Sentell's stories on DOE are notoriously soft, and this one is no different: don't expect any hard questions in here.
MAY 21 Here's another post from blogger Tom Aswell about the "course choice" program. He's already reported on kids being signed up without their consent or knowledge, and has more here: For example, he tells of a six-year-old who was signed up for high school Latin. He also digs a little deeper into the sister companies of the main one operating in Louisiana; all of them seem to have complaints against them. Stinky.
MAY 21 Given the 80 percent cut in higher ed funding since he's been in office, it's clear Gov. Jindal would rather give tax cuts to out of state companies than have a functioning system, blogger Dayne Sherman argues in this post. The cuts have been such a disaster, Sherman says, that it will take 30 years to fix what's been broken. He says he believes the aim is to shut down most of the schools before Jindal leaves in 2016.
MAY 21 Blogger CB Forgotston says there are too many elections in Louisiana, and they're costing us too much money. The proof is in the pudding: turnout for most of these nonsensical pollings gets worse and worse, CB opines, even as millions of dollars that could be spent on health care or higher ed go down the tubes. The legislature must take action to stem the tide of pointless elections, he says.
MAY 21 Here's an interesting investigative piece by WVUE on the retirement benefits of some Jefferson Parish public employees. According to the story, the taxpayers are paying 100 percent of the retirement contributions of employees who started work prior to a certain date in April 1986 -- and have done for more than 30 years. It costs the parish millions annually, and might not be legal, the story reports.
MAY 21 This post on Bayou Buzz provides insight from Louisiana's intrepid pollster, Bernie Pinsonat, on the winners and losers from this year's legislative session. But to hear Bernie tell it, there's almost nuttin but losers: Jindal, the Republican party, the Fiscal Hawks all get big goose eggs in his win column.
MAY 20 This post on The Lens takes a look at a huge (either $500K or $250K) bill that one NOLA charter now has for school lunches. The RSD says the charter group didn't fill out the proper paperwork for federal reimbursement, but the story details how the RSD didn't ensure the people running the charter had the proper training, despite requests from hapless charter employees trying to fill out forms. Either way, somebody's asleep at the wheel.
David Calhoun and Elizabeth “EB” Brooks are the first two employees of Lafayette Central Park Inc., the nonprofit charged with turning Lafayette Consolidated Government’s 100-acre Johnston Street Horse Farm property into a passive public park. Calhoun was named executive director, and Brooks is director of planning and design.
There will soon be a whole lot of shakin’ going on at Benny’s Sportshack Supplement Depot, a new concept by Opelousas native Benny Nele. Located at 2002 Johnston St., the supplement shop, smoothie bar and café, featuring hot off the press paninis and wraps, plans to open in late May.