Seeking name recognition and an issue to get some traction on, Public Service Commission District 2 candidate Ed Roy of Lafayette has unveiled a new and quite possibly legitimate issue with which to hammer the presumed frontrunner in the race: Scott Angelle’s Aug. 8 resignation as a secretary of the state Department of Natural Resources — a resignation that occurred amid the deepening crisis with the ominous sinkhole forming in Assumption Parish.
Scott Angelle, left, and Ed Roy
The sinkhole is believed to be the result of a breached salt dome used by the oil/gas industry to store petrochemicals. It has spread to more than 600 feet in diameter and more than 400 feet deep, and it was recently reported that DNR — the agency oversees, among other things, oil/gas operations in the state — was aware of possible problems with the dome more than a year and a half ago. The sinkhole began forming on Aug. 3. A day later Gov. Bobby Jindal declared a state of emergency and dozens of residents in the Bayou Corne community were forced to evacuate. Angelle resigned four days later and announced his candidacy for PSC 2.
On Saturday the Roy campaign released a statement critical of Angelle:
Scott Angelle has once again demonstrated that his personal political ambitions are more important to him than the lives and property of the people of Louisiana. Angelle’s failure of leadership in this disaster lies at the intersection of energy, the economy and the environment. Angelle apparently knew about the structural problems with the salt dome as early as January of 2011, more than a year and a half ago. In that time, Angelle not only said and did nothing, he didn’t tell the local sheriff and officials who are responsible for the lives of those people, what he knew about the potential problems. Then, with the crisis coming to a head, and a state of emergency declared — Angelle promptly resigned from DNR, and a day later, announced that he was running for the PSC.
Angelle also served as Gov. Bobby Jindal’s chief legislative liaison for the last few years — a role for which he was rewarded after resigning from DNR by being named by Jindal to the LSU Board of Supervisors. In his press release slamming Angelle for his timely resignation, Roy refers to his opponent as the “former DNR Secretary and Jindal Lobbyist,” which one can’t help but read with a negative connotation.
Roy’s swipe is not without reason: among the declared candidates for the PSC District 2 seat, Angelle enjoys the most statewide name recognition, having served for eight years as DNR secretary plus a short stint as interim lieutenant governor after Mitch Landrieu resigned to enter the New Orleans mayoral race. Angelle also got a fair amount of statewide publicity for his much-celebrated speech at the doomsday-named Rally for Economic Survival in the Cajundome a little over two years ago following the BP disaster and ensuing deepwater drilling moratorium.
The PSC has served as a launch pad for three commissioners who later became governor of Louisiana — most recently Kathleen Blanco, preceded by John McKeithen and the almighty Huey Long.
The PSC’s District 2 is a far-flung unit covering East/West Feliciana, Lafayette, Lafourche, Pointe Coupee, St. Martin, St. Mary and Terrebonne parishes along with parts of parishes in and surrounding Baton Rouge. Roy, a Lafayette private investigator and former TV meteorologist who also served as a sheriff’s investigator, is probably the least known candidate in the race; a third contender, state Rep. Erich Ponti, represents parts of Baton Rouge.
Residents affected by the sinkhole are reportedly furious with both DNR and the Texas energy company that maintains the dome. The sheriff in Assumption Parish told the Associated Press that “DNR has lost all credibility with me.”
Unfortunately for Roy, Assumption Parish where the sinkhole saga is unfolding, is not in PSC 2, and unless he can get that much-desired traction out of the issue, it’s unlikely to retard Angelle’s momentum or tarnish his brand.
MAY 17 Here's a column from James Gill, this time in the Advocate. Gill, who has jumped ship from the Picayune, writes about the absurdity of dueling polls in this post. The numbers are so wildly different, it is obvious that both sides are "cooking the books," he writes. In particular, he looks at Sen. Mary Landrieu, and how her recent actions in DC have been received by those polled. Gill's acerbic, amusing prose is a welcome addition to a paper so conservative as to be occasionally lacking in personality.
MAY 17 Blogger Tom Aswell continues delivering bombshells about the state education department and Gov. Jindal's education "reform" efforts. In this post, he reports that students in the Shreveport area have been signed up for a charter school without their knowledge or consent. Most interesting to Aswell is how this Texas-based charter (with ties to GOP types) got the personal student information it has, if the students didn't give it.
MAY 17 This post by JR Ball in the Baton Rouge Business Report is an interesting tongue-in-cheek look at recent Baton Rouge economic development efforts. Among the items he examines is the idea that gaining a Costco makes BR a "world-class city." (Really? All you need is a different brand of Sam's? MK!) This effort, and other recent ones, are all built on the taxpayer's back, with tax zones, tax incentives and tax rebates, Ball writes.
MAY 17 Blogger CB Forgotston is critical of the legislature's reliance on a revenue-estimating committee's decision to include projected tax amnesty income in this year's forecast. That's a problem, CB posts, because the deadline for these people to pay their taxes is June 30, 2014. So when do you think these people who haven't paid taxes in years are going to pay their taxes? Surely not before June 30, and that means the money won't be there for this year's budget, he argues.
MAY 17 Here's an interesting blog out of California by a Hollywood writer, attorney and academic named Brian Alan Lane. He blogs about higher ed, and was a whistle-blower in a scandal over false credentials. In this post, he takes aim at LSU's new top dog, King Alexander. It's convoluted and a little confusing, but it sure makes Alexander a lot more interesting than he was yesterday.
MAY 17 Blogger Robert Mann writes about the LSU Board's refusal to allow Dr. Fred Cerise to testify before the legislature about Gov. Jindal's plan to close down all the state's charity hospitals and dump the poor on the private system. It's hard to imagine anyone more qualified than Cerise to testify about that, so why would anyone try to prevent him doing so? Mann thinks it is because the powers that be aren't interested in hearing any truth about the plan.
MAY 17 This post on the Louisiana Sinkhole Bugle, a blog that notes developments in the Bayou Corne and Jefferson Island salt domes, talks about a proposed expansion of the salt dome storage under Lake Peigneur in Iberia Parish. Residents are working against it for several reasons, including two biggies: the sinkhole disaster in Bayou Corne and the continuing, unexplained bubbling on the surface of the Lake.
MAY 17 NOLA police arrested more people Thursday accused of either being involved in the Mother's Day shooting or hiding the suspect afterward, this Gambit story reports. The NOLA police chief said he suspects the whole thing was gang-related and throws out a challenge to the gangs: he's got informants now, he says, and he knows a lot more than the gangs want him to know. The people who live in the neighborhoods terrorized by gangs are ready to talk, he says.
Is it a crime for citizens to photograph, video, or take notes of a police officer in the line of duty, or a right protected by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution? Locally, such activity, as witnessed recently, will at the very least result in a night spent behind bars.
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.
Episcopal School of Acadiana’s Dr. Joshua Caffery, chair of the school’s English Department, is headed to Washington, D.C., and the Library of Congress as the latest winner of the Alan Lomax Fellowship in Folklife Studies.