During the past two weeks, UL Lafayette President Joseph Savoie has held meetings with students in order to clarify the situation that threatens six live oak trees on UL’s campus, all of which have been marked with red ribbons by students protesting their destruction.
“Basically, the president was appeasing his constituents in sequential order as they went to him,” says Adam Constantin, a renewable resources student and member of the Society for Peace, Environment, Action and Knowledge. “First, the band went to him to save the practice field in the very early stages, so that was saved. More recently, the architecture department asked to have the buildings saved that have significance to them, so that happened. Our main problem is that there was no voice speaking for the oaks in question.”
Constantin says he and other concerned students are working with the administration to organize a committee that would be informed and included in planning on projects that threaten the university’s trees, especially larger, native varieties. The planned destruction of the trees was first reported in The Independent Weekly Nov. 17.
“I am completely encouraged for the future of the university as far as future problems that may arise, because we understand what we have to do in the future,” says Constantin. Plans were, for the most part, solidified before the community could object, and Constantin says the committee will allow for a voice to speak for the trees earlier next time.
Savoie told students that he still wants to save what trees he can, specifically the live oak on McKinley Street and the oak on Taft Street in the Denbo/Bancroft parking lot. However, students question whether all of his proposals are viable.
“He said he’s trying to move those trees,” says Constantin. “Personally, I’ve never heard of moving trees that size, but he said money wasn’t an issue and that if those trees could be saved they would. I honestly have faith in him, but not blind faith.”
“He explained that he is trying even harder now to either save or move two of them, which we’re hearing from experts is a shaky concept, moving trees that big,” says Felicita “Flitzy” Wilhelm, also a renewable resources student. “I mean from what we’re hearing, it’s possible, but no matter how much money you spend, there’s still chance that they’re not going to live.”
The other option the president told students he would propose to architects would be to push the buildings closer together so that they would avoid the oaks.
“Oh, it is very viable. It is absolutely viable,” says primary designer Steve Oubre of Architects Southwest. “Each of these things have to be tested against a lot of things. One solution was to turn a building to create a leg on it to clear the trees. Well, what happens when you do that is you [infringe] on another building, and there are code requirements that we have to evaluate. For instance, if it’s closer than 30 feet then we have to build firewalls. What are the costs of the firewalls? Do you get visibility from one room to another room? So all of those things have to be looked at with each concept and scheme, and that’s what we’re doing right now.”
Oubre also says he’s “extremely optimistic” about the solutions they have looked at in recent meetings. However, the clock is ticking and the team working on these plans must have every decision made within the next week so that construction can begin on housing on Taft Street and Tulane Avenue and on University Avenue to meet the university’s expectations for an August 2011 completion. Until then, the fate of those oak trees is in limbo.
As it wraps up plans for the housing project, Architects Southwest will also receive the contract for UL’s Master Plan, which should take the campus into the next decade. Oubre says three, 10-day charettes are planned, to involve the community at-large in the direction of that plan.
MAY 24 Blogger Robert Mann posts this entry about the Baton Rouge Chamber's recent report on Louisiana's higher education system. It's critical to economic development, and yet our system is facing a "funding crisis" with no way to resolve it, the report says. The Chamber says control of tuition and fees must be returned to the higher ed governing boards.
MAY 24 Here's a NBC33 story about Tyrann Mathieu. He has signed with the Arizona Cardinals, inking a $3 million, four-year deal. He gets a signing bonus of $265K, but gets another, larger bonus if he doesn't get cut from the team for doing drugs. The deal reportedly includes mandatory tests and meetings for the player.
MAY 24 Jarvis DeBerry posts here about the redonkulus rhetoric that would have us believe NOLA is a safe city with a murder problem. Maybe the city's crime stats don't compare with its murder stats because you can't manipulate a murder, he says: a dead body's a dead body. It just doesn't make sense, he says, and his readers agree: a poll asks if they believe the city is safe, and more than 90 percent say no.
MAY 24 Jindal administration officials announced Thursday that the privatization of public health care is going to cost a lot more than they budgeted for, the Advocate reports here. "I'm so surprised," said no one. Anywhere. The cost they're projecting now is more than $1 billion - a lot more than the $626 million budgeted for it. And, it's more than it cost the state to operate those hospitals. So why are we doing this again?
MAY 24 Blogger CB Forgotston ridicules the recent PR campaign by the state GOP in the wake of a legislative auditor's request to both major parties. The GOP (apparently unaware that the Dems got the same request) started yammering about being targeted because it had "killed" a tax increase. CB finds that laughable, but it's also pretty funny that the GOP was comparing this episode to the IRS scandal (Because the President has so much to do with our state auditor. Right?).
MAY 24 Politico details some recent fund-raising efforts by Sen. David Vitter, which have raised the question of his future political plans. This time, it is a $5,000 per head "bayou weekend" that includes "Cajun cooking" and an all-caps "alligator hunt," the story reports. Funds raised go to a super PAC that can spend money to support Vitter in federal or state races, the story points out.
MAY 24 The pink building on Royal in the quarter was sold at a sheriff's sale Thursday, this Picayune story reports. An injunction that would have halted the sale wasn't enforced because the family failed to post a $150,000 bond, the story reports. So the owner of the mortgages on the building bought it, for nearly $7 million. Now the feuding family will have to negotiate with that company to get a lease on the building that has housed their business for close to 60 years.
MAY 23 This post in Louisiana Voice tells us about a bill by a Winnsboro lege that would require all public high school students to take at least one Course Choice online class in order to graduate. (What?) Blogger Tom Aswell says it's a monument to "waste and corruption," especially in light of the problems he's exposed with the program in recent weeks. Idaho had a similar program, but voters removed it by a 2-1 margin, Aswell says.
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.
Philip deMahy Sr., a once respected New Iberia ad exec, was sentenced May 2 to spend the next two years (he faced up to 100 years) in a state penitentiary after state and federal investigators found dozens of images depicting children engaged in lewd sexual acts on his personal computer.