The Youngsville City Council voted Thursday to allow the so-called Heritage Oak — a 250-year-old live oak in the way of “progress” — to stand, accepting a generous offer from resident Ginger Rabalais to use her property for a temporary bypass road that will allow crews to straighten La. 92 leading into town. The bypass will come within five feet of Rabalais’ front door.
The oak, which stands in Councilman A.J. Bernard’s yard, was slated to be felled later this month to make way for the bypass. When news of the tree’s impending demise spread, a consortium of tree lovers organized a campaign to save the tree, including Acadiana artist George Rodrigue, who painted the tree in his iconic style and sold prints to raise money for relocation of the tree. The relocation proved to be unnecessary, thanks in large part to Rabalais.
“This is an important part of our city’s history,” Rabalais told The Daily Advertiser after the council’s vote Thursday night. “It deserves to be saved.”
Trees Acadiana agreed at the Thursday meeting to provide a $200,000 surety bond, which will be used to restore Rabalais’ property after the five-month, $5 million construction project is complete.
Trees Acadiana’s Sarah Schoeffler announced the victory in an email to supporters: “We have felt the issue of the Youngsville Oak has been more than just one tree, that our public officials, engineers, developers, etc. will take into consideration the beauty our oaks have graced our land with for hundreds of years. They were here to welcome all of us into South Louisiana. These wonderful trees have cleaned our air, held our land firm and homes protected during storms, they slow down flood run off, provide the cooling effects from the shade, habitat for birds and squirrels and provide a place of solace for mankind. We hope our leaders will learn creative ways to design around them.”
Trees Acadiana and Guardian of the Oaks, an offshoot group that sprang up specifically in defense of the Youngsville Heritage Oak, are urging supporters to continue to donate and purchase the Rodrigue print to help the groups pay back loans taken out to cover the cost of the surety bond.
And hopefully, as Youngsville residents rumble within feet of Ginger Rabalais’ door on the temporary bypass, they’ll give her a big thumbs up. Bravo, Ginger!
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.