Members of the governmental affairs committees of both chambers of the Legislature, along with representatives from Lafayette’s legislative delegation, will outline the redistricting process at a public forum scheduled for 6 p.m. Tuesday at the Acadiana Center for the Arts.
The redistricting of Louisiana’s legislative and congressional districts — plus districts for the state Supreme Court, Board of Elementary & Secondary Education and Public Service Commission — begins with a special session beginning March 20. The redistricting is required of states following the release of decennial census figures.
Lafayette Parish’s growth over the last decade was 16 percent; the state added more than 31,000 residents. And with significant population losses in southeast Louisiana, particularly Orleans and St. Bernard parishes, due to Hurricane Katrina, coupled with an out-migration of residents from a cluster of parishes in northeast Louisiana, a strong case can be made that Lafayette should at the least gain an extra seat in the state House of Representatives. It’s possible a Senate seat could also be carved out of Acadiana that represents at least part of Lafayette.
Leading Tuesday’s forum will be Rep. Rick Gallot, D-Ruston, chairman of the House & Governmental Affairs Committee, the panel that will do the initial heavy lifting in the redistricting process. Gallot met with The Independent’s editorial board a few weeks ago and insists that he’s going into the process with an open mind.
One contentious issue that will likely divide lawmakers along geographic lines is the proposed creation of a coastal district spanning from Cameron Parish in the west to St. Bernard in the east. A map laying out this new district, which has been endorsed by freshman U.S. Rep. Jeff Landry, R-New Iberia, and several political leaders in southeast Louisiana, breaks up the current 7th Congressional District seat held by Rep. Charles Boustany, R-Lafayette, and divorces Lafayette from Lake Charles. The latter would become part of a western Louisiana district hugging the Texas border from Calcasieu Parish in the south to Caddo in the north.
Boustany has come out against the coastal district idea, as have several lawmakers representing the Lake Charles area, one of whom rightfully — in our view — pointed out that a single member of congress would have been hard pressed to handle the 2005 hurricane season during which Katrina devastated the southeast coast and Rita smashed the southwest coast less than a month apart.
Boustany favors a proposed redistricting that keeps Lafayette and Lake Charles — his urban population base — together and even grabs the Houma-Terrebone portion of the current 3rd Congressional District represented by Landry. This map, however, creates a congressional district that weds northern the northern Acadiana parishes of St. Landry and Evangeline with far north parishes like Ouachita.
See the competing maps and read more about a possible future showdown between Boustany and Landry in The Ind’s Feb. 9 cover story, “Charles in Charge.”
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.