Against the advice of Lafayette Consolidated Government’s legal department, the City-Parish Council indefinitely deferred hearing appeals by six bar owners facing suspension of their liquor licenses for refusing to pay the special law enforcement tax levied against downtown bars to cover the cost of additional police presence on weekends. Five of the bars — B.E.D., Bootleggers, Karma, The Rabbit Hole and Shakers — were facing one-year suspensions for being several months delinquent in paying the levy. Nitetown was facing a one-month suspension. A seventh establishment facing sanctions, Guamas, has since gone out of business.
Citing a federal lawsuit filed by the bars against LCG — a suit that was actually filed last November, withdrawn, refiled, withdrawn again and finally submitted as a new lawsuit on Jan. 13 — Councilman Brandon Shelvin successfully moved to defer the hearings. The deferrals were approved by a 5-3 vote with Councilmen Shelvin, Kenneth Boudreaux, Andy Naquin and William Theriot voting in favor of deferral and Councilmen Kevin Naquin, Don Bertrand and Keith Patin voting against. Councilman Jay Castille was absent.
So as it stands now, six bars on Jefferson Street have stopped paying their share of the enforcement levy, which is calculated by a bar’s occupancy. Karma, the biggest night club downtown, is charged roughly $5,000 per month. According to information presented at Tuesday’s council meeting, the club stopped paying in June and now owes LCG more than $46,000. Lafayette city taxpayers are evidently swallowing the lost revenue. (We contacted but have yet to hear back from Chief Administrative Officer Dee Stanley and Police Chief Jim Craft to find out how LCG will handle the levy while the federal lawsuit moves toward resolution.)
At the meeting, LCG attorney Mike Hebert advised the council to move forward with the suspension hearings, telling them that until the ordinance is ruled invalid or unconstitutional by a court, the council should apply the ordinance, which prescribes liquor license suspensions of varying lengths for failure to pay the levy. Hebert said he was also concerned that if a court ultimately rules in LCG’s favor, the government may not be able to enforce the suspensions.
Meanwhile, we contacted one downtown bar owner who has paid the levy all along. He said he’ll continue to do so, but expressed frustration that the situation isn’t resolved and that some of his colleagues — those who have refused to pay the levy and will evidently not have do so while the federal lawsuit works its way toward finality — will reap at least a short-term economic advantage over those following the law.
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.