[Update: The City-Parish Council unanimously approved the opt-out ordinance as an introductory measure after hearing from residents who both oppose smart meters and supporters of the technology. However, the discussion will likely get more contentious and council vote more divided when the ordinance comes up for final approval on Feb. 28. (Ordinances are typically up for final adoption two weeks after their approved as introductory items, but the council will not meet on Feb. 21 due to the Mardi Gras holiday.)]
The Tea Party contingent on the City-Parish Council is reprising an effort to allow residents to opt out of having so-called “smart meters” installed on their homes and businesses. Co-sponsored by Councilmen Jared Bellard, William Theriot and Andy Naquin, the ordinance originally came before the council late last year. Citing an array of concerns over the meters — from possible health issues to fears of loss of privacy and the violation of constitutional rights — the Tea Party of Lafayette has been spearheading the opt-out effort. The conservative group has a prominent notice on the home page of its website urging opponents of smart meters to attend Tuesday’s council meeting (see image below).
The new meters, which can be read remotely by the utility company, are currently being installed for LUS electric and water service at residences and businesses in the city. The $23 million project is partially funded by a federal grant and LUS Director Terry Huval says the meters will pay for themselves within about six years due in large part to the utility company no longer having to pay meter readers to go out and manually read meters. Supporters of the meters have also touted their use as a means of more quickly detecting water leaks and alerting residents to potentially dangerous situations in their homes caused by over-taxed electrical circuits.
Opposition to the meters hinges mainly on conspiratorial fears that LUS or some other “Big Brother” entity will use the meters to spy on residents.
Officially known as the Remote Meter Reading Program, the ordinance clearing the way for residents to opt out of the program failed on Dec. 20 of last year when the full council and the Lafayette Public Utilities Authority — the five city-majority members of the council who represent the vast majority of city-owned LUS’ stakeholders — failed to agree on amendments to the ordinance setting a monthly price residents would have to pay to keep 20th-century, manually read meters on their homes and businesses.
The ordinance before the council Tuesday sets a $5 per month fee per resident who opts out of the program to cover the cost of LUS maintaining a small staff of personnel to manually read the meters. Currently 22 LUS employees work as meter readers — a workforce that will be reduced as more smart meters come on-line. Huval has said those employees will be absorbed into open positions in Lafayette Consolidated Government and he doesn’t expect the transition to smart meters to precipitate layoffs.
Also of note on the council’s Tuesday agenda: Councilman Kenneth Boudreaux has re-introduced an ordinance that would clear the way for Lafayette Mardi Gras Festival Inc., the city’s predominately black Mardi Gras association that hosts a Fat Tuesday parade, to receive $7,500 from LCG via a public service contract.
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.