The economy in Lafayette Parish continues to outperform the state and nation. More than $596 million in December sales bumped Lafayette Parish’s 2012 total retail sales to $5.71 billion, a 6.5 percent increase over 2011 and easily the highest year on record. December 2012 sales were the highest recorded for any December since the Lafayette Economic Development Authority began tracking retail sales in 1997, the organization confirmed in a late February press release. This year’s total beat the previous retail sales record set in 2008, $5.4 billion, by 5.7 percent. In fact, in 2012 monthly sales topped $500 million in four months, a level that had previously been exclusive to the month of December. As with retail sales, 2012 hotel/motel receipts outperformed 2011 totals, LEDA notes. December hotel/motel receipts totaled $4.85 million, bringing the yearly total to $76.3 million, 13.6 percent more than $67.2 million collected in 2011.
Xenophobia is alive and well in Lafayette, and at the end of February it crashed headlong into NIMBY. A handful of residents in unincorporated south Lafayette Parish showed up at a City-Parish Council meeting to lobby against construction of a private park in their neighborhood. MECA Park, according to the site plan, will feature a soccer field, picnic/playground areas and basketball courts. MECA is an acronym for Muslim Education Center of Acadiana. Said one resident to the council: “I think it’s a cover up of what they plan on doing in the future. That’s my opinion, personally. I have grandkids, and you have all these strange people in the neighborhood that you don’t know who they are. And the people that have been there previously, they’re all foreigners.” In fact, MECA is a nonprofit that has operated the Islamic Center of Lafayette for years, and the group plans to eventually build a community center and classroom to serve the needs of a growing population of Islamic youth in the parish. The neighbors were chagrined to learn that the “others” can build their park and, pending future approval by the parish, construct buildings on the site. (The council was merely voting on, and ultimately approved, a request by the site’s owner that he be allowed to have a chain-link fence rather than the required wooden fence — a request the neighbors approved of so they can “see what’s going on” in that Muslim park.)
Being an elected official in Lafayette is typically a part-time job and, often, a thankless one. But does that mean we should expect our elected officials to leave their manners and professionalism at the door when they’re not on the clock? Evidently Lafayette Parish School Board member Tehmi Chassion does. Chassion’s immature, boorish behavior while serving as coach during a recent girls’ basketball game (9 and 10-year-olds) should have him in foul trouble with his constituents. Based on emails between the opposing coach and consolidated government’s supervisor of league sports, Chassion received two technical fouls for arguing calls and then refused to leave the gym when the referee and gym supervisor ordered him to do so, leading to a reprimand from the league. The emails also indicate that Chassion’s unsportsmanlike conduct rubbed off on his young players, who resorted to taunting the opposing team’s player as she shot free throws resulting from the technical fouls.
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