Wednesday, August 10, 2011

In a state famed for its food, we have a lot going for us. Knowing how our favorite restaurants fare with the health department hasn’t been one of them. Until now. The state Office of Public Health is set to begin posting online certain portions of inspection reports for restaurants, bars and residential and day-care centers — and may have already done so by the time you’re reading this. Heretofore, Louisiana was one of just 10 states that didn’t make restaurant-inspection results available on-line for the public. The website, according to The Advocate, allows the public to see specific “critical” and “noncritical” public health violations found in restaurants, although the data will not be posted until seven days after an inspection takes place. Also included in the database is info on 8,800 stores, 4,700 bars, 2,500 day-care and residential facilities, and others. Not included, however, are overall number or letter grades of the businesses, a practice DHH tried in 2005 and later abandoned. By clicking the “advanced search” tab on the EatSafe website and searching Lafayette, violations, if any, for 1,125 businesses in Lafayette Parish can be found online. The reports cannot be viewed in their entirety, but sifting through the 57 pages of search results in the parish will no doubt prove interesting. Search results on page 52, for example, include Toys-R-Us and Travelodge, along with Took’s Fine Meats, Tokyo Live and Tonic night club, to name a few.

Atlanta-based AGL Resources is nothing if not persistent. The company last week reprised its role as Goliath in its bid to build two more natural gas storage caverns beneath scenic Lake Peigneur in Iberia Parish, running headlong once again into the Save Lake Peigneur folks — the David in this story. AGL’s plan, which was front and center at a meeting last Thursday attended by more than a dozen state lawmakers who serve on the Senate Environmental Quality or House Natural Resources and Environment committees, would require dredging the lake and siphoning unprecedented amounts of groundwater from the Chicot Aquifer, which supplies drinking water to more than 15 parishes. A tip of the hat to residents fighting this plan, but they better have plenty of stones for their slingshot: As Louisianans are painfully aware, the interests of the energy industry are typically served before the environmental concerns of those impacted.

It was an exodus from Genesis by members of the Vermilion Parish School Board recently when board members voted to rescind their earlier — and clearly premature — vote to endorse Dale Bayard, the incumbent District 7 representative on the state Board of Elementary & Secondary Education. Bayard, in our view, is a shill for the Louisiana Family Forum, which, given its druthers, would have science educators in Louisiana public schools teaching Intelligent Design or, worse, creationism alongside Darwinian evolution in biology class. Bayard gave a presentation to the board several weeks ago, after which the board voted to endorse the Sulphur insurance salesman — a hasty decision that flies in the face of the deliberative process. Unaware that Vermilion Parish native and Abbeville High alumna Holly Boffy, a 2010 Louisiana Teacher of the Year, is challenging Bayard for the seat, the board recently backed off from Bayard, rescinded the vote and decided not to issue an endorsement in the race. Boffy, a reform-minded Republican, is challenging some entrenched dogma in public education. Let’s hear what she has to say.

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