Dec. 1, 2015 12:39 AM

Story of the Year:

The Grand Theatre

Mayci Breaux
Jillian Johnson
Looking back through theind.com beginning with January stories as we compiled this year’s Pooyie, it crept closer and closer, a spectre on the horizon: July 24. Friday.

That’s the morning all of Lafayette woke up to the horror of the Grand Theatre shootings. Many of us had seen the live news reports Thursday night or seen the posts on Twitter or Facebook. But a camera lens in the blur of emergency lights and the scattered veracity of social media are surreal, unreliable. They leave open the possibility that it’s a mistake — that none was dead or wounded.

By Friday it was real. Mayci Breaux, a 21-year-old from Franklin who worked at a local boutique as she attended college, and 33-year-old Jillian Johnson of Lafayette were dead and nine others wounded — three dead if you count the crazed, lonely and ultimately suicidal man from Alabama who subsisted on a diet of hate radio and right-wing websites and who, inexplicably, wound up in a Lafayette cinema with murder in his heart and a gun in his waistband. But we don’t count him. Two dead, nine wounded.

The loss — let’s not sugar-coat it: the death — of Jillian was especially painful for many here on the staff at The Independent. She epitomized the creative culture in Lafayette, and many of her imperatives — to make Lafayette’s urban core a more friendly, hospitable and livable place through creativity and a shared sense of purpose — are our imperatives; a designer, an entrepreneur, a singersongwriter-musician with whom some on the staff had not only collaborated, but had broken bread, raised a glass and sang a joyful song.

It’s vanity to say Jillian and Mayci didn’t die in vain. Jillian was in the prime of her creative life, Mayci just launching hers, and there’s little sense to be made of the senseless tragedy.

But Lafayette did rally in the weeks and months after the Grand shooting, raising scores of thousands of dollars for the families of the victims and, in the case of Jillian, memorializing the tragedy with action, embarking on the completion of an ambitious community garden project that had been near to Jillian’s heart.

The projects will continue, the Grand has reopened, and despite the bickering and divisions engendered by the recent election cycle, Lafayette appears to be a closer, more cohesive community.


JANUARY

C’EST BON

Lafayette Consolidated Government announces plans to acquire the seedy, dilapidated Less Pay Motel at Four Corners — amicably or through expropriation if necessary — and convert it into a public plaza and police substation.

Keith Stutes
Keith Stutes is sworn in as 15th Judicial District Attorney, ending the long, entrenched reign of Mike Harson, who was swept out by the pay-for-plea scandal that sullied his office and his reputation.

PAS BON

Tens of thousands of DirecTV viewers in Acadiana freak out as KATC goes dark on the satellite service due to a fight between KATC’s parent company and DirecTV over a retransmission fee. The station would return to the service on Jan. 11.

Louisiana is ranked the fifth most violent state in the U.S.

Lafayette defense attorney Daniel Stanford is sentenced to 10 years in federal prison for his role in the Curious Goods synthetic marijuana/money laundering case.

In a family squabble of epic proportions, Knight Oil Tools ousts President/CEO Mark Knight, son of the founders, from his post. Profligate personal spending with company accounts are likely the main cause. Stay tuned, Knight will be popping up in Pooyie again.

Louisiana is ranked the fifth deadliest state for black citizens.


COUILLON


Gov. Bobby Jindal brings out the big dumbs in London, repeating the dubious and roundly discredited claim that radicalized Muslim immigrants in Europe have carved out enclaves or “no-go zones.”

New Orleans consultant Rina Tikia is charged by the state Board of Ethics for handing out Saints football tickets to members of the Lafayette Parish School Board with whom she had a contract.

Newly minted U.S. Sen. Bill Cassidy continues to push his silly EGO — Eliminating Government-Funded Oil- Painting — Act to prevent federal officials from sitting for oil portraits.


FEBRUARY

C’EST BON


The Greater Lafayette Chamber of Commerce weans itself off ribbon cuttings and becomes regional economic development agency One Acadiana. Some of you will move this to Pas Bon. That is your right.

PAS BON

Secretary of State Tom Schedler announces that he will lay off 24 full-time employees and reduce hours at museums statewide to cope with the midyear budget cut assigned to his office by Gov. Bobby Jindal, whose man crush on Grover Norquist is screwing everything up.

An audio recording of Lafayette Police officer William White dropping the N-bomb is released by retired officer Andres Landor, who is black. White is, well, white and would later face what many believe is a slap on the wrist for his unrepentant racism.

COUILLON

Jefferson Street’s Arcadian Bar & Grill, known for its vintage arcade games, surrenders its liquor license and closes after a fourth time busted for selling booze to minors. In addition to a $2,500 fine, owner Robert Zorn agrees to refrain from owning or being employed by a business that holds a liquor license.


MARCH

C’EST BON

Lafayette Parish voters pass by a 64-36 percent margin a measure to consolidate property millages that fund the parish health unit and mosquito abatement, freeing extra funding for building a new parish-wide animal-control unit.

PAS BON

Cody Laperouse, a former deputy for the Iberia Parish Sheriff’s Office, pleads guilty in federal court to violating a suspect’s civil rights by repeatedly punching the suspect while he was handcuffed.

Northside High Principal Melinda Voorhies abruptly resigns after about three years on the job. Voorhies had been hired by former Superintendent Pat Cooper to turn the failing school around. The embattled Cooper had been canned in November 2014.

Former Carencro Police officer Timothy Prejean pleads guilty in federal court to receiving cash payments, free access to VIP rooms and free drinks from James Panos, the former owner and manager of Desperado’s Cabaret on Northeast Evangeline Thruway, which was shuttered in 2013 by law enforcement officials for illegally operating as a prostitution and drug enterprise.


APRIL

C’EST BON

LUS Fiber announces that Standard & Poor’s has updated its bond rating from “A” to “A ” with a stable outlook.

Council Chairman Kenneth Boudreaux produces a video of file footage showing local Tea Party gadflies praising the initial passing of tax increment financing district at Louisiana Avenue and I-10 when they appear before the council to oppose extending the TIF at Louisiana Avenue and I-10. Burn!

PAS BON

Federal officials begin an investigation into the Ville Platte Police Department and Evangeline Parish Sheriff’s Office for their alleged use of so-called “investigative holds” during which individuals are detained without probable cause, typically while local police or deputies investigate those individuals’ suspected ties to a crime.

COUILLON

Freshman state Rep. Mike Johnson, an evangelical Republican lawyer from Bossier, embarrasses Louisiana by filing a “religious liberty” bill for the spring session; the bill would falter, but Gov. Bobby Jindal would later enact it through executive order.

Mark Knight
Former Knight Oil Tools President/CEO Mark Knight is arrested on racketeering charges, accused of a scheme to plant drugs on his brother in an effort to oust him from the company that later stripped Mark Knight of his position; Mark Knight, a KOT employee and two in law enforcement will be indicted on charges stemming from the alleged scheme in July.


MAY

C’EST BON

Despite unified opposition from the local Tea Party, the City-Parish Council passes the Unified Development Code, opening the way to sensible, uniform development in Lafayette Parish.

PAS BON

Jeanerette Police Chief Martin Grogan is arrested in Lafayette, accused of ignoring prostitution and drug use at Lipstick’s Gentlemen’s Club where he worked off-duty as a “security” officer.

COUILLON

In one of the few instances in which he allowed America’s culture war to infiltrate Lafayette Consolidated Government, City-Parish President Joey Durel successfully pushes to have an “In God We Trust” sign placed in the council auditorium.

It is revealed that Joe Castille, campaign manager for Joel Robideaux, had been using a Facebook page ostensibly in support of the Horse Farm to troll Joey Durel (whose right-hand man, Dee Stanley, was Robideaux’s opponent in the race for C-P president).


JUNE

C’EST BON

The Lafayette Public Trust Financing Authority gives the Acadiana Center for the Arts $245,000 to cover three years of salary for a development director.

Faced with the prospect of even more debilitating cuts to higher ed and health care, the Legislature finally stands up to the business lobby and begins trimming back some of the overly generous tax breaks and credits offered to business — breaks and credits that have shown little return on investment.

No Kim Davis here: The Lafayette Parish Clerk of Court’s Office almost immediately begins issuing marriage licenses to gay and lesbian couples after the U.S. Supreme Court invalidates same-sex marriage bans nationwide.

COUILLON

LUS Fiber marks 10 years since its rollout amid ever-increasing signs it will be a sustainable, profitable venture for the city of Lafayette.

The state House Labor and Industrial Relations Committee votes 8-5 to kill an equal-pay bill, ensuring that Louisiana will continue to rank 49th in the U.S. when it comes to employees receiving the same pay for the same work, regardless of gender.

Robert Williamson, the private investigator implicated in the pay-for-plea scandal that brought down former District Attorney Mike Harson, pleads guilty in federal court; he would begin serving a 6.5-year sentence in mid-November.


JULY

C’EST BON

The City-Parish Council approves a resolution declaring existing biking lanes in the heart of Lafayette The Mickey Shunick Memorial Bike Loop in honor of the 2012 murder victim.

An unprecedented number of women declare their candidacy for seats on the City-Parish Council; in all, eight would qualify by the September deadline.

PAS BON

Lafayette Judge Ed Rubin sentences Seth Fontenot to a slap-on-the-wrist 13 months in prison following Fontenot’s March manslaughter conviction in the shooting death of a Southside teen Fontenot suspected of burglarizing his truck (two others were also injured by Fontenot’s bullets); despite public outcry and a re-sentencing, Rubin will stick with his lenient sentence.

UL students and their families are hit with a 20 percent tuition/fee hike — just the latest hike as UL and universities statewide deal with seven years of crippling budget cuts from the Legislature and Jindal administration. The Jindal Error will see many college students and their families paying 80 percent more for higher education than before Jindal assumed office.

COUILLON

Rednecks and “I’m not a racist but”-heads converge on a Ville Platte Walmart parking lot to wave the Confederate battle flag amid the national debate over Southern iconography following the Charleston massacre.

Three Louisiana jockeys at Evangeline Downs are arrested and charged in an alleged racefixing scheme following an investigation by the Louisiana State Police Gaming Enforcement Division.

John Georges

Advocate Publisher John Georges’ on-again, off-again delusion that he can be governor of Louisiana is on again. Georges will later forgo entering the race but not before unnerving a whole bunch of state Democrats.


AUGUST

C’EST BON

The Downtown Lafayette Restaurant & Bar Association gives the Uber ride service a test run.


SEPTEMBER

C’EST BON

Downtown property owners, the sheriff and police departments, the Downtown Development Authority and Catholic Services of Acadiana launch an ambitious effort to rehouse the Central Business District’s homeless population and to address vagrancy in the area.

The state office of Alcohol & Tobacco Control grants Artmosphere and the city six months to work out how to keep the popular live-music bistro in business without being subject to state rules governing liquor licenses issued to restaurants. Hipsters rejoice.

TEDxVermilionStreet, held at the Acadiana Center for the Arts, gets Lafayette thinking as more than a dozen speakers ranging from a theoretical physicist to a fashion designer to C-P Prez Joey Durel give compelling presentations.

Locally based Hazelwood Energy Hub announces plans to develop a $400 million storage and blending facility in St. Landry Parish.

PAS BON

Qualifying for one of the biggest non-presidential elections in years comes and goes and Louisiana yawns; nearly half of all representatives and senators in the Legislature are “re-elected” because no one steps up to challenge them.

The painful, protracted Pat Cooper era comes to a quiet close as the fired former superintendent of Lafayette schools loses his wrongful termination suit against the Lafayette Parish School Board; the ruling against Cooper in district court is under appeal at this writing.

Retail sales numbers for July are released and show an 8.3 percent drop over the same time in 2014 — further evidence that depressed oil prices are muting our cash registers.

COUILLON

The freak show that is the unravelling political career of state Sen. Elbert Guillory goes fully off the tracks as the candidate for lieutenant governor produces a series of YouTube “ads” chockablock full of the N-word and other racial slurs.


OCTOBER

C’EST BON

Council Chairman Kenneth Boudreaux successfully leads the charge to amend the Unified Development Code to prevent low-income, multi-family housing constructed within the Louisiana Avenue Zoning and Development Overlay District.

For the third consecutive year, Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns student athletes continue their excellence in the classroom as they post the highest graduation rate among public institutions in the state while tying for the top mark among Sun Belt Conference schools in the latest Federal Graduation Rate Report released by the NCAA.

PAS BON

The race for city-parish president gets ugly as a notoriously misleading push poll muddies what had largely been a clean contest.

The Plaza Downtown, which briefly occupied the site of the mega bar Karma, is ordered closed due to a technicality with the district’s liquor-license moratorium.

UL Lafayette officials reveal their football program is under investigation by the NCAA because a former assistant coach allegedly schemed to fraudulently boost certain recruits’ standardized test scores.

A former police chief in Mamou heads to prison as another awaits sentencing following a federal investigation into the illegal use of Tasers on inmates at the local jail.

Turnout in Lafayette Parish for the Oct. 24 primary, shamefully, is below 40 percent.

COUILLON

City Marshal Brian Pope painfully and with awkward abandon enters local politicking with an embarrassing, hamhanded press conference in which he claims Lafayette is a “sanctuary city” based on dubious information from a right-wing, anti-immigration group; the claim will become a central theme of Chad Leger’s campaign for sheriff, later supplanted by scary Syrian grandmothers.


NOVEMBER

C’EST BON

Local beautification group Scenic Lafayette, in coordination with PlanLafayette, announces a renewal of the once-popular Azalea Trail through the city’s urban core.

PAS BON

Lafayette Police refuse to release a video purported to contain evidence of Tevin Lewis’ shooting by officers in the department’s crime suppression unit, helping to further erode relations between police and the black community.

COUILLON

Gov. Bobby Jindal drops his presidential bid and returns to Louisiana to deal with his eighth consecutive budget deficit, this one to the tune of $487 million.