Lafayette’s dream for converting the 100-acre Horse Farm into a public park got a sizeable boost in early January when Central Park Inc. announced that it raised more than $11 million in 2015. In addition to the largest lead gift from a still anonymous donor who has naming rights to the park — we’ll probably always call it the Horse Farm — 2015’s large contributions came as a $1 million challenge for matching funds from Dr. Kip Schumacher and his wife, Carolyn Doerle Schumacher, and several others who asked to remain anonymous. The challenge was met and quickly surpassed, bringing the total amount raised in December alone to $2.64 million. LCP is currently working to secure additional major donors and hopes to launch the public fundraising portion of the campaign sometime this year. The goal is to successfully raise funds for the full Phase 1 capital campaign by the end of 2017, approximately $30 million for construction and endowment. But in the meantime, funds in the bank are sufficient to begin turning earth this year, with immediate plans for walking and running trails, tree houses, playgrounds, a pond, a dog park, a farmer’s market pavilion, parking accommodations and restrooms. Get your Frisbees ready!
A report released near the end of January by the Louisiana Association of United Ways paints a stark portrait of the economic insecurity in which millions in Louisiana live. The ALICE report — that’s an acronym for Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed — finds that nearly 700,000 households in Louisiana, or a staggering 40 percent, cannot afford the most basic cost of living and are one auto accident or extended illness away from insolvency. Eleven United Ways in the state, including the Lafayette-headquartered United Way of Acadiana, contributed to the 263-page report, which offers parish-by-parish snapshots of how what are often called the working poor subsist. Many if not most who live below the ALICE threshold work full time yet live paycheck to paycheck or are incrementally falling behind. The report relies on an array of data from local, state and federal agencies. The report, for example, identifies Lafayette’s housing affordability as “poor” while it lists as “good” both its job opportunities and community resources. Lafayette, in fact, fares relatively well along with such affluent parishes as St. Tammany and Ascension. Of the 88,500 households in the parish, 32 percent are below the ALICE threshold in Lafayette with, predictably, blacks and Hispanics worse off than whites and Asians. The ALICE Report is a good start, but will it generate action?
Lafayette’s Keystone Cop continues to amaze, amuse and befuddle. Even as City Marshal Brian Pope’s often misfiring synapses try to figure out how to saddle Lafayette taxpayers with tens of thousands of dollars in attorney fees and court costs he owes this newspaper — costs that our reading of the law suggests should really be his own — many await an explanation for how and why Pope and his wife had been motoring around Lafayette for years, him in his government-insured SUV and she in a cute little BMW convertible, without license plates. One of the couple’s River Ranch neighbors tells The IND neither Pope nor his wife ever had plates on their vehicles — at least not in the years they have lived in the upscale south Lafayette neighborhood — although the marshal did slap a plate on his Chevy in mid-January, likely after he realized the jig was up. Lafayette city court and parish court records indicate that neither Pope nor his wife has ever been cited by the Lafayette Police Department, Louisiana State Police or the Lafayette Parish Sheriff’s Department for not having a plate on their vehicles. Big surprise there. Could the motivation be to avoid Safe Speed and Safe Light tickets? We’ll probably never know. It’s against the law in this state to drive a vehicle without a registered license plate attached to its rear, but as we’ve learned over the last few months via his under-oath depositions — a disdain for public records laws, his use of office and staff for personal campaign fundraising — Marshal Pope evidently believes the law doesn’t apply to him. We’ll give him this: Dude has some chutzpah.