News Briefs

Daily World editor falls for Nick Saban hoax, an insurance field trip to Florida and more


Pat LeBlanc, President of LCS Corrections Services Inc, which operates several private prison facilities across the Gulf coast, including correctional centers in Basile and Pine Prairie, has recently completed a political survey of Lafayette Parish residents. The eight-page survey, mailed out last December, asks residents their opinion on everything from local and national politicians, the UL horse farm, minimum wage and their favorite local restaurants.

LeBlanc recently did a Q & A with Daily Advertiser "Rightblog" columnist Don Bertrand and says he mailed out 2,300 surveys to residents across Lafayette Parish, whose addresses were randomly pulled from voter rolls purchased from the secretary of state's office ' the only condition being that the residents had all voted in the past three parish elections. Leblanc says about 575 residents mailed the surveys back in, equaling roughly a 25 percent return.

LeBlanc says he conducted the survey "to get a true read from our parish residents/voters, and not a sanitized version from some media agency or political group." He says the poll shows that President Bush's approval rating is well above 60 percent in Lafayette. On the topic of the Iraq war, his survey showed that 17 percent opposed the war and favored getting out now, while 26 percent favored staying "until the job is done." The majority, 56 percent, checked the middle box, which stated "I don't think we should cut and run, but do think we need an exit strategy." LeBlanc, who is widely rumored to be eyeing a run for either sheriff or state rep in Lafayette Parish, plans to release the full survey in the coming months. ' Nathan Stubbs


Daily World sports editor Tom Dodge was fired last week after falling hook, line and sinker for an Internet hoax. A fake story credited to the Birmingham News started circulating online in which Saban reportedly said quotes like this one on an Alabama radio show:

"LSU was nothing before I arrived. Academically, athletically, physical plant, nothing. I made LSU. I was LSU. Their current success is due solely due to my recruits. Coach Miles, while a fine man, does not fill my shoes, fit my desk, or cast a taller shadow. Our coaching staff is superior to anything in Baton Rouge. We will go into Louisiana and take each and every player we want. LSU will not, nor can not stop me. Mark my words."

Saban's said and done some questionable things in recent months by leaving the Miami Dolphins to coach the Crimson Tide, but even a casual sports fan would know that Saban would never utter such a quote. (There were other numerous tip-offs that the story was fake, including Saban supposedly saying that Mississippi State funds scholarships "by collecting pop bottles and aluminum cans along the highway.")

But The Daily World's Dodge didn't bother to check any of the sources for the fake story and wrote a column blasting Saban for the quotes. The newspaper removed the column from its Web site and replaced it with this note: "The column that had appeared in this space was inaccurate and has been removed." ' Scott Jordan


When the Florida Legislature overwhelmingly passed a far-reaching insurance reform bill last month, lawmakers in Louisiana took notice. Florida, with its dangling peninsula, is the most at-risk state when it comes to storms from the sea, but it still managed to protect homeowners with an innovative package. It's a risky set-up: Home owners will see lower rates unless Florida doesn't have enough money to pay claims from a future hurricane. If this does happen, policies on homes and cars would then go up. Additionally, for two years, the legislation prevents insurance providers from raising rates with asking regulators first. But for now, the decreases are on their way and Florida's own Citizens Property Insurance Corp., the state's insurer of last resort, is experiencing a growth spurt.

Now a group of Louisiana officials is headed to Florida on a fact-finding mission on the legislation.

Sen. Butch Gautreaux, a Morgan City Democrat, is among a number of legislators attending. "We all face the same challenges, and we are both struggling with affordability," he says. "They're sharing all their research with us." Representatives from the governor's office and insurance department have signed on for the trip, as have New Orleans Sens. Ed Murray, a Democrat, and Julie Quinn, a Republican, as well as Sen. Reggie Dupre, a Democrat from Terrebonne Parish. ' JA


No one can ever accuse Lorna Bourg of thinking small. The dynamic head of Southern Mutual Help Association has tripled the size of Teche Ridge, the traditional neighborhood development SMHA is building in Iberia Parish, before contractors have even broken ground. More than 60 acres immediately adjacent to the original 35-acre purchase will bring Teche Ridge's footprint up to nearly 100 acres. The project is designed to offer opportunities for low-income families to become residents of the upscale neighborhood designed by River Ranch architect Steve Oubre, and Bourg says she has already been approached by local businesses and individuals who want to become a part of the community. ' Mary Tutwiler


The Louisiana Public Health Institute has just released the first survey of post-hurricane populations for parishes directly affected by Hurricane Rita. Here are the numbers:

Cameron Parish ' 7,403 (down from 9,991 in 2000 census)

Calcasieu Parish ' 189,768 (up from 179,030 in 2000 census)

Vermilion Parish ' 58,114 (up from 53,040 in 2000 census)

The results have a margin of error ranging from 10 to 20 percent. Entire survey results, with extensive demographic info, including parishes affected by Hurricane Katrina, can be viewed at ' NS


IberiaBank Market President Taylor Barras ended months of speculation that he will run for term-limited Errol "Romo" Romero's District 48 New Iberia seat in the state legislature by announcing his candidacy on Feb. 7.

Barras, who has served as a board member and volunteer with the Greater Iberia Chamber of Commerce, the Council for a Better Louisiana, Shadows-On-The-Teche, United Way of Iberia Parish and the Sugar Cane Festival Association, says that economic development will be his primary focus as a legislator. As a banker, Barras says his knowledge of finance will offer the foundation for the best decisions for the parish and the state. "With this election, Louisiana has an historic opportunity for change," he noted. ' MT


The one thing Louisiana has been proficient at since the 2005 storm season is forming new groups and organizations to help pitch into recovery efforts. There's the LRA, CPRA, Louisiana Speaks and a handful of smaller collaborations. That spirit of cooperation should continue during the upcoming spring legislative session.

Since levee and highway work has wiggled its way into hurricane protection and coastal restoration, Scott Angelle, secretary of the Department of Natural Resources, says an integrated planning team needs to be formed by merging certain sections from his agency with the Department of Transportation and Development. Their shared goal would be to complete a master plan for recovery. Some offices are already under one roof, but legislation is needed to put the two together in the law. "We don't want to create another office or the overhead that goes with that," Angelle says. "But it's time to pull the two departments together." ' JA


Maurice's Dockside Studio helped bring home a long-overdue Grammy Award for Soul Queen of New Orleans Irma Thomas at Sunday's Grammy Awards. After being nominated twice in her illustrious career but never taking home the big prize, Thomas' latest album After The Rain won in the Best Traditional Blues Album category. After the Rain was recorded post-Katrina at Maurice's Dockside Studio, with contributions from Acadiana musicians Sonny Landreth, Dirk Powell and David Egan. Songwriter and piano man Egan (pictured) contributed a number of songs to the album, and performed with Thomas in Los Angeles at the Grammy Awards. ' SJ


Leave it to local musician Drew Landry to figure out a way to bust a band out of prison for the weekend ' and in the name of music. The Guts and Glory Prison Band performs regularly at the annual prison rodeo at Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola but will be making a rare out-of-prison performance in Scott.

On Saturday, Feb. 17, Bourque's Social Club will host a membership drive and fundraiser for the club. UL Lafayette's Dr. Pat Rickels will discuss the work of Harry Oster and the prison recordings he made at Angola. Movies will run from noon until 3 p.m., with folklore presentations at 6 p.m., and the band kicking off at 7:30 p.m. General admission is $15, $10 for students, and $5 for club members. (But if you donate a instrument, you can waive the fee altogether.) Bourque's Social Club is located at 1012 Saint Mary St. in Scott. For more information, call (337) 247-0164. ' RRF