from The INDsider

STM grad dies of Iraq war injuries, Bertrand to run for city-parish council and more


St. Thomas More grad Mark Graham, critically injured in Iraq Friday, March 2, died last Wednesday. In its initial report, CNN wrote, "Two American soldiers and an interpreter died and a third U.S. soldier was wounded when a roadside bomb exploded northwest of the capital, the military said. The soldiers, from Multi-National Division-Baghdad, were on a routine route-clearance patrol northwest of the capital ' to assess the safety of the road ' when the incident occurred."

Graham was flown to San Antonio after the attack. His wife, Stephanie, and his parents, Neil and Kim Graham, were with him when he died. Both Mark and Stephanie McElligott Graham graduated from STM in 2002. ' Leslie Turk


Don Bertrand, an independent petroleum landman and until recently "Rightblog" columnist for The Daily Advertiser, is running for the District 7 city-parish council seat being vacated next year by Marc Mouton. An active member of the parish Republican Executive Committee and the Lafayette Transportation Policy Committee, Bertrand says he was inspired to run partly by the large turnover on the council this year. Four councilmen are prevented by term limits from seeking re-election, and Councilmen Bobby Badeaux and Marc Mouton are opting not to run again this year. "It's a watershed moment," Bertand says. "I think it's kind of exciting times; Lafayette has a lot going for it, and I think it might be time for a facelift on the council." Elections for city-parish council will be held in October. ' Nathan Stubbs


On March 6, Lafayette real estate developer/broker Cecil Trahan purchased the old Abdalla's Oil Center building, 900 E. St. Mary Blvd., from co-owners Charles Chatelain and Barbara Abdalla Black. Trahan paid $4.5 million for the building and is converting it into office spaces. "Once it's complete, the building will be worth $10.5 million," Trahan says.

Lafayette architect Jay Chase is turning the two-story, 72,000-square-foot space into an office complex with suites that will rent for $19 to $22 per square foot. Renovations to the box start in two weeks and should take five months, at which time tenant improvements will begin as leases are signed. "I can't disclose anything at this time," Trahan says of potential tenants. ' LT


Rep. Bobby Jindal's massive campaign chest and sizeable lead over incumbent Gov. Kathleen Blanco is creating one headache for the Louisiana Republican Party. The party always endorses the Republican candidate if only one is running, but now that state Sen. Walter Boasso's officially in the race, it gets a little trickier. Endorse Jindal now to try and coalesce support around him? Endorse neither and let 'em duke it out? Or wait a while before choosing to endorse Jindal, Boasso or another Republican candidate? And if the wait-and-see approach prevails, how long does the party wait?

The Louisiana Republican Party starts trudging through that sticky wicket at the Cajundome this Saturday, March 17. The one-day meeting is open to the public, and endorsement policies are on the agenda. For more info on the meeting, call (225) 928-2998. ' Scott Jordan


The Southern Foodways Alliance ' an institute of the Center for the Study of Southern Culture headquartered at the University of Mississippi in Oxford, has launched an oral history initiative to capture the stories behind the great cooking of the South. Naturally, Louisiana is a destination for food folklorists, and they have created two online chapters ' the Boudin Trail and the Gumbo Trail. Local boudin maven Bob Carriker, who created the Boudin Link, a comprehensive boudin-rating Web site, weighs in as an authority on our favorite snack, and an interactive map gives locations and driving directions for those who can't make it to The Best Stop blindfolded. For more info, visit ' Mary Tutwiler


Last year represented the first time in the past 16 years that 85-year-old Vic Kilchrist wasn't out on the Jefferson Street sidewalk selling his roasted peanuts during Festival International. That's because city police informed him that his old mobile peanut roaster was in violation of a new city-parish ordinance governing pushcarts. Last week, the Lafayette City-Parish Council approved an ordinance that exempted "antique pushcarts" from the new rules. Councilman Chris Williams says the ordinance will grandfather in Kilchrist to any regulations for downtown vendors. "He was downtown when nobody else wanted to be downtown," Williams says. "Now that downtown is hot they want to regulate him out. This is geared specifically towards him to help him out as an icon in the city of Lafayette." ' NS


Dr. S.L. Sethi of Canton, Miss., developer/owner of the Hilton Garden Inn on UL Lafayette property on West Congress Street, purchased 11.5 acres that adjoins the Pinhook Road Hilton hotel site for approximately $3 million. According to records in the Lafayette Parish Clerk of Court's office, Sethi's company, Lodging America at the Vermilion River LLC, purchased the land ' which has about seven vacant buildings on it, most in disrepair ' from River Plaza Corp. of Lafayette. River Plaza is owned by several Ashy family members and attorney Bennett Voorhies Jr.

Eddie Mouton of the local real estate company J. Alfred Mouton Inc., who brokered the real estate transaction, says several of the buildings were leased until a couple of years ago by different entities, including Seabulk Shipping, Langford Engineering and the Louisiana Department of Corrections. He says the buildings were originally constructed for oilfield companies like Exxon, Chevron and Texaco and that all but one will be demolished. Mouton is unaware of Sethi's plans for the property, but speculation in real estate circles is that Sethi will likely construct a hotel and restaurants at the site. The property has Pinhook Road frontage, is bordered by the Hilton and Vermilion River on the south and is accessed by Calco Boulevard. Reached on his cell phone, Sethi declined comment. ' LT


The new Louisiana Business Recovery Report finds that business is finally rebounding from hurricanes Katrina and Rita. The groundbreaking report shows the storms' major impact on companies in St. Bernard, Orleans and Cameron parishes. Initially the state lost upwards of 5,000 businesses and continued to lose more through the first quarter of 2006. However, the tide began to turn during the second quarter, and a year after the storms the state had 2,270 fewer firms.

"This report confirms what we've heard anecdotally from employers and business owners across the state," says Lafayette businessman Matt Stuller, chair of the Louisiana Recovery Authority's Economic and Workforce Development Committee. "The back-to-back storms devastated thousands of Louisiana businesses." Stuller says retail trade and service sectors were particularly hard hit. ' LT


At a March 8 meeting, the Louisiana Ethics Board issued a ruling concerning the hire of former New Iberia Mayor Bobby Bodin for Iberia Parish Government chief administrative officer. The board concluded that the Code of Governmental Ethics would prohibit Bodin, who has been an independent insurance agent for AFLAC for the past 13 years, from "providing compensated services to AFLAC Insurance Co. who has existing contracts with parish employees while he serves as CAO." Bodin has said that he will cease working for AFLAC should he be hired by Iberia Parish President Will Langlinais, a move that should clear up any conflict of interest concerning the ethics board.

On March 14, the Iberia Parish Council is slated to vote on the hire based on the ethics ruling. If Bodin is hired, he will assume parish duties the next day. ' MT


On Monday, the FX Network introduced us to The Riches. The new TV series focuses on Wayne and Dahlia Malloy ' Louisiana con artists out on the road with their kids in their RV ' who stumble upon an affluent and dead couple named Rich. The Malloys assume their identities, and a television series ensues. Cross-dressing British comedian Eddie Izzard portrays Wayne ("patriarch to a family of Irish Travellers in rural Louisiana") and British actress Minnie Driver is Dahlia. The Riches was created by the Moscow-born Dmitry Lipkin, who moved to Louisiana at the age of 10 and learned to speak English by watching too much television. ' R. Reese Fuller


The New Orleans Saints visited last week with free agent wide receiver Brandon Stokley, the Comeaux and UL Lafayette grad cut recently by the Indianapolis Colts in a salary-cap move. Stokley was put on injured reserve last year after rupturing his Achilles Tendon but hopes to be ready for spring workouts.

If 30-year-old Stokley's healthy, he could be a good match for the Saints. He's a high-character guy that fits the mold of Sean Payton's team, and the Saints need a gritty possession receiver now that Joe Horn's officially gone over to the dark side and signed with the Atlanta Falcons. ' SJ


The Somewhere's Else Lounge has been purchased by the duo that started the downtown Lafayette musical landmark Grant Street Dancehall in 1980. Loren Farmer says he and partner Mike Hanisee believe live local music for patrons has become "obscenely over-priced." He adds, "We intend to bring extraordinarily talented people at very reasonable prices." Farmer says there will be few tables and chairs in the club, leaving plenty of room for dancing, with an emphasis on showcasing younger regional bands. "It's not going to be tried and true stuff," he adds. The Surrey Street club is scheduled to re-open in April. ' RRF


The bustling Saturday farmer's market on the Town Square at River Ranch is no more. After a year-and-a-half, the customer base had dwindled down to too few shoppers to make it worth the trek from her farm in Scott, says organic farmer Dawn Gotreaux. Her family farm sells vegetables, free range chicken and turkey, and tilapia. Started in June 2005 by horticulturist Leslie Barton, who had participated in the New Orleans Crescent City Market, the City Garden Market offered fresh produce, prepared foods, crafts, plants and entertainment. "It was great in the beginning," Gotreaux says. "After about 10 months, though, we just didn't have the traffic. I'm not sure why." Gotreaux is actively looking for another location to market her produce and says that other vendors from the market are searching as well. Gotreaux can be reached at 873-0383. ' MT


In New Orleans last week, Walt Disney Studios announced its next animated musical will feature its first black princess ' who will also be from New Orleans.

"From the heart of Louisiana's mystical bayous and the banks of the mighty Mississippi comes an unforgettable tale of love, enchantment and discovery with a soulful singing crocodile, voodoo spells and Cajun charm at every turn," Disney proclaimed in its announcement.

The Frog Princess, set for release in 2009, will introduce Maddy, "a young African-American girl living amid the charming elegance and grandeur of the fabled French Quarter." Legendary songwriter and Oscar and Grammy-winning composer Randy Newman has been tapped for the film's musical score, and the story was penned by John Musker and Ron Clements, the duo behind The Little Mermaid, Aladdin and Hercules. ' RRF


Brett Mellington, who for the past two years has served as downtown business services development manager, a $60,000 post funded by DDA and LEDA, is cutting his three-year contract short to join HomeBank. Before taking the DDA/LEDA economic development position, Mellington worked at Our Lady of Lourdes for three decades. At HomeBank, Mellington says he will manage the Jefferson Street operations and focus on business development, primarily in the downtown area.

Mellington, 56, is an active community leader who serves as chairman of the board for the Louisiana Community and Technical College System. LEDA's Gregg Gothreaux says no decision has been made on his replacement. "We're going to take some time to see where we are and how best to move forward with our partnership with DDA," he says. ' LT


Louisiana is used to the spotlight every year when the Legislature debates a ban on cockfighting. But right now the New Mexico Legislature is grabbing headlines for its cockfighting prohibition, largely because the state's two-term Democratic governor, Bill Richardson, is vying for his party's presidential nomination. Pinckney A. Wood, president of the Health, Education and Abuse Resolution Taskforce, says the Louisiana Legislature will be heeing and hawing over the issue again soon: "Sen. Art Lentini, [a Republican from Metairie] says he is ready to continue his anti-cockfighting efforts of last year, and he intends to file an anti-cockfighting bill in the upcoming session that begins April 30th." ' Jeremy Alford