from The INDsider

Board to appoint Thibodaux's successor, La. GOP endorses Jindal and more


The community and school system are still in shock and mourning the death of longtime school board member David Thibodaux, a UL Lafayette English professor whose commitment to education led him to champion small class sizes and improved school facilities. School board President Carl LaCombe, who spent the past weekend with Thibodaux's family, says the board will soon face the difficult task of naming Thibodaux's successor. "We're going to have to do it fairly quickly," he says, noting state law requirements. "We're going to have to have a full board. We're in budget [hearings], and we got a lot of major issues on the table." LaCombe says he will likely sit down with Superintendent James Easton to discuss the issue following Thibodaux's funeral and that the board may need to call a special meeting on the matter this week. The board will have to officially declare the seat vacant and call for applicants to fill the position. At its next meeting, the board will vote on nominations for the position. The appointee will serve until an election can be held to decide who will fill the remaining three years of Thibodaux's term.

Thibodaux, 53, died last Saturday in a motorcycle accident in the Scott area. His funeral will be held Wednesday, March 28 at St. John's Cathedral. He is survived by his wife, Melody and five children. To leave thoughts and comments with the family, visit the guestbook at Martin & Castille's Web site at ' Nathan Stubbs


The day after Gov. Kathleen Blanco announced she wouldn't run for re-election, the Louisiana GOP announced it was officially endorsing U.S. Rep. Bobby Jindal. Fellow Republican challenger Walter Boasso isn't happy. Boasso, the Arabi senator who made a name for himself with his levee board reform efforts and formally declared his candidacy less than two weeks ago, says the Jindal endorsement is vintage back-room dealmaking.

"This is not acceptable," he contends. "It's not right. The people of Louisiana are too smart to be fooled by the actions of a few political elite claiming to represent the entire Republican Party and the interests of voters statewide." ' Scott Jordan


The fate of school system grant administrator Amy Trahan ' an issue which has several school board members at odds with Superintendent James Easton ' is now scheduled to be decided at the board's next meeting on April 4. The board met for almost five hours in executive session last week with Trahan and her attorney, reviewing issues related to her performance, before delaying a vote on whether or not to renew her contract.

Trahan has come under fire recently because the school system hasn't received nearly $13 million in Title money for the current school year ' money the system typically gets in November. Trahan has cited changes in state oversight and its budget cycle for the delays. Superintendent James Easton is recommending her contract be renewed. ' NS


Louisiana filmmaker Walter Williams, creator of Mr. Bill ' the irrepressible 1970s clay character that suffered countless dismembering mishaps on Saturday Night Live ' is running for governor. New Orleans City Business reports that Williams, who lately has worked on documentaries and performed stand-up comedy in New Orleans, is telling friends and family that he's a candidate.

Mr. Bill was last seen advocating for coastal restoration in educational shorts for America's Wetland Campaign. But when major corporate sponsors like Shell Oil signed on to the campaign, Williams pulled Mr. Bill and has since used the character as a protester against Shell's environmental practices. ' NS


Most of Gov. Kathleen Blanco's peers and colleagues on the Republican side of the aisle were gracious with their remarks last week after Blanco announced she wouldn't run for re-election. U.S. Rep. Bobby Jindal released a statement that said, "This is the governor's day, not mine. Campaigning can wait." The Louisiana Republican Legislative Delegation, led by state Rep. Jim Tucker, issued a few mild jabs but still wished Blanco and her family well in her future endeavors. Sen. David Vitter, however, who's been engaged in an acidic letter-writing exchange with Blanco, apparently couldn't find one respectful thing to say about the governor, and didn't even mention her by name.

"This certainly doesn't change my strong support for Bobby Jindal for governor that I announced some time ago," said Vitter. "I'm excited about Bobby because of the positive change he's for, not who he's running against." ' SJ


Rudy Giuliani, Republican presidential candidate for 2008, plans to hold a fundraiser in Lafayette this May. Officials with the local Republican Party say that it's currently the only stop Giuliani has scheduled in Louisiana this year. The fundraiser will be a reception and cocktail party at the home of Pat and Jennifer Leblanc. Ticket prices start at $300 per head.

This will be the former mayor of New York's second visit to Lafayette. In 2004, Giuliani made an appearance at the Paul Fournet hangar of the Lafayette airport in support of David Vitter's campaign for U.S. Senate. Vitter is now returning the favor by serving as a regional director for Giuliani's presidential campaign. Earlier this week, Lafayette Rep. Charles Boustany also announced his endorsement of Giuliani. ' NS


If recent history's any indication, Women of the Storm is going to help Louisiana land one of the 2008 presidential debates. The non-partisan group dedicated to educating national politicians on Gulf Coast recovery recruited Sen. Mary Landrieu to prepare a letter to the Commission on Presidential Debates ' and the letter's been signed by the six U.S. Senators currently running for their party nominations. Democratic Sens. Joseph Biden, Hillary Rodham Clinton, Chris Dodd and Barack Obama, and Republican Sens. Sam Brownback and John McCain are now all on the record supporting a presidential debate in New Orleans. Women of the Storm has done a tremendous job of tracking which national legislators have visited the region and support Gulf Coast recovery efforts.

Here's one highlight from the letter: "There is no doubt that the next President of the United States will bear a significant responsibility to address the ongoing and momentous challenges of this recovery. This duty is highlighted by the region's vital role in our nation's economy and national security and the statement our efforts make about how America protects and cares for its own people in times of crisis." ' SJ


Gov. Kathleen Blanco and the New Orleans Saints announced on Monday the removal of termination clauses on both sides of the contract that will keep the Saints in New Orleans for at least four more years. Blanco also said at the press conference in Baton Rouge that she will immediately begin negotiating for a long-term contract, which the NFL says is required for it to consider awarding a Super Bowl to New Orleans. ' Leslie Turk


It looks like old-fashioned bingo is about to go the way of the whooping crane. New Iberia residents Allen Kenner and Mike Flash have applied to open a video bingo parlor, Bon Temps Bingo, in Torrido Village Shopping Center. Regulated by the Office of Charitable Gaming rather than the Louisiana Gaming Control Board and the Louisiana State Police, video bingo's licensing is tied to charities. Charities and nonprofits have used bingo to raise money ' especially in parishes which outlawed video poker ' since a 1996 local option vote. In traditional bingo, often played in a church hall, the charity keeps all the profits. However with video bingo, 55 percent of the profit goes back to the company that owns the machines, Alexandria-based Pelican Distributing; the charity keeps 45 percent, out of which they must pay rent and expenses.

Video bingo, with its flash and speed, looks a lot like video poker.

"They're gonna bring in the latest and greatest in video bingo machines," Flash said in the Daily Iberian. "They'll have a better feel to them, and there will be less concentration involved."

Bon Temps Bingo's application is currently pending with the state Department of Revenue. ' Mary Tutwiler


Gov. Kathleen Blanco has appointed four new Acadiana representatives to The Louisiana Music Commission. Local actor and film instructor Marcus Brown, Louisiana Folk Roots' Todd Mouton, Cajun/zydeco Grammy activist Cynthia Simien and Festival International's Lisa Stafford are now on the 14-member commission, which also includes representatives from New Orleans, Baton Rouge, Monroe, Benton and Shreveport. The Louisiana Music Commission operates within the Louisiana Economic Development Department to promote Louisiana music as an economic engine. ' SJ


While even the united effort of local chefs and the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries failed to sell the eating public on the virtue of consuming nutria rats, nutria's cousin, the capybara, reputed to be the world's largest rodent, is an Easter delicacy in Venezuela.

"We're conditioned poorly in the United States to think of rodents as rats in sewers and such things," said Rexford D. Lord, a capybara expert at Indiana University of Pennsylvania, in The New York Times.

With Louisiana's wetlands in dire straits at least somewhat caused by the nutria's voracious consumption of wetland plants, perhaps it's time to take another look at nutria as nutrition. According to Cuban native and Guama's restaurant owner Rubens Mesa, nutria ought to be on the table. "In Cuba, we eat them whenever we can catch them," he says. "It's a great meat, tender and delicious." ' MT