News Briefs

Louisiana Republicans break ranks, Durel's Horse Farm proposal and more


Last Wednesday, Jan. 25, served up a double dose of disappointing headlines on crucial hurricane-recovery issues. First the Bush administration announced it would not support the Baker Bill, then the White House said it will not fully comply with a House investigation and would not turn over internal documents related to the federal government's response to Hurricane Katrina. (Gov. Blanco complied with the request last December.)

The dual developments prompted rebukes of the Bush administration from a surprising cross-section of top Louisiana Republicans. Congressman Charles Boustany Jr. told The Advocate he would continue to fight for the Baker Bill and called the Bush administration "short-sighted" in rejecting the plan. Regarding White House stonewalling on the release of Hurricane Katrina documents, Congressman Bobby Jindal said, "I think it is important for both state and federal governments to be completely forthcoming with the oversight committees, rather than worry about political implications, so we can be better prepared for next hurricane season." Sen. David Vitter was even more forceful, telling The Times-Picayune, "There is such a thing as valid executive privilege, but from what I have read, some of the withholding of information and some of the refusal to allow agency representatives to testify goes way beyond that." ' Scott Jordan


Congressman Charlie Melancon recently sent a letter to the editor of The Advocate explaining why he did not join a gaggle of Louisiana officials on a recent trip to the Netherlands to investigate the Dutch method of flood protection. Not only did taxpayers foot a large portion of the bill for travel, but there's no way the federal government would ever fund such a sophisticated project for Louisiana, especially when officials have been pulling teeth just to get a Category 5 levee system, Melancon writes. "I personally felt that with the current mindset in Washington the way it is, it was a bit like window-shopping at Neiman Marcus when you can only afford Wal-Mart. If you don't have the money, why even go to the store?" ' Jeremy Alford


City-Parish President Joey Durel has fast-tracked an appraisal of Lafayette Consolidated Government's 8-acre Youth Park, located adjacent the UL Lafayette campus, and hopes to know the park's value when he addresses the Save the Horse Farm group Thursday, Feb. 2, at 5:30 p.m.

Located on St. Julien Avenue close to Johnston Street, Youth Park is a key component in Durel's negotiations with UL President Ray Authement for the university's 100-acre horse farm on Johnston Street. Durel wants LCG to take possession of the horse farm as soon as possible and eventually convert it into a community park.

Durel's plan, which may also include donating a small portion of Girard Park, a cash payment (raised from the community) or other LCG assets, is being proposed as an alternative to the contentious land swap Authement negotiated with BRE-ARD LLC. As part of the initial proposal, the university would get attorney Jimmy Davidson's Girard Park Drive property, 4 acres and two home sites, for 36 acres of the horse farm (six would be donated back to the university after the sale), which are up for rezoning from residential to commercial.

Durel's address will take place in the Lagniappe Room of the UL Union on McKinley Street. A question-and-answer session will follow. ' Leslie Turk


Tony Clayton, a special prosecutor in East Baton Rouge Parish, is releasing a tell-all book in mid-February, I've Been Watching You, on his infamous case involving Louisiana serial killer Derrick Todd Lee. Sentenced to death in late 2004, Lee is accused of murdering at least seven women from Baton Rouge to Acadiana. "There's a lot in the book that has never come out before," Clayton says, such as Lee's motives, details on the murder weapons and entries from

private diaries. The book is expected to grab more headlines for Clayton, who

is positioning himself for the soon-to-be vacated seat of Sen. Cleo Fields. "I'm

definitely going for that," Clayton says. "We need some fresh ideas in there." Fields, who is term-limited, represents an African-American district that includes portions of Louisiana State University and downtown Baton Rouge. Clayton's self-published book is co-written with local authors Susan D. Mustafa and Sue Israel. ' JA


For the first time in the state's history, the Louisiana Department of Natural Resources has issued orders for the production of coal seam natural gas, an

alternative fossil fuel that can be found inside buried forms of coal at depths between 2,000 to 5,000 feet. The development of this resource has long lagged behind similar efforts in other U.S. basins, since there has been no commercial industry in the region. Also known as coal bed methane, this alternative fuel

will be extracted from three sites in Caldwell Parish. Mark V. Petroleum Co.

of Monroe is being allowed to explore and produce coal seam natural gas, but

no actual permits have been issued to date. "More commercial ventures like this will be sought out in the near future," says DNR Secretary Scott Angelle. ' JA