ODOM CALLS IT QUITS Never again will Louisiana voters be forced to listen to a Bob Odom jingle ' or so it seems. At 72, the longtime agriculture commissioner last week bowed out of the Nov. 17 runoff with Republican challenger Mike Strain. Odom, a Democrat, has served as commissioner for an astounding 28 years. He was first elected to the post in 1979 ' the last time he faced a runoff. Odom led the primary with 41 percent to Strain's 40 percent.
A powerful and controversial figure, Odom has been embroiled in legal troubles since 2002 when a grand jury indicted him on charges that included bribery and money laundering. He was re-elected in 2003 amid those charges and the legal wrangling continued through his last term. The charges were eventually dropped. Odom's seventh term comes to an end Jan. 14, when Strain is sworn in. ... CAMPBELL'S RISQUÃ? MONEY Public Service Commissioner Foster Campbell, a Democrat from Elm Grove, may have finished at the bottom of the high-profile candidates for governor this year with only 12 percent of the vote, but he had the sexiest money. Déjà Vu Showgirls, a Bourbon Street strip club that boasts "thousands of beautiful girls and three ugly ones," ponied up $5,000 to Campbell's bid, according to campaign finance reports. Another $5,000 came from the owner of SB Entertainment's infamous Chicken Ranch Brothel in Pahrump, Nev. The company's president, Jason Mohney, has also reportedly owned four New Orleans strips clubs at one time or another.
When The Advocate asked Campbell about the funds, the PSC member said he had no idea how the money came into his campaign. "I've never been in Déjà Vu personally," he said. "But, hey, it's legal." THE WRDA BILL'S LOCAL PROJECTS A far-reaching water resources bill already approved by Congress finally reached the desk of President Bush last week, placing the fate of a number of local coastal restoration and protection measures firmly in the hands of the commander-in-chief.
Overall, the bill has authorization for at least $3.6 billion, or 17 percent of its total, set aside for Louisiana, and a great deal is dedicated to the parishes of Terrebonne and Lafourche. Locally it includes authorization for Morganza to the Gulf and improvements to south Lafourche levees. Most notably, it includes the $900 million for the Morganza-to-the-Gulf hurricane-protection project, which entails more than 72 miles of floodgates, locks and other protections.
Other local projects included are $9.6 million for work on the Bayou Sorrel Lock; $129.7 million to improve channel depths at the Port of Iberia; at least $32 million for public access to the Atchafalaya Basin Floodway System on 20,000 acres of land; an agreement to study the possibility of a regional visitor's center for the Atchafalaya Basin Floodway System in the Morgan City area; $1.2 million for wastewater improvements for Lafayette; and $1 million for wastewater improvements for Lake Charles.
Bush has threatened to veto the bill, but a veto override is likely. In a bipartisan move that deserves credit, the entire Louisiana delegation has pledged to support a veto override. ... JINDAL WEB SITE COLLECTING RESUMES Gov.-elect Bobby Jindal is making it clear he won't be using the backroom, "good ole' boy" system to select members of his new administration. The 36-year-old Rhodes scholar, who based his campaign on reforming the state's image, says he considers every job within his administration an open one and has set up a Web site, louisianatransition.com, encouraging all interested to apply. In a message posted on the site, Jindal writes he is looking for "talented people who love our state to help me bring change to Baton Rouge." "As I've said many times," Jindal continues, "reforming Louisiana means guaranteeing that 'what you know' is more important than 'who you know.' That's why this Web site is the only way to submit your resume or apply for an administration job during the transition ' it will ensure a fair talent search to find the best and brightest to serve Louisiana." Interested applicants attach their resumes to a simple form on the site, which is then submitted to Jindal's transition team for consideration. In addition, the site also seeks input from those not seeking a job. A separate feature prompts you to "submit an idea" to the Jindal team. Jindal writes he wants to hear from anyone with "an idea to make our state government more efficient, innovative or effective." ... SECRETARY OF STATE'S WEB SITE BOGS DOWN Trying to access the updated election returns on Oct. 20 from the Secretary of State's Web site was about as pleasant as a root canal. Users who waited long enough would eventually find the information they sought, while others' connections would time out.
Jacques Berry, spokesman for the Secretary of State's office, says the problem was "a combination of extremely high traffic internationally and the methods that some users were using to get the information." Bots ' particularly "screen scrape" programs ' would attempt to access information from the Web site every second. The unusually high traffic activity didn't take the web server down, it just slowed information down to an excruciating trickle. "There were too many users but especially too many bots running, and we're looking at what we can do in the future." He says the problem will be addressed before the November runoff elections.
The Secretary of State's Web site experienced 124 times more traffic on election weekend than it normally does. While an average of 215 users access the site every weekend, this past weekend had 27,000 users, with 6.2 million hits to the site. "There was unprecedented international interest in this race," Berry says.