December 2006

Friday, December 29, 2006

Who wants to be a councilman?

Wanted: Thick-skinned loquacious persons able to work late on Tuesday nights. People skills, kissing babies, a plus. Must be at least 18 years of age and a resident of Lafayette parish for at least one year. No education/degree required. Annual pay of $22,791 plus some expenses.

If this job description piques your interest then you may want to attend one of Councilman Bruce Conque's upcoming presentations aimed at recruiting candidates to run for city-parish council. Conque says he is giving a power point presentation, on the importance and impact of the 2007 parish elections, to as many groups as will have him. "The focal point is that a minimum 2/3's of the Council will be newly elected officials in 2008," Conque says. "And that is a unique opportunity for us to define government for the future of our community." In 2007, Councilmen Randy Menard, Chris Williams, Louis Benjamin and Lenwood Broussard are prevented by term limits from seeking re-election. Councilmen Bobby Badeaux and Marc Mouton have stated they are not interested in running for re-election. In the coming months, Conque is scheduled to make his presentation before the Lafayette Beavers Club, Concerned Citizens for Good Government, Lafayette Rotary North and the Acadiana Home Builders Association. Any other groups interested can contact him at 278-2155 or [email protected]

by: Nathan Stubbs 10:27 AM

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Go to Sugar Bowl and help Acadiana Youth

State Sen. Mike Michot of Lafayette has donated two tickets to this year's Sugar Bowl to help raise money for Acadiana Youth Inc., a nonprofit which helps abused and neglected youth in the Acadiana area. The tickets are being auctioned off on ebay in a package that includes an autographed poster by ULL alum and Indianapolis Colts WR Brandon Stokley. It's all for a worthy cause and should be a great game (LSU v. Notre Dame) featuring two of this year's premier college quarterbacks. If you're interested, you better hurry, the bidding is scheduled to end Thursday, Dec. 28th.

As a state legislator, Michot is given dibs on two face-value LSU bowl tickets each year. Michot has previously donated Sugar Bowl tickets to the Acadiana Boys and Girls Club. If I'm not mistaken, the ebay auction is also made possible by new legislation passed this year sanctioning the online scalping of tickets

by: Nathan Stubbs 10:34 AM

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

FCC challenges cable franchises

This Wednesday the FCC is expected to take up a vote which could have a dramatic impact on local governments across the country. In an effort to promote competition in the cable industry, FCC chairman Kevin Martin is pushing to eliminate or substantially limit the franchise fees that cable providers are forced to pay local governments for use of right of ways to wire service into a given area. Lafayette Consolidated Government currently takes in about $670,00 annually from Cox Communications through its franchise agreement

You may recognize this issue as being very familiar to a contentious state cable franchise bill pushed by BellSouth earlier this year, which Gov. Blanco vetoed.

Along with municipal groups like the National League of Cities, the issue is also attracting the interest of public access channels, like Acadiana Open Channel, who are funded through portions of cable franchise fees. (AOC recieves $220,000 annually of the parish's cable franchise funds). The Alliance for Community Media, of which AOC is a member, has been circulating this petition and encouraging supporters to lobby their congressional representatives.

by: Nathan Stubbs 10:52 AM

Can it get any worse for Gov. Blanco?

Her special session was a legislative and public relations disaster, and now Gov. Blanco's getting her feet held to the fire on the Road Home program. As today's Times-Picayune notes, New Orleans Rep. Charmaine Marchand is so fed up with the slow pace of recovery checks that she's camping out in a tent on the Capitol grounds until the private contractor handling the Road Home is fired, or she gets some answers from Blanco on how the program can be fixed.
Cynics might say Marchand's exploiting the situation for her own political gain, but it's some of her Ninth Ward constituents who are bearing the brunt of the Road Home bureaucratic nightmare. And nothing else to date seems to have gotten this program on track, so you can't blame Marchand for taking drastic action.
As a point of reference, here's my blog post from more than a month ago on the Road Home program. Since then, only 52 more people have received checks.

Inadequate? Try inexcusable
As Independent Weekly contributing writer Jeremy Alford noted last week in a story about the Louisiana Recovery Authority, the Road Home program is moving agonizingly slow. It's simply inexcusable that out of more than 70,000 people who've applied for desperately needed money to rebuild or repair their hurricane-damaged homes, less than 30 have received their check from the LRA.

This morning's Advocate story notes that Gov. Blanco used part of her press conference yesterday (primarily scheduled to tout a plant expansion) to say that the pace of the Road Home program was inadequate.

"We're going to talk about what's causing the roadblocks. I need to know because I will not tolerate any slow action," she said.

Well, it's been tolerated so far. And there's no telling how many applicants simply decided to throw in the towel and move out of state because of the infuriating bureaucracy bogging down the Road Home program. Make no mistake: the Road Home program is Blanco's program. And she needs to fix it fast, because it's becoming a maddening embarrassment in the recovery efforts.

by: Scott Jordan 10:47 AM

Friday, December 15, 2006

best typo of the week

Headline from the Times-Picayune's breaking news section:

Preliminary Corps report: Close MRGO with earthen damn

At least it's changed in the lead paragraph:

The controversial Mississippi River-Gulf Outlet, blamed by many St. Bernard residents as providing a shortcut for the hurricane storm surge that inundated the parish, should be closed with an armored earthen dam at the Bayou la Loutre ridge, the Army Corps of Engineers recommended in a preliminary report submitted to Congress today.

I think they should just add a comma and exclamation point to the headline, and then it sounds like a blast of medieval-flavored indignity: Close MRGO with earthen, damn!

by: Scott Jordan 3:58 PM

Thursday, December 14, 2006

a Who Dat Christmas

Apparently this Dallas Cowboys fan lost a bet with a friend who's a Saints fan, so here he is on YouTube, decked out in a Santa Claus hat and singing "Who Dat Christmas." Priceless.

Hat tip to Rayne native and Dallas Morning News writer Joshua Benton, who posted the clip on his blog.

by: Scott Jordan 8:50 AM

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Donna Landry Leaving LGMC

Longtime Lafayette General Medical Center official Donna Landry is leaving the local not-for-profit for a position with The Schumacher Group of Lafayette. Landry, LGMC's chief operating officer, will be assistant COO at The Schumacher Group, a fast-growing hospital-based physician staffing organization that also has a hospitalist program and physician recruitment division.

Calling it the "toughest decision I ever made," Landry says she accepted the job because of the strong reputation and appeal of The Schumacher Group and the chance to apply her skills in a different area of health care. "I get to stay engaged in health care, still in the Lafayette community, with another highly reputable organization that's very mission-driven and focused, at a very high-energy pace," she says.

LGMC has 1,600 employees, and Schumacher just under 600 — though it operates in 15 states. The former chairman of the Greater Lafayette Chamber of Commerce, Landry has been with LGMC for almost two decades. She starts the new position Jan. 15.

Landry will oversee key departments in the corporate office that support Schumacher's hospital contracts throughout its 15-state region. Owned by Dr. William Schumacher, an emergency medicine physician, the company is in its 13th year of business.

Patrick Gandy, administrator of the Lafayette General Surgical Hospital, will replace Landry. He has been with the hospital for 13 years.

Also at LGMC, Chief Nursing Officer Debbie Ford has accepted a similar post with Our Lady of the Lake in Baton Rouge. Ford has worked at the local hospital for more than 20 years and will stay on through the end of the year.

by: Leslie Turk 5:20 PM

Federal judge: Katrina housing program a "legal disaster"

Add U.S. District Judge Richard J. Leon to the loooooong list of people infuriated with FEMA. The AP is reporting that Leon is demanding answers from FEMA on why evacuees' housing payments were terminated without notice or an explanation – and also blasting FEMA's antiquated computer systems.

"Let me make this clear," Leon told government attorney Michael Sitcov. "Tell FEMA that I'm expecting them to get going on this. Like immediately."

Leon ruled that FEMA mishandled the transition from a short-term housing program to a longer-term program this spring and summer. Instead of explaining why funding was being cut, FEMA provided only computer-generated and sometimes conflicting program codes, Leon said.

The judge ordered FEMA to explain those decisions so thousands of evacuees can understand the reasoning and decide whether to appeal.
"I'm not looking for a doctoral dissertation," Leon said. "I'm looking for a couple of paragraphs in plain English."

FEMA's response?

Sitcov said that FEMA's computer system cannot do what the judge wants. The eight-year-old system is set up only to produce program codes, he said. The program also cannot say for certain how many evacuees in Texas were covered by Leon's order or how many people appealed the denial of their aid, Sitcov said.

"It's not as adept at doing these kinds of machinations," Sitcov said.

Is there anything that FEMA is adept at?

by: Scott Jordan 1:49 PM

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

And the winner is ... Guyland Leday!

The rest of the world may soon get a taste of south Louisiana in a national television commercial, courtesy of Opelousas wunderkind accordionist Guyland Leday.

Leday is one of five finalists in Oscar Mayer's Sing the Jingle contest. According to the contest's rules, he will travel on a 5-day trip for four to tape a television commercial for Oscar Mayer, with $5,000 spending cash. Leday's perforamance could then be aired in a national advertising campaign for the famed bologna and weiners.

For more about Guyland Leday, read this post on Da Bog.

(photo couresty of David Simpson, LSUE)

by: R. Reese Fuller 3:34 PM

Season of Renewal

Today's NY Times includes the latest in a series of articles by Jere Longman, a Times veteran sports reporter who has been following the newly formed South Plaquemines High School football team. South Plaquemines High was formed as a consolidated school serving the entire southern portion of the parish (combining Port Sulphur and Buras High) after Hurricane Katrina devastated the area. Their football team, which dubbed themselves the Hurricanes prior to the start of the season, has gone through a roller coaster season of emotional highs and lows. Longman has been there for it all, observing a resilient team that has practiced in the dark, lived in FEMA trailers and faced heartbreaking injuries, bittersweet homecomings, and watched an assistant coach and two star players controversially transfer to Bastrop High and win a state title this year.

The entire 9-article series can be viewed here. Also be sure to check out the incredible photos from Times photographers Cheryl Gerber and Lee Celano.

by: Nathan Stubbs 1:42 PM

One more for the playoffs

If the New Orleans Saints beat the Washington Redskins this Sunday, they clinch first place in the NFC South and guarantee a playoff spot.

And depending on the outcome and a variety of scenarios with their final two games against the New York Giants and Carolina Panthers, they could clinch the No. 2 seed in the NFC, earn a bye first week of the playoffs and a home playoff game the following week.

To say that excitement over the Saints season is reaching fever pitch is the understatement of the year. More than 300 fans were waiting at the New Orleans airport - at 2:30 a.m. - to greet the team after they crushed Dallas on Sunday night. Saints quarterback Drew Brees was blown away by the reception.

"That was crazy," he said. "You would think that by 3 a.m. everybody would be sound asleep, but fans were out, and they were excited and they were pumped up. That's a great way to come home."

by: Scott Jordan 9:01 AM

Friday, December 08, 2006

Lafayette man impounds reindeer

NBC will premier its remake of the 1976 film "The Year without a Santa Claus" on Monday, Dec. 11, with a rebroadcast on Sat. Dec. 23 and DVD release Dec. 12.

The film was shot in both Shreveport and Natchitoches. You can also look for Lafayette resident, Marcus Brown, who helped launch a digital film program locally at South Louisiana Community College. Brown plays the part of "Officer Jefferson," a bicycle cop who impounds one of Santa's reindeer.

by: Nathan Stubbs 3:21 PM

Savoy nominated for a Grammy

Local musician Ann Savoy has been nominated for a Grammy Award for her work with Linda Ronstadt on Adieu False Heart in the Best Traditional Folk Album category. Savoy and Ronstadt were featured in The Independent's July 26 cover story Songbird Sisters.

New Orleans Soul Queen Irma Thomas is also up for a Grammy for her album After the Rain in the Best Contemporary Blues Album. (Dr. John is also nominated in the same category for his Sippiana Hericane.) Thomas recorded the album at Dockside Studio in Maurice, with the help of local musicians Sonny Landreth, Dirk Powell and David Egan. Thomas was also the subject of an April 26 cover story in The Independent, Queen in Exile.

Other Louisiana nominees include Allen Toussaint with Elvis Costello, Tab Benoit, Branford Marsalis, Terence Blanchard and Harry Connick Jr. Read the list of Louisiana's nominees at Greg Hardison's Web site or the entire list of Grammy nominees.

by: R. Reese Fuller 2:45 PM

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Parisian perspective

"Everything you're not supposed to know," is now being mainstreamed over the internet from a French state-subsidized network dubbed France 24. The new twenty-four hour news station is the brainchild of French president Jacques Chirac, who wants to offer the world a point of view that differs from CNN. According to the station's brochure:

France 24 reports on international news with a specifically French viewpoint, including a range of opinions, debates, disputes, confrontations, defense of multilateralism, secularism, solidarity, respect, freedom of expression, lifestyle, culture, fashion, gastronomy, etc.

The station broadcasts in French and English, and in two to three months will add Arabic.

While the station has a television signal, it will initially reach only Europe, the Middle East and Africa. For Americans, unless you are an employee of the United Nations, connectivity is via internet.

Here in Lafayette, Alliance Francaise president Bernard de Reynies is quite pleased with the French connection. "All you have to do is choose your language of preference: French or English to know at all times what the French think of the world situation."

New York Times blogger Tom Zeller reported in his column, The Lede:

According to a recent write-up in The Times of London, the network's official motto, "Everything you are not supposed to know," graced the entrance of the network's Paris headquarters — although the article also suggested that executives were planning to change the motto, finding it "too cheeky."

If you can't wait for the Arabic version, try Al Jazeera's website right now.

by: Mary Tutwiler 1:00 PM

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Pressing issue

University of Louisiana Master's degree candidate Conni Castille raises the bar when it comes to a graduate thesis. Instead of the usual scholarly paper in her field, folklore, Castille has made a documentary about one of the mainstays of women's work in her native Breaux Bridge, ironing. Castille previewed the film last night, called I Always Do My Collars First, A Film About Ironing, to a room full of the toughest critics she will ever encounter, the women who are featured in the film.

Documentaries about Cajun folklife have raised hackles in the past. A documentary filmed in Eunice and Mamou during Mardi Gras in the 1970s called The Good Times Are Killing Me, poked fun at French-speaking Cajuns, causing the naturally outgoing folks of the Cajun prairie to treat filmmakers warily.

The preview packed the St. Bernard Catholic Church hall during the Christmas program of the Catholic Daughter's League. Countless times during the screening, the room filled with good natured laughter that finally erupted into rounds of applause. Castille's script, co-produced and filmed by Allison Bohl, with a sound track by Dirk Powell, Anya Burgess and BonSoir, Catin will premier January 27 at the Bayou Bijou Theatre. Watch the Ind for more information.

by: Mary Tutwiler 2:39 PM

FEMA squanders $1 billion

As one of our stories this week indicates, FEMA continues to bewilder Louisianians with bureaucratic blunders. Today, the federal Government Accountability Office reported on just how massive FEMA's mismanagement has been, outlining $1 billion in disaster aid waste. GAO investigator Gregory Kutz adds "our estimate of $1 billion in improper and/or fraudulent payments is likely understated." Their report details bogus rental payments, duplicated aid and other puzzling mishaps including:

In one case, FEMA purchased 20 flat-bottom boats, but could not find two of them and lacked titles to any of them.

by: Nathan Stubbs 11:07 AM

Alan Richman, unrepentant and more offensive than ever

GQ food critic Alan Richman just keeps digging a deeper hole for himself. Richman wrote the incredibly mean-spirited, offensive and factually challenged article about New Orleans food and restaurants in November that sparked united outrage from Louisiana residents. As today's New York Times article -- which includes interviews with Marcelle Bienvenu and Cafe Des Amis' Dickie Breaux -- notes, Richman "did not just take a few jabs at some subpar gumbo. The man essentially called New Orleanians fat, lazy and too hung over to recognize good food. ...

But what provoked the most vitriol was his assertion that there is no such thing as a Creole.

"I have never met one and suspect they are a faerie folk, like leprechauns, rather than an indigenous race," he wrote. He added that "the idea that you might today eat an authentic Creole dish is a fantasy."

That claim had the unifying force of an invitation to a seafood boil. An agitated city attacked.

"I'd like to throw him in the back room at Tipitina's with all the Neville brothers and see if he still thinks Creoles don't exist," said Poppy Tooker, a cooking teacher who was raised in New Orleans.

Richman's weakly defended the article in various forums, but read his latest unbelievably stupid assertion in the Times:

"If people want to call themselves Creoles, fine," he said. "I am now calling myself a tight end for the New York Giants."

If only that was the case. Then when the Giants play the Saints on Christmas Eve, Eli Manning could throw one of his inaccurate passes over the middle to Richman and Saints safety Omar Stoutmire could hit him so hard it might finally knock some sense into him.

by: Scott Jordan 10:08 AM

Take an aspirin with today's news

Oil royalties and coastal revenue sharing bill stalls; must pass in the next two days or it's dead in the water.

Sen. President Don Hines still angry that Gov. Kathleen Blanco didn't support the Bunkie syrup mill project, so spearheads a movement to shut down the Legislature's upcoming special session.

State to Lafayette: no road money for you! And another reminder that Lafayette's legislative delegation is one of the weakest in Louisiana.

Insurance Commissioner Jim Donelon pleads with St. Paul Travelers Insurance Inc. not to pull out of the state; widespread concern that St. Paul's move could spark other commercial insurers to also leave Louisiana.

Despite that inexplicable $90,000 in the freezer, U.S. Rep. William "Dollar Bill" Jefferson might still be re-elected.

National Football League gives leading New Orleans Saints run-stopper Hollis Thomas four-game suspension for taking … asthma medicine.

But in encouraging news, Lafayette City Parish Council solves pressing problem of smelly pets.

Make that two aspirin.

by: Scott Jordan 8:40 AM

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Oil royalties vote on deck

It's been a long time coming, and today the House votes on legislation co-authored by Sen. Mary Landrieu on coastal revenue sharing from oil royalties. According to this morning's Times-Picayune, Landrieu and Rep. Charlie Melancon are optimistic about the bill's chances. If it passes, here's what we'll get:

With the drilling-friendly Republican-controlled Congress set to expire at week's end, today's House vote is seen as the last, best chance for coastal states, led by Louisiana, to lock in a share of steady revenue from new energy production in federal waters. Louisiana's cut from the 8.3 million offshore acres that would be opened to drilling is estimated to be $20 million annually through 2017 and as much as $650 million a year afterward.

And Landrieu sounds almost defiantly optimistic:

"Everyone has had their say," Landrieu said. "We have been debating this bill in Louisiana for 60 years. It is time to vote."

by: Scott Jordan 11:04 AM

Monday, December 04, 2006

The Corps slows to a crawl

The New York Times reports today that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' work to strengthen levees in Louisiana has dramatically decreased:

Even some within the corps say things should have been well under way by now. An engineer who left the corps, and was granted anonymity because he continues to work with the agency, said, "We should have been turning dirt months ago."

by: Scott Jordan 5:13 PM

Friday, December 01, 2006

Milking the system

U.S. Sen. David Vitter is taking issue with the milk that is being given to American soldiers in Iraq. According to a story in today's Times Picayune, Vitter is pressing the Pentagon to buy its milk from an American company that uses a distributor, Diversified Foods, from his hometown of Metairie. The military is currently subcontracting with a dairy in Bahrain. The contract, for 127,000 cases of milk, is worth $1.9 million a month. Already under fire for alleged sweetheart contracts to Haliburton and strained international relations, the article says the milk issue is putting the Bush administration in an awkward position. How to solve this dilemma:

Starting Dec. 14, the military will begin an unusual taste test to let the troops decide which they like better: the powdered milk purchased from a Middle Eastern firm or the extended shelf-life milk distributed by a Metairie company.

The government agreed to the test after Diversified Foods of Metairie and its Utah milk supplier, backed by Sen. David Vitter, R-La., said the military should buy American, not only out of patriotism, but because the domestically produced product is easier to protect against contamination by terrorists. Besides, they said, the American milk tastes better.

by: Nathan Stubbs 2:32 PM

Presumably, a matter of homeland security

Just when you thought the LSU in the Rose Bowl hype had peaked, now Gov. Blanco has taken it upon herself to lobby for LSU's right to a BCS bowl berth. The Associated Press is reporting that Blanco has put in calls to the president of the Rose and Orange Bowl committees. The message:

"I am reminding representatives of these bowls of the excitement our state shares for this team and everything we offer as LSU fans. An invitation to any of these bowls would be a major win for both LSU and the bowls themselves," she said.

Now, if we can only get a special session called for the state legislature to pass an emergency resolution supporting LSU in the Rose Bowl.

by: Nathan Stubbs 12:54 PM