February 2007

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Louisiana lags in technology

When it comes to "smokestack chasing," Louisiana is still at the top of the list, according to a new report released by The Information Technology & Innovation Foundation and sponsored by the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation. Unfortunately, when it comes to pursuing new knowledge-based economic models, we're being left in the dust.

Louisiana ranks No. 44 - only ahead of Kentucky, Alabama, Arkansas, South Dakota, Mississippi, and West Virginia. The 2007 State New Economy Index, follows up on its two previous reports issued in 1999 and 2002, using 26 indicators to assess how states are transforming from industrial economic models. (The PDF of the report is 92 pages long and 18 MBs.)

by: R. Reese Fuller 10:37 AM

Iberia audit becomes official today

The final version of a state audit investigating Iberia Parish President Will Langlinais should be in the hands of the Iberia Parish Council, District Attorney Phil Haney, attorney Shane Romero, who is part of the investigation, and Langlinais by the time the council meets at 6 p.m. tonight. The audit, requested by Iberia Parish Councilman Bernard Broussard in April of last year, should address what Broussard says are "questionable contractual arrangements" between Langlinias and Romero, son of term-limited New Iberia state Rep. Errol "Romo" Romero. Shane Romero is running for his father's seat. If the audit reveals activities in violation of the parish's Home Rule Charter, Broussard says, "I will ask that the council do what we need to do uphold the charter. If that means impeachment or sanctions to reclaim funds owed the public, so be it."

by: Mary Tutwiler 10:19 AM

LUS to hold public input session

Shortly after its historic victory at the state Supreme Court, Lafayette Utilities System is moving to wrap up plans for its citywide fiber optics network, which it will use to offer residents bundled phone, Internet and cable services. LUS Director Terry Huval says the city will host a public input session to allow interested members of the community an opportunity to share their ideas for what they would like to see the fiber system offer. "This will not be a session to debate the merits of the plan," Huval says. "It is only to solicit ideas from the community." The session is tentatively scheduled for the evening of March 8 at City Hall. Details should be finalized within the next two days.

Update: The public input session will be held March 8 at 5:30 in the City Hall Atrium.

by: Nathan Stubbs 9:48 AM

Champion buys Versailles Centre

Champion Real Estate, which took over management of downtown Lafayette's Versailles Centre office building in July 2005, has purchased the approximately 140,000-square-foot building for $8.15 million. When it was negotiating to assume management more than a year ago, Champion planned to work with the landlord, S&A Properties II of Baton Rouge, to return Versailles Centre to its original Class A office space status. Class A is the city's premier office space classification. But the building owner's death left his heirs — who have no real estate experience — antsy about the investment. That's when Champion's principals stepped up to the plate. "This is what we do," says Champion owner Glen Richard. "We do it everyday and understand the risk. This building had the reputation of being the nicest building in downtown, and when we finish it will be that again." For more on this story, read today's Turk File.

by: Leslie Turk 9:48 AM

La Niña arrival could mean more 2007 hurricanes

Thankfully, the unexpected return of El Niño weather conditions last year wiped out predictions of a busy 2006 hurricane season, but the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Climate Prediction Center now says El Niño's on the way out and it looks like La Niña's on the way in. "Although other scientific factors affect the frequency of hurricanes, there tends to be a greater-than-normal number of Atlantic hurricanes … during La Niña events," said NOAA's retired Navy Vice Adm. Conrad C. Lautenbacher, Ph.D., under secretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere. La Niña conditions also mean drier and warmer weather for the South in winter months.

NOAA will continue to monitor the developing La Niña conditions, and issues its detailed Atlantic Hurricane Season Outlook in May.

by: Scott Jordan 9:17 AM

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Happy Birthday, Henry

Today is the birthday of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, author of the poem "Evangeline," which brought international attention to the story of the Acadian diaspora, and cultural pilgrims to the town of St. Martinville. Published in 1847, Evangeline is the story of a pair of lovers, Evangeline and Gabriel, who were torn apart as their families were deported from Nova Scotia by the British during the Grand Derangement of 1755. Arriving in Louisiana after wandering for years, Evangeline awaited her lover under the ancient oak along the banks of the Bayou Teche. The poem inspired the 1929 film with Mexican star Delores Del Rio playing Evangeline.

To commemorate the occasion, at 11 a.m., today, St. Martinville dignitaries will erect a plaque next to a bust of the poet, in the shade of the Evangeline Oak. A festival reenacting the arrival of the Acadians in St. Martinville will be held on March 17. For more information contact the Acadian Memorial center. Happy Birthday, Henry, and 200 more.

by: Mary Tutwiler 10:16 AM

Showdown at the Top 28

A heated altercation has broken out at the start of the Ladies Top 28 state high school basketball tournament in Hammond. The feud isn't between any two rival teams, rather, it's the press and the Louisiana High School Athletic Association that are duking it out over rights to sell photographs taken at the event. Several newspapers, such as The Advocate and any Louisiana Gannett paper, which includes The Daily Advertiser and The Shreveport Times, are refusing to sign an agreement which prohibits them from selling photos they take at the event. The LHSAA is claiming that would violate a contract it has with a Baton Rouge photography studio to be the exclusive photo vendor for all LHSAA events. According to the Monroe News Star, LHSAA Commissioner Tommy Henry confronted one reporter from The Times by saying, "Are you here to cover the tournament or exploit the kids?" The Louisiana Press Association is backing the newspapers in the dispute, arguing it marks a clear violation of their right to cover a public event.

by: Nathan Stubbs 10:12 AM

From 21 to none

In 2002, Louisiana Agriculture and Foresty Commissioner Bob Odom was indicted on 21 counts. Yesterday, the remaining six counts against him were dismissed by 19th District Judge Donald Johnson. The Times-Picayune reported:

"Today's a vindication," Odom said outside the courthouse, flanked by his wife, daughter and several supporters. "I haven't done anything but try to do good for the people of this state, and the next campaign will prove that."

Odom told The Advocate:

"If you're not guilty of anything, how can you worry?"

by: R. Reese Fuller 10:11 AM

Michot asks state to halt horse barn demolition

State Sen. Mike Michot says he's apprehensive about the university's request to tear down the historic barn on its Johnston Street horse farm property and on Monday expressed those concerns in a fax to the state Office of Facility Planning & Control, which must approve the action. "I cannot support the demolition of the facility because of the outpouring of support to save the barn," Michot says. "This is not a storage shed we're tearing down."

Michot says he does not have enough information to make an informed decision and hopes UL President Ray Authement will give the public more time to devise a plan for saving the structure, which was the mission of a small group of Save the Horse Farm members who traveled to Baton Rouge Friday, Feb. 23, to address the Board of Supervisors for the UL System. Authement asked the board for permission to tear down the barn, but Save the Horse Farm members took issue with what they called UL's "hasty attempt to bring this issue up during the holiday week of Mardi Gras when the public is otherwise attending the ongoing festivities and/or [is] out of town on vacation." The group is exploring ways to protect and restore the barn — which they claim was built in the early 1900s — for functional use.

by: Leslie Turk 10:06 AM

Saints re-sign Hollis Thomas

Two of the biggest issues for the Saints this offseason – aside from the cornerback and linebacker corps – were retaining marquee defensive linemen Charles Grant and Hollis Thomas, both of whom were eligible to become free agents. The Saints put the franchise tag on Grant last week, and now The Times-Picayune is reporting that Thomas has signed a four-year extension with the Saints. Run-stuffer Thomas was a huge addition to the Saints defense last year, contributing 43 tackles and often cited as a positive influence in the locker room.

Signing period for NFL free agents starts in three days.

by: Scott Jordan 9:05 AM

Monday, February 26, 2007

Odom trial gets under way

More than four years after the indictment, the trial of Louisiana Agricultural Commissioner Bob Odom gets under way today. Originally charged with 21 counts, Odom faces six counts – two counts of public bribery, one count each of felony theft, conspiracy to commit public bribery, money laundering, and conspiracy to commit money laundering. The case has taken so long to go to trial that five of the witnesses have died, and three witnesses Prosecutor Sandra Ribes intends to call are attorneys who claim they can't be compelled to testify because they have attorney/client privileges with Odom.

Read The Times-Picayune's coverage, as well as The Advocate's.

Update: The judge tosses Odom's case

by: R. Reese Fuller 10:36 AM

Williams to run for District 44 seat

Chris Williams has made it official. Ending almost a year's worth of speculation as to whether he would seek another public office, Williams announced that he will indeed run for the District 44 state representative seat being vacated by Wilfred Pierre. He announced his intentions during a luncheon held by the Black Caucus of the Louisiana Police Jury Association this past weekend in Lafayette. Williams is prevented by term-limits from seeking re-election to the city-parish council. Two other candidates have thus far announced their intention to run for the District 44 seat, former Superintendent of State Police Terry Landry and Fred Prejean, current chairman of the Lafayette Consolidated Government Planning & Zoning Commission.

by: Nathan Stubbs 9:56 AM

New Orleans Journal is a must read

The New Yorker magazine has published some of the best in-depth coverage of Hurricane Katrina since the storm hit the city. Many of their stories are collected online. Dan Baum, who wrote a stellar piece, The Lost Year, published in August, 2006, is currently back in New Orleans for a few months. He has been chronicling his stay in a blog and video, New Orleans Journal, which begins on January 31, 2007. Baum is mostly getting around on bicycle, and his stories are filled with the kind of street level reporting most journalists don't have the time to capture in daily newspapers. There are tough truths here you won't read anywhere else. Nor has anyone caught the spirit of hope and joy quite so vividly. If you only read one thing about New Orleans, read this.

by: Mary Tutwiler 9:27 AM

Down but not out

Save the Horse Farm members who traveled to Baton Rouge Friday in a futile attempt to buy time to devise a plan for saving the historic red barn on UL Lafayette's horse farm aren't giving up. The Board of Supervisors for the UL System voted to give UL President Ray Authement the authority to decide the barn's fate, but the community activists are launching a letter-writing campaign to members of the state Legislature, which they say must approve the action.

Save the Horse Farm has been fighting since mid-2005 to preserve the 100-acre tract on Johnston Street as greenspace. Lafayette City-Parish President Joey Durel says he's interested in acquiring the land and eventually developing it into a park. He'd also like to board the city's mounted police unit in the barn, which may date back to the early 1900s.

The group has a Tuesday meeting with Durel and is attempting to set up a meeting with Authement this week. Authement says the barn is falling apart and has become a liability issue for the university.

by: Leslie Turk 9:19 AM

St. Martin Parish declared major disaster area after tornadoes

An estimated 80 homes were damaged by the tornadoes in St. Martin Parish on Feb. 12-13, and President Bush has now declared St. Martin Parish a major disaster area. The declaration allows affected residents and businesses to apply for federal aid. Applications are available on the FEMA Web site, or residents and business owners can call 1-800-621-3362. (The hearing and speech impaired can also call 1-800-462-7585.) Both telephone numbers will operate from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday.

The same storm system that spawned the tornadoes hit other areas of the state, and President Bush has also declared Orleans and Jefferson Parish as disaster areas.

by: Scott Jordan 9:17 AM

Friday, February 23, 2007

ASO spring events

The Acadiana Symphony Orchestra is hosting three different events this March, in support of the orchestra. On March 4, a Grand Opera Gala at the home of Jennifer and Patrick LeBlanc will promote the upcoming production of "The Barber of Seville" (in conjunction with UL Lafayette College of Arts). The same day in New Iberia, ASO will perform for the free event, Symphony Sunday in the Park, beginning at 3 p.m. in City Park. On March 5, ASO's annual golf tournament tees off at 8 a.m. at the Farm Golf Club. For more information on this 2-person scramble or any other ASO events, visit their Web site.

by: R. Reese Fuller 9:40 AM

FEMA flood maps, round two

Last April, FEMA Flood Insurance Rate Maps were released in a preliminary draft to Lafayette parish officials. The changes in flood zones had public officials concerned about the rising costs the new flood zones would cause to developers and home owners seeking insurance. It turns out the mapping was incorrect, according to Lafayette Public Works director Tom Carroll. "There were inaccuracies in the modeling," he says. "The maps were premature to say the least." New preliminary FIRM maps will be released in July, according to Carroll, for a one year review process before they are finalized in 2008. Information will soon be available on the Louisiana flood mapping project's website.

by: Mary Tutwiler 9:22 AM

Michot and Robideaux's battle cry

Two Lafayette state legislators, Republican state Sen. Mike Michot and Independent state Rep. Joel Robideaux, are now actively fundraising for a political committee they formed last year called Leadership for Louisiana. The committee, formed last year, plans to recruit, train and support candidates from around the state for the 2007 elections - an election in which nearly half of the current state legislature is term limited.

In a recent letter that has gone out to Lafayette area residents soliciting donations of up to $10,000 - for which donors will be awarded a seat on the committee's advisory panel - Michot writes the committee will promote "quality leadership, clean campaigns and a return to common sense in state government." He also notes that "the outcome of this election has very real, unusually high-stakes consequences for our area. Please give us the tools and resources we need to do battle for Lafayette and Acadiana."

by: Nathan Stubbs 9:18 AM

Rock tour of the year coming to Louisiana

Many of the summer's biggest music tours usually skip Louisiana, but not this year. The tour of 2007 – and a reunion fans have waited 20 years for – comes our way in June.

It's official: The Police will be playing The New Orleans Arena on June 30. Sting, Stewart Copeland and Andy Summers have buried the hatchet and are launching what promises to be the biggest tour of the year. If you're interested in going, you're gonna have to be quick on your toes; the first tour dates sold out within minutes of going on sale. Visit the official Police reunion Web site for announcements of on-sale dates and times for New Orleans tickets.

If it was the Van Halen reunion tour with David Lee Roth you've been waiting for, looks like that trainwreck isn't even leaving the station.

by: Scott Jordan 8:46 AM

Son of former UL prez named to system board

Gov. Kathleen Blanco has appointed three new members to the Board of Supervisors for the University of Louisiana System, including Dr. Clyde L. Rougeou Jr., a New Iberia dentist who will represent the Third Congressional District.

Along with Renee A. Lapeyrolerie of New Orleans and attorney Paul G. Aucoin of Thibodaux, Rougeou is being sworn in at today's (Feb. 23) regular meeting of the board. Ironically, among the newly-constituted board's first order of business is consideration of a request from UL Lafayette officials for permission to tear down the historic barn on the university's Johnston Street horse farm property. The dentist, son of former UL President Clyde L. Rougeou, Ray Authement's predecessor, lived on the farm with his family and likely has a sentimental connection to the barn.

A small group of Save the Horse Farm members is traveling to Baton Rouge today to convince the board's facilities planning committee to give the community activists more time to study options for preserving the structure, which may date back to 1903, rather than put the issue to a vote of the board.

by: Leslie Turk 8:44 AM

Thursday, February 22, 2007

LCG wins fiber battle

Lafayette Consolidated Government is celebrating the state Supreme Court's unanimous decision that will allow it to move forward with its fiber-to-the-home initiative.

The Supreme Court overturned a lower court decision that issuing $125 million in bonds to fund the project would violate the Local Government Fair Competition Act. LCG's plan was challenged by Lafayette resident Elizabeth Naquin, a mysterious plaintiff who has repeatedly filed suit against LCG and Lafayette Utilities System but never appeared in court.

Though expensive in terms of legal fees — local government thus far has spent north of $3 million on the project, most on the legal challenges — the almost three-year delay will actually save LCG $4 million to $5 million because the price of technology and equipment has come down. "Because of the legal battle we're going to save money," City-Parish President Joey Durel says.

"At the same time, the technology has gotten 10 times faster," notes LUS Director Terry Huval. He says interest rates in that time period have remained south of 5 percent, another factor lending viability to the original business plan.

Huval says among the first order of business will be a trip to New York to visit with bond rating agencies. LCG will then decide where to lay the initial fiber infrastructure and should be offering Internet, phone and cable service to its first customers within 18 months of securing its financing.

Durel maintains that the project will put Lafayette in a unique position as a national leader in broadband deployment. "When we started this project, America was 12th in broadband deployment, then we were 14th, then 16th," Durel says. "I saw something last week that we are now 20th in the world."

Durel is far from the only person still singing fiber's praises. At January's Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Dell Inc. founder Michael Dell challenged the technology industry to deploy more fiber-to-the-home, according to a Jan. 9 online story in the Wall Street Journal. He said despite the buzz around the "digital home," the concept hasn't caught on in part because broadband in the country isn't mature enough yet. He said to get faster broadband, customers need fiber-speed network connections to the home. "I challenge the telecom industry to accelerate the deployment of fiber-to-the-home," Dell said.

by: Leslie Turk 5:42 PM

Save the Horse Farm heads to Baton Rouge

Save the Horse Farm, the community group founded in 2005 to stop commercial development of UL Lafayette's horse farm property, is heading to Baton Rouge Friday morning to prevent demolition of the old barn that sits on the 100-acre tract on Johnston Street.

UL Lafayette officials are on the agenda asking the Board of Supervisors for the UL System's permission "to demolish the barn at the Equine Center."

"Save the Horse Farm strongly disagrees with the University of Louisiana at Lafayette's hasty attempt to bring this issue up during the holiday week of Mardi Gras when the public is otherwise attending the ongoing festivities and/or [is] out of town on vacation," the group writes in a press release. The group will ask the board's permission to explore ways to protect and restore the barn, whose age is in dispute, for functional use. The university estimates the barn was constructed in 1946, but Acadiana businessman/environmentalist Harold Schoeffler says his great uncle, Matthew Mucha, built the barn around 1903 for his wife after they moved to Louisiana from Nebraska.

Save the Horse Farm claims the university has allowed the barn to deteriorate. Its principal founders, Danica Adams and Elizabeth "EB" Brooks, are planning to attend Friday's meeting, as is Kolleen Verlander. Verlander is part of the nine-member board of directors for the Historic Preservation Commission of Lafayette. In 2002 she saved the 106-year-old Denbo-Montgomery home from demolition by purchasing it and moving it from downtown Lafayette to Girard Park Drive in six pieces. It now operates as a successful bed and breakfast.

"The barn may be in disrepair, but that does not mean it needs to be torn down," Verlander says. "We're at a point in Lafayette's history where we need to look at preservation, not tearing down, so that this city can celebrate its past."

The group is also rallying the support of people, most of whom have a connection to the university, who either grew up on the horse farm or spent time there. Some have already offered financial support for preservation of the barn. Verlander says the group has located at least one person whose history on the property is more consistent with Schoeffler's estimates of its age.

Because of Save the Horse Farm's efforts, City-Parish President Joey Durel has expressed interest in purchasing the property, transforming it into a public park and housing the city police department's horses in the old barn. Save the Horse Farm is exploring funding for such a project.

(photo courtesy of www.savethehorsefarm.com)

by: Leslie Turk 11:05 AM

Last chance for Morgan and Lafaye show

Since Jan. 13, Elemore Morgan Jr. and Bryan Lafaye have been exhibiting their work together at a show at the Acadiana Center for the Arts, in a show titled Bones Come Home.

A closing reception will be held at the Acadiana Center for the Arts (101 W. Vermilion in downtown Lafayette) this Saturday, from 6 p.m. until 8 p.m. Both Morgan and Lafaye will lead tours and discussions of their exhibitions. A silent auction for a piece by both artists will also end that evening at 7:30 p.m.

(photo by Mary Tutwiler)

by: R. Reese Fuller 10:53 AM

Rosy prospect for hurricane-hit gardens

Sometimes a rose is more than a rose. Take a pink thornless floribunda named "Peggy Martin." Up until a few weeks ago, the rose was a nameless pass-along plant, rooted from a cutting shared between friends and relatives. The little cutting, planted in Peggy Martin's back yard in New Orleans, grew long graceful canes which burst into clusters of pink blossoms. And there it bloomed from spring until frost, for 18 years, until Katrina inundated Martin's house. The house is gone, but with clean rains and sunny days, the rose began to bloom again. Martin gave a cutting to Texas Cooperative Extension horticulturist Bill Welch, who was impressed.

I was convinced that the rose deserved to be widely available and enjoyed by gardeners. It's disease resistance, thornless stems and colorful displays of bright, pink flowers along with a graceful vining form make it a logical choice. The lush growth of her thornless climber rose is a testament to its toughness and status as a true survivor.

Welsh propagated the cutting and the newly named Peggy Martin roses are now for sale at five nurseries as a fund-raiser for restoring hurricane damaged gardens.

by: Mary Tutwiler 9:49 AM

LITE Center UK

According to a story in the UK Business Weekly, the University of Northampton in Northamptonshire, England is collaborating with Lafayette's Louisiana Immersive Technology Enterprise (LITE) in hopes of soon opening their own 3-D Visualization Cave. The Business Weekly states that the University of Northampton recently acquired property for the project and now plans to base its CAVE (Cave Automatic Virtual Environment) on the same model used for LITE, where a variety of industries outsource the center and its engineers for special projects.

Opened last Spring, LITE is a $27 million state of the art supercomputing and data visualization center, set up to serve government, university research, and private industry. LITE's executive director and chief scientist is Dr. Carolina Cruz, who became one of the co-inventors of the CAVE Virtual Reality Environment while working on her Ph.D. dissertation at the University of Illinois at Chicago in the mid-90s.

by: Nathan Stubbs 9:44 AM

Results of investigation into fatal Hurricane Rita evacuation released

The National Transportation Safety Board has cited improper vehicle maintenance and inadequate pre-trip inspections as primary contributing factors in the deadly bus fire that killed 23 elderly patients fleeing Hurricane Rita in September 2005. In its newly released report, NTSB says Global Limo Inc. of Pharr, Texas also failed to conduct routine post-trip vehicle inspection reports. NTSB's findings follow the January 2007 sentencing of Global Limo Inc. owner James Maples, who was sentenced to five years probation on charges of inadequately managing his company's buses. Maples is also prohibited from working for Global Limo Inc. or any other bus company, and Global Limo Inc. was fined $100,000 and put on five-year probation.

A synopsis of the NTSB's report and subsequent recommendations can be found at www.ntsb.gov, under "Board Meetings."

by: Scott Jordan 8:49 AM

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

French provincial cuisine coming downtown

The Russo Ad Group building on the corner of East Congress and Polk streets will house a restaurant, BoCo on the Parc, this fall. Russo Ad Group's Jaci Russo says the concept belongs to Louis Bonin of Baton Rouge, who was out of town and unavailable for comment, and a group of local investors. Russo says the restaurant and bar will specialize in French provincial cuisine with a southern flair and will feature a rooftop terrace overlooking Parc Sans Souci.

The restaurant will serve lunch and dinner and plans to also cater to a late-night crowd with eclectic music and a limited menu of hors d'oeuvres.

Russo Ad Group purchased the building in January 2006 and completed its renovation last May. The 7,472-square-foot building also houses Gallery R, where the agency displays art for ArtWalk and related special events downtown. BoCo on the Parc, which is being designed by Lafayette architect David Courville, will occupy 2,750 square feet on the first floor. Russo says a second floor is being added for the restaurant — another 1,500 square feet under roof and 1,000 square feet of terrace space.

by: Leslie Turk 10:34 AM

Ultimate date movie at Bayou Bijou

Ask anyone who is old enough to remember. What was the best film of the 1960s, the golden age of French cinema? There is only one answer, Un homme et une femme (A man and a woman), the 1966 Oscar award-winning film starring Anouk Aimée and Jean-Louis Trintignant. Director Claude Lelouche filmed the tender and sophisticated love story half in black and white, half in color, either a ‘60s innovation or a budget-cutting way to finish the movie. The memorable theme music won composer Francis Lai an Oscar as well. The Alliance Française de Lafayette sponsors a screening of this romantic movie at Bayou Bijou, 7 p.m., Friday, Feb. 23. Tickets are $5 for members, $7 for non-members.

by: Mary Tutwiler 10:31 AM

Salon.com sees Louisiana turning red

New Orleans' population loss, the FBI investigation of Congressman Bill Jefferson, an increasingly well organized and well funded Republican state party; all of this spells big trouble for Louisiana Democrats in the foreseeable future. The state's shifting political landscape is the subject of a recent feature article in the left-leaning online national magazine Salon.com. The article cites the fact that Democrats likely lost anywhere from 30,000 to 60,000 votes as a result of outmigration caused by Hurricane Katrina and that Louisiana is no longer considered in play for the 2008 presidential race. Salon also notes the glaring irony in these trends:

If Louisiana once provided the Democrats' silver lining in cloudier moments, it is perhaps fitting that this most contrarian of states is now trending away from Democrats at the very moment they have regained majorities in both chambers of Congress, among governors and in the state legislatures. What's more, it is ironic that Hurricane Katrina -- the event that finally demolished the claims of governing competence long advanced by George W. Bush and national Republicans -- has accelerated the collapse of the state's Democrats.

by: Nathan Stubbs 10:23 AM

Britney's meltdown

Apparently not everyone had a great Mardi Gras holiday. Kentwood native and 25-year-old pop star Britney Spears is reported to have checked herself into rehab. But that's only after she shaved her head and got a couple of tattoos over the weekend.

Whether she's driving with her newborn son on her lap, nearly dropping him while walking, or partying it up with Paris Hilton, Spears just can't stop making headlines these days.

Update: Britney's on the loose! (12:40 am)

by: R. Reese Fuller 10:07 AM

Saints designate Charles Grant as franchise player

A month after the team's storybook run at the Super Bowl ended, the Saints have made one of their most important off-season moves by designating defensive end Charles Grant as their franchise player. Grant (along with Will Smith) has been one of the defense's most consistent and high-octane pass-rushers, and the Saints would have been hard pressed to find a suitable replacement for Grant in free agency. Grant's predictably peeved, as the franchise tag only guarantees his salary – slightly more than $8.5 million -- for a year and prevents him from becoming a free agent in 2007. He told The Times-Picayune, "If [the Saints] don't think I can play the game of football, [they] should treat me like a man and let me go."

Since he's only 28 years old, if Grant has another good year and stays injury-free, a long-term contract is probably in the cards.

by: Scott Jordan 9:18 AM

Friday, February 16, 2007

Reggie named top wedding photographer in world

The March/April issue of American Photo magazine, which hit newsstands Monday, names Crowley native Denis Reggie one of the "Top 10 Wedding Photographers in the World." Reggie is actually listed first, alongside an image he took of the Maria Shriver/Arnold Schwarzenegger wedding. (There's a family connection to the image — Reggie's sister, Victoria, is married to U.S. Sen. Ted Kennedy, Maria's uncle.)

Reggie moved to Lafayette from Crowley in 1980 and began pioneering a documentary style of photography he calls "wedding photojournalism." He relocated to Atlanta in 1986, and he and his team of photographers have covered more than 1,700 weddings in this documentary style, which captures the event without posing or prompting.

Reggie, who continues to shoot weddings in his native Acadiana, has just returned from Washington, D.C., where he photographed the wedding of Chris Heinz and Sasha Lewis. Chris is Teresa Heinz Kerry's son and U.S. Sen. John Kerry's stepson. Though his list of clients reads like a Who's Who of celebrities and public figures (Oprah Winfrey called him "the best in the business"), Reggie says such high profile clients are only a small part of his portfolio.

Two years ago Reggie was featured in a BBC documentary that followed the world's top five wedding photographers on real wedding assignments.

by: Leslie Turk 10:33 AM

State of the City-Parish Address on A.O.C.

Lafayette City-Parish President Joey Durel's third annual State of the City-Parish Address, which was given Wednesday, February 14, 2007, will air on the Acadiana Open Channel on the following dates.

Friday 2/16/2007, 12:00 PM, Channel 15
Saturday 2/17/2007, 11:00 PM, Channel 15
Monday 2/19/2007, 12:00 PM, Channel 15
Thursday 2/22/2007, 8:00 AM, Channel 15
Monday 2/26/2007, 5:00 PM, Channel 16
Wednesday 2/28/2007, 7:00 PM, Channel 16

by: Nathan Stubbs 10:22 AM

Mardi Gras mania

Mardi Gras day is only four days away, but today the season in Acadiana ratchets up. In Lafayette, the Friday night parade kicks off tonight at 6:30 pm. Here's the schedule of parades and a map of the parade route from the Greater Southwest Louisiana Mardi Gras Association.

Over at Cajun Field, Le Festival de Mardi Gras a Lafayette will run every day through Mardi Gras. There's a carnival midway, food and 24 bands providing music – with the likes of Lil' Nathan, The Molly Ringwalds, Jamie Bergeron, Terry & The Zydeco Bad Boys, CajuNation and even a Battle of the Bands competition. Admission is free to the festival, but parking is $10.

by: R. Reese Fuller 9:57 AM

Winged migration

Louisiana is the first landing pad on the northern route of migrant birds heading to their spring breeding grounds. This weekend, as flashy transients like goldfinches flock backyard feeders, the National Audubon Society and Cornell Lab of Ornithology challenge everyone from life listers to rank amateurs to pick up a pair of binoculars and count the birds. The drill is pretty simple. Sit in your back yard with a bird book for reference and count the number of each species you see. Enter the tally on the Great Backyard Bird Count website. What the counts offer is a real-time snapshot of the numbers and kinds of birds in any given location over the course of February 16-19. Taken as a whole, these lists, now in their 10th year, help create patterns that identify bird population trends and aid conservation efforts. For help with birding locally call Jack and Rose Must, owners of Wild Birds Unlimited, who are sponsors of the event, at 993-2473 or visit LABIRD, the Louisiana birding chat room to check out sightings of rare birds, timing of the migration and conservation issues.

by: Mary Tutwiler 9:52 AM

Breaux still bringing in coastal money to Louisiana

Three years after deciding not to run for re-election in the Senate, John Breaux's impact is still being felt in Louisiana. Long before Katrina and Rita, Breaux understood the impact of coastal wetlands loss and authored the Breaux Act in 1990, which annually funds coastal restoration and protection projects. The Times-Picayune reports today that $34.2 million in Breaux Act Money -- federal and state dollars -- will fund wetlands projects in Bayous Perot and Rigolette and/or the Barataria Basin Land Bridge, as well as restoring marsh around the Big Branch National Wildlife Refuge in St. Tammany Parish.

Amid increased speculation that Breaux might be interested in running for governor, the continued success of the Breaux Act – on an issue so crucial to Louisiana's future – is a feather in Breaux's cap.

by: Scott Jordan 8:30 AM

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Cecil Picard passes away

In a press release issued by the Louisiana Department of Education this afternoon, Tyron Picard announced the death of his father, Cecil J. Picard, state superintendent of education. Picard had battled with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, commonly referred to as Lou Gehrig's disease.

Tyron Picard made this statement on behalf of the Picard family:

After a mighty fight against a heartbreaking disease, we are sad to announce that our beloved father, husband, friend and State Superintendent of Education, Cecil J. Picard died this afternoon, Thursday, February 15, 2007. In his final days he was surrounded by our family and his closest friends who all knew of his love for the state of Louisiana and especially its children. As a family, we ask that the public respect our privacy as we mourn his loss. We will soon release the details of the funeral arrangements and hope that all who loved him will join us in remembering this great educator and statesman.

by: R. Reese Fuller 5:17 PM

Miami Haitians call for Creole immersion classes

Louisiana's native Cajun and Creole French speakers aren't the only ones struggling to have their indigenous language taught in schools. Haitian Creole speakers in Miami's Little Haiti pushed for the addition of Creole to immersion classes in Spanish and French at Morningside Elementary School, where 80 percent of the pupils are of Haitian descent. The controversy highlights social perceptions about poor, uneducated Haitians says Principal Kathleen John-Loussaint in the International Herald Tribune.

"It was a little bit of a controversy. Creole is more of a language of — I don't want to say peasant — but of the working class in Haiti."

Morningside is offering Creole to kindergarten and first-graders, but at another school in Broward County with a seventy-five percent Haitian student body, principal Jacquelyne Hoy defends her decision to teach only standard French.

"When you think of French, you think of education, sophistication, culture."

It would serve Miami's Haitian population well to observe south Louisiana's struggle to keep Cajun and Creole French alive. Without Cajun and Creole spoken as a living language we lose our connection to our past, and slowly, what is authentic about Acadiana, or Little Haiti, will become a caricature of our heritage. Culture is imbued in language.

by: Mary Tutwiler 4:58 PM

IberiaBank makes historic $100 million investment in SMHA

Taylor Barras, president of the New Iberia and community markets of IberiaBank and manager of the company's Community Reinvestment Strategies, is the lead spokesman for the bank's Feb. 15 announcement of a massive $100 million investment in rebuilding rural Louisiana. "IberiaBank is committed to rebuilding a strong and prosperous Louisiana," Barras says of the pledge to Iberia Parish non-profit Southern Mutual Help Association Inc. — an announcement that came only one week after the banker confirmed his candidacy for state representative in District 48, which encompasses the city of New Iberia. "This can best be done when our hard-working families and our rural communities devastated by hurricanes know they can rebuild their lives."

IberiaBank and Southern Mutual Help Association have a long history of working together to help end poverty. The first time they collaborated, in 1989, the bank pledged $50,000 in loans for housing to rural self-help organizations under SMHA's wing. The relationship was a good match: the low-interest loans guaranteed by SMHA rarely defaulted, and people without the economic wherewithal to put a down payment on a house suddenly found themselves first-time home owners. In 2000, SMHA created a partner nonprofit, Southern Mutual Financial Services Inc., as a community development financial institution. IberiaBank pledged $10 million to SMFS on Aug. 25, 2005, four days before Hurricane Katrina hit.

Thirty-seven years of experience in developing housing for the poor put SMHA in a unique position to move swiftly following the storms, and it immediately began helping Louisiana communities rebuild through private funding. That success led to IberiaBank's latest investment. "It is a blessing to have businesses that care, and IberiaBank is a shining example of the best," says SMHA Executive Director Lorna Bourg. "I believe theirs to be the largest investment by a bank in a not-for-profit community development corporation in Louisiana's history."

by: Mary Tutwiler 3:21 PM

Downtown convenience store opens

At exactly 5 p.m. Feb. 14, downtown hot-sausage vendor Faramarz "Frankie" Yaghobi and partner J.T. Hammid opened their new business, Frankie's Convenience Store. The long awaited shop offers basic items like soft drinks, chips, fresh fruit, beer, boudin and freshly-made sandwiches. There will be some inside seating, but the real gathering spot is a back patio with fountain, lounge chairs and benches. Frankie continues to serve burgers, hot sausages and Frito-pies from his small mobile kitchen parked in an adjacent private lot on Jefferson Street. The pair encourage patrons to pick up a Frankie burger, walk down to the convenience store for the derigeur beer and enjoy dinner on the patio without drawing attention from the police, who discourage loitering on the sidewalk on Saturday nights. Frankie's Convenience Store hours are 10 a.m.-3a.m., Mon.-Sat. Frankie Burger opens 7 p.m.-3 a.m., Wed.-Sat.

by: Mary Tutwiler 10:28 AM

Retail sales soar 15 percent in 2006

The unprecedented impact of hurricanes Katrina and Rita on Lafayette Parish's retail sector continues, with retail sales in 2006 hitting the $5 billion mark for the first time in history, toppling last year's $4.35 billion record by a whopping 15 percent. The immediate effect of the storms in late 2005 sent retail sales soaring almost 14 percent over 2004's figure, and beating 2005 by 15 percent is yet another remarkable accomplishment, maintains City-Parish President Joey Durel. "These kinds of increases are abnormal and due in large part to the rebuilding efforts," he says.

Durel believes that factor may have permanently expanded the retail base, which should pay dividends for years to come, but he predicts smaller increases and a possible leveling off over the next few years as rebuilding abates. In other words, expectations for sustaining this level of growth are simply unrealistic.

Even before the storms, however, sales in the parish had been climbing steadily — albeit by much smaller margins — since 2002. In fact, minus a couple of hiccups, they've be on the rise since 1989, according to the Lafayette Parish School Board's Sales Tax Division.

According to The Louisiana Economic Outlook: 2007 and 2008, the Lafayette area took in about 34,336 evacuees after the 2005 storms, and about 4 percent, or 8,960, have remained in the community. The publication's co-authors, economists Loren Scott and James Richardson, derived those figures from postal records.

Sales at mid-year 2006 were actually outpacing 2005 by 25 percent but began to taper off in the last few months — the possible result of displaced people returning home or relocating elsewhere. December's sales, in fact, were down slightly, falling from $499 million in 2005 to $492 million last year.

Durel says retail sales increases since 2002 indicate Lafayette's economy was expanding before the hurricanes accelerated the pace. "People were moving into Lafayette before the storms, and the storms just exposed what Lafayette had to offer to a lot of people and brought a lot of positive attention to our area," he says.

by: Leslie Turk 10:21 AM

Pine Leaf Boys release new album

The Pine Leaf Boys are pre-releasing their new CD, Blues de Musicien, through their Web site, www.pineleafboys.com. Fans can listen to previews of the new songs and order the new disc, which isn't due for a formal release until March.

The album was recorded in Lafayette at La Louisianne Studios and is the band's second release for traditional folk label Arhoolie Records.

Last year, the up and coming Lafayette quintet was featured on NPR's All Songs Considered and on the cover of New Orleans' Offbeat Magazine. In its Jazzfest preview, Offbeat called the Pine Leaf Boys "one of the most talented aggregations to emerge in some time with Creole fiddler Cedric Watson and two progeny from accordion building families, Blake Miller (bass) and Wilson Savoy (accordion). Their auspicious debut is not only true to the roots but has the balanced blend veterans shoot for."

by: Nathan Stubbs 9:19 AM

Gulf Coast's recovery is a mixed bag

Loren Scott says recovery from hurricanes Katrina and Rita along the Gulf Coast is a mixed bag. The LSU professor of emeritus of economics says areas like Lake Charles, Pascagoula and Biloxi-Gulfport are bouncing back, but recovery in New Orleans is slow.

Industry and manufacturing are recovering quicker than small businesses, and Scott points to major construction projects in New Orleans, underway and in the planning stages, that could lead to long-term recovery.

The 120-page report, "Advancing in the Aftermath IV: Tracking the Recovery from Katrina and Rita," is Scott's fourth and final installment of a study to provide benchmarks for the recovery of the hurricane-stricken Gulf Coast.

by: R. Reese Fuller 9:02 AM

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

A quick response to tornadoes

In the immediate aftermath of Tuesday's severe weather that spawned a number of tornadoes, United Way of Acadiana and the Acadiana Chapter of the American Red CrossM are holding a Volunteer Organizations Active in Disaster briefing today, Feb. 14, at 3 p.m., to address the needs of local residents in the storm's path. The briefing, which Red Cross will facilitate, will be held at the Wanda Landry Auditorium in the county agent's office at 114 Courthouse St. in Breaux Bridge.

All Acadiana VOAD members, which includes private groups and non-profit agencies committed to disaster and recovery, are encouraged to attend. UW of Acadiana and the Red Cross founded the local VOAD in 2001 to streamline response to disasters in the area.

Tuesday's weather damaged homes and businesses throughout Acadiana, including the cities of Breaux Bridge, New Iberia and Parks. While a disaster has not yet been declared, VOAD plans to help organize resources, volunteers and recovery efforts. For more information, contact Sarah Berthelot at UW of Acadiana at (337) 706-1221.

by: Leslie Turk 11:02 AM

The kids of Katrina and their cameras

The images and stories from the tornadoes that plowed through Acadiana and New Orleans late Monday are providing more images and stories of south Louisiana homes and lives tossed around like toothpicks. The local media attention is sharply focused on the story right now, but with time, as with all news, the story will fade from the forefront of the public's attention.

So how can the media effectively continue to tell a story after the initial impact?

CNN's Soledad O'Brien may found a novel way to bring citizen journalism to the forefront of the national news and with fresh sets of eyes. In order to keep the national attention on New Orleans' recovery from Hurricane Katrina, O'Brien is enlisting the help of the city's youth and filmmaker Spike Lee. O'Brien has handed out DV cameras to New Orleans teenagers still living with the effects of Katrina, so they can tell their own stories. For future air times of these stories, see O'Brien's "American Morning" page at CNN.

by: R. Reese Fuller 10:39 AM

Waste company eyes Weeks Island salt cavern

Salt domes, known for their geologic stability, are often used as storage caverns once a large quantity of the salt has been mined from the formation. Crude oil and compressed natural gas have been stored in Louisiana's domes in the past. On Jan. 30, an oil field waste company, CCS Energy Services of Baton Rouge filed a notice of intent to seek a permit to use a Weeks Island salt cavern to dispose of oilfield waste in Iberia parish. It will be the first time a salt cavern in Louisiana has ever been used for waste storage, if the site is permitted.

CCS has facilities in Morgan City, Port Fourchon, Intercoastal City, Cameron, Venice and Theodore, Ala. They collect waste from offshore oil exploration and production companies, which currently is treated in their Morgan City facility. Currently, the waste, including--drilling mud, completion fluids, sludge from tank bottoms and produced water is separated into solids and liquids. The solids are shipped to landfills where they are used as cover for household and industrial garbage. Liquids are disposed of in an injection well.

The proposal to dispose of the entire waste stream in a salt cavern is a technologically advanced system, says CCS Director of Engineering Rob Moseley. "This is the best and most secure disposal of E&P waste on the market. It's better for the environment," he says. CCS plans to ship the waste by barge to Weeks Island, where they will slurry it with salt water then pump it into the cavern. Moseley anticipates disposing of 150,000 to 200,000 barrels of waste a month.

The cavern, with a capacity for an estimated 11.6 million barrels, is located in the same salt dome as Morton Salt and the former Weeks Island Strategic Petroleum Reserve facility. The cap of the Weeks Island salt dome rises to the surface of the island, and ground water was starting to dissolve the exposed salt, causing a fissure or fracture in the dome. The Department of Energy felt that problems could arise from the fracture, according to Joe Ball, director of state Office of Conservation's Injection and Mining Division. The SPR cavern once had a capacity of 72 million barrels of crude oil. The SPR site was decommissioned in 1999 and the crude oil was piped to two other salt domes, the Texas Big Hill site and and Bayou Choctaw south of Baton Rouge.

Once the oil was piped out of the SPR facility, the Department of Energy stabilized the empty mine by filling it with brine, which was created by dissolving salt from deep in the salt dome, leaving a cavern. It is this cavern that CCS is proposing to use to store waste.

Aside from the integrity of the salt dome, other concerns involve the content of the waste. While the chemical content of the oil-laced sludge, brine, and drilling fluids is technically hazardous waste, a loophole in federal law allows it to be categorized as non-hazardous and therefore exempt from the Louisiana Hazardous Waste Regulations and the Federal Resource Conservation and Recovery Act.

CCS plans to file for an application the first week of March. The process will include public hearings for comment in Iberia and St. Mary parishes, according to the state Department of Natural Resources.

by: Mary Tutwiler 10:31 AM

John Breaux joins LHC Group

Former Senator John Breaux, whose name continues to be bandied about as a possible candidate in this year's governor's race, has just signed on to join the board of directors of Lafayette-based LHC Group. LHC, which began as a small homegrown business in Palmetto in 1994, is now one of the largest home-health based providers in rural areas across the South.

Since leaving Congress in 2004, Breaux has been working with the Washington lobbying firm Patton Boggs. While in the U.S. Senate, he was a leading authority on healthcare policy, chairing National Bipartisan Commission on the Future of Medicare in 1998. More recently, he has become a leading proponent for reforming Louisiana's public healthcare system. Breaux fills the vacancy created by LHC board member Patrick Malloy's resignation last year.

by: Nathan Stubbs 9:43 AM

Hearing on SBA's Rita and Katrina loans in Washington, D.C. today

The House of Representatives will hear testimony today from Louisiana small-business owners still struggling to get hurricane-related loans processed from the Small Business Administration. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce estimates that 125,000 businesses were disrupted by Rita and Katrina for weeks or months after the 2005 hurricanes. Today's Times-Picayune reports that in the case of Donna and Matt Colosino, the SBA has only paid $10,000 out of a $250,000 loan that was approved a year ago, and the SBA has lost the Colosinos' documents multiple times. Sen. Mary Landrieu and members of the Louisiana congressional delegation are among lawmakers pushing for legislative action – including private sector support, low-interest loans and loan extensions - to correct such problems.

by: Scott Jordan 8:41 AM

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Local docs buying out Heart Hospital partner

Widespread speculation in health care circles of a potential takeover of Heart Hospital of Lafayette by the physicians' group that founded it in early 2004 was confirmed Tuesday with an announcement by the docs' partners, MedCath Corp. of Charlotte, N.C.

Though it did not yet disclose terms of the deal, MedCath Corp. says the two parties have signed a letter of intent in which the local physicians, who currently own 49 percent of the hospital, will own 100 percent of it. Pending a definitive agreement and satisfaction of other conditions, the terms of the transaction will be disclosed — in about 90 days.

Included in the local group of physician owners are primarily cardiovascular surgeons and cardiologists, among them Drs. Ed Nagem, Edgar Feinberg, David Baker, and Jon Leleux.

Heart Hospital of Lafayette serves patients suffering from cardiovascular disease. The 32-bed hospital has two operating suites, two heart catheterization labs and an 11-bed heart emergency department. MedCath, which has interest in 11 hospitals, focuses primarily on the diagnosis and treatment of cardiovascular disease.

In September MedCath finalized the sale of its interest in Tucson Heart Hospital to Carondelet Health Network. Carondelet acquired MedCath's 59 percent stake in that facility for $40.7 million.

by: Nathan Stubbs 2:24 PM

NY Times says to waive Stafford Act for Gulf coast

A strongly worded editorial in today's New York Times calls on President Bush to waive the requirement for Gulf coast states to match federal rebuilding funds - a request Gov. Blanco has been making since September of 2005. The editorial points out how since 1985, the requirement for these local matching funds, known as the Stafford Act, has been waived 32 times for hurricanes and other disasters that caused significantly less damage than Katrina and Rita. The paper states the act was waived following Sept. 11, a disaster estimated to cost about $390 per New Yorker, and after Hurricane Andrew, when damage was $139 per Floridian.

Yet somehow the Bush administration has not found it necessary to forgive the local match for Gulf Coast states after the double-whammy of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, except for costs associated with debris removal and some emergency services -- despite the fact that the two storms wreaked roughly $6,700 worth of damage per capita in Louisiana. This inaction is particularly surprising, given that such a large proportion of the damage can be attributed to the failure of the federal levees that were supposed to protect the New Orleans area.

The editorial concludes by adding:

Last week a group of Democratic senators led by Harry Reid of Nevada, the majority leader, sent a letter urging President Bush to make this change, however belatedly. They called that step "not only prudent, but vital to the recovery."

We agree. And if President Bush won't do it, Congress should legislate the change.

by: Nathan Stubbs 10:30 AM

Easton: "I'm not a child, I'm not a boy."

"I wanted to talk to you about what happened at the board meeting this week. ..." Lafayette Parish School System Superintendent James Easton gets right to the point in his latest letter to the school system and the public. Easton's admittedly angry about being removed from the board table at the school board meetings.

I will not stop saying what I believe to be the truth. I will not cease doing what I believe to be the right thing. I'm not a child, I'm not a boy. I'm an adult human being and can't be threatened or cowed or humiliated into shutting my mouth when it comes to the children of my community.

Read the entire letter in a PDF format.

by: R. Reese Fuller 10:12 AM

Monday, February 12, 2007

City Council to vote on pet limit

The Lafayette City-Parish Council will vote tomorrow on placing a limit on the number of pets residents can keep in their yards. Councilman Bruce Conque has introduced the ordinance which will make it illegal for city residents to "keep, maintain or harbor outdoors on the property more than four dogs, or more than six cats, or a total of six dogs and cats." Conque, who modeled the ordinance after a similar law in Shreveport, says the restriction is a "good neighbor issue" and was brought to his attention by a constituent who found out a lady moving into his neighborhood planned to bring 15 to 20 dogs with her.

Conque notes the ordinance does not apply to any animals that are kept indoors. "You can have 30 cats, if it's inside a residence," he says. The law also provides an exception for a litter of puppies or kittens for up to five months following birth. Another provision allows anyone wishing to own more animals a way to apply for an exemption, provided they show they have ample space and the animals are not a nuisance to neighbors. Conque's ordinance comes on the heels of another city law, passed last year, which allows the city's animal control division to fine pet owners whose yards produce "offensive odors" up to $250. If it passes, Conque's ordinance would be enforced by animal control picking up animals deemed to be in violation.

by: Nathan Stubbs 11:01 AM

Congratulations to Louisiana Grammy winners

Maurice's Dockside Studio helped bring home a long-overdue Grammy Award for Soul Queen of New Orleans Irma Thomas at last night's Grammy Awards. After being nominated twice in her illustrious career but never taking home the big prize, Thomas' latest album After The Rain won last night in the Best Traditional Blues Album category. After the Rain was recorded post-Katrina at Maurice's Dockside Studio, with contributions from Acadiana musicians Sonny Landreth, Dirk Powell and David Egan (pictured). Songwriter and piano man Egan contributed a number of songs to the album, and performed with Thomas in Los Angeles last night at the Grammys.

by: Scott Jordan 10:27 AM

Savoy to sing for Valentines

Still haven't made plans for you and your significant other for Valentine's Day, or are you just realizing that it's only two days away?

Either way, fear not. Ann Savoy and her friends are getting together to perform love songs at the Bourques Social Club in Scott (1012 Saint Mary St.), starting at 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 14. Scheduled performers include Anya and Richard Burgess, Jane Vidrine and Joel Savoy.

by: R. Reese Fuller 10:24 AM

Teche Ridge plans expand

No one can ever accuse Lorna Bourg of thinking small. The dynamic head of Southern Mutual Help Association has tripled the size of Teche Ridge, the traditional neighborhood development SMHA is building in Iberia Parish before contractors have even broken ground. Over 60 acres immediately adjacent to the original 35-acre purchase will bring Teche Ridge's footprint up to nearly 100 acres. Designed to offer opportunities for low-income families to become residents of the upscale neighborhood designed by River Ranch architect Steve Oubre, Bourg says she has already been approached by local businesses as well as individuals who want to become a part of the community.

by: Mary Tutwiler 9:38 AM

Friday, February 09, 2007

Reggie Bush & Joe McKnight

The L.A. Times is reporting that USC is investigating whether its football program violated NCAA recruiting violations in landing John Curtis High School tailback Joe McKnight out of New Orleans, regarded by many as this year's top high school football recruit. McKnight announced Wednesday he would be attending USC over LSU. He told reporters at the announcement that part of what finalized his decision was a phone conversation he had with both USC coach Pete Carroll and former USC star tailback Reggie Bush, in which they put his mind at ease about USC possibly being sanctioned by the NCAA for possible violations regarding gifts that were given to Bush's family while he was at USC.

NCAA rules prohibit former university athletes from being involved in recruiting high school players. McKnight now says he misspoke during the press conference and that he never was put on the phone with Bush. It seems unlikely that anything will come of the McKnight issue, even though that isn't stopping LSU fans from hoping for his release. However, this does re-raise the question of whether Bush's family did receive improper gifts - an issue the NCAA is yet to rule on.

by: Nathan Stubbs 11:25 AM

1 more day to weigh in

Only one day remains in the polling period for Louisiana Speaks, a project set up by the Louisiana Recovery Authority to gather citizen input into post-hurricane regional planning priorities.

For more information, or to take the survey, visit louisianaspeaks.org

by: Nathan Stubbs 10:58 AM

Humane Society sues Amazon over cockfighting magazines

Louisiana may soon be the last holdout for legal cockfights. The Associated Press reports:

Cockfighting appears to be on its last legs in New Mexico …

In the United States, cockfighting is only legal in New Mexico and Louisiana.

Yesterday, the Humane Society of the United States filed suit against Amazon for selling cockfighting magazines – namely The Feathered Warrior and The Gamecock. HSUS claims Amazon is in violation of federal animal cruelty laws. A third magazine aimed at cockfighters, Grit and Steel, was not named in the lawsuit, nor were other materials about cockfighting sold on Amazon. John Goodwin, an HSUS spokesman, says in recent years Grit and Steel has altered its content and no longer promotes illegal cockpits, making it difficult to argue that it promotes cockfighting in places where it's illegal.

Verna Dowd, the owner and editor of The Feathered Warrior, told the Associated Press:

"The Humane Society are crazy people … They want total control, evidently, over everything people do or think or says, or anything. I don't know what's wrong with them."

"We're not trying to get them to stop things that we simply disagree with," Goodwin says. "What we're trying to do is to get them to stop selling things that help facilitate the breaking of the law. When they're running advertisements for people that are selling illegal cockfighting pits in states where it's banned, when they're selling birds for the expressed purpose of fighting - where it states their fighting ability in the advertisement and it says, 'We ship worldwide' when in fact transporting an animal over state lines or for foreign export for an animal fighting venture is illegal - then they're going beyond any sort of conduct that would be First Amendment-protected and getting into the realm of helping people break the law. That's the issue. This is not about what's controversial. This is about what's legal and what is illegal."

Amazon told the AP it will continue selling the magazines.

by: R. Reese Fuller 10:09 AM

Diggin' Dick Dale

This review of last night's Dick Dale show at the Blue Moon Saloon is provided by The Independent Weekly's Calendar Editor Nick Pittman ...

Some four years after its close, the sign from the Rinky-Dink Dancehall still hangs by the Blue Moon Saloon's stage. Last night, it stopped Dick Dale dead in his tracks in the middle of his performance of "Ghost Riders in the Sky." Speechless, Dale stared at the sign for a few seconds before he could compose his thoughts. Before hitting it big and packing large venues, Dale's first gig was at a tiny California ice cream and coffee shop named the Rinky-Dink Ice Cream parlor.

Dale's incredible performance was likely one of the loudest ever at the Moon's back porch, with Dale and his bassist and drummer ripping through his surf rock originals, covering "Fever," Johnny Cash and playing odes to Louis Armstrong and the troops (via the night's closer "Amazing Grace"). Between songs, Dale injected anecdotes from his many years of touring and flirted with nearly every lady in the audience, warning them if he wasn't chewing up to calm him down, they'd be in trouble.

Gazing at The Dink's woodcut sign, Dale pondered there must be some bigger force drawing him to play here and "… It's not just what I heard about the women."

by: admin 9:40 AM

Lafayette Middle School pepper-spray incident making statewide news

A police officer used pepper spray to break up a fight between two eighth-grade girls at Lafayette Middle School yesterday, sparking a controversy that's already being picked up by statewide news outlets. The Times-Picayune carried this AP report this morning, which recounts how an officer on school patrol sprayed the girls, who were reportedly fighting over a basketball. The students then had to be treated by an ambulance crew.

Lafayette Middle School principal Rick Poulan said he will recommend that both girls be expelled from the school.

A number of parents are outraged by the incident. Lafayette Middle School parent Deirdre Rideaux has a sixth-grader at the school.

"That's very scary," she said. "Pulling them apart with force is OK, but pepper spray? No, I don't think so."

by: Scott Jordan 8:58 AM

Thursday, February 08, 2007

It's story time

The hulking silver Airstream trailer with the orange StoryCorps logo has been stationed in Parc Sans Souci parking lot for the last week, but today it's opening its doors for folks from across Acadiana to tell their stories.

Hosted by KRVS 88.7 FM, the StoryCorps MobileBooth will be in Lafayette through March 3. If you're interested in recording an interview to archive at The American Folklife Center in The Library of Congress, make a reservation by calling (800) 850-4406. For more information, read The Independent Weekly's Jan. 31 article, "What's Your Story?"
(photo by Mary Tutwiler)

by: R. Reese Fuller 1:32 PM

Pat Leblanc surveys Lafayette

Pat Leblanc, President of LCS Corrections Services Inc, which operates several private prison facilities across the Gulf coast, including correctional centers in Basile and Pine Prairie, has recently completed a comprehensive political survey of Lafayette Parish residents. The eight-page survey, mailed out last December, asks residents their opinion on everything from local and national politicians, the UL horse farm, minimum wage and their favorite local restaurants.

Leblanc does a Q & A this week with Daily Advertiser "Rightblog" columnist Don Bertrand and says he mailed out 2300 surveys to residents across Lafayette parish, whose addresses were randomly pulled from voter rolls purchased from the secretary of state's office - the only condition being that the residents had all voted in the past three parish elections. Leblanc says about 575 residents mailed the surveys back in, equaling roughly a 25 percent return.

Leblanc says he conducted the survey "to get a true read from our Parish residents/voters, and not a sanitized version from some media agency or political group." He says the poll shows that President Bush's favorability is well above 60 percent in Lafayette. On the topic of the Iraq war, his survey showed that 17 percent opposed the war and favored getting out now, while 26 percent favored staying "until the job is done." The majority, 56 percent, checked the middle box which stated "I don't think we should cut and run, but do think we need an exit strategy." Leblanc, who is widely rumored to be eyeing a run for either sheriff or state rep. in Lafayette Parish, plans to release the full survey in the coming months.

by: Nathan Stubbs 10:53 AM

Boo: Lafayette's Survivor

Acadiana's reality-TV fans haven't been this ramped up since Opelousas' Krista Stegall starred on CBS' Big Brother 2.

Lafayette resident and 34-year-old construction work Ken "Boo" Bernis will star in the 14 season of CBS' reality show "Survivor," filmed in Fiji. The Daily Iberian, The Daily Advertiser, and even The Times-Picayune have run articles about the three Louisiana residents starring on the show, including Lake Charles' Eric Durousseau and Slidell's Jessica deBen.

"Survivor: Fiji" airs on KLFY TV-10 tonight at 7 p.m.

by: R. Reese Fuller 10:37 AM

Banker runs for State Rep

IberiaBank market president Taylor Barras has ended months of speculation that he will run for term-limited Errol "Romo" Romero's District 48 New Iberia seat in the state legislature by announcing his candidacy on Feb. 7.

Barras, who has served as a board member and volunteer on Greater Iberia Chamber of Commerce, the Council for a Better Louisiana, Shadows-On-The-Teche, United Way of Iberia Parish and the Sugar Cane Festival Association says that economic development will be his primary focus as a legislator. As a banker, Barras says his knowledge of finance will offer the foundation for the best decisions for the parish and the state. "With this election, Louisiana has an historic opportunity for change," he says.

by: Mary Tutwiler 10:15 AM

Opelousas Daily World sports editor fired after falling for Saban hoax

Daily World sports editor Tom Dodge has been fired after falling hook, line and sinker for an internet hoax. A fake story credited to the Birmingham News started circulating last weekend in which Saban reportedly said quotes like this one on an Alabama radio show:

"LSU was nothing before I arrived. Academically, athletically, physical plant, nothing. I made LSU. I was LSU. Their current success is due solely due to my recruits. Coach Miles, while a fine man, does not fill my shoes, fit my desk, or cast a taller shadow. Our coaching staff is superior to anything in Baton Rouge. We will go into Louisiana and take each and every player we want. LSU will not, nor can not stop me. Mark my words."

Saban's said and done some questionable things in recent months by leaving the Miami Dolphins to coach the Crimson Tide, but even a casual sports fan would know that Saban would never utter such a quote. (There were other numerous tip-offs that the story was fake, including Saban supposedly saying that Mississippi State funds scholarships "by collecting pop bottles and aluminum cans along the highway.")

But the Daily World's Dodge didn't bother to check any of the sources for the fake story, and wrote a column blasting Saban for the quotes. The newspaper removed the column from its Web site on Monday and replaced it with this note: "The column that had appeared in this space was inaccurate and has been removed."

A Daily World representative confirmed this morning that Dodge was fired after the incident.

by: Scott Jordan 10:02 AM

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Is Lincoln really a cesspool?

In today's edition of the Journal Star, a newspaper in Lincoln, Neb., a column by Deena Winter relies heavily upon Nathan Stubbs' Jan. 17 cover story, "Growing Pains." Winter's column - "Lafayette looks to Lincoln to cope with growing pains" - begins:

A contingent of 15 officials from Lafayette, La., visited Lincoln in November and apparently thought they'd stumbled into some kind of utopia.

After citing a string of quotes from Stubbs' piece, Winter unleashes this zinger:

"The way it's set up with them, if you develop a subdivision out of the area, you're in trouble 'cause you can't get sewage or water to it," Lafayette Planning Commissioner John Barras told the Independent.

(No wonder they think it's so great here — apparently they deliver sewage to their subdivisions.)

Apparently the Midwestern humor in Lincoln overfloweth. One reader added this comment to the paper's Web site:

Pretty sure any town is progressive compared to Lafayette.

by: R. Reese Fuller 1:43 PM

Festival International 2007

Mardi Gras is approaching fast, and Festival International de Louisiane 2007 isn't far behind. Check out FIL's revamped Web site and its list of performers, which includes some familiar acts, both locally and internationally. Scheduled performers include Vieux Farka Touré from Mali, The Lee Boys from Florida, and Balkan Beat Box. The 21st annual event will be held in downtown Lafayette from April 25-29, 2007.

by: R. Reese Fuller 9:58 AM

A national news anchor who gets it

Kudos to NBC's Brian Williams, who anchored his nightly newscast from New Orleans' Lakeview neighborhood last night. Williams reported on NOLA firefighters still living in trailers who remain committed to their jobs, responding to as many as nine fire calls a night.

Williams sums up his commitment to the region perfectly in this NY Daily News story:

"New Orleans needs it," he said. "If we, of all people, ever turn our backs on this story, we're worthy of scorn and much blame. … It's everyone's story," Williams said. "It doesn't matter who worked the most hours, or when. As an American, looking at a million displaced Americans, this is our story, it's an American tragedy caused by nature and exacerbated by bad decisions and inaction."

by: Scott Jordan 9:20 AM

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Post-hurricane populations

The Louisiana Public Health Institute has just released the first survey of post-hurricane populations for parishes directly affected by Hurricanes Rita. The results, posted below, have a margin of error ranging from 10 to 20 percent. The entire survery results, with extensive demograhic info, including parishes affected by Hurricane Katrina, can be viewed here.

Cameron Parish - 7,403 (down from 9,991 in '00 census)

Calcasieu Parish - 189,768 (up from 179,030 in '00 census)

Vermilion Parish - 58,114 (up from 53,040 in '00 census)

by: Nathan Stubbs 2:51 PM

Monday, February 05, 2007

Louisiana: Cockfighting's last holdout?

New Mexico seems poised to ban cockfighting, a move that would make Louisiana the last state to allow the controversial blood sport. The AP writes about how cockfighting is no longer a laughing matter in New Mexico.

Gov. Bill Richardson - who is aspiring to win the Democratic Party nomination for president - is now rallying behind banning the sport. And a key Senate Conservation committee, that had previously blocked anti-cockfighting legislation, has just approved the ban.

The AP story notes how, for many years, the debate over cockfighting was much more heated:

Over the years, attempts to ban cockfighting have drawn big crowds to the Capitol, and emotions have sometimes run high.

Republican Sen. Joseph Carraro of Albuquerque, who was given the bill to sponsor as a freshman in 1985, recalls the angry cockfighter who came into his office and shouted, "This is my livelihood" as he stabbed the desk with a knife for emphasis.

Ex-senator Christine Donisthorpe remembers catching a glimpse of a knife strapped to a cockfighter's ankle during a heated debate in a small committee room. She left and asked state police officers to sit in.

"It was the only time I was really afraid," said Donisthorpe, a Bloomfield Republican who served from 1979-96. "I cannot think of any other bill that created that emotion."

The Humane Society has also put out this release on the pending bill in New Mexico which also states that political momentum has been building for a similar ban in Louisiana

by: Nathan Stubbs 3:31 PM

The hip hop candidate?

By now you've probably read The Advocate's piece on T. Lee Horne, the Libertarian who hopes to be Louisiana's next governor.

Modern touches to Horne's campaign include a video montage with music by rapper Lil Nuke, also of Franklin.

The video is posted on http://www.youtube.com. Search for 'Lee Horne" to find his campaign site. Horne said Lil Nuke is a fellow member of Full Gospel Community Church of Franklin.

Here it is, in all its glory:

by: R. Reese Fuller 1:55 PM

Friday, February 02, 2007

Prison Break

Leave it to Drew Landry to figure out a way to bust a band out of prison for the weekend - and in the name of music. The Guts and Glory Prison Band performs regularly at the annual prison rodeo at Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola but will be making a rare out-of-prison performance in Scott.

On Saturday, Feb. 17, Bourque's Social Club will host a membership drive and fundraiser. UL's Dr. Pat Rickels will discuss the work of Harry Oster and the prison recordings he made at Angola. Movies will run from noon until 3 p.m., with folklore presentations at 6 p.m., and the band kicking off at 7:30 p.m.

General admission is $15, $10 for students, and $5 for club members. (But if you donate a instrument, you can waive the fee altogether.) Bourque's Social Club is located at 1012 Saint Mary St. in Scott. For more information, call (337) 247-0164.

by: R. Reese Fuller 4:02 PM

Super Bowl airing in HD on Cox

Cox Communications and local CBS affiliate KLFY cut it pretty close on their negotiations to air Sunday's Super Bowl game in high definition, but thankfully Cox subscribers will be watching in this spectacular quality. Cox issued a press release Feb. 2, explaining that the two parties reached an agreement for KLFY to join its HD lineup, which means the game will air across Acadiana in HD on Channel 711. To view the game in this format, you have to have an HDTV or HD ready set and an HD receiver (or box) from Cox--which means you're paying for the HD channels. If you're not a Cox subscriber, buy a digital antenna for your HD set (which must have a built-in digital tuner), prop the antenna on top of the set or in your attic and you can get the game over the air on Channel 56.

by: Leslie Turk 11:09 AM

Rev. Brown enters Governor's race

New Orleans Rev. Raymond Brown is running for Governor. You might remember Brown from the headlines he garnered locally when he paid a visit to New Iberia following a tear gassing that occurred in an African American neighborhood during the Sugar Cane Festival. Speaking as a representative of the New Black Panther Party, Brown was quoted in The Advocate saying:

"Gov. Blanco, as you know, she was slow to respond to [Hurricane] Katrina. The governor, excuse the expression, is a no-good bitch. That's not a curse word, we say that in church. She's no good."Brown also called the local clergy who worked with the city and Sheriff's Department "Uncle Toms, bootlicking and tap-dancing, scratch-where it don't-itch preachers" and threatened violence, saying the New Black Panther Party knew how to use weapons of warfare and could take over the streets of New Iberia.

In announcing his bid for Governor, Brown said he wants to help small businesses, ban the Confederate flag, and make the public use of certain racial slurs a civil penalty. He also said Gov. Blanco has been an ineffective leader and called on her to step down. However, Brown, who has already publicly apologized to Blanco for his previous comments about her, said he would not resort back to name calling

"I'm not going to call her that name because I believe that's an insult to women, and I love women."

by: Nathan Stubbs 10:22 AM

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Nick Saban vs. Warren Perrin

Talk about a headline you'd never imagine writing. But Nick Saban, former LSU/Miami Dolphins head coach and now-head coach of the Crimson Tide, keeps finding ways to put his foot in his mouth. Just weeks after his self-made debacle of denying he was leaving Miami for Alabama and then disgracing himself by going back on his word, Saban's giving LSU fans and Louisianans a brand new reason to despise him even more.

Yesterday, an audio tape of off-the-record comments Saban made to Alabama boosters started circulating on the Internet. Saban, apparently trying to be funny and endear himself to his new supporters, told a story about an LSU booster and used the word "coon-ass."

The issue quickly snowballed, and Saban has now issued one of the dumbest non-denial denials ever:

"It was brought to my attention this afternoon that some comments attributed to me are being disseminated on the internet and in the news media, comments including wording that can be taken as derogatory by some people," Saban said. "Those comments need to be placed in the proper context, so as to understand the meaning of what was said. The words were used in paraphrasing a story told to me by a friend. I was simply using the same wording used by the person who told me the story. The term in question is not language that I use or condone, and I can understand how some would take offense. However, I think it must be noted that those comments were made 'off the record' and the words merely reflected an anecdote that was told to me using that language."

So, if someone tells me a story using offensive words or a word that can be viewed as an ethnic slur, it's OK if I tell the story since I'm just repeating their words? Saban might be able to diagram a defensive scheme, but he's apparently having trouble using common sense.

Saban's "statement" prompted this rebuke from Warren Perrin, president of the Council for Development of French in Louisiana.

"I routinely state that the use of that term is highly offensive to descendants of Acadians, who are commonly referred to as Cajuns," Perrin said.

by: Scott Jordan 8:39 AM