March 2007

Friday, March 30, 2007

Blueprint La. prioritizing agenda

Blueprint Louisiana, which bills itself as a non-partisan political activist organization comprised of civic, religious and business groups, is holding what it characterizes as a "very important meeting" Tuesday, April 3, at 4 p.m. at the City Club at River Ranch. Word of the impending meeting was circulated via e-mail from Blueprint co-founders Matt Stuller, Robert Daigle, Clay Allen and Bill Fenstermaker. They say the purpose of the private gathering is to cull information on issues and challenges impeding Louisiana's future before prioritizing Blueprint's agenda. "Our consultant has gathered and analyzed studies from regional groups and national groups and interviewed experts to help minimize ‘our work,' but your participation is an essential part of that process," the e-mail reads.

by: Leslie Turk 10:16 AM

Racines and Warmdaddy kick off the weekend

Two top-flight shows tonight kick off the weekend in Lafayette. First up is Racines at Downtown Alive! in Parc Sans Souci at 6 p.m. Accordion master Steve Riley's side project mixes Creole and zydeco songs into Riley's deep Cajun repertoire, with some serious instrumental interplay between Riley and fiddler Kevin Wimmer. After Racines, renowned jazz saxophonist and recent Independent cover subject Wess "Warmdaddy" Anderson teams up with vocalist Stephanie Jordan for two shows (7:30 p.m. and 9:30 p.m.) at the Ballroom at 417 Jefferson St. Tickets are $15-$27 at the door for the Anderson/Jordan show, with an additional $10 food and liquor charge.

by: Scott Jordan 10:07 AM

Flower festival blooms at Blackham Coliseum

We've got to get ourselves back to the garden. That's the mantra every Saturday morning for many residents of Lafayette who have turned their neighborhoods into the flowering paradise we're experiencing this spring. Where better to find native plants, medicinal herbs, showy blooms and expert advice than the Festival Des Fleurs de Louisiane, taking place Saturday, March 31 and Sunday, April 1 at Blackham Coliseum. In its 17th year now, the festival brings amateurs and master gardeners together for a celebration of everything green. All proceeds go toward funding of the Ira Nelson Horticulture Center on the UL campus. Call 482-5339 for more info.

by: Mary Tutwiler 9:10 AM

2 Lawyers vie for District 40 seat

St. Landry Parish voters hit the polls tomorrow to decide their next state representative for District 40. Two candidates, both attorneys, qualified for tomorrow's run-off: Elbert Lee Guillory, 62, and Ledricka Johnson, 28. Guillory, a former president of the parish bar association and chamber of commerce, finished first among the field of six candidates on the ballot in the primary election, pulling 39 percent of the vote. Johnson, who has picked up the support state Sen. Don Cravins Jr. - the former District 40 rep. she is hoping to succeed – finished second with 23 percent of the vote.

by: Nathan Stubbs 9:09 AM

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Face time with Breaux

A media scramble likely to produce no breaking news may ensue in Lake Charles today when former U.S. Sen. John Breaux meets with local news organizations hoping to get their first face time with the potential gubernatorial candidate since Gov. Kathleen Blanco announced she would not seek re-election. The informal afternoon conference at the Lake Charles Civic Center precedes Breaux's already-planned appearance with former U.S. Sen. J. Bennett Johnston for McNeese's McLeod Lecture Series. Breaux, however, isn't expected to have AG Charles Foti's opinion on the issue of his state "citizenship," which he is awaiting before making a final decision on the race. Breaux's supporters say he's holding the conference because he's been getting so many calls from the media. The McNeese lecture isn't the only bit of business Breaux's attending to while in town — the Louisiana Democratic Party is also hosting a "Victory '07" reception and fund-raiser with Breaux and Johnston this afternoon, with individual guest tickets $2,000 and "host" status $5,000.

by: Leslie Turk 10:33 AM

Ellington and Tucker: Let the court decide

While Louisiana waits to hear Attorney General Charles Foti's opinion on whether or not John Breaux is eligible to run for governor, two other Louisiana officials are asking the AG to avoid the question altogether. Democratic Sen. Noble Ellington and Republican Rep. Jim Tucker penned a letter to the AG asking his office to ignore the request from Democratic Rep. Eric LaFleur and Republican Rep. William Daniel, stating that the question of Breaux's citizenship "is a question of fact, not a question of law. As such, this question should be reserved for the courts to determine. ..."

"Furthermore, from published reports it is clear that John Breaux's citizenship will be challenged in court and litigation is imminent. As such, it would be improper for you to issue an opinion on these questions of fact in face of imminent litigation. We therefore again urge you not to accept the request to render an opinion on this issue."

by: R. Reese Fuller 9:45 AM

Shell nixes Gulf LNG terminal

Shell Oil has dropped its controversial plan to build a $700 million Liquefied Natural Gas terminal in the Gulf of Mexico, 38 miles off the coast of Cameron Parish. Company spokesmen say the decision is based on a reassessment of the market, not the bad publicity the project received.

Shell's proposed LNG terminal came under fire shortly after it was permitted, when it was learned that the methods it would use to reheat subzero LNG posed a hazard to Gulf marine life and fisheries. Shell suffered harsh criticism from fishermen and environmental activists, who fought a losing effort in court attempting to challenge Shell's permit. Aaron Viles, of the Gulf Restoration Network, told the Houston Chronicle that their campaign ultimately proved successful. "Whether it was the lawsuit or whether it was the public relations effort, Shell wasn't able to move forward as quickly as they would have liked to, and I think they lost their edge in getting into the marketplace." Shell says it now plans to utilize other LNG terminals, either existing or in the works, to which they may buy capacity rights for importing LNG.

by: Nathan Stubbs 9:37 AM

Louisiana Stafford Act waiver tied up in Iraq showdown

The 10 percent state and local funding match required by Stafford Act FEMA disaster grants was waived for New York after 9/11 and waived for Florida after Hurricane Andrew, but President Bush hasn't waived Louisiana's Stafford Act obligations post-Katrina and Rita. Now the possibility of a waiver is tied up with the latest supplemental spending bill for Iraq war funding. The bill also contains a number of domestic spending projects, including more than $1 billion for levee protection and $25 million in Katrina- and Rita-related small business loans. Senate approval on the measure is expected today. Bush, however, is threatening to veto the bill because Democratic legislators have inserted language into the bill requiring that most troops in Iraq return home by March 31, 2008.

Read more on the bill from The Times-Picayune and The Advocate.

by: Scott Jordan 9:22 AM

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Louisiana jumps to 41 in personal income

In 2006, the average personal income of Louisianians jumped 25.5 percent up to $30, 952 - the biggest leap in per capita income in the nation. The increase moved the state from last to 41st in the country in a list of income statistics released by the U.S. Dept. of Commerce. Economists attribute Louisiana's huge jump to factors stemming from the 2005 hurricanes, including a mass exodus of residents, many from lower income families, and a booming economy from the rebuilding effort. Mississippi, also hit by Hurricane Katrina, had the lowest per capita income of $26,535. The national per capita income grew 5.2 percent.

by: Nathan Stubbs 11:32 AM

City Club's Bella Figura opens Thursday

Lafayette General Contractor Binks Miciotto did what few thought was possible — a complete overhaul of the City Club restaurant into Bella Figura in less than a month. For the first time in three decades, the club is opening its main dining facility to the public Thursday, March 29, for dinner only. Lunch service starts Friday. "We're opening with a bang. We're ready, and we did this in record-breaking construction [time]," says City Club General Manager Morty Valldejuli. Bella Figura is relocating from Kaliste Saloom Road, where restaurateur Jack Ainsworth started the Italian eatery eight years ago. City Club's second dining element, a members-only restaurant and bar concept still under development, opens the first week of June.

by: Leslie Turk 10:38 AM

Crooked Crossroads

Crooked Still closes out this season of Louisiana Crossroads. The Boston-based quartet is comprised of members of The Wayfaring Strangers, Fiddlers 4 and Bruce Springsteen's Seeger Sessions touring band. The alternative bluegrass band features the banjo, cello and double bass - sans drums or electricity. The Boston Globe wrote of the group: "The quartet combine state-of-the-art musical chops with a deep understanding of American traditional music's raw melodic grace."

Crooked Still takes the stage tonight at 7 p.m. at The Sliman Theater in New Iberia. (The show will also broadcast on KRVS 88.7 FM.) Then on Thursday night, there's a second show in Lafayette at Grant Street Dancehall at 7 p.m. For tickets or more information on the New Iberia show, call (337) 369-2337. For the Lafayette show, charge tickets by phone at (337) 233-7060 or order online.

by: R. Reese Fuller 10:08 AM

Play with fire at Pyromania

Feel your temperature rising? Saturday, March 31, and Sunday, April 1, mark the 12th annual explosion of the fiery arts festival, Pyromania. Fire is the great transformer--sand melts into sparkling glass, opaque paints blossom into shimmery translucent glazes on ceramic pots and dull iron bends to become ornate tracery. Local, national and international artists will be featured creating artwork and inviting the public to create their own objects d'art. The festival, sponsored by the Lafayette Art Association will be held on the grounds of Blackham Coliseum and is free to the public.

by: Mary Tutwiler 9:54 AM

The Delusional Daily Advertiser

Three weeks ago, The Independent Weekly published our open letter to Gov. Kathleen Blanco urging her not to run for re-election. Perhaps inspired by The Independent's "Don't Run" letter to Blanco, The Daily Advertiser published an editorial last week titled "Breaux Should Not Run for Governor." Why does The Advertiser think Breaux shouldn't run? "Imagine how heated, nasty and distracting the fight will get if Breaux runs," the daily paper says. "Leaders of the state's two major parties lack the self-discipline to focus on recovery if Breaux runs against the already-declared U.S. Rep. Bobby Jindal. They will focus on personal attacks, not public needs," The Advertiser opines.

The Independent analyzes the Advertiser editorial in this week's issue. Our conclusion: The editors and publisher of The Daily Advertiser are either stunningly naive — or transparently partisan. In both cases, with the most important governor's election in the history of Louisiana approaching, neither answer is comforting or acceptable. Read our complete editorial.

by: admin 9:32 AM

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Giuliani winning over state Republicans

You wouldn't know that 2008 presidential contender Rudy Giuliani's social platform is out of step with many Southern conservatives by the endorsements he's picking up. Yesterday, Congressman Charles Boustany joined Sen. David Vitter in announcing that he will be supporting Giuliani for the Republican Party nomination. Vitter is serving as the Giuliani campaign's Southern Regional Chairman. Both Vitter and Boustany are known for taking a hard-line stance against policies supporting gun control, abortion and gay rights – issues that Giuliani has supported. Vitter has reconciled these differences by saying that Giuliani's post-9-11 leadership trumps most other issues, and that they are also convinced the former New York City mayor will support and appoint socially conservative judges. Both Vitter and Boustany will likely be on hand for a campaign fundraising stop Giuliani has planned for Lafayette in May.

by: Nathan Stubbs 10:39 AM

Zeus goes fast-food

Nidal Balbeisi of Zeus success is taking over the former Popeye's Chicken & Biscuits location at 4100 Johnston St., next to Cal's Western Store, to launch the prototype for a potential fast-food franchise of his Greek and Lebanese eatery. Over the next couple of months, the location will be converted into a Zeus Express with 10-13 tables — its emphasis on drive-thru business. "This is hopefully my dream," Balbeisi says. "That will be my first step toward franchising." The local businessman, who more than four years ago converted an existing Pinhook Road restaurant into his first Zeus, will have five Zeus locations when Johnston Street opens. About a month ago, he opened a limited-menu takeout concept in the Shell station at Verot School and Pinhook roads that caters to blue-collar workers.

by: Leslie Turk 10:27 AM

Lake Peigneur mystery continues

Results of March 1st water bottom and sediment testing at Lake Peigneur from Department of Natural Resources diver-surveys and lab analyses to try to explain bubbling and frothy matter has turned up...nothing. To date there have been at least eight episodes of bubbling water since summer of 2005. While DNR Conservation commissioner Jim Welsh announced that there is nothing harmful on the bottom of the lake, residents around the Iberia Parish site point to AGL Resources' two compressed natural gas storage caverns in the Jefferson Island salt dome beneath the lake. "Save Lake Peigneur" residents are opposed to AGL seeking permits to create two additional gas caverns in the salt dome, and blame the facility for leaking. For other explanations of the mysterious bubbling check out a recent edition of Snake Oil by Independent cartoonist Greg Peters.

by: Mary Tutwiler 10:18 AM

Casting call for James Lee Burke movie

Hollywood's in town, and they're looking for local folks to help them make a movie out of James Lee Burke's novel, In The Electric Mist with Confederate Dead, which will star Tommy Lee Jones as Cajun detective Dave Robicheaux. Lisa Mae Fincannon says the movie will be filmed in New Iberia and Lafayette through June, and the crew is looking for local residents who can portray restaurant owners, parole officers, policemen, bartenders, Cajun fisherman, Cajun cooks and cleaning ladies with "that authentic southern Louisiana or Cajun accent."

If you think you fit the bill, and you're in New Iberia, call (910) 262-6252 or e-mail [email protected] to set up an appointment for Saturday, March 31. If you're in Lafayette, there's a casting call for Sunday, April 1 at Cite des Arts (109 Vine St.); for more information, call (337) 560-0921, e-mail [email protected] or visit www.bamcastingla.com.

by: R. Reese Fuller 10:16 AM

Bobby Jindal's Internet friends

Did you know that U.S. Rep Bobby Jindal is a straight Gemini with average body type who makes between $150,000 to $250,000 a year? Those tidbits and more can be found at Jindal's MySpace.com Web page, as the gubernatorial candidate is the latest politico to utilize MySpace as a campaign tool. Jindal hasn't written any blog entries on his site, but currently lists 98 Myspace friends. One note posted from a Jindal MySpace "friend" comes from thedeadpelican.com Publisher Chad Rogers, who says, "PLEASE win this election. It's been a rough three years."

Visit Jindal's MySpace page.

by: Scott Jordan 10:16 AM

Monday, March 26, 2007

Board to appoint Thibodaux's successor

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

Thibodaux, 53, died Saturday night in a motorcycle accident in the Scott area. Funeral services for Thibodaux will be held 9:30 Wednesday morning at St. John's Cathedral. Thibodaux is survived by his wife, Melody and five children. To leave thoughts and comments with the family, visit the guestbook at Martin & Castille's Web site.

by: Nathan Stubbs 10:35 AM

Four more years of Saints in New Orleans

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

by: Leslie Turk 10:32 AM

Breaux will run, if he can

John Breaux announced he will run for governor of Louisiana - that's if he can. Breaux has asked Rep. Eric LaFleur of Ville Platte to ask for an opinion from Attorney General Charles Foti. The question is whether Breaux is a "citizen" of Louisiana, as required by the state Constitution to run for public office. The Crowley native still owns property there. James Quinn, the executive director of the Louisiana Republican Party told the New York Times, "John Breaux, a Democrat, is getting a friend, who is another Democrat, to ask another Democrat for an opinion. What do you think the answer is going to be?"

by: R. Reese Fuller 10:29 AM

Video bingo in the Berry

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

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

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

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

by: Mary Tutwiler 10:24 AM

Presidential debate in Louisiana?

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

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

by: Scott Jordan 9:36 AM

Friday, March 23, 2007

Four new Acadiana faces on the Louisiana Music Commission

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

by: Scott Jordan 10:13 AM

Nutria. It's what's for Easter dinner

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

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

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

by: Mary Tutwiler 9:52 AM

Medical office condos next to Heart Hospital

Lafayette attorney Jeremy Hebert of Becker & Associates is leading a group planning to develop Versailles Square, 82,000 square feet of medical office condos on Rue Louis at Kaliste Saloom Road. The project includes 23 office condos on an 11-acre tract that backs up to the Heart Hospital of Lafayette. Lots and turn-key packages are available, though Hebert says the developers will retain architectural control of the complex. More than 400 parking spaces will be offered, and 25 percent of the property — including the Kaliste Saloom Road frontage — will be preserved for landscaping, trees and water features, with sidewalks and a street linking the development to the Heart Hospital. Becker & Associates plans to relocate from the Oil Center to a lot adjacent Versailles Square; another acre will also be available for sale. Development coordinator for the condo complex is RPI Group. RPI's Harold Lambert, who is also handling marketing, says the development qualifies for Go Zone's accelerated depreciation.

by: Leslie Turk 9:51 AM

Sonny Landreth joins Clapton's Guitar Fest

Sonny Landreth will once again be among the esteemed guests joining Eric Clapton at his second Crossroads Guitar Festival, to be held July 28 at Toyota Park in Chicago. Landreth also played the first Crossroads fest in Dallas in 2004. Headliners for this year's event include B.B. King, Jeff Beck, John Mayer, Sheryl Crow, Willie Nelson and Vice Gill. Proceeds benefit Clapton's Antigua-based rehab facility, the Crossroads Centre.

Check out this YouTube video of Landreth and John Hiatt performing "Riding with the King" – a Hiatt song later covered by Clapton and B.B. King.

by: Nathan Stubbs 9:30 AM

Bossier bans cockfighting

Some parishes aren't waiting on a statewide ban of cockfighting. KTBS-TV in Shreveport reports that the Bossier Parish Police Jury has passed an ordinance that protects fowl under the state's animal cruelty laws. Caddo Parish has a similar ordinance on the books that was challenged and upheld by the Louisiana Supreme Court: "Louisiana has no law which authorizes, explicitly or implicitly, cockfighting, nor does the State have a law which prohibits a local government from establishing an ordinance regulating cockfighting."

by: R. Reese Fuller 9:08 AM

Thursday, March 22, 2007

NY Times on John Breaux

While the Republican Party of Louisiana attacks John Breaux and The Daily Advertiser calls for him not to run for governor (even though he hasn't announced), the New York Times introduces our former U.S. senator to the rest of the nation. Some of the choice descriptions of Breaux include "a creature both of Washington and of the Louisiana swamps" and "a Cajun deal maker of legendary smoothness." Adam Nossiter notes that Breaux has spent "a lifetime of experience in the ways of Washington, as well as a hand permanently extended across the party aisle." But the crux of his analysis lies here:

"Yet the Washington savvy with which Mr. Breaux is widely credited carries its own pitfalls here, too, in a peculiar election year in which beleaguered local voters are more fed up, and more ready for change, than perhaps at any time since the desperate Huey Long years of the Great Depression. Mr. Breaux represents skill, but he also symbolizes the political establishment."

by: R. Reese Fuller 10:25 AM

La. GOP endorses Jindal; Boasso ballistic

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

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

by: Scott Jordan 10:22 AM

School board delays decision on Trahan

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

Trahan has come under fire recently because the school system is yet to receive nearly $13 million in Title money for the current school year – money the system typically gets in November. Trahan has cited changes in state oversight and its budget cycle for the delays. Superintendent James Easton is recommending her contract be renewed.

by: Nathan Stubbs 10:17 AM

A little bit more of old Mexico in Lafayette

If you were jonesing for posole but couldn't find room to swing a spoon in the tiny dining room at El Ranchito, put your cravings to rest. Last week, the authentic Mexican market and restaurant jumped a few blocks east on Cameron Street to a much larger location that can seat about 30 people. The food is just as deliciously home made with daily specials like beef in chipotle sauce, stuffed poblano peppers and pork ribs in green salsa. Tacos, enchiladas, quesadillas, burritos and mole are offered every day; most more-than-you-can-eat plates top out at $5. The soft drinks are imported from Mexico, including Coca-Cola made with pure cane sugar. El Ranchito's new address is 2415 Cameron St. Call 235-3297 for more info.

by: Mary Tutwiler 10:02 AM

Cox Communications tops in diversity

Cox Communications moved up from No. 32 to No. 25 on DiversityInc.'s annual Top 50 Companies for Diversity. The monthly business magazine's Top 50 companies hire 42 percent people of color (these minorities make up only 29 percent of the U.S. work force). Such minority groups also account for 25 percent of these companies' management, versus 12 percent nationwide. While the biz pub's Top 50 list represents only 5 percent of the U.S. work force, it employs 17 percent of the college-educated people of color. Jacqui Vines, who serves as general manager of Cox Greater Louisiana, says diversity is a critical part of Cox's culture, values and operations. "It is truly a business priority throughout the company," she says. Bank of America, Pepsi Bottling Group and AT&T top the 2007 list.

by: Leslie Turk 9:54 AM

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Oh nooooo. Mr. Bill enters governor's race?

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

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

by: Nathan Stubbs 10:42 AM

WOW Café & Wingery taking over old Luther's

Covington-based WOW Café & Wingery is building a 5,000-square-foot store in the former Luther's Barbeque location on Bertrand Drive and another in River Ranch next to the new CC's Coffeehouse on Camellia Boulevard (which is now open). Jason Chouest is the franchisee for the Bertrand store, with Kevin Poirrier of Youngsville owning the 2,600-square-foot River Ranch location. Chouest, who is moving to Lafayette from Lockport, plans to also open stores in Broussard and Lake Charles, with Bertrand Drive the headquarters for his operations. The fast-growing chain offers an extensive New Orleans and Southwest-inspired menu with items ranging from burgers to quesadillas, fajitas, red beans and rice and 14 flavors of chicken wings. Started in 2001, the chain has 35 locations, roughly half in the New Orleans area. "WOW is standing-room-only during Saints games," Chouest says. Both Lafayette stores should be open by early summer.

by: Leslie Turk 10:25 AM

Vitter twists the knife

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

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

by: Scott Jordan 10:08 AM

Call for artists

One of the rites of spring in the acting world in Acadiana is the 24-hour play. Director Amy Waguespack is assembling a multi-discipline crew of writers, actors, dancers, choreographers, musicians, visual artists and designers to develop a new production, "Paper or Plastic." The focus of this year's production is super-sized supermarkets and impossible packaging.

Waguespack's signature works begin with a 24-hour play process, where writers take home a topic at 8 p.m., spend the midnight hours writing a script, show up bleary-eyed at 8 a.m. the next morning, hand over the script to a group of actors, choreographers, designers and musicians who then have about 10 hours to produce the play, which is performed at 8 p.m. that night. The play will be written and performed on April 20-21.

Interested artists should come to the Acadiana Center for the Arts on Monday, March 26, or Tuesday, March 27 from 6-7:30 p.m. Writers should bring writing samples, visual artists should bring samples or photos of work and all performing artists should prepare something to show. For more information call Waguespack at 739-4273.

by: Mary Tutwiler 10:03 AM

National reaction to Blanco

While most national news sources cite this Associated Press article concerning Gov. Kathleen Blanco's announcement yesterday that she won't seek a second term, here are some other takes from Reuters, The Washington Post, and The New York Times.

by: R. Reese Fuller 10:02 AM

Blanco's own words

Read also the full transcript of Gov. Kathleen Blanco's announcement yesterday that she will not seek a second term.

by: R. Reese Fuller 9:04 AM

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Blanco won't run

Gov. Kathleen Blanco is announcing today that she will not seek re-election, according to a source close to the governor. Other news outlets – including The Times-Picayune and The Advocate - confirm that the governor has summoned her cabinet for a late afternoon meeting and has asked for TV air time on the 6 p.m. news. WAFB also reports that the governor won't run.

Read Independent Editor Scott Jordan's open letter to the governor urging her not to seek re-election.

by: Nathan Stubbs 3:19 PM

Salt dome waste facility comment period ends Friday

The public comment deadline for the first of several permits needed to create an oilfield waste facility in a salt dome on Weeks Island is Friday, March 23. CCS Energy Services of Baton Rouge has applied for a Coastal Use Permit from the Department of Natural Resources, Coastal Management Division, for the Iberia Parish site. Oilfield waste--contaminated soil from oil spills, tank bottom sludge, drilling mud, well workover and completion fluids and waste chemical solutions--will be barged in along the Intercoastal Canal and injected into the salt cavern. A second permit from DNR's office of conservation is needed as well before the facility can open. CCS has not yet applied for the second permit. DNR plans to hold public hearings in Iberia and St. Mary Parishes before the permit is approved, but those meetings have not been scheduled yet. Comments should be faxed to 225 342-9439 or emailed to [email protected]

by: Mary Tutwiler 10:41 AM

Hatching the next big idea

Local entrepreneur Billy Savely says he has the next big idea, and Oprah Winfrey and QVC should take notice. On Friday, Savely travels to Chicago to participate in Oprah's Search for the Next Big Idea. His big idea is the Home Roof Hatch, invented after hurricanes Katrina and Rita, and marketed not only as an emergency exit but also as a portal for easy roof access. Ten finalists will be chosen to present their product on The Oprah Winfrey Show, and the studio audience will vote on a winner to sell her product on QVC.

by: R. Reese Fuller 10:26 AM

Giuliani coming to Lafayette

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

This will be the former mayor of New York's second visit to Lafayette. In 2004, Giuliani made an appearance at the Paul Fournet hangar of the Lafayette airport in support of David Vitter's campaign for U.S. Senate. Vitter is now serving as a regional director for Giuliani's presidential campaign.

by: Nathan Stubbs 10:09 AM

A cockfighting phaseout?

Maybe they're won't be a bloody battle over cockfighting in Louisiana after all. Joe Salter, Speaker of the Louisiana House, told the Press Club of Baton Rouge yesterday that the days of cockfighting in Louisiana are numbered and that he would support a bill that would outlaw the controversial sport by 2010. Gov. Kathleen Blanco has also indicated that she supports a ban on cockfighting.

by: R. Reese Fuller 9:59 AM

"America's Next Top Model" coming to Artesia

On Saturday, March 31, the hip Johnston Street boutique Artesia, across from Albertsons, will be the site of a casting call for the ninth season of "America's Next Top Model." Created and hosted by supermodel Tyra Banks, the wildly popular show airs on The CW network (Cox Cable Channel 10) Wednesdays at 7 p.m.

The Artesia casting call starts at 2 p.m. with parking at Blackham Coliseum. Applications and eligibility requirements are available online or at Artesia and can be returned to the store before the event. On-site registration will be offered from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. March 31. One winner receives an automatic VIP entry into the semi-final round in Dallas and a $500 shopping spree at the store. The woman chosen as "America's Next Top Model" wins a modeling contract. For more info, email [email protected].

by: Leslie Turk 8:52 AM

Monday, March 19, 2007

PHI posts annual losses

In its annual SEC filing, Lafayette-based helicopter service company Petroleum Helicopters Inc. reported a net loss of $.7 million for 2006, compared to $14.2 million in net earnings posted in 2005. In addition to a debt restructuring charge of $12.8 million, PHI cited reduced revenue and increased costs related to its pilots' strike as reasons for the drop off. The company stated it expects operating losses to continue through the first quarter of 2007 as it continues to recover from the labor shortage.

The pilots union called off its strike in November and under a new court-approved agreement, striking pilots are being returned to work in phases through May. The report notes that PHI's pilot workforce is now back up to 648, compared to the 597 working pilots at the start of the strike. Pilots are continuing to work without a labor contract, which company and union officials have failed to negotiate for almost three years now. A federal court is scheduled to hear ongoing company claims that the union engaged in bad faith bargaining, as well as a counter suit from the union, on Nov. 7.

by: Nathan Stubbs 10:42 AM

Students fight for Gulf Coast

University students across the nation are asking their legislators not to forget the hurricane-stricken Gulf Coast. San Jose's Mercury News reports:

Their goal is to convince Congress to pass a public works law that would provide jobs for 100,000 residents in Louisiana and Mississippi so residents there can help rebuild the area themselves - and get paid what residents call "a living wage" of $15 an hour.

"When people say it's not possible, I'd like to turn to Iraq," said Scott Myers-Lipton, associate professor of sociology at San Jose State who has helped shape the project and traveled to New Orleans with the students.

"The U.S. has 40,000 public works jobs for the citizens of Iraq," and there is no reason it can't provide 100,000 civic works jobs for its own people, he said.

Read more about the Gulf Coast Civic Works Project.

by: R. Reese Fuller 10:21 AM

Collars First film out on DVD

If you missed the Lafayette premiere of "I Always Do My Collars First: a film about ironing," there's no need to get your jeans all up in a knot--the film has just been issued on DVD. UL Cinematic Arts Workshop filmmakers Connie Castille and Allison Bohl captured the essence of small town culture where women eye one another's housekeeping expertise with sly humor. The film, $16, can be ordered directly from the website or by calling Connie at 277-5292.

by: Mary Tutwiler 9:46 AM

Leaky levees in $1 billion Morganza-to-the-Gulf project

Originally authorized in 2000 as part of the Water Resources Development Act but stalled ever since, the $1 billion Morganza-to-the-Gulf coastal protection project is closer than it's ever been to securing funding. But the team of coastal scientists that wrote an open letter to Gov. Kathleen Blanco last week criticizing the state's coastal master plan is especially concerned about the design and safety of the Morganza initiative. The levee has been dubbed a "leaky levee," due to its use of gaps and culverts in the levee.

"The one thing we've learned – and Katrina taught us again – is that earthen levees do not work," storm-surge expert Mark Kemp told The Times-Picayune. "They are expensive to build, must be constantly upgraded because of subsidence, and they are notoriously unreliable. Plus, they kill wetlands. … The most economical and sustainable storm defense in the long term is to build wetlands – and levees kill wetlands.

Coastal Restoration and Protection Authority Chairwoman Sydney Coffee responded: "Will the design have to be looked at very closely? … Yes," she said. "At the same time, I'm not going to suggest that those who have fought long and hard for Morganza-to-the-Gulf … that we're taking it out of the plan … That's just not going to happen."

by: Scott Jordan 9:38 AM

Skinner running for DA

Mike Skinner's campaign for district attorney in the 15th Judicial District unofficially got under way over the weekend. Former U.S. attorney for the Western District, Skinner passed out lapel stickers for his campaign at the Greater Lafayette Chamber of Commerce's Building Community Conference at Toledo Bend. He served as U.S. attorney from 1993 to 2000 and chaired the Louisiana Democratic Party from 2003 to early 2005. He is in private practice with Onebane Law Firm.

The election will be held in October 2008, and Skinner says he won't make a formal announcement until after this fall's elections. He will face incumbent DA Mike Harson, should Harson seek re-election. The 15th Judicial District includes Acadia, Lafayette and Vermilion parishes.

by: Leslie Turk 9:05 AM

Friday, March 16, 2007

Suite success for Saints

In previous years, you could set your watch to New Orleans Saints owner Tom Benson's predictable offseason griping about the business community's lack of support for the team. Further proof that this is not your father's Saints anymore: the Times-Picayune reports that the Saints have nearly sold out their 137 luxury suites in the Superdome for the first time in franchise history. Season tickets are also sold out again, and the waiting list for season tickets is up to 25,000.

"We are extremely appreciative of the support we received from fans and local businesses last season and are very encouraged with the response so far in 2007," said Rita Benson LeBlanc, the Saints' owner and executive vice president of administration. "We are hard at work to make sure the Saints are successful, both on and off the field, and look forward to announcing any team milestones when they are achieved."

Rita's so much more eloquent than her grandfather.

by: Scott Jordan 10:27 AM

KADN Fox 15 launching local news

In an inexplicable move, the bankrupt Communications Corporation of America, the locally-owned company that for years has steadfastly refused to add a news product to its stations, is launching a 9 p.m. newscast in early April. In the midst of Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization along with about 20 other stations, KADN Fox 15, the local affiliate that airs on Cox Channel 6 (Channel 706 in HD), will begin a news program in early April, according to sources approached to advertise during the newscast. KADN officials did not return calls seeking comment. The planned Lafayette news launch coincides with a similar move by CCA sister company White Knight Broadcasting — the entities are owned and operated by Tom Galloway, his son Sheldon and Wayne Elmore and have $400 million in debt, according to bankruptcy records. Earlier this year, White Knight's WVLA, an NBC affiliate in Baton Rouge, began airing 5, 6 and 10 p.m. newscasts. WVLA is offered locally on Cox Channel 3, and former KLFY TV10 anchor Val Wilson is anchoring and reporting there.

by: Leslie Turk 10:23 AM

State GOP launches attack ad against Breaux

Former Sen. John Breaux hasn't decided whether he will be a candidate in this year's governor's race, but the state Republican Party is already launching a pre-emptive strike against his potential candidacy. The GOP began airing an attack ad titled "Above The Law" in four major major markets (including Lafayette) across the state last night. The ad features aerial shots of Breaux's East Shore mansion in Maryland and states that Breaux is no longer a legal citizen of Louisiana and ineligible to run for governor. "Breaux may be wealthy and powerful, but he's not above the law," the ad concludes. Attorneys and aides to the former senator have maintained that Breaux still owns property in his hometown of Crowley and that Louisiana has traditionally upheld a liberal interpretation of citizenship. The state constitution says that to run for statewide office, a candidate must have been a Louisiana citizen for the preceding five years. The issue will likely be settled in court, if Breaux enters the race. View the GOP ad on YouTube here.

by: Nathan Stubbs 10:21 AM

Stroud's shuts its doors

Stroud's Shady Oaks, famous for steaks and fine wines, has closed. An Acadiana institution, the restaurant's heyday was during the oil boom of the 1970s. Stroud's was a study in contrasts. While the walls of the Abbeville restaurant held collections of fine European Boehm porcelain figurines and Lalique crystal, ketchup and mustard bottles contained in aluminum pie tins topped the tables. Stroud's wine collection was legendary. Featured in Wine Spectator, Dwight Stroud had connections to some of California's finest vintners and imported Premier Cru wines from France. His steaks were hand chosen, seasoned with a secret concoction, then fried in rendered beef fat, a delectable and heart-stopping combination. The restaurant moved to Kaliste Saloom in Lafayette, before winding up on Industrial Parkway in 1988. Dwight's son Marty Stroud took over in 1990. Marty Stroud is now cooking at Mazen's Grill on Johnston St.

by: Mary Tutwiler 10:05 AM

Chamber retreats for roads

Many an ambitious plan will likely be hatched this weekend in Many, La. at the Greater Lafayette Chamber of Commerce's "Building Community" conference. The roster of speakers – including Insurance Commissioner Jim Donelon, Secretary of State Jay Dardenne and State Superintendent of Education Paul Pastorek – is appropriate, given the enormous post-hurricane challenges in insurance, public education and economic development. But it's the last workshop on the agenda – "Funding the Backlog … Roads and Highways" – that's generated a lot of advance traction. Chamber President Rob Guidry hopes the weekend retreat will solidify a statewide coalition of chambers of commerce and put the final touches on a plan to present to the governor, Legislature and Department of Transportation and Development urging significant investment in road development.

by: Scott Jordan 9:52 AM

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Coastal scientists question restoration plans

A band of coastal scientists and engineers has written an open letter to Gov. Kathleen Blanco and the commander of the Army Corps of Engineers calling for a re-examination of the state's coastal restoration effort. Primarily, the group, which includes top coastal researchers from LSU, Tulane, UL-Lafayette, and the University of California at Berkely, stresses that the state has placed too much of an emphasis on levee construction that could inadvertently exacerbate wetlands erosion and storm surge in some areas. "Current federal and state plans contain several positive elements but, at bottom, rely on an engineering approach that carries high economic, structural and environmental risk, and threatens the sustainability of the very ecosystem we are all trying to save," the group writes. "The purpose of this letter is to alert you to these concerns and to offer to assist in resolving them."

by: Nathan Stubbs 10:47 AM

Bodin nixed by Iberia Parish Council

After apparently hiring former New Iberia Mayor Bobby Bodin to be the Iberia Parish chief administrative officer on Feb. 14, the Iberia Parish Council decided last night that he did not meet the conditions stipulated for the March 15 hire date, and voted to withdraw a resolution that would have ratified his position. Bodin, who worked as an independent AFLAC insurance agent and sold policies to Iberia Parish Govenment employees, collected residuals from the policies. The initial terms of Bodin's hire included disassociation with AFLAC to avoid problems with the state Board of Ethics. While Bodin resigned from AFLAC on March 12, he only cancelled the residuals on the policies he sold to Iberia Parish Government employees. " It's my understanding that the ethics board says he cannot receive any residuals from any AFLAC account he sold, whether it be to parish employees or not, because that would be a violation of the Governmental Code of Ethics since we have the contractual relationship with AFLAC," says Carolyn Nix, Iberia Parish Council administrative s ecretary. Assistant District Attorney Eric Duplantis told the council that because Bodin had not totally disassociated himself from AFLAC, he did not meet the conditions stipulated. While Bodin received eight votes to recommend his hire in February, last night 11 councilmen voted against him.

by: Mary Tutwiler 10:43 AM

National ad campaign for levee protection

Actor and director Harry Shearer of Spinal Tap and Simpsons fame is the face and voice of a new television ad campaign to raise national awareness of levee protection. The commercial points out that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers recently deemed 120 levees in 28 states as vulnerable, and the flooding and tragedy in New Orleans could happen at multiple locations across the United States. Non-profit organization levees.org produced the ad, and founder Sandy Rosenthal says the commercial is being distributed as a public service announcement at no charge.

If you have friends in the television industry, send them this link and encourage them to run the ad.

by: Scott Jordan 10:04 AM

Another Broken Egg under way in River Ranch

Construction starts next week on River Ranch's long-awaited Another Broken Egg Café, says contractor Binks Miciotto of C.M. Miciotto & Son. The 4,000-square-foot restaurant serves breakfast and lunch, offering a 130-item menu (try the delicious Southern Crabstack or Floridian omelet). It is locating directly behind Bonefish Grill, and franchisees are Cody Gielen and Jake Alleman. Gielen is the grandson of Crowley-based convenience store operator John Dan Gielen, owner of Shop Rite and Tobacco Plus, and Rayne native Alleman is the nephew of Ron Green, the concept's founder. In 1996 Green opened The Broken Egg Café in Mandeville and expanded into Florida as Another Broken Egg Café. The Lafayette restaurant should be open by August.

by: Leslie Turk 9:47 AM

Local worthy causes

On Saturday, March 17, Acadiana's 8th annual Race for the Cure benefits the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation. The 1 mile Fun Run/Walk kicks off at 8:30 a.m., and the 5K Run/Walk starts at 9 a.m. Read more about it in this week's issue of The Independent Weekly.

Also, the Blue Moon Saloon will host a benefit this weekend for drummer Glenn Fields, whose home was recently damaged in a fire, this Sunday evening. Expect performances from members of the Red Stick Ramblers, Lost Bayou Ramblers and the Pine Leaf Boys.

by: R. Reese Fuller 9:12 AM

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Bodin claims CAO position ahead of schedule

There seems to be quite a bit of confusion in Iberia Parish Government over whether former New Iberia Mayor Bobby Bodin has been hired to fill the parish position of Chief Administrative Officer or is still up for consideration. Bodin went to work at 8 a.m. this morning at the courthouse, occupying the CAO's office on the 4th floor, right next door to Parish President Will Langlinais. However the Iberia Parish Council meets tonight, and one of the first items on the agenda is a resolution up for a vote, to approve Bodin's appointment. Council secretary Diane Phillips says Bodin is not yet CAO. "It is my understanding that until the council votes to ratify its vote of February 14 for employment of Bobby Bodin, he is not an official employee." Bodin claims that he is. "All I know is that on Feb. 14 at a meeting of the full council I was ratified by an 8-5 vote," he was quoted as saying in today's Daily Iberian. The council meets at 6 p.m. tonight on the 4th floor of the Iberia Parish Courthouse.

by: Mary Tutwiler 4:43 PM

NuNu's, Rouses square off in Youngsville

Milton's famous family-owned NuNu's, aka W. Broussard's Supermarket, is expanding with an 18,000-square-foot store on Hwy. 89 in Youngsville. "It's a big step for us," says owner Walter "NuNu" Broussard of the business that started 60 years ago as a dancehall. Scheduled to open in June, the new store is about six miles from the existing location — a 6,000-square-foot specialty Cajun grocer on Espasie Drive. Near Copper Meadows subdivision, NuNu's Fresh Market will feature an expanded meat department that includes its popular jalapeno chicken sausage, chicken patties and bacon wrapped chicken stuffed with pineapple or jalapenos. It'll also have a deli and extensive produce selection. The new location is just a couple of miles from Sugar Mill Pond, and come early summer 2008 the local store will square off against the traditional neighborhood development's 60,000-square-foot Rouses, which also has a large selection of Cajun meats.

Founded in Houma in 1960 by Anthony J. Rouse Sr., Rouses is the largest independent grocery retailer in the state with 15 Louisiana stores. Construction on the Sugar Mill Pond location is scheduled to begin this summer at the intersection of Hwy. 92 and the new Youngsville Parkway.

by: Leslie Turk 11:00 AM

Blueprint LA stepping out

Members of Blueprint Louisiana, a statewide political reform organization founded by several prominent businessmen, are making the rounds on talk radio and before newspaper editorial boards announcing their intentions for the upcoming elections. Blueprint – the subject of a Feb. 20 cover story in The Independent – now plans to hold nine regional planning sessions in April, including one in Lafayette, in advance of setting its policy agenda for the state, due in June. The group says it will not directly contribute to state candidates; rather, it will fund its own ad spots pointing out which candidates support its agenda - and which do not. Lafayette businessman Matt Stuller, one of the group's founders, told The Advocate, "We will be very stern and we will be very punitive." Blueprint will also help fund lobbying efforts to help push reforms through the state legislature and hopes to dissolve in two years, after meeting its goals.

by: Nathan Stubbs 10:05 AM

New Orleans Journal update

New Yorker writer Dan Baum continues chronicling his time spent in New Orleans in his wonderful blog, New Orleans Journal. This week, he and his wife Margaret visited Cajun country, which he details in a section called "Doughnut Pie." He stops in at Cafe Des Amis in Breaux Bridge for couche couche and zydeco, revels in the blooms of spring azaleas at Avery Island Jungle Gardens, and winds up at T'Sue's bakery in Henderson, where he discovers a Washington pie.

We asked what was in it, and because of her accent I thought I heard her say, "Pineapple, doughnuts, and spices." Margaret must have had the same reaction, because she asked, "What was that middle ingredient?" The young woman, realizing that she was dealing with aliens, pronounced the word with extreme clarity: "Doughnuts."

Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys used to sing a song that included these lyrics:

Corn bread and turnip greens,
Ham hocks and butter beans!
Mardi Gras down in New Orleans
Yeah, that's what I like about the South.

For me, you can add that the South is a place where the list of acceptable pie ingredients includes doughnuts.

by: Mary Tutwiler 9:59 AM

An artful week

Beginning Saturday, March 17, UL Lafayette's College of the Arts will present the Festival of the Arts, a week of visual art, dance, design, music and theatre that includes a fashion show, lectures, art exhibitions, concerts and dance and theater performances. The week's events conclude with a grand finale cocktail party and student Art Walk at Fletcher Hall on Friday, March 23 @ 7 p.m., Bryan LaFaye's "At Lake Martin" (pictured) will be a part of the evening's silent auction. It's all part of SPARK, an annual campaign to raise awareness of the college. Proceeds will go to scholarships, fellowships, technology upgrades, facility enhancements and faculty assistance. For more information, call (337) 482-6224 or e-mail [email protected].

by: R. Reese Fuller 9:19 AM

Editorial: Impeach Will Langlinais

In this week's issue of The Independent Weekly, the paper calls for the Iberia Parish Council to impeach Parish President Will Langlinais:

Louisiana Legislative Auditor Steve Theriot's report found that Langlinais directed public funds to improve private property; was inappropriately reimbursed for meals already paid for with parish and state monies; entered into contracts in violation of the parish charter; used public funds for charitable donations and to pay for employee meals and social events; and pressured parish employees to solicit donations and work on his campaign fund-raising golf tournament during parish work hours. ...

This audit was sparked by previous charter violations and questionable financial dealings between Langlinais and a number of parish contractors. ...

With our post-hurricane political environment demanding governmental and ethics reform more than ever, Langlinais' actions are an embarrassment not just to Iberia Parish, but to the whole state of Louisiana.

Read the editorial: Impeach Will Langlinais.

by: Scott Jordan 8:16 AM

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Attorney Hank Perret joining Dynamic Industries

Revered Lafayette attorney Hank Perret is leaving his downtown law firm to join local oilfield construction company Dynamic Industries as in-house general counsel. The hire is a significant coup for Dynamic's CEO Mike Moreno. "Hank is one of the hardest working and most respected lawyers in Louisiana," says Lafayette attorney Frank Neuner. "Convincing him to give up his law firm, private practice and numerous clients is a major accomplishment for Mike, and together they will be a formidable duo in the business world." Perret, a 52-year-old commercial litigator who has been practicing for three decades — 20 years with Perret Doise — chairs the Louisiana Board of Ethics. He is vice chairman of the board at Our Lady of Lourdes and co-founded the Community Foundation of Acadiana and Crossroads Catholic Book Store — both of which are non-profits. He also founded the Miles Perret Center in memory of his late son.

Perret's departure comes on the heels of a similar move by his partner, Dennis Doise. Doise, 58, is joining River Ranch Development Co. and its related entities as in-house general counsel later this month. Both attorneys will serve in of counsel capacities with their former law firm, and Doise says no decision has been made on whether the 20-attorney firm will retain its moniker.

by: Leslie Turk 10:46 AM

MonaVie and ... boudin?

MonaVie, a premium health drink featuring the acai berry – touted as "the Viagra of the Amazon" – is claiming to be "the new Cajun food" taking Lafayette by storm. In a recent press release, MonaVie reps cite Lafayette as being the hub of "Cajun Heartland, USA" and that "great food, hospitality and fun are the staples of this culture." The release quotes Dr. Chris Cormier, a local chiropractor and distributor of MonaVie, as saying Cajun food traditionally doesn't include many fruits. "Adopting MonaVie into the tradition of Cajun cuisine in Lafayette, Louisiana, undoubtedly needed to happen," he says. But don't try ordering a round of this new Cajun delicacy the next time you're eating crawfish at Dwight's. MonaVie is only sold through private distributors, for $45 a bottle.

by: Nathan Stubbs 10:29 AM

New Iberia's West End focus of meeting

New Iberia's West End was once a thriving neighborhood filled with businesses, restaurants and dance clubs lining the commercial center of Hopkins Street. Today, the West End is is a blighted, high-crime neighborhood that few shopkeepers want to invest in, and New Iberia city government is attempting to turn this trend around. Wednesday, March 17 at 5 p.m., the inaugural meeting of the West End Business Association will be held at the Iberia Parish Library at 1111 W. St. Peter St. The intent of the new organization is to brainstorm ideas for revitalization of the neighborhood. On the agenda is a welcome by Mayor Hilda Curry and election of officers. For more information about WEBA, call Main Street Manager Jane Braud at 369-2330.

by: Mary Tutwiler 10:04 AM

Louisiana: the last holdout for cockfighting

Yesterday, New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson signed into law a ban on cockfighting, making Louisiana the only state where it's still legal. As to be expected, The Advocate reports that the Humane Society of the United States, which led efforts last year to ban cockfighting in Louisiana, plans a new all-out assault to outlaw the sport here. Last year, a bill to outlaw cockfighting passed the Senate but died in the House Agricultural Committee. Louisiana's animal cruelty law, RS 14:102.1 states: "For purposes of this Section, fowl shall not be defined as animals," making cockfighting legal.

Despite being outlawed in every state, the sport still thrives. On Sunday, The Seattle Times published a feature about cockfighting activities in its region: Cockfighting, its loyal fans keep fighting to the death."

by: R. Reese Fuller 9:29 AM

UL Lafayette women's basketball team in the big dance

Congrats and good luck to UL Lafayette's women's basketball team, which just earned its first ever invitation to the NCAA tournament. The Ragin' Cajuns earned the berth with a 25-8 record and strong showing in the Sun Belt Conference tournament, and now the Cajuns are the No. 11 seed in the NCAA Dayton regional. The team plays No. 6 seed Marquette at the Frank Erwin Center in Austin, Texas this Saturday, March 17 at 1:30 p.m. If you're thinking of making the road trip, tickets are $53 for adults and $43 for "youth" tickets and available by calling (800) 982-2386 or (512) 471-3333 or visiting www.texasboxoffice.com.

Here's your women's bracket; if the lady Cajuns beat Marquette on Saturday, it could set up a showdown with No. 3 seed Oklahoma on Monday. ESPN's take on the Cajuns is here.

by: Scott Jordan 8:49 AM

Mhire offers Parisian tours

A year and a half after retiring as the director of the Paul and Lulu Hilliard University Art Museum, Herman Mhire has found a new career as a Parisian tour guide. Twice a year, in the spring and the fall, Mhire will serve as a personal guide through the streets of Paris. He says he plans one-week trips that include airfare, hotel accommodations and meals for less than $2,500. For more information, contact Mhire at [email protected] or (337) 232-6357.

by: R. Reese Fuller 8:38 AM

Monday, March 12, 2007

11.5 acres by Pinhook Hilton bought for $3 million

Dr. S.L. Sethi of Canton, Miss., developer/owner of the Hilton Garden Inn on UL Lafayette property on West Congress Street, purchased 11.5 acres that adjoins the Hilton hotel site on Pinhook Road for approximately $3 million. According to records in the Lafayette Parish Clerk of Court's office, Sethi's company, Lodging America at the Vermilion River LLC, purchased the land — which has about seven vacant buildings on it, most in disrepair — from River Plaza Corp. of Lafayette. River Plaza is owned by several Ashy family members and attorney Bennett Voorhies Jr.

Eddie Mouton of the local real estate company J. Alfred Mouton Inc., who brokered the real estate transaction, says several of the buildings were leased until a couple of years ago by different entities, including Seabulk Shipping, Langford Engineering and the Louisiana Department of Corrections. He says the buildings were originally constructed for oilfield companies like Exxon, Chevron and Texaco and that all but one will be demolished. Mouton is unaware of Sethi's plans for the property, but speculation in real estate circles is that Sethi will likely construct a hotel and restaurants at the site. The property has Pinhook Road frontage, is bordered by the Hilton and Vermilion River on the south and is accessed by Calco Boulevard. Reached on his cell phone, Sethi declined comment for this story.

by: Leslie Turk 10:21 AM

School board to decide new CFO

Superintendent James Easton is recommending Billy Guidry as the school system's next chief financial officer. Guidry, who has worked in the insurance business for about the past four years, is the former CFO for the St. Martin Parish school system. His wife, Paula, works as an elementary school teacher in Lafayette Parish. To appoint Guidry, Easton is also recommending the board drop an MBA requirement for the position. The CFO would still be required to have a bachelor's degree in business or accounting and be a certified CPA with five years of experience. The school board will vote on the recommendation at a special meeting tomorrow at 5:30 p.m. If appointed, Guidry would fill the void left after the departure of Jules Gaudin in July of last year.

by: Nathan Stubbs 10:20 AM

FX debuts Louisiana's Riches

Tonight, the FX Network will introduce us to The Riches. The new TV series focuses on Wayne and Dahlia Malloy - Louisiana con artists out on the road with their kids in their RV - who stumble upon an affluent and dead couple named Rich. The Malloys assume their identities, and a television series ensues. Cross-dressing British comedian Eddie Izzard will portray Wayne ("patriarch to a family of Irish Travellers in rural Louisiana") and British actress Minnie Driver will portray Dahlia. The Riches was created by the Moscow-born Dmitry Lipkin, who moved to Louisiana at the age of 10 and learned to speak English by watching too much television. The teasers for the series show the Malloy characters exhibiting Southern-esque accents.

by: R. Reese Fuller 10:15 AM

St. Paddy's party in Abbeville

Kathy and Johnny Richard have spent a decade reinventing the historic cattle auction barn on their property along the Vermilion in Abbeville into a cultural center. Once a hub of commerce on Saturdays, where cattle farmers sold their heifers and cutting horses went to cowboys bidding in rapid-fire French, the amphitheatre-shaped barn stood empty except for shades and echoes of the past. Not any more. Wednesday, March 17, "Red" Morgan and the Shades of New Orleans Jazz Band will bring the sounds of the Big Easy to the banks of the Vermilion. "It took a while," Kathy Richard says, "but Abbeville has embraced us. We sell out almost every event." Proceeds go to Le Bayou Legendaire, the non-profit the Richards created, which is dedicated to the preservation and sharing of the rural French Culture of Vermilion Parish. For more information or tickets, $10, call 893-5760 or email [email protected]

by: Mary Tutwiler 9:50 AM

La. Republican Party gubernatorial endorsement?

Rep. Bobby Jindal's massive campaign chest and sizeable lead over incumbent Gov. Kathleen Blanco is creating one headache for the Louisiana Republican Party. The party always endorses the Republican candidate if only one is running, but now that state Sen. Walter Boasso's officially in the race, it gets a little trickier. Endorse Jindal now to try and coalesce support around him? Endorse neither and let 'em duke it out? Or wait a while before choosing to endorse Jindal, Boasso or another Republican candidate? And if the wait-and-see approach prevails, how long does the party wait?

The Louisiana Republican Party starts trudging through that sticky wicket at the Cajundome this Saturday, March 17. The one-day meeting is open to the public and endorsement policies are on the agenda. For more info on the meeting, call (225) 928-2998.

by: Scott Jordan 9:24 AM

Friday, March 09, 2007

Ethics Board rules on Bodin

At a March 8 meeting, the Louisiana Ethics Board issued a ruling concerning the hire of former New Iberia Mayor Bobby Bodin for Iberia Parish Government Chief Administrative Officer. The board concluded that the Code of Governmental Ethics would prohibit Bodin, who has been an independent insurance agent for AFLAC for the past 13 years, from "providing compensated services to AFLAC Insurance Co. who has existing contracts with parish employees while he serves as CAO." Bodin has said that he will cease working for AFLAC should he be hired by Iberia Parish President Will Langlinais, which should clear up any conflict of interest concerning the ethics board.

The second issue involves his wife Liz Bodin's job working as the commercial relationship manager for the parish's fiscal agent, IberiaBank. The ethics board stated that because Ms. Bodin is a salaried worker rather than an officer or partner in the bank and thus her salary remains substantially unaffected by any transactions with Iberia Parish Government, that her continued employment is not prohibited. However, the ruling reads, "Mr. Bodin should be aware that Section 1112 of the Code will prohibit him from participating in any way in matters concerning his wife and in such instances he would have to disqualify himself." One of the CAO's duties is to sign checks, which would be handled by his wife. The Iberia Parish Council is slated to vote on the hire based on the ethics ruling on March 14, and if he is hired, Bodin will assume parish duties on March 15.

by: Mary Tutwiler 10:25 AM

Disney's first black princess is from New Orleans

In New Orleans yesterday, Walt Disney Studios announced its next animated musical will feature its first black princess - who will also be from New Orleans.

"From the heart of Louisiana's mystical bayous and the banks of the mighty Mississippi comes an unforgettable tale of love, enchantment and discovery with a soulful singing crocodile, voodoo spells and Cajun charm at every turn."

"The Frog Princess," set for release in 2009, will introduce Maddy, "a young African-American girl living amid the charming elegance and grandeur of the fabled French Quarter." Legendary songwriter and Oscar and Grammy-winning composer Randy Newman has been tapped for the film's musical score, and the story was penned by John Musker and Ron Clements, the duo behind "The Little Mermaid," "Aladdin," and "Hercules."

by: R. Reese Fuller 10:18 AM

Bertrand running for city-parish council

Don Bertrand, an independent petroleum landman and until recently "Rightblog" columnist for The Daily Advertiser, says he is running for the District 7 city-parish council seat being vacated next year by Marc Mouton. An active member of the parish Republican Executive Committee and the Lafayette Transportation Policy Committee, Bertrand says he was inspired to run partly by the large turnover on the council this year. Four councilmen are prevented by term limits from seeking re-election and Councilmen Bobby Badeaux and Marc Mouton are opting not to run again this year. "It's a watershed moment," Bertand says. "I think it's kind of exciting times; Lafayette has a lot going for it and I think it might be time for a facelift on the council." Elections for city-parish council will be held in October.

by: Nathan Stubbs 10:15 AM

The fix is in (for cats and dogs)

The Big Fix Rig, a mobile 18-wheeler spay and neuter clinic rolled into Lafayette on Wednesday and has set up shop through March 30. Stationed at the Wal-Mart parking lot on the corner of Verot School and Pinhook roads, the unit spays and neuters local cats and dogs, while focusing on the feral cat population. (They'll even help you catch the cats.) The cost is $10 per cat and $20 per dog. For info on cats, call 371-9865, and for info on dogs, call 344-2829. The Big Fix Rig is sponsored by the Humane Alliance of Asheville, N.C., and the ASPCA, along with the Wild Cat Foundation and Lafayette Animal Aid.

by: R. Reese Fuller 9:35 AM

Brandon Stokley a Saint?

The New Orleans Saints visited yesterday with free agent wide receiver Brandon Stokley, the Comeaux and UL Lafayette grad cut last week by the Indianapolis Colts in a salary-cap move. Stokley was put on injured reserve last year after rupturing his Achilles Tendon, but hopes to be ready for spring workouts.

If 30-year-old Stokley's healthy, he could be a good match for the Saints. He's a high-character guy that fits the mold of Sean Payton's team, and the Saints need a gritty possession receiver now that Joe Horn's officially gone over to the dark side and signed with the Atlanta Falcons.

by: Scott Jordan 8:50 AM

State's businesses coming back

The new Louisiana Business Recovery Report finds that business is finally rebounding from hurricanes Katrina and Rita. The groundbreaking report shows the storms' major impact on companies in St. Bernard, Orleans and Cameron parishes. Initially the state lost upwards of 5,000 businesses and continued to lose more through the first quarter of 2006. However, the tide began to turn during the second quarter, and a year after the storms the state had 2,270 fewer firms.

"This report confirms what we've heard anecdotally from employers and business owners across the state," says Lafayette businessman Matt Stuller, chair of the LRA's Economic and Workforce Development Committee. "The back-to-back storms devastated thousands of Louisiana businesses." Stuller says retail trade and service sectors were particularly hard hit.

by: Leslie Turk 8:09 AM

Thursday, March 08, 2007

City Garden Market closes

The bustling Saturday farmer's market on the Town Square at River Ranch is no more. After a year-and-a-half, the customer base had dwindled down to too few shoppers to make it worth the trek from her farm in Scott, says organic farmer Dawn Gotreaux, whose family farm sells vegetables, free range chicken and turkey and tilapia. Started in June of 2005 by horticulturist Leslie Barton who had participated in the New Orleans Crescent City Market, the City Garden Market offered fresh produce, prepared foods, crafts, plants and entertainment. "It was great in the beginning," Gotreaux says. "After about 10 months, though, we just didn't have the traffic. I'm not sure why." Gotreaux is actively looking for another location to market her produce, and says that other vendors from the market are searching as well. Gotreaux can be reached at 873-0383.

by: Mary Tutwiler 9:52 AM

Steve Riley featured in OffBeat

Check out this month's cover story in OffBeat, which focuses on accordionist Steve Riley of the Mamou Playboys and fiddler David Greely. The article explores both Riley's and Greely's approach to music:

"Riley and Greely may be pursuing very different approaches, but they're both responding to the same challenge: how do you create something new inside an old tradition? Greely's response is to absorb the roots of Cajun music so thoroughly that they become second nature. Then, when he tries to express his own feelings, the tradition will be part of the expression because it's part of him. Riley's response is to investigate every branch of the Cajun tree - from swamp pop to Cajun rock, from Creole to zydeco - so he can understand all the possible extensions of the tradition. So when he tries to express himself, he has at his fingertips multiple options that are all still part of Cajun music."

(photo by Rick Olivier)

by: R. Reese Fuller 9:41 AM

Cracking down on litter

In conjunction with the state Zero Tolerance for Litter campaign this weekend, Lafayette Consolidated Government is encouraging residents to report littering under a new parish program that slaps hefty fines on offenders. The law, passed last year, allows for Lafayette residents to report people they see littering by calling the parish hotline at 291-7000 and signing an affidavit attesting to what they witnessed. This week, the council passed a series of revisions to the law which specify that all tickets for littering from a vehicle go to the vehicle's owner and that a first offense for tossing a cigarette butt will only result in a warning. The littering fine is set at $75 for first offenders, plus a $15 administrative fee. For a second offense, the fine goes up to $500.

by: Nathan Stubbs 9:34 AM

Louisiana's $10 million in (cough, cough) uncollected pollution fees

Another study, another dead-last ranking for Louisiana. This time, The Environmental Integrity Project found that Louisiana collected less than 68 percent of the minimum standard for emission fees under the federal Clean Air Act in 2002-2005. The state ignored $9.8 million it could have collected from offenders. The report says, "States that choose to assess emission fees below the minimum established by EPA should be required to demonstrate that the revenues they collect are sufficient to carry out these obligations, as they are required to do under the Clean Air Act."

Complete results and study methodology are here.

by: Scott Jordan 9:19 AM

STM grad dies from Iraq war injuries

Lafayette soldier Mark Graham died Wednesday at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio. The 2002 STM grad was critically injured March 2 in Baghdad when his vehicle was hit by an IED. The gunner on top of the vehicle, Mark was the sole survivor in the explosion. Two American soldiers and an interpreter died, according to a CNN report on the incident.

Mark's wife, Stephanie, and his parents, Neil and Kim Graham, flew to San Antonio Tuesday to be with him.

by: Leslie Turk 8:35 AM

Old Abdalla's site gets major overhaul

On March 6, Lafayette real estate developer/broker Cecil Trahan purchased the old Abdalla's Oil Center building, 900 E. St. Mary Blvd., from co-owners Charles Chatelain and Barbara Abdalla Black. Trahan paid $4.5 million for the building and is converting it into office spaces. "Once it's complete, the building will be worth $10.5 million," Trahan says.

Lafayette architect Jay Chase is turning the two-story, 72,000-square-foot space into an office complex with suites that will rent for $19 to $22 per square foot. Renovations to the box start in two weeks and should take five months, at which time tenant improvements will begin as leases are signed. "I can't disclose anything at this time," Trahan says of potential tenants.

by: Leslie Turk 8:02 AM

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Thibodaux pushes for new school tax

School Board Vice President David Thibodaux is stepping up his campaign for a new parish-wide sales tax to be dedicated to school facility improvements. Thibodaux recently spoke before the Lafayette Kiwanis Club and the Concerned Citizens for Good Government about the school system's problem with aging and overcrowded buildings. He referenced studies that show a link between poor facilities and student performance – noting how Lafayette's state district performance score has been on the decline. This month, Thibodaux will continue making his presentation before several groups, including all of the municipal councils in the parish. He hopes the school board will approve a parish election on the issue by fall. "I think this year we have to move," he says. "The longer we wait the worse this situation gets and the more expensive it will be."

by: Nathan Stubbs 10:01 AM

Hit the boudin trail

The Southern Foodways Alliance - an institute of the Center for the Study of Southern Culture headquartered at the University of Mississippi in Oxford, has launched an oral history initiative to capture the stories behind the great cooking of the South. Naturally, Louisiana is a destination for food folklorists, and they have created two online chapters - the Boudin Trail and the Gumbo Trail. Local boudin maven Bob Carriker, who created the Boudin Link, weighs in as an authority on our favorite snack, and an interactive map gives locations and driving directions for those who can't make it to The Best Stop blindfolded.

by: Mary Tutwiler 9:42 AM

New exhibits at the ACA

Just in time for the festival season, the Acadiana Center for the Arts presents two new exhibits, opening this Saturday, March 10. In the main gallery, "Women of the World: A Global Collection of Art," will feature 179 different pieces of art created by 179 women from 179 different countries and will run through Festival International weekend. In the smaller gallery, the photography exhibit "Visions of Music: William Claxton, Stuart Klipper and William Greiner" will highlight Louisiana's traditions of dancing and festivals. Both shows will run through April 30. An opening reception for both exhibits will be held March 10 from 6 - 8 p.m. at ACA. Louisiana Folk Roots will also present a jam session at the ArtHouse from 6 - 8 p.m.

by: R. Reese Fuller 9:38 AM

Mellington leaving DDA/LEDA for HomeBank

Brett Mellington, who for the past two years has served as downtown business services development manager, a $60,000 post funded by DDA and LEDA, is cutting his three-year contract short to join HomeBank. Before taking the DDA/LEDA economic development position, Mellington worked at Our Lady of Lourdes for three decades. At HomeBank, Mellington says he will run the Jefferson Street operations as branch manager, focusing primarily on business development in the downtown area.
Mellington, 56, is an active community leader who serves as chairman of the board for the Louisiana Community and Technical College System. LEDA's Gregg Gothreaux says no decision has been made on his replacement. "We're going to take some time to see where we are and how best to move forward with our partnership with DDA," he says.

by: Leslie Turk 9:10 AM

Open Letter to Gov. Blanco: Don't Run

In The Independent Weekly's cover story this week, Editor Scott Jordan writes an open letter to Gov. Kathleen Blanco, urging her not to run for re-election. "It's time to face political reality," Jordan writes. "The voter demographics that propelled you to the governor's office are gone. Your New Orleans voting base is displaced, longtime Baton Rouge and Acadiana supporters are disillusioned, and Democratic challenger Foster Campbell and Republican challenger Bobby Jindal are siphoning off your north Louisiana voters."

Jordan also says that Blanco dropping out of the race sooner rather than later would be the best thing for Louisiana's future and reputation. "If you drop out of the race now, you will encourage a new slate of challengers to enter the race and present Louisiana voters with their platform for moving the state forward," he writes. "More than anything, that is what Louisiana needs right now. We need every voice, every option and every idea on the table."

Read the letter here.

by: R. Reese Fuller 9:05 AM

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Local drummer's apartment damaged by fire

Local drummer Glenn Fields was at home yesterday on the corner of Brook and Calder streets when his water heater caught fire, engulfing his apartment in flames and smoke within minutes. The drummer for the Red Stick Ramblers - who has also worked with the Savoy-Doucet Cajun Band, the Racines and the Bluerunners - was able to rescue his drum set, musical instruments and vinyl albums, but he lost his clothes and his furniture. Fields says he has one pressing need right now: "If anyone knows of a cheap apartment, let me know." Contact Fields with any apartment leads at (225) 892-9206.

(photo courtesy of Jillian Johnson of WORK agencies)

by: R. Reese Fuller 10:34 AM

Iberia Parish audit uncovers funding abuses

A compliance audit investigating questionable contractual arrangements between Iberia Parish President Will Langlinais and attorney Shane Romero became a public document yesterday. The state legislative audit, requested by District Attorney Phil Haney at the direction of the Iberia Parish Council, details how Langlinais entered into an oral contract for legal services with Romero without council knowledge or approval. This action may be in violation of the parish's Home Rule Charter, which could be cause for removal of any official from office.

The audit also lists a series of possible constitutional and charter infractions committed by Langlinais between 2000-2006, including providing approximately $156,707 in parish pipe, dirt, gravel and labor to residents of the parish, receiving at least $7,796 in questionable expense reimbursements, making $8,825 in charitable donations using public funds, and pressuring parish employees to solicit donations and work at his campaign golf tournament fund raiser on parish time.

Former parish CAO Simone Champagne, who left her position in January to run for state Rep. from Jeanerette, voiced concerns to Langlinais before she left office. "I did not feel that it was proper that we utilize parish employees on parish time for campaign fund raising for someone's personal benefit," she says. "My priority was to the tax payer, not for fund raising for someone's political future on taxpayer time."

The Iberia Parish Council meets 6 p.m. Wednesday, March 7, to discuss what action to take in light of the audit findings.

by: Mary Tutwiler 10:29 AM

STM's Mark Graham critically wounded in Iraq

St. Thomas More grad Mark Graham was critically injured in Iraq Friday, March 2. Both of Mark's legs were amputated above the knees, he lost a kidney and sustained burns on 60 percent of his body. Mark's wife, Stephanie, and his parents, Neil and Kim Graham, are scheduled to fly to San Antonio today to meet him.

Both Mark and Stephanie McElligott Graham graduated from STM in 2002. "We are praying for him fervently," says STM Principal Ray Simon. STM is getting timely information on Mark's condition from a family member who works at the school. A Web site is also providing updates.

CNN reported the incident Friday:

"Two American soldiers and an interpreter died and a third U.S. soldier was wounded when a roadside bomb exploded northwest of the capital, the military said."

"The soldiers, from Multi-National Division-Baghdad, were on a routine route-clearance patrol northwest of the capital — to assess the safety of the road — when the incident occurred."

by: Leslie Turk 10:14 AM

Council may grandfather downtown peanut vendor

Last year represented the first time in the past 16 years that 85-year-old Vic Kilchrist wasn't out on the Jefferson Street sidewalk selling his roasted peanuts during Festival International. That's because city police informed him that his old mobile peanut roaster was in violation of a new city-parish ordinance governing pushcarts. Tonight, the council will vote on an ordinance that will exempt "antique pushcarts" from the new rules. Councilman Chris Williams says the ordinance will grandfather in Kilchrist to any regulations for downtown vendors. "He was downtown when nobody else wanted to be downtown," Williams says. "Now that downtown is hot they want to regulate him out. This is geared specifically towards him to help him out as an icon in the city of Lafayette."

Update: The council passed the amendment by a vote of 6 - 2

by: Nathan Stubbs 10:02 AM

Perfect timing for national hurricane conference

"In our country, 50 percent of the population lives within 50 miles of the coast and are therefore exposed to landfalling hurricanes," says undersecretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere and NOAA administrator Conrad Lautenbacher, spokesperson for a new federal report aimed at improving hurricane forecasting. The seven key areas NOAA and OFCM hope to upgrade are prediction abilities for hurricane intensity, structure, track, sea state, storm surge, precipitation and observation. The estimated price tag to fund those initiatives is $303 million, according to a recent National Science Foundation report.

Identifying long-term forecasting strategies and funding sources are the main agenda of the 61st Interdepartmental Hurricane Conference, which kicked off yesterday in New Orleans. The conference's timing couldn't be more appropriate – it comes as a government watchdog group is blasting Unified New Orleans Plan's rebuilding recommendations, and The Times-Picayune's multi-part investigative series on coastal land loss continues.

by: Scott Jordan 9:57 AM

Grant Street's original owners buy Somewhere's Else

The Somewhere's Else Lounge has been purchased by the duo that started the downtown Lafayette musical landmark Grant Street Dancehall in 1980. Loren Farmer says he and partner Mike Hanisee believe that live local music for patrons has become "obscenely over-priced." He adds, "We intend to bring extraordinarily talented people at very reasonable prices." Farmer says there will be few tables and chairs in the club, leaving plenty of room for dancing, with an emphasis on showcasing younger regional bands. "It's not going to be tried and true stuff," he adds. The Surrey Street club is scheduled to re-open in April.

by: R. Reese Fuller 8:54 AM

Monday, March 05, 2007

Don't mess with Louisiana

Thursday through Saturday, March 8-10, those who litter in Louisiana will be on law enforcement agencies' most wanted list. The organization Keep Louisiana Beautiful, the Louisiana State Police and the state Department of Wildlife & Fisheries are sponsoring the third annual Zero Tolerance for Litter campaign. Working with local law enforcement throughout the state, they intend to send a strong message that those who litter will be pursued and fined.

Prosecution for littering ranges from fines of $50 to $5,000, four to 100 hours of community service, and potential driver's license suspension and jail time. Among other environmental impacts, litter affects fish breeding grounds and contributes to flooding, and KLB estimates the problem costs taxpayers more than $15 million annually.

by: Leslie Turk 10:48 AM

Breaux supports Jindal?

The state Republican Party is trumpeting a video they say recently "surfaced" on You Tube that paints former U.S. Sen. John Breaux as one of Bobby Jindal's biggest supporters. Last week, a link to the video was being forwarded by state Republican party executive director James Quinn. Thus far, no one has claimed ownership of the video, which was posted by a new You Tube member named Lapoliticalwatch.

The clip recycles old quotes from Breaux that shower praise on Jindal. In 1998, Breaux chaired the National Bipartisan Commission on the Future of Medicare and appointed Jindal as its executive director, commending the young Republican for his work on health care reform. Breaux is now repeatedly being mentioned as the Democratic Party's top choice to oppose Jindal in this year's governor's race, should Gov. Blanco decide not to seek re-election.

by: Nathan Stubbs 10:13 AM

NY Times features Cajun music and Savoy family

The Sunday edition of The New York Times declared:

After years of recycled arrangements and graying performers and listeners, Acadiana's dance halls are suddenly filled with young musicians, young dancers and a hard-rocking approach to the old acoustic instruments.

The article "Cajun Sound, Rock ‘n' Roll Energy" focuses on Wilson Savoy of the Pine Leaf Boys and his musical family. But three other local bands – the Lost Bayou Ramblers, the Red Stick Ramblers, and Feufollet - are also cited as "the core of a renaissance in Cajun and Creole music."

by: R. Reese Fuller 10:12 AM

Alliance Française de Lafayette president encourages visit to NOMA show

A major art exhibit Femme, Femme, Femme, depicting women in French society, opened at the New Orleans Museum of Art this weekend. Nearly 85 works by Manet, Degas, Toulouse-Lautrec, Corot and Picasso, among others, have been gathered from the Louvre, the Musee d'Orsay and 40 other museums throughout France. The show was conceived two months after Hurricane Katrina, when French museum directors and the minister of culture visited New Orleans and pledged a show of support for the Crescent City, once a French colony. Bernard de Reyniès, president of the Alliance Française de Lafayette, was at the opening. "It is everything regarding the woman," he says. "The paintings are very famous, very good. This is a real chance for the people of Acadiana to see French painting from the 19th century and to support New Orleans. It would be a pity not to look at it."

The exhibition will be on view through June 3, 2007. Tickets are $15 and can be purchased at ticketmaster on line or by calling 504 522-5555.

(photo of Edouard Manet's "The beer waitress" by H. Lewandowski, courtesy of Réunion des Musées Nationaux / Art Resource, NY Musee d'Orsay, Paris, France)

by: Mary Tutwiler 10:01 AM

T-P: Ten years to save Louisiana's coast or it's too late

The Times-Picayune kicked off a special multi-part series yesterday on Louisiana's vanishing coastline, and it should be required reading for anyone who cares about the state's safety and future. In a multi-media presentation that includes maps and animated graphics that accompany the stories, the T-P details how it took 6,000 years for the Mississippi River to naturally build the Louisiana coastline -- and it took man 75 years to destroy the same amount of land with shipping canals, levees and oil and gas exploration. Here's the prognosis: If we don't come up with a dedicated, pro-active plan to protect and fortify our wetlands within the next 10 years, land losses will simply be too widespread to overcome.

by: Scott Jordan 8:27 AM

Friday, March 02, 2007

Downtown Lafayette businesses call for increased security

In the past month, two separate assaults in and around the public parking garage on Vermilion Street sent two downtown workers to the hospital. The attacks have prompted concerned area business owners to call on city officials to work to further ensure safety for downtown employees and visitors.

Police Chief Jim Craft says one suspect has been apprehended in the assault cases and stresses the city is also exploring proactive steps. "Daytime random attacks like that, that really bothers us," he says. Craft notes his department has already conducted a site security survey for the Vermilion Street parking garage and will be recommending several ways to improve its security. He plans to meet with City-Parish President Joey Durel next week about the recommendations, which include restricting public entrance to the parking garage and improving lighting and video surveillance in the area. In the meantime, Craft says the department has already stepped up its daytime patrol downtown.

by: Nathan Stubbs 10:22 AM

Catahoula's Steakhouse coming to Lafayette

Doe's of Lafayette on Pinhook is slated to become Catahoula's Steakhouse. John Slaughter, who opened Catahoula's, the Grand Coteau restaurant known for eclectic cooking and enormous photographic portraits of blue-eyed hunting hounds, Catahoula's current chef/owner Jude Tauzin, and Simply Fondu entrepreneur Brach Myers have formed a partnership to launch the new steakhouse. The two Catahoulas will be separate businesses with different menus. Catahoula's in Grand Coteau retains its signature seafood dishes, while the new restaurant will steer diners toward "steak heavy" offerings according to Slaughter. Doe's owner, Barr Brown, died in a December plane crash in Texas, and the restaurant closed on Feb. 28. Catahoula's Steakhouse opens in early April.

by: Mary Tutwiler 10:06 AM

Gaines honored with new literary excellence award

The new Ernest J. Gaines Award for Literary Excellence recognizes an African-American writer who has published a full-length work of fiction in 2006. The award was created by the Baton Rouge Area Foundation to honor the legacy of one of Louisiana's most heralded writers while inspiring young writers to strive for excellence.

Gaines, a south Louisiana native who lives in Oscar, La., is the author of renowned works of fiction, most notably The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman, A Gathering of Old Men, and the Pulitzer Prize-nominated A Lesson Before Dying, winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award. In 2004 he was nominated for the Nobel Prize in literature. Submissions are being accepted through the end of April. The winner will receive a $10,000 award and appear at an event in Baton Rouge to read from his or her winning work.

by: Leslie Turk 9:51 AM

Saints release Joe Horn; Colts release Brandon Stokley

Two of Louisiana's favorite wide receivers were released on the eve of free agency last night. The New Orleans Saints cut loose Joe Horn, the team's all-time leader in touchdown receptions, four-time Pro Bowler and the Saints' voice of the team and region in the nightmare post-Katrina 2005 season. Farther north, The Indianapolis Colts parted ways with Brandon Stokley (pictured), the Comeaux and UL Lafayette alum who's been one of Peyton Manning's most reliable targets since 2003. Both Horn and Stokley were plagued by injuries last year and due large bonuses and base salaries for the 2007 season, so neither move comes as a complete surprise. Still, it's going to be strange seeing either of those guys in a different uniform.

Horn's release has an unfortunate subplot, as he's saying he feels betrayed by head coach Sean Payton. Horn's agent says he's already been contacted by four other teams, including the Atlanta Falcons. Joe Horn as a Falcon? Blasphemy!

by: Scott Jordan 8:50 AM

Louisiana No. 49 in child care

The National Association of Child Care Resource and Referral Agencies studied state child care center policies and regulations and recently released its findings in its report "We Can Do Better." Thanks to Idaho, Louisiana didn't come in last place. The study looked at states' procedures for inspections, health and safety requirements, background checks, child development activities, minimum requirements for center directors, and minimum staff qualifications.

by: R. Reese Fuller 6:27 AM

Thursday, March 01, 2007

From ‘Red' to ‘Rock'

Citadel Broadcasting has relocated the studios of KRDJ-FM, Red 93.7, back to Lafayette and is now calling the station Rock 93.7. As part of the move, the broadcasting group changed the format of the station (which previously played the 70s, 80s, and "whatever") to classic rock. Under a different ownership group, the studios were moved from the Hub City to Baton Rouge in the mid-1990s. The station is licensed to New Iberia, and its Atchafalaya Basin tower blasts a 100,000-watt signal throughout Acadiana.

Citadel General Manager Mary Galyean says the move diversifies the group's Lafayette franchise, which now boasts five stations. "We felt like there was an appetite for classic rock in the market," she says. Rock 93.7 has the nationally-syndicated Opie & Anthony Show in the morning drive slot, and its closest rock competitor would likely be Baton Rouge's Eagle 98.1, which caters to an older rock demo.

by: Leslie Turk 10:33 AM

Easton on micromanagement

In his latest open letter, Lafayette Parish School System Superintendent James Easton describes what he believes is his biggest challenge – micromanagement. After providing Webster's definition, Easton writes:

Micromanagers engage FEAR in the workplace, which leads to frustration, depression and loss of productivity. It encourages staff to play politics. It costs your team its best members by demotivating employees, causing resentment and damaging trust.

And if you see yourself in the questions the superintendent poses, there's still hope: "First you have to admit that you have a problem." Read Easton's latest letter here or his letter of Jan. 9.

In other school board news, board member Rickey Hardy calls for a permanent injunction against Easton's banishment from the board table, and Easton takes his new spot.

by: R. Reese Fuller 10:23 AM

Hurricanes can't stop Marcia Ball

Longtime Lafayette favorite Marcia Ball's entertained local audiences for three decades at venues as diverse as Jay's Lounge and Festival International, and tonight finds the boogie-woogie and honky-tonk queen in a special collaboration with the UL Lafayette Wind Ensemble for the Louisiana Crossroads concert series. Besides Ball classics like "Crawfishin'" and "Big Shot," expect special orchestrated versions of Randy Newman's "Louisiana 1927" and the poignant post-Katrina tribute "Bucktown." Read The Independent Weekly's Q&A with Ball about the show and her post-Katrina artistic state of mind here.

A few tickets remain for tonight's show at UL's Angelle Hall and are available by calling 233-7060 or visiting www.louisianacrossroads.org. For a sneak preview of what to expect tonight, click the play button to see and hear Ball rollicking through "Route 90."

by: Scott Jordan 10:12 AM

Foster Campbell back in Lafayette today

Public Service Commissioner Foster Campbell will be back in Acadiana today to speak at the annual Collaborating to Stop Violence Against Women Conference at the Lafayette Hilton. Campbell, a Bossier City Democrat who plans to formally announce his candidacy for governor next month, is slated to speak on a new measure he spearheaded that the PSC recently passed which waives utility deposits for victims of domestic violence. This is Campbell's second stop in Lafayette in less than a week's time. Last weekend, he spoke to the Rotary Club of Lafayette and at the annual state Police Jury Association conference, where he stumped for his proposal to levy a tax on all oil and gas processed in the state – a move he says can fund coastal restoration and allow for eliminating the state's personal and cooperative income tax.

by: Nathan Stubbs 10:07 AM

Crawfish without beer?

Some community leaders in Ozark, Alabama are upset that their city's upcoming crawfish festival – actually Crawdad Festival – will serve beer. Mickey Snell, with the Ozark Leisure Services Department, tells WTVY:

"We're trying to make an authentic Cajun style festival. The beer goes along with the crawdad and the other Cajun food that we are going to have."

Pastor Jim Hill of Ridgecrest Baptist Church in Ozark doesn't think the two should go together:

"When you try to mix alcohol with families the two do not mix. Alcohol should not be used drunk or partaken of when families are around."

Pastor Hill is calling for a boycott of the festival.

by: R. Reese Fuller 9:50 AM

Pizza Place slides into NYPD location

If you blinked you probably missed the transition from NYPD pizza to the Pizza Place, the newest pizzeria in Lafayette. NYPD closed its doors only two months ago, but with pizza ovens already in place, new owners Carl and Nathalie Rodriguez were able to open in the time it takes to say pepperoni. They bring a 17-year-tradition honed on handmade dough and homemade sauce from their Center Street location in New Iberia to Polk St., downtown and across from Parc International. Theirs is a nostalgic taste from the past before pizza got trendy or topped with gourmet items. For those who are already jonesing for the two-foot long stromboli from NYPD, hang on. Nathalie's sister, Charlotte Broussard who works in the Pizza Place says they are working on the recipe and as soon as they are happy with the results, it will be back on the menu. Beer will be back as well once they receive their liquor license. For more info call 233-3342.

by: Mary Tutwiler 9:15 AM