September 2007

Friday, September 28, 2007

And the first gubernatorial debate winner is ...

Louisiana insomniacs were the big winner after last night's gubernatorial debate, as the forum featuring Democrats Walter Boasso and Foster Campbell, Independent John Georges and Republican Bobby Jindal was largely an uninspiring snoozefest.

Random observations on each candidate last night:

No surprises on the Bobby Jindal front. He never strayed far from his central platform plank of ethics reform and talking point of directing voters to his Web site to see his policy plans. Still, after watching his performance, it hammered home why his campaign has avoided televised debates. Jindal cannot shed his overcaffeinated policy wonk speaking style, and crammed a gazillion statistics, studies and anecdotes into every breathless one-minute answer. That was never more apparent than in the lightning round of questioning, as Jindal was incapable of providing simple yes or no answers. He also might have created an opening for opponents with his qualified endorsement of teaching intelligent design in Louisiana classrooms.

Foster Campbell repeatedly talked up his oil and gas processing tax, inevitably circling back to its promised revenue as the baseline solution for coastal reform, education reform, etc. So there's no question where he stands, but that's a double-edged sword that also portrays him as a one-trick pony. Comedy is not his forte; his multiple attempts at humor fell flat.

Walter Boasso gave the night's most puzzling performance. With all his big-guy swagger and latest round of hard-hitting ads against Jindal, he was so subdued you wonder if he took a sedative prior to the debate. That effect was compounded by too many answers short on specifics. He uttered what should have been the strongest answer of the night when asked why he switched parties. "My party left me in the water for eight days after Hurricane Katrina. My party lied to me. President Bush stood in Jackson Square and promised to rebuild. I have 120,000 reasons to be a Democrat today," he said, referring to the residents of his hard-hit Senate district. But he said it somewhat flatly; where's the fire in his belly?

If forced to pick a winner for the debate, I'd give John Georges the nod. He was hoarse and looked a bit over-rehearsed at times, but he gave the most specific answers; drew a sharp contrast between himself and the other candidates on race relations by repeatedly noting that he was the only candidate to go to Jena; and used his business experience to note that he's traveled to every parish in the state and also jab Jindal. "Unlike the Congressman who hasn't created one job his entire life, I have created many jobs," he said.

Final note: Inexplicable that Boasso, Campbell and Georges would never refer to Jindal by name, only calling him "the congressman."

by: Scott Jordan 11:24 AM

Council passes 2008 budget

The Lafayette city-parish council approved consolidated government's 2008 budget at a special hearing yesterday. The $548.3 million budget represents an 8.3 percent increase from the '07 budget, with the city enjoying steady growth in revenues. Lafayette Utilities System's contribution alone to city-parish government's general fund – based on a percentage formula – is projected to rise from $17 million to more than $19 million.

New big ticket items in the budget include LUS' plans to spend the majority of its $110 million bond issue over the next five years for its fiber-to-the-home network. For the '08 fiscal year, $1.2 million is being allocated for new police vehicles and $178,475 for a new initiative to attract the entertainment industry to Lafayette. Earlier this year, city-parish president Joey Durel awarded that contract to Believe Entertainment, headed by local actor Marcus Brown. Also in its '08 fiscal year, Lafayette Consolidated Government is allocating $452,752 to continue to assist a slew of social service agencies including the Council on Aging, St. Joseph's Diner, the Performing Arts Society of Acadiana, the Acadiana Arts Council and the Lafayette Community Healthcare Clinic. In the past, Durel has indicated this is an expense he would like local government to move away from. The funds were approved this year with little discussion.

by: Nathan Stubbs 10:57 AM

Full moon, Fall open house at Pack and Paddle

Lafayette is chock-a-block with cultural events this fall, so sometimes it's hard to remember to slow down and enjoy the beauties of the natural world that surround us. Pack and Paddle makes it easy, with a sunset, full moon canoe trip on Lake Martin this evening. Lake Martin is so close, yet a world away, where the clear water is pierced by cypress trees bearded in Spanish moss and the watery woods are home to egrets, herons, raccoons, possums, foxes, owls, hawks and alligators. The trip leaves Pack and Paddle at 5 p.m. this evening, sunset will be at 5:50, moonrise takes place at 7:48.

Tomorrow night an Open House at Pack and Paddle unveils a new venue for the outdoors shop. Second generation owners John and Becky Williams have created a theatre inside the store, where trail blazer Nate Olive will bring the audience, through images, music and narratives, on an 1,800 mile landmark hike that straddles the tides from Canada to Mexico. Doors open at 5:30 with live music, food, and a chance to look at the redesigned space created out of recycled materials. For more information call Pack and Paddle at 232-5854 or check out their website.

by: Mary Tutwiler 10:19 AM

Boulevard trio hosts Shop for the Cure event Oct. 3

Brother's, Caroline & Co. and Inbetweenz are hosting a Shop for the Cure event Wednesday, Oct. 3, to benefit the local chapter of the Susan G. Komen Foundation. The trio of merchants, all located in the Boulevard shopping center on Arnould Boulevard, is offering a 20 percent discount on regular priced merchandise from 6-8 p.m. (with some restrictions) and will donate a portion of those sales to the local foundation.

As part of Brother's ongoing effort to fight breast cancer in Acadiana, the store will be selling Brighton's new Power of Pink collection during the event and throughout the month of October. Brighton is donating to breast cancer charities $5 for each bracelet and necklace sold, and Brother's will also turn over a portion of its proceeds to the local Komen affiliate.

In the U.S. alone, it's estimated that 240,000 new cases of breast cancer will be diagnosed this year — 11,100 under the age of 40.

For more information on the event, contact Brother's at 984-7749.

by: Leslie Turk 9:57 AM

ACA rocks out

The Acadiana Arts Council is gearing up for its third annual Party Like a Rock Star event tomorrow night. Partygoers are encouraged to dress up as their favorite rock star or movie star, to coincide with this year's theme, Rock & Reel -- a play on the current Magnum Cinema exhibition at the ACA, a collection of 111 photographs shot during Hollywood's heyday. The party cranks up at 8 p.m. on Saturday night at the Acadiana Center for the Arts, 101 W. Vermilion St. in downtown Lafayette. Tickets for members are $35 in advance and $50 at the door. Tickets for non-members are $60 in advance and $75 at the door. Advance ticket sales end at 5 p.m. today. All proceeds from the event benefit the Acadiana Arts Council and the Acadiana Center for the Arts. To order tickets, call (337) 233-7060 or visit for more information. - R. Reese Fuller

by: Scott Jordan 9:14 AM

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Boasso, Campbell, Georges and Jindal square off tonight

Tonight is the only chance for Louisiana voters to see a statewide televised debate between the four major gubernatorial candidates. Democrats Walter Boasso and Foster Campbell, Independent John Georges and Republican Bobby Jindal will present their platforms and square off tonight from 7-8 p.m. at the Old State Capitol in Baton Rouge. The debate will be broadcast on Louisiana Public Broadcasting (in Lafayette, UHF channel 23 or Channel 12 for Cox Cable subscribers)

Two more debates between the four candidates are scheduled -- 7 p.m. Oct. 4 at Louisiana State University-Shreveport and a WAFB/WWL televised debate at 7 p.m. Oct. 17 in New Orleans – but those debates will be broadcast in those markets.

If you miss tonight's debate, it will be rebroadcast on LPB this Saturday, Sept. 29 at 4 p.m., and LPB also plans to archive the debate on its Web site.

by: Scott Jordan 10:52 AM

Former UL business dean applies for Authement's job

David P. Manuel, who served as dean of UL Lafayette's College of Business Administration from 1986 -1990, is among a handful of new applicants vying to replace Ray Authement as president of the university. Others who recently applied are Charles Alcocer, an oil and gas consultant and associate professor of petroleum engineering at UL; the dean of faculty at Grantham University, an online university; an associate vice president in the Office of Research and Sponsored Programs at San Francisco State University; and an attorney/criminal justice professor at Paul Quinn College in Dallas. All of these candidates have doctorate degrees.

Manuel served as a professor of economics at UL for 12 years before ascending to the top spot in the College of Business Administration. He left the university in 1990 for a position as dean and professor of international business at St. Mary's University in San Antonio. In 2000 he was promoted to vice president for academic affairs.

The deadline for applications is next Monday, Oct. 1, and the search committee is scheduled to review the applications on Wednesday, Oct. 3. At that meeting, which is open to the public, the search committee will decide whether it has enough qualified candidates to begin the interview process or should extend the deadline for applications. The meeting is at 2 p.m. in the first floor auditorium of the Claiborne building in downtown Baton Rouge, 1201 N. 3rd St.

by: Leslie Turk 10:48 AM

Time asks readers to support New Orleans presidential debate

Two months ago, Time Magazine joined a chorus of editorials endorsing an initiative of the Louisiana group Women of the Storm to bring a general election presidential debate to New Orleans as a means of encouraging a national focus on the city's ongoing struggle to recover from Hurricane Katrina. In the current issue of Time, managing editor Richard Stengel writes in his column that the magazine is still hoping to co-sponsor such an event. "A vision of success in New Orleans will comprise specific ideas about jobs, education, health care, housing, water, the environment, spending and pork-barrel politics," Stengel writes. "But it should also illuminate how the candidates view the role of the Federal Government and the next leader's responsibilities to U.S. citizens. That's important for all of America." Stengel is asking Time's readers to join him in supporting a presidential debate in New Orleans by sending in comments to [email protected]. Time plans to forward the letters to the Commission on Presidential Debates.

by: Nathan Stubbs 10:39 AM

Brad Pitt commits to rebuilding in lower 9th ward

Brad Pitt must have been listening to Pete Seeger. The movie star and New Orleans resident has taken Seeger's anthem, "If I had a Hammer," to heart, launching a building project called Make It Right to build at least 150 houses in the most devastated section of the Crescent City's lower 9th Ward. After meeting with residents from the lower 9, Pitt, along with Steve Bing, a film producer and philanthropist, put up $5 million each as seed money to bring together architects to design environmentally sustainable houses in the local Creole cottage and shotgun style to be rebuilt on home owners' now-empty lots. While home owners will be expected to contribute some cash toward their new houses, part of the plan is to bridge the financial gap with forgivable loans. The pair were in New York yesterday, raising money, and committing to swift action--building may begin within a year.

by: Mary Tutwiler 10:32 AM

Bell's case to stay in juvenile court

In a press conference yesterday, Gov. Kathleen Blanco announced that the case of Mychal Bell, one of the Jena Six, will remain in the juvenile court system. Flanked by Rev. Al Sharpton and Martin Luther King, III, Blanco stated that LaSalle Parish District Attorney Reed Walters would not appeal a decision by the Louisiana Court of Appeals that would send Bell's case to the juvenile system.

Read Gov. Blanco's statement and accounts from The Town Talk, The Advocate, the Associated Press and The New York Times.

by: R. Reese Fuller 9:28 AM

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Nation's Report Card: La.'s mixed results

Louisiana had mixed results in test scores reported in the Nation's Report Card, the National Assessment of Educational Progress, recently released by the U.S. Department of Education. Since 2005, Louisiana's eighth graders slightly improved in math, but their reading levels remained the same. For fourth graders, math scores remained the same, but reading scores dropped slightly from 2005.

View Louisiana's profile here, and read accounts from the Associated Press and The Times-Picayune.

by: R. Reese Fuller 10:32 AM

Hebert ponies up new image

troy hebertTroy Hebert is changing the face of campaign signs. Instead of the hackneyed yard sign with the candidate's name, two colors and a patriotic star and stripe, the contender for Senate District 22, a rural seat spanning Iberia and St. Martin Parishes, has pictured himself as the sportsman's choice, along with a six point buck to prove it. "Fishermen for Troy Hebert," reads one sign depicting a rod and reel and a nice fat flounder. Duckhunters, crawfishermen and horsemen (and one assumes women) are all singled out on Hebert's signs which are color photos of the candidate with the appropriate animal. The piece de la resistance however is a personalized sign Hebert makes for supporters, especially grandparents. He'll snap a photo of himself with a gaggle of grandchildren, add a legend that reads "Mr. Troy is Our Senator," and place the one-of-a-kind sign on a constituent's lawn. "That's going crazy," Hebert says. "It may be a little too successful for my pocketbook." They're so successful, Hebert says he is having trouble holding onto his signs. "In fact, they're working too well," Hebert says. "They're stealing them. I can't keep ‘em. They're taking them as fast as I put them out. I would at least ask them to wait until after the election."

by: Mary Tutwiler 10:13 AM

Another conviction in LeBlanc brothers case

pat leblancFirst Bexar County Sheriff Ralph Lopez resigned and pled no contest - the equivalent of a conviction - to three misdemeanor charges, and now the sheriff's longtime friend and campaign manager has entered a guilty plea of third degree felony theft. Lopez's political career is over, and 70-year-old John Reynolds is facing 10 years in prison and a $10,000 fine - all because of their connections to Lafayette's LeBlanc brothers, Pat and Mike, owners of Premier Management Enterprises. Premier was awarded a lucrative contract to run the commisary at the Bexar County jail annex. While Reynolds was manipulating the process to award the contract to the LeBlancs, he and the sheriff were treated to a golf outing in Costa Rica; as part of the negotiations, Reynolds also received money from the LeBlancs and funneled it through phony charities and into his personal checking account. The third degree felony charge he pled guilty to yesterday is for those donations; the LeBlancs maintain Reynolds deceived them about the legitimacy of the charities.

The guilty pleas don't get Lopez and Reynolds off the hook with the feds, which have joined the investigation. But as part of his agreement with Bexar County DA Susan Reed (read pdf file Reynolds.pdf), Reynolds is cooperating with the FBI and U.S. Attorney's office about his relationship with both Lopez and Premier Management.

The LeBlancs have maintained their innocence but have had little to say about the case and similar allegations against them in other Texas counties. After the Greater Lafayette Chamber of Commerce's political forum last night, Pat LeBlanc (pictured above), a well-connected Republican running for state representative in District 43, declined comment on this latest development. "I've made all the statements in that regard that I care to make," he said.

by: Leslie Turk 10:06 AM

Council passes amended sign ordinance

Already two years in the making, a sign ordinance meant to regulate the height and style of business signs across the city underwent several more last-minute changes at Tuesday night's council meeting before being passed with a 6-3 vote. Councilmen Lenwood Broussard, Bobby Badeaux and Marc Mouton voted against the ordinance. The ordinance cracks down on new pole-attached signs from going up in many areas, requiring businesses in most commercially-zoned districts to adopt monument-style signs no greater than 14 feet tall. It also puts restrictions on digital signs and billboards.

Last week, proponents of the ordinance agreed to drop a clause that would have required businesses to come into compliance with the new signage regulations within seven years. City-parish president Joey Durel threatened to veto any sign ordinance with an amortization period. At last night's meeting, further compromises were made, including: raising the height limit of signs in most commercially-zoned districts from 10 to 14 feet, raising the height limit on signs by the interstate from 50 to 75 feet, and an amendment which allows businesses to reface old signs, without building new ones. A substitute sign ordinance brought by councilman Lenwood Broussard and approved by the sign industry, failed. "We had to give a little bit more," says councilman Bruce Conque, one of the primary proponents of the new ordinance. "But overall we have a sign ordinance that's updated and it's an initial step toward addressing the sign clutter. I'm quite pleased."

by: Nathan Stubbs 10:04 AM

Victim of the Streets

According to Eric Gammons, president of Acadiana Regional Coalition on Homelessness and Housing Inc., the homeless population in Lafayette hovers somewhere around 400, decreasing in summer and increasing during the winter. However, that number does not include the homeless who primarily exist outside of the homeless shelters. Those people are usually documented by public or private agencies only if they get arrested — or killed.

The preceding paragraph was part of The Independent Weekly's June 13 cover story, "Slipping Through the Cracks," which detailed the lives of Lafayette's homeless population. Independent contributor Dege Legg spent a week living on the streets and in a "tramp camp" he discovered off Evangeline Thruway. One of the women Legg interviewed and briefly wrote about was a young homeless woman named Shannon, a quiet, petite brunette who often made trips to the laundromat to wash the clothes of the tramp camp members. …

Last Friday, Shannon's body was discovered under a tree approximately 300 feet from the Lafayette Convention & Visitors Commission's welcome center at 1400 NW Evangeline Thruway.

For more, read Independent Editor Scott Jordan's complete Leadoff column from this week's issue here.

by: admin 10:00 AM

Hail the Fat Man

lil band o gold robert plantAcadiana music circles were buzzing in late April because the Golden God was in town. He ate crawfish at McGee's Landing in Henderson, had dinner at Charley G's, popped into Dwyer's one morning, visited La Louisianne recording studio and checked out Travis Matte at Wrangler's in Carencro.

There was one reason for legendary Led Zeppelin frontman Robert Plant's extended Acadiana tour: Fats Domino. Plant and the Lafayette swamp pop supergroup Lil' Band O' Gold had just wrapped up recording a version of Domino's "It Keeps Raining" for Goin' Home: A Tribute to Fats Domino, a two-CD homage that hits stores this week. Goin' Home features Domino tracks played by heavyweights such as Paul McCartney, Tom Petty, Elton John, Neil Young and the cream of the crop of New Orleans music royalty — but "It Keeps Raining" has been chosen as the first single released from the album.

"It was certainly a career highlight for me," says LBOG's C.C. Adcock, who co-produced "It Keeps Raining" with Plant. "Culturally and musically, it was nice to have it come full circle. There have been lots of people who have always tried to define what swamp pop is, and [LBOG singer/drummer] Warren Storm always says, ‘It's Fats Domino music.'"

The Plant/LBOG partnership clicked in just one day of fruitful recording, with the 70-year-old Storm providing a first-generation link to Domino's unprecedented impact on contemporary American music. "Warren had literally been practicing his whole life for that afternoon, and it was a really perfect fit," says Adcock. "And then to realize besides our own little pocket, Fats helped create things like Led Zeppelin. To realize what a profound effect that man and his music had, maybe even unknowingly, on the future of modern music — Robert Plant and Jimmy Page were completely influenced by early rock and roll like Fats Domino, and then you think about all the modern bands influenced by Led Zeppelin, and the whole rock 'n' roll thing starts with Fats."

Lil' Band O' Gold's Warren Storm and David Egan join Irma Thomas, Ivan Neville, Jon Cleary, Walter "Wolfman" Washington and more to play a CD-release party for Goin' Home: A Tribute to Fats Domino on Saturday, Sept. 29 at Tipitina's in New Orleans. Tickets are $25 for general admission or $150 for a VIP package that includes a reception with Domino, open bar, a copy of the CD and a commemorative poster. For tickets or more info, call (504) 895-8477 or visit

by: Scott Jordan 8:47 AM

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Saints nightmare continues: Deuce likely out for season

As if falling to 0-3 by suffering another embarrassing loss on national television wasn't enough, the New Orleans Saints' nightmarish start just got a little bleaker with the news that Saints running back Deuce McAllister is likely out for the season with a torn ACL in his left knee. "When [McAllister] came to the sidelines and I asked him how it was, he just gave me that dull look," fullback Mike Karney told The Times-Picayune. McAllister landed awkwardly after trying to catch an errant Drew Brees pass, and the play had eerie similarities to McAllister's freak season-ending 2005 injury, when he slipped and tore the ACL of his right knee during a blowout loss to Green Bay. While it's too early to tell, it's sobering to wonder if this could be a career-ending injury for the 28-year-old running back and all-time leading Saints rusher, who's been one of the franchise's perennial good-character guys.

The loss of McAllister makes the Saints' uphill battle out of this 0-3 hole even more daunting; only five teams in the history of the NFL have started 0-3 and made the playoffs, as the Monday Night Football broadcast team noted about 4,000 times last night.

The Saints obviously have many, many problems to address, but I think this team misses Joe Horn's heart and production more than head coach Sean Payton would ever admit. Talk about a lose-lose scenario: Saints No. 1 draft pick Robert Meachem is persona non-grata, and Joe Horn's wearing an Atlanta Falcons uniform and enduring career-twilight purgatory with Michael Vick and Joey Harrington.

by: Scott Jordan 10:50 AM

"Louisiana Cottages" brainchild of Community Foundation of Acadiana

Barbara McKenna's new home-to-be in Delcambre is a picture perfect example of what intelligent hurricane recovery spending can be. Students at the Louisiana Technical College Teche Area Campus in New Iberia receive tuition grants from the LRA's Recovery Workforce Training Program. The program teaches students construction skills--desperately needed after the devastation of the storms. What it doesn't pay for is supplies, so the students in the past have done small projects, scrapped together from donations. Linda Dautreuil, head of Donor Relations at the Community Foundation of Acadiana recognized the potential, and directed the local foundation's grant monies toward the vo-tech school so that they could buy the necessary materials to actually build a small, 600 square foot house, dubbed a "Louisiana Cottage." At the same time, the Community Foundation was granting funds to the Catholic Diocese of Lafayette's Office of Justice and Peace to help with Rita victims. The Diocese had identified people in Erath and Delcambre who were slipping through the cracks of the Road Home program, people receiving little or no money from the state's program, and who were in danger having their trailers repossessed by FEMA.

Barbara McKenna is just such a person. She had a house and catering business in Delcambre before Rita washed both of them away. McKenna was attempting to run her catering business out of her FEMA trailer. With no flood insurance, her Road Home total grant was $20,000, according to Dautreuil. "That's not enough money to do anything," Dautreuil says. The Diocese chose McKenna to receive the house built with Community Foundation funds, grants from the Office of Peace and Justice will pay to move the house to Delcambre. McKenna will use her Road Home money to pay for elevating the house to the 12 feet above sea level required in Delcambre. "There's a second house planned for the spring," Dautreuil says. Everybody from the governor and LRA board members to the mayors of New Iberia and Delcambre showed up for the photo op yesterday in New Iberia.
Photo: Governor Blanco and Barbara McKenna courtesy of Community Foundation of Acadiana

by: Mary Tutwiler 10:46 AM

Lehman comes out swinging in clerk's race

Roger LehmanRoger Lehman, who worked for the Lafayette Parish Clerk of Court's office for two decades, has come out swinging in his bid to unseat his former boss, Louis Perret. Lehman spent most of his tenure at the clerk's office "under the tutorship of O.C. 'Dan' Guilliot and learned the following: integrity, honor and financial responsibility are the cornerstone of good management and quality public service," he says in his official announcement.

Lehman then proceeds to take Perret, Guilliot's successor who is seeking a third term, to task on issues ranging from what he calls "small minded petty bureaucratic rules" to allegations the current clerk intimidates employees, is too involved in other political races and forces his employees to contribute to his favorite charities. Lehman, however, offers no support for these claims.

Lehman promises to immediately reduce fees and charges across the board, claiming Perret has overcharged for services and accumulated an $8 million "slush fund."

Perret could not be reached for comment this morning.

by: Leslie Turk 10:46 AM

Chamber's candidate forums underway this week

The Greater Lafayette Chamber of Commerce is hosting public forums for all local state legislative and city-parish council races. The forums will be in some cases the only opportunity for the public to see the candidates square off in debate. Forums for state legislative races kickoff tonight and city-parish council forums begin next week. Tonight's forum will be held at Home Bank at 503 Kaliste Saloom Road and features the candidates running for state House districts 31 (Don Trahan and Nancy Landry), 42 (Isabella delaHoussaye and Jack Monoucet) and 43 (Patrick LeBlanc and Page Cortez). All legislative forums will be held from 6:30-8:00 p.m. The rest of this week's schedule is as follows:

Wednesday, September 26
Legislative Candidate Forum-House District 44
Clifton Chenier Center
220 W Willow St # C, Lafayette

Thursday, September 27
Legislative Forum-House District 39; Senate District 26; Senate District 24
Carencro Community Center
5115 N University Ave, Carencro

by: Nathan Stubbs 10:32 AM

Esquire: Blue Moon's a "best bar"

In its Best Bars in America ratings, Esquire magazine includes Lafayette's Blue Moon Saloon. Not surprisingly, New Orleans was nominated with six bars. The only other Louisiana bar named is Fred's Lounge in Mamou. Esquire says of the Blue Moon: "Get too blitzed on $1 Schlitzes at the weekly Wednesday Cajun Jams and you can crash for little more than the price of your hangover." On Fred's Lounge: "Ever hear of the seven-course Mamou, Louisiana, breakfast? It's a six-pack of Budweiser and a pound of boudin sausage, and at this legendary Cajun Country watering hole/hole in the wall, it isn't a punch line, it's an 8 a.m. order." Visit Esquire's site to rate your favorite bars in America.

by: R. Reese Fuller 10:32 AM

Monday, September 24, 2007

Lafayette's Landry touting poll

Nancy Landry, a registered Independent running for Lafayette's House District 31, is touting new poll numbers by Southern Media and Opinion Research of Baton Rouge. She is hoping to unseat Republican incumbent Don Trahan. According to a poll conducted Sept. 10-12, Landry leads the race with 38 percent to Trahan's 30 percent. "Any incumbent who is under 40 percent at this stage is in serious trouble," says pollster Bernie Pinsonat, who is on Landry's payroll. The gorilla in the room, however, is the 32 percent undecided.

Landry leads among both men and women, as well as Republicans, Democrats and Independents. She also leads in all age groups. The poll surveyed 302 likely voters and had a margin of error of 5.6 percent. – Jeremy Alford

by: R. Reese Fuller 11:04 AM

Final vote on WRDA bill this afternoon

While the long awaited Water Resources Development Act of 2007 is on track to clear the last congressional hurtle today, a presidential veto is expected. La. Senator Mary Landrieu is preparing for a congressional override of the veto.

We have been waiting seven long years for a new WRDA bill, and this year, the House and Senate finally came together in agreement on a bill that will authorize $3.6 billion in crucial flood control, navigation and hurricane protection projects for Louisiana.

But a presidential veto threat still looms heavy over this accomplishment. I stand united with the Louisiana delegation in our effort to override a veto and ensure this bill is passed with or without administration approval.

Debate begins in the U.S. Senate at 3 p.m. with voting scheduled for 5:45 EST today for the conference report on WRDA. The bill passed the House with 394 votes in April, and cleared the Senate with 91 votes May. Should the president veto the bill as he as threatened, it will return to both Houses of Congress, where it needs a 2/3 vote--290 in the House, 67 in the Senate to promulgate the act.

by: Mary Tutwiler 10:48 AM

FBI, state investigate anti-Jena 6 Web site

The FBI is investigating a white supremacist Web site that has posted what it says are the addresses for families of the Jena 6, according to CNN. CNN says the site "features a swastika, frequent use of racial slurs, a mailing address in Roanoke, Virginia, and phone numbers purportedly for some of the teens' families ‘in case anyone wants to deliver justice.'" An FBI spokesperson says the agency is reviewing whether the site breaks any federal laws.

Reports on the site prompted outcry from several civil rights leaders who have focused national attention on the Jena 6 case, in which six African American teenagers are being charged with aggravated battery for beating up a white student. That incident ended a series of racially-charged confrontations that started after white students hung nooses from a tree near the school.

The Rev. Jesse Jackson is now calling on President Bush's nominee for attorney general, Michael Mukasey, to dispatch federal marshals to help ensure the safety of the families. "These people need more than an investigation," he said. "They need protection." Gov. Blanco also has been quick to respond. She issued the following statement on Saturday:

Harassing families involved in the legal issues in Jena can not and will not be tolerated. Public attacks on private citizens done out of ignorance and hatred is appalling, and anyone who stoops to such unspeakable persecution will be investigated and subject to the full penalty of law. I have asked law enforcement agencies to investigate this matter, and as Governor I will do everything in my power to put a stop to these cowardly threats to Louisiana citizens.

by: Nathan Stubbs 10:03 AM

New life for south Lafayette's Southpark hospital

A Houston-based company's purchase of south Lafayette Parish's Southpark Community Hospital will allow the troubled facility to emerge from Chapter 11 reorganization. Last week the 2-year-old facility was purchased by an affiliate of Southwest Health Group in Houston, a company led by Louisiana native and UL Lafayette grad Irv Gregory.

Attorney Louis M. Phillips of Gordon, Arata in Baton Rouge, who represented Southpark Community Hospital LLC in the bankruptcy, expects the case to be closed by the end of October. "We have a few technical matters to clear up," he says. In effect, however, the deal has already pulled the company out of bankruptcy, according to Phillips.

Phillips says the purchasing entity is Southpark Acquisition, which assumed the hospital's more than $4 million in debt, paid about $100,000 for the operations and assets (excluding the real estate) and signed a long-term lease with a reorganized Southpark group that includes local owners. A spokesman for Gregory's company says some local investors who founded Southpark in 2005 are part of Southpark Acquisition, but he was unable to determine the names of those investors before press time.

The hospital was originally backed by 41 investors, including 37 area doctors.

In his 30 years in health care, Gregory has developed and managed 13 medical facilities in the state, including his most recent, Southern Surgical Hospital of Slidell.

Southpark is a 24-bed acute care facility located at 314 Youngsville Highway. It specializes in general surgical procedures with emphasis on bariatric and spine procedures.

by: Leslie Turk 9:48 AM

Longtime DNR official on the way out

Attention lawmakers and lobbyists: If you're working a project through Randy Hanchey over at the Department of Natural Resources, you better find a new workhorse to carry your water. The longtime deputy secretary has served his last official day and will exhaust his leave by the end of December. Hanchey came to DNR from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and brought along that trademark pit-bull attitude with him. He developed a name for himself by taking on all comers and speaking bluntly, even to the press.

Hanchey's exit, however, doesn't mean DNR is losing its edge. One of his final responsibilities has been to help the department draft its legislative agenda for the 2008 session – and it could be a doozy. Since Katrina made landfall, it's been an accepted fact that land (no one knows how much, still) will need to be seized by the state to carry forth with recovery. Monique Edwards, DNR's executive counsel, says land rights will be on tap for the new Legislature, but she provided no further details. "We'll keep pushing the envelope," she says. – Jeremy Alford

by: admin 8:20 AM

Friday, September 21, 2007

Another noose incident near Jena

The national spotlight was on the small town of Jena yesterday, where thousands of demonstrators rallied in support of six African-American teens charged with aggravated battery for beating up a white student after a series of racially-charged confrontations that started after white students hung nooses from a tree near the school. While the rally was a peaceful affair, and many locals went on national TV defending their small town and stating that the Jena 6 case was being blown out of proportion, an incident not far away in Alexandria is further inflaming racial tensions. CNN reports that police arrested two teenagers driving a red truck with nooses tied to the back who drove by a group of Jena 6 demonstrators in Alexandria. Alexandria city officials say the two teens were from the Jena area. According to CNN:

Police say the 18-year-old driver of the truck was charged with driving while intoxicated and inciting to riot and also may be charged with contributing to the delinquency of a minor -- the 16-year-old passenger. As police were questioning the driver, he said he had an unloaded rifle in the back, which police found. They also found a set of brass knuckles in the cup holder on the dashboard, according to the police report.

The passenger told police he and his family are in the Ku Klux Klan, the police report said. He also said he had tied the nooses and that the brass knuckles belonged to him, the report said. At least one of the nooses was made out of an extension cord, according to the police report.

by: Nathan Stubbs 11:28 AM

Rita redux

Monday will mark two years since Hurricane Rita swept into southwest Louisiana as a Category 3 storm. Don't expect Brad Pitt to show up in Cameron Parish, though, or CNN to show hours of footage from Mouton Cove, as Katrina has overshadowed Rita. Still, state officials will be touting quasi-positive recovery numbers for Rita, which spawned roughly $10 billion in damages and is considered to be at least the third worst disaster in U.S. history.

Since that fateful day, the Road Home program has disbursed more than $240 million to 5,398 homeowners in parishes affected by Hurricane Rita. More than 11,500 housing units were damaged or destroyed in Rita's wake. The Road Home's small-rental program has disbursed $5.9 million to rebuild rental housing. As for construction dollars, the state has directed $312 million in federal money to Cameron, Calcasieu and Vermilion, the three hardest-hit parishes. Still, there's money left on the table. "More than $118 million remains to be invested," says Tom Henning, chair of LRA's Environmental Task Force.

If that much cash has taken two years to make it down the pipe to those in need, imagine the challenges in addressing the $592 million worth of damage to the region's fisheries and agriculture. The LRA is just getting around to drawing up guidelines for the Fisheries Infrastructure and Assistance Program. Public meetings are scheduled for later this month.

In a press release commemorating the storm and its challenges, Republican U.S. Rep. Charles Boustany notes, "Many of these agencies, such as FEMA, were at first ill-equipped for the effort, but hard work and determination have led to accomplishments," he says.

Let's just hope there's more to cheer in 2008. -Jeremy Alford

by: admin 10:03 AM

Young leadership group the705 plans Sept. 25 launch

A group of 18 to 40 year olds calling itself the705 is holding a press conference Tuesday, Sept. 25, at 2 p.m. on the second floor of City Hall to announce its formation. The group's mission is to motivate young people to become civic leaders by playing a key role in issues affecting the parish.

Led by local go-getters including Kaysha Alleman of Faith House, Ben Berthelot of Lafayette Consolidated Government and attorney Blake David, the group says it will engage in interactive meetings, forums and discussions; work on community projects that have a real impact on people's lives; and host hip social events.

"I know what kind of energy young professionals bring to an idea or an issue," says Alleman, "Most of the people I know my age have a willingness to give back to the community, but they often don't know how. In fact, people of this generation have benefited so much from so many programs, we should all have a hunger to give back."

The705's goals are similar to those of Lafayette Linked, a group of young professionals formed in November 2006 to promote civic activity and charitable giving. Lafayette Linked has already held its first social event and fund-raiser, which resulted in a $2,000 donation to the Boys and Girls Clubs of Acadiana. The group is preparing its paperwork to officially become a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, says Cindy Gunawan, a Lafayette Linked member. Gunawan works as a financial adviser for Northwestern Mutual Network and has already met with Berthelot to discuss ways the two groups can network and complement each other.

Taking its name from the first three digits of Louisiana's ZIP code, the705 will begin accepting members Oct. 17, and will hold its first meeting Nov. 1. For more information on the organization, call Jeremy Broussard at 257-1929 or Stephanie Mire at 706-1230.

For info on Lafayette Linked, call Gunawan at 254-8245 or e-mail [email protected].
(Judy Johnson contributed to this story.)

by: Leslie Turk 9:57 AM

BeauSoleil scorches Austin

Since its 2002 debut, The Austin City Limits Festival in Austin, Texas, has rapidly become one of America's pre-eminent music festivals, booking a dizzying lineup of roots-music masters and heavyweight headliners. Last weekend's 2007 edition included the likes of Björk, Bob Dylan, Artic Monkeys, Arcade Fire, Spoon and Wilco, and BeauSoleil did Acadiana proud with its Saturday set. Frontman and fiddler Michael Doucet and his cohorts earned a glowing review from esteemed Austin alt-weekly The Austin Chronicle: "Their extraordinary musicianship combined with an ability to spice their traditional sound with other forms of music make for an innovative and rare combination," writes The Chronicle. "The fact that they accomplish it with propulsive energy that forces the audience to move, and sing mostly in French, makes it even more remarkable." The band delivered its set in scorching temperatures, prompting frontman Michael Doucet to utter a line that would make Poo-Poo Broussard proud: "It's not just hot – it's hot hot."

by: Scott Jordan 9:39 AM

Impressive win for Lafayette filmmakers

Lafayette film makers Connie Castille and Allison Bohl have won the prestigious Louisiana Filmmaker's Award for their documentary I Always Do My Collars First: A Film About Ironing. The film will be screened on Oct. 11 and 12 at the New Orleans Film Festival which will show 117 movies over the course of the five-day festival, Oct. 11-18. Shot in Breaux Bridge, Castille and Bohl followed four women — Rookie LeBlanc, Gay Castille, Aunt Be Guidry and Georgie Blanchard — as they talk about why they iron. The film is the first release from UL Lafayette's new Cinematic Arts Workshop. The documentary also will be screened soon at the Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival (Hot Springs, Ark.), the Port Townsend Film Festival (Port Townsend, Wash.) and the Sidewalk Moving Picture Festival (Birmingham, Ala.).

by: Mary Tutwiler 8:41 AM

Thursday, September 20, 2007

New report: Feds shortchanging Louisiana recovery

For two years now, Louisiana officials have been frustrated that Mississippi has gotten a proportionally larger amount of federal hurricane recovery funds than Louisiana, despite the fact that our state sustained substantially more housing damage in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. Critics of the funding disparity have noted Republican Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour's extensive ties to the George Bush administration and former White House adviser Karl Rove's post-Katrina strategy to shift blame for the incompetent federal response to Democratic Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco and Democratic New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin. Barbour's deflected questions over the funding inequities, saying, "I don't want to make comparisons, all I'll say is we want people to know that in Mississippi, things work." Now a new independent joint report by GulfGov Reports, a collaboration between and Albany, N.Y.'s Nelson A. Rockefeller Institute of Government and Baton Rouge's Public Affairs Research Council of Louisiana, offers the clearest picture yet of the federal government not giving Louisiana its fair share of recovery funding. The independent, non-partisan report, a year in the making and funded by a $900,000 grant from the Ford Foundation, can be viewed here. Its five major findings:

· The amount of federal aid provided to Mississippi and Louisiana is not proportional to the amount of damage each state suffered.

· The sluggishness of aid distribution continues to be the primary concern of state and local officials in both states.

· The reimbursement nature of the FEMA PA program generally means that local governments must pay for work out of their own pockets first. For those local governments left with little to no tax base or revenue sources, that means much of the recovery process is stalled because they do not have the money to start the federal aid flow. While both states now offer mechanisms for local officials to obtain advance payments to get work started, the effort required further slows the recovery process.

· The federal disaster aid programs now in place were never designed to handle the scale of catastrophic damage left behind by hurricanes Katrina and Rita. While the federal government has tried to adapt existing programs to get the money flowing to the affected areas, it is evident from the continuing slow pace of the recovery more than two years after the storms that other avenues need to be explored.

· The two phases of the aftermath of a disaster — response and recovery — involve different logistics and politics. Response and recovery needs differ throughout the Gulf region, and federal aid programs and policies need to be cognizant of these differences.

Barbour, meanwhile, is under fresh scrutiny after respected business-news outlet Bloomberg has uncovered questionable Mississippi hurricane recovery contracts awarded to Barbour family members. And even Mississippi press outlets, which have consistently praised Barbour's efforts on behalf of their state, aren't buying Barbour's dismissal of the revelations as "election-year politics" from the "liberal New York media."

by: Scott Jordan 10:51 AM

Embattled airport commission has two slots to fill

The impending expiration of Paul Colomb's seat on the Lafayette Airport Commission leaves the embattled group with two slots to fill. Colomb's tenure expires Oct. 31, and he does not plan to reapply for the position, according to commission Chair Carroll Robichaux. Colomb's seat is designated for an African-American, who will be appointed by the Lafayette City-Parish Council.

Another opening was created earlier this month by commissioner Don Bacque, who made only two meetings before resigning due to a potential conflict of interest. Bacque handles insurance for Acadian Ambulance, an airport tenant. "Our lawyer researched it, and he told [Bacque] it was a conflict of interest, a possible ethics violation, so he resigned," Robichaux says. Bacque was appointed by City-Parish President Joey Durel after State Farm agent Don Higginbotham resigned saying the past year of controversy had begun to affect his business. The commission and airport Aviation Director Greg Roberts have been under intense scrutiny over their spending practices.

Volunteer commissioners serve four-year terms. They must live in the parish and be registered voters. Resumes should be forwarded to Council Clerk Norma Dugas, P.O. Box 4017-C, Lafayette, La., 70502, no later than noon on Monday, Oct. 15. The appointment is scheduled to be made Oct. 16.

The airport commission convenes next Wednesday, Sept. 26, at 5:30 p.m. in a special meeting to debate whether to conduct a national search for the aviation director's post currently held by Roberts. Another main purpose of the meeting is to discuss the 2008 budget, which will be adopted on Thursday, Oct. 4, Robichaux says.

by: Leslie Turk 10:36 AM

Routes to Roots cooking workshop this weekend

Noted local chefs Marcelle Bienvenu and Pat Mould will be demonstrating their cooking chops this Saturday at Vermilionville. Bienvenu, author of Who's Your Mama, Are You Catholic, and Can You Make A Roux? will be stirring up two homegrown sweets: Les Oreilles du Cochon and Gateau Sirop. Despite its name, Les Oreilles du Cochon (pigs ears) have nothing to do with pork. They are a Cajun version of beignets--fried dough, cut into big triangles that crinkle as they crisp, then sprinkled with powdered sugar. Gateau Sirop (syrup cake) is a rich molassasy treat, the dark sugar blending with spices and pecans in homage to two of Louisiana's fall crops. Mould has taken traditional fall ingredients like local pears, pecans and cane syrup and translated them into a contemporary salad he will compose, his trademark Pear Gorgonzola Sweet and Spicy Pecan Salad with Cane Syrup Herb Vinaigrette. He follows with a dish that put Charley G's on the map when Mould, as chef, opened Goodson's restaurant in 1985 with a creamy version of a local standard, Blue Point Crab Cakes. The demonstration and tasting is a kick-off of Louisiana Folk Roots' new series of workshops dubbed Routes to Roots. To sign up for the workshop, $25, call 234-8360 or email [email protected].

by: Mary Tutwiler 10:05 AM

Democrats host weekly roundtable at Dwyer's

Frank Flynn and Lester Gauthier of the Lafayette Parish Democratic Party have started a weekly roundtable to informally discuss this year's election issues with party candidates and voters. The Democratic Roundtable takes place each Thursday morning at 7:15 A.M. at Dwyer's Café in downtown Lafayette. Flynn and Gauthier are encouraging all Democratic candidates, voters, supporters and activists to attend. For more information, call Lester Gauthier at 264-1783 or Frank Flynn at 291-1250.

by: Nathan Stubbs 9:31 AM

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Blueprint Louisiana's next move

The story usually goes like this: Architect designs dream home for client, who can finally visualize a lifelong ambition becoming a reality. Then client hears from the local office of Planning, Zoning and Codes, which has a few questions about the blueprints. Client's neighbors start grumbling that some of the dream house features are in violation of neighborhood building restrictions. As client tries to simultaneously placate neighbors and navigate the layers of bureaucracy involved with getting permits, charges of favoritism and nepotism start swirling around client and the project. Meanwhile, contractors become gunshy about getting involved with the construction — but not after telling the client that the project is going to be much more costly and time-consuming than initially estimated.One house, one client, one neighborhood, one town. Now imagine that you're a new organization trying to institute massive government and legislative reforms for an entire state, and you get a sense of the obstacles and challenges facing Blueprint Louisiana.

With statewide elections only 31 days away, Independent Weekly editor Scott Jordan's Leadoff column in this week's issue looks at Blueprint's strategy as the organization prepares for its second significant media advertising campaign. Read the column here.

by: admin 10:57 AM

State Farm mum on closure of Wally Romero's office

Longtime State Farm agent Wally Romero's South College Road office was abruptly shut down Friday morning by the company, but State Farm will not say why.

Annette Hayes, a State Farm field executive who is handling media and customer calls since the closure, would not comment. "We are not making a public comment," she says, maintaining the Bloomington, Ill.-based company has made a corporate decision not to discuss the matter.

Romero's State Farm phone number was answered this morning by Hayes; it apparently is rolling over to her 2014 W. Pinhook Road office.

State Farm has about 22 insurance agents in town, including Romero's sister, Terry Romero Wofford, but the affable Romero was perhaps the city's best-known agent who undoubtedly amassed a large book of insurance business in the two decades he operated in Lafayette (his father, Walter, was the first State Farm agent in south Louisiana). He's also an antiques dealer, operating that business out of the same State Farm building on South College Road.

by: Leslie Turk 10:53 AM

"Two tenors" kick off Louisiana Crossroads tonight at ACA

Louisiana Crossroads is hosting a special event tonight at the Acadiana Arts Center to kick off its eighth season. Tenor saxophonists Jon Smith and Dickie Landry will be on hand to perform songs from Smith's upcoming album as well as other collaborations, including a finale of the duo's chord-based six- and 24-saxophone approach. Crossroads will also be unveiling its fall lineup as well as featuring two new art works created specially for the concert series: a new sculpture from chainsaw artist Kelly Guidry, as well as a new hand-painted Composite Acoustics guitar crafted by Francix X. Pavy, which will be available for purchase in a limited edition series. The event starts at 7 p.m. in ACA's main gallery. Tickets are $8-$12 and available online at or by calling (337) 233 –7060.

by: Nathan Stubbs 10:43 AM

Countdown to Jena rally

In a press conference yesterday, Jena Mayor Murphy McMillin said that order will be maintained during Thursday's rally in support of the Jena Six. The small town of 3,500 is making provisions for a large influx of protesters, with estimates as high as 50,000 people in attendance.

In Atlanta yesterday, college students prepared to travel to Jena, and on Monday, the Atlanta City Council passed a resolution in support of the Jena Six. In Houston, 300 students from Texas Southern University and community activists, had signed up to ride five buses headed to Jena. Entertainers are also scheduled to perform at the rally, including Lafayette's Cupid. Nationally syndicated radio host Michael Baisden will host a rally today in Alexandria, as well as another event tonight at Alexandria Riverfront Center to raise defense funds for the Jena Six. At both events, Baisden will broadcast his show live.

In an editorial yesterday, The Town Talk wrote of the impending protest within the context of a local funeral. "Everything is all right in Jena, at least it was for a few quiet moments over the weekend when a longtime local homemaker was laid to rest." The editorial concludes:

Justice will be done not because someone rode into town and demanded it, but because there are enough good people in this community to make sure it happens.

The funeral for a friend to many proved that the spirit is alive and well.

The paper has also set up a web page archiving all of its coverage of the Jena Six, including a list of frequently asked questions and answers about the case.

The New York Times covered the story again today, and the Associated Press reports that David Bowie has donated $10,000 to the Jena Six's legal defense fund. "There is clearly a separate and unequal judicial process going on in the town of Jena," Bowie said. "A donation to the Jena 6 Legal Defense Fund is my small gesture indicating my belief that a wrongful charge and sentence should be prevented."

by: R. Reese Fuller 10:29 AM

Voter registration ends today

Today is the last day to register to vote in local and statewide elections on Oct. 20. In order to register, take documents listing name, date of birth and current address to the Registrar of Voters office. While a driver's license has all of this information, it's not required to register. "A bill, a letter or receipt, any kind of identification is acceptable," says Maxine Navarre, Chief Deputy Registrar of Voters for Lafayette Parish. "You can bring in three individual documents if that's what you have." Residents who are foreign born must bring in naturalization papers. While you must be 18 years old to vote, 17-year-olds may register and vote if they turn 18 before the election. The office is also accepting requests for absentee voting now and will mail out ballots when they arrive. The Registrar of Voters office is located at 1010 Lafayette Street in the Lafayette Parish Government Building, on the third floor, Room 313. The office closes at 4:30 today. For more informatin call 291-7140.

by: Mary Tutwiler 10:26 AM

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Katrina Through the Eyes of Children at NOMA

The word renaissance means rebirth, but for children living in Renaissance Village, the largest FEMA trailer site in the country, the nightmares caused by Hurricane Katrina haven't gone away. That's what art therapists are discovering in the ongoing work they are doing with hundreds of children who are living in the isolated trailer park in Baker, just north of Baton Rouge. Two years after the storm, artwork by children is still filled with images of buildings and people under water, snakes, alligators, helicopters and scribbled centrifuges that depict the energy of the winds. Perhaps the most striking realization, art therapist Karla Leopold told the New York Times, is that the typical square drawing of a house had morphed into a triangle.

At first we thought it was a fluke, but we saw it repeatedly in children of all ages. Then we realized the internal schema of these children had changed. They weren't drawing the house as a place of safety, they were drawing the roof.

Fifty of the childrens's drawings as well as three-dimensional works are on display at the New Orleans Museum of Art in a show called Katrina Through the Eyes of Children: Art by Displaced Children at Renaissance Village. Dr. Irwin Redlener, the co-founder of the Children's Health Fund, which has provided mobile mental health clinics to some families along the Gulf Coast told the NYT the trauma is compounded by the continuing limbo of life in the trailer parks.

The real prescription for these families is to get them back into a normal community. We're treading water doing these things, when I'd like to take my prescription pad and write, ‘Home.'

The NOMA show is designed to call attention to the ongoing evacuee status of people whose lives are still on hold and the museum has partnered with the Community Initiatives Foundation. The foundation's mission is to address mental health and trauma issues of children affected by the hurricanes of 2005. The show will be up through Oct. 7.

by: Mary Tutwiler 10:43 AM

Davidson's Girard Park rezoning request denied

In a unanimous decision last night, the Lafayette Zoning Commission denied local attorney Jimmy Davidson's request to rezone his residential Girard Park property for commercial use. It was Davidson's second attempt to get the property rezoned; he previously tried in the late '90s but withdrew that request in the face of strong opposition. This time around, Davidson was seeking to rezone more than half of the 4.1 acres to allow for office space, apartments or businesses. The property in question was also part of the failed land swap deal involving the UL Lafayette horse farm.

"I'm a proponent of infill and mixed use, but there are limits to what things you're going to mix together," says Commissioner Fred Prejean, one of three commissioners voting against the rezoning. "The park is meant for people to gather, and if you're going to build something that's obviously going to create a traffic situation, it's not a good mix. I don't think the request was compatible with what's there."

The issue isn't dead yet; the commission's vote is only a recommendation to the City-Parish Council, which is slated for a hearing on the rezoning request on Oct. 23.

by: Scott Jordan 10:35 AM

Jena braces for Thursday's rally

Attorneys for Mychal Bell are seeking to have him released from jail in light of his recent overturned conviction, filing a motion yesterday to set his bail. However, LaSalle Parish District Attorney Reed Walters has stated that he plans to take the appeal to the state supreme court.

Thousands are expected to travel to Jena
on Thursday to rally at the LaSalle Parish Courthouse in support of the Jena Six. Protesters from across the nation, including Lafayette and Baton Rouge, are traveling to the small central Louisiana town by the busloads. In an editorial today published in the Chicago Sun-Times, Rev. Jesse Jackson writes: "As we march for the Jena Six, we will protest a racially biased U.S. criminal justice system that is creating explosive conditions across this country."

Some Jena business owners will close their operations on Thursday, while other residents have expressed concern over the number of people expected to rally, with estimates of 5,000 to 40,000 people in attendance. Gov. Kathleen Blanco issued a statement yesterday which reads in part, "State Police will have a sizeable presence in Jena to ensure a peaceful and therefore meaningful event. I support citizens exercising their right to free speech, and I encourage all involved in Thursday's march to respect one another and that right."

Today, columnist DeWayne Hickman writes in an USA Today editorial:

... the Jena Six case has given rise to a new movement of black activism. It is the talk of black barbershops and beauty parlors; it's being raised in black churches and, most important, has captured the attention of young blacks, many of them college students.

That's a good thing.

Back in 1903, W.E.B. DuBois said the black race would be saved by "its exceptional men." His gender slight notwithstanding, I agree. The Jena Six case has produced the kind of awakening among young blacks that gave birth to the 1960s freedom rides and sit-in demonstrations. If it can move this generation of young blacks to undertake similar acts of courage, America will be a better place for them and their children.

For another overview of the Jena Six case, read "The March on Jena" from today's web edition of The Nation.

by: R. Reese Fuller 10:16 AM

Web site launched for Humberto victims

Sonny and Megan Marmet and their 7-year-old daughter Katie were at home asleep when Hurricane Humberto rolled into the small town of Mulvey in Vermilion Parish last week. They were jarred awake early in the morning when a tornado bore down on their home, ripping the roof off and eventually knocking it off its pillars. The family managed to escape with cuts and bruises but lost most of their possessions. Their home had been under construction for over a year, and the Marmets still had no home insurance. As they try to pick up the pieces and rebuild, Megan's sister Sara Hebert has started a Web site,, to help support their efforts. Visit the site to make a donation, read articles on their story, and to leave comments with the family.

by: Nathan Stubbs 9:53 AM

Monday, September 17, 2007

The world's watching Jena

On Friday, the conviction against Mychal Bell, the first of the Jena Six to be tried and convicted, was overturned. LaSalle Parish District Attorney Reed Walters has stated that he will ask the Louisiana State Supreme Court to review the decision.

A rally in support of the Jena Six, spearheaded by Revs. Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson, had been set for Thursday, the day Bell was scheduled to be sentenced. Black American Web reports that despite the recent development the rally is still scheduled to take place on Thursday in Jena.

With thousands of protesters from across the nation expected to rally in the small town of 3,500, The Town Talk reports that the Louisiana State Police is coordinating efforts with law enforcement agencies across the state, including U.S. Marshals, to help with "traffic and people control." The Alexandria newspaper also reports that hotels in the area are "booked solid."

The story of the Jena Six - which was no more than a blip on the national and international radar a few months ago - is now being scrutinized by the world. Just since Friday, when Bell's conviction was overturned, there have been dozens of articles written about the Jena Six. Here's just a handful of them: from The Washington Post, The New York Times, the Sydney Morning Herald, CNN, The Chicago Tribune, Detroit Free Press, ABC's Good Morning America, The Louisiana Weekly, USA Today, Associated Press, and The Fayetteville Observer.

by: R. Reese Fuller 10:46 AM

K-Ville premieres tonight

Post-Katrina cop drama K-Ville, set in contemporary New Orleans, airs tonight on Fox 15. The TV series will bring a stark visual reminder of the first days of chaos following the hurricane as it builds the relationship of newly paired police officers Marlin Boulet (Anthony Anderson) and Trevor Cobb (Cole Hauser). Boulet is a veteran of NOPD; Cobb, who saw action in Afghanistan, becomes his partner in the aftermath of the storm. There is plenty of violence and the crime-wracked city is as tortured and beautiful as only New Orleans can be. Boulet struggles with the emotional ruins of his personal relationships and the restoration of his house, Cobb's history remains mysterious until the end of the pilot, and the central plot about rebuilding the 9th Ward unfolds like Chinatown, although it is solved in 15 minutes. Will the Crescent City setting keep the national focus on New Orleans? That may be the real question. Tune in at 8 p.m. on Fox Channel 15 for the pilot program.

by: Mary Tutwiler 10:32 AM

Girard Park residents fighting Davidson rezoning request

A large number of property owners in the Girard Park area — including many prominent names — have signed a petition against neighbor Jimmy Davidson's attempts to rezone a portion of his property for commercial use. The local attorney's request to rezone his single-family acreage at Girard Park and Hospital drives puts the controversial tract back in the spotlight. His 4.1 acres were part of the failed land swap deal involving UL Lafayette's horse farm property.

The zoning commission meeting is today at 5 p.m. at the Clifton Chenier Auditorium on West Willow Avenue. Led by Douglas English, a local group calling itself the Girard Park Neighborhood Association has formed in recent weeks to fight what it calls "commercial intrusion" into the popular residential area. The group has signatures from property owners (representing 54 properties), including Edmund and Doris Reggie, Buzz and Jane Joy, Mickey and Melinda Mangham, Warren Butcher, Mark Van Eaton, Jim McGehee, Mrs. Denbo Montgomery, Robbie Mahtook and Jim Diaz.

Davidson hopes to rezone 2.67 acres of the back portion of the property for commercial use, potentially office space, according to Hammy Davis of Coldwell Banker Pelican Real Estate. Davis says he was contacted by Davidson to assist on development of the property but has not been officially hired. Davis believes the back portion of the property's highest and best use is as offices that would be no more than two stories high. The rezoning request is for B-1-L, a limited business classification that would allow a variety of developments ranging from apartments to neighborhood service oriented businesses and office space. Davis says the two existing homes on the property would likely be converted to office space but he unsure what would happen to the pool and tennis court. Should he become the developer, Davis says he will seek input from local residents. "I will not duck the neighbors," he says.

Davidson, however, has yet to submit a plan to the zoning commission spelling out what he wants to do with his property. He is also attempting to rezone a little more than an acre of property along Girard Park Drive to R-4, which would allow for condominiums, townhomes and patio homes (both attached and detached).

Davidson requested a rezoning of the property for commercial use in the late 1990s but withdrew the request amid overwhelming opposition. Nothing has happened since that time to change residents' position. English says the park's covenant is very clear: single family residential only. "That is our line in the sand," he says, "and we're not going to back down from that."

Adds resident Kolleen Verlander: "The city requires a plan [for rezoning]. We, as property owners, have not seen a plan. We are not unreasonable, but we cannot go along with something we have not seen."

by: Leslie Turk 10:24 AM

NRSC steps up attacks on Landrieu

The ops over at the National Republican Senatorial Committee are sitting back and watching the Louisiana fall elections unfold, in anticipation of the 2008 U.S. Senate races. To say the NRSC has its crosshairs trained on Sen. Mary Landrieu, a Crescent City Democrat, would be an understatement. The group has issued multiple press releases targeting Landrieu, and recently posted a hard-hitting attack ad on YouTube and other Web sites on Landrieu's Social Security/immigration votes. Not surprisingly, increased mudslinging could ramp up sooner rather than later. "We're just watching how all the state elections unfold and then we'll be moving on this," says NRSC communications director Rebecca Fisher. "It'll be before the end of the year for sure." Direct mail pieces have already been drafted, she adds, and television spots are planned. Fisher had no new information on the million-dollar question: Who will Landrieu's challenger(s) be? – Jeremy Alford

by: admin 10:09 AM

Blanco takes economic development pitch to Spain

Gov. Kathleen Blanco leaves for Spain today on a four-day trip focusing on recruiting investors to Louisiana. Blanco, who will be joined by Economic Development Secretary Michael Olivier, stated in a press release that she plans to meet with U.S. Ambassador Eduardo Aguirre, a LSU alum with ties to New Orleans, as well as a number of business executives and Spanish commerce and tourism officials. Blanco did not specify which Spanish companies she would be meeting with. "We recognize that Spain is a major player in business in the Americas," her release states. "And we are here exploring the opportunities that exist between Louisiana and Spain, especially given their heavy involvement in Latin America. We will call on companies already looking at Louisiana for possible investments, and are targeting others who may have an interest as well. Of course, in all of our travels, we continue to tell Louisiana's recovery story and encourage folks around the globe to visit and join in our progress."

Blanco, who made economic development a top priority in her campaign for governor, has made several similar economic development trips, including to London, Canada, Kuwait, Cuba, and a tour of east Asia. Recent trips have focused largely on detailing hurricane recovery efforts and outlining investment opportunities available through the Gulf Opportunity Zone Act passed by Congress in 2005. The Go Zone Act provides several tax incentives to help businesses rebuild throughout coastal Louisiana.

by: Nathan Stubbs 10:01 AM

Friday, September 14, 2007

Boustany, Alexander endorse LeBlanc

Congressman Charles Boustany and former District 43 state Rep. Ernie Alexander gave ringing endorsements to local architect Pat LeBlanc at a fundraiser last night at the City Club at River Ranch. LeBlanc is running to succeed Alexander in the state legislature. He will face off against Stoma's Furniture co-owner Page Cortez in the Oct. 20 election. LeBlanc's fundraiser, which had a host committee of approximately 70 people, brought a crowded house that included District Attorney Mike Harson and councilman Randy Menard. In his speech, LeBlanc pledged he wouldn't be outworked or outspent in his race. He only briefly alluded to the negative press he and his prison business, Premier Management, have received as part of an ongoing public corruption investigation in Texas. Leblanc said while his opponent was trying his best to use these stories against him, it amounted to "BBs being fired on a tank."

by: Nathan Stubbs 11:06 AM

Jena prepares for rally

Mychal Bell, the 17-year-old black Jena High School student and the first of the Jena Six to be convicted, is scheduled for sentencing on Thursday, Sept. 20. Schools in the south side of LaSalle Parish, where Jena is located will be closed that day.

Rev. Jesse Jackson has stated that more 40,000 people will rally behind Bell in the small central Louisiana. Nationally syndicated radio host Michael Baisden says on his web site that more than a million participants are expected to attend the rally. The site reads in part:

This is clearly a case of racism, but Michael Baisden reminds us the protest in Jena, LA, the US and around the world is not an attack on white people but against a system that has failed us all. It is not about black and white but about what is wrong and what is right!

by: R. Reese Fuller 10:26 AM

Two new shows open at UAM tonight

Marsden Hartley: American Modern, and A Century of African-American Art: The Paul R. Jones Collection will open with a reception at the Paul and Lulu Hillard University Art Museum this evening.

Marsden Hartley, (1877-1943) a Maine artist, was at the center of the avant-garde and early American Modernism of the early 20th century. Hartley's work reflects the tumultuous changes in society and the world as his artistic vision developed from late impressionism and the ideals of transcendentalism through abstraction and the effects of two world wars.

Paul R. Jones assembled one of the most comprehensive collections of twentieth century African-American art in the world. Works by 64 artists including Romare Bearden, Elizabeth Catlett, Jacob Lawrence, Henry Ossawa Tanner, James VanDerZee, Carrie Mae Weems and Hale Woodruff are all included in the exhibition. The collection spans genres from portraiture and representational to narrative and abstraction.

A Survey of Newcomb Pottery continues as well. The reception will be held from 6 to 8 p.m., free to the public, at the museum on the UL campus. Regular hours are Tuesday through Saturday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Call 482-1368 or 482-2278 for more information.
Image: "Western Flame" by Marsden Hartley

by: Mary Tutwiler 10:02 AM

The Advertiser on Vitter: silence

You'd have to be living under a rock this week not to know that former New Orleans prostitute Wendy Yow Ellis passed a lie detector test and told the details of her alleged affairs with U.S. Sen. David Vitter on Tuesday, challenging Vitter's carefully parsed denial of "those New Orleans stories."

But you wouldn't know about the latest turns in the Vitter saga if you only read The Daily Advertiser. Serious allegations that a Louisiana senator solicited prostitutes while in office apparently isn't news to The Advertiser, as the paper hasn't written one word about the Vitter affair in its print edition this week. Not a single word: no news brief, wire story, or editorial -- zip, nada, nothing.

Of all the statewide coverage that's appeared in outlets like The Advocate and The Times-Picayune, longtime T-P political columnist James Gill had the most blistering assessment:

If U.S. Sen. David Vitter had been discovered telling the truth about his lewd escapades, that would have been a shocker. He has always been so strident in demanding the highest ethical standards from other public officials that he was bound to be exposed as a faker eventually.

It appeared that the fuss over the "sin" to which Vitter confessed in dealings with the alleged "D.C. Madam" had pretty much died down. He apologized at a press conference in July, pooh-poohing newspaper stories that alleged he had similarly strayed in his home town. But, far from killing the story, Vitter's denials gave it fresh legs. He must have known he was taking a big risk and that Larry Flynt, having fingered him as a john in Washington, would still be on the prowl.

When Flynt flew Wendy Yow Ellis to California and had her hooked up to a polygraph machine, she was adjudged truthful in asserting that Vitter used to pay $300 an hour to jump her bones in the French Quarter when he was a member of the U.S. House of Representatives. … Flynt, declaring Ellis quite a looker for an ex-hooker of 34, now plans to have her pose for his Hustler magazine and tell all that anyone could wish to know on the subject of Vitter in the sack. As reading material this will probably rank alongside, say, the Water Resources Bill. Ellis has already said Vitter's tastes are conventional, so the pictures will have to carry it. If form is any guide, they will be pretty raunchy. …

There has been no word from Vitter since Ellis and Flynt called him a liar, so he is apparently not inclined to contest the point.

by: Scott Jordan 9:42 AM

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Paddy Keenan at the Blue Moon

Paddy Keenan takes the stage tonight at the Blue Moon Saloon. The legendary Irish piper - the son and grandson of Irish pipers - began playing at the age of nine and would later play with the ground-breaking traditional Irish band The Bothy Band. Catch Keenan on the Uilleann pipes tonight at 8 p.m. at the Blue Moon.

by: R. Reese Fuller 10:51 AM

Boustany stands behind LeBlanc amid Texas prison scandal

U.S. Rep. Charles Boustany is apparently standing behind embattled fellow Republican Pat LeBlanc, a candidate for the Louisiana House of Representatives. The congressman is scheduled to introduce LeBlanc at today's fund-raiser, scheduled for 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at the City Club at River Ranch.

LeBlanc, who is running for the District 43 seat being vacated next year by state Rep. Ernie Alexander, is involved in a Texas prison system scandal in Bexar County. LeBlanc and his brother Michael and their business, Premier Management, have been implicated in questionable dealings with Bexar County Sheriff Ralph Lopez and one of his close associates. In recent weeks, Lopez pleaded guilty to three misdemeanor charges, including accepting an illegal gift, as part of a plea deal with the district attorney. The charges stem from a trip he took to Costa Rica with the LeBlanc brothers at a time when Premier was being considered for a lucrative commissary contract for a Bexar County jail annex. The LeBlancs, who also contributed to a shell charity organization controlled by one of the sheriff's close associates, have maintained their innocence, but Bexar County District Attorney Susan Reed told the San Antonio Express-News that she has not yet determined the extent of Premier's involvement in the corruption case. That publication is also looking into the LeBlancs dealings with other Texas prisons.

Boustany joins a long-list of prominent names hosting the fund-raiser, including Alexander. Also listed as hosts are Lafayette City-Parish Councilman Randy Menard, Tax Assessor Conrad Comeaux, Ron Gomez and Carol Ross, attorney Bob Wright, oilman Paul Hilliard, Glenn and Dana Armentor, Opelousas Mayor Don Cravins and Mike and Marcia Francis. About 70 $500 contributors (many couples) appear on the host list. Others attending will pay $250 per couple.

LeBlanc faces Page Cortez in the Oct. 20 election.

by: Leslie Turk 10:44 AM

Coastal cleanup efforts murky for Saturday event

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is joining the 22nd annual International Coastal Cleanup this Saturday, Sept. 15, but specifics on Louisiana coastal cleanup efforts are hard to come by. While NOAA touted in a press release that employees from its offices in Hawaii and North Carolina would be pitching in for those states, a NOAA spokesman couldn't provide any information on Louisiana efforts and directed The Independent to the Ocean Conservancy. While the Ocean Conservancy has a volunteer registration page, no Louisiana coordinator is listed for Saturday's effort (two days away from the event, it says a coordinator is "pending"), and Coastal Conservancy did not return a call this morning for comment.

Two years after Katrina and Rita, marine debris remains a major problem in Louisiana. As The Times-Picayune noted in a recent editorial, lingering questions remain over whether FEMA or the Coast Guard should oversee coordinated cleanup efforts, while hurricane-ravaged cars, boats and trash still sit untouched in some coastal areas, bayous and marshes.

AFTERNOON UPDATE: The following site locations were submitted by JoAnn Burke of the
Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation, who can be reached at (504) 836-2238.

The Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation's 2007 Beach Sweep will be from 9 a.m.-noon on Saturday, September 15th, 2007. Other sites that will be covered:

New Orleans**, LA** along the lakefront and on city streets draining to the lake (hosted by LPBF and NWF)
Metairie**, LA** along the lakefront and on city streets draining to the lake (hosted by LPBF)
Slidell, LA on Robert Road ( hosted by a girl scout troop)
Lacombe, LA along Lake Road and in Big Branch NWR (hosted by Friends of La. Wildlife Refuges and US Fish and Wildlife)
Mandeville along the lakefront, city streets and Cane Bayou (hosted by Keep Mandeville Beautiful)
Madisonville at the Madisonville Boat Launch (hosted by LBPF)
Ponchatoula city streets (hosted by concerned citizens)
LaPlace, LA along highways into the city (hosted by Keep St. John Beautiful and the St. John Businessmen Assn.)**
Norco, LA** along the Bonnet Carre Spillway (hosted by Harry Hurst Middle School)

by: Scott Jordan 10:26 AM

LFT endorses Campbell and notes Jindal snub

The Louisiana Federation of Teachers endorsed Democratic gubernatorial candidate Foster Campbell yesterday, calling him "a leader who is willing to take on the well-heeled powers that be." Campbell has based his candidacy largely on a plan to swap the state's income and severance taxes with a new "processing fee" on oil and gas. Campbell, a former teacher and longtime state senator, has also advocated year-round schooling for struggling students and further raising teacher pay to the national average. In its press release, the LFT, one of the largest teacher unions in the state, also noted how it was snubbed by Republican front runner Bobby Jindal:

Each of the major candidates, with the notable exception of Republican Bobby Jindal, met at least twice with Federation leaders and submitted written answers to questions posed by the LFT. Congressman Jindal did not respond to invitations to meet with LFT leadership and he failed to respond to the Federation's candidate's questionnaire, and therefore removed himself from consideration for the Federation's endorsement.

The state's other major teacher's union, the Louisiana Association of Educators, has endorsed both Campbell and Democratic rival Walter Boasso. Jindal also declined to participate in the LAE's interview process.

by: Nathan Stubbs 10:23 AM

Megan Barra's silk compositions

Megan BarraVisual artist Megan Barra's show of stitched silk collages opened at New Iberia's Main Library last night. The collages combine the artist's award-winning design technique and color sense with a love of fabrics. Inspired by the work of her great-grandmother who sewed costumes for the New Orleans Opera, Barra's compositions are hand-sewn in vintage fabrics, Japanese papers and kimono silks, lingerie and bridal silks and other found materials that she imprints with original patterns, photographs, drawings and text.

Barra's work has appeared in such publications as The Art Directors Club of New York, Graphis Book Design, Graphis Poster, The Society of Illustrators Annual, Communication Arts and the American Association of Museum's Museum News. In 2001, her design for Sonny Landreth's CD Levee Town was nominated for a Grammy Award in the "Best Recording Package" category. The show will be at the library, 445 E. Main St. New Iberia, though Oct. 11. For more info call 364-7024.

by: Mary Tutwiler 10:22 AM

Friends of the Library book sale

Today kicks off the Friends of the Library Book Sale, a fundraiser for the Lafayette Parish Public Library. Today at the main branch of the library in downtown Lafayette, the sale runs until 8:30 p.m. and continues Friday and Saturday. Books are sold by the inch - a buck per inch for hardcovers and 50 cents an inch for paperbacks. You can also become a member of the Friends of the Library.

by: R. Reese Fuller 9:36 AM

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Local group says Million Air pulled bait-and-switch

Upset that the Lafayette Airport Commission isn't getting what it bargained for from the Cincinnati group it chose to construct a fixed base operation at the airport, some local residents (most with ties to current FBO Fournet Air Service, which loses its lease at the end of the year) have launched a Web site critical of the new facility's design. They're asking other local residents to sign a petition opposing the project.

On August 16th, 2007, Million Air of Cincinnati drastically shrunk the capital improvements they will be making at the Lafayette airport. This is Million Air's fourth, and most egregious, renege on the original proposal to spend $6 million at our airport. This is the same $6 million that was pivotal in awarding Million Air the sole Fixed Base Operator's lease … for the next 30 years.

In 2005 the airport commission chose to enter into exclusive negotiations with Million Air, rather than a local group in large part because Million Air said it would build a $6 million FBO.

At this point, it's unclear just how much the company will be investing in the new FBO — the permit with local government has it valued at only $1.58 million, but additional improvements will be made. And clearly Million Air's plans for what the facility will look like have changed. Different renderings have been circulating, and it seems the airport is getting a single story building rather than the significantly more attractive rendering that showed a two-story atrium. FBOs are used by the general aviation population, offering hangars, conference rooms, fuel and training and maintenance facilities.

Citing potential drainage problems, Million Air said it had to drop the roof line. "The only thing is I think they had to drop the roof height 6 feet, because it's closer to the (former Lafayette Aero) hangar," says Airport Commission Chairman Carroll Robichaux, who voted against negotiating with Million Air on the contract. "This was an engineering problem." Robichaux says it's his understanding the FBO's roof line would have conflicted with the hangar next to it.

Marilynn Adams, whose brother is Richard Fournet of Fournet Air Service, says the image on her group's Web site, which she notes is Million Air's final plan, is the one presented at the Aug. 2 commission meeting. It's dated June 4, 2007, she says, and is from Bascon Inc. of Cincinnati, the architectural, engineering and development firm hired by Million Air. "We did not alter the scale," she says.

This morning, after reviewing the local group's "bait and switch" Web site, Robichaux, too, was confused. "That's not the drawing we had at the groundbreaking," he says. A different version of what the FBO will look like, the one presented at the Aug. 16 groundbreaking, is the one on Million Air's Web site. The chairman says he'll get more details later today when he meets with Million Air.

by: Leslie Turk 11:10 AM

Blueprint begins listing its candidates

Blueprint Louisiana has released the names of candidates pledging support to the organization's five-point plan for state reform. As of Sept. 11, Blueprint's agenda has been endorsed by 115 candidates for the state House of Representatives, 52 candidates for the state senate, and 9 candidates for statewide office. In the Lafayette area, 23 candidates in 13 different state legislative office races have signed on. Visit Blueprint's Web site to read the group's agenda and see the complete list of candidates supporting it. Notably absent from the list are several of the top-tier candidates for statewide office, including gubernatorial frontrunner Bobby Jindal –whose campaign many of Blueprint's members have already contributed to. Blueprint Vice Chairman Sean Reilly recently released a statement saying that the group remains optimistic "all the gubernatorial candidates will eventually signal their support for the agenda." Blueprint Chairman Matt Stuller stated earlier this summer that Blueprint planned to be aggressive and "very punitive" in promoting which candidates have and have not signed on to their platform.

According to Blueprint spokesman Brad Lambert, Blueprint will be updating the site daily as additional candidates sign on. Lambert says Blueprint plans to spend $400,000 on an advertising campaign promoting its list of candidate supporters, starting Sept. 24 and running through the Oct. 20 primary. Blueprint has already spent $415,000 in the first phase of its media campaign, which promoted its agenda. Founded in September of last year by Lafayette principals Matt Stuller, Clay Allen and Bill Fenstermaker, Blueprint is a statewide initiative of several of the state's top business leaders seeking to initiate sweeping reforms in state policy over the next two years.

by: Nathan Stubbs 10:54 AM

Charges reduced for Jena Six

For four members of the Jena Six,the attempted murder charges have been reduced to aggravated second-degree battery and conspiracy to commit the same. The first of the Jena Six to go on trial, 17-year-old Mychal Bell, was convicted by an all-white jury on charges of aggravated second-degree battery and conspiracy. He faces up to 15 years in prison and is scheduled for sentencing on Sept. 20.

In Lafayette, UL students recently collected money for the defense of the Jena Six and in Baton Rouge, supporters at Southern University are also raising money. Meanwhile, the Rev. Al Sharpton says he intends to ask for an investigation into the actions of LaSalle Parish District Attorney Reed Walters.

by: R. Reese Fuller 10:51 AM

Rita recovery planning brings $41 million to parishes

Nearly two years worth of planning has triggered the release of $41 million in recovery funding for parishes devastated by Hurricane Rita. Directed by the Louisiana Recovery Authority after the hurricanes of 2005, parishes conducted charrettes by Andres Duany and responded by outlining their individual needs through programs like Louisiana Speaks. The results are detailed plans, specific to each parish, which have been submitted to the LRA in order to receive federal funding. Everything from Jefferson Parish's drainage master plans to the construction of a riverwalk in Lake Charles to rebuilding the destroyed town of Cameron was approved. "At yesterday's board meeting, some of the board members questioned some of the projects. But I reminded them from the get go," says John T. Landry, Chair of the LRA's Infrastructure Task Force, "we were committed to allowing the parishes to come up with their own plans. We didn't want to get into Cameron's business or Lake Charles' business or Delcambre's business. They know what's going to make their economy recover and their towns prosper." Tuesday, Cameron, Calcasieu, Beauregard, St. Mary, Jefferson and Plaquemines parishes were awarded at total of $41 million out of the $200 million pot. New Orleans, St. Bernard and Vermilion have already received funding, and next month the LRA will consider plans for St. Tammany, Terrebonne and Lafourche parishes.

by: Mary Tutwiler 10:13 AM

2007 Women Who Mean Business

Whether working in the fields of business, health care, education, art, law, or banking, this year's recipients of The Independent Weekly's annual Women Who Mean Business honors exemplify perseverance and determination. Their tireless dedication to their careers, families, friends, and neighbors are shining examples of selflessness in Acadiana, and we are fortunate to have these talented women who always strive to make a positive impact on our community.

The 2007 Women Who Mean Business are Shirley Fisher (Trailblazer Award), Jeanette Alcon, Phyllis Dupuis, Dr. Paula Carson, Elise Bouchner and Christina Harper, Vergie Banks, Rebecca Doherty, Karen Hail and Dr. Angela Mayeux-Hebert. Meet the 2007 honorees in this week's cover story.

by: Scott Jordan 9:28 AM

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Vitter prostitution scandal returns to the headlines

As much as he'd like it to go away, it was inevitable that U.S. Sen. David Vitter's prostitution scandal would return to the headlines. And it has in a big way, with former New Orleans prostitute Wendy Yow Ellis slated to appear at a press conference today and provide specifics of her alleged trysts with Vitter in 1999. Hustler magazine publisher Larry Flynt, whose investigation prompted Vitter's admission of "a very serious sin" after the discovery of Vitter's phone number appearing multiple times on Washington, D.C. madam Deborah Jean Palfrey's phone list, apparently didn't buy Vitter's denial of his additional alleged involvement with New Orleans prostitutes. If anything, Vitter's refusal to answer specific questions and his vague and carefully parsed "Those New Orleans stories aren't true" statement served as further motivation for Flynt's investigation.

Much has been made over the GOP's apparent double standard in its forgiving treatment of Vitter as opposed to toe-tapping Idaho U.S. Rep. Larry Craig, who was immediately shoved aside after the discovery of his guilty plea for allegedly soliciting anonymous gay sex in a Minneapolis airport bathroom. But the GOP has the luxury of a sitting Republican governor in Idaho, who immediately replaced Craig with another Republican – a scenario that the Louisiana GOP could never count on as long as Gov. Kathleen Blanco remains in office.

And once again, Vitter's foibles will be an unwelcome nuisance for U.S. Rep. Bobby Jindal, who undoubtedly doesn't want to answer a whole new round of questions about fellow Republican Vitter just as the gubernatorial campaign kicks into high gear. Vitter was one of Jindal's biggest supporters – and vice-versa – before the scandal broke, but Jindal has since distanced himself as far from Vitter as possible, even scrubbing every reference about Vitter off his campaign Web site.

Flynt and Ellis' joint press conference is scheduled for later today, and Flynt will reportedly challenge Vitter to take a polygraph test.

by: Scott Jordan 10:57 AM

Native plants workshop to be held Saturday

Saturday, September 15 is a busy day for nature fans in Acadiana. At Acadiana Nature Station director Bill Fontenot's nursery, Prairie Basse, near Carencro, Louisiana Folk Roots will be holding a workshop on traditional uses of native plants. Fontenot has many native plants on his property and will be talking about how Native Americans taught the uses of these plants for construction, food, medicine and decoration to Cajun and Creole settlers to the area. Some are obvious: le cypre (bald cypress), le chêne vert (live oak) and le latanier (palmetto) for construction. Mamou (eastern coral berry) is a well known remedy for coughs and fevers. Thé laurier (red bay) was also used as a tea to cure sinus and stomach problems, as well as a seasoning in food. Soco (muscadine grapes) were celebrated on the Fête de Soco, August 15. Sureau (elderberry) is used for jam and wine; the leaves, a less used part of the plant than the berries and flowers, is said to be a cure for puncture wounds. Another stunning native, right now covered with creamy purple berries, is chasse-pareil, (French mulberry). Fontenot says he was always sure it was used for something, but could never find out what, or how, until a woman with Native American heritage told him her mother soaked the berries overnight in water and drank the infusion the next morning as a refresher. "I tried it but I had such a bad hangover, I couldn't tell if I was refreshed, or just felt a little bit better," he says. More info is in Fontenot's book, Native Gardening in the South, available at the nursery. To attend the workshop, $8, call Folkroots coordinator Marsha Engelbrecht at 234-8360.

by: Mary Tutwiler 10:53 AM

Public hearing on UL prez search tomorrow at LITE

Headed by UL System President Sally Clausen, the committee searching for Dr. Ray Authement's replacement meets tomorrow, Sept. 12, at 5 p.m. at the LITE center in what will be its second public hearing in Lafayette. The first was June 14, with about 100 people in attendance. The entire hearing is available on YouTube.

Fourteen candidates have applied thus far, none of them local. The priority date for applications is Oct. 1, and more candidates are expected to apply for the job.

The hearings are an opportunity for faculty, staff, students, alumni and community members to voice their opinions about the kind of leader the university needs. A diverse group of community and university representatives addressed the committee in June.

Authement, the longest serving public university president in the country, announced his retirement in April. When he leaves the university next year, he will have served for 34 years.

by: Leslie Turk 10:44 AM

Charlie Buckels running for BESE

Charlie Buckels' name will be on the Oct. 20 ballot, but not as a candidate for District 31 state representative. Buckels, who up until qualifying indicated he would be making another bid for the District 31 seat, has signed up to run for the District 7 Board of Elementary and Secondary Education. Buckels, a Republican, will face off against incumbent BESE member Dale Bayard, a Democrat, who also serves as the board's secretary/treasurer. "We're in a situation of reform right now," Buckels says. "About three weeks ago, I started realizing that if we don't reform our education system, we haven't done much for reforming the state. It seemed to me that the BESE board is where I could actually contribute the most."

Buckels, a longtime official with both the parish and state Republican parties, insisted that politics played no part in the decision. In District 31, Buckels would have been challenging incumbent Don Trahan, a fellow Republican. (Independent candidate Nancy Landry is also running for District 31.) Trahan won the seat by edging out Buckels by 13 votes in a runoff election four years ago. "The politics of it was no issue at all," Buckels says, while acknowledging that he did have his sights set on District 31 for quite some time. "It kind of breaks my heart that I didn't qualify for 31," he says. "The day I went to qualify, it was still in my mind: where can I do the best job? I really think BESE is where I can offer the greatest help with the reform in the state. After I started looking at it, I had a peace about it."

by: Nathan Stubbs 10:20 AM

Monday, September 10, 2007

San Antonio paper investigates Leblanc prison business

The San Antonio Express-News has taken a closer look at Lafayette residents Pat and Michael LeBlanc, and some questionable dealings involving their two private prison businesses, LCS Prison Systems and Premier Management. Premier has been embroiled in an ongoing public corruption scandal in Texas. Last week, Bexar County Sheriff Ralph Lopez plead guilty to three misdemeanor charges, including accepting an illegal gift, as part of a plea deal with the district attorney. The charges stem from a trip Lopez took to Costa Rica with the LeBlanc brothers at a time when Premier was being considered for a lucrative commissary contract for a Bexar County jail annex. The LeBlancs, who also contributed to a shell charity organization controlled by one of the sheriff's close associates, have maintained their innocence. Bexar County District Attorney Susan Reed has said that she is focusing her investigation on local officials, but told the Express: "I'm not finished, so I'm not ready to make any definitive determination yet [about Premier]." The FBI also is reportedly involved in the investigation.

In an investigative story published yesterday titled, "Premier's Benefits didn't' stop in Bexar," The Express raises questions about other public contracts obtained by Premier, as well as LCS' growing presence in the state. The two companies operate in five south Texas counties, as well as Louisiana and Alabama. (LCS is the fourth-largest private prison system in the U.S.) The Express-News reports that sheriffs and their associates in two other Texas counties also received benefits from Premier after helping award jail contracts to the company. Ex-Kleberg County Sheriff Tony Gonzalez admits being paid for consulting work for the company, though he wouldn't disclose the amount. He awarded a jail commissary contract to Premier in 2004. In Nueces County, an associate to former Sheriff Larry Olivarez earned a commission from a sale of 56 acres to LCS after he helped Premier win a commissary contract in 2005. The Express-News also cites sources claiming that both former sheriffs took hunting and fishing trips with the Leblancs, including to Costa Rica. Michael and Pat LeBlanc turned down interview requests from The Express-News, claiming the paper libeled them in previous 2005 articles. (The Leblancs have a pending lawsuit against The Express-News over those stories.) Both previously told The Independent Weekly that they are cooperating with Bexar County investigators and want to see officials there prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. Following the Lopez's plea last week, Pat LeBlanc told The Advocate, "We haven't done anything wrong. We're caught up in something that's a lot bigger than us. I would never, ever risk my integrity over selling candy bars and potato chips."

Pat LeBlanc, a well-known Republican insider who has hosted fundraisers for Congressman Charles Boustany and presidential contender Rudy Giuliani, recently qualified to run for state representative in District 43. He has made ethics reform a major platform of his campaign. His candidacy has won the high-profile support of Congressman Boustany and former District 43 state Rep. Ernie Alexander, among others, who are hosting a fundraiser for him this week at the City Club at River Ranch.

by: Nathan Stubbs 10:47 AM

Sheldon Forest on the gubernatorial trail

Sheldon Forest, a 50-year-old independent water well driller from Maurice is the only gubernatorial candidate from Acadiana this election cycle. Forest says he has been thinking about running for a decade, and when qualifying opened last week, the time seemed right. "A lightbulb went off in my head," he says. Since Wednesday, Sept. 5, when he threw his name into the hat, he's been saving his money. "I'm not accepting any campaign contributions, I don't belong to any party, I'm running for the people of Louisiana," he says. "I represent the common man."

He says what solidified his resolve to run was the political attack adds running on TV. "Look how these guys are treating each other. That's how they are going to treat us," he says. "They need somebody like me in there, who's going to keep all the state employees in place so we don't have a year of turmoil while new people learn their jobs, and who will take care of the people. I don't owe political favors to anybody."

Forest plans to raise money for hurricane recovery by taxing water usage. "There are so many people on a water meter that a little small tax, you won't even feel it, it will be like a mosquito bite, will add up to billions in no time--forcing water to pay for the damage water caused. I'm an expert on water. It's a new tax base, nobody's ever thought of it." To help out the rice farmers of southwest Louisiana, he says he will institute a state program to promote ethanol made of rice. Ethics, a hot-button issue this year calls for special investigators to check out complaints, one by one. "People have been calling me. I've already got a list started," Forest says. Defending Louisiana's coastline from attack is another point on Forest's agenda. "I plan to put lookout towers and forts along the coast, like it used to be in the old days. Actually, it should be pretty fun to do this." Forest says his heritage and work ethic has given him a natural ability to lead. "Being governor will be easier than digging water wells, that's for sure."

by: Mary Tutwiler 10:28 AM

LGMC board deciding Thaw's future today

Lafayette General Medical Center's board of trustees, headed by chairman Bill Fenstermaker, is meeting at noon today to decide the fate of CEO Jamey Thaw. The INDsider reported last week that Thaw has been on personal leave since Aug. 29. His unexplained leave came in the midst of the not-for-profit community hospital's extensive $19 million renovation project that will expand its women's services.

Sources close to the board say Thaw is likely to be terminated for reasons not yet disclosed, and a search for his replacement will begin shortly thereafter. It is unclear if interim administrator Patrick Gandy, who was named COO in January, will be considered for the position. Thaw has held the top job since 1998.

The INDsider tried to reach Thaw, pictured, at his Lafayette home last week, but he did not return the phone call. Board chair Fenstermaker could not be reached for comment this morning. LGMC's board also includes Dr. Mike Alexander, Clay Allen, J. Wayne Andrepont, Ph.D., Ray Authement, Ph.D., Mercer Britain Busch, David T. Calhoun, Dr. Daniel J. Carroll, Irvin David, Bob Giles, Dr. Gary Guidry, Dr. Rose Kennedy, Ed Krampe, Ed McGlasson Jr., Flo Meadows, Dr. Donald J. Reed, Dr. Bob Rivet, Rae Robinson, Bill Rucks III, and Greg Voorhies.

by: Leslie Turk 10:25 AM

Jesse Jackson visits Jena

The Rev. Jesse Jackson visited the town of Jena yesterday in support of the Jena Six. The Town Talk reports that Jackson told a crowd of 200 supporters that his Rainbow PUSH coalition would organize a march on the town for Sept. 20 if "unnecessary charges" against the teenagers weren't dropped.

He said he expects the protest to draw as many as 40,000 - more than 10 times the population of the rural Central Louisiana town. ...

The protest is scheduled to take place the same day that 17-year-old Mychal Bell, one of six black Jena High School students charged in the Dec. 4 beating of white student Justin Barker, is to be sentenced for aggravated second-degree battery.

Read also The Associated Press' account and a recent overview of the Jena Six case from USA Today.

by: R. Reese Fuller 9:10 AM

Former film head pleads guilty

The former head of the Louisiana Film Commission, Mark Smith, pled guilty on Friday to federal charges of taking bribes to inflate state tax credits for a movie production company. Sentencing is scheduled for Dec. 5, and Smith will act as his own attorney. The Associated Press reports: "The charges against Smith are the first in a federal investigation which has not identified the other parties."

by: R. Reese Fuller 9:07 AM

Candidates too scripted for comfort

The surveys answered by all of the major gubernatorial candidates available on the Web site of the Council for a Better Louisiana offers voters their first real cross-section view of the contenders on a variety of issues. Still, some of the responses provided by the candidates were less than revealing and more than disappointing. "I was surprised that so many of the answers provided were short shrift," says CABL CEO Barry Erwin. "I would think that candidates would want to take advantage of opportunities like this."
Next up, CABL is getting ready to survey the state's many legislative candidates and plans to post those responses online as well. The good government group is hoping citizens and the media will help pressure the potential lawmakers into spelling out their priorities through the questionnaires.
As for this trend of many candidates saying a lot of while saying nothing at all, the Public Affairs Research Council, another Baton Rouge-based policy advocate, has issued a report that instructs voters on how to question candidates and get real answers instead of fluff. PAR hopes the outline (dubbed "Questioning Candidates Beyond the Platitudes") will encourage voters to scrutinize politicians and determine who truly has plans of action to back up the slogans and sound bites. "This report can help voters to make that distinction," says Jim Brandt, the group's president. "It challenges both candidates and voters to push for more meaningful debate." -- Jeremy Alford

by: admin 8:54 AM

Friday, September 07, 2007

State releases lackluster school report cards

The state department of education has released school accountability scores yesterday with promises to do more to turn failing schools around. Of the last eight years, 2007 had the fewest number of schools meeting growth targets with 70 schools statewide being named Academically Unacceptable. That number is expected to go up when hurricane-impacted schools enter fully into accountability scores again at the end of this school year.

In Lafayette Parish, results were mixed but Superintendent Burnel Lemoine has indicated he will be presenting a plan to the school board in order to address areas of concern. Almost half of the district's schools achieved Minimal Academic Growth and two schools, Northside High School and Alice Boucher Elementary, are labeled Academically Unacceptable. Through the district's Schools of Choice program, students at these two schools can opt to transfer out to other schools. The district had six schools labeled as "in decline", down from nine the previous year. Four schools achieved Exceptional Academic Growth for meeting growth targets, including Lafayette High, which remains the district's only three-star high school. Click here for a complete list of results.

by: Nathan Stubbs 10:15 AM

Georges leaves GOP

New Orleans businessman John Georges is running for governor without a party affiliation, marking the first time in modern Louisiana history that a major candidate has chosen to run without a party label. Yesterday, he changed his party affiliation from Republican to Independent before qualifying for the governor's race. Because Independent is not recognized as a party in Louisiana, Georges will run with "no party" after his name on the ballot.

Georges made his decision to leave his life-long party after the Republicans threw all their weight behind U.S. Rep. Bobby Jindal, who ran a tight race last round with Democrat Kathleen Blanco.

"I am the same man and the same candidate I was yesterday, Georges says in a statement released after he switched parties. "I simply choose not to participate in a system that puts party labels over good public policy. Partisan politics have become too divisive in Louisiana. I'm not running to be governor of a political party."

Georges is joined by 12 other candidates, frontrunner Jindal-Kenner who is the only Republican running, Democrats Foster Campbell-Elm Grove, Walter Boasso-Arabi, M.V. "Vinny" Mendoza-Kenner, Hardy Parkerson-Lake Charles, and Mary Volentine Smith-Winnsboro, Libertarian T. Lee Horne III-Bunkie, and Anthony "Tony G" Gentile-Mandeville and B. Alexandrenko-Baton Rouge who registered as "Other." "No party" candidates include Vincent Mark Castillo-St. Rose, Arthur D. "Jim" Nichols-Donaldsonville and Sheldon Forest-Maurice.

by: Mary Tutwiler 10:00 AM

Oil dumper gets federal fine

The Texas-based Meridian Resource Corporation has agreed to pay $504,000 for contaminating Weeks Bayou and the Intracoastal Waterway in Iberia Parish with 747 barrels of crude oil (think about it this way: 31,000 gallons). The "unauthorized discharges" took place over the span of 12 months, starting in November 2005, according to documents released jointly by the U.S. Department of Justice and the Environmental Protection Agency.

The civil penalty, however meager, is just a starter. Meridian has also been ordered to enhance its pipeline monitoring and oil spill prevention program at its Weeks Island facility in an effort to resolve its violations of the Clean Water Act. The corporation has also replaced most of the 6" diameter pipeline that was the source of the spills.

"This settlement holds Meridian accountable for its spills and requires Meridian to take affirmative measures to prevent and respond more quickly to any future unauthorized discharges at this facility," says Richard Greene, EPA regional administrator. "The result is more protection for the coastal Louisiana environment."

The proposed consent decree, lodged in the Western District of Louisiana, is subject to a 30-day public comment period and court review. The penalties paid for the spills will be deposited in the federal Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund. - Jeremy Alford

by: admin 9:43 AM

Cox pledges $2 million to UL athletics

During halftime at UL Lafayette's 6 p.m. home opener against Ohio University Saturday, Cox Communications will make official its $2 million pledge to the university's athletic department and kick off a 10-year partnership. Cox anticipates the agreement, what it calls Partnership for Victory, will lead to further collaboration that will advance the faculty, students and community.

In return for the sponsorship, the largest in Ragin' Cajuns athletics history, the university has agreed to name the athletic department building on Reinhardt Drive the Cox Communications Athletic Center and give the company first right of refusal on additional naming opportunities. Cox will have a prominent presence on both the athletic department Web site and the football stadium scoreboard and exclusive rights to telecast replays of coaches programs, sporting events and university athletic programs on any of its cable systems, affiliated regional sports channel or programming network.

As part of the agreement, Cox is also fiber connecting some regional and on-campus locations to its national fiber network, including the primate facility at the New Iberia Research Park, the Paul and Lulu Hilliard University Art Museum and the foundation and alumni offices.

Cox will be celebrating the partnership with a tailgating party from 4 to 6 p.m. tomorrow at Gate A at Cajun Field.

by: Leslie Turk 7:56 AM

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Wal-Mart pulls La. cypress mulch

Beginning in Jan. 2008, Wal-Mart will no longer buy and sell cypress mulch that is harvested, bagged, or manufactured in the state of Louisiana. The Save Our Cypress Coalition, a group of environmental organizations, has been publicly pressuring the major retailers Wal-Mart, Home Depot, and Lowe's to stop selling cypress mulch since last year. Many Cypress forests in Louisiana are viewed as endangered due to coastal erosion. Despite the environmental concerns, cypress has become a popular garden mulch because of its durability. The announcement from the world's largest retailer was viewed as a huge victory on the issue by Dan Farve of the New Orleans-based Gulf Restoration Network. "Wal-Mart has set the standard for cypress sustainability in Louisiana," he told the AP. "It's not perfect, but it's leaps and bounds ahead of what we've heard from Home Depot and Lowe's."

by: Nathan Stubbs 11:13 AM

LGMC's Thaw may not be returning

Bill Fenstermaker, chairman of Lafayette General Medical Center's board of trustees, says that hospital CEO Jamey Thaw's personal leave is open-ended and confirms that the administrator may not be returning. "I don't know that at this time," Fenstermaker says.

Since breaking the story of Thaw's leave yesterday, the INDsider has learned that his departure comes amid a swirl of controversy about potential mismanagement at the hospital. Fenstermaker, however, would not comment on the speculation, except to surmise that a general IRS audit of the hospital conducted several weeks ago seems to have sparked some of the innuendo. "They somehow have linked the two events," he says, noting that the audit and Thaw's leave are not related. "We have not received any findings from anybody at the IRS." The board chairman says these types of general audits are routinely conducted by the IRS.

Though he was initially hesitant in answering, Fenstermaker says the board did not ask Thaw to take the leave. "Any matter dealing with the CEO has some involvement with the board," he says. "He chose to take personal leave, and I granted it.

"It's not my style not to be 100 percent candid," Fenstermaker adds, explaining that personnel issues are private matters protected by employment laws. "When somebody's on personal leave, it limits me as to what I can say."

Thaw, pictured above, has been LGMC's president and CEO since 1998.

LGMC is a community-owned not-for-profit hospital, but word of Thaw's leave was not released to the public; only the staff was informed. At the time, Fenstermaker says he did not think public disclosure was necessary. "My obligation is to make sure it has good leadership," he says. "[Interim CEO] Patrick Gandy is a great leader. He is very capable of running day-to-day operations at Lafayette General." Gandy is the hospital's chief operating officer.

by: Leslie Turk 11:01 AM

Saints kickoff NFL season tonight

The NFL season debuts tonight with what many are predicting to be a preview of this year's Super Bowl: Saints vs. Colts. Pitting the defending Super Bowl champs versus the storybook team of last season, the game has already been hyped near Super Bowl proportions; TV ads featuring Colts QB Peyton Manning and Saints running back Reggie Bush have been running for weeks and now the two stars are being featured on downtown Indianapolis' Chase Bank building. The game has all the makings for a high-scoring shootout. In addition to the high profile match-up between all pro QBs Manning and Drew Brees, each team also features a second year running backs poised for a breakout season: the Saints' Reggie Bush and the Colts' Joseph Addai, a former LSU standout. Broadcasts begin at 7:30 p.m. on NBC and 1150 WJBO-AM.

by: Nathan Stubbs 10:44 AM

Planning Commission approves LINC plans

Last night, the Lafayette Planning Commission approved the recommendations of Lafayette In A Century, a comprehensive plan of 258 recommendations to guide the growth of the parish over the next century. State law requires that planning commissions adopt comprehensive plans, but Lafayette has been operating without one. The Advocate reports that the real challenges lie in implementing the plan into law and how best to achieve that.

The recommendations adopted by the commission Wednesday are the same set made years ago by the steering committee of Lafayette In a Century, or LINC — which was charged in the late '90s with coming up with a comprehensive plan.

Most of the recommendations never made it further in the process, ultimately bogging down in a committee made up in large part by city-parish administrators, the Comprehensive Plan Implementation Committee, or CPIC.

Commissioners and City-Parish councilmen have charged that the administration at the time intentionally dragged its feet on implementing the ideas.

The commission recently asked the LINC Steering Committee to reconvene. The committee did so, then promptly forwarded the same recommendations.

by: R. Reese Fuller 9:38 AM

Bombs over Barksdale

In a story that's making international headlines, The Military Times reports that last week a B-52 bomber flew for more than three hours, mistakenly strapped with six nuclear warheads, to Barksdale Air Force Base near Shreveport.

The Air Force continued handing out disciplinary actions in response to the six nuclear warheads mistakenly flown on a B-52 Stratofortress bomber from Minot Air Force Base, N.D., to Barksdale Air Force Base, La., on Aug. 30. The squadron commander in charge of Minot's munitions crews was relieved of all duties pending the investigation.

It was originally reported that five nuclear warheads were transported, but officers who tipped Military Times to the incident who have asked to remain anonymous since they are not authorized to discuss the incident, have since updated that number to six. ...

by: R. Reese Fuller 7:30 AM

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

The Advocate: 'Jindal does disservice'

In an editorial today, The Advocate takes gubernatorial candidate Bobby Jindal to task for "embarrassing himself and doing voters a disservice by repeatedly ducking candidate forums." The newspaper adds, "A man who would be governor should be willing to test himself and his ideas in the arena of public debate and discussion."

In August, Independent Editor Scott Jordan made this same point in his Leadoff column:

Instead of participating in the health care forum, Jindal spent Monday campaigning from Slidell to Hammond on his "Fresh Start" bus tour. ...

Louisiana voters deserve more. The race for governor so far has consisted largely of platform soundbites and predictable partisan sniping between the candidates and state party leaders. As the Oct. 20 election approaches, the inevitable onslaught of carefully scripted 30-second attack ads will only serve to further muddy the waters.

Today, The Advocate concludes:

Avoiding forums is something campaign front-runners often do, hoping to avoid making mental and verbal blunders, and to keep from elevating opponents in the public eye.

If that is smart politics, it also is political cowardice.

by: R. Reese Fuller 11:11 AM

Qualifying continues

A few surprises in qualifying parish wide will liven up local races which for the most part are dominated by incumbents with no challengers. Clerk of Court Louis Perret will face Lafayette Parish Clerk of Court employee Roger Lehamn. Plastic surgeon Kenneth Odinet, who has been serving as interim coroner, has qualified to replace coroner Charles Boustany. City-Parish President Joey Durel, Sheriff Mike Neustrom and tax assessor Conrad Comeaux, as of this morning, have no opposition.

The Lafayette City-Parish Council will have at least seven new faces after fall elections, only incumbents Dale Bourgeois, District 2, and Bruce Conque, District 6 are running to return to their seats. In District 1, Purvis Morrison has qualified. Challengers to Bourgeois in District 2 are Jay Castille, Jr., and Pat Lewis. District 3 contenders are Amos Batiste Jr., Shelton Cobb, Lloyd Rochon and Brandon Shelvin. Kenneth Boudreaux, Dale Dennis and Jan Swift have thrown in for District 4. Currently, Jared Bellard is the sole candidate for District 5. In District 6, Sam Dore and Travis Farrar are challenging Conque. Tom Sekhani has qualified in District 7. Stanley "Tee" Brosky faces Keith Patin in District 8. And Huey Romero and William Theriot have jumped in in District 9.

Qualifying continues until 5 p.m. Thursday evening.

by: Mary Tutwiler 11:02 AM

LGMC's top administrator on leave

Jamey Thaw, Lafayette General Medical Center's president and CEO, announced last week that he is taking a leave of absence from the hospital. Thaw took over the post in 1998, replacing longtime administrator J.J. Burdin. His unexplained leave comes in the midst of the not-for-profit community hospital's extensive $19 million renovation project that will expand its women's services.

Mark Attales, the LGMC's director of community relations, confirms only that the leave is for personal reasons and was effective Aug. 29. "How long he will be on leave is not yet determined," Attales says.

LGMC's more than 1,700 employees were given no additional information, except that Patrick Gandy, the hospital's chief operating officer, will serve as interim administrator. Formerly the administrator for Lafayette General Surgical Hospital, Gandy has served as COO since January, when Donna Landry left after almost two decades to join The Schumacher Group. Gandy has been with LGMC more than 13 years.

by: Leslie Turk 10:45 AM

Council eases restrictions for downtown restaurants

Downtown restaurants are no longer prohibited from obtaining a liquor license if they are located within 300 feet of a church or 175 feet of a school. The city-parish council approved an ordinance last night that would allow for an exception to that rule – with several conditions attached. The ordinance only applies to restaurants that front Jefferson Street. An amendment from Councilman Bruce Conque adds several other stipulations. The restaurants must stop serving alcohol by 11 p.m., not allow alcohol to be brought outside the building, and cannot offer live entertainment. The restaurant must also prove that 60 percent of its sales come from food. These restrictions are meant to appease some concerns from opponents of the ordinance that a restaurant may take advantage of the new rules and operate as a bar. The ordinance and amendment narrowly passed with 5-4 votes. Councilmen Marc Mouton, Rob Stevenson, Chris Williams and Louis Benjamin voted against it.

The ordinance will allow for at least two more restaurants to locate downtown in the near future. Kimberly Florsheim was on hand at last night's meeting as a representative of the Juliet Hotel partners. The group has hoped to lease out space from their building on the corner of Jefferson and Lee Streets for a restaurant. Florsheim thanked the council for passing the ordinance. Also expressing appreciation was Victor Bernard, whose family owns the building at the corner of Jefferson and Johnston Street, which formerly operated as the Jefferson Street Café. Bernard, who now plans to open a new restaurant, has struggled for years to obtain a liquor license for the property. Both his building and the Juliet Hotel are in the proximity of First Baptist Church and Ascension Day School. The council also heard from downtown business owner Julie Calzone, who opposed the ordinance. Calzone said she believed the law should be kept consistent and the council was establishing a dangerous precedent with any exceptions.

by: Nathan Stubbs 10:04 AM

One Jena Six conviction tossed out

Judge J.P. Mauffray Jr., of the 28th Judicial District Court, has thrown out one of the two charges against 17-year-old Mychal Bell, the first of the Jena Six to be tried and convicted. According to The Town Talk, Mauffray stated that a juvenile could not be charged with conspiracy in an adult court. (Bell was 16 at the time he and five other black students at Jena High School beat white student Justin Barker.) However, Mauffray did not throw out the charge of aggravated second-degree battery charge, of which Bell was convicted. He now faces a maximum of 15 years in prison, instead of 22, and is scheduled to be sentenced on Sept. 20. Bell's attorneys intend to appeal.

Also, as in Bell's case, charges against two more of the Jena Six - Carwin Jones and Theo Shaw - were reduced from "attempted murder to aggravated second-degree battery and conspiracy to commit the same. Both will be tried in the adult court system. A jury trial for Jones was set for 9 a.m. on Jan. 28, while no trial date was set for Shaw."

by: R. Reese Fuller 8:41 AM

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Qualifying opens today

Qualifying for the Oct. 20 primary for statewide and local elections begins today. Republican incumbent Secretary of State Jay Dardenne was first in line in his own Baton Rouge office, followed by U.S. Rep. Bobby Jindal for governor. Attorney General Charles Foti signed up for reelection, as did Agriculture Commissioner Bob Odom. Democrat Foti has competition, Royal Alexander, a Republican.

Lt. Gov. Mitch Landrieu, a Democrat, is being challenged by Thomas D. Kates (no party listed). John Kennedy, newly switched to the Republican Party, has qualified for reelection as state treasurer, and M. V. "Vinny" Mendoza, a Democrat, is currently the only candidate for Commissioner of Insurance.

In local races, Sydnie Mae Durand-D, Troy Hebert-D and "Jeff" Landry-R have all qualified for Senate District 22. In District 39, Tommy Angelle-D is squaring off against former state Rep. Raymond "LaLa" LaLonde-R for state rep. For state rep District 43, Page Cortez-R has signed up. Derriel McCorvey-D, Fred Prejean-D and Chris Williams-D square off for state rep in District 44. Incumbent Joel Robideaux, an independent, has qualified in District 45, and Fred H. Mills, Jr.-D in District 46. In New Iberia, Democrats David N. Broussard, Raymond "Shoe-Do" Lewis and Shane Romero have all jumped in the race for state rep in District 48, and Simone Champagne-D is the lone contender for state rep in District 49. To keep track of candidates as they qualify, go to the Secretary of State's website. Qualifying ends at 5 p.m. Thursday.

by: Mary Tutwiler 11:16 AM

CNN on the Jena Six

One year after it all began, CNN offers another look into the ongoing case of the Jena Six. Mychal Bell has already been convicted of aggravated second-degree battery and conspiracy, and five other black students are scheduled to go to trial in the beating of white student Justin Baker.< Bell's new attorneys will try Tuesday to have their client's conviction thrown out or have the case remanded to juvenile court, where they say it should've been handled in the first place.

If that fails, Bell is scheduled for a September 20 sentencing hearing where he faces up to 22 years in prison. The other five await their days in court.

by: R. Reese Fuller 11:08 AM

Boustany gives positive assessment of Iraq

Charles Boustany was one of two Congressmen appearing on CNN's Late Edition with Wolf Blitzer yesterday to discuss their assessment of Iraq just a week before Congress hears key progress reports from U.S. military leaders there. Both Boustany and the program's other guest, Democratic U.S. Rep. Kendrick Meek of Florida, recently traveled to Iraq during Congress' August recess. While Meek favors a troop withdrawal due to the high cost of the war, Boustany echoed many of President Bush's recent statements that the current surge in troop levels appears to be working. "The plan that's been implemented since January is showing significant success," Boustany said. He noted Fallujah has seen a "major improvement" and that he and three other members of Congress were able to walk the streets there with only one marine platoon's worth of security. "Two months ago, that couldn't have happened," he said. Asked about recent reports that the President will be seeking an additional $50 billion or more from Congress for Iraq, Boustany said he would need to see a breakdown of the costs and that Congress should base its policy on the report from Gen. David Petreus, the U.S.'s top military commander in Iraq. [Click here to view](javascript:CNN_openPopup('/services/podcasting/popups/late.edition.html','358x326','toolbar=no,location=no,directories=no,status=no,menubar=no,scrollbars=no,resizable=no,width=358,height=326');) CNN's podcast of this week's Late Edition. The Iraq segment begins about halfway through the program.

by: Nathan Stubbs 10:56 AM

LHC Group buying Tennessee home health agency

LHC Group today announced its plans to buy all of the assets of Extendicare of West Tennessee, which has home health agencies in Jackson, Union City, Paris and Henderson. Extendicare's service area spans 21 counties in west Tennessee — 16 not covered by an existing LHC Group agency, bringing the Lafayette-based company's total service area in Tennessee to 42 counties. The primary market has an estimated population of 1.5 million, with almost 12 percent 65 or older. Total 12-month Medicare revenue for this location is about $4.1 million.

A provider of post-acute health care services mainly in rural markets, LHC Group also announced today that it has formed a partnership with Columbus Regional Medical Center in Columbus, Ga., whereby LHC Group will sell a 33 percent interest in its existing agency in Pine Mountain, Ga., to Columbus Regional. Additionally, the local company is converting a license lease agreement with Mississippi Baptist Medical Center in Jackson into a joint venture. LHC Group has operated Mississippi Baptist's home health agency since October 2003.

LHC Group's common stock is traded on the NASDAQ market. Founded in Palmetto in 1994, the company went public in mid-2005.

by: Leslie Turk 10:55 AM

Punks in Lafayette

punks the comicThe latest comic from local graphic artist Kody Chamberlain has made its way to Lafayette comic shops. Written by Los Angeles-based writer Joshua Fialkov, Punks The Comic has the feel of the DYI punk rock flyers, crafted with a Xerox copier and an X-acto knife. Chamberlain also manages to weave into the story a few images of Lafayette landmarks. But this is not a stereotypical super hero tale intended for children; there's strong language and adult-themed content. Punks The Comic retails for $4.99 and can purchased locally at Acadiana Book & Comic Shop (2506 Johnston St.) as well And Comics Too (3315 Johnston St.).

by: R. Reese Fuller 10:42 AM