October 2007

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Dr. Scott's economic forecast promising for Acadiana

Noted economist Dr. Loren Scott delivered his 2008 Economic Forecast at yesterday's Entrée to Business luncheon sponsored by The Independent Weekly, and his prognosis for Acadiana is promising. Scott predicts that the Acadiana economy will remain strong, adding 6,300 local jobs over the next two years and experiencing 2 to 4 percent growth. While housing sector woes are leading to national fears of an economic downturn, Scott says Acadiana's relatively stable housing prices should keep our region insulated from any major housing-sector fallout.

Scott also says Acadiana is the third-fastest growing economy in the state, behind Houma and New Orleans. He reminded the 400-plus in attendance how much Louisiana's economy relies on New Orleans' economy, and while New Orleans' overall employment numbers are only back to mid-1980s levels, there are currently $15 billion in construction and rebuilding projects on line in the Crescent City. One major area of concern remains New Orleans' struggling tourism industry, which continues to be plagued by the effects of the city's epidemic violent crime.

On that front, Louisiana got some good news yesterday afternoon: embattled New Orleans District Attorney resigned. The Times-Picayune notes:

The unprecedented move ends a tenure mired in criticism over a widely perceived failure to successfully prosecute violent criminals, chronic turnover in his office, and most recently the bizarre disclosure that a robbery suspect fled to Jordan's Algiers house only to then become a suspect in the shooting of a New Orleans police officer.

In a statement yesterday, Jordan said he was resigning so he could spend more time being incompetent in the private sector.

Whoops, my mistake. What Jordan really said was, "I am resigning not because I am a quitter, but because I honestly believe this painful act will prevent further disruption of the district attorney's office," said Jordan.

One telling postscript: the only one rushing to Jordan's defense is William "Dollar Bill" Jefferson.

by: Scott Jordan 10:38 AM

UL wants new trial in Baldwin case

UL Lafayette's attorneys tell The Daily Advertiser that an appeal of the $2 million judgment awarded to the university's former football coach, whose suit claimed racial bias in his 2001 firing, is a last resort. Rather, attorney Larry Marino of Lafayette's Oats and Hudson law firm says he wants a new trial.

On Oct. 18, a Baton Rouge jury voted 10-2 to award Baldwin $2 million: $500,000 for general damages that included emotional distress, $600,000 for past lost wages, $900,000 for future lost wages and $2,676 for special damages. Emerging from one of the state's most conservative districts, along with the fact that UL has a long history of diversity in its hiring practices, the verdict shocked many in the legal community.

Now, however, it seems some jurors can't recall how they voted, which certainly calls into question the accuracy of the verdict. What's not clear is whether Oats & Hudson law firm immediately polled the jurors (a common practice that might provide strong grounds for the university's challenge) or went back and interviewed them in a more informal process. All along, the university's attorneys have been perplexed by jurors who found that Baldwin was not terminated because of his race yet still answered "yes" to a second question about whether race was a determining factor in his dismissal.

Baldwin, who coached from 1999 to 2001, was terminated after posting a 6-27 record. The 53-year-0ld is now a minister at New Living Word Ministries in Ruston.

Neither Marino nor the university's public relations office could be reached for comment this morning.

by: Leslie Turk 10:36 AM

Dash Rip Rock at the Blue Moon

What's more frightening than Dash Rip Rock at the Blue Moon Saloon? Nothing. Since 1984, the Baton Rouge band has been scaring the hell out of people by honky tonkin' and rockin' all across the country, with songs like the mid-90s radio hit "Let's Go Smoke Some Pot" (which strangely enough sounds like that song "At the Hop," but a little bit faster and with different words). Catch guitarist Bill Davis with the rest of the trio tonight as they terrorize the Blue Moon Saloon at 8 p.m.

by: R. Reese Fuller 10:28 AM

Durel to dine with Sarkozy at White House

Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité. That revolutionary sort of thinking will pay off next week for Lafayette as City-Parish President Joey Durel, his wife Lynne and Virginia Stuller attend the first official state dinner at the White House in honor of the newly elected, pro-American president of France, Nicolas Sarkozy.

It's an impressive culmination of Durel's decision early in his first term to embrace a major celebration commemorating the 250th anniversary of the birth of le Marquis de la Fayette, namesake of our community. That led to a relationship with French Ambassador Jean-David Levitte which was strengthened with Levitte's stay at the Durel residence during his post-Katrina visit to Lafayette. The ambassador has since joined Sarkozy's cabinet as France's first ever National Security Adviser and the Durels think he's responsible for their invitation to the historic dinner.

The announcement was made this morning during the launch of a hot air balloon celebrating the Marquis de la Fayette festival. The concept of hot air balloon travel was developed in France in 1783, an idea which caught the imagination of the scientifically minded marquis. He mentioned the idea of a flight to America in a letter to his wife. Two hundred and twenty-five years later, the balloon, from LePuy-en-Velay, France has arrived in Lafayette, and will be seen flying over town for the next several days, in conjunction with La Belle Journee Historic Festival which will take place in downtown Saturday and Sunday, November 3 and 4.

by: Mary Tutwiler 9:55 AM

McCorvey backing Chris Williams

Local attorney Derriel McCorvey, a former candidate for District 44 state representative, says he is now lending his support to the campaign of Chris Williams. Williams, a 16-year city-parish councilman, faces school board member Rickey Hardy in the Nov. 17 runoff election for the District 44 seat. Williams was the top vote getter in the five-man field that faced off in the Oct. 20 primary. He garnered 30 percent of the vote, followed by Hardy's 29 percent. Former Superintendent of State Police Terry Landry finished third with 23 percent of the vote, planning commissioner Fred Prejean garnered 13 percent; McCorvey, a Florida native and former all-SEC strong safety for LSU, finished with five percent of the vote. Both Landry and Prejean say they do not plan to get involved in the runoff election.

At a press conference yesterday, flanked by Williams' supporters, McCorvey said, "I'm going to work hard with Chris to make his election as our next state representative a reality." McCorvey says he and Williams share a strong dedication to improving education and economic development opportunities in the region. McCorvey added that Williams has also assured him that he will work hard for "father's rights." A divorced single father, McCorvey raised the issue of family law during the primary campaign, claiming that the family court system often favors the mother in custody and child support disputes.

by: Nathan Stubbs 9:47 AM

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Review: Should UL have Division 1-A football program?

An institutional review of UL Lafayette recommends that the next president "reexamine the university's intercollegiate athletics programs and ask pointed questions about their long-term revenue sources and expenditures, ULL's conference affiliation, and especially the institution's competitive level in football."

The report says while there are several challenges associated with UL's athletic programs, the primary challenge is financial. "ULL competes in the NCAA's highest division, the Bowl Division (until recently, 1-A), but spends far less money on intercollegiate athletics, and even on football, than the great majority of 1-A members and less than many of the institutions in the lower Championship Division, which until recently was known as 1-AA."

The review team spent four months analyzing campus information on various aspects, such as academic programs, administration, budget, fund-raising, technology and campus growth, finding the institution in "excellent overall shape and financially secure." Such reviews are common when a change in administration is imminent, but UL President Ray Authement specifically called for the review when he announced his retirement earlier this year.

Among other recommendations of the review, which was conducted by James L. Fisher, the same consultant hired to help find a new president, is that UL curtail its micromanagement. The report says it's not customary for travel and equipment purchases to go through the president's office and suggests all faculty hiring be decentralized to the vice president of academic affairs, a position currently held by Steve Landry, and academic deans. Read the full report here.

by: Leslie Turk 11:05 AM

House passes aid for Cajundome

The U.S. House of Representatives passed by voice vote yesterday a bill that would make the Cajundome eligible for approximately $2.3 million in federal aid for its use as a shelter during hurricanes Katrina and Rita. The bill, H.R. 3247, is now scheduled to go before the U.S. Senate. Specifically, the legislation authorizes the federal government to compensate businesses like the Cajundome, for operating losses stemming from the 2005 hurricanes. The issue is at the heart of an ongoing dispute between Cajundome and FEMA officials. In July, FEMA demanded that the dome pay back $1.1 million it had received for operating losses over the six weeks it operated as an emergency shelter, which the agency says was paid by mistake. FEMA also denied the dome's request for another $1.2 million in usage fees for the additional two months it was closed for renovations. The bill would also likely make other state sheltering facilities eligible for lost revenue compensation.

Congressman Charles Boustany praised the bill's passage in a press release, stating, "facilities like the Cajundome are integral to our disaster recovery and response. We shouldn't punish them for opening their doors and providing shelter during a national crisis." Cajundome Director Greg Davis is cautiously optimistic, noting that the bill still has "two more big hurdles" in passing the U.S. Senate and being signed by the President. The bill also aims to increase the federal government's share of the cost of relocating public buildings and other damaged infrastructure from 75 to 90 percent. All provisions would apply retroactively to areas affected by the 2005 storms.

by: Nathan Stubbs 11:04 AM

Live oak planting slated for November

In 1998, Church Point arborist Bob Thibodeaux laid down his chainsaw and refused to cut an alley of 100-year old oaks lining the coast road in Grand Chenier. With the aid of then Governor Mike Foster, he backed down DOTD and preserved the historic grove. Hurricane Rita accomplished what the state highway department could not, uprooting many of the centuries-old trees.

Next month, Thibodeaux is planning to replant live oaks on Grand Chenier, enlisting environmentalists and cyclists in a project called "Acorns of Hope." On November 17-20, Thibodeaux and a brigade of bicycle riders will pedal 250 miles, down to Grand Chenier, and plant 250 live oak seedlings in areas devastated by the storm. The project is open to volunteers who would like to be part of the reseeding of Louisiana's coastal forests. To get in touch with Thibodeaux, call 319-3957, or Bob's Tree Preservation Inc., 684 - 8733, or via email at [email protected]

by: Mary Tutwiler 10:56 AM

Casualty of fake FEMA press conference

John "Pat" Philbin was scheduled to start his new job yesterday as the director of public affairs for the Director of National Intelligence. But after last week's fake FEMA press conference (where he served as director of external communications), Philbin is not expected to take the new post. The Washington Post writes:

The flap is not the first time FEMA or its parent Department of Homeland Security has been on the wrong end of a public relations move that backfired. Rather, it fits a pattern in which domestic security officials have mismanaged the public presentation of their efforts, whether those efforts are going well or poorly.

Public relations is an obsession of senior department leaders, who say that public safety and counterterrorism efforts depend on their credibility. But DHS has repeatedly stumbled, most devastatingly when its leaders' reassuring words clashed with chaotic television images of New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in August 2005.

In the past year, congressional investigators have accused FEMA officials of suppressing warnings about health problems from high levels of formaldehyde gas in as many as 120,000 trailers provided to Katrina victims. A federal judge accused them of creating "Kafkaesque" bureaucratic hurdles for more than 100,000 evacuees who received disaster aid. Lawmakers have expressed frustration over shifting FEMA statements about the $70 million in food aid stockpiled last year in the Gulf Coast that was lost because of spoilage.

FEMA has also stumbled in smaller ways. It was forced to retract counts of the number of Katrina evacuees in hotel rooms. A federal judge directed it to lift a gag rule on legal-aid lawyers seeking to help storm victims at federal disaster relief centers. Another judge accused FEMA of hiding behind "double-talk, obscure regulations, outdated computer programs, and politically loaded platitudes" in curbing disaster aid. ...

by: R. Reese Fuller 10:19 AM

OffBeat's 20th anniversary issue packed with Acadiana musicians

For two decades, New Orleans-based OffBeat magazine, billed as "Louisiana and New Orleans' music magazine," has covered the rich music of the bayou state and the Crescent City. OffBeat is celebrating its 20th anniversary this month with a special commemorative issue, and Acadiana artists are well represented. In the centerpiece essay in the issue, OffBeat asks the question, "Who were the artists who mattered most in the years that OffBeat has been published?" Of the 20 artists that made the list, a quarter is from Acadiana: Beau Jocque, BeauSoleil, Boozoo Chavis, Steve Riley and the Mamou Playboys and Ann Savoy.

One of my favorite OffBeat features is its monthly "Backtalk" interview, an extended Q&A with local and national musicians. OffBeat's 20th anniversary issue features excerpts from Backtalks dating back to 1996, with links to selected full interviews. Local musicians featured include Zachary Richard, Geno Delafose and more. Here's a taste of the treasure trove of material from OffBeat's "Almost Everybody Talks Back" anniversary feature:

Did any of you ever have words with him or receive any advice from Clifton Chenier?

Nathan: One time, he came and played at my brother's club, and I wasn't playing at the time. He had the hiccups, so he couldn't sing "Hungry Man Blues." [Harry Hypolite, Chenier's longtime guitarist and Nathan's uncle] was playing with him at the time, and he said, "Come up here, my little nephew, let that boy sing ‘Hungry Man Blues.'" So he started off on the accordion. And I sang, Yeah, baby. [Chenier] looked at Harry: "He bon, he bon." And he said, "You're going to be something, baby." When Clifton died—and I'm going to tell you, this is the God's truth, and I wouldn't have no reason in lying—and after I went to the wake, I came home. He came to me like natural, like in my sleep. He said, "Keep on going." He said, "You're going to make it. Don't stop playing that music, just keep blowing it." I'm living witness. I'm not lying, he came like natural. I said, "Nat, this is something."

You recorded
Hey Do Right! a year and a half ago?
Well, it took that long for them to get the thing together. We cut the album in May, and now we're way over here in January. We cut it in maybe 25 or 30 minutes.

But it's 43 minutes long.
People said they'd never seen a man cut an album like that before.

I recorded John Delafose in the studio in the late '80s. I told him that I had two days booked in the studio, and I was going to have hotel rooms for him and the band to come and stay in New Orleans for the night. John said, "Oh, I don't know about that." I'm thinking, maybe he needs more than two days. He finally says, "Listen, it's not going to take any more time for us to make this record than it's going to take us to come to the studio and play the songs." Meaning, I don't need two days to make a record. They came to Ultrasonic (Studio) and we got the sounds happening in about an hour, and two and a half hours later, they had laid down 18 songs, very high energy performances. When I asked if they wanted to stick around so I could give them some rough mixes on cassettes so they could take it home and listen, John says, "Well, no. We got to go home and feed the horses. Why don't you send it to us?"

Good Old Boys
is such a strong commentary on the good and bad aspects of the South. How did the idea for that album come about?

I wrote "Rednecks," after seeing [Lester] Maddox on the [Dick] Cavett show, and seeing him be treated rudely. He wasn't even given a chance to prove what an idiot he was. It was like, they sat Jim Brown next to him, and the crowd was razzin' him; he didn't get a chance to talk. He didn't get a chance to do anything, and they had just elected him Governor, in a state of six million or whatever, and if I were a Georgian, I would have been offended, irrespective of the fact that he was a bigot and a fool. So I wrote it from that standpoint, and then I felt I had to explain it, so I kept going, with "Marie" and "Birmingham."

Obviously you've got a lot of fans down here for all your Louisiana-related songs. "Louisiana 1927" took on added resonance a few weeks ago when it looked like Hurricane Georges was going to hit us directly.

Yeah, I wondered about that, and amazingly, I knew I had [the lyrics] wrong, that most of the storms come on from the South there. But these winds were sweeping around from the North, and so it was like, well, at least I was right one time (laughs).

You did such a good job capturing Governor Long, you should come back down for some new songs because it looks like the Feds might actually indict Edwin Edwards.

Yeah, on that [Edward] DeBartolo thing. I can't believe it. If they didn't get him on the Las Vegas stuff a long time ago...he'll get off.

How did you end up playing the Al Gore rally at Jackson Square?
We did some stuff for Clinton actually, and we met some of the Vice-President's staff members four years earlier, and we all happen to be Democrats. We called up his office and said, "If there's anything we can do, we'd like to help out." They said, "We're coming to town to do a rally. Would you like to play to warm up the crowd for us?" So we did it, and we ended up doing it again in Milwaukee. Actually, we were scheduled to play the ball if he won.

But he did win.
(pause) We won't even get into that.

by: Scott Jordan 9:11 AM

Monday, October 29, 2007

LaBorde endorses Theriot for District 9 council seat

Following a disappointing third place finish in the Oct. 20 election, former District 9 city-parish council candidate Mike LaBorde has wasted little time in picking sides between the remaining two contenders for the seat. In a press release put out Friday by the William Theriot campaign, LaBorde, a registered Independent, says, "Mr. Theriot shares my vision for the District. He will work to improve our roads and drainage. Like me, he is not a politician, but someone who wants to serve the community and we desperately need change." Theriot faces former Youngsville City Councilman Huey Romero in a Nov. 17 runoff election. The two Republicans are vying for the open seat being vacated by Councilman Randy Menard, who was prevented by term limits from seeking re-election. In the Oct. 20 primary, Romero led the field with 43 percent of the vote, followed by Theriot with 32 percent and LaBorde with 26 percent.

by: Nathan Stubbs 10:45 AM

Boudoin antes up gambling fine, trumps resignation of council seat

Don't bet on Iberia Parish Councilman Curtis "Joe" Boudoin resigning his council seat, although he has been convicted of running an illegal card game in his house. The bouree game was going on in the ‘tit-Coteau section of New Iberia, an older, mostly blue collar neighborhood of small houses where chickens still crow from back yard roosts. The veteran 28-year councilman pled guilty to a gambling charge last week. His six months jail time sentence was suspended, and he was fined $250, along with all proceeds from game going on when State Police raided Boudoin's property. His son Ty Boudoin and Youngsville resident Jane Vice were also cited. Unlike Parish President Will Langlinais, who resigned his seat as part of a plea bargain after pleading guilty to malfeasance in office, Boudoin's misdemeanor charge allows him to remain on the council. He was reelected to his District 2 seat for the 7th time without opposition on October 20.

by: Mary Tutwiler 10:44 AM

FEMA fakes the news

In a recent editorial, The Times-Picayune wrote:

The Federal Emergency Management Agency insists that it has learned the lessons from its Katrina failures. Apparently one of those lessons is: When you can't control the press, just fake the news.

Last week, FEMA officials notified reporters only 15 minutes in advance of a press conference in Washington, D.C. to discuss the California wildfire disasters. With no reporters in attendance, FEMA employees posed as reporters and asked questions of their boss, Vice Adm. Harvey E. Johnson Jr., FEMA's deputy administrator. "Are you happy with FEMA's response so far?" one employee asked. "I'm very happy with FEMA's response so far," Johnson replied. He later apologized and called it "an error in judgment."

Watch part of it caught live on Fox News:

White House Press Secretary Dana Perino said of the boondoggle, "We certainly don't condone it. We didn't know about it beforehand."

Even Michael Chertoff, head of homeland security, said, "I think it was one of the dumbest and most inappropriate things I've seen since I've been in government."

The Times-Pic concludes:

Americans are getting a good chuckle about all this. But FEMA's behavior has serious implications. Californians dealing with tragedy, and the rest of the nation, deserve straight answers from emergency officials, and the fake briefing was carried live on some news channels.

Americans need to be able to trust their emergency officials. But officials have to earn that trust, and the first lesson ought to be to be truthful. Let's hope FEMA has learned it this time.

by: R. Reese Fuller 10:16 AM

Leadership Lafayette deadline is Friday

The application deadline for the Greater Lafayette Chamber of Commerce's Leadership Lafayette program is Friday, Nov. 2, at 5 p.m. Now entering its 21st year, the initiative is designed to encourage new, energetic and innovative leaders to get involved in the community.

Participants are selected from diverse occupations and all socio-economic sectors of the community. They are involved in the 10-month program through topical sessions, lectures, field trips and readings. The curriculum addresses a broad range of issues, including education, health care, welfare, law enforcement and government.

Applications for 2008's Leadership Lafayette Class XXI are available from the chamber office by contacting information coordinator Cathy Peltier at 337-233-2705 or at [email protected] Applications are also available online at the chamber's Web site.

by: Leslie Turk 10:16 AM

Campbell's risqué money

Public Service Commissioner Foster Campbell, a Democrat from Elm Grove, may have finished at the bottom of the high-profile candidates for governor this year with only 12 percent, but he had the sexiest money. Déjà Vu Showgirls, a Bourbon Street strip club that boasts "thousands of beautiful girls and three ugly ones," ponied up $5,000 to Campbell's bid, according to campaign finance reports. Another $5,000 came from the owner of SB Entertainment's infamous Chicken Ranch Brothel in Pahrump, Nev. The company's president, Jason Mohney, has also reportedly owned four New Orleans strips clubs at one time or another.

When The Advocate asked Campbell about the funds, the PSC member said he had no idea how the money came into his campaign. "I've never been in Déjà Vu personally," he said. "But, hey, it's legal." -- Jeremy Alford

by: admin 10:09 AM

Friday, October 26, 2007

MidSouth's Hail named to powerful list

U.S. Banker magazine has named MidSouth Bank's chief operating officer and senior executive vice president Karen Hail as one of the nation's "25 Most Powerful Women in Banking" for 2007. Hail is the first woman ever chosen from Louisiana in the five-year history of the listing.

In 2005 and 2006, U.S. Banker named Hail to its "Women to Watch" list, which each year accompanies the "Most Powerful" listing. In selecting Hail for this year's prestigious honor, the trade journal noted that Hail made one of the biggest jumps, moving up 21 spots from last year.

by: R. Reese Fuller 11:22 AM

LCG launches ‘Crimeview'

A new feature on Lafayette Consolidated Government's Web site gives the general public access to the very same crime statistic maps used by city police officers. "Crimeview" allows users to enter in a specific address or intersection and view a GIS map of reported crimes or traffic accidents in the area. Clicking the different crime symbols on the maps, users can view the exact time, location and call type of each reported offense. The online database was developed by the city's Office of Information Services in partnership with the police department, and is now accessible through the city's homepage, www.lafayettela.gov. In a press release put out yesterday afternoon, Lafayette Police Chief Jim Craft states, "This system is easy to navigate and is amazing in the details of visibility it provides our citizens." City-Parish President Joey Durel adds, "It is another tool in our Safe Lafayette Initiative to help improve the quality of life for our citizens."

by: Nathan Stubbs 11:11 AM

Dig it for Uncle Donald

This Sunday, don't miss out on Donnalroo, a benefit for Uncle Donald Senegal, "the #1 emcee" at Grant Street Dancehall in Lafayette.

The doors open at 4 p.m., and scheduled performers include Lil' Buck Sinegal, Buckwheat Zydeco, Sonny Landreth, Steve Riley, C.C. Adcock, Curley Taylor, Warren Storm, Michael Juan Nunez, Rockin' Dopsie Jr. and the Zydeco Twisters, Roddie Romero and the Hub City All-Stars and Patrick Henry and the Liberation Band and more. Admission is $15 at the door.

by: R. Reese Fuller 10:54 AM

The Bobby love-fest rolls on

The national media is impressed with Bobby Jindal's historic win last weekend and, hey, who isn't? He turned a packed field and bitterly-fought contest into a primary win. Here's what industry titans have had to say in the past 24 hours alone:

The Wall Street Journal
: Bayou Bobby: A new governor offers hope for disaffected Louisiana expats.

The Washington Times: Young, sharp, conservative, religious and the son of immigrants, Mr. Jindal is just the sort of candidate the GOP needs to recruit in droves.

L.A. Times: Piyush 'Bobby' Jindal's meteoric rise through the Republican Party ranks is already legend in Louisiana, as is his personal version of the American dream.

But not everyone is singing Jindal's praises. Some folks are getting political – and we do mean political. The Indian American Leadership Initiative sent out an election day press release hitting Jindal below the belt. "As a born-again Roman Catholic, Jindal may have cornered the Mother Theresa vote, but Mahatma Gandhi certainly would've opposed him on principle," spokesman Toby Chaudhuri said in the prepared statement. "The real test may be how Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke's voting bloc responds to him compared to those hit the hardest by Hurricane Katrina." Not surprisingly, the organization leans heavily to the Democratic side, which seems to be losing ground in Louisiana with each passing day.

Then there's C.B. Forgotston, Jr., the quick-witted mind behind www.Forgotston.com, who has dished up one of the more meaningful observations from Jindal's recent victory. An attorney who now practices in Hammond due to Hurricane Katrina, (which is also undeniably a culprit in last weekend's low turnout of 46 percent), Forgotston contends a smart analysis begins with a close look at the numbers. Here's one of his columns, in its entirety, from earlier this week:

We often hear that in a democracy, a majority rules. It should be more properly stated that in a democracy, a majority of those who choose to participate rule. On Saturday, approximately 1.3 million people went to the polls to determine who would guide Louisiana's government for the next four years.

Assuming that the current population of our state is 4.3 million (adjusted by 200,000 to allow for the impact of the flooding of New Orleans by the US Army Corps of Engineers), then approximately 30 percent of the people in Louisiana participated in the Democratic process.

Thus, in the case of our next governor, 16.5 percent of the population of Louisiana voted to make Bobby Jindal our next governor.

The media and pundits refer to Jindal's win as a "mandate." It was not a "mandate" if one believes in democracy as a form of government. Even if it was, what was the mandate?

Jindal won convincingly. I look forward with an open-mind to learning what are his plans (and the implementation thereof) for taking our state from the bottom, not to the 'Southern Average,' but to the top state in the country. - Jeremy Alford

by: admin 10:31 AM

Odom calls it quits

Never again will Louisiana voters be forced to listen to a Bob Odom jingle — or so it seems. At 72, the longtime agriculture commissioner yesterday bowed out of the Nov. 17 runoff with Republican challenger Mike Strain. Odom, a Democrat, has served as commissioner for an astounding 28 years. He was first elected to the post in 1979 — the last time he faced a runoff. Odom led the primary with 41 percent to Strain's 40 percent.

A powerful and controversial figure, Odom has been embroiled in legal troubles since 2002 when a grand jury indicted him on charges that included bribery and money laundering. He was re-elected in 2003 amid those charges and the legal wrangling continued through his last term. The charges were eventually dropped.

Odom's seventh term comes to an end Jan. 14, when Strain is sworn in.

by: Leslie Turk 10:21 AM

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Pippin McGee moving to River Ranch

Kim Crouchet's children's furniture store, Pippin McGee, has had a successful two-year-run at its James Comeaux location, and now Crouchet will give customers more reasons to patronize her shop as she tweaks the concept and relocates it to River Ranch (see "Turk File" in this week's Acadiana Business for more details).

The new Pippin McGee is locating next to Fresh Market, which is planning to open on Kaliste Saloom Road in mid-November. Crouchet hopes to capitalize on the traffic the grocery store will create, in addition to attracting shoppers from the pedestrian-friendly MainStreet development, which she will face.

Pippin McGee hopes to be in its new 8,000-square-foot store by mid-December.

by: Leslie Turk 10:40 AM

Jindal Web site collecting resumes

Gov.-elect Bobby Jindal is making it clear he won't be using the backroom, "Good ole' boy" system to select members of his new administration. The 36-year-old Rhodes scholar, who based his campaign on reforming the state's image, says he considers every job within his administration an open one and has set up a Web site, louisianatransition.com, encouraging all interested to apply. In a message posted on the site, Jindal writes he is looking for "talented people who love our state to help me bring change to Baton Rouge." "As I've said many times," Jindal continues, "reforming Louisiana means guaranteeing that ‘what you know' is more important than ‘who you know.' That's why this Web site is the only way to submit your resume or apply for an administration job during the transition—it will ensure a fair talent search to find the best and brightest to serve Louisiana." Interested applicants attach their resumes to a simple form on the site, which is then submitted to Jindal's transition team for consideration. In addition, the site also seeks input from those not seeking a job. A separate feature prompts you to "submit an idea" to the Jindal team. Jindal writes he wants to hear from anyone with "an idea to make our state government more efficient, innovative or effective."

by: Nathan Stubbs 10:36 AM

Household Chemical Day

On Saturday, you can get rid of all those old paint cans that are hidden in the deep, dark corner of your garage. Household Chemical Day is this Saturday, Oct. 27, from 8 a.m. until 12 noon at the Cajun Field parking lot in Lafayette. The service is available to all Lafayette Parish households. You can recycle chemicals like paint, stains and gasoline, but they won't take items like motor oil, antifreeze, car batteries, or tires. For a detailed account of where to bring those items that won't be collected on Saturday, read the Lafayette Pride Guide.

by: R. Reese Fuller 9:38 AM

IberiaBank posts 22 percent earning increase

Lafayette's IberiaBank Corporation released its third-quarter report last night, and announced earnings of $12.1 million for the quarter ending Sept. 30, 2007 – up 22 percent compared to the same period in 2006 and up 20 percent compared to 2007's second quarter. To view the full report, click here and then click on the 10/24/2007 News and Events release link.

by: Scott Jordan 8:41 AM

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Louisiana Speaks doc nominated for Emmy

Louisiana Speaks, a documentary film made in conjunction with the Louisiana Recovery Authority's massive outreach campaign of the same name, has been nominated for an Emmy award. Produced by the LRA and Louisiana Public Broadcasting, the film was part of a multi-pronged effort to inform residents about some of the critical issues facing the state, and solicit public opinions for planning how to best rebuild and revive Louisiana following hurricanes Katrina and Rita. Louisiana Speaks ultimately collected responses from more than 27,000 Louisianians on a wide range of issues, which formed the basis of Louisiana Speaks Regional Plan. Visit the Louisiana Speaks Web site to view the film online.

by: Nathan Stubbs 10:56 AM

Free flu shots

On Thursday, Louisiana residents can receive a free flu shot as part of a statewide exercise to vaccinate the public in the event of a public health emergency. The Department of Health and Hospitals' Office of Public Health will make free flu shots available at nine locations throughout the state. Health workers will be equipped to provide 200 vaccines every hour at each location. In Lafayette, the shots will be administered at St. Edmond Family Center at 4131 W. Congress Street.

by: R. Reese Fuller 10:41 AM

Davidson delays rezoning request

At the 11th hour yesterday, Lafayette attorney Jimmy Davidson postponed his request to rezone a portion of his residentially-zoned Girard Park property, saying the neighbors opposed to the rezoning have raised questions about some council members' eligibility to vote. On Aug. 7, his law firm, Davidson, Meaux, et al, made a $500 donation to Lafayette City-Parish Councilman Chris Williams' campaign for the District 44 House seat. Current ethics laws do not prevent Williams -- whom opponents say is supporting Davidson's rezoning -- from voting on this issue.

Both Lafayette Consolidated Government's zoning staff and the Zoning Commission recommended against the rezoning.

The City-Parish Council is now set to hear Davidson's request on Nov. 27.

by: Leslie Turk 10:27 AM

Alt-weeklies protest Arizona officials' outrageous abuse of power

Member papers of the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies (AAN), including The Independent Weekly, are providing links on their websites this week that direct their readers to the many places on the Internet where the home address of Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio is listed.

AAN papers are doing so to show solidarity with the Phoenix New Times, which was threatened with felony prosecution for publishing Sheriff Arpaio's address on its website in 2005. After an adjoining jurisdiction declined to press charges, Arpaio's political ally, Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas, convened a grand jury to "investigate" charges the paper broke the law when it published Sheriff Arpaio's address.

Last week, Phoenix New Times' founders Michael Lacey and Jim Larkin were arrested and jailed after the paper published a story about the grand jury and subpoenas they had received that demanded detailed Internet records of any person who had visited the newspaper's website since 2004, as well as all notes and records from any reporter who had written about the sheriff in the preceding three years.

After Larkin and Lacey were arrested an outpouring of shock and anger accompanied widespread media coverage of the case. The response created a groundswell of support for New Times. The charges were dropped less than 24 hours later after Thomas admitted that his office had made "serious missteps" in the case.

"The actions of Mr. Thomas and Sheriff Arpaio in this case are beyond outrageous," said AAN Executive Director Richard Karpel. "They abused their offices by engaging in Gestapo-like tactics designed to silence a newspaper that has been highly critical of them in the past."

Added AAN First Amendment Chair Tim Redmond, executive editor of the San Francisco Bay Guardian: "Our association and its members won't tolerate this sort of attack on the right of a member paper to publish information that is and ought to be public record."

"This was a victory for the First Amendment, the constitution and for our readers right to read our newspaper without the government spying upon them," said Larkin and Lacey in a joint statement. "As the Federal press shield legislation moves from the House to the Senate, we hope people will remember what happened to reporters, editors and readers in Phoenix."

Phoenix New Times has published dozens of stories critical of both Thomas and Arpaio. In fact, the paper maintains an archive on its website of its coverage of Arpaio since he was elected sheriff in 1992.

New Times published Arpaio's home address in a story arguing that he abused a state law that allows law enforcement officials to keep their addresses from being made public. New Times said Arpaio used the law to hide nearly $1 million in cash real-estate transactions.

Thomas convened a grand jury to investigate the case even though Arpaio's home address was then and continues to be easily accessible on a number of other websites, including the Maricopa County Recorder's official website (click "2004 Financial Disclosure Statement" for






Arpaio continues to resist New Times' request for information relating to his real estate holdings.

Here is the list of AAN papers that have agreed to post these links this week on their websites:

Artvoice (Buffalo, NY)
Arkansas Times
Birmingham Weekly
Boston Phoenix
Boston's Weekly Dig
Cincinnati CityBeat
City Pages (Minneapolis)
Dallas Observer
Houston Press
Independent Weekly (Durham, NC)
Independent Weekly (Lafayette, La.)
L.A. Weekly
Metro (San Jose, Calif.)
Metro (Santa Cruz, Calif.)
Metroland (Albany, NY)
Miami New Times
Nashville Scene
New Times Broward-Palm Beach
North Bay Bohemian
OC Weekly
Philadelphia Weekly
The Pitch (Kansas City)
Portland Mercury
The Pulse (Chattanooga, Tenn.)
The Reader (Omaha, Neb.)
Riverfront Times (St. Louis)
San Francisco Bay Guardian
Santa Barbara Independent
Santa Fe Reporter
Scene (Cleveland)
Seattle Weekly
Seven Days (Burlington, Vt.)
SF Weekly
Shepherd Express (Milwaukee)
The Source Weekly (Bend, Ore.)
The Stranger (Seattle)
Syracuse New Times
Tucson Weekly
Urban Tulsa Weekly
The Village Voice
Westword (Denver)
Willamette Week (Portland, Ore.)

by: admin 10:19 AM

The WRDA bill's local projects

A far-reaching water resources bill already approved by Congress finally reached the desk of President Bush yesterday, placing the fate of a number of local coastal restoration and protection measures firmly in the hands of the commander-in-chief.

Overall, the bill has authorization for at least $3.6 billion, or 17 percent of its total, set aside for Louisiana, and a great deal is dedicated to the parishes of Terrebonne and Lafourche. Locally it includes authorization for Morganza to the Gulf and improvements to south Lafourche levees. Most notably, it includes the $900 million for the Morganza-to-the-Gulf hurricane-protection project, which entails more than 72 miles of floodgates, locks and other protections.

Other local projects included are $9.6 million for work on the Bayou Sorrel Lock; $129.7 million to improve channel depths at the Port of Iberia; at least $32 million for public access to the Atchafalaya Basin Floodway System on 20,000 acres of land; an agreement to study the possibility of a regional visitor's center for the Atchafalaya Basin Floodway System in the Morgan City area; $1.2 million for wastewater improvements for Lafayette; and $1 million for wastewater improvements for Lake Charles.

Bush has threatened to veto the bill, but a veto override is likely. In a bipartisan move that deserves credit, the entire Louisiana delegation has pledged to support a veto override. – Jeremy Alford

by: admin 9:55 AM

Now, the hard part for Jindal

In his acceptance speech after winning the governor's race on Saturday night, U.S. Rep. Bobby Jindal called for unity. "At times it was a rough campaign, lots of charges and counter charges thrown out there," said Jindal. "It's over. I bear no ill will to anyone. To all those out there who did not vote for me tonight — I'm asking for your support as well."

In their gracious concession speeches, his Democratic opponents Walter Boasso and Foster Campbell and independent John Georges also called on their supporters to rally behind Jindal.

So what can Louisiana expect after Jindal is sworn into office as governor? Independent Weekly editor Scott Jordan looks at a number of different scenarios – including the possible effect of the national Republican Party's view of Jindal as a rising star – in his Leadoff column this week. Read the whole column here.

by: admin 9:10 AM

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Red light running cameras delayed

A program that uses cameras to catch drivers who run red lights may not officially begin until early 2008, according to an official with Lafayette Consolidated Government. The red light running program - administered by the Australian company Redflex - hit a slight snag in the approval process due to a stipulation in the company's contract with LCG requiring a state registered engineer to review the plans, which the company did last week. The program is now awaiting approval from the state Department of Transportation and Development, because three of the four initial intersections where cameras will be placed are along state routes. "Redflex is probably going to take probably about three weeks to a month to construct it once we get all the permits in place," says Travis Smith, an engineer with LCG's Traffic and Transportation Department. "December would probably be a good, safe time, to say that we would have stuff up and running. And there will be a warning period too." Because of the 30-day grace period, where only warnings are issued, Redflex likely won't start issuing tickets until the start of 2008.

LCG originally hoped to have the program up and running this fall, prior to the start of the city's SafeSpeed program, which uses video equipment mounted on a van to catch speeders. That program, also run by Redflex, launched at the beginning of October. Meanwhile, the city-parish council will review the SafeSpeed program at its meeting tonight. Councilman Lenwood Broussard put the item on the agenda to due to recent criticisms of the program.

by: Nathan Stubbs 10:42 AM

The New York Times' dueling Jindal stories

Last Thursday, two days before the Oct. 20 election, The New York Times published a glowing profile of Bobby Jindal titled "An Improbable Favorite Emerges in Cajun Country." Besides covering Jindal's campaign, the story only mentioned Jindal opponent Walter Boasso by name, omitting Foster Campbell and John Georges from its coverage:

Louisiana Democrats are demoralized, caught between the perception of post-hurricane incompetence surrounding their standard bearer, Gov. Kathleen Babineaux Blanco, who is not running for re-election, and corruption allegations against senior elected officials like William J. Jefferson, the congressman from New Orleans.

Leading Democrats begged off the governor's race, and Mr. Jindal's opponents are from the second tier, trailing so badly in polls that Mr. Jindal has ignored most of the scheduled debates among candidates, leaving the challengers to take grumbling verbal shots at his empty chair.

Yesterday, two days after the election and his victory on Saturday, The Times pounded Jindal in a story titled "A Son of Immigrants Rises in a Southern State." In sharp contrast to the previous story, yesterday's feature – written by the same writer, Adam Nossiter – painted an extremely unflattering portrait of our next governor, including this passage:

His ascent has delighted many Indian-Americans, who have never seen one of their own elected to such a high political position. Sanjay Puri, chairman of the U.S.-India Political Action Committee, predicted that Mr. Jindal would surprise doubters with the depth of his understanding on policy issues. Others, however, are cautious, saying that Mr. Jindal is out of the mainstream on issues that matter to Indian-Americans.

"The fact that he's of Indian ancestry is a subject of jubilation," said Vijay Prashad, professor of South Asian history at Trinity College in Hartford, speaking of the way Mr. Jindal has been portrayed in the Indian-American press. "But there's a very shallow appreciation of who he really is. Once you scratch the surface, it's really unpleasant."

The Times running these two wildly different stories, appearing within days of each other, is one of the most inexplicable publishing decisions I've seen in recent memory.

by: Scott Jordan 10:29 AM

Sec. of State's site bogs down

On Saturday, trying to access the updated election returns from the Secretary of State's website was about as pleasant as a root canal. Users who waited long enough would eventually find the information they sought, while others' connections would time out.

Jacques Berry, spokesman for the Secretary of State's office, says the problem was "a combination of extremely high traffic internationally and the methods that some users were using to get the information." Bots - particularly "screen scrape" programs - would attempt to access information from the website every second. Berry says this hasn't been a problem in the past. Fortunately, the unusually high traffic activity didn't take the web server down, it just slowed information down to an excruciating trickle. "There were too many users but especially too many bots running, and we're looking at what we can do in the future." He says the problem will be addressed before the November runoff elections.

"This slow access had nothing to do with the election results," Berry adds. "The results, on the back end, were here on time, faster than they've ever been here. Our internal system was blowing and going."

Update (10/24): Berry says the Secretary of State's website experienced 124 times more traffic this past weekend than it normally does. While an average of 215 users access the site every weekend, this past weekend had 27,000 users, with 6.2 million hits to the site. "There was unprecedented international interest in this race," he says.

by: R. Reese Fuller 10:08 AM

Council hearing controversial Girard Park rezoning

Girard Park residents fighting to preserve the integrity of their neighborhood will be out in force at tonight's Lafayette City-Parish Council meeting. Attorney Jimmy Davidson will ask the council to rezone a portion of his 4-acre tract at the corner of Hospital and Girard Park drives for commercial use. The property is currently zoned single-family residential.

Davidson's request puts the controversial tract back in the spotlight. His 4 acres were part of the failed land swap deal involving UL Lafayette's horse farm property. In reporting on the proposed land swap, The Independent Weekly discovered that Davidson was running a well-concealed plastics manufacturing business on the back portion of the property, a business that has since relocated. Lafayette Consolidated Government's zoning staff and the zoning commission both oppose the rezoning.

Led by Douglas English, a local group calling itself the Girard Park Neighborhood Association is fighting what it calls "commercial intrusion" into the popular residential area. A point of contention with the neighbors is that Davidson has yet to release specific plans for what he hopes to do with the property, should the council approve the rezoning. "We are as in the dark as we were at the first zoning commission meeting," says English. The neighborhood association has collected 956 signatures from area residents and others opposing the rezoning.

Councilman Bruce Conque, who is out of town and will not attend tonight's meeting, says it's likely any council approval would be contingent on a specific plan that Davidson will be required to follow in developing the property. "You need, on paper, some conditions," he says. At least one council member, Rob Stevenson, says he will likely oppose the rezoning if Davidson and the neighbors can't come to an agreement.

by: Leslie Turk 9:26 AM

Monday, October 22, 2007

Blanco vs. Boustany?

Outgoing Gov. Kathleen Blanco told the New Orleans Times-Picayune over the weekend that she was thrilled not to be on the ballot Saturday. But she also left open another political door. When asked whether she would consider challenging Lafayette Congressman Charles Boustany, a Republican, Blanco said she had never thought about it. "I've learned in life you don't rule anything out because you might find yourself doing things you don't expect, like running for governor," she told the Picayune.

Raymond "Coach" Blanco, however, offered more insight to the reporter, mentioning that Boustany represents a district that is 60 percent Catholic, yet Boustany is supporting the presidential campaign of former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who favors abortion rights. As for cash, Coach is also likely astute enough to know that Boustany currently has about $399,000 in his second-term campaign war chest, a respectable level that's still significantly lower than others in his freshman class, such as Rep. Charlie Melancon, a Democrat who also represents portions of Acadiana. Melancon has about $645,000 in his account. – Jeremy Alford

by: admin 10:46 AM

Olde Tyme turns 25

In 1982, Glenn Murphree purchased an old grocery store on W. Saint Mary and turned it into Olde Tyme Grocery. Reared in New Orleans, Murphree set out to make the best poor boys in Lafayette. This week, Olde Tyme celebrates 25 years in business with specials throughout the week. Today, a whole meatball poor boy is only $2.95. The special price continues through Thursday - with ham on Tuesday, sausage on Wednesday, turkey on Thursday, and a whole shrimp poor boy for only $4.95 on Friday. On Saturday, there's a poor boy eating contest at 2 p.m. For an entry fee of $5, contestants can try to put away a 2-foot poor boy in under 8 minutes.

by: R. Reese Fuller 10:40 AM

India celebrates Jindal's election

Bobby Jindal's historic election as governor of Louisiana has been making international headlines. The son of Indian immigrants, Jindal will become the first Indian American to head an American state's government. According to The Times of India, Jindal's win prompted some family members in his ancestral village of Khanpur to break out in a jig and begin distributing candy. Well-wishers thronged their home as the news circulated. Mohammed Aslam, a 25-year-old resident told The Times, "We are celebrating Bobby's victory because it may bring opportunities to others who aspire to settle abroad." Several family members expressed hope that Louisiana's newly elected governor might soon pay a visit to India. One aunt, Laxmi, stated the cause for celebration might only be beginning. "The day may not be far when he becomes the U.S. president," she said.

by: Nathan Stubbs 10:36 AM

KVOL plans 'whack the speed vans' event tomorrow

KVOL 1330 AM program director/on-air personality Todd C. Elliott isn't backing down on

Friday, October 19, 2007

Michot refutes Trahan endorsement

The banner headline reads: "See what state Senator Mike Michot and state Representative Ernie Alexander are saying about state Representative Don Trahan." Alexander, Michot and Trahan are all pictured on one side of the flyer, and on the opposite side is the following Michot quote: "It would be very wise for the voters of District 31 to vote and to send Representative Don Trahan back to Baton Rouge so that we will have experienced assistance to aid our Governor as well as a position of power for the people of District 31." The mail piece -- designed and paid for by the Louisiana Committee for a Republican Majority -- has been landing in mailboxes across south Lafayette just days before the Oct. 20 election.

Sen. Michot says there's a reason why the mail piece is hitting so late. Yesterday, Michot issued a press release saying that the quote attributed to him on Trahan's latest mailer is completely fabricated and emphasized that he has never endorsed Rep. Trahan. "I have not endorsed Don Trahan in this race, and he knows it," Michot states. Michot says he has intentionally stayed out of the race because of ties he has with both Trahan and his challenger, independent Nancy Landry. "I feel it's important to clear the air on this," Michot says. "I intentionally have not gotten involved in this race. This is a last minute ploy and I don't want the voters to be misled." Michot also says he recorded a robo-call that will go out to voters in the district, refuting the Trahan mail piece. In his press release, Michot called for a public apology from Trahan. Michot says he has since talked to Trahan, who told him that this was a third party ad that he had nothing to do with. Trahan has not returned calls from The Independent over the past two days. Louisiana Committee for a Republican Majority chairman John Diez Jr. also could not be reached by press time this morning.

Adding insult to injury, Michot adds that he would have hoped the Committee for a Republican Majority could do a better job impersonating him. "They could have at least used a good picture," he says. "And that quote doesn't sound like me at all."

by: Nathan Stubbs 11:12 AM

Farm bill supports sugar as fuel

Every time the farm bill comes up for renewal, there has been talk of ending what many budget watchers dub a sweet deal for sugar cane farmers. As the bill moves through Congress this year, there is special pressure to protect the industry. Come January 1, 2008, the tariffs that support the price of Louisiana's sugar will be removed as part of the North American Free Trade Agreement. Loss of price protections has long been predicted as the end of the 200-year-old sugar business in Louisiana. During his unsuccessful Congressional campaign, candidate Craig Romero, from sugar producing Iberia Parish, posted billboards stating "NAFTA is Shafta."

Fear that Mexico may dump cheap sugar into the U.S. market has cultivated a provision in the new farm bill which would guarantee American sugar producers 85 percent of this country's demand for sugar. A story in the New York Times talks with Louisiana sugar farmers about their hopes for crossover, as the corn industry has done, from food to fuel. Excess sugar imported through WTO, NAFTA and CAFTA, according to the provision in the farm bill, would be diverted into ethanol production. Sugar, as a fermentation accelerator, is a miniscule part of the corn-to-ethanol process. Brazil, however, runs a large percentage of its automobile fleet on sugar-produced ethanol, an industry Louisiana Agriculture Secretary Bob Odom has been eyeing. There is also the potential to create fuel out of bagasse, the ground stalks of cane left over from the sugar extraction process, which are now used to fire the boilers of sugar mills.

The farm bill passed the House this summer, but is currently stalled in the Senate's agriculture committee. There is some opposition from the administration and corn-ethanol producers who don't want to be encumbered with a complex price and usage formula. However, Louisiana delegates are sanguine that the provision will become law. "Encouraging an increase in using biofuels as renewable energy is very popular right now," says Robin Winchell, spokesman for U.S. Rep. Charlie Melancon, who represents many of Louisiana's sugar-producing parishes. "It's a priority to members of congress. We're hopeful the provision will make it through."

by: Mary Tutwiler 11:07 AM

Kiki Frayard leaves ad biz for retail expansion

Kiki Frayard has left her full-time gig as vice president and creative director at The Graham Group to launch a major expansion of her upscale jewelry and accessories shop, kiki. Frayard's first store is in River Ranch's The Market on Kaliste Saloom Road, and her Baton Rouge location in Perkins Rowe is set to open later this month. She hopes to have five stores in five years. "And that's ambitious, but you've got to set a goal," Frayard says. "We're looking at several different markets -- Naples, Fla., Mill Valley, Calif., Scottsdale, Az. -- actually a bunch of them."

Frayard will continue to do special projects for Graham Group, mostly broadcast work, according to agency founder George Graham. "It's been a very successful relationship," Graham says. "She's been an integral part of our creative and will continue to be," he says, noting that he's known for some time that she would eventually pursue a retail career full-time. "This is a natural transition for her, a very positive move on her part. It's not like we're parting ways; everybody's happy."

An Opelousas native, Frayard and Graham joined forces in 1981, a year after the firm got its start in Lafayette. It was her first ad agency job. She left in 1994 to start AKA Advertising, and five years later Graham bought that agency — a move Frayard says allowed her to return to copywriting. "My strength was in doing the creative," she says. "I found out that when you own your own agency you do everything but what you love."

To ensure a smooth transition for Graham's clients, Raymond Credeur was this week promoted from senior art director to associate creative director. He's been with the agency for 1.5 years, having previously worked for BBR Creative. "We've got some truly talented people on staff, as good a staff as we've ever had," Graham says.

by: Leslie Turk 10:07 AM

Fired UL coach awarded $2 million

Former UL head football coach Jerry Baldwin was awarded a $2 million judgment in a discrimination suit against the university. Baldwin alleged that his contract was breached when he was fired by his employer in 2001 after only three years leading the Ragin' Cajuns. The Advocate reports:

Jurors also determined that former coach Jerry Baldwin's race played a role in his firing, but was not the sole reason for his losing his job. Baldwin was the first black head football coach at a major Louisiana university. ...

"It is clear Jerry Baldwin was not terminated because of his race," [UL attorney Steve] Oats said. "Jerry Baldwin was terminated over his tenure. The team had a record of 6-27 and attendance was terrible. The program was not going in the right direction."

by: R. Reese Fuller 9:58 AM

Election day food drive

The Rotary Club of Lafayette will host a food drive tomorrow on election day to help out the 2,000 local residents who need assistance with stocking their pantries. When you go to vote on Saturday, bring non-perishable food items - like canned goods, pasta and sugar - to your polling place for donation to FoodNet.

by: R. Reese Fuller 9:43 AM

The Independent Weekly earns Utne Reader Press Award nomination

According to its mission statement, Utne Reader magazine "reprints the best articles from over 2,000 alternative media sources bringing you the latest ideas and trends emerging in our culture... Provocative writing from diverse perspectives... Insightful analysis of art and media... Down-to-earth news and resources you can use... In-depth coverage of compelling people and issues that affect your life... The best of the alternative media."

Each year, the magazine's Independent Press Awards honors publications in categories such as Environmental Coverage, Political Coverage, In/Depth Investigative Coverage and more. We're honored that for Utne Reader's 19th annual awards competition, The Independent Weekly has been nominated in the Local/Regional Coverage category. We're in great company, competing with the likes of Sacramento News and Review, Oxford American, Baltimore's Urbanite and Denver's Westword. Nominees in other categories include perennial powerhouses such as L.A. Weekly, The Village Voice and Columbia Journalism Review.

Winners will be announced in late January/early February 2008, and all the nominees receive nods in the upcoming November/December issue of Utne Reader.

by: Scott Jordan 9:10 AM

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Will Jindal back out of tonight's final debate?

Two thorns in the side of Republican gubernatorial frontrunner Bobby Jindal's otherwise juggernaut campaign has been his near-complete absence from Congress since August 4 – he's missed more than 90 consecutive votes since Sept. 10 – and his decision to avoid debates with Democrats Walter Boasso and Foster Campbell and Independent John Georges. Jindal agreed to only one statewide televised debate, and begrudgingly acquiesced to three debates in total, the last of which is scheduled for tonight in New Orleans. With only two days left until Oct. 20, all Jindal had to do was play it safe tonight and deflect the 11th hour attacks from his challengers. Recent polls show him on the cusp of the 50 percent he needs to win the election outright this Saturday.

In a most unexpected twist, Jindal is hedging his bets and sounds like he might bail out of tonight's debate. He says he needs to be in Washington, D.C. to vote and try and override President Bush's veto of the expanded State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP), which provides health insurance to poor children. On the surface, it looks like one of the more insane campaign decisions made by a prominent Louisiana politician in recent memory. Jindal looks like a complete coward and hypocrite on two fronts. No. 1, he would be backing out of the last debate of the primary – which he agreed to more than a month ago – and fueling his opponents' and critics' assertions that Jindal is afraid to truly address the issues in a public arena. No. 2, his excuse of having to go to Washington to fulfill his congressional duties is laughable considering he's been absent from the nation's Capitol for almost three months. Put the two together, and Jindal could be handing his opponents quite a gift.

Also, Jindal knows he isn't pleasing his conservative supporters in Louisiana by making a public show of defying President Bush. The SCHIP debate has been a public relations nightmare for Bush on the national level, with a recent CBS News poll showing eight in 10 Americans favor expanding S-CHIP, including large majorities of Republicans, Democrats, and Independents. Still, that hasn't persuaded staunch conservatives and Republican members of the Louisiana delegation, including Lafayette's U.S. Rep. Charles Boustany, from breaking ranks with the president. While he voted against an earlier version of the SCHIP bill, Jindal now says he supports the SCHIP expansion and will likely be the only Republican member of the Louisiana delegation casting a vote for it. (His vote also appears moot at this point, as Democrats don't have enough votes to override Bush's veto.)

So, why would Jindal take such a risk so late in the campaign?

Because one of his other iffy areas is his record as Secretary of Department of Health and Hospitals under Mike Foster. While his campaign touts the budget reductions under Jindal's tenure, cutting costs can also mean cutting services. Boasso hammered that point with one of the most effective commercials of the campaign, which featured Slidell's Lynn McNeese angrily and emotionally recounting how her mentally ill brother was thrown out of a nursing home during Jindal's tenure. The Jindal campaign knew this would be a tender spot, as Boasso's ad sparked an immediate blizzard of Jindal supporters defending Jindal's health care record.

Perhaps Jindal's Washington vote today is just what it appears: an excuse to avoid tonight's debate. But what it really looks like is a calculated move to help him if the race goes to a runoff. With just one vote, Jindal bolsters his health care credentials, breaks his no-show streak in Congress and shows he can operate independently from the Republican party. Imagine the future wave of Jindal commercials_: I voted to protect and insure health care for Louisiana's children_. This was the statement Jindal released last night regarding the debate and his SCHIP vote:

"We are checking the schedule and working to determine what is doable. But there is no mystery how I would vote on this. I don't like opposing the President but I will when I need to and when it's an issue important to Louisiana, like the Farm Bill. I've been a supporter of the SCHIP Program for many years. It's a good program. I support increasing the SCHIP Program to ensure that all children, especially the millions who live in poverty, are not denied the health care they need."

As of 10:30 this morning, a rep from WWL-TV in New Orleans (which is hosting tonight's debate) said that Jindal "is still scheduled to appear."

by: Scott Jordan 11:01 AM

Boston Globe hails New Orleans' Recovery School District

Boston's public school system could learn a thing or two from New Orleans. While it may sound shocking, that's the message behind an editorial published this week in The Boston Globe, which heaps praise on the way in which New Orleans' Recovery School District is re-inventing the city's beleaguered public education system. In particular, the article singles out ways in which New Orleans is developing a fleet of charter schools, using both public resources and a newly established nonprofit, New Schools for New Orleans. In addition, two independent programs, TeachNOLA and New Leaders for New Schools, are working to recruit and train better teachers for the Crescent City. The Globe writes:

"Some of these emerging educational ventures already exist in other cities, but nowhere is there such a high concentration of entrepreneurial activity serving such a high proportion of public school students. And nowhere has the public bureaucracy been so willing to share responsibility with the private sector… Although there are plenty of serious gaps and challenges, this ‘un-district' is being closely watched by educators across the country as a potential model for the radical transformation of city school systems."

by: Nathan Stubbs 10:57 AM

BluePrint's Stuller questions LeBlanc's ethics reform position

BluePrint Louisiana co-founder Matt Stuller made it clear to the Broussard Chamber of Commerce yesterday that he is at odds with District 43 legislative candidate Pat LeBlanc's position on trips for public officials, despite that LeBlanc has signed onto Blueprint. "The problem we have with reasonably good ethics laws is people don't know the difference between an ethics violation and good behavior," Stuller said in a phone interview this morning.

Though Stuller did not name LeBlanc specifically in his response to an audience member's question about ethics reform -- the respected businessman was the guest speaker for the group's monthly lunch meeting at Le Triomphe -- he alluded to the legislative race and one candidate's position on providing trips to elected officials. LeBlanc took the Bexar County sheriff and his campaign manager, John Reynolds, on a golf and fishing trip to Costa Rica in 2005 when his company was vying for a lucrative commissary contract at the Bexar County jail. LeBlanc has maintained that these kinds of gifts are ethical and legal so long as the public official discloses them in campaign finance reports, even likening such jaunts to the way business is conducted in the oilfield. Both the sheriff and his campaign manager were convicted recently as a result of their relationship with LeBlanc's company, the sheriff for accepting and failing to report the trip and Reynolds for taking payments from LeBlanc's company and depositing them into a phony charity (LeBlanc says he was duped). Reynolds was on the board that awarded LeBlanc's company two commissary contracts.

"In my opinion, without question, [that kind of trip] violates the real truth of what ethics reform is all about," says Stuller.

Stuller maintains that BluePrint does not discriminate against anyone who agrees to endorse its platform. He also says that he has not spoken with LeBlanc about their difference of opinion on what constitutes ethics reform.

Stuller says he and other BluePrint representatives are traveling the state, "telling all communities about the opportunity of a great chance of reform ... for the first time ever, major reform initiatives [could happen] in a very short period of time."

LeBlanc, a Republican, faces fellow Republican Page Cortez in Saturday's election.

by: Leslie Turk 10:57 AM

New Iberia Artwalk tonight

More is more when it comes to the arts. And that is exactly what New Iberia's art lovers will embrace tonight at the Queen City's fall Artwalk. Main Street shops, galleries, museums and the public library will all throw open their doors at 5 p.m. this evening for a cultural gala. The Iberia Parish Library will feature an exhibition of political posters and memorabilia from the collection of Dr. Andy Reaux titled Uncorking Vintage Campaigns. This is a must see show for anyone with an interest in history and the colorful characters who populate our political landscape. Make a note to catch long time political observers Smitty Landry and Orres Leblanc, who will join Reaux on a panel to talk about legendary figures such as Huey Long, Dudley LeBlanc and Warren J "Puggy" Moity at the library on October 30. Another highlight of tonight's art openings will be "Art in the Alley", an outdoor exhibit in historic Church Alley. Wine, nibbles and some tunes on the squeezebox will accompany the paintings, sculpture and moonlight. Down at Bayou Teche Trading Company, fall will be toasted in with an October Fest celebration. Quaff some German beer, two-step to a little polka music, and have a great time down in the ‘Berry. For more information, contact New Iberia Main Street Manager Jane Braud at 369-2330, or the Iberia Parish Library at 364-7024.

by: Mary Tutwiler 10:08 AM

La. students' financial data lost

The Social Security numbers of Louisiana's college students and their parents are lost somewhere between Port Allen and Baton Rouge. The Associated Press reports that the loss affects "virtually all Louisiana college applicants and their parents ... " The Louisiana Office of Student Financial Assistance says that in September, the state's data storage contractor, the Boston-based Iron Mountain Inc., misplaced backup data for Louisiana's college students who applied for financial assistance within the last nine years in Louisiana. The office is encouraging students and parents to visit this Web site to determine whether they need to place a fraud alert on their financial information. Read other accounts from The Advocate and The Times-Picayune.

by: R. Reese Fuller 9:55 AM

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Patrick LeBlanc's troubling candidacy

Longtime Lafayette Parish School Board Member Mike Hefner is having a hard time coming to terms with why some of Lafayette's more prominent business people are continuing to support Pat LeBlanc's candidacy for state representative in District 43. In his campaign literature, LeBlanc says he will continue working to improve education. "I support education reforms that ensure that more of our tax dollars get to the classroom, and I want to see an emphasis put on helping all children succeed."

The irony of those words is too much for Hefner to swallow. Some LeBlanc supporters may have short memories, but the well-respected school board member does not. Hefner says in the mid-1980s the LeBlancs, then doing business as LeBlanc & Associates Inc. (with Pat as secretary/treasurer, according to the Secretary of State's records), did not pay to correct a design flaw that caused problems at Ridge Elementary. The contractor, the Lemoine Co., followed the LeBlancs' specifications on the driveway, which after only a few years had begun to crumble. Hefner says the Lemoines agreed to remedy the project at their cost, about $60,000. But when the school board sent the LeBlancs a demand letter asking for reimbursement, they got a surprising response: "When [school board attorney Lane Roy] got a response back, they were saying, ‘Good luck, the firm is bankrupt,'" Hefner says.

Read the entire Commentary from this week's edition of The Independent Wekly here.

by: admin 10:37 AM

Capitol Hill weighs in on Jena

There was a whole lot of finger-pointing yesterday on Capitol Hill - mainly by Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee - directed at U.S. Attorney Donald Washington over the Jena Six. The Associated Press reports that Rep. Sheila Jackson of Texas even told Washington, "Shame on you" and asked him repeatedly "Why didn't you intervene?"

"I was also offended, I too am an African-American," Washington told the panel. "I did intervene, I did engage the district attorney. At the end of the day, there are only certain things that the United States attorney can do."

The Baltimore Sun incorrectly reports that Washington "said for the first time" that hanging the nooses constituted a hate crime:

U.S. Attorney Donald Washington also said for the first time that the hanging of nooses from a shade tree in the Jena High School courtyard in September, 2006, by three white students—a warning to stay away from the tree directed at black students that triggered months of interracial fights in the town—constituted a federal hate crime, but that federal authorities opted not to prosecute the case because of the ages of the white youths involved.

Washington has already stated this in the past - that the hanging of the nooses constituted a hate crime and that it would be difficult for the federal government to prosecute the white students because of their age. Consider this July 31 account from The Town Talk:

"First of all, as the FBI said (during the forum) hanging a noose under the circumstances these nooses were hung is a hate crime," Washington said Monday. "... If these were adults who hung the noose, there would be less of an issue with moving forward with the investigation and prosecution."

He said hanging the noose after a student asks about being able to conduct some kind of activity around school tends to indicate strongly that the white students who hung it were intending to send a message. But because those who hung the nooses were juveniles, it makes the process much more difficult.

He said the federal government rarely prosecutes juveniles, and even if it does, it would be in a juvenile delinquency hearing that would be closed to the public and conducted in a manner that the public would be unaware that it even occurred.

Rev. Al Sharpton told the committee that it was unjust for white students not to be charged with a hate crime because they were minors but to charge black students as adults in a beating case.

by: R. Reese Fuller 10:34 AM

Iberia Parish sheriff's race feud accelerates

The foundation was laid three years ago for a contentious sheriff's race in Iberia Parish when Mayor Ruth Fontenot and the New Iberia City Council voted to dissolve the police department and consolidate services with the Iberia Parish Sheriff's Department. In June of 2004, New Iberia Police Department Capt. William "Mac" Wood and the New Iberia Policeman's Association filed suit against the city in a futile attempt to force the city to reinstate the department. Sheriff Sid Hebert joined forces with the city in the suit. "Never in Louisiana's history have we been able to have law enforcement on a completely unified sheet of music as it will be," Hebert told the Daily Iberian that summer.

Consolidation played a sour note in the fall mayor's race, where Fontenot was swept out of office on a tide of outrage by police department supporters. Since that time, there has been an unending stream of ugly sparring in the Daily Iberian's online forum. Hebert decided not to run for a forth term.

The run up to Saturday's election has inflamed the two opposing forces--those who support Hebert's chief deputy David Landry, and proponents, including most of the former New Iberia Police Department, of retired state trooper Louis Ackal. Two other candidates, Joe Leblanc and Bobby Jackson are also in the race, but neither of them carry the explosive baggage Landry and Ackal do.

Earlier in the year, Ackal's campaign office was broken into, and his dog was poisoned. (It survived.) The latest flaming arrow has been slung by a Vermilion Parish deputy and former state police officer who once was a close friend of Ackal's. Vermilion Parish deputy Kenneth Delcambre's newly formed PAC, Retired Louisiana State Troopers for Better Law Enforcement, is the source of mailers and radio ads (pulled from the air by New Iberia KANE radio this week), claiming Ackal "padded his State Police résumé, used politics to get his promotions while a state trooper and served much of his time in State Police in non-law enforcement roles," according to a story in today's Advocate. While Delcambre cites bad blood between himself and Ackal as the reason he decided to get involved in the Iberia race, Ackal says the real source of the ads is Hebert on behalf of Landry. The Advocate confirmed that Hebert called Vermilion Parish Sheriff Mike Couvillon and asked him if he had a problem with one of his deputies intervening in the Iberia race. Couvillion responded that he had no problem as long as it did not embarrass the Vermilion Parish Sheriff's Office.

The mail-out is the subject of KANE's talk show Teche Matters, hosted by Jeff Boggs, this morning. You can listen to it on streaming audio at www.kane1240.com.

by: Mary Tutwiler 10:30 AM

LPSS hosting "Gang Awareness" sessions

The Lafayette Parish School System will be hosting its first ever teacher and parent sessions on gang awareness this week as another step toward addressing escalating violence in local schools. Major Vernon L. Creecy, warden of the Rapides Parish Sheriff's Office Detention Center, will be on hand to make a presentation on recognizing and preventing gang activity. The parent session, "Gang Awareness, Prevention and Intervention" is scheduled for Thursday, Oct. 18, from 6-8p.m. at the Clifton Chenier Center and is open to the general public. To reserve a seat, call 521-7089 or 521-7090. Additional sessions for school staff are scheduled for earlier in the day.

The event comes on the heels of a string of school fights that have resulted in the arrests of more than 50 students from area high schools this year. "We can't stop something from happening if we don't even know that it exists," says Superintendent Burnell Lemoine. "I feel like we got a wake up call early in the school year with the number of fights on or near our high schools. When students arrive at school, they don't leave the rest of their lives at the doorstep. Whatever happens to students at home or in their neighborhoods affects the students' actions, decisions and thoughts while they are at school. Right now, we are working on raising awareness of our faculty, staff, students and parents about signs that might lead to violence. If we can learn about signals of potential violence, we have a better chance of stopping it before violence erupts."

by: Nathan Stubbs 10:02 AM

Expect fireworks at final gubernatorial debate

The final gubernatorial debate between Democrats Walter Boasso and Foster Campbell, Independent John Georges and Republican Bobby Jindal is slated for 6 p.m. tomorrow night (Thursday, Oct. 18) in New Orleans. It won't be televised statewide, but Acadiana voters can watch the debate streaming online at wwltv.com, and it will also be simulcast on WWL 870 AM. If Georges' interview with The Times-Picayune yesterday is any indication of what he's got planned for the debate, expect some fireworks. Georges says that Jindal orchestrated the home delivery of his third child last year, doesn't have an original thought and is merely posing as an outdoorsman.

"He got a hunting license in 2006, he's running around the hunting crowd like he's a big hunter," he said. "My wife can outshoot him."

With Boasso and Campbell also trying to get in their last shots at Jindal before Saturday's election to force a runoff, you'll want plenty of popcorn for this final debate.

by: Scott Jordan 9:45 AM

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Landry accuses Trahan of campaign "slush fund"

District 31 state representative candidate Nancy Landry has sent out a mail piece likening her political opponent's campaign account to a "special interest slush fund." Landry faces incumbent state Rep. Don Trahan in the Oct. 20 election. The mail piece, with the banner headline of "Other People's Money" states that 56 percent of Trahan's campaign contributions have come from "PACs [Political Action Committees], lobbyists and out of state interests," as opposed to one percent of Landry's contributions. Accompanying pie charts label Landry's campaign contributions as being "99 percent ‘clean' money" while Trahan's consists of "56 percent ‘dirty' money." Furthermore, the mailer alleges, Trahan uses his campaign funds for personal expenses, including more than $20,000 on "cigars, dining, gas & mileage reimbursements – even cable TV and an apartment in Baton Rouge." The information is lifted from Trahan's campaign finance reports dating back to 2005. Read the mailer.

Trahan maintains that all his expenses have been legitimate. In a released statement responding to the mail piece, he says, "I have not violated the letter or the spirit of the campaign finance law. To suggest otherwise is political slander." Trahan adds, "PACs are simply groups of people pooling their resources to support the candidate of their choice. Is their money ‘dirty'?" He also says he has voluntarily chosen to use his campaign funds for travel expenses rather than his legislative expense account. "An effective legislator cannot stay home," he says. "It is absolutely proper, legal and ethical to use voluntarily given campaign funds for such purposes rather than nailing the taxpayers with these bills." Read Trahan's statement.

Trahan goes on to accuse Landry of going against her own pledge to run a clean race and "campaigning like one of the ‘good ole boys' of old." Landry insists she is only pointing out an important issue in the race. In a press release she put out with her mailer (read it here), Landry says, "the incumbent's sources and uses of campaign funds cut to the very heart of the conduct of his office. When the incumbent calls himself a ‘reformer' – the voters of the 31st District have a right to know where the incumbent's campaign money comes from, and how he spends it."

by: Nathan Stubbs 10:41 AM

Jindal receives widespread endorsements from Acadiana legislators

With five days left until Saturday's Oct. 20 election, a formidable coalition of Acadiana legislators endorsed Republican gubernatorial candidate Bobby Jindal at a Jindal campaign event in Lafayette this morning. City-Parish President Joey Durel, state Sen. Mike Michot, state Rep. Joel Robideaux, state Rep. Ernie Alexander, state Rep. Don Trahan, Clerk of Court Louis Perret, Mamou Mayor Wilda Chamberlain, Abbeville Mayor Mark Piazza and Acadia Parish Assessor Russel Benoit are among those supporting Jindal. A total of 90 officials from seven parishes endorsed the Kenner congressman.

In other governor's race news, former state Attorney General Richard Ieyoub emerged out of nowhere yesterday to say that Jindal worked against him in 1996 to prevent Ieyoub from suing tobacco companies. (A 14th district state judge ruled in 1997 that Ieyoub had the authority to file the suit, which resulted in Louisiana sharing in a $370 billion multi-state settlement for smoking's financial effect on Medicaid programs.)

Ieyoub's assertion is relevant for trying to understand Jindal's position on the lawsuit (which Jindal now says is irrelevant), but the larger question is: Where has Ieyoub been on this issue for the last year? Or the last four years, for that matter? Was he mowing grass or watching football last weekend when he suddenly remembered Jindal's involvement? The Advocate nails it in this passage from its story:

Ieyoub said he did not raise the issue when he ran for governor against Jindal in 2003. He said he does not know why he did not make the point then. In the current governor's race, Ieyoub said he is not supporting any particular candidate.

Since Gov. Kathleen Blanco is politically radioactive because of the disastrous Road Home program, it looks like Ieyoub was called upon for this transparent and utterly unconvincing appearance.

by: Scott Jordan 10:30 AM

FBI still investigating bribery scheme involving LeBlancs

The cloud of an FBI investigation in Texas, with his company as a potential target, continues to plague District 43 legislative candidate Pat LeBlanc, a Republican who faces fellow Republican Page Cortez in this Saturday's election.

The FBI isn't saying much -- just enough to confirm that the investigation into how the LeBlancs (Pat and his brother Mike) landed two commissary contracts in Bexar County is ongoing. So far, the sheriff and his longtime campaign manager have been convicted in state court, with the 70-year-old campaign manager, John Reynolds, facing 10 years in prison. "This is an ongoing investigation," said FBI spokesman Erik Vasys this morning, confirming the inquiry is related to the commissary contracts "and possible improprieties with that contract."

In today's The Daily Advertiser, Vasys goes on to say the FBI is looking into the "interstate aspects of if and how a scheme was perpetrated to illegally influence the contract."

What is clear from Reynolds' plea agreement is that the LeBlancs' company, Premier Management Enterprises, made three donations to what turned out to be a phony charity created by Reynolds. The LeBlancs say they were duped and have maintained their innocence in the entire matter, but what candidate LeBlanc has yet to address is two additional checks, "consulting fees" of an unknown nature, that Premier and his brother Mike also paid to Reynolds. One check was written for $5,000 and the other for $5,014; here's what Reynolds' plea agreement includes about that peculiar amount: "Ian [Williamson, then a Premier employee] also stated that he asked John Reynolds why the 'consulting fee' he was charging was $5,014 and not $5,000 even, and John Reynolds told him that $5,000 looked too funny."

by: Leslie Turk 10:26 AM

Spraying suit filed against Iberia Parish Council

A group of residents of Iberia Parish have filed a lawsuit against the Iberia Parish Council after allegedly being sprayed with pesticide. The group of about 15 residents of Jeanerette were protesting outside of a business on Main Street after an incident in which they claimed their civil rights were violated. Redford Gilliam told the Daily Iberian in late June that he and some friends were playing pool at D&B Sports Bar when they were told to leave the pool table up front and go play in the back. They had been protesting on the street for two days, when, on Sunday, July 1, a small plane allegedly flew low over the street and sprayed the group with a chemical. Several of the protesters rushed to the hospital after experiencing chemical burns on their skin, stomach pains and vomiting.

According to the suit, the plane is owned by ADAPCO, Inc. a Florida exterminating company, which was under contract with Iberia Parish Government to spray for mosquitoes. The suit says the plaintiffs were sprayed with the insecticide Dibrom. According to the label, Dibrom is a hazard to humans and domestic animals and "causes irreversible eye and skin damage. May be fatal if swallowed, inhaled or absorbed through the skin. May cause allergic skin reaction. Do not get in eyes, on skin or on clothing. Do not breathe vapor or spray mist." The suit states that the pilot "knew or should have known that he was flying over Main Street which might have pedestrians on it, and the pilot saw or should have seen the Plaintiffs who were located on the street in clear view to the pilot." The suit goes on to say that the parish council had a duty to adequately warn potential pedestrians that the area was going to be sprayed and that the council failed to provide the plaintiffs (and the hospital) with information about the chemical once they were sprayed, which increases the risk of permanent injury.

Attorneys Steve Irving and Joel Porter of Baton Rouge are representing Elouise Bernard, Farrah Bernard, Lawanda Gilliam, Redford Gilliam, Juandre Gilliam, Felicia Hurst, Lathaniel Sereal, Wanda Sereal, Raymond Sereal, Danyell Sereal, Dewayne Goodwin and Quintella Goodwin and nine children. Defendents are ADAPCO, Inc. and the Iberia Parish Council. The suit was filed today in Iberia Parish.

by: Mary Tutwiler 10:25 AM

Blanco seeks more for Road Home

Gov. Kathleen Blanco estimates that the state's troubled Road Home program is $3-4 billion short and that at the current pace funding will run out by January. Blanco is in Washington, D.C. with New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin and members of the Louisiana Recovery Authority to urge members of Congress to fund the anticipated shortfall. According to a press release from the governor's office:

To date, the Road Home has received more than 184,000 applications, and more than 61,000 homeowners have received their awards, totaling more than $4.2 billion.

At the current rate of grant payouts of 10,000 a month, and at the current average award per grant of $70,000 per homeowner, the Road Home program is projected to exhaust its existing budget by the first of the year.

by: R. Reese Fuller 10:20 AM

Monday, October 15, 2007

Michot and Robideaux respond to LeBlanc ad

State Sen. Mike Michot and Rep. Joel Robideaux have issued a statement responding to the latest ad by the Patrick LeBlanc campaign, which criticizes them for "baseless attacks" that contradict their organization's own "clean campaign" pledge. Michot and Robideaux's statement begins, "Senator Mike Michot and Representative Joel Robideaux want to make sure that the voters of Lafayette Parish know that they are the two legislators being personally attacked in an ad being aired by the Patrick LeBlanc Campaign." The typically passive Michot, who is a longtime friend of LeBlanc's opponent in the District 43 race, states he originally held out hope that LeBlanc would withdraw from the race once news broke of his connection to a public corruption scandal in west Texas. (LeBlanc maintains he is innocent of any wrongdoing.) "Instead," Michot states, "[LeBlanc] began spending his personal fortune to craft a message built on ethics reform."

"I believe that [LeBlanc] is misleading the people of Lafayette, Broussard and Youngsville," Michot continues, "and that he misrepresented himself to many of his early supporters. Let Mr. LeBlanc and his political operatives hear me very clearly. As the Senator representing these areas, I feel an obligation and duty to inform the voters of the allegations surrounding Mr. LeBlanc. Transparency and disclosure start during a campaign." Read the entire press release here.

The statement is the latest salvo in an exchange that began when Michot and Robideaux's Political Action Committee, Leadership for Louisiana, began running ads critical of LeBlanc and his ties to a Texas investigation which involved illegal gifts public officials received from one of LeBlanc's companies. LeBlanc fired back with his own ad last week, which has been in heavy rotation on local radio. LeBlanc's ad refers only to Michot and Robideaux as the "two Lafayette legislators" behind Leadership for Louisiana and the "baseless attacks" being levied against him. The ad alleges Michot and Robideaux have "made a mockery of their own [clean campaign] pledge," before noting, "too bad you can't vote against them." (Michot and Robideaux are both running unopposed for re-election.) LeBlanc is running for the District 43 state representative seat being vacated by Ernie Alexander. He faces fellow Republican Page Cortez in the Oct. 20 election.

by: Nathan Stubbs 11:06 AM

John Warner Smith leaving Blanco administration

A former CAO for Lafayette government tapped by Gov. Kathleen Blanco in early 2004 as labor secretary, John Warner Smith is leaving the post Nov. 2 for a job as CEO of Next Horizon. Next Horizon is a nonprofit formed by attorney Paul G. Pastorek, who was named State Superintendent of Education earlier this year after the death of Cecil Picard.

In announcing Smith's departure, Blanco noted that his department faced unprecedented challenges following hurricanes Katrina and Rita and commended Smith for his work aiding residents in the aftermath of those storms.

From 1989 to 1997, Smith served as CAO for Lafayette and Lafayette Consolidated Government, where he oversaw all departments and helped lead the transition for consolidation of city and parish governments. Before accepting the position in Blanco's administration, Smith worked for six years as a vice president in the government banking division of JP Morgan Chase.

Blanco says she will announce a replacement for Smith in the coming weeks. Smith's last day as labor secretary is Friday, Nov. 2.

by: Leslie Turk 10:53 AM

New plans for coastal restoration from environmental groups make waves

Two environmental groups, the Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana and the Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation, groups with longstanding expertise in wetlands restoration, have such strong objections to the state's master plan for coastal restoration and hurricane protection that they wrote recommendations of their own. Dubbed Multiple Lines of Defense Strategy, the plan forms a detailed set of interconnected recommendations for building levees; restoring wetlands, historic ridges and barrier islands; changing or protecting evacuation routes; and improving building codes and zoning regulations to reduce the risk of flooding from major hurricanes.

Major critical projects included in the state's master plan, which will cost tens of billions of dollars, must be funded by the federal government. The Army Corps of Engineers is on a fast track, slated for December, to adopt the state's plan. Funding may come by summer 2008. The environmental groups objected to the massive levees proposed, complaining that impounding wetlands in the efforts to protect low-lying communities from flooding would actually exacerbate wetland loss along the coast. Accordingly, they accelerated their recommendations to meet the Corps' deadlines.

State officials are concerned that this new plan may muddy the waters. Sidney Coffee, chairman of the state Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority and head of the Governor's Office of Coastal Activities told The Times-Picayune: "We're always concerned when others go to Washington and start touting alternative plans. It creates confusion at the Washington level."

by: Mary Tutwiler 10:40 AM

N.Y. money in La. races

In its Sunday edition, The Advocate's Acadiana bureau details how a N.Y. real estate developer has donated thousands of dollars to Louisiana politicians through Louisiana groups. Companies associated with Howard Rich, a libertarian who has financed ballot initiatives in several states, has recently "spread $60,000 among 21 candidates" in this year's legislative races. Checks have been made out from eight different corporations - not in Rich's name - but all with the same N.Y. address.

Most of the campaign money was handed out in August to both Democrats and Republicans in checks of $2,500 — the maximum contribution allowed for an individual candidate.

But state Rep. Dist. 40 incumbent Elbert Guillory, D-Opelousas, received a total of $10,000 from four different companies with the same New York address. ...

Guillory — who is now seeking a full term in Saturday's election — received a fourth $2,500 in August and said he could not recall anything about the four checks, including from whom they may have come from or how they came into his possession.

Read "N.Y. funds going into La. races."

by: R. Reese Fuller 10:36 AM

Oil and gas royalties continue at record-breaking pace

If you thought the state was feeling flush last year when income from oil and gas royalties topped $522.5 million, an all-time high, then dig this: Louisiana Mineral Board Secretary Marjorie McKeithen says royalty amounts and mineral revenues are once again on track to shatter the record books.

Just last week, the state made $5.9 million through three bids on tracts in Iberia Parish that were once unobtainable and are on the market again for the first time since the 1930s. By clearing more properties for sale, the state is creating more opportunity – and income.

A federal sale of offshore oil and natural gas leases in the Central Gulf of Mexico earlier this month is also a good indicator. It attracted nearly $3 million, the second-highest total in U.S. history.

The Minerals Management Service, which conducted Lease Sale 205, received a total of 1,428 bids on 723 tracts. The sum of all bids received – losing as well as winning bids -- tallied about $5 million from 84 participating companies. Developing these oil and gas rights in the Gulf could result in the production of 776 million to 1.3 billion barrels of oil and 3.2 to 5.2 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, according to federal officials.

Chris John, president of the Louisiana Mid-Continent Oil and Gas Association, says that the lease sale shows that activity in the Gulf is picking back up. "The amount of the bids shows how much confidence that the oil and gas companies have in the future of the Gulf of Mexico," he says. – Jeremy Alford

by: admin 9:25 AM

Friday, October 12, 2007

Michot/Robideaux draw heat over controversial ads

Both Lafayette state Sen. Mike Michot and Rep. Joel Robideaux are running unopposed for re-election this year, but that hasn't kept them out of the fray of election season attacks. Last weekend, Michot and Robideaux's Political Action Committee, Leadership for Louisiana, began running ads critical of District 43 state representative candidate Patrick LeBlanc. The ads take clips from LeBlanc's own ads and campaign speeches, promoting ethics reform, while highlighting news reports on LeBlanc's ties to a recent public corruption scandal in west Texas. Both Michot and Robideaux have endorsed Leblanc's opponent in the District 43 race, Page Cortez. The negative ads are a first for Leadership for Louisiana, which was formed by Michot and Robideaux in 2006 with a mission to "recruit, train, and support quality candidates for office." The organization also espouses a need for "clean, solution-oriented" campaigns and urges candidates to sign a pact, which includes a pledge to "conduct a clean campaign focused on solutions to our state's problems." The candidate pledge concludes: "I will not engage in personal attacks or dirty politics and will firmly oppose those who do."

Perhaps taking a page out of Michot and Robideaux's own playbook, the Pat LeBlanc campaign is now using those words against Leadership for Louisiana. A recent Youtube video, titled "The Truth about Patrick LeBlanc" has been posted by the LeBlanc campaign and states, "with the recent attacks on Patrick LeBlanc, [Leadership for Louisiana] has made a mockery of their own pledge." The clip never mentions Michot and Robideaux by name, referring to them only as the "two Lafayette legislators" behind Leadership for Louisiana. The video also claims Michot and Robideaux helped "increase your taxes, doubled the size of state government and did nothing about the disgraceful Road Home program" before adding "too bad you can't vote against them." The LeBlanc camp is doubling down on Michot and Robideaux with its counter-attack. On KLFY, Leadership for Louisiana is projected to spend a total of $14, 120 on its ads against LeBlanc, which began Oct. 5 and run through Oct. 19. LeBlanc has now purchased $31, 475 worth of airtime on the same channel with two new ads that began running Oct. 9, including one where he claims he was a victim of political corruption. Neither Michot nor Robideaux returned calls for comment by deadline.

by: Nathan Stubbs 11:19 AM

Women's Home Music released today

A double-disc of field recordings of a capella French songs will be available for purchase today for $20 at Downtown Alive and throughout the weekend at Festivals Acadiens. Louisiana Folk Masters: Women's Home Music is the result of a collaborative effort between Louisiana Crossroads Records and the UL Lafayette Archives of Cajun and Creole Folklore. Barry Ancelet and Kristi Guillory co-produced the CD and penned the essays for the 28-page booklet that features photos by Elemore Morgan Jr. The 45 tracks - recorded between 1937 and 1995 - were edited and mastered by local musician and producer Dirk Powell. After this weekend, the CD will be available for purchase at www.LouisianaCrossroads.org.

by: R. Reese Fuller 11:12 AM

Forbes names LHC Group a best small biz

Lafayette-based LHC Group landed a spot in the top 10 of Forbes' 200 best small companies in the country. The local publicly traded company, which provides home-based services through its home nursing agencies and hospices and facility-based services through its long-term acute care hospitals and rehabilitation facilities, came in at No. 7 on the list. Here's what Forbes says about the methodology:

Our 200 Best Small Companies in America must pass through a gauntlet to qualify for the list. We judged candidates -- all with revenue of $5 million to $750 million and share prices above $5 as of Oct. 1 -- according to return on equity, as well as sustained sales and net profit growth over 12-month and five-year periods. Too much debt, signs of a downturn in the future or a whiff of legal troubles are all disqualifiers. We also exclude banks, utilities and REITs, since operational management has less of an impact on their results than market movements, industry regulation and requirements forcing them to pay out a majority of taxable income, respectively.

LHC Group's Baton Rouge-based competitor, Amedisys, is No. 32 on the list. The complete list is available online and will appear in the Oct. 29 issue of Forbes.

by: Leslie Turk 10:51 AM

Mychal Bell back in jail

Mychal Bell, one of the Jena Six, is back in jail after 28th Judicial District Judge J.P. Mauffrey Jr. sentenced him to 18 months for a conviction he was already facing before the December 2006 beating of classmate Justin Barker. The Associated Press reports that Bell was sentenced in juvenile court to 18 months on two counts of simple battery and two counts of criminal destruction of property. CNN reports that Bell was sent to the Renaissance Home for Youth in Alexandria.

by: R. Reese Fuller 10:21 AM

Early voting sets state record

The busy beep of computerized touch screen voting machines is sounding off a record early voting tally. "We've had a tremendous week," says Charlene Menard, Lafayette Registrar of Voters. As of 9:30 this morning, 2,543 ballots had been cast in Lafayette Parish for statewide and local races. It's been equally busy in Iberia Parish, where registrar Mildred Adams totaled 2,073 ballots at the close of voting on Thursday. "People really like it," she says. "It's quick and easy." Adams and Menard both cite the home LSU-Auburn game as one reason people are pouring in to vote absentee. A 2005 change in the voting law is another. No longer do people have to sign affidavits stating that they will be out of town or in the hospital on election day. The Oct. 20 race is the first major election to be affected by the new law. "You don't have to have a reason to vote early," says Menard. Adams, who has worked in the voting office since 1976 before becoming Registrar of Voters in 1985 says the biggest absentee turn out was in the 2004 presidential race. "We had 2,400 people who came in early to vote for president. I think we might beat that total this year." Statewide, as of close of business on Thursday, 84,657 people had voted. "We set a record yesterday, 20,922 voters," says Jacques Berry, press secretary for Secretary of State Jay Dardenne. "That's just fantastic." During the last governor's race, in 2003, the state counted 85, 602 absentee ballots in the primary and 102,149 in the runoff. "If we get the same amount today and Saturday," says Berry, "we'll have had 4.5 percent of total voters in the state. It's really encouraging."

by: Mary Tutwiler 10:15 AM

Where's Bobby?

It's no secret that gubernatorial frontrunner Bobby Jindal isn't attending most of the debates to face his opposition. His campaign stays mum, arguing that Jindal is bringing his message to the state directly.

That message, though, didn't reach Houma this week. Jindal left a crowd waiting Wednesday afternoon, but at least sent his wife, Supriya, in his stead. Campaign staff wouldn't say where Jindal was.

He probably wasn't in Congress. According to the roll call records of Congress, Jindal hasn't voted since Sept. 10, missing a total of 93 consecutive votes. Prior to that, he made two votes commemorating 9/11 and supporting Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month. Yet he missed votes on the energy bill, affordable housing, improving government accountability (one of his campaign's war cries) and hordes of others.

Jindal campaign spokespeople have called the missed votes "regrettable" but unavoidable during an election season. But the problem may be larger than a few isolated months this year. Overall, Jindal has missed 202 of 2,160 votes, 9 percent, since he took office on Jan. 4, 2005. GovTrack, a non-partisan nexus of federal data, ranks that stat as "poor, relative to peers." - Jeremy Alford

by: admin 10:06 AM

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Councilman wants SafeSpeed vans to go home

Lafayette City-Parish Councilman Lenwood Broussard has put the issue of Redflex's SafeSpeed vans on the council agenda for Oct. 23 as a discussion item. "Basically, I want more information about it, and I want to know if we can rescind what we did with those vans. I got a real problem with those vans."

Broussard, in fact, has challenged the program, which proponents claim will make city streets safer, from the outset. "I got problems with the whole issue. I voted no on everything," he says. He and Councilman Bobby Badeaux ("the only two sane boys on the council," jokes Broussard) voted against the project. In January, City-Parish President Joey Durel announced that he had selected Redflex to be the vendor for Lafayette Consolidated Government's SafeLight and SafeSpeed programs. Back in September 2006, the City-Parish Council approved ordinances that declared the electronic enforcement of running red lights and exceeding the speed limit a civil violation. Those ordinances were tweaked in August of this year, including clarifying that the owner of the vehicle is the party responsible for paying the ticket. In early October of this year, Redflex set up shop with its vans, which locate at undisclosed areas throughout the city.

Broussard says he's since been inundated with calls and is perturbed that residents didn't speak up sooner. "Where were y'all when me and Badeaux were fighting?" Broussard asks. "They're all up in arms now -- and not one of them had a ticket."

Broussard says the plan to install affixed red light cameras doesn't bother him as much as the vans, which are able to stake out places where they can make a lot of money, ticketing automobiles instead of bad drivers. "That is B.S. That is wrong, man," Broussard says. "They're going to make some money. Those vans are not out there to break even. I don't know if they're going to put quotas on their drivers." Broussard also points out that families with multiple drivers will have no idea who the culprit is, unlike what happens when a speeding ticket is issued by a law enforcement official.

by: Leslie Turk 11:02 AM

New poll: Jindal under 50 percent as Oct. 20 approaches

The latest gubernatorial poll, conducted by Southeastern Louisiana University, shows Republican frontrunner Bobby Jindal just under the 50 percent he would need to score an outright victory on Oct. 20. The poll of 641 registered voters from Oct. 1-7 found Jindal at 46 percent, Democrat Walter Boasso at 10 percent, Independent John Georges at 9 percent, and Democrat Foster Campbell at 6 percent. The most surprising finding of the poll showed 29 percent still undecided or refusing to state a preference, which poll director Kurt Corbello of SLU says is unusually high this late in a campaign.

With undecided "leaners" factored in, the numbers shake out this way: Jindal just over 49 percent, Boasso at 11.2 percent; Georges at 10.8 percent and Campbell at 6.2 percent.

If Jindal doesn't win on Oct. 20 and it goes to a runoff, his whopping campaign chest – he reported $4.24 million in cash-in-hand in yesterday's campaign finance report – still gives him a huge edge. Boasso, Campbell or Georges each would be at a significant financial disadvantage -- Boasso has $144,000 left to spend, Campbell has $409,000 and Georges has $734,000 – but would be hoping for the stars to align in a runoff. Few things are as unpredictable as Louisiana politics; consider the math in a hypothetical borderline-crazy scenario that the undecided voters and the voters whose candidates didn't make the runoff all align behind Jindal's opponent in the runoff:

Jindal: 49

Boasso or Georges: 11; converted Boasso or Georges voters: 11; converted Campbell voters: 6; converted undecided voters: 22; Total: 50

by: Scott Jordan 10:48 AM

Roux the day

The arrival of cool northern breezes sweeping down Bayou Teche couldn't have happened on a better weekend. What more incentive could weekend warriors have to fire up butane burners and start that big pot of roux slowly bubbling? A little competitive spirit adds spice to the pot, and that's what 83 teams of soup cooks are gearing up for this Sunday at New Iberia's World Championship Gumbo Cookoff.

The cookoff is a two-day event. Saturday, Bouligny Plaza will fill with vendors cooking everything but gumbo. Downtown merchants are offering shopping specials, and bands will play into the cool of the evening including Thomas "Big Hat" Fields, Kevin Naquin and the Ossun Playboys and Travis Matte and the Zydeco Kingpins.

Sunday is the big event. Teams converge at 6 a.m. to begin cooking. Judging takes place at 10 a.m., servings go on sale at 11. This is an all-day tasting extravaganza, with versions of seafood, chicken and sausage and game gumbo in the running for best of the Teche. Geno Delafose and French Rockin' Boogie and Jamie Bergeron and the Kickin' Cajuns provide entertainment. For more information, call the Iberia Chamber of Commerce at 364-1836.

by: Mary Tutwiler 9:58 AM

FEMA trailer park set to close

FEMA has set November 2008 as the date for evacuees to move out of Renaissance Village, the FEMA trailer park in Baker. The Advocate reports that in March, residents who continue to live there will be charged $50 a month for rent, with increases every month thereafter.

The number of people living in Renaissance Village has slowly declined since FEMA started the housing center, [FEMA spokesman Manuel] Broussard said.

There were 463 families Wednesday living in village trailers — down about 30 from a month ago — and FEMA has moved about 100 unoccupied trailers out.

Read also The Independent Weekly's July 19, 2006 cover story about Renaissance Village.

by: R. Reese Fuller 9:23 AM

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Mixed messages from Patrick LeBlanc

District 43 state representative candidate Patrick LeBlanc is running on a platform of ethics reform and transparency in government. So why is he refusing multiple interview requests from The Independent Weekly and shirking questions about his company's role in a corruption scandal in Texas? Find out in this week's Independent cover story.

The Daily Advertiser also has coverage of the District 43 race today between Republicans LeBlanc and Page Cortez, in a story titled "Ethics reform at the heart of House District 43 election."

by: admin 10:50 AM

Flamingo not in Kansas anymore

Two years ago, a Kansas flamingo that apparently felt that the Sedgwick County Zoo in Wichita, Kan. no longer had anything to offer it, released itself on its own recognizance. The Associated Press reports that the rogue bird has been spotted hanging out near the Calcasieu Ship Channel with a "companion." According to a spokesperson, the zoo has no intentions of capturing and extraditing the escapee back to the Jayhawk state. View the suspect in this photo from The Wichita Eagle.

by: R. Reese Fuller 10:39 AM

Separate justice in Jena an American problem

In this week's New Yorker, commentator Steve Coll views the story of the "Jena Six" as not only a series of incidents about discrimination in a small southern town, but as a microcosm of the larger racial disparity in the American justice system.

Many African-Americans understand the case not only as the civil-rights era redux but as a stark illustration of a here-and-now problem, one about which whites are mainly silent: the mass incarceration of black youths—America's "school-to-prison pipeline," as some scholars have christened it.

Coll continues, stating that most people from other states would like to believe that what happened in Jena is indigenous to the Deep South and Louisiana in particular.

The state of Louisiana, true to its reputation for rococo extremism in all matters political, locks up in prison a higher percentage of its population—black, white, and all other races combined—than any other state in the nation. It might be of some comfort to politicians, then, if the Jena case, like the disgraceful treatment of displaced African-American victims of Hurricane Katrina, could be rationalized as an isolated, swamp-inspired exception to a more temperate American norm.

He concludes, however, that the opposite is true.

In the United States today, driving while black—or shoplifting while black, or taking illegal drugs, or hitting schoolmates—often carries the greatest risk of incarceration, in comparison to the risk faced by whites, in states where people of color are rare, including a few states that are liberal, prosperous, and not a little self-satisfied. Ex-slave states that are relatively poor and have large African-American populations, such as Louisiana, display less racial disparity.

Discrimination in the American justice system is not only a Deep South thing; it is a national embarrassment.

The legal community of Jena has a unique opportunity to reverse the stigma of racism that the town is associated with. There are trials upcoming for five of the six young black men involved. If social justice is served, the name Jena could become known as the place where discrimination, finally, began to come to an end.

by: Mary Tutwiler 10:35 AM

Jindal heart UK?

It's probably a safe bet that you won't be seeing Bobby Jindal's new "education" ad during this weekend's LSU-UK football game. In fact, it's probably already been pulled from the airwaves for the potential panic attack it can give to pro-LSU Bobby Jindal supporters. Midway through the ad, just as the narrator talks about our school system having "a second chance with the ideas of Bobby Jindal," the camera scrolls over a classroom of kids intently reading at their desks. It's a standard campaign commercial scene, except for a conspicuous "I heart UK" sticker on the wall in the background.

As it turns out, the ad was produced by Hollywood-based campaign consultant Fred Davis on behalf of the national Republican Governors Association and utilized some of the same stock footage as an ad that ran last year for Kentucky Gov. Ernie Fletcher. Campaign ethics laws strictly forbid third parties from having any coordination with a candidate's campaign, which helps explain how nobody caught the mishap in advance. Of course, the timing of the gaffe is all too ironic. Yesterday, the Jindal camp was forced to clearly state where the congressman's allegiance lies in this weekend's match-up between top-ranked LSU and the University of Kentucky. Campaign spokesperson Melissa Sellers told the Times Picayune: "Any suggestion that Bobby would root for any team over LSU could possibly be the lowest attack on his character yet."

by: Nathan Stubbs 10:27 AM

KVOL making life miserable for Redflex

KVOL AM 1330's morning show is making life miserable for Redflex, the Arizona company Lafayette Consolidated Government hired to take pictures of speeders' (and soon red light runners') license plates in an effort to improve the safety of our streets. In agreeing to the lucrative contract with Redflex, the city-parish council also voted to change such infractions to civil, rather than criminal, offenses. The company began issuing tickets early this month as part of the contract that applies to the city of Lafayette only.

KVOL has started a petition drive requesting that LCG terminate its contract with Redflex or bring the matter to a vote of the people. "I do not condone speeding or red-light running, nor does anyone at Pittman Broadcasting," says morning show co-host Todd Elliott. "We think that's a crime. Lafayette Consolidated Government thinks it's a civil matter." Elliott says he has a problem with the offense not being reported to the driver's insurance company and maintains at least one state has deemed the practice illegal. Clearly, violators don't have the same due process protections afforded motorists ticketed the old fashioned way — and the automobile, not the driver, gets the citation. First offense violations range from $25 to $150. In its arrangement with LCG, Redflex receives $15.50 from every $25 fine that is paid, and $29.75 from all greater fines.

KVOL's dissatisfaction with Lafayette's newest crime fighters is catching on. "We're rapidly approaching approximately 1,000 signatures," he says.

On Monday night, Lafayette resident and community activist Denice Skinner, a regular guest on Elliott's "fyiacadiana" program, stopped at a Redflex SafeSpeed van parked near the Cajundome and asked the driver whether he was a licensed private eye. Skinner claims the man initially said he was but when she asked for his ID, he said he didn't have it on him. When she further questioned whether he was licensed by Redflex, the man said his license had expired, according to Skinner, who reported the incident on the air yesterday morning. The community activist says state statutes require licensing for anyone who is taking photos or collecting evidence for possible court proceedings, so she reported the driver to police, who went to her home Monday night and filed a report. (City-parish attorney Pat Ottinger told The Daily Advertiser he is looking into the licensing issue.)

"If they don't have a license, we have not been assured they have gone through the proper background checks," Skinner says.

Back on the Redflex beat this morning, two KVOL listeners/volunteers who go by the names "Badger" and "Tonto" delivered a day-old Happy Meal to a Redflex driver and also asked her if she had a license. In a conversation aired live (Badger was miked), the woman told the duo it would have to direct such questions to LCG. Badger and Tonto then reported that the driver dropped the Happy Meal on the side of the road but later picked it up when they threatened to report her for littering.

KVOL is now in the process of posting on its Web site video Elliott surreptitiously shot of the inside of a SafeSpeed van, footage he claims local television stations have been prohibited from shooting.

by: Leslie Turk 10:03 AM

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Phony Tiger ticket scheme under investigation

If you're planning to buy LSU Tiger tickets from any place other than the university, the Ticket Marketplace at www.lsusports.net or another trusted source, think again. Some 100 fakes made their way to Tiger Stadium for the big game against the University of Florida Saturday, and The Advocate reports today that LSU's police department is working with other law enforcement agencies looking into this matter and other ticket counterfeiting. "This is the most instances we're aware of at an LSU game," Herb Vincent, LSU's senior associate athletics director, told the newspaper.

Incidently, Florida has had a similar problem recently.

The tickets, described by Vincent as "very good replicas of real tickets," appear to have been purchased at non-LSU affiliated Web sites, but the university is still looking into whether other sources sold the tickets. The counterfeits were discovered through their bar codes. LSU fans who had the counterfeit tickets were accommodated with excess tickets from family members of football players, the newspaper reported.

by: Leslie Turk 10:53 AM

Jindal-less governor's debate airs tonight

Tonight, the League of Women Voters and Fox News Louisiana are sponsoring a special governor's debate aimed at a segment of voters typically ignored in state elections. The debate seeks to put the spotlight on the concerns of voters aged 18-25 and features a panel of five college student government leaders from across the state who have developed questions to pose directly to the candidates. Unfortunately, the group of candidates will not include Republican frontrunner Bobby Jindal. Fox News reported Jindal originally agreed to the debate but then failed to send an aide to the drawing for question rotation last month. Organizers then postponed the event, originally scheduled for Sept. 4, hoping to get all the candidates, but have since been unable to reach Congressman Jindal. Tonight, the debate goes on without him. The other three major candidates (Walter Boasso, Foster Campbell and John Georges) will all be in attendance. As a constant reminder of who's not there, League President Jean Armstrong says an empty lecturn will be set up in Jindal's place. The live debate begins at 6 p.m., and airs on Fox channels in Alexandria, Baton Rouge, Lafayette, and Shreveport.

by: Nathan Stubbs 10:41 AM

Another probe of N.O. canal pumps?

The Times-Picayune reports that U.S. Army Corps engineer Maria Garzino says the corp still hasn't addressed issues with the 40 pumps at the 17th Street, London Avenue and Orleans Avenue canals. U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates has been asked to review the claim as a whistleblower compliant.

... Garzino says shortcuts taken by the corps and the contractor, Moving Waters Industries of Deerfield, Fla., to meet a June 1, 2006, deadline set by Congress produced inherently flawed pumping systems that she says still have not been properly tested. ...

[Col. Jeff Bedey, commander of the corps' Hurricane Protection Office in New Orleans] and other corps officials said publicly last summer that they were encountering problems with some of the pumps so severe that various components would be rebuilt after the 2006 season.

They also have said they didn't test the pumps as extensively in Moving Waters Industries' laboratory as ordinarily would be done because of the critical need to provide some additional flood protection for the 2006 storm season, the first since Katrina.

But Bedey said he still thinks the decision to install the troublesome pumps in New Orleans and continue to work on them during hurricane season was a more prudent decision than simply having no drainage pumps at all had a storm threatened the city. ...

by: R. Reese Fuller 10:22 AM

Mr. Bill's endorsement for governor

Endorsements for governor this year have been few and far between. So it's nice when someone steps up and makes a ringing statement, even if that someone is a claymation creation who's best known for shrieking "oh noooo" before he's flattened like a pancake in every film from classic Saturday Night Live episodes to his own series on Louisiana's wetlands.

Here's Mr. Bill's pick from the Times Picayune's website:

My clear choice for our next governor is Foster Campbell. He is the only candidate willing to make the oil industry pay for coastal restoration...Yayyy!!! He is the only candidate even willing to talk about the smashing that the oil industry has done to Louisiana. Unless we have a Governor willing to stand up to these mean old Sluggos, we will always be beaten up on like a third world country, that is, until we wash away into the sea.

If we have another of the long line of governors in bed with the oil industry, then New Orleans has about as good a chance for survival as I do in one of my films. We should be hard balling these guys not bending over. We just gotta' have that oil revenue stream in order to restore the wetlands and assure our survival. They made the profits off of us, now it's time to pay the piper. Foster Campbell is the man to make the oil industry say Ohhh Nooooo!!!

by: Mary Tutwiler 10:21 AM

Long winter ahead for Acadiana sports icons Delhomme, Guidry

Two Acadiana sports heroes are facing long winters. UL Lafayette alum, Carolina Panthers quarterback and Breaux Bridge icon Jake Delhomme has made the decision to have season-ending surgery on his injured right elbow, and faces seven to nine months of recovery. Delhomme's injury opens the door for Panthers backup David Carr, and if Carr plays well for the rest of the season in Delhomme's absence, it wouldn't be surprising if Panthers coach John Fox declares the Panthers' starting quarterback position an open competition at next year's training camp. (If the Panthers play poorly from here on out, they could also draft a quarterback, given Delhomme's age.)

Meanwhile, the job security of Lafayette native, fellow UL alum and New York Yankees pitching legend Ron Guidry is murky after the Cleveland Indians beat the Yankees last night. It marked the third year in the row the Bronx Bombers lost in the first round of the postseason, and it looks like Yankees owner George Steinbrenner won't be bringing back longtime Yankees manager Joe Torre next year. Torre hired Guidry as the Yankees' pitching coach in 2006 and it's uncertain whether the next Yankees manager would retain Guidry on staff.

by: Scott Jordan 10:04 AM

Monday, October 08, 2007

UL Monroe threatens The Smoking Gun

On Tuesday, Oct. 2, The Smoking Gun posted photos and a video of white students from the University at Louisiana at Monroe in blackface on the banks of the Red River who staged a bizarre re-enactment of the beating of Justin Barker. The photos and video were found on the online site Facebook, where one of the students had posted them under the heading "The Jena 6 on the River." The Smoking Gun displayed an image of the school's logo in association with the story. The day after the image was removed from TSG's site, ULM faxed a letter to TSG: " ... ULM demands that you cease using its name or images on your web site immediately or this matter will be referred to our attorneys for appropriate legal action." TSG responded by posting ULM's logo next to its news story about the letter.

by: R. Reese Fuller 10:48 AM

Early voting runs through Oct. 13

You don't have to wait to cast your ballot in this year's election. Voters either unable to make it to the polls on Oct. 20, or who may just want to get their election duties out of the way, can turn in early ballots this week. The early voting period opened Saturday and runs through Oct. 13 at the Lafayette Parish Registrar of Voters office downtown at 1010 Lafayette Street. The office is open from 8:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m. A picture ID is required to vote. Those unable to make it to the polls on Oct. 20th may also request a mail-in absentee ballot from the Secretary of State's office. Voters can also view sample ballots online at the secretary of state's Web site by selecting "candidate ballot number information" and entering their parish and precinct number. For more information, call the Lafayette Parish Registrar of Voters Office at 291-7140 or visit www.sos.louisiana.gov.

by: Nathan Stubbs 10:44 AM

Some UL faculty crying foul over search process

It's unclear at this point how many UL Lafayette faculty members share his consternation over the process of searching for a new president, but that's not stopping Dr. Ron Cheek from expressing himself. An associate professor in the department of management, Cheek sent a letter to Dr. John Meriwether, president of the UL Faculty Senate, and copied it to the entire senate. In it, he railed against the search process that appears to have been rigged in favor of two local candidates, Vice President of Academic Affairs Steve Landry and Commissioner of Higher Education E. Joseph "T-Joe" Savoie. Last week the search committee, headed by UL System President Sally Clausen, selected five finalists for the job and plans to begin interviews in mid-November, hoping to name a replacement for Ray Authement before the end of the year.
In the letter he e-mailed Friday to Meriwether, Cheek wrote:
As our representative, you were part of the process. Please help us understand. On Monday afternoon 10 new applicants came in and then on Wednesday, in a 2 hour period, the entire group was able to review and narrow the field to 5 finalists. Obviously, these ladies and gentlemen must be some of the fastest, intelligent, and most comprehensive group of readers ever assembled in the State of Louisiana. Can any of us imagine "peer reviewing" 38 academic papers in a 2 hour period and coming up with the best 5? For all of us, this decision is certainly more important than being accepted for publication in a peer reviewed journal. It in fact has the potential to dramatically impact us for the rest of our careers (remember the length of Doc's tenure!).

As you will recall, at the last Faculty Senate meeting, I asked Steve Landry if he intended to apply for the position. I also expressed my opinion that if we surveyed the entire faculty and staff of UL, 90% would feel relatively certain that our next president would be an insider. In a mere 2 hours, the board narrowed the field of candidates from 38 to 5, with 2 insiders. Should any of us doubt where the process will go from here? You were part of the process, first, help us understand why the faculty and staff weren't correct in their assumptions, and secondly, how do we explain to them that as their representatives we did anything to stop it?

On several occasions I have heard Gregg Gothreaux (President of Lafayette Economic Development Association) when attempting to sell businesses on Lafayette, says one of its biggest drawbacks is that Lafayette is located in Louisiana. It is at times like this that we all understand we are the University of Louisiana at Lafayette.

Neither Cheek, who concluded his letter to Meriwether with a request for a response, nor Meriwether could be reached for comment this morning.

by: Leslie Turk 10:22 AM

Kennedy: the persistent candidate

Even though Republican Treasurer John Kennedy is facing no opposition and will be re-elected, his campaign finance report reads like one belonging to a politician under heavy fire. He has an astounding $367,000 media buy in escrow and there's presently a new ad up in strategic markets. Kennedy also dropped roughly $41,000 on production costs last month – after qualifying was over. He is spending thousands on internet advertising with the likes of DeadPelican.com, BayouBuzz.com and PoliticsLA.com. Most notably, Kennedy's camp is dishing out payments ranging from $500 to $750 for "e-mail consulting" to Pat Bergeron of Baton Rouge, the mastermind behind LANewslink.com, a conservative-leaning blog and news source. Kennedy seems to be taking a cue from the playbook of congressman and fellow Republican Bobby Jindal. During his re-election to the House last year, Jindal dropped hundreds of thousands of dollars on media buys, despite facing only token opposition. The strategy was simple – his bid for governor was right around the corner and federal dollars cannot be spent on state campaigns, or visa-versa. As for Kennedy, it seems more likely than ever that he's gearing up to run in 2008 against U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu, a Democrat from New Orleans. - Jeremy Alford

by: admin 9:47 AM

Durel: heads will spin without a TND ordinance

Just a little over a year ago, Southern Mutual Help Association proposed building a traditional neighborhood development, Teche Ridge, in Iberia Parish. The plan advanced to the Iberia Parish Regional Planning Commission, where it was held up because there were no rules on the books to allow the narrow streets, zero lot lines, short setbacks and mixed residential and commercial development that characterize a TND. "What we didn't want to do was start granting a bunch of variances," says Iberia Parish councilman Barry Verret, who represents the district where Teche Ridge is located. "If you have all these variances then you don't have any ordinances or restrictions." With the help of SMHA's architect, Steve Oubre, the planning commission obtained copies of Lafourche and East and West Baton Rouge Parishes' TND ordinances. Iberia Parish engineer David Moore adapted the Lafourche version to mesh with Teche Ridge plans, and the ordinance was adopted by the parish council in late September.

Waiting a year for an ordinance to be crafted to accommodate future development was difficult for SMHA. However, consider Lafayette Parish's inability to move forward with a TND ordinance of its own. River Ranch was proposed more than 10 years ago and required more than 100 variances to be legally constructed. Since that time other TND developments like Sugar Mill Pond, Olde Towne at Mill Creek and Couret Place (which was never constructed) have all made applications. Youngsville, where Sugar Mill Pond is located, wrote an ordinance to accommodate the 2000 acre development. Olde Towne at Mill Creek is in the parish. And while Lafayette Planning, Zoning and Codes director Eleanor Bouy says that a TND code is on her wish list, she has been unable to make it happen.

That's about to change.

"We're going to have a TND ordinance by Dec. 31 or heads will spin," City-Parish President Joey Durell says when asked about Iberia's new ordinance. "We've already had a meeting. I've given everybody the tools to get it done. It blows my mind that we have the premier development in America -- people come from all over the country to see River Ranch. The developers and architects are asked to speak internationally about this. We've got communities in Lafayette Parish and all around Lafayette Parish and all around Louisiana that have adopted something. We should have had the easiest route to do it. It looks ridiculous, I'm embarrassed about it and I'm ashamed of it, and it will be done by Dec. 31."

by: Mary Tutwiler 9:46 AM

Friday, October 05, 2007

UL, LSU face critical tests on Saturday

Stress levels are high on the campuses of both UL and LSU as the two universities prepare for one of the most critical tests of the year, with far-reaching national implications. We're talking, of course, about Saturday's games vs. conference rivals North Texas and Florida. UL, at a disappointing 0-5 to start the season, hosts the North Texas Mean Green in what many Cajun fans are viewing as a must win game to turn the season around. Meanwhile, in Baton Rouge, LSU will be defending a No. 1 AP ranking for the first time since 1959. To get an idea of the magnitude of this game, consider how seriously LSU's players are taking it. LSU safety Craig Steltz told CBS Sports: "We were all talking about how this was going to be the biggest game of our lives," he said. "No matter how many games we played in high school or the ones we play in college, the Florida game is going to be one of the wildest nights LSU has ever had." UL-North Texas will be broadcast Cox Sports Television starting at 6 p.m. CBS airs LSU-Florida beginning at 7:30 p.m.

by: Nathan Stubbs 11:21 AM

Schools of Choice program gets $9.3 million grant

Lafayette Parish School System is the only district in the state to receive a three-year grant from the U.S. Department of Education's Magnet Schools Assistance Program, which has awarded $100 million in grants to 41 select school districts from 17 states.

Ouida Forsyth, director of LPSS' Schools of Choice, says the local grant will be about $9.3 million over the three year term, facilitating the development of magnet programs to increase student achievement and offer a larger variety of options to them. "What's exciting about this is we will be eligible to apply for refunding for two more grant cycles [total of nine years of funding]," says Forsyth, noting the grants' potential to have a tremendous impact on the programs Schools of Choice will be able to offer.

"We've applied for this grant for a couple of years but weren't successful," says Superintendent Burnell Lemoine. "We kept trying because we believed our ideas for the future had merit, and the success of our Schools of Choice demonstrates that parents in Lafayette Parish want options for their children."

Forsyth says a team of LPSS administrators will meet with education department officials in Washington, D.C., to finalize plans for use of the funds.

by: Leslie Turk 10:55 AM

Glimmer of daylight for Saints on Sunday

The Saints bandwagon got a little lighter after the team's disastrous 0-3 start, but diehards have reason to hope that the season could turn around starting this week. The Saints host the Carolina Panthers, who are reeling at 2-2 and without starting quarterback and Acadiana icon Jake Delhomme, who may need surgery on his injured elbow. Elsewhere in the NFC South – which is presently the worst division in football – the Atlanta Falcons aren't scaring anyone at 1-3 with Joey Harrington at quarterback, and division leaders Tampa Bay at 3-1 just lost starting running back Cadillac Williams and starting left tackle Luke Petitgout for the season. Tampa Bay faces Super Bowl champs the Colts this week, while the Falcons have a tough away game against the Tennessee Titans. So if the Saints beat the Panthers this weekend and their other division foes lose, the standings would look like this:

Tampa Bay: 3-2
Carolina: 2-3
New Orleans: 1-3
Atlanta: 1-4

The Saints are right back in the division hunt if they start winning some games. Sunday would be a good place to start.

by: Scott Jordan 10:44 AM

Three dead after Alexandria standoff

John C. Ashley walked into the Giordano & Giordano Law Office in Alexandria yesterday just after 2 p.m. and shot five people. Ending a standoff that lasted more than 12 hours, police stormed the office around 2:30 this morning and found two others dead and killed the gunman, a 63-year-old retired city worker. The Town Talk reports:

Police had said there were two people inside the office along with the gunman. Those two victims were killed by the gunman, authorities said after the standoff ended.

Alexandria Mayor Jacques Roy identified the victims who died in the standoff as lawyer Joey Giordano and Marty Thiels, a postman who apparently had gone to the law office to deliver mail.

Read other accounts from the Associated Press and The New York Times.

by: R. Reese Fuller 10:01 AM

Vita Shaw deemed historic bridge

Preservationists who have been working to save the Vita Shaw bridge got some good news last week. The federal Keeper of the National Registry, Janet Mathews, ruled that the bridge, spanning Bayou Teche between New Iberia and Loreauville, is eligible to be placed on the National Register of Historic Places. The 1940s steel structure, possibly the oldest single-lane, swing-span bridge in the state, was voted by the Iberia Parish council to be replaced by a concrete bridge in mid-June. The parish received a $4.2 million low bid to do the work, which will be paid for with federal highway dollars.

Last week's ruling triggers the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966, which requires Federal agencies to take into account the effects of their activities and programs on historic properties. The review process is administered at the Federal Level by the President's Advisory Council on Historic Preservation, and at the state level by the State Historic Preservation Office. Parish officials met this week and asked Wayne Labiche Engineering to develop conceptual alternatives upstream and downstream as well as the rehabilitation of the existing bridge structure.

"In effect, we're back to square one," says Chris Burton, a member of "Save Vita Bridge," a grass roots organization formed after plans to demolish the bridge emerged in March. "But that's a good thing because we now have a mandate that requires a review process to consider the historic nature of the bridge. We didn't have that before."

While there are two modern bridges crossing the Teche approximately 1.5 miles upstream and downstream of Vita Shaw, some residents in the Loreauville area feel the antique bridge is a safety hazard, and the single-lane width prohibits farm equipment and cane carts from crossing the bridge. That was the impetus for replacing the bridge in March when it came up before the council. The bid process was delayed twice, in March and May, while the Iberia Parish Council and the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development heard comment from citizens. "Save Vita Bridge" gathered more than 1,100 signatures on a petition asking parish government to preserve the World War II era span.

In spite of the overwhelming support to keep the bridge intact and the new historic preservation ruling, parish officials are still determined to provide a replacement for the Vita Shaw bridge. "We have to look for an alternative site (for the concrete bridge) and get prices and everything," Parish Councilman Glen Romero told the Daily Iberian. "If it's not feasible to move that site, then we have to find a place to move this (Vida Shaw) bridge with the guarantee that it will be preserved."

Moving the bridge however undermines the historic preservation effort, says Burton. "The value of this bridge is tied to its history in its original location. We intend to keep up our efforts to save the bridge."
photo: A replica of the Vita Shaw bridge, built by Loreauville resident Eddie Bienvenu, floats in front of the real bridge during New Iberia's Sugar Cane Festival boat parade.

by: Mary Tutwiler 9:20 AM

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Jindal breaks with Republicans on SCHIP

In a rare split with his party's leadership, Republican gubernatorial candidate Bobby Jindal is siding with Democrats, and Gov. Kathleen Blanco, in an ongoing battle over expansion of a popular children's health insurance program. Yesterday, President Bush vetoed a bill passed by Congress that would have added an additional $35 million over five years to the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP). SCHIP targets families who make too much to qualify for Medicaid but not enough to afford private insurance. The bill would have added an estimated 4 million children to SCHIP, which now covers some 6.6 million children nationwide. In Louisiana, the bill would have added approximately 10,000 more children to the 109,000 currently enrolled in the program. Funds for the expansion would come from higher tobacco taxes, including a 61 cent increase on a pack of cigarettes.

In opposing the bill, Bush and other Republicans have argued that the bill undercuts private insurance by expanding the program to families that make up to 2 ½ to 3 times the federal poverty rate. Aside from Jindal, Louisiana's Republican delegation has stood by the president. Sen. David Vitter and Congressmen Charles Boustany, Richard Baker, and Jim McCrery all expressed support for Bush's veto, as well as opposing an upcoming attempt to override that veto. Jindal says he plans to vote for overriding the veto, which will require a two-thirds majority in both the House and Senate. The vote is expected to come up within the next two to three weeks.

Jindal had originally sided with Republicans on the issue. He voted against an SCHIP expansion bill in August but changed his vote this month after several bipartisan compromises were made in the legislation. Jindal drew some criticism for his original vote against the program from his Democratic rivals in the governor's race. Sate Sen. Walter Boasso has recently been running an ad that mentions that vote, along with other cuts Jindal made while he was head of the state's Department of Health and Hospitals, in an effort to portray the congressman as having "no heart" on important health care issues. Jindal has responded with a detailed rebuttal of Boasso's ad, defending his service as head of DHH and emphasizing his support for SCHIP expansion. Jindal says he took issue with the original SCHIP legislation because of provisions that threatened to limit choices for seniors on Medicare and raid the Medicare Trust Fund.

by: Nathan Stubbs 11:19 AM

Savoie and Landry square off for UL presidency

The only unexpected turn of events in the search for a new UL Lafayette president was Commissioner of Higher Education T-Joe Savoie's 11th hour application Monday -- in which he oddly mentioned in his cover letter that he was accepting former Daily Advertiser Publisher Richard D'Aquin's nomination.

The search committee, headed by UL System President Sally Clausen, could have decided yesterday to extend the search in hopes of attracting additional top-notch candidates, especially in light of the fact that sitting university presidents (with the exception of finalist Karen White, regional chairman of the University of South Florida at St. Petersburg) didn't even bother to apply. Instead, the committee narrowed the list to five, with Savoie and UL Vice President of Academic Affairs Steve Landry seemingly the top two contenders.

Perhaps it was the perception of local favoritism that discouraged potential candidates, because it remains a mystery how the respected consultant the system hired, Dr. James Fisher, could not entice current university presidents to seek the top post at an institution of UL's caliber. Not to mention the opportunity to live in a community like Lafayette.

The committee will hold public interviews of the candidates on the UL campus in mid-November. A schedule of the interviews will be released at a later date.

by: Leslie Turk 10:40 AM

Rolfes' environmental work earns $125,000 award

Lafayette native and St. Thomas More alum Anne Rolfes has been awarded $125,000 by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation for her leadership and work with the Louisiana Bucket Brigade. The Bucket Brigade teaches people living in the "fenceline" communities that border petrochemical facilities how to monitor their own soil and air quality. (The organization helped residents in the Diamond, La., community of Norco successfully fight Shell Oil.) Rolfes was profiled in The Independent's Nov. 2, 2005 cover story, which detailed her post-Katrina efforts in the wake of the massive Murphy Oil spill in St. Bernard Parish. Her RJF Community Health Leader Award contributes $105,000 to further the work of the Louisiana Bucket Brigade, and a $20,000 personal award to Rolfes.

by: Scott Jordan 10:27 AM

Jazz Funeral exhibit opens at OMA

The Opelousas Museum and Interpretive Center has just opened a photography exhibit of New Orleans jazz funerals. The photos, by Abbeville native Leo Touchet were first published in his 1998 book, Rejoice When You Die. Vividly capturing the dignity of the procession from church to cemetery and the outbreak of exuberant joy once the second line begins, Touchet's photos are particularly poignant, given the difficult times second line parades are experiencing in the post-Katrina environment of New Orleans. Since 1956, when he began shooting, Touchet's work has been published in numerous national and international publications in more than 50 countries, including Life Magazine, Time, Newsweek, Fortune, Money Magazine, U.S. News & World Report, Natural History Magazine, Popular Photography, The Southern Quarterly, Paris Match, der Stern, Boston Globe, Washington Post and The New York Times. The show runs through November. For more information, contact the museum at 948-2589.
photo: Second-Line Dancers at bassist Alcide "Slowdrag" Pavageau's Jazz Funeral
Copyright © 2007 Leo Touchet

by: Mary Tutwiler 10:05 AM

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Lafayette General says CEO has resigned

Lafayette General ended more than a month of speculation about the fate of its CEO, Jamey Thaw, confirming in a press release yesterday that Thaw has resigned for "personal reasons."

The administrator, who took over as the local not-for-profit's top executive in 1998, replacing longtime CEO J.J. Burdin, has been on personal leave since Aug. 29. The reasons for his leave were never disclosed by the hospital or its board of trustees, and Tuesday's confirmation of his departure was equally evasive. "The reasons for Mr. Thaw's departure are his own," board Chairman Bill Fenstermaker said in the release.

In the past year and a half, the hospital, which is in the midst of a $19 million expansion of its women's services, has lost a significant number of key personnel — several with 20-plus years at the organization. Among the defectors were Camille Claibourne, RN/VP of quality and outcomes; Debbie Ford, RN/chief nursing officer; Anne Pyle, chief information officer; Elizabeth Arnold, community relations director; Diane Broussard, HR director; Sylvia Oats, RN/service line administrator; and Donna Landry, COO. Whether some of them had strained relations with Thaw that factored into their decisions to leave is unclear.

Landry's replacement, Patrick Gandy, is serving as interim CEO.

"It is customary at times like this that the board conducts a search to determine who the next permanent CEO will be," Fenstermaker said, "and a committee has been appointed to begin that process." Calling Gandy "highly credentialed," the board chairman said Gandy is interested in the post but respects that the board may consider other candidates.

by: Leslie Turk 10:35 AM

Louisiana Crossroads' 100th show

Louisiana Crossroads will celebrate its 100th show with the return of Scott Ainslie and Glenis Redmond and their performance of "Southern Voices: Black, White & Blues," tonight at the Sliman Theater in New Iberia. The show starts at 7 p.m. and will broadcast live at KRVS 88.7 FM. Call (337) 369-2337 or stop by the Parks & Recreation Department in City Park for tickets or more information. Tomorrow night, catch Ainsle and Redmond at Grant Street Dancehall at 7 p.m. This show will be seated and smoke-free. On Friday night, Ainsle plays solo at the "All Blues" benefit at Begnaud at 8 p.m. Visit the Louisiana Crossroads' Web site for more information on these shows and upcoming performances.

by: R. Reese Fuller 10:26 AM

Bush watch: What's the word on WRDA?

We all know how important the Water Resources Development Act is for Louisiana. Everyone from the governor down to the state senator from Bourg is touting the multi-million package as an answer to the state's need for coastal restoration, hurricane protection and flood control (there's also a sprinkling of pork in the bill for bridges and local programs). In total, the bill has at least $3.6 billion, or 17 percent of its total, set aside for authorization for the Bayou State.

The U.S. House and Senate have overwhelmingly passed the legislation, but President George Bush has continually threatened a veto, even in the face of a veto override by lawmakers – and the votes are there. It's a historic moment, especially since Congress hasn't passed a WRDA bill in seven years. Well, it appears GW may have the last word after all (sort of).

A coalition of coastal experts met on the Hill last Wednesday to discuss the WRDA bill and the buzz was on the possibility of Bush taking no action on the bill within 10 days of receiving it, thus making it an official law or act. But if Bush waits 10 days and takes no action and Congress is not in session, it becomes a "pocket veto" and the bill fails. "We're hearing he could do a pocket veto," state Sen. Reggie Dupre, a Democrat, says by phone from Washington. "Things are looking up. Either way, I think we have a bill."

Stephanie Allen, press secretary for Democratic U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu, says the president has given no indication that he won't veto the bill. "But given the strong, bi-partisan votes on the conference report in the House and Senate, it would make sense that he might reconsider and not have the fight with Congress," she says. "He could also, as Sen. Dupre said, pocket veto it by just not signing the legislation.

Constitutionally, the president has 10 days to sign the bill. As soon as a bill is passed, there are some technical corrections and other work necessary to make the bill absolutely perfect before it's sent to his desk, Allen adds. So it's unclear as to exactly when the 10-day countdown will begin, but it should be very soon. – Jeremy Alford

by: admin 10:20 AM

Community Health Care Clinic receives gift

The Lafayette Community Health Care Clinic now owns its building free and clear. The fund-raising arm of the clinic, the Silver Bell Foundation, approached Lafayette oil man Beau Ramsey. "He didn't know much about the clinic," says executive director Jeanette Alcon, so he came by to visit and look at the financial structure of the organization. A dozen years ago, the free clinic received a large donation to buy the historic property on Jefferson Street, but they had to borrow money to do the necessary renovations. Ramsey paid off the mortgage with a $121,358.73 check. "He said, ‘It's not God's will for non-profits that do good work to have to pay down debt,'" Alcon says. "I like the way he thinks."

Ramsey will be recognized on Nov. 13, National Philanthropy Day, as the Philanthropist of the Year, 2007, by the Planned Giving Council of Acadiana. The association of non-profits, financial planners and CPAs meet quarterly to share ideas and educate the community about planned gifts. Ramsey had already been chosen as this year's honoree before he made the donation to the clinic. "I was reading about his legacy to the community," Alcon says. "Little did I know we'd be a recipient of his generosity. I'm still walking on a cloud."

by: Mary Tutwiler 10:16 AM

Chamber hosts city-parish council candidate forums

The Greater Lafayette Chamber of Commerce is hosting forums over the next two weeks for all of the candidates running for city-parish council in the Oct. 20 election. The election will result in a dramatic turnover on the council. This year all nine city-parish council seats are being contested with only two incumbents who are not term limited seeking re-election. The schedule for the forums, all of which run from 6:00-7:30 p.m., is as follows:

Wednesday, October 3
City-Parish Council Forum-Districts 1 & 3
South Louisiana Community College
Performance Hall
320 Devalcourt, Lafayette

Thursday, October 4
City-Parish Council Forum-Districts 2 & 4
South Louisiana Community College
Performance Hall
320 Devalcourt, Lafayette

Tuesday, October 9
City-Parish Council Forum-Districts 5, 6, & 7
South Louisiana Community College
Performance Hall
320 Devalcourt, Lafayette

Thursday, October 11
City-Parish Council Forum-Districts 8 & 9
South Louisiana Community College
Performance Hall
320 Devalcourt, Lafayette

by: Nathan Stubbs 9:52 AM

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

City begins controversial Safe Speed program

A controversial program aimed to curb speeding in Lafayette began today, as did a petition drive to end it. The Safe Speed Program uses two white vans, equipped with scanners and cameras, parked along city roadsides to catch unsuspecting speeders in the act. The program, run by the company Redflex, captures license plate numbers to match speeding vehicles with their owners and mail out the citations. First offense violations range from $25 to $150. In its arrangement with city government, Redflex receives $15.50 out of every $25 fine that is paid, and $29.75 from all greater fines. City officials say the program should train drivers to be more cautious and make the roads safer for everyone. A similar program targeting red light runners, also run by Redflex, is slated to get underway next month.

Despite its good intentions, the program has alarmed some local residents who feel the practice smacks of the type of "Big Brother is watching you" government envisioned in George Orwell's classic novel 1984. KVOL 1330AM radio talk show host Todd C. Elliot has launched a petition drive, aiming to bring the program to a popular vote. To be successful, Elliot will need to collect signatures from 15 percent of registered voters, about 20,000 people. Elliot told KATC he is not defending bad driving but rather is opposed to the methods being used by the city and Redflex. "I have a problem with law enforcement for profit in the guise of safety," he says.

by: Nathan Stubbs 10:52 AM

La. Supreme Court bars Cleo Fields from re-election bid

In a near-unanimous 6-1 decision yesterday, The Louisiana Supreme Court struck down Democratic state Sen. Cleo Fields' bid for another term in the Senate. Fields' candidacy was challenged by four registered Baton Rouge voters who filed a lawsuit claiming term limits prevented Fields from running, while Fields argued his eligibility by relying on a Legislature provision that says a lawmaker's term begins when he or she is sworn into office, not the date the lawmaker was elected. (Fields was elected mid-term in 1997, which he used as part of his legal strategy against the lawsuit.)

The Supreme Court didn't buy it. It also made it crystal clear that its ruling could not be challenged any further. Fields said he had "serious reservations" about the Supreme Court's ruling, but reservations won't change a thing. The law has spoken, and there's a little political karma at play here, too. Fields has never answered questions regarding the 1997 FBI surveillance tape that showed him pocketing approximately $20,000 in cash from disgraced former Gov. Edwin Edwards. Fields has repeatedly claimed that since he was a private citizen at the time of the Edwards cash transaction, he doesn't have to explain it to the media or the public. "I am not a crook" was his meager defense, evoking memories of Richard Nixon.

by: Scott Jordan 10:34 AM

No surprise, Savoie wants UL job

He waited till the very last minute, but Louisiana's Commissioner of Higher Education T. Joe Savoie made his intentions known yesterday when he formally applied for the UL president's post. "I enthusiastically accept Mr. Richard D'Aquin's [former Daily Advertiser publisher] nomination of me for the presidency of the University of Louisiana at Lafayette," he wrote in his application letter. Savoie has been the state's top education official since 1996 and had worked at UL since 1978, serving as vice president of university advancement before leaving for the state job.

Savoie, who has been exceptionally tight-lipped since UL President Ray Authement announced his retirement earlier this year, is one of 38 candidates applying for the job. He joins another well-known local, UL Vice President of Academic Affairs Steve Landry, who applied Friday.

The search committee meets Wednesday, Oct. 3, in Baton Rouge to determine whether it has enough qualified candidates to begin the interview process. The meeting, which is open to the public and scheduled for 2 p.m., will be held in the first floor auditorium of the Claiborne building in downtown Baton Rouge, 1201 N. 3rd St. For a list of all candidates' applications, click here.

Disappointingly, the search process did not yield a single sitting university president, which may be enough reason for the search committee, which is under no time constraints, to extend the deadline so it can continue seeking qualified candidates.

by: Leslie Turk 10:33 AM

Dale Houston laid to rest

Dale Houston was half of the musical act known as Dale and Grace, a Louisiana duo that had the No. 1 Billboard hit "I'm Leaving it Up To You " in 1963. Houston died on Thursday at the age of 67 in Hattiesburg, Miss. He will be buried today in Collins, Miss. Along with his singing partner Grace Broussard, Houston traveled with Dick Clark in his "Caravan of Stars." Their regional and national hit helped define swamp pop and America's music, just before the British invasion landed on American soil. In 1964, the duo had another national hit with "Stop and Think It Over," which topped the Billboard charts at No. 8.

by: R. Reese Fuller 10:28 AM

NAMIWalks scheduled for Saturday

The local affiliate for the National Alliance on Mental Illness is holding a fundraiser, NAMIWalks, on Oct. 6. NAMI began as a grass roots movement created to help friends and family members of psychiatric patients cope with the problems associated with mental illness. The nation-wide organization raises funds for programs designed for support, education and advocacy of those with mental illness. For people with and without out health insurance, (generally mental health coverage is not as extensive as medical/surgical benefits), there is a need in Acadiana for access to more mental heath programs. NAMIWalks is designed raise awareness and to help eradicate the social stigma associated with mental disorders as well. Free registration for the walk begins at 8 a.m. at the gazebo in the Town Square at River Ranch, the walk begins at 9. To register, make a pledge, and for more information, call co-chairs Marietta Puckett at 654-8963 or Becca Begnaud at 230-8615.

by: Mary Tutwiler 9:32 AM

Monday, October 01, 2007

Money not an issue in District 43 race

Get used to the relentless rotation of sunny TV ads from Page Cortez and Patrick LeBlanc. The two contenders for District 43 state representative have likely only just begun their media blitz going into the final weeks before the Oct. 20 election. According to their most recent campaign finance reports, the two Republicans, vying for the open seat being vacated by Ernie Alexander, are spending at a rate twice that of other local legislative candidates. Cortez leads all local state legislative contenders in the fundraising department, raising approximately $134,000, with $81,699 funds on hand as of Sept. 10. On his report, LeBlanc tallied a total of $73,326, with $13,158 left in the bank as of Sept. 10. LeBlanc, who runs a local architecture firm as well as his own private prison business, LCS Corrections, lent his campaign $50,000 of his own personal funds. He also lists three contributions of $2,500 from three different family businesses: LCS, LeBlanc Construction and LeBlanc Management. LeBlanc previously told The Independent that he planned to bankroll the majority of his campaign, and would spend "whatever it takes" to stay on par with Cortez. Among Cortez's high-dollar contributors are state Sen. Mike Michot, Clerk of Court Louis Perret, Herb Schilling of Schilling Distributors, and former U.S. Attorney Mike Skinner. LeBlanc, who has been endorsed by both Ernie Alexander and Congressman Charles Boustany, has received large contributions from prominent local businessmen including Will Mills and Sammy Russo.

by: Nathan Stubbs 11:12 AM

Landry applies for UL job; deadline is today

UL Lafayette's vice president of academic affairs threw his name in the hat for outgoing President Ray Authement's job, but the state's top education official is still playing it close to the vest.

Commissioner of Higher Education T. Joe Savoie was in a meeting this morning and unavailable for comment. The deadline for applications is 5 p.m. today, but the search committee may decide to extend that deadline at its Wednesday, Oct. 3, meeting in Baton Rouge. The committee, headed by UL System President Sally Clausen, will determine whether it has enough qualified candidates to begin the interview process. The meeting, which is open to the public and scheduled for 2 p.m., will be held in the first floor auditorium of the Claiborne building in downtown Baton Rouge, 1201 N. 3rd St.

The UL System announced Friday that Vice President of Academic Affairs Steve Landry had applied for the post, along with several others. He has served in his current role since 2000 and has been with the university since 1984. For a list of all candidates' applications, click here.

by: Leslie Turk 10:55 AM

Louisiana Life hunting guide

Bow-season opens today statewide for hunters who love quiet in the woods while they stalk deer. For the rifle-toting population who have nearly a month to wait, Louisiana Life offers a virtual walk in the woods with their Guide to Hunting and the Season in their Autumn issue, out at newsstands this week. The article covers deer, waterfowl, small game and birds, with a guide to dates, limits and regions. Can't wait? Squirrel season starts on Saturday.

by: Mary Tutwiler 9:41 AM

Election 2007 Stonecipher lecture set for Wednesday

The Independent Weekly Lecture Series continues this Wednesday, Oct. 3, with Election 2007, featuring noted political analyst and demographer Elliot Stonecipher. Shreveport native Stonecipher has conducted nearly 1,000 opinion surveys since founding his research and marketing consulting firm in 1980, and has been involved in approximately 200 political campaigns at the local, state and national level. Stonecipher is a frequent guest on New Orleans' WWL and Baton Rouge's WRKF; this is his first Lafayette appearance. Topics Stonecipher will be covering include:

• Acadiana races
• Assessing Blueprint Louisiana's impact
• Post-Katrina voting patterns
• The political future of Ray Nagin and William Jefferson
• Will Republicans gain control of the Louisiana Legislature?

The lecture is from noon-1:30 p.m. at Lafayette Hilton & Towers, with a Q&A session following the lecture. Luncheon tickets are $30 per person or $255 for a reserved table of eight; admission without lunch is free (RSVPs requested) with limited general admission theatre-style seating. For more info or to purchase tickets or RSVP, contact Drue Kennerson at 988-4607, ext. 118 or e-mail [email protected].

by: admin 9:19 AM

Driving Louisiana Forward gets in gear

Remember Driving Louisiana Forward, the well-heeled coalition of local chambers and building interests that leaned on the Legislature this spring?

Much like other do-good civic groups, Driving Louisiana is putting a flame under statewide candidates right now. It launched a far-reaching media campaign consisting of more than 1,000 radio spots and online banner ads last week; the radio spots will run on statewide news-talk stations and the banner ads will appear on select newspaper Web sites.

"It's imperative that the next legislature and the next governor address our transportation funding crisis by providing additional, recurring funds to our roads, bridges and port infrastructure," says Jennifer Marusak, communications director for Driving Louisiana Forward.

Driving Louisiana Forward proposes shifting transportation-related fees, such as vehicle sales taxes, from the state's general fund to the Transportation Trust Fund, thus creating better accountability. The group also advocates shifting non-transportation related expenses currently in the TTF (like state police traffic control, retirement and health benefits) to the general fund. - Jeremy Alford

by: admin 9:14 AM