November 2007

Friday, November 30, 2007

NY Times rips presidential debate committee for New Orleans snub

Recently, the commission on presidential debates announced that, despite widespread support for the city's bid, New Orleans would not be one of the cities chosen for one of three general election debates to be held next fall. "New Orleans did not measure up," said Paul Kirk, co-chairman of the debate site committee.

Following up on a slew of editorials from the New Orleans Times Picayune, questioning the logic behind the decision, the New York Times weighed in last week with its own scathing commentary:

It was as if some tour-book-quality recovery from the debacle of Hurricane Katrina was the committee's principal yardstick. What the committee should have realized is that New Orleans, with all its scars, offers an unrivaled and inspiring setting for a badly needed discussion of government's responsibility to address the nation's domestic ills...

Committee members insist there was not intent to spare the Republican candidate from having to orate at such and infamous scene of President Bush's domestic bungling and neglect. The denial sounds believable; the rejection of New Orleans strikes us as fare more plainly stupid than political.

by: Nathan Stubbs 10:40 AM

Coastal restoration plan garners $225 million

Ffederal approval of a plan for coastal projects is releasing $255 million to Louisiana during 2007-2008 for coastal restoration. Nineteen parishes will share in the revenue based on offshore oil and gas royalties. In southwestern Louisiana, Iberia, St. Martin, St. Mary, Vermilion, Cameron and Calcasieu Parishes are slated to receive a percentage of the funding; Cameron is the biggest winner with nearly $3,000,000 heading its way.

More funding will follow in 2009-2010 to finance a total of 168 projects the state submitted as a plan to the Department of the Interior, Minerals Management Service. As a member of the Senate Energy Committee, Sen. Mary Landrieu secured the funding in the Energy Policy Act of 2005 by creating the Coastal Impact Assistance Program, administered by the MMS, which disperses offshore royalties to six eligible Outer Continental Shelf oil and gas producing states – Louisiana, Alabama, Alaska, California, Mississippi and Texas. Yesterday, Landrieu announced that Louisiana is the first state to receive funding approval:

There is no better hurricane protection system than a healthy and vibrant coastline. This approval is a key step in the process to restore Louisiana's wetlands, and I look forward to disbursement of the funds in the next few weeks. It has taken many years for our state to begin receiving its fair share, but we are ready to start putting this funding to good work.

by: Mary Tutwiler 10:39 AM

World AIDS Day walk/event in Lafayette tomorrow

There are nearly 250 people living with AIDS in Lafayette Parish. Statewide, the numbers are even more sobering. More than 15,400 people have the dreaded disease or are coping with an HIV diagnosis. That makes Louisiana the sixth highest state in total number of cases reported. By most accounts, the spread of HIV is quickening, with more people in Louisiana infected in 2006 than in any previous year, and 2007 is expected to chalk up similar stats.

As a way to take note and action, Saturday is World AIDS Day, an annual day of awareness that has been observed since 1988 to expand and strengthen the efforts to stop the spread of the disease. This year, the selected theme of "Unite Against AIDS: Leadership" hopes to inspire a commitment in communities like Lafayette to take a leadership role in eliminating HIV and the stigma associated with the disease. Beth Scalco, director of the HIV/AIDS program in Louisiana, says events are planned all over the state, including Acadiana, to "open the doors of communication, and get conversation, and thus education, flowing."

Locally, the Southwest Louisiana Area Health Education Center is hosting its first Annual World AIDS Day Walk at Heymann Park tomorrow from 10 a.m to 4 p.m. There will also be a teen summit, HIV testing, food, music, entertainment and a health fair. For more info, contact Brian Burton at (337) 497-0127 or [email protected].

by: admin 9:52 AM

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Former LUS adversary now Jindal's legislative liaison

The latest member of Gov.-elect Bobby Jindal's administration is a familiar face to city officials involved with Lafayette Utilities System's fiber-to-the-home project. Tommy Williams, tapped yesterday as Jindal's legislative liaison, worked as a BellSouth lobbyist for 38 years and was at the forefront of heated negotiations related to the company's opposition to LUS' telecommunications venture. Williams, 65, retired from BellSouth last year as vice president for regulatory and external affairs. As Jindal's legislative liaison, Williams will be the governor's point person for advancing bills through the state legislature.

While working for BellSouth, Williams was a primary player in negotiating the 2004 Local Government Fair Competition Act, which placed a series of restrictions on LUS entering the telecommunications business and required a public referendum on the issue. While both sides agreed to the legislation, city officials later cried foul when BellSouth used the act to file a lawsuit against LUS' bond ordinance for the project. BellSouth eventually withdrew from the suit, which was also brought by Lafayette resident Elizabeth Naquin, whom city officials speculated was serving as a front for BellSouth. LUS prevailed in the case and now plans to begin offering telecom services in early 2009.

"[Tommy Williams] was always their primary contact whenever we dealt with BellSouth," says LUS Director Terry Huval. Tommy Williams' son, John, is also a former lobbyist for BellSouth, and was a frequent spokesman for the company throughout its confrontations with LUS. "It's notable that has taken place," Huval adds, "but Tommy Williams doesn't work for BellSouth anymore and BellSouth is no longer BellSouth, it's AT&T, so there's different management of that organization as well."

Huval says those past disputes aren't personal. "Tommy was always a fine person whenever we dealt with him," he says. "I think some of the issues that came up where BellSouth as a corporation acted in bad faith wasn't necessarily at his direction. It was folks beyond that point that I think were involved in it." Huval also praised Williams as a deft negotiator. "Tommy is very effective in dealing with legislative matters," he says, "and I don't blame the governor for choosing someone who has as good a reputation as he has had in dealing with legislative matters."

"Unless we see something otherwise," Huval continues, "I'm going to trust that Tommy's going to follow what the governor wants to do, and my hopes are that the governor wants to do the right things."

by: Nathan Stubbs 10:54 AM

Acadiana Outreach to build TND

Senator Mary Landrieu met with Acadiana Outreach directors and members of the Lafayette business community this morning to announce a $280,000 federal grant to the social services agency. The grant will be used to launch an innovative mixed-use, mixed income housing initiative. Working with the UL School of Architecture and Design, Acadiana Outreach will begin planning a prototype structure, called "Lofts at Olivier," located at 114 Oliver Street, near the agency's downtown campus. Currently, 114 Oliver is a brick warehouse that UL architecture students are studying for renovation into a multi-level facility. Potential uses for the first floor include a coffee shop, art studios and a gallery, and a children's day care facility; upstairs will be housing. At the same time, Acadiana Outreach is looking at developing a financial strategy for more property acquisition in the neighborhood. The long term plan is to address the shortage of affordable housing for low to moderate income families. "Stable workforce housing leads to a direct reduction in social service spending on the federal, state and local levels, which creates a significant return on federal investment in this development," says Valerie Keller, CEO of the Acadiana Outreach Center. "This project gives us the unique opportunity to demonstrate successful public-private partnership for the benefit of our community."

by: Mary Tutwiler 10:42 AM

FEMA to close parks by May 2008

In early October, FEMA announced that it would close the Renaissance Village trailer park in Baker outside of Baton Rouge by November 2008. That was before CBS News revealed that FEMA had warned its employees in internal e-mails to stay out of the formaldehyde-ridden trailers, without publicly acknowledging the dangers associated with the carcinogen found inside the trailers.

The Times-Picayune reports that the closures will affect 6,400 people still living in trailers at more than 50 sites.

The agency has been careful not to attribute park closures to concerns about formaldehyde, which has been found at dangerous levels in some trailers. In a "Frequently Asked Questions" flier released Wednesday, a question asked: "Is FEMA closing parks because of formaldehyde?" FEMA answered: "Trailers were intended as short-term housing solutions. Rental resources are increasingly available in Louisiana and are more appropriate for long-term housing."

The New York Times estimates that 3,000 Louisiana families will be affected by the closures, including Renaissance Village, with some 925 families in New Orleans camps expected to close within days.

"We're with them every step of the way," said Diane L. W. Perry, a spokeswoman for the agency here, who added that no one will be forced out of a trailer without a home in which to live. ...

Most of those still living in the FEMA parks — which occupy playgrounds, churchyards, parking lots and fields around southern Louisiana — had previously been renters, and little low-cost rental housing has been repaired or built since the storm. Many people in the trailer sites are elderly or disabled, and large numbers are living alone.

According to The Advocate, there are 32,823 FEMA trailers still occupied in Louisiana. The announced deadline will not affect those living in trailers on private property where homeowners are rebuilding.

by: R. Reese Fuller 10:26 AM

USA Today high on Cajun Wells' new wetlands novel

USA Today's Bob Minzesheimer serves up a glowing review of Cajun author Ken Wells' new novel Crawfish Mountain. The critic says Wells lives up to the goal he describes in his acknowledgments: "To tell a fun story about a serious subject: the decimation of Louisiana's wetlands."

Wells, now a senior editor at the new Conde Nast magazine Portfolio (Conde Nast also publishes The New Yorker and Vanity Fair), spent much of his career as a writer and features editor for Page One of the Wall Street Journal. A Pulitzer prize finalist, Wells grew up in the Cajun enclave of Bayou Black, La., and now lives with his family outside Manhattan. Other Wells novels include Meely LaBauve, Junior's Leg and Logan's Storm; he is also the author of a number of non-fiction books, among them Travels with Barley, Daniel Pearl and Katrina Stories.

Here's more of what Minzeheimer has to say about Wells' Crawfish Mountain:

It's a cautionary tale about the environment, set five years before Hurricane Katrina. It's both a political satire and a page-turning mystery. Like the best jambalaya, it's liberally spiced. Readers can almost taste the boiled crawfish and oyster po' boys with extra pickles and mayonnaise (pronounced MY-Nez, by one character).

Wells ... makes the most of Louisiana's legendary political corruption and its roguish politicians.

by: Leslie Turk 10:11 AM

River delta symposium at Wetlands Center

Meeting at the USGS National Wetlands Center in Lafayette this morning are scientists from around the globe intent on sharing information about the world's river deltas. Over 150 experts from the Netherlands, Egypt, Vietnam, Thailand, Russia, Cambodia, China and the US will be looking at the dynamic geologic, hydrologic, and biological processes that form deltas, and how deltaic environments are altered significantly by human development and major coastal storms such as Hurricane Katrina. The international team will take a field trip this weekend down to the birdsfoot delta of the Mississippi, and also to see the devastation Katrina caused along the Louisiana and Mississippi coast.

What triggered the conference was the aftereffects of Katrina and Rita. Plans for restoring the Mississippi River's delta, in an effort to stop the subsidence along the coast will also be discussed. "Most of the scientists have the same problems in their own countries," says Wetlands Center deputy director Gaye Farris. "They have human populations living along river deltas. They have economic considerations, and many of the deltas have been engineered and it's causing problems. A big consideration has been global climate change and rising sea level, and what that will do to the world's deltas. The whole point is to learn from each other."

by: Mary Tutwiler 9:58 AM

Marquis medal could command $10 million at auction

Local events celebrating the 250th anniversary of the birth of Lafayette's namesake the Marquis de Lafayette wrapped up last month, but the Revolutionary War hero's enduring legacy is ending the year with a bang at Sotheby's auction house in New York. Lafayette's great-great-great grandson, Arnaud Meunier du Houssoy, has decided to sell a historic gold medal created for George Washington and given to the Marquis de Lafayette in 1824 after Washington's death. The medal hasn't been in the United States since an 1893 exhibition in Chicago, but it goes on display at Sotheby's next Thursday for only five days before it is sold at a Dec. 11 auction. Sotheby's vice chairman David N. Redden, who will auction off the medal, told The New York Times: "This object was significant to two of our greatest Revolutionary War heroes. Its importance transcends that of a simple badge or medal, to a symbol of the ideals that George Washington fought for."

Estimated price to own this piece of American and French history? Somewhere in the neighborhood of $4-$10 million.

by: Scott Jordan 9:09 AM

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Blueprint Louisiana touts "super-majority" in state legislature

Blueprint Louisiana says it is well on its way to achieving its lofty statewide reform agenda.The organization is touting a "super-majority," or two-thirds majority, in both houses of the state legislature following the recent elections. In a press release yesterday, Blueprint announced that 32 of 39 (82 percent) incoming state Senators signed a contract with the organization, pledging their support for Blueprint's five-part reform agenda. In the state House, 73 of 105 (70 percent) incoming state representatives signed the pledge.

Blueprint Louisiana co-founder and Chairman Matt Stuller of Lafayette stated, "We've maintained throughout our existence that Blueprint is about helping to create the state we deserve. We believe we're well-positioned for progress on these key priorities for the state, but acknowledge the hard work associated with passing legislation." Blueprint's five-part agenda includes the issues of state ethics, public education, workforce development, health care and transportation. The organization says it has now convened six working groups, one for each agenda item as well as a sixth dedicated to coastal restoration and hurricane protection, to develop legislation to implement its agenda. Blueprint also says it is working with legislators as well as the administration of Gov.-elect Bobby Jindal, who did not sign Blueprint's contract, in advance of next year's legislative session. "Our interaction with legislators during the past few weeks has been very productive," Stuller says. "So many of them are eager and they recognize the opportunities ahead of them to build a legacy of significant improvement in Louisiana."

by: Nathan Stubbs 10:46 AM

Davidson gets his rezoning — now what?

Attorney Jimmy Davidson apparently worked out a sweet deal with outgoing Lafayette City-Parish Council members, who overwhelmingly approved the controversial rezoning of his Girard Park property -- despite that he has yet to deliver a specific plan. The only council members to vote against the rezoning were Bruce Conque and Dale Bourgeois. Rob Stevenson, who indicated several weeks ago to The INDsider that he would likely side with neighbors who opposed the rezoning, was absent.

The rezoning of a portion of the single-family residential property, located at the corner of Girard Park and Hospital drives, for commercial use clears the way for Davidson to erect a four-story condo complex and offices directly across from Girard Park. That's what he says he wants to do, and that's about as specific as he has been willing to get. The council, inexplicably, approved the rezoning without holding him to a firm plan.

"There are no contingencies, no conditional rezoning," says Douglas English, who lives on Girard Woods Drive and heads the neighborhood group that fought the intrusion of commercial development in the residentially-zoned area, which is buffered from the existing commercial. He maintains that the council employed flawed logic in determining that Davidson should be able to rezone his property for commercial use simply because it is near existing businesses. "To put a commercial facility in there now upsets that balance," English says, "especially since we don't know what the commercial is."

The lack of a master plan again is fueling speculation Davidson simply secured the rezoning in order to sell the property, now much more valuable because of its commercial classification, to UL Lafayette. His 4.1 acres, part of the failed horse farm land swap, were initially inaccurately appraised for their commercial potential and valued at $3.25 million by retired Lafayette appraiser George Parker. In the course of that proposed deal, The Independent Weekly discovered that Davidson had been operating a plastics manufacturing business on the residentially-zoned property, an entity that has since relocated. A new appraisal ordered by the state after questions were raised about the integrity of the first appraisal reduced the value to $1.5 million, but the rezoning would likely bring it more in line with Parker's original valuation. The state (or UL), however, would not be held to any zoning restrictions.

UL President Dr. Ray Authement, who was successfully sued by The Independent after refusing to release the state-ordered appraisal, has never wavered in his desire to acquire the property. "I just spoke with Dr. Authement and he said that because our campus is landlocked, he is absolutely interested in purchasing any available property near campus," UL spokeswoman Julie Dronet said this morning. "He has not, however, spoken to Mr. Davidson since the property was rezoned yesterday evening to discuss the availability of the property."

"We've always thought that that's in the background," English says.

by: Leslie Turk 10:26 AM

Louisiana in tonight's Republican presidential candidates' debate?

As the disgust continues from The Commission on Presidential Debates' ridiculous excuses for rejecting New Orleans' application to host a debate, a number of Louisiana residents aren't taking the slight – and its implications of continued avoidance of vital Gulf Coast rebuilding questions - idly. Tonight is the CNN/YouTube debate for the Republican presidential candidates; a number of submitted YouTube video questions ask Katrina/New Orleans/disaster preparedness questions, and it should be interesting to see if any of them make the final cut tonight. Here are two particularly relevant examples:

by: Scott Jordan 10:19 AM

More botched 2007 hurricane predictions

While we're thankful that Louisiana escaped the 2007 hurricane season unscathed, we can't help but note that the predictions of nationally known forecasting team Gray-Klotzbach at Colorado State University were again way off the mark. Prior to the 2007 start of hurricane season, the Colorado team predicted 17 named storms would turn into nine hurricanes, with five of them being intense storms. Final results for 2007: 14 named storms and five hurricanes — two of them in the intense category.

It marked the third year in a row that Gray's predictions were inflated, and also underscored their ridiculous practice of "revising" their predictions through hurricane season, the equivalent of a pro football handicapper changing their pre-season picks halfway to the Super Bowl. Klotzbach defended the Colorado forecasters' practice by telling the Miami Herald their long-term predictions satisfy the public's "inherent curiosity."

Jeff Masters, chief meteorologist for The Weather Underground and a former NOAA hurricane researcher, said it best: "If Gray were honest, he would say they have no skill in making predictions that far in advance," he told The Herald. "It's just an interesting mental exercise." - Scott Jordan

by: admin 10:14 AM

Acadiana Business' December issue: Entrepreneurs of 2007

The December issue of Acadiana Business hits the streets today inside The Independent Weekly, with a cover story spotlighting Acadiana's Entrepreneurs of 2007. They come from markedly different backgrounds: the restaurant industry, construction, Internet technology and sports. To read the profiles of Derek Hebert (Core Construction), Taylor Toce and Marcus Ledet (Provation Technologies), Nidal Balbeisi (Zeus, Agave Cantina) and Lance Strother and Mark Weber (Great Catch), click here for a file that includes the complete December Acadiana Business issue online.

by: Scott Jordan 9:54 AM

Landreth and Clapton on DVD

Breaux Bridge slide guitar virtuoso Sonny Landreth earned personal invitations from legendary six-stringer Eric Clapton to perform at Clapton's 2004 and 2007 benefits for the substance abuse rehabilitation facility in Antigua founded by Clapton. In another indication of how highly E.C. regards Landreth, the new live concert DVD Eric Clapton: Crossroads Guitar Festival 2007, features two Landreth performances from the 2007 extravaganza. The DVD kicks off with Landreth's lightning-fast instrumental "Uberesso," then Slowhand himself joins Landreth on stage to trade licks on the blues scorcher "Hell at Home." Other highlights of the double-DVD set include Jeff Beck's blistering set and Clapton's reunion with his former Blind Faith bandmate Steve Winwood. List price is $29.99, and the DVD's available locally at Barnes and Noble, Best Buy and Circuit City. For a sneak preview, here's the clip of "Hell at Home":

by: Scott Jordan 9:12 AM

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Hardy to recommend Shelton Cobb for school board seat

Newly-elected state Rep. Rickey Hardy says he would like to see retired Louisiana Technical College administrator Shelton Cobb be appointed to fill his soon-to-be vacated seat on the Lafayette Parish school board. Hardy plans to officially resign from the school board on Dec. 31, prior to taking his new office. The board customarily takes recommendations from outgoing members in appointing interim replacements. Whomever is appointed will serve until a special election is scheduled for the seat – likely to be held in October of next year.

Cobb, who recently made an unsuccessful bid for the District 3 city-parish council seat won by Brandon Shelvin, is the former director of the Louisiana Technical College's Lafayette campus. He also previously served as a regional director for the state's vocational and technical schools and is a former teacher, having taught Hardy at Paul Breaux High School. Hardy says Cobb's experience should prove invaluable in helping assist the board with several ongoing initiatives, including a proposal to house a technical school academy at a new high school in the parish. "I think Shelton will do a good job," Hardy says. "He has a lot of experience in the technical school system." Hardy says he will officially recommend Cobb to the school board at its next meeting on Dec. 5. The board will not be able to take action on the issue until after Hardy's resignation. The board will also be accepting letters from other interested applicants for the seat through the Superintendent's office.

by: Nathan Stubbs 10:46 AM

UL search committee punts to Board of Supervisors

The presidential search committee's meeting in Baton Rouge yesterday yielded, well, nothing. Rather, the meeting was an exercise in going through the motions, as the field of five was already down to three; in the end the committee forwarded all three names to the UL Board of Supervisors, which will name a new president Dec. 7 - before Gov. Kathleen Blanco leaves office.

Two out-of-state finalists, Dr. Karen White and Dr. Raymond Flumerfelt, had withdrawn their names by the time committee met Monday.

Still in the running are Commissioner of Higher Education T-Joe Savoie (pictured), UL Vice President of Academic Affairs Steve Landry and Maj. Gen. Clifford Stanley, president and CEO of Scholarship America. Savoie, whose stellar work as commissioner has many hoping he stays put, is said to be the favorite of the Blanco administration (though he has indicated he may not accept the post if offered it), and Landry is widely speculated to be outgoing President Ray Authement's top choice. If Savoie gets the job, it is unclear whether Landry will stay at the university.

by: Leslie Turk 10:41 AM

Hunt Slonem book signing Thursday

Internationally renowned artist and Louisiana plantation house collector Hunt Slonem will be in New Iberia on Thursday, Nov. 29, signing copies of a new book detailing his art and architecture, Pleasure Palaces: The Art and Homes of Hunt Slonem, by Vincent Katz. Slonem's bright decorative style features repeat patterns of tropical birds and butterflies in vibrant colors. His work can be found in over 80 museums including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Guggenheim and the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York City. Slonem owns two Louisiana plantations, Albania, in Jeanerette, and Lakeside, in Pointe Coupee Parish. His work was recently exhibited at the Ogden Museum of Art in New Orleans, and can currently be seen at the Opelousas Museum of Art through December 22. The Thursday book signing will be at Clementine, in New Iberia from 6-8 p.m. Call Sarah Peltier for more information at 560-1007.

by: Mary Tutwiler 10:22 AM

Americans for Prosperity in Lafayette tonight

A national free-market grassroots group will be in Lafayette tonight in hopes of mobilizing citizens in advance of the coming legislative sessions to take stances against out-of-control spending, tax burdens and government ambiguity. The Louisiana chapter of Americans for Prosperity is the eighteenth such state group to be formed in the U.S. It has big hopes for Louisiana, based on the agendas pushed in other states. AFP can be credited with enacting legislation that created "Google-government" spending databases in Oklahoma and Kansas, where citizens can actually view earmarks and so-called pork-barrel spending online. It also helped to defeat proposed tax hikes in Virginia, Kansas and Oklahoma, and limited taxpayer-funded lobbying in Texas. The Acadiana Young Republicans will be hosting the group's leadership tonight at the Townhouse Restaurant at 7 p.m. The event is open to the public. - Jeremy Alford

by: admin 8:44 AM

"The other LA"

Dow Jones recently referred to Louisiana as "the other LA," for its increasing involvement in the motion picture industry. Louisiana could rake in half a billion dollars this year for 50 projects in the works in the state's burgeoning film industry. According to state officials, Louisiana is adding film-related jobs at a rate of 23 percent a year, running in third place behind California and New York. And while much of the focus centers on New Orleans and its productions in both pre- and post-Katrina, Baton Rouge and Shreveport are also playing a major role in the development of the industry. Nearly 70 projects are scheduled for release in 2008 that will be filmed partly in Louisiana. Shreveport alone will be part of 19 of those projects, up from the 12 it was involved with during 2007. Lafayette hopes to get in on the action, too, as local entertainment industry liason Marcus Brown has been courting out-of-state film production companies to shoot projects in Acadiana.

by: R. Reese Fuller 6:54 AM

Monday, November 26, 2007

LWV urges action on school facilities

Lafayette's public school buildings are "old, overcrowded, and underfunded" and in dire need of a major face lift in order to provide local students a quality education. That's the synopsis of a study published last week by the Lafayette League of Women Voters. Other highlights include:

School Board members have been invited to attend the League's next meeting on Dec. 3 to address the study. The League, which is experiencing a renaissance of sorts with new membership, also plans to be involved when the board holds an upcoming workshop devoted to adopting a long-term, comprehensive facilities plan. The school facilities report is one of two studies the local LWV plans to release. Another study on the potential of Lafayette Utilities System's fiber-to-the-home project is already underway.

by: Nathan Stubbs 10:20 AM

Melancon files immigration legislation

U.S. Rep. Charlie Melancon is indeed a Blue Dog. The Napoleonville Democrat tows the conservative line on social issues, much to the delight of his constituency, but his friends on the Hill (like House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of San Francisco) have prompted his opponents to tag him as liberal in the past. As such, Melancon's latest policy move is a no-brainer.

Melancon has filed legislation that offers "commonsense measures" to address the nation's continuing challenges with illegal immigration. The Secure America through Verification and Enforcement Act, also known as SAVE, is a three-part plan to drastically reduce illegal immigration through stricter border security, employer verification and interior enforcement. "Illegal immigration is a threat to our communities and a burden on our local governments," says Melancon. "We must do something to solve this problem."

Melancon says it's estimated that more than 12 million people are in the U.S. illegally, and thousands more are coming in every week. "Americans are demanding a solution," he adds. Specifically, the SAVE Act would add 8,000 new patrol agents to the nation's border, require employers to verify legal status and further enforce existing laws that the congressman says lack any real bite. - Jeremy Alford

by: admin 9:58 AM

Vitter's testimony cancelled

U.S. Sen. David Vitter was scheduled to testify on Wednesday about his involvement with an escort service ran by the "D.C. Madam." Deborah Jeane Palfrey had subpoenaed Vitter, but last week, a federal judge canceled the hearing. The Times-Picayune reports:

... U.S. District Judge Gladys Kessler on Wednesday canceled the much-anticipated hearing and ruled that Palfrey was using the forum to attempt "an end run" around evidentiary rules to get a sneak peak at the government's case.

Palfrey has been indicted for running a prostitution ring in D.C. Her attorneys were expected to question Vitter about his involvement with the escorts.

by: R. Reese Fuller 9:56 AM

Another UL finalist drops out, citing Landry endorsement

The presidential search committee is meeting in Baton Rouge today at 1:15 p.m. to narrow the field of finalists for the top job at UL Lafayette, but this appears to be an exercise in futility, as the field of five is already down to three.

The latest to drop out of the running for UL president is Dr. Raymond Flumerfelt, vice director of the Texas National Wind Energy Project and professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering at the University of Houston. Flumerfelt withdrew over the weekend, following in the footsteps of Dr. Karen White. Via e-mail to System President Sally Clausen, who also heads the search committee, he wrote:

On Friday I learned that the ULL Faculty Senate endorsed Dr. Steve Landry for the position of President and recommended that only one name be advanced for final consideration. As a longtime academic leader and faculty member, I respect and understand this endorsement. As a result, I ask that you remove my name from consideration and inform the committee accordingly at your meeting on Monday.

Based upon my contacts with you and your staff and the many people involved in the interview, I will always have a very positive view of ULL. It is an important institution in Louisiana and has a great future, and I wish you the best in your final selection.

In all likelihood, the committee will submit two names to the full Board of Supervisors for the UL System, Commissioner of Higher Education T-Joe Savoie and UL Vice President of Academic Affairs Steve Landry (pictured). Savoie is said to be the favorite of the Blanco administration, and Landry, who has received the backing of the UL Faculty Senate, is widely speculated to be outgoing President Ray Authement's top choice. The third finalist is Maj. Gen. Clifford Stanley, president and CEO of Scholarship America.

The UL System's board will conduct public interviews with the candidates recommended by the search committee before making a final decision at its Dec. 7 meeting in Baton Rouge.

by: Leslie Turk 9:50 AM

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Council approves speed van changes

The Lafayette city-parish council approved several new changes to its Safe Speed program in an effort to make the speed-monitoring vans more palatable to the general public. The program has come under fire for a range of issues, including flashing strobe lights that can be a distraction to drivers and the difficulty of challenging tickets. At its meeting last night, the council voted to alter the speed threshold for enforcement. While previously the program ticketed any drivers traveling 6 miles-per-hour or more over the posted speed limit, the council has now adopted a graduated system. School zones will be zero tolerance, and drivers can now get tickets for traveling 1 mile per hour over the speed limit. In neighborhood streets with speed limits in the 25-30 mph range, the program will start enforcement on drivers traveling at least 6 mph over the limit. The threshold goes up to 8 mph over the limit for roads with speed limits of 35-40 mph, and a 10 mph threshold for roads with speed limits of 45-70 mph.

The council also waived a required deposit fee for challenging tickets, and has directed Redflex, the company contracted with to administer the program, to eliminate use of its use of strobe lights in the evening hours. While the council had originally proposed moving the program over to city police, an amendment by Councilman Bruce Conque keeps the program under the supervision of the Traffic and Transportation Department. Conque says the program would place an "unfair burden" on thinly-spread city police staff and that Traffic and Transportation is already well acquainted with running Safe Speed.

by: Nathan Stubbs 11:05 AM

Reach out for Thanksgiving

If you're looking for another way to celebrate Thanksgiving instead of gorging on turkey and dressing, lend a hand to your less fortunate neighbors. The Acadiana Outreach Center will host a Thanksgiving dinner tomorrow for the area's poor and homeless. You can donate dessert items and paper goods for the meal today and until 10:30 a.m. tomorrow morning. The staff of Ruth's Chris Steakhouse will join Acadiana Outreach in feeding an estimated 500 people. The day begins with a chapel service at 10:30 a.m., featuring the Outreach Center's "Voices of Recovery" choir followed by a meal at 11:00 a.m. at the Acadiana Outreach's Celebration Center located at 125 South Buchanan Street. To volunteer, donate, or for more info, contact Sandi Degeyter at (337) 237-7618 or at [email protected].

by: R. Reese Fuller 10:56 AM

Hurricane deforestation contributes to global warming

Yesterday a handful of arborists concluded a four day bike ride along the path of Hurricane Rita, planting 2,000 live oaks, and pledging to return for the next five years to bring their reforestation efforts up to 10,000 trees. Church Point arborist Bob Thibodeaux, who dreamed up the "Acorns of Hope" mission says he thinks it will take a million trees to replace what was lost. Thibodeaux underestimated by several hundred million.

A new study released in Science magazine's November edition calculates that Hurricanes Katrina and Rita actually downed approximately 320 million trees in Louisiana and Mississippi. Researchers at Tulane University studied before and after satellite images and followed up by visiting some of the most hard hit areas, actually hand-counting dead trees. They then calculated the carbon release of the decomposing trees, predicting that the carbon dioxide being released into the atmosphere will contribute as much to global warming as all the forests in the US can absorb in a year. The decimated forests also open up coastal areas to erosion, and inland swaths of splintered woodland are being taken over by Chinese Tallow, or as they are locally known, "chicken trees." The loss of quality timber is another blow to the two state's economies. A $504 million federal program to help Gulf Coast landowners replant and fight invasive species has been a bust, tied up as usual in bureaucratic red tape.

James Cummins, executive director of the conservation group Wildlife Mississippi, and a board member Of the Mississippi Forestry Commission told the Chicago Tribune:

This is the worst environmental disaster in the United States since the Exxon Valdez accident ... and the greatest forest destruction in modern times. It needs a really broad and aggressive response, and so far that just hasn't happened.

In light of all the federal failures in hurricane recovery on so many fronts, it's particularly poignant that locals like Thibodeaux have made issues like reforestation their own. In this season of gratitude, it's good to remember those among us who have gone above and beyond their own individual needs to come to the aid of the community. Thank you all.

by: Mary Tutwiler 10:25 AM

The INDsider returns Monday, Nov. 26

The Independent Weekly offices will be closed Thursday and Friday, Nov. 22-23 for Thanksgiving, and our next edition of the INDsider will be Monday, Nov. 26. Happy Thanksgiving to all our readers and best wishes for a happy and safe holiday.

by: Scott Jordan 9:46 AM

Forbes ranks LSU 6th most valuable college football team

Forbes magazine has just put out its annual ranking of the 20 most valuable college football teams in the country, placing the current No.1 team in the BCS rankings, LSU, sixth on the list. Forbes puts LSU's estimated value at $76 million, with an annual net profit of $31.7 million, noting that LSU's addition of an eighth home game helped its value increase 11 percent from last year. The University of Notre Dame takes the title of most valuable team and is the only school on the list with an estimated value topping $100 million. Along with LSU, five other Southeastern Conference schools make the top 10, including Georgia at No.3, Florida at No.5, Tennessee (7), Auburn (8) and Alabama (9). Forbes bases its rankings on four criteria: the contributions football programs make to their university, their athletic department, conference (distribution of bowl game revenue) and the additional business they help generate for the surrounding community.

by: Nathan Stubbs 9:36 AM

Ex-LSU coach Saban compares UL-Monroe defeat to 9/11, Pearl Harbor

Nearly a year after bailing on the Miami Dolphins and being hailed as the savior for Alabama football, Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban is sounding like a man on the verge of a meltdown. After last weekend's humbling 21-14 loss to UL Monroe in Alabama – the Tide's third consecutive loss -- Coach Saban had this to say yesterday to start his weekly press conference:

"Changes in history usually occur after some kind of catastrophic event. It may be 9-11, which sort of changed the spirit of America relative to catastrophic events. Pearl Harbor kind of got us ready for World War II, or whatever, and that was a catastrophic event."

In a lame attempt at damage control, an Alabama football "spokesman" issued a near-immediate clarification. "What Coach Saban said did not correlate losing a football game with tragedy; everyone needs to understand that. He was not equating losing football games to those catastrophic events," Jeff Purington said in a statement to The Associated Press. "The message was that true spirit and unity become evident in the most difficult of times. Those were two tremendous examples that everyone can identify with."

Should Alabama lose to rival Auburn this Saturday, the world awaits history genius Saban's thoughts on the defeat.

by: Scott Jordan 9:26 AM

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Loaded council agenda for tonight

It will likely be another marathon night at City Hall for tonight's city-parish council meeting. Tonight's agenda is loaded with 38 items, including several controversial issues sure to draw lengthy discussions. First up on the docket will be the issue of city-parish president Joey Durel's recent veto – the first of his administration – of a council ordinance that would have required the city to accept perpetual maintenance of a private gravel road in the rural part of the parish. The council will need six votes to override Durel's veto. In response to the veto, Councilman Lenwood Broussard is also introducing an item to defund the Settler's Trace road project, which the administration supports.

Other hot button items on the agenda include a series of amendments to its controversial Safe Speed program, a resolution opposing FEMA's new preliminary flood maps for the parish, an ordinance that sets up a franchise agreement between the city and Lafayette Utilties System's new telecommunications business, an ordinance that would nullify a previous city law setting the speed limit for Camellia Boulevard at 35 miles per hour, and a resolution by councilman Louis Benjamin on the idea of paying back a multi-million dollar lawsuit to city police and firefighters through a specially issued card that would exempt them from paying sales taxes. The action starts at 5:30 p.m. at City Hall on the corner of University Ave. and St. Landry street. As always, Acadiana Open Channel will be airing the meeting live on channel 16.

by: Nathan Stubbs 10:45 AM

New Orleans "not ready" for debates

Yesterday, the Times-Picayune reported that New Orleans has been rejected as a host city for the 2008 presidential debates. The commission that selects the cities for the debates felt that New Orleans had not recovered sufficiently to host the event. The Louisiana Recovery Authority issued a statement expressing its disappointment with the decision. Vice Chairman Walter Isaacson stated:

The city of New Orleans is addressing directly a host of domestic issues that other cities also grapple with - from repairing infrastructure to improving schools and bettering health care. This makes New Orleans the ideal stage for the candidates for President to lay out their visions for improving America, from the Gulf Coast and beyond and it is disappointing that they will not have the opportunity to do that.

In an editorial today, The Times-Pic calls the decision "a shameful rebuff" and points to events that are scheduled to take place and that already have taken place in the city since Hurricane Katrina - including the BCS national championship game on Jan. 7, an upcoming NBA All-Star game and several conventions.

Commission [on Presidential Debates] member Mark McCurry would have us believe that the group actually did us a favor. He said the staff was not convinced the city could pay for the required police overtime and that the expense was not "a fair thing to do to ask the citizens of New Orleans ... to pick up all these financial costs." Maybe next he'll ask the tourists to do us a favor and not visit us. Please, Mr. McCurry, no more favors! ...

More importantly, New Orleans' argument was not only that it could host the debate, but that it should. There's no better place to debate the domestic issues of a presidential campaign than a great American city recovering from a national tragedy. From education to health care to emergency preparedness, some of the nation's most innovative solutions are being tested here. That is why several presidential candidates from both parties have campaigned here and supported New Orleans' proposal.

by: R. Reese Fuller 10:20 AM

White vote key to Hardy victory

In Saturday's election for the District 44 state House, the minority white vote played a key role in school board member Rickey Hardy's victory over city-parish councilman Chris Williams. District 44's voting population is 66 percent African American and 31 percent white. Among the seven precincts with the heaviest majority of white voters, Hardy captured a whopping 77 percent of the vote. Hardy trailed Williams 57 percent to 43 percent in the 11 precincts with the heaviest makeup of black voters. Local attorney Lester Gauthier, a former political analyst on KPEL radio who lives in District 44, extrapolates that up to 80 percent of the District's white voters cast their ballots for Hardy. He says Williams capturing only 20 percent of the white vote was too big of a setback for him to overcome. "80-20 is pretty strong for anybody in any community," Gauthier says. He notes that in the primary election, the majority of the white vote had been split between the race's third and fourth place finishers, Terry Landry and Fred Prejean, making their supporters a key swing vote for the runoff election.

"After the primary, the majority of harvestable voters in this district were the white voters," Gauthier says. "And Chris Williams was unacceptable to the majority of white voters. That's what the numbers show." Overall turnout for the election was 28 percent, compared to 36 percent in the Oct. 20 primary. The weeks leading up to the election saw a flurry of high profile endorsements for the two candidates. Williams won over the support of outgoing District 44 state Rep. Wilfred Pierre as well as two of his former opponents in the race, Derriel McCorvey and Terry Landry. City-parish president Joey Durel threw his support behind Rickey Hardy, calling him the only candidate in the race that was a "team player." Gauthier says it appears that "all of the endorsements had little to no impact" on the outcome of the race.

by: Nathan Stubbs 10:05 AM

Made for the shade

Fifteen miles an hour, fifteen minutes, fifteen trees in the ground. When a dozen bicycle riding arbourists set out on a mission to plant 2000 trees in coastal Louisiana, they move at a quick clip, on the road or shovel in the dirt. Over the last four days people from as far away as Ontario and Oregon have come to the aid of Church Point arbourist Bob Thibodeaux, while he attempts to reforest the coast in the wake of Hurricane Rita. "This is legacy stuff," says Toronto tree expert Warren Hoselton. "It will be here for years after we are gone."

The "Acorns of Hope" group is planting a special "Orange Island" live oak, chosen for its quick growing habit. Thibodeaux devised a plan to plant in clusters, the way oaks naturally grow on the coastal cheniers, to create wind and storm surge barriers for protection from hurricanes. The arbourists were joined by a group of 4-H teens from Cameron and Lafayette, who got a planting lesson on how to help spread the roots and mulch the young trees, to give them a chance to anchor themselves in the sandy soils along the coast. Lafayette Master Gardener Janice Prejean was along for the ride. "I hope this develops into something more," she says. "This is just the seed of tree planting efforts."
(Photo: Arbourist Steve Parker guides high school students on how to plant trees. Photo by Philip Gould)

by: Mary Tutwiler 9:47 AM

Monday, November 19, 2007

"Zydeco Joe" Mouton dead at 64

According to his own song "Jack Rabbit," Joseph Adam Mouton - better known as Zydeco Joe - was "born in Lafayette, raised up in Carencro." Mouton died Saturday from complications from pneumonia. He was 64 years old.

The popular zydeco accordionist was the leader of the Laissez Le Bon Temps Rouler Band and could be spotted throughout the area sitting in with bands on rubboard and dancing in the crowd. In 2001, Mouton released the hard-chargin' Jack Rabbit CD, and followed it up in 2006 with Black Cat, which contained the popular cut "You Can't Rooster Like You Used To."
(Photo courtesy of David Simpson, LSUE)

by: R. Reese Fuller 10:27 AM

Changing of the guard in Iberia sheriff's election

The election of Louis Ackal as Iberia Parish's new sheriff is the next act in a dramatic power struggle that has been playing out over the last four years. Ackal, a retired state trooper, rode into office with 52 percent of the vote. He was backed by a cadre of New Iberia city police officers who have never forgiven former Mayor Ruth Fontenot and Sheriff Sid Hebert for disbanding the city department. Backed by the Greater Iberia Chamber of Commerce in the summer of 2004, Fontenot moved the city and parish toward consolidation of law enforcement services. That fall, she and mayor pro tem Nolan Pellerin both lost their bids for reelection based on community anger about dissolving the city police department. Saturday's election of Ackal over David Landry, Hebert's chief of staff, reflects the ideological split that still divides the city and parish. In an effort to heal the discord, Ackal says after he takes office in July of 2008, that he will renegotiate the contract between the sheriff's office and the city, as well as beefing up community policing and hiring new deputies from the local area.

by: Mary Tutwiler 10:17 AM

Will Steve Landry be UL's next president?

On the heels of Commissioner of Higher Education T-Joe Savoie telling the committee charged with finding a new UL president that he's unsure he'd accept the job if offered it comes a faculty endorsement of Vice President of Academic Affairs Steve Landry. Savoie and Landry are among four finalists for the top job.

"I struggled with whether to [apply]," Savoie told The Independent Weekly immediately following last week's public interview and executive session talk with the search committee. "I really like what I'm doing now, and I have a great board." Savoie says he had some concerns about losing the momentum of projects and initiatives on the state level but came to realize all of the pieces are in place for that to continue, adding jokingly, "I had to admit to myself that I was not integral to the continued success."

It is widely speculated that either Savoie or Landry will be offered the post, and on Wednesday of last week UL's Faculty Senate passed a resolution endorsing Landry, another requesting that the search committee make a single recommendation to the UL Board of Supervisors on Nov. 26, and a third asking all faculty to attend the November meeting in Baton Rouge. Of the more than 100 members of the faculty senate, less than half attended the meeting, with 29 voting for Landry, four against and five abstaining.

An outspoken critic of the process, Dr. Ron Cheek, an associate professor in UL's College of Business Administration, fired off a letter to all faculty and some members of the business community explaining why he would have voted against Landry if he'd attended the meeting. "I personally feel that Steve Landry is an intelligent, ethical, long-term devoted member of the ULL family," he wrote. "My non-support is because of the process, not because of Steve." Cheek is certainly not alone in his sentiment that this deal to name an "insider" to the post was cooked some time ago, long before the search for Dr. Ray Authement's successor began. Cheek's position, which he stresses is his "personal view," has generated a tremendous amount of support from UL faculty and others in the community (see the comments posted to his blog), but few have been willing to speak up publicly. "I've done my share," Cheek told the INDsider this morning. "It's time for others to step up; otherwise, they must agree with the process."

Cheek says he'd like to see the decision delayed until Gov.-elect Bobby Jindal takes office in January and has a chance to review how the search process has been conducted. The Gov. Kathleen Blanco-appointed UL Board of Supervisors, however, is scheduled to vote on the selection committee's recommendation Dec. 7.

One name that will not be submitted to the board of supervisors is Karen White, regional chancellor of the University of South Florida in St. Petersburg. White dropped out of the running in a letter to UL System President Sally Clausen last week.

by: Leslie Turk 10:17 AM

Vitter, Durel take on Mexican ID program

Senator David Vitter and City-Parish President Joey Durel have come out in force against a program by the Mexican Consulate to issue "Matricula" ID cards to Mexican natives in Lafayette. Vitter's office put out a press release last Thursday announcing a decision by Durel to deny the consulate use of a public building to issue the ID cards in Lafayette this past weekend. The consulate had planned to set up at the Clifton Chenier Center Saturday and Sunday, as part of a mobile program for issuing Matricula cards and passports to Mexican citizens. Matricula cards are a form of international ID, which are accepted by some government agencies, banks and other private businesses. As the national immigration debate has heated up, the cards have become controversial because they are issued without regard to whether a person has immigrated to the U.S. legally or illegally.

"It would be ridiculous to allow the Mexican Consulate to use a building paid for by the taxpayers to issue ID cards to benefit illegal aliens," Vitter stated in the press release. "I applaud Joey Durel in his decision to revoke the permit and stop this dead in its tracks." The day before, Vitter announced in a news release that he had already contacted the Department of Homeland Security about stationing ICE agents at the Lafayette card drive to identify and detain any illegal immigrants. In Washington, Vitter has been at the forefront of the opposition to recent efforts backed by President Bush to reform immigration laws and allow for a path to citizenship for many illegal Mexican immigrants. Vitter also recently co-sponsored legislation in the Senate to withhold federal transportation funding from states that continue to issue identification cards to illegal aliens and provide additional funds to those states that do not issue cards to illegals.

Durel says that he made the decision to revoke the Mexican Consulate's permit to operate out of the Clifton Chenier Center after conferring with city-parish council chairman Rob Stevenson. "I did not get the appropriate comfort level," Durel states in the press release, "about how thoroughly the Consulate would attempt to separate legal from illegal immigrants when issuing these cards. We felt that because of this lack of assurance and because it was unfair to those who have gone through all the proper legal immigration channels, we could not allow this potential illegal activity to happen in a government building." Durel adds the Mexican Consulate in Houston "has contacted me to tell me he understood our concerns."

Lolita Parkinson, media spokesperson for the Mexian Consulate says she believes this is the first time a local government has denied the Consulate use of a public building to issue the matricula cards. Late Friday, Parkinson issued a press release written entirely in Spanish and refused to provide an English version. Translated, the press release states that the card drive in Lafayette has been canceled because local authorities have refused to recognize the rights of the consulate set forth by the 1963 Vienna Convention on Consular Relations. On its Web site, The Mexican Consulate maintains that matricula cards are issued to Mexican natives abroad to "operate as a Mexican citizen's primary identification and proof of residency in Mexico," similar to ID cards issued by other government embassies to citizens living outside their native country.

by: Nathan Stubbs 10:03 AM

Doucet honored with USA Fellowship

Michael Doucet, the Grammy Award-winning fiddler of BeauSoleil and the Savoy-Doucet Cajun Band, has been named a USA Collins Fellow, as part of the United States Artists Fellowships for 2007. "It was totally unexpected which makes it pretty fabulous," Doucet says. "It's just an amazing thing they're doing." Only 50 Americans - out of a pool of 344 nominees - were chosen to receive an unrestricted grant of $50,000 in recognition of their work. On Saturday, the Fellows were recognized at Paramount Studios in Los Angeles. In 2005, Doucet was also awarded a National Heritage Fellowship form the National Endowment for the Arts.
(Photo courtesy of David Simpson, LSUE)

by: R. Reese Fuller 9:14 AM

Thursday, November 15, 2007

UL prez finalist drops out

Dr. Karen White, regional chancellor of the University of South Florida in St. Petersburg, withdrew from the running for the UL Lafayette presidency today. White was interviewed by the selection committee Monday; four finalists remain. "After careful deliberation, I determined that my current position more closely matches my professional priorities," she wrote in a letter addressed to Dr. Sally Clausen, president of the UL System and head of the search committee. (Click here to read her letter.)

White was out of her office and could not be reached for comment.

by: Leslie Turk 3:33 PM

ACLU: Saggy pants bill is "folly"

The latest city in a rash of municipalities and parishes seeking to adopt a saggy pants ordinance has drawn a letter in opposition from the American Civil Liberties Organization. ACLU Louisiana executive director Marjorie R. Esman wrote to Gonzales city government urging the council not to adopt the law after the ordinance was introduced this week. The ordinance outlaws public "nudity or partial nudity, or...dress not becoming to that person's sex, or...any indecent exposure of his or her person or undergarments due to sagging pants." Esman states that the language is "unconstitutional as vague and unclear." She writes:

Clothing is a form of expression protected under the Constitution of the United States.

Any showing of skin constitutes "partial nudity," which means that it will be up to the discretion of the enforcing officer to decide, based on his or her own personal standards, how much skin is appropriate. Short sleeves? Tank tops? Shorts...plunging necklines?...There is no clear standard, and the people of Gonzales will be forced to guess whether their clothing will pass muster.

She continues, citing that Louisiana statute RS 14:106 the state's obscenity law, shall not be exceeded in scope by municipalities and parishes by broadening the definition of obscenity to include "indecent exposure."

She also cites the 14th Amendment, stating that banning "saggy pants" or any other form of attire violates a liberty interest guaranteed under the U.S. Constitution.

Gonzales's police chief, Bill Landry, tracking the town of Delcambre's ordinance, where the crusade against sagging began, crafted the proposed law. To date, there are at least seven municipalities and parishes in Louisiana with sagging laws on the books. Gonzales officials have not responded the letter.

by: Mary Tutwiler 11:25 AM

Councilman seeks to end tax-only elections

The last time Lafayette parish held a tax-only election, with no political candidates on the ballot, most voters elected to stay home. Only four percent of registered voters turned out this past summer to approve renewal of a series of millage taxes. For city-parish councilman Rob Stevenson, this type of election, which costs the parish more than $40,000 to conduct, is unacceptable. Stevenson recently introduced an ordinance, up for final adoption at the council's Tuesday meeting, that would make tax-only elections illegal in Lafayette Parish. "Four percent is appalling," Stevenson says. "It's unfair to have an election that we know almost nobody's going to show up for. It gets more publicity after the election than before and it looks like we're trying to slip something by the people." If passed, Stevenson's ordinance would become effective immediately upon being signed by the city-parish president.

by: Nathan Stubbs 11:00 AM

What's the big idea?

From the folks who gave us the slogan "Don't Mess with Texas" comes a new idea to promote south Louisiana - "Energy for Life." Yesterday at the Manship Theater in Baton Rouge, GSD&M's Idea City unveiled its marketing campaign to brand and promote the I-10/I-12 corridor and stimulate the local economies that stretch from Lake Charles to the Northshore. The Austin firm was hired by the Baton Rouge Area Foundation to tackle the task. In a press release, Haley Rushing, chief purposologist for GSD&M's Idea City, stated:

The world doesn't know Louisiana. It knows New Orleans, Mardi Gras and, unfortunately, Hurricane Katrina. It's time to let the world in on the rest of the story. The energy and vitality you find along the Corridor is absolutely contagious and has the magnetism to draw the right people, spur the economy and create a new future for Louisiana.

Download the PDF of the 56-page report "The Big Idea: Rebranding the I-10/I-12 Corridor."

by: R. Reese Fuller 11:00 AM

Broussard fights back over Durel veto

City-Parish President Joey Durel's first-ever veto of a council decision has spurred Councilman Lenwood Broussard's effort to remove funding for the Durel-backed Settler's Trace Extension project.

Durel's veto overturned the council's 5-3 vote to accept Opus Lane, a gravel road in rural Lafayette Parish, for public maintenance. His reasons: the ordinance has a potential legal problem because no fiscal impact was conducted, as is required by an earlier local ordinance, and the parish would be taking on responsibility for a road that has been determined to be in poor and dangerous condition.

Broussard, who authored the Opus Lane ordinance, responded by proposing to scrap the $550,000 Settlers Trace project, which will connect The Settlement to Ambassador Caffery Parkway. The councilman claims Durel is supporting a project that helps affluent residents in The Settlement but is turning his back on rural residents. Broussard says he only intended for the parish to give residents on Opus Lane some relief by smoothing over the road; his ordinance placed the road at the bottom of the parish's priority list, with no funding in the next year.

"If we don't go to help them, nobody will help them," Broussard said in today's Advocate, which reports that both issues will be heard by the council on Tuesday, Nov. 20, at a regular and special 5:15 p.m. meeting.

by: Leslie Turk 10:50 AM

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Terry Landry backs Chris Williams

Former superintendent of state police Terry Landry, the third-place finisher in the Oct. 20 general election for District 44 state rep., officially endorsed his former opponent Chris Williams yesterday. Williams, a veteran member of the city-parish council, faces off against longtime school board member Rickey Hardy in this Saturday's runoff election for the seat. Williams was the top vote getter in the five-man field vying for the seat in the Oct. 20 primary. He garnered 30 percent of the vote, followed by Hardy's 29 percent and Landry with 23 percent.

Landry, who was fiercely apolitical in his campaign and who is registered "No Party", says he initially was going to remain neutral through the runoff. "I guess that was a little naïve on my part," he says, adding that several former supporters have sought out and solicited his opinion on the race. "A lot of my supporters were undecided," Landry says. "Some are still undecided and I think those people are really going to decide who the next representative is going to be." Landry says the decision was difficult because he personally likes both Hardy and Williams, and has friends and former supporters now backing each of their candidacies. "I had to evaluate what's best for this community," Landry says. "It's really not about me," he says. "It's about who can best address the people's issues and concerns and that's why I'm backing Dr. Williams."

by: Nathan Stubbs 11:29 AM

Prince wants more time in UL prez selection

The rush to name a new president for UL Lafayette has slowed a bit, thanks to a motion by community leader Jim Prince, who asked to defer action on narrowing the field of five finalists until Nov. 26. On Tuesday the committee, which includes Prince who is a non-voting member, could have narrowed the field or made its recommendation to the full UL Board of Supervisors, which is scheduled to name a new president on Dec. 7. Prince's motion was seconded by UL Lafayette SGA President Candace Urbanowski, another non-voting member of the selection committee. Both Prince and Urbanowski said they want to solicit more input from the community and student groups they represent, respectively, on the committtee.

Commissioner of Higher Education T-Joe Savoie, Vice President of Academic Affairs Steve Landry and University of Houston Professor Ray Flumerfelt, who is also vice director of the Texas National Wind Energy Project, were all interviewed Tuesday at the LITE center. The two other finalists, Scholarship America President and CEO Clifford Stanley and University of South Florida Regional Chancellor/Professor Karen White, were interviewed Monday.

On April 17, UL President Ray Authement announced he would retire after almost 34 years at the helm. A search committee headed by UL System President Sally Clausen intends to recommend a replacement before the end of the year, an aggressive time frame that has some in the business and education community questioning the integrity of the process. See today's commentary in The Independent Weekly.

by: Leslie Turk 11:08 AM

A FEMA fish tale

FEMA's on the hook once again. Using looking glass logic we have come to expect from the federal emergency agency, they have refused to compensate New Orleans' Aquarium of the Americas after the staff saved taxpayers about $500,000. Here's how this fish story goes:

After Hurricane Katrina knocked out the power at the aquarium, thousands of fish and other aquatic creatures died in the tanks. A tourism anchor for the city, Aquarium of the Americas officials wanted to get back open as soon as possible. FEMA made a commitment of over $600,000 to restock the aquarium. Rather than buying fish from other aquariums and zoos, the entrepreneurial aquarium staff, in the spring of 2006, went to Florida on a scuba-diving mission, catching many of the fish they needed. A 1,000 gallon tank brought hundreds of sea creatures back to New Orleans. The aquarium reopened in mid-2006, helping reestablish the tourism trade in the French Quarter. The bill sent to FEMA for expenses catching 1,681 fish was $99,766, one-fifth of what it would have cost had the aquarium bought the fish from specialty vendors.

Seventeen months later, FEMA is still refusing to refund the aquarium. FEMA quality control manager Barb Schweda wrote in a 2006 email:

FEMA does not consider it reasonable when an applicant takes excursions to collect specimens. They must be obtained through a reputable source where, again, the item is commercially available.

Even the clownfish at the aquarium aren't amused. Handicapped by expenses, the aquarium has had to lay off 80 percent of its workers. Someone needs to come up with a way to feed the sharks. Any ideas?

by: Mary Tutwiler 10:24 AM

Festival of Trees kicks off tonight

The Acadiana Festival of Trees kicks off tonight and runs through Friday night. Local shops and designers have decorated Christmas trees for display at the City Club in River Ranch. Tonight and Thursday night, the event runs from 5 until 8:30 p.m. There's entertainment and activities for the kids, and Santa will be on hand to take pictures. Friday night's the gala night, from 7 until 10:30 p.m., with a silent auction of items from local businesses, as well as an auction of a Carl Groh painting (pictured here). Admission for tonight and tomorrow night is $6 per person, and children under 2 are admitted free. Gala tickets for Friday night are $50 per person. Proceeds from the Festival of Trees benefit Acadiana Youth, Inc., which operates three shelters for abused and troubled kids - Stepping Stones, The Children's Shelter and Maison de Mére.

by: R. Reese Fuller 10:17 AM

Back to the drawing board

Major city projects, including a new library, a downtown theater, and a fiber optics facility are having to scale back on plans and re-work budgets as post-Katrina construction costs continue to soar. In The Independent's cover story this week, city-parish officials also say attracting competitive bids from busy contractors is problem enough that they are revising some of their policies in handling capitol outlay contracts. Read the full story here.

by: admin 9:42 AM

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Michot in line for Senate Finance Chairmanship

Lafayette state Sen. Mike Michot, the lone ranking Republican in the state Senate, appears to be the leading candidate to chair the influential finance committee. His bid for the post got a boost yesterday, when Gov.-elect Bobby Jindal announced support for Democrat Joel Chaisson for Senate President, whom Jindal pegged as being the Senate's "consensus choice." At the press conference, The Advocate reports Chaisson saying that he has been fielding numerous chairmanship requests, but will wait until after Saturday's runoff elections to make any announcements. He did say, however, that Michot would be an "excellent choice" for Senate finance.

Michot had initially made a run for the post of Senate president but backed down when it appeared he wouldn't be able to get enough votes in the majority-Democrat Senate. Michot and his supporters backed Chaisson, with one of the understandings being that Michot would be a logical choice for finance committee chairman. Michot notes there has been intense jockeying for leadership positions amongst legislators since the Oct. 20 election, likening it to "a very complex game of chess with a lot of egos and agendas." Michot says he has also spoken with Gov.-elect Jindal about his interest in the finance committee chairmanship. He says his priorities as chair of the committee, which controls the state budget, would be accelerating the phase out of business taxes and addressing infrastructure needs. "When we look at the funding and infrastructure needs that we have in Acadiana," he says, "the chairmanship of finance would be a key position for someone from Acadiana."

by: Nathan Stubbs 11:10 AM

Get schooled on levees

Even though the controversy surrounding Louisiana's levee boards following the 2005 hurricane season has died down a bit, state officials are still pushing for more accountability. The latest efforts comes in the form of the "Louisiana Levee School," an in-class tutorial on everything from administration to design and construction for the state's levee boards and anyone else interested. Formally called the "Flood Protection and Ecosystem Restoration Professional Development Program," the classes are slated for Nov. 27-29 in Baton Rouge.

Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority Chair Sidney Coffee says the three-day program is the first step in providing a professional development program to assist public agencies, including levee boards and districts, in fulfilling their statutory and fiduciary responsibilities in flood protection and ecosystem restoration. After initial training, participants will return annually for one-day continuing education. "Hurricanes Katrina and Rita taught us that we need to integrate our approach to both our man-made flood protection systems and our natural environment," she says. "[The] school will give our commissioners and managers better tools for decision making." - Jeremy Alford

by: admin 10:31 AM

El Sido's zydeco food drive

For 21 years, Sid "El Sido" Williams has hosted an annual Thanksgiving food drive at his club, El Sido's Zydeco & Blues Club in Lafayette. And for 20 of those years, Buckwheat Zydeco has headlined the event. This year's no different. The shows takes place tommorrow night with Buckwheat Zydeco, Nathan Williams & the Zydeco Cha-Chas, Nathan Williams Jr., Lil' Band O' Gold, Jeffery Broussard, Rockin' Dopsie Jr., Patrick Henry, Jude Taylor, Curley Taylor, the Lil Ray Neal Band, Terry and the Zydeco Bad Boys, Roy Carrier, Corey & the Hot Peppers, and El Sido himself. Doors open at 6 p.m, and the show starts at 7:30 p.m. Admission is $8 with 5 canned goods or $10 with no cans. For more info, call 235-0647.

by: R. Reese Fuller 10:17 AM

Darrell Bourque named Louisiana Poet Laureate

Lafayette poet and UL Professor of English Emeritus Darrell Bourque has been named Poet Laureate of Louisiana by Gov. Kathleen Blanco. Bourque directed the Creative Writing Program and Interdisciplinary Humanities Program before retiring from the university, and has published several volumes of poetry including Plainsongs, The Doors Between Us, Burnt Water Suite and The Blue Boat. The Poet Laureate's job is to compose works to commemorate state occasions and to reflect on current events. Current Poet Laureate Brenda Marie Osbey was charged with responding to Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. Bourque will assume the title at the Spring 2008 Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities Awards Ceremony. The position is for two years.

by: Mary Tutwiler 9:50 AM

Monday, November 12, 2007

Abell, Allen, Brupbacher on Jindal's ethics council

Gov.-elect Bobby Jindal has named Lafayette attorneys Elaine Abell, Clay Allen and Ross Brupbacher to his Ethics Transition Advisory Council, which is chaired by Sean Reilly of Baton Rouge. Jindal also named Mary Ellen Wilke, executive director of the New Iberia Chamber of Commerce, to the council -- one of the seven policy chapters he unveiled during his campaign. The others are economic growth, education, health and social services, hurricane recovery and emergency preparedness, government and fiscal reform, and crime and public safety. There are also two special committees that will examine issues pertaining to veterans affairs and wildlife and fisheries. Transition advisory council members will collect testimony and make policy recommendations to Jindal.

Jindal will kick off the first Ethics Transition Advisory Council public hearing on Thursday, Nov. 15, at Kirby Smith Hall on the LSU Campus. The hearing will focus on the reform initiatives presented in Jindal's 31-point ethics reform plan and highlight the connection between strengthening ethics reform and increasing economic development and national investment in Louisiana.

by: Leslie Turk 10:30 AM

Interviews start today for UL prez job

Two finalists for the presidency of UL Lafayette will be interviewed publicly today at the LITE building, beginning at 2:30 p.m. with Karen White, regional chancellor and professor at the University of South Florida, and ending with a 4 p.m. interview of Clifford Stanley, president and CEO of Scholarship America.

Tomorrow, Nov. 13, the two local candidates, Louisiana Commissioner of Higher Education E. Joseph "T-Joe" Savoie and UL Vice President of Academic Affairs Steve Landry, will be interviewed at 9:30 a.m. and 10:30 a.m., respectively. At noon tomorrow, the last of the five finalists, Raymond Flumerfelt, who is vice director of the Texas National Wind Energy Project and professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering at the University of Houston, will be interviewed.

During the interviews, members of the public will be allowed to submit questions for the candidates.

Visit the UL System's Web site for more info on the finalists and to find out how to submit questions and comments to the search committee. Videos of all three interviews will be available at

by: Leslie Turk 10:10 AM

NOLA through the lens of Harry Shearer

Hurricane Katrina washed away a lot of things. In the case of political satirist Harry Shearer, it was his unrelenting sarcasm, at least momentarily. Shearer wears many hats - actor, comedian, writer, broadcaster and blogger. He's a regular commentator at the Huffington Post, he has a syndicated radio program, Le Show, and can be heard as the voice of multiple characters on The Simpsons, including George Bush and Bill Clinton. Currently however, he has laid aside the sly wit and gone for the gut with a series called Crescent City Stories, a video veritas collection of interviews with New Orleanians, plugging away at the restoration of their city, two years after the storm. Shearer is no stranger to the Big Easy; he bought a home in the French Quarter 12 years ago. Untouched by the hurricane, he has made it his mission to keep the plight, and the truth, about New Orleans in the limelight. Check out his interviews with natives like singers Leah Chase, Phillip Manuel and musician David Torkanowsky about what life is like in the city today.

by: Mary Tutwiler 10:07 AM

Questions about Jena Six funds

The Chicago Tribune reports there are growing concerns over the accounting and distributing of at least $500,000 collected for the Jena Six's legal defense fund. The Jena Six's parents have not revealed how they are spending an estimated $250,000 in an account they control. And there's even growing acrimony between a radio personality and a civil rights group over the funds.

Michael Baisden, a nationally syndicated black radio host who is leading a major fundraising drive on behalf of the Jena 6, has declined to reveal how much he has collected. Attorneys for the first defendant to go to trial, Mychal Bell, say they have yet to receive any money from him.

The civil rights group Color of Change has accounted for the $212,000 it has collected and paid to the Jena Six's attorneys. But that didn't stop Baisden from questioning the group's use of the funds. On his show recently, he hosted Marcus Jones, father of Mychal Bell (one of the Jena Six), who accused Color of Change's founder James Rucker of misusing the funds.

Jones offered no evidence for his assertion. But Baisden told his listeners that Rucker "sounds shady to me," before promoting his own fundraiser, scheduled for this weekend, which aims to collect at least $1 million for the Jena 6 and other black defendants nationwide.

On the eve of the Sept. 20 civil rights march, Baisden advertised a book-signing and solicited cash donations for the Jena 6 families at an Alexandria, La., rally, but his business manager, Pamela Exum, declined to specify how much was collected or how the money was distributed.

Color of Change officials call Baisden's broadcast comments slanderous and say they are contemplating legal action.

by: R. Reese Fuller 8:52 AM

LSU returns to No. 1

It isn't often that college football teams get a second chance to defend a No. 1 ranking in the same season, but that's exactly where LSU finds itself after this weekend. The new BCS standings put LSU back at No.1, following the meltdown of last week's No. 1 team, Ohio State, which lost to unranked Illinois on Saturday. LSU now has a clear path to the BCS Championship game, to be played Jan. 7 in New Orleans, as long as it wins out the remainder of its schedule. LSU finishes out the regular season against two inter-conference rivals, traveling to Ole Miss this Saturday before returning to Tiger Stadium to face Arkansas on Friday, Nov. 23. LSU also has the added challenge of the SEC championship game, played Dec. 1 in Atlanta, where the Tigers will likely face either Tennessee or Georgia, currently tied atop the SEC East standings. Tennessee has the tiebreaker over Georgia, having beaten the bulldogs earlier this season.

by: admin 8:12 AM

Friday, November 09, 2007

FEMA maps threaten Lafayette development

Lafayette City-Parish officials are crying foul over a recent directive from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which could bring major development projects in Lafayette Parish to a screeching halt. FEMA sent its latest draft of its Flood Insurance Rate Map, which designates flood zones in the parish, to City Hall on Oct. 1. Along with the maps came FEMA Bulletin 198, directing city-parish officials to consider the maps the "best available information," and to no longer issue building permits in new areas designated as floodways. New floodways on the maps include several areas already under major development, including Louisiana Avenue at I-10, where Stirling Properties is in the midst of constructing a major new shopping center to include Target, J.C. Penny, Ross, Old Navy, Petco and Office Depot. Only some of the stores in the development have received their building permits, with the remainder expected in the coming months. Also in the new floodway is a portion of Olde Town at Mill Creek, a traditional neighborhood development still under way off Verot School Road between Lafayette and Milton.

City-Parish Chief Administrative Officer Dee Stanley notes that these developers have been operating in good faith based on existing official flood maps, and have followed all the necessary requirements for drainage studies and retention. He says engineers have already raised several questions about the new floodway designations, which city-parish government feels need to be addressed prior to the draft maps taking effect. Negotiations with FEMA will be spearheaded by the state's congressional delegation. In the meantime, Stanley says, city-parish government will continue to issue building permits in the new floodway areas on a case-by-case basis. To date, he maintains no permits have been denied based on the draft flood maps. "We have to be cognizant of building in a floodway," he adds, "and what that could do to the community. But by the same token we can't completely shut down development in Lafayette Parish."

"[FEMA] has been studying these maps for three years," he continues. "We've had them for 30 days and are expected to start operating off of them before they're even official. That's the concern that we have." Stanley adds that a meeting is being scheduled with Stirling Properties officials to further review any issues with the development. "These developments were not in a floodway at the time they were permitted," Stanley says. "We're operating off of what we believe to be valid maps, and now we have these draft maps that we're told we have to follow. These [draft] maps have not been formally adopted. It doesn't mean that they're right and it doesn't mean that they're wrong. But you have millions of dollars in development for your parish at stake in the interim, in the process."

by: admin 11:50 AM

FEMA to its employees: stay out of trailers

Good ole FEMA is at again. CBS News discovered, through internal e-mails, that the federal agency that still won't fully acknowledge its trailers pose a threat to residents' health has been warning its employees to stay out of the trailers. Nearly 50,000 residents in Louisiana and Texas are still living in the temporary homes that have formaldehyde, a carcinogen, in their flooring, cabinetry and wallboard.

U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu took the agency to task in a letter this week for the double-standard and chastised it for halting the CDC's testing. "Storm victims are suffering from the health effects of formaldehyde exposure while the agency, fully aware of the danger reflected in its own employee policy, is blocking public scrutiny of the extent of the carcinogen in these trailers," Landrieu wrote. "It turns out the agency has no idea what it would do with the information once it's compiled."

She continued, "These are more sad examples of the ineptitude by the broken agency. As Chairman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Disaster Recovery Subcommittee, I will use my jurisdiction over FEMA to press forward with the agency's reform. We need a swift, effective and smart agency with flexibility in its response -- not an agency that knowingly leaves American disaster victims exposed to a whole new nightmare from the walls of their FEMA-built temporary homes." Read Landrieu's letter here.

by: Leslie Turk 10:33 AM

Louisiana's $12 billion day

What began at noon with an overwhelming Congressional override of President Bush's veto of the Water Resources Development Bill, releasing $7 billion worth of coastal restoration, flood control, navigation and levee building projects to the Bayou State, ended at midnight with another vote, this time bridging the $3 billion gap in the Road Home program.

When the president vetoed the WRDA bill on November 2, both legislative chambers vowed to push the domestic spending bill for water projects through. The first veto override of Bush's presidency was passed by a comfortable margin yesterday.

Late last night, a $459.3 billion defense bill cleared the House and Senate. Contained in the bill was $2 billion in defense spending for Louisiana, and a late insert, by La. Senator Mary Landrieu, of $3 billion to bail out the state's floundering Road Home. Landrieu thanked her colleagues after the vote:

Today was a truly historic, $12 billion day for Louisiana. Congress made a $3 billion pledge to Louisiana homeowners to ensure they receive their Road Home grants to rebuild and recover. Republicans and Democrats joined together to buck the President's opposition to the WRDA bill, marking the first veto override of this presidency. The support shown for Louisiana tonight is a powerful demonstration of this Congress' commitment to fully funding our state's rebuilding from the 2005 hurricanes and levee failures. We are grateful for the steadfast partnership shown by the many Senators without whom tonight's victory would have been impossible.

"This is a great victory for Louisiana's recovery," Governor Blanco said after the House, but before the Senate passed the legislation.

Today's House vote sends a message to homeowners still struggling to rebuild after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita that Congress is committed to fulfilling the federal promise to Gulf Coast residents. But this is only one step towards filling the Road Home shortfall - the Senate will consider the matter next, and I urge them and President Bush to support this critical funding to prevent the Road Home from running short.

Governor-elect and U.S. Rep. Bobby Jindal was in Washington for both votes. "This is a huge step," he told The Advocate. "The government has made promises to these families and they need to keep these promises."

by: Mary Tutwiler 10:28 AM

End the week right

After work, check out the funky and soulful brass of Big Sam's Funky Nation, straight out of New Orleans, for Downtown Alive. Then later tonight at Grant Street Dancehall, legendary bluesman Taj Mahal takes the stage, with opening act the Pine Leaf Boys. On Saturday, the KRVS Listener Appreciation Party kicks off at 8 p.m. at the Blue Moon Saloon with Mario Matteolli, Curley Talyor, the Richard Revue, and Roddie Romero & the Hub City All Stars. And over at Grant Street, it's Grinder, the Creative Arts Expo at 8 p.m.

by: R. Reese Fuller 10:16 AM

SI: Superdome No. 18 in NFL "fan value experience"

Flash back to 2001-2005, and New Orleans Saints owner Tom Benson was ratcheting up his argument that the Louisiana Superdome was an outdated building preventing the Saints from being financially competitive with their NFL counterparts. Architectural renderings of possible new stadiums (including one on the Mississippi River and another on the site of the Iberville housing projects) started making the rounds, with almost zero support thanks to their $500 million price tag and Louisiana's other pressing needs. Benson reached his nadir post-Katrina with his noxious courtship of San Antonio and not-so-subtle threats about the team's post-Katrina financial prospects in New Orleans.

Two years later, Gov. Kathleen Blanco's commitment to rebuild and upgrade the Superdome keeps paying off. Sports Illustrated just released a comprehensive fan survey of the 32 NFL stadiums, and the Superdome clocks in at a highly respectable 18 on the list. (Green Bay's Lambeau Field earned the top spot, while New York's Giants Stadium came in last.) SI ranked stadiums through a combined score based on seven categories: ticket prices, food and souvenirs, accessibility, tailgating, team, stadium atmosphere and neighborhood. Here's one quote:

"In our post-Katrina world … the facility is a place we can unite as a community. It is a very emotional place for many people for many reasons. It is a communal home away from home ... a place to see old friends and restore some semblance of normalcy in an otherwise messed-up situation."

Saints fans will unite there this Sunday to see if the team can extend its four-game winning streak by stomping the winless St. Louis Rams. Read SI's full report on the Superdome here.

by: Scott Jordan 8:57 AM

Thursday, November 08, 2007

School board approves re-organization; appoints Mark Babineaux

The Lafayette Parish School Board unanimously approved a new re-organization plan brought by Superintendent Burnell Lemoine, which undoes a lot of the changes to the system made by former Superintendent James Easton. Lemoine's plan structures the central office similar to the way it was under Michael Zolkoski, who served as Superintendent from 1997-2000, prior to Easton's term. One of the main changes moves the area directors – which, under Easton, were appointed to supervise four regions of parish schools – back into more administrative roles. Two of the area directors, Janet Hiatt and Nancy Check, will serve as academic auditors, working closely with underachieving schools. Former area director Katie Landry will now supervise all elementary schools and Tom Brown will oversee middle and high schools. Lemoine has also returned Lawrence Lilly to his old position heading human resources, a move which also makes Lilly a deputy superintendent. Vernal Comeaux also returns to his old job as Chief Operating Officer. Lemoine left intact the lead teacher positions, which Easton instituted to improve teacher training. All of the changes are cost neutral, and maintain the same number of central office staff.

In other news, the school board has appointed Mark Babineaux as an interim member to fill the vacancy being created by departing District 1 board member Russell Meyer. A local attorney, Babineaux was one of five applicants for the post. He will serve on the board until a special election, now scheduled for October 2008, can decide a permanent replacement for Meyer.

by: admin 10:52 AM

Former Abbeville city attorney indicted

Joseph C. Kosarek, who worked as city attorney for Abbeville from 1990 to 2002, has been indicted on federal charges for allegedly lying to bank officials over real estate deals unrelated to his work as city attorney. The Advocate reported that he allegedly misled bank officials to pay out $600,000 in bad checks for real estate transactions.

Kosarek faces one count of making a false statement to a bank in connection with his private practice as a real estate attorney. In 2005 he agreed to resign permanently from the practice of law after the state Office of Disciplinary Counsel launched an investigation into allegations he mishandled client money. The state Supreme Court had placed him under suspension in 2004.
Kosarek is set for arraignment in federal court Dec. 18.

The federal charge of making a false statement to a bank carries up to 30 years in prison.

by: Leslie Turk 10:45 AM

Cleaning up Capitol Lake

Yesterday, The Advocate reported that the receding waters of Capitol Lake were exposing trash in the lake. Jerry Jones, director of the state Facility Planning and Control Department, said the waters had been drained by a couple of feet in order to install new drainage pipes. Jones said the problem was "a short-term eyesore" that should be fixed when then next rain covers it up. Today, The Advocate reports that there are now plans to pick up the trash, at least what can be seen.

The depleted lake triggered complaints from nearby residents and others that a usually scenic part of the State Capitol complex had suddenly become an eyesore.

Waiting for rain to cover the problem triggered even more criticism on Wednesday.

Asked if his office had gotten complaints, Jones replied, "Oh yeah."

by: R. Reese Fuller 10:34 AM

Into the wild

Love wildlife, hate the outdoors? A photography show, The Legacy of Nature, opening at The Frame Shop in the Oil Center on Friday night will allow nature lovers to indulge themselves up close and personal without stepping out into the weather. Acadiana natives and award-winning photographers Wes and Patti Ardoin are field contributors for Nature Photographer magazine. They have traveled from Africa to Alaska in quest of the unusual in nature. Lafayette physician John Fuselier's landscape photography has heretofore been displayed on the walls of his office, attracting the admiration of his patients. The three-person show will run throughout the month of November. All proceeds from sales of the art will go to the Acadiana Raptor Center, which is dedicated to rehabilitating injured and orphaned wildlife for release back into the wild. For more information about the show, call 235-2915, or click here for a slide show of the photos.
photo: racoon by John Fuselier@

by: Mary Tutwiler 10:24 AM

Vitter's Hustler nightmare

No one is happier right now about the TV writers' strike than Louisiana Sen. David Vitter. With late-night comics like Jay Leno and David Letterman shutting down production and airing reruns until the strike is resolved, Louisiana's junior senator is getting a temporary reprieve from being the butt of jokes for his latest return to the headlines. Hustler magazine's new issue features an explicit pictorial of Wendy Yow Ellis, the former New Orleans prostitute who alleged Vitter regularly visited her for services in 1999. Ellis also recounts graphic details of the encounters, down to the smallest of details.

The Hustler issue is hitting newsstands a week after the news that Vitter could be subpoenaed by the D.C. Madam Deborah Jeane Palfrey to testify at a Nov. 28 hearing about his involvement with one of the madam's "escorts." Vitter's phone number appeared five times in the D.C. Madam's phone records between 1999 and 2001.

by: Scott Jordan 10:15 AM

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Lafayette PD may take over SafeSpeed vans

The Lafayette City-Parish Council will vote in two weeks on whether the city's police department will take over management of the new SafeSpeed program. The controversial program, which started in early October, uses a private company to photograph license plates of speeders and then sends the vehicle owner, not the violator, a ticket.

The constitutionality of such programs have been successfully challenged in other states, and at least two local residents have raised the issue of whether SafeSpeed operators are required by law to hold a private investigator's license.

The SafeSpeed program is one component of local government's contract with Redflex Traffic Systems, an Australian company whose U.S. operations are based in Arizona. The contract also calls for the installation and monitoring of red light runners via cameras at intersections.

by: Leslie Turk 10:46 AM

A clarion call for LA-4

The Georgia-based Southern Education Foundation has one mission: to improve educational excellence and equity in the South. Its latest research project, titled "A New Majority: Low Income Students in the South's Public Schools," reached the following conclusion:

Eighty-four percent of Louisiana public school students live at or below the poverty line.

This must be a mistake or a typographical error. It can't possibly be true that more than 8 out of every 10 students in Louisiana's public school system come from such economic hardship — which frequently affects academic performance — that he or she qualifies for a free or reduced lunch. Have we failed our children so miserably that we're a mere 16 percentage points away from a scenario where all public school students spends part of their day wondering where their next meal is coming from, or whether their family can pay the rent?

"One of the reasons that number is so high is as a result of hurricanes Katrina and Rita," says Lauren Veasey, associate program officer for SEF. "When the students were reentered at other schools, they automatically qualified for free lunches, and now they're reclassified as low-income. The reality of the storms is they displaced not just students, but families who are still struggling after the storms."

There is no comfort in the post-storm spike. Independent editor Scott Jordan looks at the numbers – including for Lafayette Parish – and sounds the call for further expansion and outreach of the LA-4 program. Read his complete Leadoff column here.

by: admin 10:21 AM

Jo-El Sonnier at Louisiana Crossroads

Cajun and country music legend Jo-El Sonnier takes the stage tonight at the Central School Theater in Lake Charles as part of the Louisiana Crossroads music series. You can also hear the show live on KRVS 88.7 FM, beginning at 7 p.m. Tomorrow night, catch Sonnier live at Grant Street Dancehall. On Friday night, Sonnier will perform at Magdalen Place in Abbeville at 8 p.m. Advance tickets for both shows are $10 and are available by calling (337) 233-7060.

by: R. Reese Fuller 10:11 AM

Pierre, Durel take sides in District 44

Term-limited District 44 state Rep. Wilfred Pierre and City-Parish President Joey Durel are weighing in on who they'd like to see take over the District 44 seat in the state legislature next year. Pierre's successor will be decided in a Nov. 17 runoff election between two veteran public officals: school board member Rickey Hardy and city-parish councilman Chris Williams. In a story in this week's Independent, Pierre says he plans to officially endorse Williams this week, noting, "I feel strongly that Chris is better prepared to deal with the issues of the state than Rickey." Pierre, who was a Lafayette city councilman prior to being elected to the state legislature, adds that he believes "the issues of the city are a microcosm of the issues the state. It's to me a natural progression." Pierre is already helping Williams with fundraising, and plans to campaign on his behalf through election day.

Meanwhile, City-Parish President Joey Durel is stepping out on behalf of Rickey Hardy. "I've worked with Rickey very well for four years," Durel says. "Rickey is much more principled in his decision making than he is political. " Durel continues, "I've spent more time in my office with [Rickey Hardy] than I have with his opponent. [Chris Williams] has never come to my office to discuss an issue in four years that I've been in office." Read the whole story here.

by: admin 10:08 AM

House overrides Bush's WRDA veto

A flood of Republicans crossed the aisle of the House yesterday to side with Democrats in voting to override President Bush's veto of the Water Resources Development Act. Citing fiscal irresponsibility, Bush struck down the bill on November 2. "Fiscally responsible people maintain their infrastructure," rejoined House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, of Maryland in the Washington Post, after the bill passed with a comfortable 361-54 margin, well over the two-thirds needed for the override. The $23 billion water bill is a drop in the bucket compared to the president's request for an additional $200 billion for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, Hoyer says.

Louisiana Senator Mary Landrieu explains that the cost of the bill is the result of not enacting a water bill in seven years. "The price tag is in line with what would have been spent over this period if a WRDA bill had been signed into law every two years as intended, and the price of inaction is far greater, as witnessed by the more than $150 billion and climbing cost of Katrina and Rita recovery.

The bill authorizes approximately $7 billion for Louisiana's coastal restoration, navigation, levee and floodwall projects and funding to help move both public and private facilities which will be affected by the closure of the Mississippi River Gulf Outlet.

The Senate, which approved the bill 81-12 in September is expected to vote to override the veto as early as today.

by: Mary Tutwiler 10:01 AM

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Durel's Pet Shop now just The Pet Shop

Steven and Josette LeJeune, who bought Durel's Pet Shop in early 2004 (within a few months of Joey Durel's election to the city-parish president's post) have decided to drop the 56-year-old family name from the business. The store, located at 3814 Ambassador Caffery Parkway across from Charley G's, is now simply, The Pet Shop.

"Four years ago when my husband and I bought this business it was with the understanding that we would one day make it our own," Josette says. "We thank the Durels for graciously allowing us to use their name for the past four years and want them to know that we were proud to represent such a great bunch of people."

The name change comes as no surprise to the Durel family. "When we sold the stores in order to better serve in elected office, we knew the day would come when the Lejeunes would want to start their own tradition," says Joey Durel, whose father, Lester, started the pet biz in 1951. At one time the Durels also had locations in the Oil Center, which the family closed, and the Mall of Acadiana, which the LeJeunes shut down shortly after taking over the business.

by: Leslie Turk 10:30 AM

A hodge-podge of housing after the hurricanes

New houses of every architectural type are rising out of the muck of destroyed neighborhoods in New Orleans, but not everyone is happy with the eclectic post-Katrina vernacular.

R. Allen Eskew, a Crescent City architect whose firm designed the ultra modern Paul and Lulu Hilliard University Art Museum on the UL campus, told the New York Times the building effort is "generica" born of an "irrational self-determination." Eskew bemoans the lack of a master plan:

With the ad hoc repair to the city, New Orleans is missing a golden opportunity. If your city has been destroyed, you've got a chance to make things right, not just to replace what was there. There is a tremendous amount of money being spent fixing things. The question is, is the fix of old paradigms the right way to get a community back in shape?

We need a Marshall Plan here.

There were many offers from urban planners soon after the floodwaters receded, but the mixture of indifference from the federal government and political infighting at the local level sent internationally acclaimed planners like Andres Duany packing. The tension between honoring the historic quality of neighborhoods which are filled with Greek Revival, Italinate and Creole cottages, acknowledging modern design, and responding to the immediate need for housing is a tricky line to walk.

Dr. Edward Blakely, who is heading up the city's recovery effort says he wishes there had been a plan put in place from day one. But he concedes it's two years too late to begin a design process that would stop building by home owners. Blakely just wants to see progress, whatever the architectural result. "I just want building to go on. We're going to let people do what they think is right."

For a slide show of post-storm houses going up in New Orleans, click here.

by: Mary Tutwiler 10:19 AM

LPTFA gets $50 million for home-owner assistance

The Lafayette Public Trust Financing Authority has won approval of another $50 million in state bonds for a program assisting low to moderate-income homebuyers. The program offers qualified families subsidized, below market interest rates on home mortgages, as well as four percent down payment assistance grants. A family purchasing a $150,000 home through the program, for expample, could receive a grant of $6,000 to go toward closing costs and down payment, and a 30 -year fixed rate mortgage at roughly 6.5 percent interest. To qualify, families must be at or below the area's median income, which is approximately $63,000 for a household of two. While the program has traditionally been only for first time home buyers, that requirement is now waved due to the high number of families still relocating after hurricanes Katrina and Rita. Interested families can apply through most local banks and mortgage-lending firms.

The $50 million bond allocation, approved by Gov. Kathleen Blanco through executive order, comes on the heels of $30 million in Go Zone bonds the organization received over the summer for the same program. The two bond issues are the first the LPTFA has received for assisting home buyers since 1995. LPTFA chairman Greg Gachassin, who has brought a renewed focus to the nonprofit's mortgage loan assistance, says the need in Lafayette is great, largely due to a lack of affordable housing. Gachassin says recent reports show Lafayette to be in immediate need of some 5300 housing units for low to median income workers. "That's a lot," Gachassin says. "When you average three to four people per household, that's 20 plus thousand people. That's a big piece of our population."

by: Nathan Stubbs 10:07 AM

TV writers' strike threatens rare Fats Domino appearance

As a result of the national television writers' strike that started yesterday, one of the most high-profile opportunities to help Louisiana musicians is in jeopardy. New Orleans legend Fats Domino, who's notoriously travel-phobic, has agreed to go to New York and perform Thursday on CBS' Late Show with David Letterman to promote the new two-CD Domino tribute album Goin' Home: A Tribute to Fats Domino. (Proceeds from Goin' Home album sales benefit the non-profit Tipitina's Foundation and programs like Instruments A Comin', which has purchased more than $1 million worth of instruments for over 20 New Orleans-area schools and more than 800 students.) Unless the writers' strike is resolved immediately, the Domino appearance on Letterman will be scrapped, as the show will halt production and air reruns until the strike is over.

If Domino still goes to New York as planned, he's also scheduled to perform Friday morning on NBC's The Today Show.

As previously reported in The Independent Weekly, Goin' Home includes two tracks from Acadiana artists: Lil' Band o' Gold with Led Zeppelin frontman Robert Plant, and Carencro soul man Marc Broussard with mandolinist Sam Bush.

by: Scott Jordan 9:58 AM

No progress on La. cottages

Gov. Kathleen Blanco has ordered the Louisiana Housing Finance Agency to begin construction on the Louisiana Cottages by the end of this month. The Times-Picayune reports:

The letter came days after a housing board special meeting in which the panel approved putting the first 75 units - out of a planned 534 - at Jackson Barracks in New Orleans. But the board also wrangled over a proposed $900,000 contract for a construction manager, which essentially would serve as a third-party monitor of the Cypress Group and its subcontractors, which include the Shaw Group. ...

As of Monday, Mississippi, which was awarded $281 million for its alternative housing program, has constructed 598 units with 478 occupied. Mississippi has from the beginning taken a slightly different approach than Louisiana, though both states operated within federal guidelines.

by: R. Reese Fuller 9:19 AM

Monday, November 05, 2007

W. Pont Des Mouton Road widening completed

Officials with Lafayette Consolidated Government will be out near the I-49 W. Pont Des Mouton Road exit this morning for a ribbon cutting commemorating completion of LCG's largest road project of the year to date. The $18.7 million project widened Pont Des Mouton Road, from University Ave. to I-49, to a four-lane boulevard with sidewalks and improved lighting. LCG is currently working on obtaining rights of way for a project to widen the eastern section of Pont Des Mouton, from I-49 to Louisiana Ave. That phase of the project is expected to be bid out next year, with an estimated cost of $12 million.

by: Nathan Stubbs 10:45 AM

WRDA on track for veto override

Late Friday morning, President Bush made good on his threat to veto the $23 billion Water Resources Development Act, which contains up to $7 billion in flood control and navigation projects for Louisiana. Within minutes, responses from the Louisiana delegation as well as legislators from all over the country, called for an override of the veto. Senator Mary Landrieu issued this statement:

I am extremely disappointed with the President's veto last week of the bipartisan Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) that was passed out of the House and Senate by overwhelming majorities.

In a brush with irony from a President who has racked up more than $3 trillion in debt since taking office, President Bush now claims that WRDA ‘lacks fiscal discipline.'

But replacing aging infrastructure is sound fiscal policy and a wise investment in our future. Letting our nation's infrastructure deteriorate and failing to invest in our national flood control, navigation and environmental restoration projects will cost the American taxpayer dearly down the road. For Louisiana, the bill will help protect our communities and energy infrastructure from future hurricanes rising out of the Gulf.

The President does accurately point out that this WRDA bill is very costly. However, the increased cost of this bill is the result of not passing a bill in seven years due to partisan gridlock. The cost of this bill is in line with what would have been spent over this period if a WRDA bill had been signed into law every two years as intended.

Without the authorizations in this bill, Louisiana's coast will continue to wash away at an alarming rate, leaving our communities perilously exposed to flooding and the energy infrastructure that serves the entire nation in grave danger.

I stand united with the Louisiana delegation to work to override the veto in the House and Senate. With so much on the line for our state, we will fight to enact this vital bill with or without the President's consent.

Governor Blanco followed with this statement:

I am extremely disappointed President Bush has chosen to veto this critical legislation. WRDA has enjoyed overwhelming bipartisan support in both houses of Congress, and the projects authorized by this bill are vital to the restoration and progress of Louisiana and the Gulf Coast. These projects will give our people confidence the federal failures of 2005 will not happen again. Strengthening our levees, repairing our wetlands, and closing the Mississippi River Gulf Outlet will allow our communities to rebuild and prepare for storms of the future.

I thank the members of Louisiana's Congressional Delegation for their continued support of this essential legislation. We must now take immediate action to override the President's veto. I call upon Congress to fulfill the promise made to the people of the Gulf Coast by the federal government two years ago. WRDA is needed, and it is needed now. Our nation has waited six years, and we cannot wait any longer.

Senator Vitter, and Congressmen Boustany, Melancon, Baker, Alexander and Governor-elect Jindal all went on the record pledging to vote to pass the bill. Jindal says he will return to Washington this week to vote for the override.

The WRDA bill was passed by the US House of Representatives by a vote of 381-40 and approved by the US Senate by a vote of 81-12. This is the fifth bill the president has vetoed, and will be the first one overridden, if the vote in Congress passes. Currently the bill is scheduled to be voted on Tuesday in the House and Wednesday in the Senate.

by: Mary Tutwiler 10:25 AM

Shreveport paper: ethics board part of corrupt image

In a Sunday story, the Shreveport Times took a critical look at Louisiana's ethics board, laying out a case for the immense work so-called ethics reformers will face. The paper found that the board does not keep track of complaints it receives, won't reveal details about a complaint or investigation, and in the past five years has not made a case referral to the state attorney general or any other agency for prosecution. And while similar boards across the country are leaning toward releasing more information to the public, Louisiana is still conducting most of its business in secret. "In any known measure of just general response to the corruption problem, we should be embarrassed," respected Shreveport political analyst Elliott Stonecipher told the paper.

Acting ethics administrator Kathleen Allen told the paper that the board is restricted by law from commenting on certain aspects of complaints and investigations.

The Times' investigation, a nonscientific survey of seven southern states and those on both coasts and the Midwest, was prompted by a 2001 Center for Public Integrity Report that showed watchdog agencies underfunded and lacking independent authority to effectively enforce ethics laws or investigate violations.

The survey also showed:

Louisiana was one of only two states that did not keep track of the number of complaints it received. The state also did not count the number of those complaints that resulted in a settlement or public hearing.

Three states, including Louisiana, did not have an annual report.

Unlike Georgia and California, Louisiana's ethics board won't reveal if it has received a complaint. All of the states surveyed except for Louisiana reveal the results of investigations stemming from a complaint, if a finding is made (the amount of information released varied). Unlike three states, Louisiana's board doesn't accept anonymous complaints.

Additionally, the paper dug up some of the high-profile cases the ethics board was not involved with, most notably the criminal cases of former state officials Jim Brown, Jerry Fowler and Edwin Edwards. However, it also spotlighted some of the board's good work, specifically as it related to the ethics legacy of former Gov. Mike Foster:

Fined once for campaign finance violations; six other opinions related to campaign finance. Foster made history in 1999 when he became the first sitting Louisiana governor found guilty of violating state campaign finance laws. In a complex web of transactions, Foster paid former Klansman and Nazi sympathizer David Duke a total of $150,000 for computerized lists of his supporters. A $100,000 payment was never reported on Foster's campaign finance report; a subsequent $50,000 payment was reported as a "software" purchase but failed to list Duke as the payee. The board in its decree, acknowledged Foster's excuses for the omission as plausible, but nonetheless fined him $20,000. The board's action came only after a Federal Bureau of Investigation probe.

And that of his son, Murphy Foster III:

Fined once for ethics violations; took the board to court saying a decision that did not allow him to personally contract with state agencies while his father was governor was unconstitutional. In 2003, the board found the Baton Rouge attorney guilty of violating state ethics laws for contracting with state agencies to provide legal services to state employees. Foster III represented state employees in at least four lawsuits -- some occurring after the board said in a 2000 opinion (later challenged by Foster III and affirmed by the La. Supreme Court) that while his law firm could contract with the state, he could not personally be involved. The board fined Foster III $30,000 but suspended all but $15,000 as long as he complied with the code in the future.

by: Leslie Turk 10:14 AM

Acadiana delegation members jockeying for leadership positions

Two longtime members of the Acadiana delegation have mounted separate campaigns for speaker pro tem of the House and Senate president. Rep. Damon Baldone of Houma and Sen. Joel Chaisson of Destrehan, both Democrats, are among the small handful of legislators building coalitions, donating money to colleagues and generally jockeying for a top leadership position in the Republican administration of Gov.-elect Bobby Jindal. Baldone had initially been mentioned as a contender for the speaker's job, but now says he is more interested in the House's number two position of speaker pro tem. (The post is elected by House members following the selection of the speaker, and thus far no other legislators have thrown their hats in the ring.) "I think it's a position I would excel at and I've spoken to other representatives and have received a great deal of positive feedback," says Baldone. "I've proven I can work with both Democrats and Republicans."

The top tier names mentioned for House speaker include Democratic Reps. Don Cazayoux of New Roads; Karen Carter of New Orleans; Jim Fannin of Jonesboro and Rick Gallot of Ruston. Hunter Greene of Baton Rouge and Jim Tucker of Terrytown are the only Republicans. Tucker, however, as chairman of the GOP caucus, is seen as the frontrunner.

On the Senate side, Chaisson has emerged as a compromise candidate, offering balance to a Republican speaker as a Democratic president. Touting himself as a pro-business moderate, Chaisson has formed a bipartisan coalition with Sen. Mike Michot of Lafayette, along with others. Michot told reporters last week that he would be comfortable with Chaisson as a compromise choice. In return, Michot could be tapped for an important position, like chairman of the finance committee, although Chaisson says he hasn't gotten that far into the process. "I met with Gov.-elect Jindal and I was very impressed," Chaisson says. "I know we can make great strides in the Senate and help offer up a bipartisan body, because he will need it to accomplish his goals."

Currently, others seeking the Senate presidency include Democratic Sens. Robert Adley of Benton, Willie Mount of Lake Charles, Joe McPherson of Woodworth and Edwin Murray of New Orleans. Michot is the only Republican who has been mentioned thus far. – Jeremy Alford

by: admin 9:01 AM

Vitter could testify about scandal

The Times-Picayune reports that Sen. David Vitter could be subpoenaed to testify about his involvement with the "D.C. Madam." After Vitter's association with Pamela Martin & Associates was made public, he stated at a press conference that he committed a "very serious sin" and that God and his family had forgiven him. He's said little else about it since then. The Picayune notes:

The subpoena puts Vitter, especially, in an awkward and politically damaging position. The Senate Republican caucus welcomed Vitter back into the fold after his public confession in July, but it remains to be seen how much patience Senate Minority Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., will show if Vitter's troubles remain in the news. McConnell acted swiftly to condemn Sen. Larry Craig, R-Idaho, after it became public that he had pleaded guilty to misdemeanor disorderly conduct charges after being arrested in a gay-sex sting in a Minneapolis airport bathroom. Craig has faced intense pressure from his own caucus to resign from the Senate but has refused and has sought to withdraw the guilty plea.

Legal experts say Vitter has little grounds to avoid testifying, noting that the U.S. Supreme Court said former President Bill Clinton had to provide testimony in Paula Jones' civil lawsuit.

by: R. Reese Fuller 8:38 AM

Friday, November 02, 2007

Tsunami's Ezell named to Jindal's small business team

Lafayette native, UL Lafayette graduate and Tsunami visionary Michelle Ezell has been named vice chairwoman of Gov.-elect Bobby Jindal's small business and entrepreneurship team. Ezell will work with chairman Kevin Langley of New Orleans' Ellis Construction and make policy and hiring recommendations to Jindal before his January inauguration. It's a well deserved appointment; as The Independent Weekly noted in its 2006 profile of Ezell as part of the class of 2006 Women Who Mean Business honorees, Ezell was operations manager for Planet Radio, KTDY, 97.3 The Dawg, KPEL news/sports, KROCK and KROF before launching Tsunami, and still contributes her time to Downtown Lafayette Unlimited, the Lafayette Chamber of Commerce and the Independent Mardi Gras Parade.

Last year, State Sen. Mike Michot noted, "She takes the politics of her community very seriously. She works behind the scenes quite often, as well as giving financial support, and I think that's because she's the mother of small children and a business owner."

by: Scott Jordan 10:25 AM

Countdown to Saban Bowl

It's impossible to escape the drama surrounding tomorrow's long-awaited football game between LSU and archrival Alabama. It'll be the first time LSU fans see Nick Saban on the same field since almost three years ago when he announced at a dramtic day-after-Christmas press conference he would be leaving LSU. After his brief stint in the NFL, Saban is back in college football, with the most loathsome team imaginable for most LSU fans. It hasn't helped seeing the way Bama fans have taken to publicly flaunting and fawning over their new coach at every opportunity.

So, it's mainly self-esteem that is on the line in tomorrow's 4 p.m. match-up, and a chance for LSU Coach Les Miles to prove himself once and for all. Aside from all the coaching drama, Saturday's game also has huge implications for the SEC West division title, not to mention the Tigers' national title hopes. Like it or not, the focus is likely to be on Saban, a coach who in 2003 brought LSU their first national title in 45 years. Check out this video on LSU's love/hate relationship with their former coach, put together by the college football sports blogs Every Day Should be Saturday and Rocky Top Talk.

by: Nathan Stubbs 10:14 AM

Lafayette's banner music weekend

If you're still reliving last night's performance by Doyle Bramhall and C.C. Adcock at Grant Street for Louisiana Crossroads, simmer down. You're going to need to pace yourself. There's a ton of music in Lafayette this weekend. At Downtown Alive this evening, catch Terrance Simien and the Zydeco Experience at Park International. On Friday and Saturday there's the Black Pot Festival at Acadian Village with 20 different musical acts. Sunday night at 7:30 p.m., Queen Latifah takes the stage at the the Heymann Center. And Saturday and Sunday it's the La Belle Journee historic festival in downtown Lafayette. For a taste of what's to come on Sunday evening with Robert Randolph and the Family Band, check out these clips:

by: R. Reese Fuller 10:00 AM

Deep South Festival of Writers convenes today

One of the oldest literary conferences in the country, the Deep South Festival of Writers, will be presenting panel discussions, performances, readings and craft lectures by prominent artists and writers from across the nation this weekend. Run by UL Department of Creative Writing director Dr. Dayana Stetco, this year's programs featured writers include Mary Gaitskill, Rikki Ducornet, Chris Chambers, Erin Elizabeth Smith and Brenda Marie Osbey. Ducornet has replaced Ernest Gaines as UL's Writer in Residence. She is the author of seven novels including The Fan Maker's Inquisition, an L.A. Times Book of the Year, and The Jade Cabinet, a finalist for the National Book Critics' Circle Award. Chambers edits the prestigious New Orleans Review, an international journal of contemporary poetry, fiction, nonfiction, art, photography, and film. The programs will take place at the UL Alumni Center on St. Mary, beginning this morning at 9 a.m. and continue through Sunday at noon. For a complete schedule and more information about visiting artists, go to the Deep South Festival of Writers website.

by: Mary Tutwiler 9:35 AM

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Louisiana military families' red tape nightmare

Yesterday, Gov. Kathleen Blanco's office issued the following press release:

Starting today, Louisiana residents who are members of a reserve component of the U.S. Armed Forces or the National Guard and have served a minimum of 30 days' active duty or active state service since September 11, 2001 may apply for financial relief from the Louisiana Military Family Assistance fund.

The Independent Weekly has been tracking the LMAF for more than a year. In a story from this week's issue titled "Red Tape Nightmare," _Independent_b contributing writer Jeremy Alford writes:

In the time it has taken state government to fully implement a direct financial-aid program for military families in need, Pam Berryman has helplessly witnessed her son's life unwind. That's two years and four months of living hell, she says, with every passing second as vivid and shocking as the previous one.

Her son Christopher served 18 months in Iraq with the Louisiana National Guard's 256th Infantry before returning home in the fall of 2005. After a few weeks of no active duty, Christopher's military insurance lapsed. He was paying full price for his infant daughter's doctor visits and absurd amounts of cash for his wife's medicine. But before he could even get a handle on the situation, Hurricane Rita plowed through his Lake Charles home. Insult to injury would be an understatement. At only age 24, he was faced with a lifetime of misery in just a few short months. "His house suffered severe damage, and his medical bills were piling up," recalls Berryman. "We didn't know where to turn, and my son was just being tossed around, sent from one agency to the next."

Both Rita and Katrina were key factors in the delayed implementation of the Louisiana Military Family Assistance Fund, which was created to award need-based grants to families of Louisiana National Guard and Reserve forces called to active duty since the Sept. 11, terrorist attacks in 2001. Berryman got wind of the program through media reports that year and started an endless battle of her own that has produced a litany of e-mail messages, personal correspondence and direct phone calls to all levels of government, even Congress — all to no avail.

Read the whole story here.

by: Scott Jordan 11:00 AM

Lafayette's Sellers appointed to Jindal administration

Gov.-elect Bobby Jindal has tapped Melissa Sellers, a 25-year-old Houston native who grew up in Lafayette, as his administration's press secretary. Sellers recently served as Jindal's campaign communications director. Sellers attended elementary and middle school in Lafayette at Broadmoor and Edgar Martin before moving back to Texas for high school. She has a bachelor's of journalism from the University of Texas and has also worked as press secretary for U.S. Congressman Jim Nussle of Iowa and as a media coordinator on President Bush's 2004 re-election campaign.

by: Nathan Stubbs 10:58 AM

PETA cracks down on Giant Omelette Celebration

While the Abbeville Giant Omelette Celebration is only 23 years old, the tradition of feeding the community an omelette goes back more than 200 years, to the time of Napoleon. It has also become the symbol of a world-wide fraternity, rich in friendship, tradition and cultural exchange, known as the Confrerie. Currently there are seven cities world-wide that participate in the culinary feat of cooking an omelette made of more than 5,000 eggs.

This year the animal rights group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals decided to join in the fun. Cecil Hebert, president of the Giant Omelette Celebration received "an eggciting offer" from PETA senior vice president Lisa Lange, who has close family ties to Abbeville.

Lange writes:

I am proud of my Cajun heritage; my dad has even taught me how to make a mean vegetarian gumbo--lots of okra, but hold the shrimp! I know that the people of Abbeville wouldn't want to support cruelty to animals, but that's exactly what they and the Giant Omelette Celebration are doing by glorifying the egg industry.

Lange goes on to vividly detail the abuse done to laying hens. Happily, she has a solution to the problem.

Luckily, there's no shortage of tasty, stick-to-your-ribs dishes that don't involve animal abuse--like tofu scramble, which is a delicious blend of tofu, vegetables and spices.

Lange concludes by praising the health benefits of tofu and offers to send a trained chef to instruct Abbeville's Chevaliers on how to prepare the soybean curd scramble. PETA's offer?

If you'll change this year's "Giant Omelette Celebration" to a "Giant Tofu Scramble Celebration," PETA will donate every package of tofu you need.

Members of the Giant Omelette Celebration have declined to respond. For a full schedule of this weekend's festivities in Abbeville, visit the Giant Omelette's website.

by: Mary Tutwiler 10:43 AM

Drew Brees and the Blue Dog

New Iberia native and Blue Dog artist George Rodrigue has been a tireless advocate for hurricane relief, painting a series of limited-edition prints that benefit agencies like the Southeast Louisiana Chapter of the American Red Cross and the United Way, and arts programs such as the New Orleans Museum of Art, the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra and the Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities. Rodrigue's four hurricane-relief prints - "We Will Rise Again," "Throw Me Something FEMA," "You Can't Drown the Blues" and "We Are Marching Again " - have raised more than $1 million. Now Rodrigue has released the fifth print in his series: New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees with the Blue Dog. Rodrigue's new offering comes in three different editions, beginning at $100 for numbered editions and $1,500 for one of 250 prints signed by both Brees and Rodrigue.

by: Scott Jordan 10:28 AM

Doyle Bramhall at Louisiana Crossroads

When Texas drummer, singer and songwriter Doyle Bramhall set out to record his latest record, Is It News, he enlisted the help of longtime friend and fellow musician C.C. Adcock. As co-producer, Adcock's fingerprints are all over Is It News - with fat, thick and driving drum beats, quick and sometimes deadly guitar licks, and plenty of tremolo to go around. Catch Bramhall with Adcock tonight at Grant Street Dancehall in Lafayette at 7 p.m. For more info or to charge tickets by phone, call (337) 233-7060 or visit

by: R. Reese Fuller 6:57 AM