December 2007

Friday, December 28, 2007

Shawn Wilson applying for District 3 school board seat

Shawn Wilson has put his name in the hat to be considered for the District 3 school board seat being vacated by Rickey Hardy. Hardy was elected last month to the state legislature and will be leaving his school board post at the start of the new year. The school board will vote on an interim replacement for Hardy at its Jan. 9 meeting. Wilson, who recently lost a runoff election for District 3's city-parish council seat, sent in his resume and cover letter today asking the board to consider him in naming Hardy's successor. Wilson says he decided to apply after talking with several supporters following his campaign for city-parish council who encouraged him to stay publicly involved. He also says he has seen a need for new leadership on the board, given the poor perception and lack of trust in the school system that has been revealed in the recent debates over the closure of N.P. Moss Middle School. "Leadership isn't always sent, it's called," Wilson says. "I think my background offers something that should be considered and if the board so desires, I'll be willing to accept that challenge."

Wilson, a 37-year-old Democrat, is currently serving as Confidential Assistant to state Department of Transportation and Development Secretary Johnny Bradberry. Previously, he worked under Kathleen Blanco as a deputy director for legislative affairs and as executive director of the Louisiana Serve Commission during her term as Lieutenant Governor. Thus far, Wilson and retired Louisiana Technical College administrator Shelton Cobb, whom Rickey Hardy recently recommended, are the only two applicants for the Distrcit 3 school board seat. Like Wilson, Cobb also ran an unsuccessful campaign this year for the District 3 city-parish council seat. Whomever the school board appoints to replace Hardy will serve through October, when a special election will be held for the seat.

by: Nathan Stubbs 11:07 AM

LGMC buys second da Vinci robot for $1.65 million

The only hospital in Lafayette to utilize the revolutionary da Vinci robot system has now purchased a second robot at a price tag of $1.65 million. Lafayette General Medical Center has been using the robotic system, a minimally-invasive alternative for certain gynecology, urology and cardiovascular/thoracic procedures, since April 2007 but says the single machine could not keep pace with demand. LGMC is the only hospital in the state to offer these three surgical specialties.

The September arrival of Dr. Bruce Jones, a cardiovascular/thoracic surgeon who is renowned as an expert in groundbreaking, minimally invasive techniques, quickly brought the surgical case volume over first year projections. Jones has performed and instructed more than 200 cases with the da Vinci, which uses small incisions in the chest for procedures like mitral valve repair or a single coronary artery bypass. Before the da Vinci, the sternum was routinely cracked for these types of surgeries, a much more invasive procedure requiring a longer an more painful recovery.

"The two systems will add efficiencies to the operating room schedule, as well as allow us to accommodate the growing demand," says Al Patin, director of cardiology and operative services at LGMC. "One robot will be devoted to hysterectomies and prostatectomies and the other to the 13 different cardiac procedures performed by Dr. Jones."

by: Leslie Turk 11:01 AM

Sunday is payback opportunity for Saints

Barring all the planets aligning this weekend, or more specifically, the New Orleans Saints winning and both the Washington Redskins and Minnesota Vikings losing, the Saints' season will end this Sunday without a trip to the playoffs. After numerous pundits picked the Saints to go to the Super Bowl — Sports Illustrated even opined the Saints would win the Super Bowl — it's been a season of unpredictable, crushing disappointments even by Saints' standards. There was the inexplicable 0-4 start; season-ending injuries to running back Deuce McAllister, defensive lineman Brian Young and cornerback Mike McKenzie; hyped free-agent cornerback signing Jason David getting scorched every Sunday like a turkey fry gone bad; wide receiver Devery Henderson's continued Butterfingers routine; Mr. Endorsements Reggie Bush's sophomore slump and subsequent injury; and the disastrous reverse called by Sean Payton against the Buccaneers.

Thanks to the weak NFC, it's a minor miracle the Black & Gold still even has an outside shot at the playoffs. But lost in all the final will-they-or-won't-they-make-it-to-the-postseason intrigue is the fact that this Sunday's game against the Bears is one that Saints fans — and hopefully, Saints players — have had circled on the calendar since Jan. 21. Not only did the Bears beat the Saints that day in the NFC Championship game to end the Saints' 2006 dream season, but a number of Bears fans crossed the line of sportsmanship and human decency at Soldier Field. Numerous incidents of hurricane Katrina-related taunting toward Saints fans marred the proceedings, none more egregious than the idiot who toted a sign that read, "Bears Finishing What Katrina Started."

The Saints can't control what the Redskins and Vikings do this Sunday, but they can extract a measure of revenge that a lot of people have been waiting for all year.

by: Scott Jordan 10:37 AM

Pine Leaf Boys support good Coz

Just days before Christmas, Coz Fontenot's house burnt down to the ground, taking his truck along with it. The Cajun singer and friend of the Pine Leaf Boys had no insurance and was left with only the clothes on his back. Fontenot is now living with his sister in Eunice, and the Pine Leaf Boys have set up a bank account to help him out. Donations can be made online and more information can be found at the Pine Leaf Boys' website.

by: R. Reese Fuller 10:30 AM

Corps misses deadline on hurricane protection plan

After pushing state experts to complete a master plan for hurricane protection and coastal restoration, which was delivered to Congress this fall, the US Army Corps of Engineers failed to meet their own December deadline for a plan to protect Louisiana from Category 5 hurricanes. "We're not quite done with it," corps spokesman Steve Wright told The Advocate. According to a December 20 letter to Congress from Assistant Secretary of the Army Civil Works John Woodley, two years was not enough time to take into consideration the cultural, economic, environmental and residential aspects of 16,000 square miles of south Louisiana.

Louisiana Senators Mary Landrieu and David Vitter both responded to the delay in emailed statements. Landrieu commented:

It is extremely disappointing that the corps is again ignoring the intent of Congress by delaying their report. While it is essential that the corps get the report right, it is inexcusable for them to continue to delay when they have had more than two years to complete it.

Vitter wrote:

The Administration has had years to prepare this report. Unfortunately, missing another key deadline will reinforce the fear many, including me, have — that they haven't adopted the right sense of urgency regarding coastal protection and that they're too focused on cost versus best engineering.

The Corps has indicated that a technical report should be ready by February. What the report won't contain however, are recommendations for projects. Sidney Coffee, executive assistant for coastal activities in the Office of the Governor says that the report would outline a "decision-making matrix" explaining how decisions on recommendations would be made, rather than the recommendations themselves. She told The Advocate:

So far, what we have is a report on a process, not a plan. Here we are two years later and we're getting a process.

by: Mary Tutwiler 10:09 AM

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Fire damages downtown pharmacy and gift store

A fire that broke out at about 5 a.m. Wednesday morning at Teche Drugs and Gifts on Jefferson Street was quickly extinguished by a sprinkler system in the store. Smoke and water damage, however, forced the closure of the gift shop and children's store, but the pharmacy has continued to serve customers. Store owners Tom and Martha Day say they are unsure when the gift and children's divisions will reopen.

Tenants living in four apartments above the retail businesses were evacuated by firefights as a precaution, but everyone has since been allowed to return home. The cause of the fire is still under investigation.

Teche Drugs and Gifts has been operating on the 500 block of Jefferson Street since 1945.

by: Leslie Turk 10:35 AM

Best of the Beat to honor Cynthia Simien

New Orleans magazine Offbeat's annual Best of the Beat Awards is recognizing Cynthia Simien for her tireless efforts in promoting Cajun and zydeco music. Offbeat will fete Simien with its Heartbeat Award, given to those who selflessly work to strengthen the musical community, at a Jan. 12 ceremony at the House of Blues. Past winners of the Heartbeat Award include Harold Battiste, Albinas Prizgintas and the Backbeat Foundation. Simien, wife of zydeco musician Terrance Simien, has spent years lobbying The Recording Academy to recognize Cajun and zydeco artists with their own Grammy category – a dream that will be realized at the 2008 Grammys, which will include the first award for Best Zydeco or Cajun Music Album.

by: Nathan Stubbs 10:27 AM

Louisiana gains 50,000 in latest census numbers

The latest census numbers through July 1, 2007 show some encouraging news for Louisiana, estimating that the state gained 50,000 residents. With a population loss of 250,000 the previous year in the wake of hurricane Katrina, the new U.S. Census Bureau figures suggest a combination of returning Louisianans and new residents are slowly inching the state toward the pre-storm population level of 4.5 million. The real story behind the numbers won't be known until next spring, when the Census Bureau releases a breakdown of the figures by cities and parishes; those figures will paint a clearer picture of where the new population is living, and how many of those residents are returning to New Orleans and its surrounding parishes.

by: Scott Jordan 10:22 AM

New Orleans cooking unsinkable

What New Orleans has lost, Clarksburg, West Virginia has gained. That would be Chef LeRoy Crump, a former resident of the Crescent City who is wowing residents of the small coal mining town with his beignets, jambalaya and red beans and rice. Or take Irving Harrell, who used to park cars in the French Quarter but now packs his new restaurant, T.C.'s Rib Crib in Las Vegas, with devotees to his gumbo, fried catfish and smothered pork chops.

New Orleans post-Katrian expats, settling into life in other parts of the country bring with them the quintessential flavor of the Big Easy, something no New Orleans native can live without. It turns out diners from Maine to Oregon can't live without Creole seasoning and Cajun spice either. Far from home, whether chef by trade or inspired by the flavors of home, former Louisiana and Mississippi residents are opening restaurants. Darren Indovina, from Bay St. Louis, who opened the Bayou Lunch Box in Monett, Mo. told Associate Press reporters:

At first, they couldn't pronounce things. They'd say ‘I want that big sandwich with the big name,' and that was the muffaletta. But I can honestly tell you that now they can all say it.

Meanwhile, back in New Orleans, restaurants drowned during the storm and shuttered for nearly two years are making a remarkable recovery despite continuing insurance disputes and the worries of their owners. According to long time New Orleans food writer Tom Fitzmorris in this week's issue of CityBusiness, Charlie's Steak House on Dryades, Maximo's near the French Market, Barreca's on Metarie Rd., Figaro on Maple St., and Katie's in Mid-City, written off as gone with the storm, will all reopen in 2008.

by: Mary Tutwiler 10:03 AM

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

C'est What? 2007

With 2008 right around the corner, The Independent Weekly takes a look
back at the most memorable, outrageous, humorous and flat-out dumb quotes of 2007 in this week's cover story. Read the wisdom from our elected officials, sports figures and local ambassadors of culture and tradition here.

by: admin 11:02 AM

Louisiana seeing increased overseas Guard service

Louisiana is well above the national average in its number of National Guard troops seeing active duty in Iraq and Afghanistan. A new study by the National Journal, which cites U.S. Census and Guard statistics, says up to 70 percent of Louisiana's National Guard troops have been deployed overseas since Sept. 11, 2001. Nationally, the average is approximately 55 percent. Louisiana also has a higher population of Guard soldiers than most states. Louisiana has approximately 20 Guard soldiers per 10,000 residents, with the national average at 11 Guard members per 10,000 people. The current issue of National Journal examines the increased role the National Guard is playing in U.S. military operations, and how it is affecting Guard members training, service and personal lives. Read the full story here.

by: Nathan Stubbs 10:59 AM

Lafayette's McGoffin, Picard on CABL board

Local attorneys Gary McGoffin and Tyron Picard, executive vice president of governmental affairs at Acadian Ambulance, have been elected to the board of directors for the Council for a Better Louisiana, making them the only two Lafayette board members. UL President Ray Authement is the incoming chairman of the board, and Cajundome Director Greg Davis serves as a regional director for the non-partisan statewide advocacy and research group.

Board members are elected to a three-year term and can serve a maximum of three terms.

Founded in 1962, CABL works to improve the quality of life for Louisiana residents by raising awareness of critical issues, promoting sound policy and championing government accountability.

CABL also runs the Leadership Louisiana program.

by: Leslie Turk 10:46 AM

Lafayette stop for Medicare prescription drug enrollment

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services' "Working for Better Health" bus tour ends this Friday, Dec. 28 in Lafayette, with one last push to help seniors enroll for the benefits period beginning Jan. 1, 2008. From 10 a.m.-11 a.m. on Friday at the Cajun Area Agency on Aging (110 Toledo Drive), Medicare reps will be on hand to answer questions and help seniors navigate the enrollment process. The enrollment deadline is midnight, Dec. 31. More information is also available at 1-800-633-4227 or medicare.gov.

by: Scott Jordan 10:19 AM

Kids camp this week at Natural History Museum

Post-Christmas cabin fever doesn't have to strike the day after Santa departs. Spend a day or three at the Lafayette Natural History Museum and Planetarium exploring. A one-, two- or three-day holiday camp starts this morning for kids 6-12. At Animals in the Wild on Wednesday, get up close and personal with real animal skins, examine skulls and learn all about animal tracks. Thursday, learn about Cultures from Long Ago by writing hieroglyphics like the ancient Egyptians and follow a hiking map through the museum to find hidden pirate treasure. All About Bugs is the theme for Friday, with a look through a special lens to see how insects view the world. Fees are $40 per day for campers. For more information call 291-5544.

by: Mary Tutwiler 9:55 AM

Friday, December 21, 2007

Happy Holidays!

Happy holidays from the staff of The Independent Weekly. Our offices will close this afternoon and re-open on Dec. 26. Your daily buzz from The INDsider will return on Wednesday, Dec. 26.

by: admin 10:04 AM

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Trahan violated state campaign finance laws

State Rep. Don Trahan, a Lafayette Republican recently re-elected by a slim 33-vote margin, has violated state campaign finance laws. A review of Trahan's campaign finance reports reveals that more than $23,000 worth of political action committee contributions were treated as individual gifts and deposited during the most recent election cycle, even though the money should have been returned. The PACs allegedly mistaken for individual or business donors had names like EASTPAC, NORTHPAC, SOUTHPAC, Soft Drink PAC, LUPAC and SUGAR PAC.

When asked about the funds, Trahan issued a prepared statement to the Independent Weekly. He says that an inexperienced staffer unknowingly misidentified contributions from political action committees. "Those errors were all clerical in nature and consisted primarily of inconsistencies in designating PAC expenditures," Trahan says in his written statement. "We are in the process of correcting these errors."

In a telephone interview, Randy Hayden, Trahan's campaign manager, did not refute the PAC figures, which exceed the legal limit for such donations by at least 40 percent. He says the campaign contacted the state Ethics Board on its own recently and plans on returning any PAC contributions that were accepted over the legal limit.

Although the PAC threshold covers a four-year span — basically a lawmakers' term in office — the pattern of crossing the legal limit emerges in Trahan's reports during the weeks leading up to his Oct. 20 showdown against Independent Nancy Landry.

During the month of September, Trahan was already nearing the mandated $60,000 PAC limit, meaning his campaign would soon have to stop taking donations from special interests — at a time when polls showed Trahan and Landry in a dead heat. In all, $6,500 worth of PAC donations from health care groups and business associations were incorrectly listed in September. These inconsistencies brought Trahan's PAC total to $61,631, or $1,631 over the legal limit. Then in October, the same discrepancies occurred: PAC contributions were not correctly identified on Trahan's report — only this time to the tune of $20,757. Committees formed by the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry alone gave Trahan $14,500 in October.

As for fines and penalties Trahan may be facing, Kathleen Allen, an attorney for the state Ethics Board, says such violations carry a fine of $5,000 or the amount not reported correctly, whichever is greater. The figure is doubled if the mistakes were knowingly made. There could also be a "per day fine" for every mistake made for every day it went unchanged. All of those decisions are made at the discretion of the board, which has earned a reputation in recent years for waiving or decreasing fines.

"I fully expect this matter will be cleared up within the next few days and the corrections will be included in an amended report to be delivered to the campaign finance office by Dec. 27," says Trahan. — Jeremy Alford

by: admin 10:32 AM

Christmas Bird Count set for December 27

Every year the birding community of Lafayette teams up for an outing that began in 1900, when ornithologist Frank Chapman, an early officer in the then budding Audubon Society, proposed a "Christmas Bird Census" to count birds over the holidays rather than the older tradition of hunting them. That first year, 25 communities across the US and Canada participated, logging in about 18,500 individual birds and 90 species total.

According to the Audubon Society:

The primary objective of the Christmas Bird Count is to monitor the status and distribution of bird populations across the Western Hemisphere. The count period, which is from December 14th to January 5th, in North America is referred to as "early winter," because many birds at this time are still in the late stages of their southward migration, so it is not "true" winter. When we combine these data with other surveys such as the Breeding Bird Survey, we begin to see a clearer picture of how the continent's bird populations have changed in time and space over the past hundred years.

Lafayette's bird count dates back to the 1960s. This year, the Christmas Bird Count will take place on December 27. Birders Dave Patton and Judith O'Neale are in charge, splitting up Lafayette Parish into territories and sending out groups of volunteers for the count. Birders work in the field or at home, monitoring their backyard feeders from dawn till dusk. Then everyone gathers and turns in their list to compile the census for the year. The national totals are posted on a Cornell University website, making trends and migration changes visible. North American bird counts have swelled from 25 in 1900 to 1,823 in 2000, making the bird count one of the largest public science projects on record. To volunteer, email Patton at [email protected], or call him at 232-8410.
Photo by Dave Patton

by: Mary Tutwiler 10:25 AM

Picayune praises Guglielmo's tax commission work

An editorial in yesterday's Times-Picayune praises Lafayette attorney Elizabeth Guglielmo's work in successfully reforming the New Orleans property tax system:

The conventional wisdom is that reform of New Orleans' property tax system was an after-effect of Hurricane Katrina. That is when the city decided to get rid of its outmoded and inefficient seven-assessor system, but the seeds of reform started to bud before the storm. Much of the credit should go to Elizabeth Guglielmo, who has headed the Louisiana Tax Commission since 2004.

Ms. Guglielmo has been one of Gov. Kathleen Blanco's most effective appointees. Not only did Ms. Guglielmo professionalize and modernize the commission's operation, she kept pressure on New Orleans' seven assessors to do property assessments that were fair and accurate. That was no easy task, given the intransigence of some assessors.

The newspaper itself deserves some credit for sparking the changes. A Times-Picayune investigation uncovered a significant gap between the average sales prices of homes in 2003 and their assessed values. When Guglielmo took over the office the following year, she asked New Orleans' seven assessors to come up with a plan to revalue all residential property in the city. They refused, so she ordered her own study.

The editorial goes on to say it was the commission's unmasking of those inequities that triggered the resident-led reform movement after Katrina, resulting in the city having a single assessor in 2010. Another important accomplishment under Guglielmo was the posting of assessments from across the state on the Tax Commission's Web site.

With Guglielmo's service coming to an end by virtue of Blanco's departure, the newspaper opines that it is crucial Gov-elect Bobby Jindal fill her position with someone who has similar zeal for reform and fairness. Click here to read the entire editorial.

Guglielmo plans to return to her former law firm, Voorhies & Labbe, in an of counsel position.

by: Leslie Turk 10:06 AM

Barham state's top sportsman

Term-limited state Sen. Robert Barham will serve as the next secretary of the Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, Gov.-elect Bobby Jindal announced yesterday. On paper, Barham's credentials appear to be a good match. Aside from being a Republican like Jindal, he previously chaired the powerful Revenue and Fiscal Affairs Committee and is currently a member of the Senate panel that oversees practically all wildlife and fisheries issues.

But geography, more than anything else, likely factored into Jindal's decision, especially since a roar of dissatisfaction has erupted in north Louisiana due to the governor-elect's numerous appointments from the southern part of the state. As for Barham, even though he's from the piney woods of Morehouse Parish, he was mentored in part by late Terrebonne Parish Sen. Claude B. Duval, and spent childhood summers at the Duval family home in Houma. "I spent a lot of time over near Last Island growing up and I still feel like Terrebonne Parish is my second home," Barham says. "Even though I might be a redneck, I've always had a real affection for the coast."

Barham was among the very few north Louisiana lawmakers who took an interest in coastal-related issues in recent years, even personally sponsoring legislation with others from the bayou regions. As the new department secretary, Barham says that passion will continue and he plans to focus on challenges in the coastal zone in his first days. "That's something I really want to sit down and figure out with the governor," he says. "We have a lot of challenges."

Barham believes foreign imports will continue to be a hurdle to commercial fisheries and fresh approaches may be needed in the future. He also notes that recreational interests still need help recovering from the 2005 storms. "I'm hoping that the (recreational versus commercial fishing) debate doesn't become a line in the sand and it's something I plan on paying attention to," he says. — Jeremy Alford

by: admin 9:56 AM

USA Today: Louisiana's natural defenses at risk

In an article titled "Louisiana's Natural defenses at Risk," USA Today's Gulf Coast correspondent Rick Jervis writes today about the state's vanishing buffer of wetlands: natural marshes that are not only a natural treasure but also help slow down hurricanes and impede tidal surges. Much of the article focuses on how the state will find the money to pay for an estimated $50 billion worth of restoration projects many recognize as needed to turn the tide on coastal erosion, noting that Congress' recent appropriation of $7 billion may only be a drop in the bucket toward fixing the problem. Jervis also takes a look at a lawsuit which seeks to have the oil and gas industry pick up part of the tab, and interviews Tab Benoit, the Houma blues guitarist and coastal activist who tries to show Jervis the severity of the situation:

On a recent trip through the swamplands near Lake De Cade, about 60 miles southwest of New Orleans, Benoit motored his 20-foot bass boat through man-made canals and pointed to acres of open water that were once healthy swamps. The freshwater bass he fished as a boy are largely gone, he said. "The Gulf is right there. It's coming," he said. "And it's coming quicker than you can ever imagine."

by: Nathan Stubbs 9:35 AM

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

School Board moves ahead with Moss closure

The Lafayette Parish School Board has scheduled a special meeting tomorrow at 5:30 p.m. to approve the closure of N.P. Moss Middle School and temporarily transfer its students to classrooms set up at both Northside High School and Hope Baptist Church. The closure is expected to last through the remainder of the school year. Superintendent Burnell Lemoine and board President Carl LaCombe announced two weeks ago that maintenance staff had discovered that interior walls at Moss were leaking water in two classrooms. No evidence of mold has yet been found, but both LaCombe and Lemoine have said the problem needs to be remedied before potentially getting worse, and will require extensive renovation at the school. The decision to close Moss had been put on hold as a group of parents, wary of the board's motivations, hired their own independent engineer to assess whether or not the school needed to be shut down. Yesterday, architect James Broussard told the parents group that he concurred with the school board's assessment that the school should to be closed. What caused N.P. Moss' walls to begin retaining water remains unclear, though some school officials have speculated that the problem could stem from the brick masonry done with the schools construction in 1999. Board members will likely be briefed on the situation tomorrow's meeting. Board president Carl LaCombe could not be reached this morning for comment.

by: Nathan Stubbs 10:54 AM

Bruce Foods La. Gold gets plug in People mag

Whether or not you like his animated cooking shows, you gotta admit Alton Brown knows his stuff, especially when it comes to the chemistry behind how certain foods interact with each other to create delectable flavors. So his revealing to People magazine in this week's issue that he won't travel without a bottle of Bruce Foods' pepper sauce is the kind of advertising money can't buy. "To spice up bland concession fare, [Brown] travels with a 2-ounce bottle of Louisiana Gold pepper sauce," the magazine writes.

People says the 45-year-old food geek, a cookbook author and host of Good Eats, Iron Chef America and Feasting on Asphalt, logs 75 flights a year -- often shooting on location.

by: Leslie Turk 10:37 AM

Evangeline Paint Store closing down

As this year comes to a close, a Lafayette institution will shut its doors sometime in January. Albert Hartiens has been selling art supplies and framing the work of local artists for 43 years, as well as sponsoring art classes and shows at his Evangeline Paint Store business. At 88, Hartiens isn't really ready to retire. But changes in the way the world does business, from chain hobby shops to internet ordering have undermined his mom and pop store, despite the personal attention and expertise he offers. Read the full story from this week's Independent here.

by: admin 10:04 AM

Newsmaker of the Year: Ray Authement

As the calendar year winds down each year, one question begins to dominate The Independent Weekly's editorial meetings: Which individual or individuals have made the biggest impact in the last 12 months in Acadiana? In 2004, that person was Lafayette Utilities System's Terry Huval for his vision and work on the fiber-to-the-home project; Acadiana volunteers earned the nod in 2005 for their response to hurricanes Katrina and Rita; and last year we chose Danica Adams and Elizabeth Brooks for their tireless efforts on the grassroots Save the Horse Farm campaign.

In 2007, despite a lengthy list of worthy candidates, we felt they were all overshadowed by an unexpected event: UL Lafayette President Ray Authement's retirement announcement. For that reason, we've chosen Authement as The Independent Weekly's Newsmaker of the Year. It's impossible to overestimate the ripple effect of Authement stepping down at UL. He has been the leader and public face of the university since 1974. For more than three decades, he's built a formidable legacy that's covered in Independent Staff Writer Nathan Stubbs' cover-story profile of Authement in this week's issue.

It's no secret that The Independent has been Authement's biggest critic in the last two years, primarily due to the secrecy and short-sighted vision he showed in the failed UL horse farm land-swap deal. In his Leadoff column this week, Independent editor Scott Jordan looks at how Authement can rehabilitate his damaged reputation before he leaves office in spring 2008.

by: admin 9:16 AM

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Last waltz for veteran council members

Tonight's city parish council meeting will be the last waltz for eight of the council's nine members. Of those attending their last meeting will be Chris Williams, who began his political career on the city council prior to consolidation and has 16 years as a councilman. District 5 councilman Lenwood Broussard has 20 years of experience going back to his days with the parish council prior to city-parish consolidation in 1996. Councilman Louis Benjamin's service goes back further. He also served on the parish police jury prior to the parish council being established in 1984, and has a total of 24 years with local government. Benjamin, Broussard, Williams and District 9 councilman Randy Menard – who began serving in 1996 – all were prevented by term limits from seeking re-election this year. Councilman Marc Mouton, Rob Stevenson and Bobby Badeaux opted not to run for another term. District 2 councilman Dale Bourgeois lost his re-election bid this year to Jay Castille. Only District 6 councilman Bruce Conque will return when the council resumes business in January.

Tonight's meeting will begin with recognition of all the departing councilmen, who will each receive plaques honoring their years of service. Each councilman will then have an opportunity to speak and say their farewells to city government. Looking back, Marc Mouton, who has served for the past eight years on the council, says that despite all the sacrifices required for holding public office, it's been a rewarding experience. "I tell you what, I'll never criticize anyone who ever offers themselves up for elected office again," he says with a laugh. Mouton notes several accomplishments of the current council including the establishment of a mosquito abatement program, tougher smoking laws, the Safe Speed and Safe Light program, and laying the ground work for Lafayette Utitlities System's fiber-to-the-home telecommunications business. "I was thinking about all these things today," Mouton says. "You know, maybe we did leave the city a better place. Maybe we did do some work that will carry on. It's been a great experience but it has it's place and now it's time to pass the torch."

by: Nathan Stubbs 11:26 AM

LEDA's Florsheim heading to LITE center

LEDA Vice President Henry Florsheim is heading to the LITE center as chief operating officer. Florsheim starts the $100,000 job Jan. 3.

"We're awfully glad to have him," says Lafayette City-Parish Government Chief Information Officer Keith Thibodeaux, who chairs the LITE Commission. "The LITE is principally, above all, an economic development facility, and he is LITE's first professional economic developer."

Florsheim has been with LEDA for the past seven years, managing the business retention and expansion program. He is currently making $75,000 a year. In addition to his training at LEDA, Florsheim is working toward becoming a certified economic developer through the Economic Development Institute at the University of Oklahoma and is studying at UL for his MBA.

Florsheim replaces Paul Cutt, who resigned from the position in recent months and reportedly moved back to the West Coast.

LEDA and LITE work closely together on a number of projects, and Florsheim plans to bring the skills he honed managing prospects and the contacts he's made in the local business community to his new post. "Hopefully, my taking a position at LITE can only improve that relationship, help us to do more together," he says.

by: Leslie Turk 11:00 AM

Jindal's wheeling and dealing 101

Gov.-elect Bobby Jindal has brought a fresh approach to the way he's carrying out most of the transition process, but more than once already he's proven that not everything can be reformed. He promised he wouldn't insert himself into the legislative leadership races, but stepped into the races for House speaker and Senate president, confirming a "consensus" reached by lawmakers in both chambers on a leadership vote that won't take place until Jan. 14. As pressure mounts around certain committee assignments, it now seems more likely than ever that Jindal could get involved on that level as well — if he hasn't already.

It's nothing different from what former governors have done, but it's dramatically different from what Jindal promised on the campaign trail. Another old executive trick has resurfaced as well — the ancient routine of using a golden carrot. Former Gov. Mike Foster did it by linking issues like teacher pay to the passage of a tax bill. Outgoing Gov. Kathleen Blanco doled out state money for pet projects and also once removed a chairman for not supporting her legislative package (showing the carrot can strike back, too).

As for Jindal, his carrot was obvious from the beginning — the state's unprecedented $1.7 billion surplus. If that's the reward for lawmakers, then the sacrifice is swallowing the governor-elect's entire ethics reform package to be presented during a special session early next year. Can the Democratic-majority Legislature stomach it? Republican Jindal doesn't seem to care. "We basically said we're not doing anything else," he recently told the Associated Press. "It will take a two-thirds vote of the Legislature and the governor calling a special session until they can spend that surplus and we said ‘We're not touching that until we get ethics done.' It's that important to us." — Jeremy Alford

by: admin 10:39 AM

Missing New Orleans, moving on

Where have all the people gone? That's the question that frames a story in today's New York Times which focuses in on New Orleans' Katrina evacuees who have settled in the small towns of south Louisiana and across the Gulf Coast. Based on the difference in the number of voters in New Orleans' 2006 mayor's race, 113,000, and this fall's city council races, 53,000, the NYT took a look at people who, nearly two and a half years after Katrina, have given up on the idea of returning home and have begun new lives in other places. Houma, Lake Charles, LaPlace are all in Louisiana, but none of them, say former Crescent City residents, are anything like the Big Easy. Barbara Shanklin, a retired city bus driver, has settled in Gray, outside of Houma. She told the NYT, "It's the country, but it's — lovely," before adding, "I miss New Orleans." The overriding reason for not returning is entire neighborhoods, mostly inhabited by poor, black residents of the city, still in ruins. These former New Orleans natives have not only lost their homes. The entire sense of community, of life lived on porches, corner restaurants, walking to school and shopping locally are still impossible. With deep regret, people like Shanklin feel they have been forced to move on.

It's not New Orleans to me, and I find myself asking, ‘Where are all the people?' I see all the empty houses, and I knew once there was people in all those houses. Where are the people, you know? Where are the people? It's like somebody threw a bomb on it.

by: Mary Tutwiler 10:10 AM

New Orleans students rile ASCE

A video produced by New Orleans high school students and critical of the relationship between the Army Corps of Engineers and the American Society of Civil Engineers in investigating the failure of the city's levees has drawn the ire of the ASCE. Levees.org originally posted the video to YouTube but took it down after ASCE threatened a lawsuit. The Times-Picayune reports that Levees.org recently reposted the video online after it was offered free legal assistance by two law firms in the event that the group is sued.

by: R. Reese Fuller 9:57 AM

Monday, December 17, 2007

Katrina cottages get mixed reviews

Designed as a more comfortable and sustainable alternative to the FEMA trailer, Katrina cottages – quaint portable homes with sloping tin roofs and a small front porch – are being rolled out to mixed reviews in Mississippi. Congress awarded the state $280 million last year for a pilot program to test the cottages. Louisiana received $75 million and is planning to build four long-term cottage communities. The L.A. Times reports today that as the cottages are being made available, many Mississippi municipalities are using everything on the books to keep the cottages out, fearing they will negatively impact property values. Jim Thriffiley, president of the Bay St. Louis City Council, tells the Times: "The Mississippi cottage is a trailer -- except that instead of coming in through the side, you come in through the front. We don't want the stigma of these homes in our community." State officials are lobbying for greater acceptance of the cottages, especially in light of all of the recent problems with FEMA trailers.

Acceptance of the cottages has become particularly pressing in Mississippi as FEMA attempts to evict more than 12,500 families from trailers. Amid growing concern that the trailers may contain toxic formaldehyde fumes, the agency has suspended the sale of its used trailers and has said it won't house victims of future disasters until safety issues are resolved. In Gulfport, where a Dec. 31 deadline has been imposed for residents to move out of trailer parks, FEMA officials say they are struggling to find suitable rental accommodations for 329 families. City officials will not allow the cottages to be installed in the trailer parks.

by: Nathan Stubbs 11:07 AM

Downtown tapas bar Pamplona opens Wednesday

If you don't have a Christmas party to attend Wednesday after work, head to Jefferson Street to try Lafayette's first Spanish tapas bar, Pamplona. Chef William Annesley, who hails from London, and his wife, Karina Carrero of Lafayette, relocated from the West Coast almost four years ago to open the downtown restaurant, which they initially planned to call Monitos.

Pamplona is serving dinner Wednesday night and will launch its lunch business Thursday. The restaurant will be open Tuesday through Friday for lunch and dinner, serving dinner only on Saturdays.

For the past couple of weeks, the Annesleys have been hosting VIP parties, and the reviews have been terrific. Tapas bars specialize in small dishes similar to appetizers and encourage patrons to share a variety of plates. Try the chargrilled oysters, duck breast with a citrus sauce, veal sweet breads with mushrooms and jamon serrano (a Spanish cured ham), and finish the meal with churros con chocolate -- a fried dough sprinkled with sugar and cocoa powder that you dip in a creamy hot Spanish chocolate.

The Annesleys pulled off an incredibly effective renovation of the former Chris' Poboys on Jefferson Street. You won't recognize the building; the restaurant feels like it's been in business for decades. At Pamplona it's as if you've stepped way back in time (its running of the bulls theme almost expecting you to see Ernest Hemingway sitting in a dark corner). "Basically, when you walk in, we want you to feel like you're in Spain," Karina says.

by: Leslie Turk 10:54 AM

Joyeux Noel les enfants

Singer Zachary Richard will be playing Père Noël today when he hands out copies of his latest children's book, l'Histoire de Telesphore et ‘Tit Edvard dans le nord, to a class of fifth grade French Immersion students at Acadian Middle School. The book is a follow up to his first children's book, Conte Cajun.

Inspired by my return to Québec after 15 years of absence, this story was written one long winter night in 1998. It is the story of two Louisiana characters, a blind turtle and a one-eyed crawfish, who are projected into space by accident and who wind up in Saint-Boniface-des-Agréments (Saint Boniface of the Agreeables), Québec. The friends they meet and how they ultimately get home is the subject of the tale. On the way, the little Crawfish, Edvard, discovers his own roots in meeting the lobsters of Homardie. According to Cajun folk-lore, the crawfish of Louisiana were originally lobsters in Nova Scotia who followed the Acadians into exile. The rigors of the journey took such a toll that they all shrank from a few pounds to a few ounces. Edvard's discovery of his identity mirrors my own. In 1975, the young Louisiana singer that I was, ran full into his roots at a place called la Butte à Napoléon (Napoléon's hill) in Cap-Pelé (Bald Cape) New-Brunswick.

Richard is an international rock star, renowned for his devotion to preserving the French language, Cajun culture and the fragile Louisiana wetlands. Most recently, he has produced an award-winning documentary, Against the Tide, which aired on PBS, and organized a Paris benefit concert for those affected by the 2005 Hurricanes. His latest CD is Lumiere dans le noir.

His gift to the students of Marie Claude Bellanger's fifth-grade French immersion class at Acadian Middle School is a symbolic gesture; Richard is donating copies of his book to all the French immersion 5th graders in Louisiana.

by: Mary Tutwiler 10:21 AM

Vitter toughs it out

Sin or not, Republican U.S. Sen. David Vitter still has the support of the national Republican Party — Vitter has again been named as deputy whip in the Senate Republican leadership. Vitter previously filled the role on the team of Sen. Trent Lott of Mississippi, who recently announced his retirement. Sen. Jon Kyl of Arizona is the new Republican whip and he has tapped Vitter to continue serving. Vitter was also appointed last week as ranking member of the Commerce, Science and Transportation Subcommittee on Space, Aeronautics and Related Sciences. With this new committee assignment, Vitter will play an important role in determining space policy. His appointment also places Louisiana in a unique and highly-favorable position on matters related to NASA, aeronautics and related sciences. "NASA has a long history and significant presence in Louisiana," Vitter says. "Thousands of Louisianans are employed by the Michoud Assembly Facility and Stennis Space Center, and the impact of the space program on Louisiana cannot be overstated." -- Jeremy Alford

by: admin 9:59 AM

Bradley earns Best Sports Book of 2007 nod

Congratulations to Opelousas' John Ed Bradley. The novelist, journalist and former LSU Tiger's memoir It Never Rains in Tiger Stadium has just been named the best sports book of 2007 by Sports Illustrated magazine. Read the accolades for Bradley in the current SI issue with Buffalo Bills tight end Kevin Everett on the cover, and read the story behind It Never Rains ... in The Independent Weekly's recent cover profile of Bradley.

by: Scott Jordan 9:53 AM

Friday, December 14, 2007

Michot named Senate Finance Chair

Widespread speculation became reality late yesterday when incoming Democratic Senate President Joel Chaisson II announced that Republican U.S. Sen. Mike Michot of Lafayette is the proposed chairman of the Senate Finance Committee in the Jindal administration. Michot, the senior ranking Republican in the Senate, will oversee operations of the state's $31 billion budget.

"I'm honored to be part of the leadership team in the Senate and Gov.-elect Jindal's leadership team," says Michot. "The process of putting leadership committees is like putting together a complicated jigsaw puzzle. When Jindal tapped Chiasson, he did tell me, ‘You're going to get Finance; I'm committed to that.' And he really tried to balance it geographically and across party lines, racial lines, years of service — a lot of factors play into this."

Michot landed the biggest appointment in a list that bodes well for Acadiana. In addition to Michot, other area Senate Chairman appointments include: Opelousas' Don Cravins for Insurance; Jeanerette's Troy Hebert for Environmental Quality; Lake Charles' Willie Mount for Health & Welfare; Montegut's Reggie Dupré for Natural Resources; and Morgan City's Butch Gautreaux for Retirement.

"We fared very well, in Acadiana to Lake Charles and down the bayou," says Michot. "Nick [Gautreaux] will also be serving with me on Finance, and when you put all that together, it's extremely influential representation for Acadiana."

Michot says his three top priorities and infrastructure repair and improvement, with I-49 South at the top of that list; doing more with less in government and taking a hard look at agency budgets; and paying down debt in the state retirement system to free up cash flow for other projects.

by: Scott Jordan 10:54 AM

Energy bill passes Senate after oil taxes cut

Thursday morning, the national energy bill, already passed by the House, remained stuck in the Senate by a Republican-led filibuster. When the vote to end the filibuster was counted 59 to 40, the total was one vote shy of the two-thirds majority needed to end debate and clear the way to actually vote on the measure. That single vote came from Louisiana Senator Mary Landrieu, the only Democrat to break ranks with her party. Democratic Senator Richard Durbin of Illinois told the Washington Post:

The future just failed by one vote. The past was preserved. The oil companies are now celebrating in their boardrooms.

The bill included tax breaks for wind and solar projects while reducing breaks for the biggest oil and gas companies. Landrieu sent out a press release at noon yesterday, explaining her "no" vote.

One-sided policymaking solves few problems, and America's path forward depends on a comprehensive, balanced approach to energy conservation and domestic production. We must invest in smart energy solutions for the future, but not at the expense of the states that strengthen our energy security today.

While this package included positive steps towards energy independence and efficiency, it still left Louisiana and America's Energy Coast holding the bill. Our energy producers would be severely disadvantaged against foreign competitors, and our timber, pulp and paper industries would be restricted from fully participating in the move to innovative renewable fuels.

By evening, the taxes on big oil and the breaks for alternative energy sources lay on the Senate cutting room floor. What remains are increases in fuel energy standards for automobiles, heightened energy standards for appliances and buildings, and mandated use of ethanol and biofuels.

At that point, the bill passed with a large bipartisan vote of 86 to 8. It will return to the House, and if passed, President Bush has indicated he will sign it into law.

by: Mary Tutwiler 10:28 AM

KATC holding D'Aquin to non-compete agreement

David D'Aquin could not have been happier to return to television news, specifically to KATC-TV3. After just 11 months as marketing and events manager for Downtown Lafayette Unlimited, he left the post for a job as a general assignment news reporter, having previously worked at the station as a weather anchor and part-time reporter. "I missed doing the news," says D'Aquin, who has more than a decade of broadcast experience and a degree in broadcast journalism from UL Lafayette. "And I had so many people telling me they enjoyed watching me." The familiar face of the Lafayette native returned to the airwaves in December 2005.

Fast-forward to December 2007 and D'Aquin is not only out of a television news job, he's out of the communications business for six months. Talks between the reporter and KATC General Manager Andrew Shenkan and News Director Letitia Walker over a $3,000 annual raise D'Aquin was requesting broke down when the station offered a smaller increase (he was earning an hourly rate in the range of $11-$12, about a mid-$20,000 annual figure).

D'Aquin resigned effective Nov. 30, with full knowledge that the employment contract he signed back in November 2005 included a six-month non-compete clause that prevents him from working in the "news, weather, and entertainment" business in what the contract defines as an eight-parish Designated Market Area.

Shenkan declined comment on the contract except to say such clauses are common in the industry. KATC ought to know. It's the station that several years ago successfully lured high-profile meteorologist Rob Perillo from chief competitor KLFY-TV10 with a lucrative job offer. KLFY sued to uphold Perillo's non-compete but lost. However, a change in the law that gave the clause more teeth means D'Aquin would today likely lose his challenge.

"I do think [the clause] is fair," Shenkan says, supporting his position by reasoning that stations invest time and energy developing talents like D'Aquin.

Read more about D'Aquin's dilemma in the January issue of Acadiana Business, out on newsstands Dec. 19.

by: Leslie Turk 10:12 AM

Angelle staying put at DNR

Gov.-elect Bobby Jindal is keeping at least one holdover department head from Gov. Blanco's administration. Jindal announced yesterday that Scott Angelle, the former St. Martin Parish president whom Blanco tapped in 2004 to run the state's Department of Natural Resources, will remain in the post for the next four years. Angelle has been widely credited with leading the effort to pass a constitutional amendment dedicating future Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) revenues to finance the coastal restoration and hurricane protection plan. He also recently helped push through legislation that gives DNR oversight of environmental remediation from legacy lawsuit settlements for oilfield pollution.

Hailing from Breaux Bridge, Angelle was elected as the first president of St. Martin Parish in 2000. From 1998 to 2000, he served as the Vice President of the Huval Companies in Lafayette, managing the company's insurance risk management and overseeing the budget and strategic planning. Angelle also previously served as a St. Martin Parish Police Juror and as a petroleum landman in Lafayette from 1983 to 1989.

by: Nathan Stubbs 9:00 AM

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Police beefing up downtown patrols

A rash of 52 downtown car break-ins in November has Lafayette Police beefing up downtown patrols, The Advocate reported today. The vehicle burglaries took place in and around Jefferson Street, including the McKinley Street "strip" and surrounding neighborhoods.

Police say they have doubled the number of officers patrolling the area from evening to early morning hours, hoping their presence deters thieves. They've also launched a public service campaign, trying to educate drivers about locking their cars and not leaving valuables where they can be viewed by a potential thief. The campaign kicked off Tuesday, and officers found 41 unlocked vehicles along Jefferson Street, the paper reported.

by: Leslie Turk 10:31 AM

N.P. Moss closes

N.P. Moss Middle School will not re-open after the Christmas holidays due to water intrusion found in two exterior walls, the school system announced yesterday. According to school board member Mike Hefner, the problem was first identified back in September, when maintenance staff noticed wallpaper peeling off, as well as discolored sheetrock in two classrooms. The school system has since hired an engineering consultant who has led a series of tests, including monitoring the buildings air quality. The tests showed no indication of any mold problems.

"Our maintenance staff have conducted a thorough study and engaged the assistance of an environmental consultant to make certain that we will take proper action to correct the issue at hand," Superintendent Burnell Lemoine said. "The issue is that we have discovered that moisture is able to collect inside the brick wall of two classrooms that have exterior walls. This has not caused a problem yet, but we need to fix it before it does."

As a result, the school system is planning to relocate approximately 500 students from the school while the problem is addressed. Repairs could continue through the remainder of the school year. Eighth grade students are being relocated to Northside High School while sixth and seventh grade students will move to classrooms being set up at Good Hope Baptist Church at the corner of Willow Street and Teurlings Drive. School officials say only two N.P. Moss classrooms, 402 and 503, have experienced any water intrusion issues thus far. However, all exterior walls are being examined as well as the building's ventilation system.

Hefner says he believes the problem appears to be structural, and could stem from the building's original brick masonry. He expects the board will be briefed on the issue as early as next Tuesday, when a special meeting may be called to approve a lease with Hope Baptist Church. Parents of N.P. Moss students are being encouraged to attend a meeting tonight at 6:30 p.m. in the N.P. Moss middle school cafeteria, where Superintendent Lemoine and School Board President Carl LaCombe will answer any questions they may have.

by: Nathan Stubbs 10:22 AM

New Iberia's Lourd profiled in Portfolio

There's a double dose of Louisiana in this month's issue of publishing giant Conde Nast's Portfolio, its high-powered and recently launched business magazine. New Orleans native Michael Lewis, bestselling author of Liar's Poker, The New New Thing and Moneyball, weighs in with "The Evolution of an Investor," a terrific in-depth profile of New Iberia native and heavy duty financial advisor Blaine Lourd. Lewis charts Lourd's rise from LSU frat boy to Wall Street broker and his current position as Beverly Hills guru managing more than $100 million in client funds. Read Lewis' whole story for nuggets like this:

Then he caught a break. He met a girl who liked him. The girl went and told a friend about him. That friend was the business manager for the Rolling Stones. One thing led to another, and the Rolling Stones handed him $13 million to invest. It was that easy. This money constituted their tour fund, and they didn't want to take any risks with it. "I went to my office manager and asked, ‘What do I do with this?' And he looked at me and said, ‘I dunno.' " Blaine was seriously unnerved: He knew how to sell stocks to strangers, but that skill had nothing to do with preserving a pile of capital. "All of a sudden, I got a real client," he says. "It wasn't from some cold call. I didn't want to lose the Rolling Stones' money."

by: Scott Jordan 10:14 AM

Slide show and book signing at Pack and Paddle

Noted Louisiana photographer and author Greg Guirard will be conducting a slide show focused on the Atchafalaya Basin tonight at Pack and Paddle. Guirard is well known for his books and photography depicting Cajun families who make their living within the largest freshwater swamp in the US. He will speak on the past, present and future of the Atchafalaya and the dangers that exist to this unique ecosystem. Guirard is the author of five books: Atchafalaya Autumn, The Land of the Dead Giants, Cajun Families of the Atchafalaya, PsychoTherapy for Cajuns, and a new book, Inherit the Atchafalaya. Before and after the slide show he will be signing books. The slide show begins at 5:30 this evening at Pack and Paddle. Call 232-5854 for more information.

by: Mary Tutwiler 9:37 AM

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

We're getting warmer

This week's cover story in The Independent takes a look at global warming, a decade after the Kyoto Accord's first attempt to set worldwide carbon emissions standards. The U.S. has never ratified Kyoto. Environmentalist Bill McKibben writes the time to act is now:

We've gone from a problem for our children to a problem for right about now, as evidenced by Hurricane Katrina, California wildfires, epic droughts in the Southeast and Southwest. And that's just the continental United States. Go to Australia sometime: It's gotten so dry there that native Aussie Rupert Murdoch recently announced that his News Corp. empire was going carbon neutral. The important political-world reality to know about the 10 years after Kyoto is that we haven't done anything.

The New York Times reports that America is maintaining its opposition to several of the treaty's basic tenets at the current global warming summit in Bali. The Times has also been running a series of articles on climate change's effect on American life. This week, they cover duck hunting in Arkansas and Louisiana, talking to hunters who say that they can no longer predict when the weather will get cold and stay cold, bringing the ducks down to southern wintering grounds.

Be sure to also read The Independent's story on Louisiana's reliance on coal energy and additional interviews on the issue of global warming with KATC chief meteorologist Rob Perillo and Lafayette Utilities System Director Terry Huval.

by: admin 11:25 AM

Impaired waters

In a recent sweep, Louisiana's Department of Environmental Quality found more than two-thirds of the businesses it encountered were operating without proper sewage permits. The Advocate reports that most of the businesses have septic systems that discharge sewage into ditches that eventually drain into the Vermilion and Bayou Teche.

Portions of both the Vermilion River and Bayou Teche are on the state's "impaired waters" list, largely because of high concentrations of fecal coliform — a bacteria used as an indicator of sewage.

Of the 188 businesses inspected, only 62 had the proper permits.

by: R. Reese Fuller 10:56 AM

UL System first to sign up for accountability initiative

On Dec. 11, the UL System was the first in the nation to answer the call to sign up for the Voluntary System of Accountability, a joint initiative of the American Association of State Colleges and Universities and the National Association of State Universities and Land-Grant Colleges.

The VSA aims to strengthen undergraduate education while demonstrating increased accountability. It involves the implementation of a consumer-oriented, Web-based template called the College Portrait, which is designed to provide easy-to-read comparable undergraduate information on campus costs and quality. All eight UL System universities are launching the College Portrait on their Web sites and providing student data, such as cost of attendance and financial aid; student experiences and perceptions, and student learning outcomes. One unique aspect of the College Portrait is a cost-calculator that allows students and their parents to estimate the costs associated with attending a particular institution.

A system-wide launch of the College Portrait is expected in early 2008.

by: Leslie Turk 10:55 AM

The Cajun/zydeco Grammy dilemma

When the 2008 Grammy Award winners are announced Feb. 10, 2008, it's supposed to be a shining moment for Acadiana and Louisiana, as the first winner in the newly instituted Cajun/zydeco Grammy category will be crowned. But if one scenario plays out, the big winner will be the other LA — Los Angeles — and we'll be stuck with stale king cake on our face five days after Mardi Gras.

King Cake is the title of Los Angeles-based fiddler Lisa Haley's recent album, which is nominated as "Best Zydeco or Cajun Music Album" alongside Geno Delafose & French Rockin' Boogie's Le Cowboy Creole; The Lost Bayou Ramblers' Live: Á La Blue Moon; the Pine Leaf Boys' Blues De Musicien; Roddie Romero And The Hub City All-Stars' The La Louisianne Sessions; Terrance Simien & The Zydeco Experience's Live! Worldwide; and Racines for their self-titled release.

It will be a travesty and major embarrassment if California's Haley wins the Cajun/zydeco Grammy, which is why — despite serious reservations about the Grammy Awards and their relevance these days — I'm renewing my membership with the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences.

Deadline for membership to vote on this year's Grammy Awards has passed, but Independent Weekly Editor Scott Jordan looks at the flaws in the Grammy process – and still makes a case for NARAS membership – in his Leadoff column this week. Read the whole column here.

by: admin 10:24 AM

Teche Ridge breaking ground Friday

Teche Ridge, Iberia Parish's first traditional neighborhood development, will break ground on Friday, December 14. The $150 million development is the brainchild of Southern Mutual Help Association, a non-profit which provides training to help impoverished rural residents escape the cycle of poverty. Designed by River Ranch architect Steve Oubre, Teche Ridge will offer opportunities for low-income families to become residents of the mixed-income neighborhood. In 2000, SMHA created Southern Mutual Financial Services Inc., a community development financial institution to offer low interest loans to its clients. SMFS was bolstered by a $10,000,000 loan from IberiaBank in 2005. Groundbreaking was delayed for over a year while the Iberia Parish Regional Planning Commission developed a TND ordinance for the parish. The groundbreaking ceremony will begin at noon, at Sacred Heart of Jesus Church, in New Iberia, followed by a second line to the Teche Ridge site, to turn the first shovel of dirt on the project.

by: Mary Tutwiler 10:06 AM

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Hundley trial delayed till March 24

Louisiana Attorney General Charles Foti's office yesterday asked the court to delay the trial of former Lafayette Police Chief Randy Hundley till next year. The AG took over the case after District Attorney Mike Harson recused himself. The trial for Hundley and three of his officers, all of whom are no longer with the department, was scheduled to begin Monday but has been postponed until March 24.

All of the legal issues that need to be addressed before the trial will be heard at a Feb. 28 court hearing.

In 2004 Hundley and the officers allegedly secretly recorded the former chief's secretary, Jeanette Luque; prosecutors say such recordings required court approval. Also charged in the case are Michael Lavergne, former head of internal affairs for the police department, Brian Butler and Shannon Hundley, the ex-chief's nephew. It's unclear what kind of information they were seeking.

Luque also has filed a civil lawsuit against Hundley and the other officers, alleging invasion of privacy.

by: Leslie Turk 10:43 AM

Oprah's nod to Ernest J. Gaines

On Saturday, daytime TV queen Oprah Winfrey introduced presidential hopeful Barack Obama at a campaign rally in Des Moines, Iowa. The climax of Winfrey's remarks centered on south Louisiana author Ernest J. Gaines' 1971 novel The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman. Winfrey explained how the film adaptation of the book starring Cicely Tyson made "a huge impression" on her. She recalled how throughout the film Tyson's character would ask of the young people she encountered, "Are you the one?"

Well, I believe in '08 I have found the answer to Miss Pittman's question. I have found the answer. It is the same question that our nation is asking: "Are you the one? Are you the one?" I'm here to tell you Iowa, he is the one. He is the one. Barack Obama!

Obama then entered the stage to U2's song "City of Blinding Lights." Watch Winfrey's remarks about Gaines' work below, beginning approximately 7:20 into the clip.

by: R. Reese Fuller 10:37 AM

Playoffs? You kiddin' me? Playoffs?

Despite a 6-7 record, last night's 34-14 demolition of division rival Atlanta Falcons on Monday Night Football has the New Orleans Saints squarely in the hunt for the final wild-card playoff spot in the NFC. The win vaulted the Saints over fellow 6-7 teams Detroit, Arizona and Washington and left them one game behind 7-6 Minnesota. If the Saints win their remaining three games and Minnesota loses one game, the Saints are likely headed to the postseason.

Saints fans have seen this movie before. Quarterback Drew Brees and his teammates are saying all the right things about taking it one game at a time, taking care of business, not looking ahead, etc. For Black and Gold nation, this is code for WARNING: POSSIBLE LATE-SEASON HEARTBREAK AHEAD.

In a perverse way, running back Reggie Bush's knee injury – which will probably force him to miss the rest of the season – may be the catalyst the team needs. The grumbling over Bush's mediocre season and his botched pitch to lose the Tampa Bay game was starting to reach fever pitch and become a major distraction, creating headlines like "Messiah or Just Mess" and prompting national media outlets like the New York Times to start weighing in on Bush's woes. The furor only promises to intensify leading up to the January publication of Tarnished Heisman, a book that details Bush allegedly accepting cash payments during his USC playing days. If the allegations are proven, Bush could be stripped of his Heisman Trophy and USC could also be stripped of its 2005 national title.

With Bush on the sidelines, maybe the team can focus solely on football during their run to the playoffs. But for a dash of perspective, no one sums it up better than former Saints coach Jim Mora, in one of the all-time greatest coaching rants:

by: Scott Jordan 10:12 AM

Call for artists

Since the Acadiana Arts Council moved to their new digs at 101 West Vermilion, they have been the host of a series of extremely high quality art exhibitions. The 5000 square foot gallery, which used to house the First National Bank, offers 19 foot high ceilings, enough space for large sculpture and vast canvases. Curator Rose Courville, who was blown into town by Hurricane Katrina, decided to leave her job at the Ogden Museum of Southern Art and stay here in Acadiana, working with local artists and helping bring in national shows such as the Magnum Cinema photography exhibit in the fall. Last year, she curated a terrific competition, the Southern Open, a juried show that brought out some of the best work created along the Gulf Coast post-Katrina. The success of the show has engendered a repeat competition scheduled for May 2008.

The Acadiana Arts Council has issued call for artists to enter their work for the second annual Southern Open. Southern Open 2008 juror Peter Frank is an art historian and art critic who lives and works in Los Angeles, California. With an extensive background as an art critic and curator, Frank is now editor of Visions magazine and a regular contributor to L.A. Weekly. He is also on the board of the International Association of Art Critics (AICA), and he helped organize the 1991 international AICA conference in Los Angeles.

Here are the dates and deadlines for the Southern Open 2008:
February 11, entry form postmarked and email submission deadline
March 10, jury decision notification and artwork delivery information
April 28 – May 2 , artwork delivery deadline
May 9, artist reception
May 10, public reception
May 10 – July 26, exhibition dates

Visit the Acadiana Center for the Arts website to download a complete exhibition prospectus. For more information, call 337.233.7060 or email [email protected]
Photo: "Neighborhood Noah," 2007 Southern Open Blue Ribbon winner by New Iberia artist Lou Blackwell

by: Mary Tutwiler 10:04 AM

Monday, December 10, 2007

Will Davis overhaul Louisiana's $29 billion budget?

Few others already in the throes of state government fit into Gov.-elect Bobby Jindal's reform program like Angèle Davis. Maybe that's why Jindal selected her as his commissioner of administration last week. At 39, she's a youngster by most standards. She's also proven over the years— holding the No. 2 spot in the Division of Administration under former Gov. Mike Foster and most recently as tourism secretary — that she can be aggressive and innovative without being politically hostile.

There are high hopes for what Davis can do with the state's booming $29 billion budget. If her previous administrative style is any indicator, expect big changes. Davis has already been at the helm of a major reform movement that almost seeped into every corner of state government. At the Department of Culture, Recreation and Tourism, she oversaw a dramatic overhaul she referred to as a "budgeting for outcomes" process. Division heads inside the department had to make "offers" and "counter-offers" for their budgets and programs, competing against other division heads for funding. In short, she halted the department's practice of balancing its budget by across-the-board cuts. The operational overhaul involved much more than budgeting. A new management plan was put into place with the goal of boosting accountability, establishing result-oriented performance and changing the overall culture of the department.

At one point last year, there was even chatter of implementing the system in other state departments, but we all know how much bureaucracy loves change and progress. But now that Davis is in line to become one of the most powerful people in state government, who knows what might happen? — Jeremy Alford

by: admin 10:46 AM

Destrehan too hot to handle

Back-to-back state championships are always difficult to pull off, and the Acadiana Wreckin' Rams had more than they could handle Saturday night in No. 1 seed Destrehan, 15-0. The 14th seeded Rams, 11-4, played their third consecutive 5A title game, this year making it as a wild-card from District 3.

In their first 5A title win, the Destrehan Wildcats defeated Acadiana 41-21 in the Superdome, with quarterback Jordan Jefferson throwing two touchdown passes and running for a touchdown. Destrehan receiver Damaris Johnson had 44 yards on four receptions and five carries for 94 yards, including two TDs. He was named MVP.

by: Leslie Turk 10:38 AM

Mixed perception of post-Katrina New Orleans

A poll conducted by the University of New Orleans Survey Research Center, titled How Our Nation Views New Orleans, shows a national ambiguity about continuing federal funding to aid the city's the recovery from Hurricane Katrina. The UNO research center surveyed 775 people outside of Louisiana from Nov. 9 through Dec. 4. According to the Houston Chronicle, the poll results showed:

35.2 percent of respondents "somewhat willing" to support more federal spending for recovery, mindful that involves "expenditure of tax dollars," while 22.3 percent were "neither willing nor unwilling." Another 20.3 percent were "extremely willing;" 22.2 percent were somewhat or extremely unwilling.

Yet, 51.7 percent believed the federal government has provided too little aid. About a third believed the amount has been "just about right."

The poll suggests concerns about where the aid is going: Asked how well they think federal or charitable funds have been spent, "based on what you know or personally believe," 62.2 percent answered "not very well" or "not well at all," compared with 37.8 percent who said "very well" or "somewhat well."

Many of those who responded seem not to know much about New Orleans currently:

Roughly one-fourth believed parts of New Orleans remain under water; one-third believed the tourist-oriented French Quarter was one of the hardest-hit areas.

by: Mary Tutwiler 10:00 AM

UL alum Stokley gets three-year contract extension from Broncos

Former Ragin' Cajun wide receiver Brandon Stokley, who was one of Colts quarterback Peyton Manning's favorite targets before Stokley ruptured his Achilles tendon and was released by the Colts, has once again proved his moxie. Stokley was signed by the Denver Broncos this season after rehabbing his injury, and has rewarded the Broncos by becoming one of the team's most reliable receivers. Stokley currently has 40 receptions for 635 yards and five touchdowns this year, earning himself a three-year contract extension he signed on Friday.

Part of Stokley's emergence with the Broncos is because of the knee injury that's hampering teammate and former St. Thomas More standout Javon Walker. If Walker recovers and stays with the Broncos, there will be a 1-2 Lafayette punch at wide receiver for Denver for the 2008 season.

by: Scott Jordan 9:07 AM

Congressmen hope to extend Go Zone

A bill introduced last week by Louisiana Congressmen Charles Boustany and Richard Baker aims to extend the Gulf Opportunity Zone Act through 2010. Passed in 2005, the Go Zone act provides significant tax credits and incentives for new construction and renovation in the areas affected by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. Many of the provisions in the bill are set to expire at the end of this year.

A total of 31 parishes, including Lafayette, are covered in the Go Zone, and the legislation has been widely credited with helping to spur the ongoing building boom across south Louisiana. In a press release put out Friday, Boustany says, "In the aftermath of both hurricanes, the GO Zone Program encouraged business investment to help the Louisiana coast get back on its feet. The GO Zone has been successful, but it needs more time because of the slow pace rebuilding has taken."

by: Nathan Stubbs 8:11 AM

Friday, December 07, 2007

It was T-Joe from the get-go

There was never even the shadow of a doubt that an insider would replace longtime UL President Ray Authement, with most of the Lafayette community assuming Commissioner of Higher Education T-Joe Savoie was the heir-apparent. And while speculation that Authement favored Vice President of Academic Affairs Steve Landry kept the suspense going for about seven months, the curtain was pulled back yesterday afternoon when the UL Board of Supervisors unanimously chose Savoie as the 107-year-old university's sixth president. He is expected to take over June 1.

Savoie's departure from the state post after a decade of strong leadership leaves a major void in that position and a lingering question: who will replace him?

by: Leslie Turk 10:43 AM

High school football championships kickoff today

State high school football championships are set to kickoff today in the New Orleans Superdome. Today's games include the class 2A (5 p.m.) and class 3A (8 p.m.) matchups. Tomorrow's schedule includes the 1A (1 p.m.), 4A (4 p.m.) and the 5A (8 p.m.) championship game, in which the Acadiana High Wrecking Rams will try and defend their state title against Destrehan High. The 1A and 2A matchups will be broadcast locally on KBZE 105.9. Cox Sports Television will also be airing all the games at later dates beginning next weekend. Click here for a complete schedule.

by: Nathan Stubbs 10:26 AM

A new absinthe hits the market

Sitting alone at a cafe table with a far-away look glazing one's eyes is coming back into vogue. At least that's the hype about formerly illegal absinthe, proscribed because it was thought to be a deadly hallucinogen, now beginning to slowly percolate into bars and liquor stores. A new label, St. George Absinthe Verte, the first American-made absinthe on the market since 1912 goes on sale on December 21, after receiving a license on Monday. Distilled by Lance Winters where he works at St. George Spirits in Alameda, California, St. George Absinthe Verte is the fourth brand of the seductive green spirit to be licensed for sale in America. Another label, Lucid, created in a French distillery by New Orleans chemist T. A. Breaux, hit the market earlier this year.

by: Mary Tutwiler 10:23 AM

Former LED chief Olivier jumps ship

After four years of rhetoric about supporting Louisiana's economy, bolstering local companies and strengthening the Bayou State's job market, the first thing Michael Olivier did upon being passed over for economic development secretary this week was to take a gig with an overseas company that operates primarily in Mississippi and Texas.

So much for loyalty.

Republican Gov.-elect Bobby Jindal announced Wednesday that Baton Rouge Area Chamber Director Stephen Moret would be taking over the department. Olivier, less than 24 hours later, was named Future Pipe Group's regional president of the Americas. The company in based in the United Arab Emirates, alongside the Persian Gulf. The company has offices in Houston and Gulfport, which is where Olivier will reportedly split his time.

Olivier, who previously served as director of the Lafayette Development Foundation, first came in contact with Future Pipe as director of the Harrison County Development Commission, when he heavily recruited the company to move to Mississippi. It's obviously a contact that has since paid off. "This is the opportunity of a lifetime," Olivier told The Advocate. – Jeremy Alford

by: admin 10:22 AM

And the Cajun/zydeco nominees are ...

Yesterday the Recording Academy announced its nominees for the 50th annual Grammy Awards. In the newly formed category "Best Zydeco Or Cajun Music Album," six of the seven nominees are Acadiana musicians and include Geno Delafose & French Rockin' Boogie for Le Cowboy Creole, The Lost Bayou Ramblers for Live: Á La Blue Moon, the Pine Leaf Boys for Blues De Musicien, Roddie Romero And The Hub City All-Stars for The La Louisianne Sessions, Terrance Simien & The Zydeco Experience for Live! Worldwide, and Racines for their self-titled release. The Los Angeles-based Lisa Haley is also nominated for her album, King Cake.

Reid Wick, The Recording Academy's Gulf Coast membership coordinator for the Memphis chapter, says that usually each category is narrowed down to five final nominees, but the C/Z category's seven nominees indicate that there must have been a three-way tie for fifth place. Before narrowing the field down to the seven nominees, 32 entries were in the running; most were from Acadiana and included Chris Ardoin, Jamie Bergeron, Keith Frank, Corey Ledet, Lil' Nathan, Travis Matte, Goldman Thibodeaux, and Bonsoir, Catin. Musicians from outside the area included Dennis Stroughmatt and Creole Stomp, The Cajun Strangers, Captain Squeeze and the Zydeco Moshers and Tri Tip Trio. Winners of the awards will be announced in Los Angeles on Feb. 10.

by: R. Reese Fuller 10:20 AM

Thursday, December 06, 2007

LeBlancs' libel suit against San Antonio paper dismissed

The libel suit filed by Premier Management Enterprises and its principals Patrick LeBlanc, Michael LeBlanc and Ian Williamson against the San Antonio Express-News has been dismissed. In February 2006, Premier sued the Express-News and claimed the paper published two stories and one editorial on Premier's Texas jail contracts containing false and misleading statements. Both parties agreed to dismiss the suit with prejudice, preventing Premier from reviving the lawsuit at any time in the future. (Williamson no longer works for Premier.) As part of the agreement, the Express-News acknowledged three errors:

LCS Correction Services is not Premier's parent company.

Michael LeBlanc had no past legal problems at the time the articles were printed.

Charges against Patrick LeBlanc, Michael LeBlanc's brother, in connection with a charitable bingo operation on an American Indian reservation were dismissed. The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals later affirmed the dismissal.

During his recent failed bid for District 43 state representative, Patrick LeBlanc and his supporters waged an aggressive pushback campaign against local media outlets -- including The Independent Weekly and KVOL 1330 AM -- that reported on Premier's Texas contracts. Former Bexar County Sheriff Ralph Lopez pled no contest to three misdemeanor charges as a result of his dealings with Premier, which gave Lopez an all-expenses paid fishing and golfing trip to Costa Rica last year while it was being considered for the Bexar County jail commissary contract. Patrick LeBlanc and Premier have repeatedly denied any wrongdoing related to the contract.

by: Scott Jordan 10:58 AM

Appeals court says firefighters reneged on deal

In a case unrelated to the firefighter and police back pay suit, the Third Circuit Court of Appeal ruled yesterday that firefighters reneged on a deal with local government. The decision reverses a district court ruling that the arrangement violated state law.

In the so-called "trigger litigation" case, the court said the city of Lafayette had the right to revoke a pay raise given to firefighters after they failed to take voluntary step-up promotions in an effort to reduce overtime pay. In agreeing to the conditional pay plan in 2003, which gave firefighters bigger increases than voters had approved in a property tax millage, the firefighters said they would stop refusing temporary step-up promotions. This practice involves lower ranking firefighters accepting temporary promotions to replace a higher ranking colleague who is absent; the alternative is to pay overtime to an off-duty, equally ranking replacement.

The plan worked for about a year, until the council passed an ordinance giving firefighters an annual 2 percent pay raise and another that limited the number of days firefighters could exchange work with each other annually.

Firefighters responded by refusing the step ups, so the council passed an ordinance in early 2005 to invoke the conditional "trigger," which reverted pay to the level approved by voters, with a 2 percent annual increase. In essence, the "trigger" stripped the additional money that was part of the negotiated deal, and the firefighters filed suit a month later, claiming the 2 percent pay raise had established a new base rate.

"The court affirms the ability of parties to agree to a special pay plan which included a condition to ensure a reduction in overtime in order to fund the additional pay," said Lafayette City-Parish Attorney Pat Ottinger in a press release issued yesterday afternoon.

The ruling is unrelated to the victory fire and police workers won against local government over back pay, a multi-million-dollar judgment that's yet to be paid.

by: Leslie Turk 10:38 AM

State road projects get boost

The state will soon begin to see the benefit of a one-time infusion of $695 million toward road projects. DOTD is launching a slew of projects with the nonrecurring funds, appropriated out of the state surplus by the Legislature, and being careful to point out that the money is only chipping away its current $14 billion backlog of projects. Signs marking some of the construction sites will read, "Funded with a one-time surplus."

Acadiana projects benefiting from the surplus funds include the four-lane expansion of Verot School Road ($15-$20 million), now slated to be bid in June 2008; the recently started Ambassador Caffery South Parkway South to U.S. 90 ($13 million); the resurfacing of I-49 from I-10 to the St. Landry Parish line (S7.2 million); and the replacement of the road foundation and surface of La. 104 from Mamou to Oberlin Highway in Evangeline Parish ($4.1 million).

by: Nathan Stubbs 10:36 AM

Landrieu trolls for out-of-state contributions

Political fund-raising has become a full time art for politicians at a national level. The huge expense of running for office these days has created a niche for freelance fund-raising consultants. While they are experienced in garnering money from a national pool of largely partisan supporters, things can get sticky when politicos don't know personally where their money is coming from.

The Wall Street Journal has a story detailing how U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu's Washington, D.C. consultant, Tina Stoll, gave her the name of a democratic supporter, Norman Hsu. Hsu donated over $14,200 to the senator, and as much as $2 million overall to other Democrats such as Hillary Clinton, before being indicted for breaking fund-raising laws and cheating investors.

While the practice of trolling for funding nationally is problematic, it is clearly the trend of the future. The Wall Street Journal compared fund-raising in Landrieu's 2002 campaign with her 2008 bid for re-election:

In 2002, Sen. Landrieu's first re-election campaign, 54% of her contributions were from Louisiana. So far in this election cycle, 52% have come from out of state. For this cycle through September, the campaign has paid $150,000, including expenses, to Ms. Stoll's fund-raising consulting company, campaign-finance records show. Sen. Landrieu has raised $3.4 million, more than double what the two-term senator raised in the corresponding nine months of her prior re-election effort.

by: Mary Tutwiler 10:35 AM

The Ernest J. Gaines Award goes to ...

The Baton Rouge Area Foundation has announced the winner of the first annual Ernest J. Gaines Award for Literary Excellence. Olympia Vernon will receive $10,000 for her 2006 novel, A Killing In This Town. The award recognizes an African-American author who has published a full length work of fiction. Vernon's novel was selected from 29 entries submitted from across the country. Read this press release for more information.

by: R. Reese Fuller 9:26 AM

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Council passes long awaited "smart code"

It's been a decade since developers first proposed Lafayette's first Traditional Neighborhood development, River Ranch. Since that time, TNDs have become widely popular (two others are now in development in the parish) but "smart growth" neighborhoods, with mixed residential and commercial developments, narrow streets and zero lot lines, have remained a foreign concept when it came to Lafayette's Planning, Zoning and Codes Department. That changed last night when the council passed two ordinances standardizing Traditional Neighborhood Developments within the city's comprehensive zoning regulations. The new code will allow for the development of TNDs without a multitude of permit variances and waivers (more than 100 in the case of River Ranch).

The new "smart code" has been a priority for city-parish president Joey Durel, who has been pushing the issue for more than a year now. Commenting on the fact that several other smaller municipalities, such as Abbeville and Youngsville, had already passed smart code ordinances, Durel told The Independent in October, "We're going to have a TND ordinance by Dec. 31 or heads will spin… We've got communities in Lafayette Parish and all around Lafayette Parish and all around Louisiana that have adopted something. We should have had the easiest route to do it. It looks ridiculous, I'm embarrassed about it and I'm ashamed of it, and it will be done by Dec. 31." The new ordinances go into effect immediately upon Durel's signature.

by: Nathan Stubbs 10:55 AM

Michots at Crossroads

Catch more Michots than you can shake a stick at tonight at the Central School Theater in Lake Charles. Les Freres Michot and The Lost Bayou Ramblers take the stage tonight for Louisiana Crossroads. The show starts at 7 p.m. and will broadcast liven on KRVS 88.7 FM. Tomorrow night the show moves to Grant Street Dancehall in Lafayette. Call 233-7060 to charge tickets by phone or order online.

by: R. Reese Fuller 10:45 AM

UL may have new president tomorrow

It's highly likely the UL Board of Supervisors will decide tomorrow who will replace longtime UL Lafayette President Ray Authement. The board has called a special meeting to interview the three remaining candidates, a final round many view as a formality, believing Authement's successor was decided long ago.

The board meets at 1:30 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 6, in the Claiborne building at 1201 N. Third St. in Baton Rouge. Public interviews get under way at 1:45 p.m., beginning with Dr. Clilfford Stanley, CEO of Scholarship America, followed by UL Vice President of Academic Affairs Steve Landry and concluding with Commissioner of Higher Education T-Joe Savoie. The board can decide to vote immediately after the interviews or may delay the vote until Friday.

by: Leslie Turk 10:31 AM

Climate change predictions rain on Louisiana

Two new scientific reports on climate change published this week put Louisiana's forecast under a cloud. Environment America, a national advocacy group working to promulgate new laws that would help mitigate global warming, has released a report on precipitation data from 1948 to 2006. The analysis of the data shows that Louisiana, along with other states like Massachusetts, New York and Rhode Island have had a 50 percent increase in downpours or heavy snows over the last half-century. Baton Rouge was identified as a metropolitan area where the extreme precipitation doubled. The findings of increased rainfall, David Easterling, a scientist a the federal National Climatic Data Center told the New York Times, fit the predictions that global warming will cause storms to increase in intensity.

If you warm up the air, the air can hold more moisture. And the amount it increases is not linear; it goes up exponentially.

Global climate change induced rainfall is not the only threat to Louisiana. Yesterday, the Pew Center on Global Climate Change released a report citing the Gulf Coast as one of four national areas that will be impacted by climate change. The section on the Gulf Coast, authored by LSU professor Robert Twilley, looks at the causes of wetlands loss--water engineering, development, natural subsidence and rising seas due to global warming. He concludes by stating that "sea-level rise will continue for centuries after human-induced greenhouse gases are stabilized in the atmosphere," and calls for large scale coastal restoration projects "that would be sustainable against projected climate change through the 21st century."

by: Mary Tutwiler 10:29 AM

New Orleans' growing housing crunch

The Advancement Project says that on Dec. 15 demolition will begin on four of New Orleans' largest housing projects, including Lafitte, St. Bernard, C.J. Peete, and B.W. Cooper. The group says that the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development is spending $762 million to tear down over 4,600 public housing subsidized apartments and replace them with 744 similarly subsidized units, reducing public housing availability in New Orleans by 82 percent. The group says the city is in a major housing crisis, citing a growing homeless population, a shortage of rentals and FEMA's recent announcment to shutter trailer parks by May 2008. Read the entire press release or visit Advancement Project's Web site.

by: R. Reese Fuller 10:13 AM

Bleeding purple and gold

When Opelousas native and former LSU Tigers center John Ed Bradley's playing days ended in 1979, Bradley burned to be known as a writer, not an ex-football player. He pursued that goal relentlessly, and was hired by The Washington Post at the age of 24. He left home and went on to write six acclaimed novels, as well as write for GQ, Esquire and Sports Illustrated, covering the likes of NFL icons Donovan McNabb, Troy Aikman, Daunte Culpepper, Marshall Faulk and Archie and Peyton Manning. Along the way, he shut the door on his LSU career. He lost touch with all his former teammates and coaches and didn't want to dwell on his glory days with the purple and gold. But when his former coach Charlie McClendon was diagnosed with cancer, Bradley had to confront his past.

That set off a chain of events that led Bradley to return to Opelousas and write his stunning and poignant new memoir, It Never Rains in Tiger Stadium. "It's so weird to talk about all these things," Bradley tells Independent Weekly editor Scott Jordan in this week's cover story. "I never thought I would. I thought this was all behind me. Six years ago, had somebody told me that I'd be doing this and that I'd written this book, I would have said, no way."

The book has received rave reviews and recently landed at No. 3 on Amazon's list of the Top 10 sports books of 2007. Bradley signs copies of It Never Rains in Tiger Stadium at Books-a-Million in Lafayette this Friday, Dec. 7 at 6 p.m., and at Cypress City Antiques in Arnaudville on Friday, Dec. 14 at 5 p.m.

by: admin 9:49 AM

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Jindal No. 34 on Details' 50 Most Powerful list

Gov.-elect Bobby Jindal has clocked in at No. 34 on Details magazine's list of the 50 Most Powerful Men under the age of 45. While Jindal's in impressive company with the founders of Google, Apple's senior VP of industrial Design, a Harvard economics professor and more, elsewhere the list makes some dubious choices. Ranking ahead of Jindal are Zac Efron, Shia LaBoeuf, and the Disney Kids at No. 1; The founder of YouPorn at No. 14; the frontmen of country band Rascal Flatts at No. 18; Ellen Degeneres' almost-adopted dog at No. 29; and Barry Bonds at No. 33.

That said, here's Details' take on Jindal:

If you want to know whether — and when — the Republican Party will gird itself to regain control in Washington, keep your eye on Louisiana. This is where Bobby Jindal won the gubernatorial election in a landslide in October. "Republicans are spinning this as proof the Democratic wave has crested," says Jason Ralston, a partner at the D.C. political-consulting firm GMMB. "Over the next few years, you will see them put [Jindal] out front as a face of the party." The born-again Catholic son of Indian immigrants, Jindal screams New South even when he's holy-rolling at Pentecostal revivals and calling for hate-crime laws to be repealed. When he's inaugurated in January, he'll officially become the GOP's most effective PR tool, motivating major donors and the Beltway elite with the message that hope isn't lost for 2008.

by: Scott Jordan 10:27 AM

U.S. judge wants FEMA's plan for testing trailers

A federal judge in New Olreans has ordered the Federal Emergency Management Agency to show a plan for testing the air quality of its trailers that are still housing thousands of hurricane victims, the Associated Press reported this morning.

U.S. District Judge Kurt Engelhardt gave FEMA and its top administrator, David Paulison, until Dec. 17 to respond to court papers filed by a group of trailer occupants who are asking that the air testing begin immediately. "FEMA and Paulison shall, at the very least, set forth a detailed plan for testing the FEMA trailer units and, if necessary, for providing alternative housing for the trailer residents," he wrote in a two-page ruling last Thursday.

In early November, federal scientists were scheduled to begin testing trailers in Mississippi for levels of formaldehyde, a carcinogen that can cause respiratory problems. FEMA, however, postponed the tests, saying it needed more time to prepare -- but all the while was telling its own workers to stay out of the trailers.

by: Leslie Turk 10:20 AM

LUS accepts bids for fiber head-end facility

Lafayette Utilities System has accepted bids for construction of the head-end facility for its fiber-to-the-home telecommunications business. Fibrebond, out of Minden, La., will construct the 3,500 square-foot, prefabricated facility at a cost of $574,128.92, while a separate company, E.L. Habetz of Crowley will perform site work at an additional cost of $382, 800. The total bill of approximately $957,000 is well within LUS' $1.4 million budget for the facility. LUS recently re-bid the project as a smaller, prefabricated facility after original bids for a custom building came back more than 100 percent over budget.

The building, which will house the bulk of the system's receiving, processing and transmission equipment for its telecommunication services, will be located in an industrial park on Distribution Road, north of I-10 near Acadian Hills golf course. LUS Director Terry Huval says the building should now be ready for use by April, 2008. LUS plans to begin offering phone, cable, and high-speed Internet service to Lafayette city residents beginning in January, 2009.

by: Nathan Stubbs 10:16 AM

Jena Six plea bargain

On Monday, Mychal Bell, the most well known of the Jena Six, pleaded guilty to a charge of battery. Bell had originally been charged as an adult with attempted murder for his involvement in the attack on fellow Jena High School student Justin Barker. Bell pleaded guilty to a juvenile charge of second-degree battery and received an 18-month sentence, with credit for the 10 months he's already spent in jail. Read more from The Associated Press and The Town Talk.

by: R. Reese Fuller 9:53 AM

Susan Hester Edmunds retires from Iberia Parish Library

The Iberia Parish Library is holding a retirement party for Community Relations Director Susan Hester Edmunds on Thursday, Dec. 6. During the course of her 28 years at the library, Hester Edmunds has received the Governor's Award for Outstanding Promotion of the Arts, the Acadiana Arts Council Award in Recognition of Outstanding Contributions to Arts in Acadiana, and the American Library Association, Optimist International and Southeastern Library Association award for the Iberia Parish's Library System's summer workshop program, which she created.

The Iberia Parish Library is well known for being much more than a library. In the small town of New Iberia, the library hosts art exhibitions, literary readings, films, and summer workshops designed to attract older children who have outgrown story time. Hester Edmunds is the source of much of this activity, creating an open door atmosphere that welcomes suggestions from the community as well as generating hundreds of original ideas herself.

Hester Edmunds was working at the Daily Iberian in 1980, setting up the newspaper's morgue, when her husband, James Edmunds co-founded the Times of Acadiana. "I knew the publisher of the Daily Iberian would not particularly care to have as one of his employees, the wife of one of the founding editors of the Times. So I started looking for a job," she says. She was hired as a part-time community outreach, part-time reference desk employee, which quickly evolved into full time community relations. "I thought I'd be there for a couple of years," she says, "and here I am, 28 years later. It was so much fun and so rewarding I never wanted to leave. I had wonderful job offers from institutions I really respected, but I just was very very happy doing what I was doing here."

Hester Edmunds' interests tend towards the natural world. She has led workshops into the field to hunt for arrowheads, beachcomb, canoe, fish (drawing a protesting fish-costumed representative from PETA), track, take night hikes and learn survival skills. The outdoors has also come indoors--snakes, alligators, turtles, insects, even Alaskan sled dogs have visited the library. Kids learned everything from basket making and book binding to bread baking and chocolate desserts in her workshops.

Long before the revitalized interest in the arts generated activities such as Art Walk, the Iberia Parish Library was hosting art shows. Hester Edmunds says high points in her career as curator were hanging the work of native New Iberian and internationally renowned painter Robert Gordy, folk artist Clementine Hunter and landscape painter Elemore Morgan.

Her last show will be an exhibition of prints and handmade books by Caroline Garcia, who is currently studying for her masters degree in art at the Philadelphia University of the Arts. "It's kind of a full cycle way to end my career," Hester Edmunds says. "She was a workshop kid about a decade ago. She's someone I've kept up with. A lot of kids come back. It's one of the joys of this job."

Hester Edmunds says she'll take a little time off, before committing to a three-year naturalism course of study. "I'm going to start a course called Kamana, from an institution called the Wilderness Awareness Society located in Duval, Washington. So I'm going to be spending a great deal of time in the woods. And of course James and I will be traveling. And I'm going to slow down and savor the moment. That's one of my goals for retirement."

The retirement celebration will take place Thursday, Dec. 6, at the Main Library, 445 East Main St., New Iberia, from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. For more information call 364-7024.

by: Mary Tutwiler 9:10 AM

New Orleans' rental shortage

The New York Times estimates that New Orleans' homeless population has doubled since Hurricane Katrina and continues to grow. There's an increasing rental shortage, and rent has doubled since the storm. In part protest and part preservation, a camp of homeless residents has taken root in front of City Hall, with hundreds of residents, black and white, young and old.

More than two years after Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans is suffering from an acute shortage of housing that has nearly doubled the cost of rental units in the city, threatening the recovery of the region and the well-being of many residents who decided to return against the odds. Before the storm, more than half of the city's population rented housing. Yet official attention to help revive the shattered rental home and apartment market has been scant.

In some core middle- and lower-income areas, blighted dwellings stretch for blocks on end, and the city has been slow to come up with ideas for what to do with those that have been abandoned. Last week, the city housing authority approved the demolition of 4,000 public housing units at five projects damaged by the storm. In their place, the authority plans to build mixed-income projects, large parts of which will not be affordable to previous residents.

Although repairs are being made and more housing is available now than a year ago, demand is still outpacing supply. ...

Read "New Orleans Hurt by Acute Rental Shortage."

by: R. Reese Fuller 9:02 AM

Monday, December 03, 2007

LSU defies the odds

The national title game was supposed to be out of reach. Following LSU's Nov. 23 loss to archrival Arkansas, sports analysts and reporters across the country proclaimed that the Razorbacks had put an end to LSU's title aspirations. The Web site Accuscore, which tabulates game probabilities and betting lines, had LSU's chances of making the BCS Championship game at 1.4 percent, based on calculations of all the things that would have to go in the Tigers favor. Ticketreseverve.com, which sells options to buy bowl tickets based on a team's chance of making the game, dropped LSU's championship ticket options to $15 following the Arkansas loss. Today, those options are hovering around $700.

Yesterday, the BCS announced that LSU will play Ohio State in the national title game in New Orleans on Jan. 7. The improbable rebirth of LSU's title hopes came as a result of LSU's win over Tennessee in the SEC title game, coupled with Oklahoma's defeat over No.1-ranked Missouri and Pittsburgh's huge upset over No.2 West Virginia. It was the latest surprise twist in what has already been one of the wildest season's in college football history. Saturday's games represented the third time this season that both the No.1 and No.2 team lost in the same week. The final games promise to be just as exciting. If LSU manages to win the national title, it may well become the first team in college football history to rise to a No.1 ranking three separate times in the same season.

by: Nathan Stubbs 11:16 AM

Lourdes, Heart Hospital join forces

Our Lady of Lourdes Regional Medical Center and the Heart Hospital of Lafayette will announce their plan to join forces at a 2 p.m. press conference. A Lourdes spokeswoman would not disclose details about how the deal will be structured, along with potential plans for consolidating some services at a single facility, before this afternoon's announcement.

In April, Lourdes purchased a 45-acre tract near the intersection of Ambassador Caffery Parkway and Verot School Road for $14 million. The not-for-profit community hospital is planning to relocate most of its services to the new site. A couple of months before that, the physician-owners of the for-profit Heart Hospital signed a letter of intent to buy out their North Carolina-based partner, MedCath Corp., but the deal soon began to crumble. The physicians then rekindled

Brad Pitt to "Make it Right" in NOLA

Movie star Brad Pitt will hold a press conference today to announce his "Make it Right" project, a plan to build more than 100 affordable and ecologically sound homes in New Orleans' Lower 9th Ward. The Times-Picayune reports that Pitt's project includes "a vast public art display to be unveiled today as a fundraiser to expand the project beyond its initial goal of 150 homes, and possibly into other neighborhoods and parishes."

Yesterday, The Times-Pic published a preview of the display and a rather seething interview with Pitt:

At the center of a buzzing construction zone in the heart of the worst-ravaged corner of the Lower 9th Ward, movie megastar Brad Pitt took a break Sunday afternoon to imagine the future.

Strewn around him a half-mile in every direction were hundreds of enormous pink blocks, 8-foot-high boxes and huge triangular wedges, representing the uprooted foundations and dislocated roofs that littered the area beside the Industrial Canal for months after Hurricane Katrina.

"Right now there are scattered blocks, like they were scattered by fate's hand, symbolic of the aftermath of the storm," Pitt said as crews installed more of the metal-and-tarp structures. "But we will be flipping the homes, essentially righting the wrong." ...

To learn more about Make It Right or to make a donation, visit www.makeitrightnola.org.

by: R. Reese Fuller 10:28 AM

UL's not-so-subtle "landlocked" press release

UL President Ray Authement certainly acted quickly. For at least the second time this year, he issued a "landlocked" press release -- this one dated Wednesday, Nov. 28, the day after attorney Jimmy Davidson successfully rezoned a portion of his Girard Park Drive property for commercial use. It's the same property that was part of the failed horse farm land-swap deal, the Girard Park Drive acreage initially valued at $3.25 million but shown to be worth only $1.25 million after the state ordered a new appraisal. The new commercial classification, however, makes it more valuable today.

Titled "Large Enrollment, Not Much Room for Growth," with the subhead, "UL Lafayette second to smallest main academic campus in acres in UL System," Wednesday's release again made the case for why UL needs more property. "The university needs to acquire land close to campus to make room for expansion," the release reads. "Constructing academic buildings away from the main campus creates major inconveniences for students and operating a transportation system is proving to be expensive. The cost of labor, buses and fuel is a financial burden on the university."

Look for Authement to strike a new deal in the very near future -- one that will have the university buying 4.1 acres on Girard Park Drive.

by: Leslie Turk 10:19 AM

Trace Adkins' geography lesson

Country music singer Trace Adkins was born in the north Louisiana town of Sarepta, about ten miles from the Arkansas border. In his recently published biography, A Personal Stand: Observations and Opinions from a Freethinking Roughneck, Adkins writes about growing up in the small town of 900 people and offers a perplexing overview of Louisiana. He writes:

Geographically and culturally, Louisiana can be cut up into three different slices. The northwest corner of the state is a North Texas-type environment where the economy is based on oil, timber and cattle. Northeast Louisiana is river bottom, a lot like Mississippi and southeastern Arkansas, with lots of farming and agriculture. Southern Louisiana is Cajun-influenced, with cities like New Orleans, New Iberia, Lafayette, Lake Charles and Baton Rouge. (Other Louisiana natives may disagree, but don't pay any attention to them.)

by: R. Reese Fuller 9:39 AM

Davis, Hebert testify to Acadiana's response to hurricane evacuees

Senator Mary Landrieu will hold a hearing on host communities that take in victims of major disasters and catastrophes at the Old State Capitol Building in Baton Rouge at 2 p.m. this afternoon. Landrieu is chairman of the Senate Homeland Security Subcommittee on Disaster Recovery. At the hearing, titled "Host Communities: Analyzing the Role and Needs of Communities That Take in Disaster Evacuees in the Wake of Major Disasters and Catastrophes," local witnesses will testify about how their communities accommodated evacuees following Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. The witness list includes Baton Rouge Mayor Kip Holden, Lake Charles Mayor Randy Roach, Iberia Parish Sheriff Sid Hebert and Cajundome Commissioner Greg Davis.

by: Mary Tutwiler 9:38 AM