News Briefs

Raising teachers' pay with sins, IceGators gone, In defense of the poor and more ...


Gov. Kathleen Blanco is counting on Louisiana taxpayers to keep on smoking, drinking and gambling ' all for the betterment of Louisiana's teachers. Under Blanco's new proposal, the "sin tax" on cigarettes, alcohol and video poker could drum up as much as $120 million to fund raises for the state's teachers. The cigarette tax (an additional 50 cents per pack) could generate $88 million alone. The current Louisiana tax of 36 cents a pack is one of the lowest tobacco tax rates in the nation. The funds generated could account for at least $1,000 annual increases for Louisiana's teachers, as well as college professors and school support staffs. Blanco is expected to face challenges from the alcohol and gaming industries as well as teachers unions that have stated the pay raises aren't nearly enough. Both the Louisiana Federation of Teachers and the Louisiana Association of Educators are calling for pay raises of at least $2,000. ' RRF


Former St. Martinville Councilwoman Pam Thibodeaux pled guilty last week to voter fraud ("Council Controversy," April 13). Thibodeaux had already resigned from her seat a week earlier amid pending federal charges of falsifying information on voter registration cards during the 2002 election. After her resignation ' and until a new election can be held to replace her seat ' Mayor Eric Martin appointed Dennis Paul Williams, a local artist and zydeco musician, to replace Thibodeaux. No sentencing date has been set, but Thibodeaux could face up to five years in prison on the charges. ' RRF


This past Saturday morning, in the back parking lot of the Cajundome along Congress Street, the Louisiana IceGators sold off the team's hockey equipment ' sticks, helmets and pads ' as well as the team's warm-up jersey's from the past season. The 10-year-old East Coast Hockey League team once broke attendance records with more than 11,000 fans attending games at the "frozen swamp." But early enthusiasm for the team waned throughout the years, and attendance numbers dwindled. At their last game, with more than 4,000 fans in attendance, the IceGators went out with a bang, with a 5-3 victory against the Texas Wildcatters, but the Gators missed the playoffs for the first time in the team's 10-year existence. ' RRF


Ernest J. Gaines, UL Lafayette's writer-in-residence emeritus, will give a reading on Saturday. Gaines, author of acclaimed novels such as A Gathering of Old Men and A Lesson Before Dying, will read from his forthcoming book, Mozart and Leadbelly: Stories and Essays, which is slated for publication by Alfred A. Knopf in October. (The book was compiled and edited by UL English professors Marcia Gaudet and Reggie Young.) The reading, part of the Deep South Festival of Writers Series on Music and Writing, will be held at the Paul and Lulu Hilliard University Art Museum on Saturday, April 23, at 3:30 p.m. For more information, call 482-2278 or visit ' RRF


A recent Louisiana Supreme Court decision is making national headlines. National Public Radio recently examined how Louisiana provides a legal defense for its poor citizens on trial, and the Washington Post wrote: "Louisiana's system for funding indigent defense is perhaps the country's most bizarre. The bulk of money in each parish, or county, comes from court fees, in most cases local traffic enforcement. So some jurisdictions simply run out of money to pay attorneys." The state Supreme Court ruled that securing funds for defending the poor was not a judicial matter, but a legislative one, and that if there isn't enough money to provide a defense for the indigent, then it's unconstitutional to put them on trial. ' RRF


As first reported in The Independent Weekly in 2004, Books-A-Million is constructing a $3.1 million store on a parcel of land at the corner of Ambassador Caffery Parkway and Kaliste Saloom Road. Tucked away in Lafayette's Acadiana Square Shopping Center (across from the Mall of Acadiana) since 1994, Books-A-Million plans to move into its new 18,000-square-foot building in late August, says Jeff Skipper, a spokesman for the Birmingham-based chain. The new store is roughly the same size as the existing one, according to Skipper. The bookstore is leasing the property from Weingarten Realty, which owns the Super Target shopping center. Within two years of Books-A-Million entering the Lafayette market, Barnes & Noble came to town with a free-standing 30,000 square foot store just across the street from its chief competitor. Though the new Books-A-Million is still smaller than Barnes & Noble, the prime spot gives Books optimal exposure in one of the busiest corridors in the city. "This site has been carefully selected in hopes of developing a convenient alternative for book lovers in Lafayette," Skipper says. "Lafayette is a competitive market, but its residents have long been supportive of Books-A-Million." The store will carry more than 1,000 titles and will feature a Joe Muggs Café, much like the existing location. ' LT


The Daily Advertiser added another embarrassing error to its hall of shame in its April 12 edition. In the lead sentence of a front-page story that day, the Advertiser wrote, "The fear of lawsuits from the American Civil Liberties Union has prompted the Boy Scouts of America to advise all pubic institutions â?¦" ' SJ