News Briefs

Louisiana's feuding senators, Blanco's recovery committee and Wilma!


Sen. David Vitter was apparently in a joking mood last Wednesday during a speech at a Lafayette Parish Republican Executive Committee luncheon at the Lafayette Federal Courthouse. When state party treasurer Charlie Buckels congratulated Vitter for the senator's post-hurricane efforts for Louisiana, Vitter referenced the work of state officials and said, "It's easy to look like a giant in a land of pygmies." When another audience member asked about the efforts of Gov. Kathleen Blanco, Vitter replied, "If you give me a recall petition, I'll sign it." He later downplayed both statements to The Advocate and said they were jokes.

His remarks were the latest in a string of comments by Louisiana politicians that underscore the dysfunctional relationships between top local and state officials. Just the previous week, Vitter and Sen. Landrieu openly sparred on the Senate floor over loan requirements for Louisiana's $750 million aid package, refusing to yield time to each other and derisively referring to each other as the "senior senator" and "junior senator."

Meanwhile, in an editorial board meeting with The Advocate last Thursday, New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin admitted his relationship with Blanco is severely strained. "We have very different styles," Nagin said of Blanco. "I'm really at a loss for what else to do."

With state employee layoffs expected in the near future and Blanco and Nagin's announcement of separate committees to steer rebuilding efforts, all eyes will be on the post-hurricane special session called by Blanco that begins Nov. 6. If more signs of harmony aren't shown during that session, federal officials will continue to cast a doubtful eye on Louisiana's ability to manage hurricane relief funds. ' Scott Jordan


On Monday, Gov. Kathleen Blanco announced the formation of the Louisiana Recovery Authority and its 23-member board of directors. Blanco is asking the committee to oversee the rebuilding of Louisiana in the wake of hurricanes Katrina and Rita and develop a 30-day, as well as a five year-plan, to help the state address the pressing issues of housing, health care, employment, transportation and education. The two Acadiana residents serving on the panel are UL Lafayette's John T. Landry and Stuller Inc.'s founder and CEO Matt Stuller. Blanco asked the group to put aside the differences in politics, race and religion that have mired Louisiana's progress in the past. "We can succeed only if we put aside politics and partisanship," Blanco said.  ' R. Reese Fuller


At press time Monday, tropical storm Wilma was expected to develop into a major hurricane that could possibly affect the Gulf Coast later this week. It's the 21st named storm of the 2005 hurricane season, tying the record for busiest hurricane season set in 1933.

Reuters reported that forecast models for Wilma varied wildly, with some storm tracks taking it as far west as Mexico and other plots taking it toward the Florida panhandle. One thing's for sure: in the next few days, Louisiana residents will once again be watching the Weather Channel and monitoring weather Web sites with an uneasy feeling.

And hurricane season doesn't officially end until Nov. 30. ' Scott Jordan