News Briefs

UL lawsuit update, Louisiana's Road Home and more


Last week UL Lafayette officials confirmed to The Daily Advertiser that the deal to trade 36 acres of the university's Johnston Street horse farm for 4 acres of attorney Jimmy Davidson's family property has been called off, but they maintain that the university is still interested in buying Davidson's Girard Park Drive property. In a lawsuit filed June 30, The Independent Weekly is seeking access to the most recent appraisal of Davidson's property, contending it is a matter of public record ' like the others before it that were willingly released by the university in connection with the proposed land exchange ("The Independent Weekly Sues Ray Authement's Office," July 5). Local developers Jerry Brents and Dan Menard of BRE-ARD LLC had hoped to buy the Davidson land and swap it for the university's Johnston Street property, where they planned to develop a retail center if the university could successfully rezone the acreage. Both properties were valued at $3.25 million, according to initial appraisals, but a subsequent appraisal of the horse farm as commercial land revealed a $2 million increase in value, prompting the Board of Supervisors for the UL System in December to demand independent appraisals of both tracts.

Only the Davidson land has been reappraised.

In denying The Independent's public record request, UL President Ray Authement's office claims the latest Davidson appraisal was conducted in anticipation of litigation ' none of which exists or is expected by the university.

As of press time Monday, The Independent Weekly had not heard from Authement regarding the lawsuit; his office has until July 25 to respond. ' Leslie Turk


Last week the federal government approved a $4.2 billion infusion of HUD funding for the state's "Road Home" program, designed to help Louisiana victims of hurricanes Katrina and Rita. The funding will provide up to $150,000 to cover residents' uninsured losses to either repair or sell their houses. In order to help homeowners decide how and where to rebuild, Louisiana Speaks, a long-term planning initiative of the Louisiana Recovery Authority, just released Louisiana Speaks: Pattern Book. The free publication was created to provide guidance and tools for homeowners and builders.

The pattern book is a result of the series of planning meetings with Louisiana residents affected by the storms. From November through March, the architecture and urban planning firm of Duany Plater-Zyberk conducted a series of charrettes in Lake Charles, Abbeville, Erath, Delcambre, and St. Bernard Parish to determine long-range planning tools for three distinctly different urban environments.

The pattern book begins with an overview of the southern part of the state, outlining regional location by taking into consideration climate, soil type, building code and flood plain elevation. A second tier examines community and neighbourhood patterns. The third step zooms in on appropriate building types for sites, with detailed discussion of architectural style.

The pattern book is distributed in Acadiana at local Lowe's and Stine Lumber stores. It is also available online at as a PDF download. For more information, call Louisiana Speaks at (877) 387-6126. ' Mary Tutwiler


With the legislative session adjourned and the great veto saga behind us, the election season can start to stretch its legs and poke at voters. The mudslinging and spinning started last week in the two statewide races up for grabs this fall. In the secretary of state contest, Democratic state Sen. Francis Heitmeier of New Orleans jumped into the fray with a $800,000 war chest to challenge well-funded Republicans Mike Francis and state Sen. Jay Dardenne from Baton Rouge. Francis, a former state GOP chairman from Crowley, picked up an endorsement from U.S. Sen. John McCain of Arizona, who is considered a front-runner for the 2008 presidential election. It's an indication that the race could have some national interest ' or that McCain did a serious favor for a party loyalist. In the insurance commissioner's race, state Sen. James David Cain, a Dry Creek Republican, revealed he's willing to attack early and often against incumbent and fellow Republican Jim Donelon. During a speech in New Orleans, Cain said his opponent had a "remarkable lack of common sense" and questioned several of his decisions from the regular session.

' Jeremy Alford


When Gov. Kathleen Blanco vetoed legislation last week that would have amended cable franchise guidelines to allow more competition for consumers, opponents pounced by circulated an old opinion by the state Ethics Board from November. The opinion allowed Cox Communications to hire the governor's daughter, Karmen Blanco, to work in the Lafayette outreach office as long as she didn't conduct business with her mother. Blanco says she vetoed the legislation because it could have had a negative impact on local governments, which would have been prohibited from negotiating prices with the provider. ' JA


The public outrage over the so-called pork projects in this year's state budget was largely prompted by a detailed ' and widely circulated ' list of how much each line item would cost and who would get it. It was picked up by newspapers and broadcasting affiliates, and slammed by radio talk show hosts and statewide elected officials. But some of the budget's pork wasn't so easy to find. Senators say they were each given roughly $100,000 to $150,000 in "discretionary money" to use how they pleased in the budget. And many times, the money inserted didn't look like a pork project, because it was built into an existing part of the budget through an amendment that only listed an amount change. For instance, Democratic Sens. Reggie Dupre and Butch Gautreaux say they used their money to bolster nursing classrooms at the L.E. Fletcher Technical Community College. That line item addition was simply listed in that institution's portion of the budget, rather than alone in the pork section or elsewhere for the world to see. Now lawmakers just need to find an appropriate home for the specialty lights they buy each year for the Christmas parade in Natchitoches. ' JA


The same company that designs guitars for Neil Young and Merle Haggard has put its designers to work on a special piece commemorating Katrina and Rita. Until the end of September, Taylor Guitars is offering most of its guitars with a peghead bearing the fleur-de-lis inlaid in mother-of-pearl. The "Taylor Guitars for the Gulf" program is prepared to send up to $25,000 from proceeds to the Tipitina's Foundation, which is dedicated both to helping artists recover and preserving cultural traditions. For more, go to ' JA