Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Louisiana Democratic Party Chairman Being Challenged?

The leadership in the Louisiana Democratic Party has recently become as relevant as the leadership of the state Libertarian Party. No offense to Libertarians, but more of a sad reflection in how far the Democrat leadership has fallen in Louisiana.

The state’s chairman, Chris Whittington, has been the best friend of state Republicans, especially in 2007 with his attempt to create religion during the Louisiana Governor’s race.

Opponents gauge support for La. Democratic chief

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Opponents of Louisiana Democratic Party chairman Chris Whittington are circulating a questionnaire to members of the party's governing committee, an attempt to gauge whether Whittington is vulnerable enough to be replaced.

Whittington, elected to a four-year term as chairman last year, has come under fire as the party suffered losses in last year's congressional races and in 2007 statewide elections. Whittington's most powerful supporter in his 2008 win, then-Agriculture Commissioner
Bob Odom, is no longer in office.

But Whittington said on Wednesday that he's secure in his job. He called the questionnaire "bogus."

Committed Democrats in Louisiana are likely hoping Whittington can by ousted, while Republicans should be praying for a continuance of her reign as state chairman.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Acadia, Iberia, Lafayette & Vermilion Parishes Not Implementing “Career” Diploma

With school starting next week, the Lafayette Parish School System is one of 39 school districts attempting to opt out of a new "career diploma" program. The state Legislature this year passed a law aimed at reducing the dropout rate that calls for high schools to offer students an alternative degree that focuses more on career and technical training. The bill was derided in some education circles as a watering down of academic standards and expectations. State Superintendent Paul Pastorek called it a "dummy diploma."

This is very interesting that Governor Jindal’s Superintendent, Paul Pastorek, does not like the bill, however, the career diploma legislation, pushed in the state legislature by
Rep. Jim Fannin (D-Jonesboro) and Sen. Bob Kostelka (R-Monroe), received rave reviews and support from the Governor’s Administration.

The following school boards in the Acadiana region have thus far voted against implementing the career diploma program:

St. Mary – fall semester

Thursday, August 6, 2009

SafeSpeed Ruled Legal; Iberia Parish Considering Same Program

A district judge has ruled that Lafayette's SafeLight and SafeSpeed programs are legal and has dismissed a lawsuit arguing that they violated state law.

Judge Glennon Everett found that the Lafayette Consolidated Government ordinances regarding both programs "are not in conflict with state law, but are additional legislation assessing civil penalties which are consistent with state law," according to a news release from City-Parish Attorney Pat Ottinger.

"I find the SafeSpeed and SafeLight ordinances are constitutional in all other respects and procedural due process is satisfied, as sufficient notice is provided to a vehicle owner and that owner is afforded the right to contest the imposition of the civil penalty," Everett continued.

The ruling comes about three weeks after a hearing in the case, brought by residents Stephanie Ware and Phil Abshire. The suit argued that the programs violate constitutional rights, state law and parts of the Louisiana Highway Regulatory Act. A similar suit had been filed by the same plaintiffs in federal court, but both had opted to withdraw it after a judge recommend it be dismissed.

During that hearing, Everett raised questions about the process by which vehicle owners can contest a violation and how violation notices are tracked once they are mailed. But the judge also declined to make a ruling at that time, saying he needed more time to review the issues.

And this week, a story came out that Iberia Parish officials are considering implementing the SafeSpeed/SafeLight programs in their parish.

Iberia Parish could become the latest area in Louisiana where vans are used to take photos of speeders and civil violation notices are sent to the owners of those vehicles.

Parish council members are scheduled to discuss such a program during their Wednesday meeting. In general, municipalities contract with a private company, which uses vans manned with operators to monitor traffic. A photo is taken if the van's equipment detects a vehicle speeding, and a violation notice is sent to the owner, who then must pay a fine or contest the violation.

Councilman John Berard said he believes such a program would allow sheriff's deputies to focus on other crimes rather than concentrating so much of their efforts on traffic enforcement.

However, Sheriff Louis Ackal, who has done an excellent job in combating crime in the parish since being elected two years ago, is completely opposed to the program.

"I just feel like it circumvents the judicial process," Ackal said. "You take a misdemeanor and convert it to a civil violation. You have some issues, as far as I'm concerned. You have no idea who is sitting in the van and taking a picture.

"I don't see any need for it. They are only effective in the one area where they are. We're having to move people constantly where the problems are. All this van does ... it's a money-making machine for somebody. I'm not sold on it."

Last year,
New Iberia City Council members put discussions of red lights cameras and speed vans on hold, as many residents and Ackal spoke out against the traffic/revenue program.

Supporters of the program cite that the presence of the vans and cameras helps improve driving behavior, as well as free up police officers to fight other criminal issues.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

More Lafayette Parish Tax Dollars to NGOs?

Lafayette Parish Councilman William Theriot failed last month in an attempt to phase out parish expenditures to non-government organizations (NGOs) over a three year period.

During the debate, it was estimated by media and government officials that parish appropriations to NGOs total “only” about $500k per year.

But now, it appears an extra NGO, not previously discussed, has been approved to receive over $350k in parish funding.

Some residents near a proposed housing development raised questions about the notification process for such projects during Tuesday's City-Parish Council meeting.

The council ultimately agreed to allow the Zydeco Community Housing Development Organization, as well as three other groups, to receive the funds. Councilman Kenneth Boudreaux recused himself from the vote and Councilman William Theriot voted against the measure.

The Zydeco CHDO will receive $356,847 to acquire and develop land on which it plans to build about 28 single-family homes for low- to moderate-income families. The project is located along Louisiana Avenue, and nearby resident Alton Trahan said he and other residents only recently learned that a development was planned there.

So now it appears the price tag of taxpayer dollars going to non-government organizations this year will total at least $850,000 this year. How many more NOGs are going to pop up, separate form the usual NGO funding request process?

Councilman Theriot was the only parish councilman out of the 9 to vote against this appropriation, meanwhile, Councilman Kenneth Boudreaux, according to the above linked article, “recused” himself from voting.

Some speculate around town if Councilman Boudreaux is receiving monetary gifts from Zydeco CHDO and did not want any connection to the vote.

Lafayette Chamber of Commerce Ignoring Local Businesses?

LETTER: Chamber should define what 'local' really is

You cannot serve two masters. The Greater Lafayette Chamber of Commerce has partnered with Office Depot, a big- box chain, claiming “local” because it has invested in a local location.

The chamber has bought into this hijacking of the term “local” and it has lent its support to this out-of-town corporation.

Studies show that 87 percent of the money taken in by the chains evacuates our local economy to feed their home office, and never returns.

Entrusted to be stewards of our economy, the chamber chose instead to sacrifice that trust for selfish, self-promotion that their membership fee is worth the investment. They chose to serve their own selfish interest by sacrificing local-owned businesses and injuring our community’s sustainability.

The chamber is simply a lobby group to leverage political influence. They again prove their intention is not to serve our small, locally owned businesses.

Kerry DesHotels
Alliance Director
BuyLocal! A Business Express project