Thursday, February 28, 2013

EJ, West Jeff Hospitals Could Be Privatized Without Any Public Input Under Plan Touted By Sheriff Normand

East Jefferson General Hospital and West Jefferson Medical Center, Jefferson Parish’s two publicly-owned hospitals, could be leased to a private partnership without any public input or a vote under a plan that is being promoted by Jefferson Parish Sheriff Newell Normand. Normand is also the Chairman of the EJGH Board.

The two hospitals were built with public money, however they have operated independently and have not needed additional Parish support to continue operating.
Normand doesn’t want a public vote claiming that a vote could weaken the Hospitals bargaining positions.

A vote would also face significant public criticism and likely defeat.
Normand is seeking a state legislator to change a 2001 law that applies only to EJGH and West Jeff. The law, Louisiana Revised Statute 49.1064.2 states, “The hospital service district shall sell or lease the hospital only if the proposed sale or lease is approved by a majority of the qualified electors of the hospital service district voting on the proposition at an election held for that purpose and conducted in accordance with the Louisiana Election Code.”

The Jefferson Parish Council voted Wednesday to approve a resolution asking local legislators to “amend and/or revise LA R.S. 46.1064.2” without disclosing publicly what the Revised Statute said or the need for its amendment or revision. provides more details here.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

JPAS Responds To Critical Audit

After the release to the media of a draft audit that was critical of the Jefferson Performing Arts Society, JPAS Founder, Executive and Artistic Director Dennis Assaf has issued a response.

The audit, which is not final, was done at the request of Jefferson Parish. The Parish implemented a policy requiring financial audits for groups that receive Parish funding.
JPAS receives $100,000 of its $2 Million annual budget from Jefferson Parish in on-going funding. In addition, this year due to Governor Jindal vetoing a state-funding mechanism of $325,000 annually, JPAS asked Jefferson Parish to provide it with emergency funding as a one-time replacement for the lost funding. About 2/3rds of the JPAS annual budget comes from ticket sales, sponsorships, and other self-generated revenue streams.

In light of the audit, Jefferson Parish President John Young put a temporary hold on the delivery of the emergency funding to JPAS.

The audit offers several suggestions for the organization to provide stronger accounting and bookkeeping procedures but it contains no evidence of fraud.
In an 11-page letter, delivered to Parish PresidentYoung and several JP Council members, Assaf lists the findings of the audit and steps that JPAS has taken to correct issues discussed in the audit.

For his part, Assaf acknowledges that financial recordkeeping and procedures could be improved and he states that policies and procedures have already been implemented to achieve the recommendations of the audit.
“While we acknowledge that record keeping has not been optimal, we commit to improving the issues which were addressed in the draft audit report and continuing to provide quality programming for the local community as well as instilling in the children of this community a love and appreciation for the arts,” Assaf writes.

“Management and Board representatives met informally with  the auditor on January 9, 2013 and began  immediate  implementation of many of the recommendations and best practices suggested. In addition, we have created and implemented a written accounting and financial policies and procedures manual which addresses the specific concerns expressed in the draft report.  We intend to continue to build upon this manual as policy needs arise.”

JPAS was founded 35 years ago by Assaf and Hannah Cunningham. Last year, JPAS held over 200 performances in 12 theatres, 8 cities, and 5 parishes in Louisiana and Mississippi.

Assaf also appeared on Monday afternoon's edition of the John Osterlind Show on WRNO 99.5fm.

Kenner Mayor Begins Constituent “Listening Sessions” By Showing Up Late

One year before his re-election campaign, and as part of his “2030 Vision”, Kenner Mayor Mike Yenni began a series of “Listening Sessions”. Showing his true concern for hearing his constituents, the Mayor showed up over 30 minutes late to his own 1 hour meeting.

The Mayor was at a political endorsement meeting in Harahan.
Those in attendance, split about 50/50 between members of the public and City of Kenner employees, were led through a list of Kenner’s “Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats” (SWOT) compiled by the Mayor’s Economic Development Committee through a survey of their members, elected officials and the public.

The public was invited to choose from among several preselected answers to rank Kenner’s SWOT. According to the survey, here’s a breakdown of the results:
Kenner’s Strengths

-          Airport

-          Recreation

-          Public Safety

-          Convenience

-          Affordability

-          Entertainment

Kenner’s Weaknesses

-          Street aesthetics

-          Quality of schools

-          Job scarcity

-          Condition of commercial properties

-          Residential aesthetics

Kenner’s Opportunities

-          River and lake frontage

-          Airport

-          Esplanade Mall

-          “Boutique City” transformation (Obviously a "planted" answer as I don't think any Kenner residents would describe Kenner as a "Boutique City")

-          Redevelop blight

-          Corridor redevelopment

-          Redevelop Airport “Buy-out” properties

-          Improve Public Education

Kenner’s Threats

-          Negative perception

-          Inability to attract new generation

-          Disinvestment

-          Blight

-          Vacant commercial properties

-          Loss of major employers

It was obvious that the public did not like the preselected category answers as “Other” was the highest ranking option for each of the four categories.
After the presentation, Moderator Dominick Impastato III, an attorney and member of the Mayor’s Economic Development Committee, asked the audience if the committee had missed any possible options.

Questions and comments ranged included:
      -          The aesthetics on Williams Blvd.

-          Code enforcement, specifically “selective” code enforcement, the need for increased enforcement and enforcement on rental properties.

-          Kenner’s embrace of “Smart Growth” while other cities are rejecting this plan

-          Increasing entrepreneurship, small business opportunities and making Kenner more business friendly

-          Why Kenner is not participating in the “Pump To The River” program to help drain South Kenner after a storm or heavy rain

-          The high rate of teen unemployment
Members of the Mayor’s Administration were on hand to discuss issues raised by the audience.
Code Enforcement Director Tamithia Shaw described the complaint process and the steps that the city goes through before it can take corrective action on a residence.

Moderator Impastato also interjected that one of Kenner's Weaknesses and an Opportunity was to improve the political climate through "better collaboration and cooperation" between the Mayor and the City Council.

Of course, Impastato failed to note that Mayor Yenni is not the "King of Collaboration and Cooperation" either.

Where was the Mayor's "Collaboration and Cooperation" when he unilaterally renewed the Ramelli trash contract without any input from the council or the public and didn't even announce the renewal until it was disclosed by the media 6 months after the Mayor signed it?

Where was the Mayor's "Collaboration and Cooperation" when he fought the Council and the public when the Council proposed changing the City's charter to allow for Council review and public hearing on contracts valued at $100,000 and over that were previously signed off on by the Mayor without any input?

Where was the Mayor's "Collaboration and Cooperation" when he tried to double property taxes and wanted to close playgrounds so he could balance the budget without cutting any of his political appointees or their lucrative cell phone and auto allowances?

The Mayor’s Office is planning more such “Listening Sessions” in the future although none have been scheduled at this time.
As for me, I appreaciate that the Council doesn't always cooperate with the Mayor. In fact, I think this Council perhaps collaborates and cooperates too much with Mayor Yenni.
Dissent is not always a bad thing. Without citizen dissent, we would still be subjects of the Queen, and I'm not referring to Michelle Obama.
Hopefully, when the next meetings are scheduled, Mayor Yenni won’t have another candidate that he needs to endorse.


Kenner Mayor, Council Don’t ‘Shop Kenner First’; Give $100k Contract To Mississippi Firm Over $87.00

Last Thursday’s Kenner City Council meeting featured an interesting discussion regarding a seemingly innocuous contract for generator maintenance.

The two-year contract for preventative maintenance and service for the City’s 49 emergency generators drew criticism from local activist Jack Zewe when it was given to Taylor Power Systems of Richland, Mississippi, over the 2nd lowest bidder, Cummins Mid-South of Kenner. The monetary difference in the bids between the two companies was $87.00 and the contract is for two-years at an amount not to exceed $100,000 per year.
The contract was submitted to several companies to bid on with bids ranging from $49,900 - $176,000. Taylor bid $49,900 while Cummins bid $49,987.

While the “sealed” bid won by Taylor stated a fixed cost of $49,900, the actual legislation says “in an amount not to exceed $100,000 per year”, so, it is possible that Taylor could earn more than twice the amount that they bid.
Ironically, 27 of the 49 generators covered in this contract are from Cummins, many still under their factory warranty, and Taylor currently does not have any factory-trained technicians certified to maintain Cummins generators. Servicing the generators with a non-factory certified technician will void those warranties.

Taylor has held a formerly no-bid contract with the City of Kenner for the past several years to maintain generators.
Like Taylor, Cummins is also an established company. Cummins has contracts with several municipalities.

Zewe contended that Taylor did not possess two technical requirements listed in the bid including:
-          A Louisiana State Contractor’s License

-          An Electrical License within the City of Kenner

According to Zewe, those factors alone should have resulted in Taylor’s bid being thrown out as “non-responsive”.
The City of Kenner’s bid information states:

“A Louisiana state contractor’s license will be required in accordance with LSA-R.S. 37:2150 et seq. Bidders must write their Louisiana state contractor’s license number on the outside of the bid envelope prior to bid submission for public works construction projects estimated at $50,000.00 and above. Failure to mark the outside of the envelope with your state contractor’s license will cause your bid to be immediately rejected as being non-responsive.”
While this contract was bid through Public Works, it is a maintenance contract and not a construction project and, technically may not fall under that bid requirement.

Kenner CAO Mike Quigley partially addressed the license issue saying that Claude Chauvin, a Taylor representative, “has given us all Electrical licenses and so there is absolutely no concern in regards to licensing at all.”
Mr. Quigley did not discuss Zewe’s claim regarding the lack of a Louisiana State Contractor’s License or if Taylor had the required licenses before submitting the bid or while the company has had other contracts with the City.

However, since there was such a nominal difference in price, it would stand to reason that Kenner would give preference to a local, Kenner business over a Mississippi company. Right?
State law says that Kenner is mandated to use the lowest bidder, according Quigley.

But, not so fast.
State bid laws do allow for a 10% preference to Louisiana Vendors selling Louisiana products. However, this particular contract calls for the City of Kenner, not Taylor, to purchase many of the products that are utilized during the preventative maintenance including all batteries, belts and hoses.

According to CAO Quigley, “We are following the law.”
 But the City of Kenner’s written Purchasing Procedures give departments and the Mayor latitude and allow them to select any bidder they choose.

“If the department chooses a bidder other than the lowest bidder, they must provide written justification to the Purchasing Department for further evaluation and determination.”
An email to the City’s Purchasing Director seeking clarification on the bid went unanswered.

Also, the contract could have been submitted as an RFP instead of a sealed bid. As you may recall, an RFP was submitted, and, according to vendors, bid specs were changed multiple times, when Mayor Yenni and KFD Chief Hellmers purchased two fire trucks last year that cost $150,000 more than the next lowest bid.
Also at issue are response times, travel time and mileage.

"They (Taylor) are able to respond immediately; that is not an issue," Quigley said.

There is little doubt that Kenner would have received a far superior response time from a Kenner company than a company whose office is in Richland, MS, a suburb of Jackson. According to, driving time to Kenner from Richland is either 2 hours and 45 minutes using I-55 or 3 hours and 21 minutes using I-59.
Even if you consider that Taylor has a small, branch office in Geismar, that office is still about an hour away.

I guess Mr. Quigley and I disagree with the definition of "immediately".

When the City of Kenner recently switched telephony providers, response time was listed as an important consideration in the vetting process. Aren’t emergency power generators which provide power to City Hall, the Police Station, the Jail, Fire Stations, the 911 Call Center and sewer lift stations at least as important as telephone and internet services and ensuring that the city’s Facebook page is updated?
If the power is lost in the Kenner Jail, and the generator fails to automatically connect, I certainly would not feel very comfortable being in the dark for an hour or two while a technician is found and drives to Kenner from Geismar or Richland, MS.

Taylor’s previous contract also allowed them to bill the City for travel time and mileage. In fact, the written bid specs for this contract call for “a ‘turnkey’ operation” which includes “all labor, materials, equipment, fuel, transportation, storage of equipment, insurances, licenses, etc…” So, despite the Yenni Administration’s verbal assertions to the contrary, Taylor could have continued to charge the City for travel time and mileage between Richland, MS and Kenner.

 An amendment offered by Councilman Joe Stagni will not allow Taylor’s new contract to bill the City for those charges. However, the question remains: why did the City of Kenner pay Taylor these charges for the past several years without question and why would Taylor agree to not accept travel time and mileage compensation now, especially when the bid specs said they could?
The Mayor, along with the Purchasing Department, also could have rejected Taylor’s bid because of their licensing deficiencies, made the sealed bid an RFP, or split the contract to allow Cummins to provide service for the 27 Cummins generators and Taylor to provide service for the remaining 22 generators.

Since Cummins generators are deemed adequate for the City to purchase, it would stand to reason that Cummins technicians should be deemed adequate to service and maintain their family of generators.
So, with a stroke of the pen or a few minor changes, Mayor Yenni could have chosen the 2nd lowest bidder and Shopped Kenner First.

Why didn’t Mayor Yenni spend $87 more dollars, support a Kenner company (which would have generated more tax dollars for Kenner than the $87 difference in the bids), selected a company with a better response time (we are, after all, talking about Emergency Generators), Shopped Kenner First, proposed an RFP or split the contract?
Only Mayor Mike Yenni can answer those questions. Perhaps some of our readers can ask the Mayor. He and I don’t really converse much these days.


Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Kenner Housing Authority Director Resigns

The Director of the embattled Kenner Housing Authority, Claudette Raphael, has resigned effective March 1st.

The KHA, which manages Section 8 housing in Kenner, has been under increasing scrutiny from HUD.

In a series of reports in November, Fox 8 disclosed the allegations of financial mismanagement and numerous other questionable activities. HUD moved the Housing Authority into "troubled" status and has been investigating the Authority for months to determine whether corrective action is required or whether the KHA should be dissolved.

Monday, February 25, 2013

The Budget Of Hope and Dreams

“Grab your ticket and your suitcase
Thunder's rolling down this track
Well you don't know where you're goin' now
But you know you won't be back”

Bruce Springsteen “Land of Hope and Dreams”
 Unfortunately, unlike the Springsteen line, the Louisiana State Budget is back.
Friday, Governor Jindal unveiled his 2013 State Budget. The Budget, weighing in at $24.7 Billion, includes significant cuts to state government across all Departments except the Department of Corrections (up almost 7%) and the Department of Natural Resources (up .5%).

The Governor is proposing to eliminate 10,200 jobs, 7,300 of which are in the hospital system. Many of these jobs won’t be lost as private companies are partnering to take over many of the state hospitals. In addition, 846 currently-unfilled positions in Higher Education will be eliminated.
The budget fills a $1 Billion deficit primarily by cutting $780 Million from LSU’s Public Hospital System under the assumption that 8 of the 10 state public hospitals will be privatized. Thus far, only 5 hospitals have announced plans to partner with private groups and none of these deals have been finalized.

In addition, the Governor proposes using $424 Million in one-time money.
Stop me if you’ve heard this one before. Perhaps, last year?

In fact, a lot of the money used to close the budget deficit hasn’t yet materialized and may never materialize.
In addition to the hospital savings, the one-time money includes anticipated money from the sale of state properties and proceeds from lawsuits.

And, therein lies the problem.
How many times can Louisiana keep going to the “one-time money” well?

What happens if the anticipated hospital savings doesn’t come to fruition? Or if the properties sell for less than expected (or don’t sell at all)? Or if the money from the lawsuits doesn’t come through?
And, this doesn’t even include the potential loss of income tax revenue that will be replaced by a higher state sales tax. Officials continue to maintain that the Governor’s plan will be revenue-neutral. Since every 1% increase in the state sales tax will yield about $700 Million, at a proposed 1.78% sales tax increase, the math doesn’t add up to replacing $3 Billion in lost revenue.

The short answer is, the state will face another budgetary hole next year possibly even deeper than this one.
I guess we all need to have the optimism of Springsteen:

“Ya leave behind your sorrows
Ya this day at last
Well tomorrow there'll be sunshine
And all this darkness past


Governor Jindal, The State Budget and Sequestration - All In A Morning's Work

This morning, I was a guest on "The Ken & Bernie Show" with Ken Romero and Bernadette Lee on KPEL 96.5fm in Lafayette. This morning's topics were:

- Governor Jindal's appearance on "Meet The Press"

- Louisiana's State Budget

- Sequestration

Here's a link to the interview.

Aaron Broussard Sentenced To 46 Months; $280,000 Fine

Former Jefferson Parish President Aaron Broussard was sentenced Monday to 46 months in prison and a $280,210 fine.

Broussard was charged by a Federal grand jury with 27 criminal counts for his scheme to add this then-girlfriend and now ex-wife Karen Parker to the Jefferson Parish payroll and pay her for a job she was not qualified to do. In exchange for covering for Parker, former Jefferson Parish Attorney Tom Wilkinson received lucrative raises at taxpayer expense.

Ultimately, Broussard made a deal with the government and plead guilty to two counts: conspiracy and theft.

At the hearing, Broussard said: "I accept full responsibility for the actions I have pleaded guilty to."

He also apologized to the people of Jefferson Parish for "bringing dishonor to my position. I will pay for that dishonor for the rest of my life."

The fine is payable in monthly payments of at least $500 per month.

Wilkinson, Parker, former JP CAO Tim Whitmer and Kenner Businessman Bill Mack, accused of paying Broussard $66,000 in bribes for parish contracts, also separately pled guilty.

Broussard will report to a to-be-determined Federal prison on April 8th. He has requested assignment to the Federal minimum security prison in Pensacola and the Judge agreed. The final decision is up to the Federal Bureau of Prisons.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

The Politics Of Fear and Blame

We’ve heard it a lot recently, both locally and nationally: if you don’t do X, something bad is going to happen.

Locally, here in Kenner, when Mayor Mike Yenni was promoting his plan to double property taxes instead of cutting the size of government, he said, “If these taxes aren’t passed, there will be cuts that everyone will feel.” Of course, the taxes were defeated; Yenni has actually added new city Departments and Directors; and the City has run a budget surplus for the past several years.
Last month, the Nation was in danger of falling off the “Fiscal Cliff”. At the last moment, just as we all stood on the precipice looking at the other side, an agreement was reached which gave us a couple of months of breathing room so we could all exhale, and Congress kicked the can down the road a bit.

The stock market is up; commodity prices are at record highs; and mortgage rates have remained low. Crisis averted – for the moment.
Now, President Obama is everywhere talking about the devastating cuts that he claims will again push our economy over the edge because Republicans won’t enact higher taxes and would prefer to cut spending. Kenner residents are feeling a sense of déjà vu.

"Are they (Congressional Republicans) seriously prepared to inflict more pain on the middle-class because they refuse to ask anything more of those at the very top?" asked President Obama.
Congressional Republicans, for their part, want more budget cuts and no more tax increases.

"Republicans in the House have voted - twice - to replace President Obama's sequester with smarter spending cuts," said House Speaker John Boehner’s (R-Ohio) spokesman Michael Steel in a statement. "The White House needs to spend less time explaining to the press how bad the sequester will be and more time actually working to stop it."

The President continues to blame Republicans.
In his weekly Saturday radio address, the President said, "Unfortunately, it appears that Republicans in Congress have decided that instead of compromising – instead of asking anything of the wealthiest Americans – they would rather let these cuts fall squarely on the middle class."

"We just need Republicans in Washington to come around," Obama added. "Because we need their help to finish the job of reducing our deficit in a smart way that doesn't hurt our economy or our people."
Republicans quickly shot back.

"I think the American people are tired of the blame game," said Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H.
Former MS Governor and Republican National Committee chairman Haley Barbour said, "Well, if it was a bad idea, it was the president's idea."

Sequestration will cause $85 Billion in cuts this year and $1.2 Trillion over 10 years. Defense and Domestic Programs will be cut approximately 50/50 with the Defense budget facing overall cuts of about  8% while domestic programs will be cut by 5%.
“These cuts are not smart. They are not fair. They will hurt our economy. They will add hundreds of thousands of Americans to the unemployment rolls,” President Obama said.   

While the “Blame Game” has been going on for weeks, the fear mongering has just started in earnest.
Many of the Cabinet Secretaries whose Departments are affected have been critical of the cuts.

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said the cuts, $46 Billion from the Defense Department in 2013, will impact troop training, readiness and may cause some overseas tours to be extended rather than moving in fresh troops.
Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood on Sunday’s “Meet The Press” said, “We will have to work with the airlines in slowing planes down” because air traffic control personnel will be cut.  Of course, LaHood fails to mention that over the past 10 years the FAA’s budget has grown by almost $3 Billion or 41% (a point that was noted by host David Gregory).

And, Education Secretary Arnie Duncan said 70,000 fewer kids will have access to Head Start programs.
Meat inspections will also be reduced.
To be sure, the forced cuts, and any cuts for that matter, will have some human consequences. Jobs will be lost ( discussed the impact of Sequestration on Louisiana here).

But, do we need to make THESE cuts?
Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal isn’t so sure.

Also on “Meet The Press”, Jindal said, “The reality is nobody is saying that he should make these exact cuts. We can cut less than 3% of the budget without hollowing out our military, without jeopardizing air traffic, without jeopardizing meat inspections.”
 “We’re all in favor of spending cuts,” LaHood said. Ok, Mr. Secretary, what’s your plan?

Since LaHood suggested that members of Congress watch the movie “Lincoln” to see examples of bipartisanship, I doubt he could come up with a real plan.
But, better yet, what is your plan, Mr. President?

And, that is precisely the point – if the President and his Cabinet Secretaries don’t like these cuts and are sincere about the need to cut the Federal budget, why don’t they offer their own cuts instead of these specific, targeted cuts?
Not to leave Speaker Boehner out of the mix, what’s your plan Mr. Speaker?

Why haven’t Republicans come up with a clear plan of their own to make needed spending cuts without the need to continue to raise revenue?

Why are Democrats waiting on Republicans and Republicans waiting on the President? Where is the leadership from either side or both?
Clearly, the Federal Budget could be cut by 3% (and, probably, a lot more) without any real, meaningful pain. Surely, there is at least 3% in waste that could be cut to replace these cuts. Right?

The reality is that not enough people in Congress actually want to cut spending. Cutting spending is bad for re-election. With Congress’ overall approval rating in the tank, Congressmen and Senators are routinely re-elected (unless they are involved in a major scandal and, oftentimes, even then they are re-elected). They attach a myriad of pork projects to bills that have little to do with the bill itself. Billions of unnecessary spending was added to the recent bill that provided relief for victims of Hurricane Sandy.
So, if the only way to get some amount of government spending cut is through Sequestration, and since neither side has offered a meaningful plan to replace the forced spending cuts, I say “Bring it on – Sequester away”.

Of course, the next time I eat a piece of uninspected meat or face a flight delay, heads are going to roll. Just not my Congressman’s head.  

Governor Jindal “Meets” The Washington Press: Tells President To “Stop Campaigning”.

On the NBC News show “Meet The Press”, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal called out President Obama and told him to “Stop campaigning”.

“My recommendation to the President it’s time to stop campaigning. It is time to actually do the job here in Washington, D.C.”, Governor Jindal said. “Roll up your sleeves and do the hard work of governing.”
Regarding Sequestration, which will take effect on March 1st, Governor Jindal said, “We need real presidential leadership here. The President needs to step up to the plate, if he really thinks this is going to devastate the military, really thinks this will devastate air traffic control, really devastate meat inspections…here’s his chance to say ‘Here’s how we can do it better’.”

“The reality is that the Federal Budget this year, even after the cuts, will still be larger than last year’s budget,” Governor Jindal continued noting that the President proposed the Sequester.  
The Governor also said that the President should delay implementing ObamaCare to save “tens of billions” and avoid the Sequestration altogether.

“The reality is nobody is saying that he should make these exact cuts. We can cut less than 3% of the budget without hollowing out our military, without jeopardizing air traffic, without jeopardizing meat inspections.”

Contrasting Republicans and Democrats, Governor Jindal said, “We are for growth. We’re for growing the American economy; not the Government economy. You’ve seen the greed of Wall Street being replaced with the greed of Washington, D.C. There’s never enough revenues, there’s never enough taxes for this Administration.”
“We should be about growing the private sector economy, real jobs out there. Now is the time to start shrinking our spending so we can grow the private sector economy, not the Government economy.”

“Government cannot be the answer to all of our problems.”
Discussing ObamaCare and his position that Louisiana should not expand Medicaid roles Jindal said, “This will cost Louisiana taxpayers over $1 Billion dollars over the next 10 years. I actually agree with what the President said in 2009. He said it doesn’t make sense to simply put more people in the Medicaid program without reforming this program. He was right in 2009; they’ve not reformed the program.”

“In Louisiana alone, as many as 180,000 people would be moved from private insurance into Medicaid under this expansion. That doesn’t make sense.”
On gun control Jindal said, “I think we all agree we shouldn’t have guns getting into the hands of those with serious mental illnesses…let’s fix the current background system.”

Governor Jindal was also asked about his positioning himself for a national run in 2016.
“Nobody in the Republican Party should be thinking about running for President. We’ve got to win the debate before we can win elections.  

The Governor also touted his efforts regarding education reform and the potential elimination of the state income tax and revamping of the tax codes as evidence of the difficult issues he has tackled during his second term.
Governor Jindal was in Washington for a meeting of the National Governors Association. Jindal is Chairman of the Republican Governors Association.

While I agree that the President should stop holding campaign appearances and photo-ops across the country, it is a bit ingenuous for Governor Jindal, who, according to The Advocate, spent ¼ of his time in the past year, and one week per month this year, away from Baton Rouge on his campaign to raise his national profile, to criticize the President.
Of course, it’s also interesting the Governor Jindal would appear on “Meet The Press” in Washington, D.C. when he won’t meet the press in Baton Rouge, New Orleans, Acadiana, Shreveport, or any city in Louisiana.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

District 79 Candidates Face Off Again

The four candidates running to fill the remainder of former District 79 State Rep. Tony Ligi’s term in Baton Rouge faced off again Wednesday night at the Kenner City Park Pavillion.

The event, sponsored by the Louisiana Federation of Republican Women along with the Greater New Orleans Tea Party, NOLA Patriots and CrimeFighters, featured an extensive array of questions and topics but no real contrast among the candidates.
The four candidates, all Republican, are:

- Allison Bent Bowler, the Chief Financial Officer of Benjamin Franklin High School and daughter-in-law of former Harahan State Rep. Shirley Bowler. This is her first try at public office.

- Jack Rizzuto, the CEO of a family-operated hospitality business with interests in daiquiri shops and real estate. He ran unsuccessfully for the seat in 2007 receiving 20% of the vote and also lost an earlier campaign in 2003 for Jefferson Parish Council.

- Julie Stokes, a CPA and small business owner. This is her first try at public office. Stokes did qualify for the special election to serve the remainder of Terry McCarthy's seat as Kenner Councilman-At-Large in 2005 but withdrew from the race after qualifying.

- Paul Villalobos, an Attorney and also a first time candidate.

The candidates

- agreed that the State Department of Education should not be disbanded (Villalobos called it a “Ludicrous” idea);

- agreed that the state should set standards for local school boards to follow;

- agreed that the development of Laketown was a great opportunity for Kenner (“A family friendly alternative to the French Quarter,” according to Stokes while Rizzuto noted that he had the endorsement of Kenner Mayor Mike Yenni and Jefferson Parish District 4 Councilman Ben Zahn and “They know that I will work hard for Laketown”.);

- agreed that mandating E-Verify was good and that illegal immigrants should not be given amnesty (“We have a process and should uphold the law,” Bowler said);

and all were clueless regarding the United Nations Agenda 21 initiatives.
All agreed that they have not heard enough details regarding Governor Jindal’s plan to eliminate the state income tax in favor of increasing the state sales tax with Stokes stating, “Let me be clear: I have neither supported or opposed the Governor’s plan”. Stokes did suggest a centralized State sales tax collection office  while Bowler said that she is opposed to the Governor’s plan, in part, because of the proposed loss of business incentives.

When asked about assistance to businesses in the District, Rizzuto discussed the decline of the Esplanade Mall and the need to improve the mall. “In Kenner, we have a mall that is dying on the vine”, Rizzuto said, while Villalobos reiterated that business retention was as important as securing new businesses.
After the forum, CrimeFighters, the only group participating that endorses candidates, endorsed Rizzuto. He is also endorsed by the Alliance For Good Government, the Louisiana Restaurant Association and a myriad of elected officials including Kenner Mayor Yenni, Police Chief Steve Caraway, both Jefferson Parish Councilmen-At-Large, and Sheriff Newell Normand. Stokes is endorsed by the Jefferson Parish Republican Party, business groups including the Jefferson Chamber and LABI, along with State Senator Conrad Appel (R-Metairie) and former State Rep. Ligi.  

Early voting continues through Saturday with the primary on Saturday, March 2nd.  District 79 encompasses part of North Metairie (north of West Esplanade and west of the Suburban Canal) and North Kenner from West Esplanade north to the Lake.

Sequestration Could Have Big Impact On LA

With all of the political wrangling in Washington regarding sequestration, the actual human toll has been overlooked.

If the automatic budget cuts take place as planned on March 1st, almost 4,000 Louisiana jobs could be reduced or completely eliminated.

The U.S. Army said that 3,139 civilian Army employees could be given unpaid time off starting in April and 809 contractor jobs will be eliminated. In dollar terms, sequestration would cause a $113 Million economic loss for our state.

In addition, shipbuilding projects could be curtailed or eliminated, directly impacting the Avondale shipyard. The direct impact on jobs at Avondale is not known at this point.

Two New Studies Put LA At Bottom Of Two More Lists

Two studies were released on widely different subjects. Unfortunately, they both had the same result with Louisiana at the bottom of both lists.

In “The Geography of Happiness”, a group of University of Vermont math researchers used Twitter to link keywords to geography and found that Louisiana is the saddest state in America. Coming in a close second-to-last is our neighbor, Mississippi.
Not surprisingly, Hawaii is the happiest state followed by Maine (could it be the great blueberries?), Nevada (legalized prostitution and gambling?), Utah (polygamy?) and Vermont (?????).

Why is Louisiana judged as the saddest state?
“Louisiana is revealed as the saddest state primarily as a result of an abundance of profanity relative to the other states,” the study said.

The study also looked at cities and determined that Beaumont, Texas is the saddest city. Shreveport, Monroe, Houma and Alexandria all placed in the 15 saddest cities.
The wine country of Napa, California was judged the happiest city.

The second study, by a group of political scientists at the University of Chicago in Illinois, found that Louisiana has had the most political corruption since 1976.
Now, if you take out Edwin Edwards, “Dollar” Bill Jefferson, Aaron Broussard, and Ray Nagin, Louisiana might be in the middle of the pack.

Of course, those of us in Jefferson Parish would still have John Alario and the still unbuilt and way overpriced, Jefferson Performing Arts Center.

First "D" Throws His Hat In The 2015 Gubernatorial Race

Louisiana Democratic House leader John Bel Edwards (D-Amite) is getting an early start on the 2015 Gubernatorial race.

On a Baton Rouge radio station Wednesday, Edwards said he would enter the race. He said that Louisiana is on on the wrong path under the Republican leadership of Governor Jindal, who is term-limited and cannot seek a third, consecutive term.

"I'm so disillusioned by what I see after eight years of Bobby Jindal," Edwards said.

Edwards is the first candidate to officially announce his intentions. On the Republican side, Commissioner of Agriculture and Forestry Mike Strain has also begun the fundraising process but has yet to officially announce.

Others rumored to potentially run for Governor include New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu (D) and Republicans Senator David Vitter, Lt. Governor Jay Dardenne and former Interim Lt. Governor and current Public Service Commissioner Scott Angelle.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

USPS Losing Money On Mail Service, Will Try It’s Hand At Fashion

Yes, the headline is correct: the United States Postal Service is launching a clothing line.

Branded “Rain Heat & Snow”, the Postal Service will start with a men’s line and then add women’s clothing in the future.
“This agreement will put the Postal Service on the cutting edge of functional fashion,” said Postal Service Corporate Licensing Manager Steven Mills. “The main focus will be to produce Rain Heat & Snow apparel and accessories using technology to create ‘smart apparel’ — also known as wearable electronics.”

It is not known if the “Rain Heat & Snow” line will be available in stores or on that thing that is helping to kill the USPS called the Internet or if they will use FedEx or UPS for delivery.
If you need proof that I'm not making this up, here's the press release.

District 79, Judge Candidates Forum Tomorrow Night

A forum of candidates seeking to serve the remainder of former District 79 State Rep. Tony Ligi's term along with candidates for the 24th JDC, Division D, will be held on Wednesday, February 20th at 6pm at the Kenner City Park Pavillion, corner of Loyola and Vintage Drives.

The District 79 election has begun with early voting ongoing through Saturday. The primary is scheduled for March 2nd. The 24th JDC primary will be held on April 24th.

Doors open at 5:30pm and the forum is open to the public. The forum is sponsored by the Louisiana Federation of Republican Women along with other groups including the Greater New Orleans Tea Party.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Polls, Polls and More Polls

This morning, I was a guest on "The Ken & Bernie Show" with Ken Romero and Bernadette Lee on KPEL 96.5fm in Lafayette.

Today's topics were the flurry of recent polls; Bobby Jindal's media relations; and Karl Rove lashing out at the Tea Party.

Here's a link to hear the interview. Says Jindal Setting Stage For National Run

The online blog says that Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal is already governing like a man ready for the national stage.

A poll last week showed that in a head-to-head race, Senator Mary Landrieu (D-New Orleans) would defeat the Governor, 49-41%, but could the Governor have his eyes on a bigger prize than U.S. Senate?

Despite polls showing his approval rating at 49%, the first time its ever been below 50%, the Governor has tackled some big issues which have given him some national press. He has also delivered several speechs which have raised his national profile.

Last Thursday, Jindal said that the only poll that he was interested in was the BCS poll and ensuring that the LSU Football Tigers were included.

In the article, Politico discusses the significant issues that Jindal has proposed including school vouchers, the Governor's rejection of Medicaid expansion and his current proposal to eliminate the state income tax.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

If You Needed More Proof That The Term "Criminal Mastermind" Is An Oxymoron

A Chalmette couple were arrested Wednesday and charged with burglary after they left behind their apartment key at the bar they burglarized.

The pair allegedly stole several cartons of cigarettes (What no Crown?), and dropped their key which police used to unlock their apartment door. Of course, the thieving pair denied all knowledge of the crime.

Here's a link to the article in the T/P.

The writer doesn't ask the obvious question: if the burglary took place on January 31, and the pair got arrested on February 13th, what took police 2 weeks to find them?

CCC Recount Due Tuesday; Expect More Legal Wrangling After

The Crescent City Connection toll referendum partial recount will be released on Tuesday. The November 6th vote which extended the CCC tolls by another 20 years, won by an 18-vote margin.

Terrebonne Parish Registrar of Voters Linda Rodrigue and her staff hand counted over 4,000 paper ballots.

The recount was conducted after Mike Teachworth of the group Stop the Tolls, sued. The  lawsuit also seeks to nullify the November 6th vote entirely on the grounds that many Orleans Parish voters were given provisional ballots which weren't counted, despite their being legally registered to vote.

It is not clear when the motion to nullify the election will be heard.

The vote included voters from Jefferson, Orleans and Plaquemines Parish. Voters in Jefferson and Plaquemines voted against the toll despite a number of Jefferson Parish elected officials including JP Councilmen-At-Large Chris Roberts and Elton Lagasse, Sheriff Newell Normand and Kenner Mayor Mike Yenni publicly supporting the toll. Orleans Parish, which also had a number of elected officials supporting the toll, voted to extend the toll.

Here's a list of those who paid for the Pro-Toll ads.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Survey Says Mayor Mitch Could Be Governor Mitch

In a week of polls, perhaps the most interesting one showed New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu beating all Republican challengers except Senator David Vitter, in a race to replace term-limited Governor Bobby Jindal.

There has not been much talk regarding Landrieu or Vitter seeking the governorship: Landrieu would need to run midway through his second term as Mayor and Vitter seems solidly entrenched in the Senate and would become the Senior Senator from Louisiana if Mitch’s sister, Mary, is defeated for re-election.
Mitch was Lt. Governor from 2003-2010 when he resigned to become the Mayor of New Orleans.

The poll, conducted by Public Policy Polling, shows Landrieu and Vitter in a dead heat with 44% of the vote each.
In a race between Landrieu and current Lt. Governor Jay Dardenne, Landrieu stays at 44% with 42% favoring Dardenne. Dardenne has been widely seen as the strongest potential Republican gubernatorial candidate. The poll did not test Landrieu’s strength against other potential Republican challengers like State Treasurer John Kennedy.

There has been speculation that Dardenne, along with Congressmen Bill Cassidy (R-Baton Rouge) and John Fleming (R-Minden), could oppose Mary Landrieu. Landrieu defeated Kennedy in 2008 by a 52-46% margin.
In the race to secure campaign dollars, Mary Landrieu as amassed $2.5 Million for her re-election bid, while Cassidy has $2 Million and Fleming $468,000, according to campaign finance reports.

Mitch Landrieu, who is up for re-election in 2014, has about $1 Million in his campaign account, while Kennedy has $2.3 Million and Dardenne has about $718,000.

Friday, February 15, 2013

T/P Spotlights District 79 Race

The Times-Picayune profiled the four candidates, all Republican, running the Special Election to replace former District 79 State Rep. Tony Ligi.

District 79 encompasses a portion of North Metairie and all of North Kenner.

The four candidates are:

- Allison Bent Bowler, the Chief Financial Officer of Benjamin Franklin High School and daughter-in-law of former Harahan State Rep. Shirley Bowler. This is her first try at public office.

- Jack Rizzuto, the CEO of a family-operated hospitality business with interests in daiquiri shops and real estate. He ran unsuccessfully for the seat in 2007 receiving 20% of the vote and also lost an earlier campaign for Jefferson Parish Council.

- Julie Stokes, a CPA and small business owner. This is her first try at public office. Stokes did qualify for the special election to serve the remainder of Terry McCarthy's seat as Kenner Councilman-At-Large in 2005 but withdrew from the race after qualifying.

- Paul Villalobos, an Attorney and also a first time candidate.

Early voting in the race begins Saturday, 2/16. There will also be a candidate forum Wednesday, 2/20, at 7PM at the Kenner Pavillion, corner of Loyola and Vintage Drives.

Here's a link to's coverage of a recent forum.

Here's the T/P's candidate profiles.

Here's the T/P's candidate snapshot.

Monday, February 11, 2013

It's Not Everyday That You Get To Talk About The Pope

This morning, I was a guest on the "Ken and Bernie Show" with Ken Romero and Bernadette Lee on KPEL 96.5fm in Lafayette. We talked about the Pope's resignation, California's proposed new gun laws, and Dr. Ben Carson's speech at the National Prayer Breakfast. Hey, it's not everyday that you get to speak about a Pope resigning.

You can listen to the interview here.

Poll Shows Lowest Approval Ratings Yet For Governor Jindal

A new Voter/Consumer Research poll shows that Governor Bobby Jindal's approval rating is at its lowest level ever and Senator Mary Landrieu has the highest approval rating of any statewide elected official.

Jindal's approval rating dropped to 49%, down from 51% in September. Landrieu's approval rating was 59%, followed by Senator David Vitter at 55%.

The poll appears to show that any Republican challenger for Landrieu's Senate seat faces an uphill climb. Congressmen Bill Cassidy (R-Baton Rouge) and John Fleming (R-Minden), along with former Congressman Jeff Landry, have been mentioned as possible contenders to face Landrieu.

Among other officials, Treasurer John Kennedy, who lost to Landrieu in 2008, came in at 49% and Lt. Governor Jay Dardenne was at 45%.

46% of those interviewed somewhat or strongly approved of the State legislature, while 40% disapproved of the job that the legislature was doing.

47% said that Louisiana is on the wrong track while only 38% said that Louisiana is headed in the right direction.

The poll of 600 telephone interviews was conducted between January 13th and the 17th, and has a margin of error of plus/minus 4%.

Neurosurgeon Lectures President Obama on Healthcare, Flat Tax

In a speech at the National Prayer Breakfast, Pediatric Neurosurgeon Dr. Ben Carson delivered a 26-minute lesson on smaller government, the flat tax, and putting healthcare in the hands of the people and not in the hands of government.

As President Obama and Vice-President Biden sat just feet away, Dr. Carson said that he could solve the issue of healthcare by giving everyone a Health Savings Account (HSA) at birth. Individuals could contribute funds into the account on a pretax basis and pay for their own healthcare. Whatever money was left in their account when they died could be passed along to their beneficiaries.

Here's a link to the speech.

Friday, February 8, 2013

You're Going To Need To Wait A Little Longer To See Edwin Edwards' New Reality Show

A&E has pushed back the debut of former Governor Edwin Edwards and his new wife's reality tv show until sometime this summer.

Originally, "The Governor's Wife" was scheduled to debut on February 27th, then pushed back to March 13th. Now, because of the new season of "Duck Dynasty", it will be pushed back again.

A&E says the show will debut sometime this summer and has not announced a new date.