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Saturday, July 29, 2006 by Blogger

Poll Results Invalidated: It figures this would happen. The blog's records indicate that one unique visitor voted for Alice Hammond over 120 times, completely invalidating the results. The "winner" of this poll was Mr. Jacques Roy, who received approximately 145 unique votes or 56%.

<a href="http://not-a-real-namespace/http://not-a-real-namespace/http://not-a-real-namespace/http://not-a-real-namespace/http://not-a-real-namespace/http://not-a-real-namespace/http://not-a-real-namespace/http://not-a-real-namespace/http://not-a-real-namespace/http://micropoll.questionpro.com/akira/MicroPoll?mode=html&amp;id=14326">View MicroPoll</a><br /><a href="http://not-a-real-namespace/http://not-a-real-namespace/http://not-a-real-namespace/http://not-a-real-namespace/http://not-a-real-namespace/http://not-a-real-namespace/http://not-a-real-namespace/http://not-a-real-namespace/http://not-a-real-namespace/http://www.questionpro.com/">Web Survey</a><br />

by Blogger

Not Exactly Related To Anything Important But Still Interesting (Some Would Say Obvious). Time Warner: Mel Gibson Goes On Anti-Semitic Tirade After Mid-Morning DUI Arrest Apparently, Mr. Gibson has apologized for his "belligerent remarks," stopping short, however, of admitting they were anti-semitic. NYT.

by Blogger

Bad News: Parata Closing Means 167 Jobs Lost In Alexandria

Wednesday, July 26, 2006 by Blogger

Godard: Video Blog with Mayoral Candidate Delores Brewer Mrs. Brewer answers questions concerning the Alexandria Housing Authority, the need to clean house downtown, Charles Fredrick Smith's opposition in the race, and the televised dispute she had with Bridgett Brown. A Transcript of the Exchange Concerning Bridgett Brown. MG: Explain to us your seemingly non-truth (didn't say lie) regarding the meeting with the lawyers from Baton Rouge. Or why did the mayor leave you hanging on a clarification matter? DB: Well you know, that happened a few weeks ago, and I think that maybe it was just a figure of speech. The mayor went down. He wanted to go talk to his lawyers. He has every right to talk to them. I was with him. We had a great meeting. Good information was gathered that he didn't know before. So you know, it's just a figure of speech. I don't know what people think as far as the mayor a day or two later saying that there was a meeting. There was a meeting. MG: So there was a pre-planned meeting? DB: Absolutely. MG: But when you answered at the Council meeting it sounded like it was just happenstance. You happened to be there. It was characterized like that. DB: I understand that, and you know, maybe I misspoke. I think that it was a figure of speech, and I probably should have clarified that more. But the bottom line is that we did have a meeting and good information came from the meeting. Mrs. Brewer also says we need to investigate the AHA, and in answering a question concerning whether or not she would hire Bridgett Brown, she states that if she were elected mayor, anyone who is not doing their job would be fired immediately. The blogs have been down on Mrs. Brewer recently; many people (most of whom probably work for the other candidates) have even suggested that she'll be dropping out of the race. It's so transparent it's not even funny. Others have written about her son getting into an altercation one night downtown, implying that Mrs. Brewer used her political connections to hide this story. Let me answer that personally: I was there the night of that incident. I even spoke with the girl in question. (She was very bizarre and confrontational). I can guarantee that Mrs. Brewer's son was the victim of this girl's sociopathic behavior. She was the instigator. End of story. (And I completely expect to be maligned by the very people who published these lies. But that's okay. I'm not the story here). I understand that this type of rumor-mongering is a part of every political campaign, but considering this is our most important election in twenty years, I hope that we'll stop allowing the discussion to be dictated by people who persistently publish anonymous, off-topic lies. Yes, they may be scandalous and interesting, but guess what? They're lies, and they shouldn't matter. And no, I haven't decided who I'm going to vote for. Honestly. I don't know. I'm waiting for the debates.

Monday, July 24, 2006 by Blogger

Poll Numbers, Old News, Developing Story The Town Talk:

Name recognition

Shown below are the unofficial results of a recent poll gauging respondents' choice for Alexandria mayor. The results were relayed over the telephone from someone who had seen a copy.
  • Delores Brewer: 21 percent
  • Roosevelt Johnson: 17 percent
  • Charles F. Smith Jr.: 12 percent
  • John Sams: 12 percent
  • Paul Smith: 5.4 percent
  • Joe Fuller: 4.3 percent

    The rest were undecided.

    Good quality of life

    The poll also revealed something else. Asked about how things are in Alexandria, such as quality of life: 64 percent had favorable responses; 21 percent unfavorable; 15 percent had no opinion.

    Qualifying coming up

    Qualifying for all fall elections is Aug. 9-11. The general election is Sept. 30. The runoff, if necessary, is Nov. 7.

    ROY probably running

    Jacques Roy, who has been approached by Alexandria Democratic heavyweights to run for mayor, said Friday he has "gone from possible to probable" in running.

    Is councilman running?

    Myron Lawson, at-large councilman always rumored to be running for mayor, said last week, "I have no interest in running," though he never would come out and say definitely that he wasn't running.

    Banker not running

    Martin Johnson has said unequivocally he isn't running. The banker, who works at Capital One, said he has been approached every day in the past week. "It was definitely worth taking a look, but there are others who are better suited." Johnson also is a member of two economic development groups: the Greater Alexandria Economic Development Authority and the England Authority.
  • A Letter To CenLamar: Dear CenLamar, I've been following the mayor's race for the City of Alexandria intently, because I believe our community is currently in a major turning point. We need to make sure that the leader we elect understands the full consequences of his or her tenure. I write to you as a 29 year old black male with a stake in the future of this city, and I hope that you will publish my comments on your blog. There are many reasons to think we are in trouble with the current bunch of candidates. Roosevelt Johnson is a nice person. I have met him a few times.... nice guy. However, he's not fit to be mayor. It's a serious position that demands qualified intelligence, passion, and understanding. As nice as Roosevelt is, we all must face the fact that he does not possess the breadth of intelligence required to become mayor. Charles Fredrick Smith is a shady businessman, plain and simple. I'm not even sure why anyone is backing him. Delores Brewer is a liar.... so is Bridgett Brown. What's the difference? I consider them to be opposite ends of the same problem. They may think this is a black and white, us versus them type of struggle, but really it's just two different people with two related yet selfish agendas who will manipulate the public for whatever they can earn. I hope Brewer pulls out of the race. John Sams thinks this is a part time job because he has a tremendous ego and a destructive disdain for everyone in government. He's being quiet and polite right now..... and perhaps that's fooling people into thinking that he is something he is not........but if you've ever followed this guy, you know that he is just an opportunist with a big ego. His heart may be in the right place, but we need someone who is motivated to do good as a full-time job. Will someone else come forward? Or will we be left chosing between the lesser of two evils? Sincerely, Ronald J.

    by Blogger

    Gunn: Mayor's Race Heating Up

    Saturday, July 22, 2006 by Blogger

    Jacques Roy for Mayor? Chuck Wagner for Sherriff? Election Season Just Became Much More Interesting.

    Thursday, July 20, 2006 by Blogger

    C'mon, You Know I Have To: Bringhurst Golf Course Makes Headlines

    Wednesday, July 19, 2006 by Blogger

    Landmark Pawn Shop and Nail Salon No one's mentioned this story yet, but it attracted a lot of attention during yesterday's Council meeting. Jimmie DeRamus is attempting to persuade our local government to change the zoning status of a home he recently purchased on Horseshoe Drive. The home is located very close to the entrances of Cherokee Village, Tennyson Oaks, and Landmark. Mr. DeRamus would like to build a 9,000 square foot commercial building on the property, housing, among other things, a nail salon and a pawn shop (correct me if I am wrong). The neighbors aren't too happy. And I'm just bewildered. I can understand wanting to tear down the house. The home site is apparently three acres, and that's a lot of land in the middle of town. But a pawn shop? Update: This has obviously attracted a lot of attention, including direct responses from Mr. DeRamus himself, who claims that his intentions have been misstated. Yesterday, I spoke with Mr. DeRamus on the phone in order to hear his version of events. I also apologized to Mr. DeRamus for any role I had in facilitating the disparaging remarks that were made toward his family. Mr. DeRamus indicated that his family is undergoing a lot of stress, and I can certainly understand that, sometimes, when we are stressed out, we say things we don't mean. I want to state clearly that I relied on five independent sources, three neighbors and two individuals with close ties to local government officials. Obviously, we're still unclear about what this property would be used for if it is, in fact, rezoned. The use of this property is the central question behind the validity of the zoning change. Dollar General was mentioned as a potential buyer, and Mr. DeRamus claims this will not be allowed. Others, including my sources, assumed that Mr. DeRamus would be expanding his pawn business to this location. Mr. DeRamus claims this is also untrue. I refer to my initial post, in which I wrote that I should be corrected if I was wrong about my impression of the facts. It seems that a nail salon is a possibility, but a pawn shop is not. I also apologize to my readership for my delay in correcting this mistake. I am currently out of town, and this is the first opportunity I've had to access my blog. (I made the previous comments on a cell phone). End of story.

    Sunday, July 16, 2006 by Blogger

    River Ranch in Lafayette Featured in Today's New York Times Replica of New Orleans: A Study in Urban Cloning

    by Blogger

    Robert Wolf Responds: Rezoning shouldn’t happen Your Mail

    The Thursday Town Talk front page story by Jim Leggett lacked objectivity and accuracy. The article also unjustly hinted of racial bias, which may sell papers but plays no roll in fully understanding or resolving the present conflict.

    The Sisters of The Holy Family began their search for housing in Alexandria earlier this year assisted by Realtors Pattie Deville, Charles Deville and others. The Realtors and other representatives of the buyers and sellers contacted Glen Couvillion, Alexandria’s zoning control officer, prior to the sale. Couvillion advised the interested parties that they could buy and operate a ‘group home” in Single Family-2 or other single family zoned neighborhoods. This action was based on an opinion by former city planning director Darrell Williamson after a controversy concerning a group home in Plantation Acres. None of the above was disclosed publicly and the city code was not changed. It turns out that the advice of the zoning control officer was wrong. The “group home” theory used in the purchase and use of both the 3000 Elliott St. and George’s Lane houses was not valid. When I found out about this, the nuns had already purchased both homes and were occupying them. Mr. and Mrs. Brooks Harris sold the house to the nuns. They did not speak to their neighbors about the sale and they did not have to. He did contact the city zoning office prior to the sale, according to Couvillion. All of the adjoining property owners of the above property, except Dr. Michael Menache, objected to rezoning. Many other property owners, including myself, were and are opposed to the properties being rezoned, but not opposed to the nuns’ use of the property. After the problem surfaced and it became apparent that there would be some action either by the city or by a civil suit, Ellis Saybe, I have been told, began contacting and negotiating with residents of Georges’ Lane, excluding myself. We do not want the old Roy O. Martin Jr. property rezoned to allow bed and breakfasts, cemeteries, clubs, lodges, day cares, golf courses, libraries, museums and other public buildings or philanthropic institutions. We do not want to displace the nuns, but expect them to sell the property when they have recovered from the Katrina disaster. I along with others would be happy to donate money to help them recover. It is most important to maintain the essence of, quality and feeling of all neighborhoods. A residential neighborhood should remain just that unless it is affected by uncontrollable or inevitable change usually emanating by outside forces. Alexandria’s zoning codes must be updated and enforced to protect all neighborhoods. At this time I am resolved to working with Kelvin Sanders, the city attorney, and others to resolve this problem for the benefit of all Alexandria. Robert A. Wolf Alexandria

    Today's issue of the Town Talk also featured a letter from the previous home owner, Brookes Harris, in which he quotes scripture that implies Mr. Wolf could be "godless." Geez.

    More on how to misunderstand and malign a man in thirty minutes:

    1. Take an ordinary story about zoning laws and government incompetence.
    2. Single out the whistleblower who protests this incompetence.
    3. Imply that he hates nuns.
    4. Imply that he wants to make them homeless.
    5. Write about the nun's sympathetic back story. It may not have anything to do with zoning laws, but hell, it'll line people up on their side, regardless of the facts.
    6. Point out that the nuns are African-American. This will make their white neighbor look racist. (See the Town Talk's online thread if you don't believe me).
    7. Make sure your headlines are misleading. Most people just read the headlines, after all, and if it looks like these "hurricane-displaced nuns" are "fighting to stay in their home," well, that's all the public needs to know.
    8. Allow the general public to write misinformed letters of attack against Mr. Wolf. Publish these letters on your website. Allow anonymity.
    9. Imply (or allow others to imply) that Mr. Wolf had a financial stake in the sale of these homes, even though he did not.
    10. Publish a letter that implies Mr. Wolf is "godless."
    11. Do not make any factual corrections. Retract nothing. Correct nothing. Instead write an editorial about how it's unfair that someone else (that high school student from Marksville) was allowed to "break the rules," and then explain why we set up these rules for a good reason, why it doesn't matter who the rulebreaker is, and why we must enforce these rules to be fair to everyone else.

    Saturday, July 15, 2006 by Blogger

    Louisiana Native Making Strong Showing At World Series of Poker My college roommate and good friend Nath Pizzolatto is making a splash at this year's World Series of Poker. This evening, he won second place in his first ever event, taking home nearly a quarter of a million dollars. You can keep track of Nath's progress on his blog, Nath Plays Poker.

    Friday, July 14, 2006 by Blogger

    The Man Who Cried Wolf. Who's Afraid of Robert Wolf? Wolf Attacks in Cenla. -or- How to Misunderstand and Malign a Man in Thirty Minutes The Town Talk and KALB are both running with this story about Robert Wolf's opposition of a proposed ordinance to create a special zoning exception for a couple of single family homes in the Garden District. Personally, I think this is much ado about nothing, as long as they can define the exception in very narrow, limiting language. And considering the way the Town Talk first reported this story, it seems like Mr. Wolf doesn't mind his new neighbors; he just wants to make sure that a change in zoning wouldn't compromise the value of his home. If I recall correctly, the city set up stringent zoning codes for the building that houses the Adult Emporium on Masonic Drive, and I believe there is even a line in there about the city's first right of refusal on a change in the lease agreement (or something like that. Maybe someone else can clarify this). If they can do this for the Adult Emporium, they can certainly do this for those two properties. Mr. Wolf is completely within his rights as a neighbor, a concerned citizen, and an experienced real estate broker and developer. This isn't a story about Mr. Wolf taking on a bunch of nuns, though I can certainly understand why it would be played that way. "I am opposed to rezoning," Wolf said. "I'm not opposed to nuns using the project. They are good neighbors." But it's important to understand that a change in ownership could affect the neighborhood unless the proposed ordinance provides safeguards against this. There's another story here. The Town Talk's website has given this story its own thread in which readers are encouraged to e-mail their responses, which are then posted by a moderator. The original story, written by Jim Leggett, was very clear on the facts. The headline, which I understand is typically written by an editor, may have been a little misleading ("Hurricane-displaced nuns fighting to stay in new Alexandria homes"), because the possibility of these nuns being kicked out of their new homes is extremely remote. But the article was deliberate. Mr. Leggett writes, "Wolf said he doesn't object to the nuns, but he does object to the way the city has handled the matter." Perhaps this is actually a story about government incompetence. Either way, it's highly unlikely these nuns will be forced to sale; a compromise seems inevitable. That's why the online story and thread are reckless. The headline ("Should New Orleans nuns be allowed to stay in their home on Georges Lane?) implies that a resident of Georges Lane, Mr. Wolf, is attempting to kick them out of their own home. Remember, there's another home on Elliott Street; this isn't just about Georges Lane. Readers have been pouring in support for these nuns all day long. Everyone supports the nuns. Of course. I support the nuns. Mr. Wolf supports the nuns. But because the Town Talk has set up this battle between Robert Wolf and these nuns, their readers have been writing in and slamming Mr. Wolf, and the Town Talk has faithfully published a number of these comments, some of which are anonymous. (Remember Sound Off, anyone?). Now, I know the Town Talk isn't responsible for what other people chose to say, but it is their responsibility to clearly explain this story to the public. Mr. Leggett's story seemed pretty balanced, but the follow-up story and thread are irresponsible.

    Thursday, July 13, 2006 by Blogger

    By the way, has anyone noticed that Israel and Hezbollah are launching bombs at one another?

    by Blogger

    KALB: Cheetum Park Versus Compton Park

    by Blogger

    They're Baaaaaack: Anonymous Flame Thrower(s) Continue To Dictate The Discussion on Cenla Antics (And Guess Who They're Mad At?) On Tuesday, I responded to a question on Cenla Antics. Will I be "endorsing" a candidate for mayor on the blog? It's a good question. This blog receives about 300-450 unique visitors per day, most of whom are genuinely interested in local politics and many of whom use this blog as a vehicle for expressing their own opinions on the issues. I've met or spoken with all of the candidates (thus far) at one time or another, and I'm still undecided. But unlike most people my age in Alexandria, I plan on voting in the mayoral election, and once I've made up my mind, I won't mind telling people who I plan on voting for (and the reasons behind my decision). As always, if readers disagree with me, they can explain why right here on the blog. Anyway, someone became really offended that I would have the audacity to "endorse" a candidate. Who the hell do I think I am, after all, to use the word "endorsement?" I'm just a punk. I'm not offended by this person's decision to write an open letter of attack against me, but I'm a little disappointed by his style. It's the same old stuff about my father and my last name with a few words rearranged here and there and a handful of new adjectives. There are many other ways to make fun of me, and I'd hate for this person's rhetorical potency to be diminished by repetition. This anonymous person has also argued that my presence in the discussion about the future of our community should not be acknowledged because I somehow represent a continuation of the way things have been going here for the past twenty years. (It's worth noting that I am 24 years old). So here it is, a letter to the anonymous flame thrower. For your amusement and enjoyment. Dear Anonymous Person Who Claims He's "Nobody," I'd be remiss if I didn't thank you for all of the free publicity. Your hyperbolic words of hatred continue to generate interest in my blog and my opinions, regardless of your intentions. No doubt, the publicity you've given me is an unintended consequence of your efforts at discrediting me. If you're truly interested in discrediting my opinions and silencing my voice in this discussion, then you may want to consider changing your strategy. First, in order for people to understand your argument, they have to know exactly what you're arguing. The best way for you to clarify and hone your argument is by dropping the off-topic attacks on my family. Don't get me wrong. I'm not advising you to do this because I'm offended; by now, I'm used to this tactic. It's simply uneffective, and if the point is to once and for all tell the "truth" about my "attitude," you'll have to reference specific, topical statements that illustrate my "attitude." Also, the argument about my family is faulty, because it places you in a rhetorically untenable position. You can't argue that I don't matter because my family doesn't matter (or whatever it is you're attempting to prove with your shots at my father), because any attention toward my family may also be considered a recognition, on your part, that they do, in fact, matter. Again, it's unintended publicity that underscores precisely what you're attempting to argue against. Second, on a related note, I suggest that you actually read my blog, not because I think you'll change your opinion on me, but because you need to better familiarize yourself with my statements on the issues. There is a reason bloggers like WeSawThat defend me against your attacks: They read my blog, and they know what I've actually said. Your main problem, it seems to me, is that you've decided to conflate my opinions with your perception of the reigning paradigm of the upper class. Unfortunately, the foundation of this argument is not based on any statements I've made on the issues; it's based on a perception you've formed about who I am and what family I come from. It's a tautological argument. Refocus. Third, if you intend on having people take your comments about my naivete and ignorance seriously, you should eliminate the ridiculous junior high school remarks on the male anatomy. Once again, I appreciate the publicity. Best of luck to you. Sincerely, Lamar

    Tuesday, July 11, 2006 by Blogger

    An Anonymous Letter Of Complaint Against The Alexandria Police Department I received this e-mail today from a source who asked me to protect his anonymity. I have confirmed the veracity of his identity. However, I caution that it is impossible for me, at this juncture, to confirm the veracity of his claims. If there is reason to believe that this letter is fictional, then I invite readers to question its claims. Dear Lamar, I've been having a hard time tracking down the e-mail address of the chief of police for Alexandria, so I hope that you will post this as an open letter to the citizens of Alexandria.... (edited for personal content) Yesterday evening, while at friend's house and walking toward my vehicle to retrieve a CD, three armed police officers surrounded me and told me to put my hands on the hood of one of their police cars. This occurred late at night around Charles Park, near the Citgo gas station, formerly known as the Gate. As a resident of Charles Park, I have noticed throughout the past six years, police officers tend to congregate at the Gate during the late evening and early morning hours. I don't exactly understand why the APD chooses to dispatch several police officers at this location, considering the bulk of crime in Alexandria occurs in other areas. However, the officers told me they were investigating a string of petty thefts that had recently occurred in this neighborhood. After I placed my hands on the hood of a police car, they asked me what I was doing. I told them that I was just checking on my vehicle and fetching a CD. Then, they asked me if they could search my pockets, and I consented. I had nothing to hide. They frisked me, searched my pockets, and then asked if they could search my vehicle. I asked why this was necessary. Without an answer, they continued asking if they could search. I told them politely that there was no reason to search. They then threatened to "bring out the K-9 unit... which could take forever." Again, I had nothing to hide and allowed them to search my vehicle. After searching my car, they asked me who I was visiting. I told them my friend's name. Then, they walked over to my friend's place, knocked on the door, and asked my friend whether or not he "knew" who I was, all while holding my ID in his hand. My friend, of course, confirmed I was there and was due back. Afterward, they walked back over to me and explained that they usually worked on the "other side of town" and were used to doing things "that way." They told me that if I had been on the other side of town, I would have been "beaten by now." I believe this was supposed to be a joke. To me, this entire incident really proves what's wrong about the way the Alexandria Police Department enforces the law. First, they harassed a citizen who was merely walking toward his vehicle; I was not inebriated, and like I said, I had nothing to hide so I consented. Then, they asked to search my vehicle. I'm not sure what searchable offense occured, but still, I consented. To top it all off, they involved my friend in this whole fiasco, flashing flashlights into his windows and interrogating him about who I was. The whole incident really makes me glad I wasn't "on the other side of town." Who knows what they would have done? Let me also state that there I have no intentions whatsoever of pressing any charges. I consented voluntarily to what they demanded, and I respected their authority. I understand that crime is a problem in Alexandria, and I think it is important that our police officers enforce the law....but if my experience proves anything, it is that the method that was used on me wasn't appropriate or necessary... and bordered on harassment.

    by Blogger

    Cleco Audit Back On Schedule, Findings To Be Released After The Elections

    by Blogger

    Cleco Responds To The Town Talk Madison: From day one, Cleco has pushed to start this audit My Turn That's what we have been working for since the spring of 2004. In fact, the method for providing answers -- an audit done by experts acceptable to both parties -- is spelled out in our contract with the city.

    The Town Talk was both ill informed and irresponsible in its July 7 editorial ["Citizens stiffed as Alexandria, Cleco dawdle"]. The claim that Cleco Corp. has tried to delay an audit of transactions with the city of Alexandria has no basis in fact.

    It is a ridiculous assertion, and the people of Alexandria deserve the facts. My position hasn't changed from day one:

    An objective audit should be done as soon as possible. If, at the end of the process, Cleco owes money to the city, we will pay it.

    A business has nothing to gain from dragging out an issue with a customer. Every customer no matter their size deserves honest answers.

    Within weeks after the city first raised concerns to us, we suggested a number of nationally known accounting firms capable of conducting the audit. When that effort failed to gain traction, we continued working with city officials to find qualified firms to audit our records.

    For reasons best known to them, city officials instead decided to file a lawsuit against Cleco. Still, we worked to speed up the litigation and associated audit, not delay it.

    What may be confusing to some is the lawsuit we filed against two former employees.

    That is a completely separate issue. While there may have been a point of common origin, the lawsuit against our former employees is an employment-contract matter, and it has never delayed any audit between Cleco and the city.

    We have never tried to keep an unbiased firm from auditing our records on behalf of Alexandria residents.

    A federal judge is now overseeing what we believe will be a fair audit process, and we will continue to do all we can to move the audit forward. It is well past time to get to the real facts in dispute, rather than waste years and taxpayers' money in senseless court fights where the only winners are the attorneys and consultants collecting lucrative fees.

    For two years now, the hundreds of Cleco employees who live in this community and contribute to meet its needs have endured potshots and watched the company they proudly work for have its name dragged through the mud.

    When you look at the facts, there is no reason for this character assassination. Whether it is hurricane recovery, coaching the Little League, participating in local churches, or serving as Red Cross volunteers, Cleco and its 1,200 employees are here for this community and our customers. You don't stay in business for more than 70 years any other way.

    We are -- and always have been -- ready for an independent audit.

  • Michael H. Madison is president and chief executive officer of Cleco Corp.
  • Monday, July 10, 2006 by Blogger

    McPherson Businesses Cash in State Money
    Associated Press
    Monday, July 10, 2006

    Louisiana lawmakers doing business with the state and with local governments have reported earning money from Medicaid payments, legal work and insurance policies.

    All members of the Legislature must submit financial disclosure forms detailing how much, if any, money they or their spouses made in dealings with the state or with city, parish or other local governments.

    Sen. Joe McPherson, co-owner of a Lafayette nursing home, reported earning more government money than any other lawmaker. The facility, Maison de Lafayette, received $3.3 million from the state in Medicaid payments, McPherson, D-Woodworth, said in his form.

    Government watchdog groups are longtime critics of allowing lawmakers to do business with governments, saying it creates conflicts of interest when legislators must take positions on bills supported or opposed by those governments.

    Lawmakers defend the practice. Several bills to prohibit it have failed to get through the Legislature.

    Other lawmakers reporting large sums from 2005 government work include:

    -Rep. Bryant Hammett, D-Ferriday, whose engineering firm made $737,826 for projects for Columbia, Concordia and Tensas parishes, towns including Ferriday and Jonesville, and work for governments elsewhere in the state. Hammett has said he plans to give up his House seat to take a job in the Blanco administration overseeing the rebuilding of infrastructure damaged in 2005 hurricanes.

    -Rep. Karen St. Germain, D-Plaquemines, reported that a Pierre Part hardware store owned by her husband and his siblings made $56,351 from local government bodies in Assumption Parish.

    -Rep. Glenn Ansardi, D-Kenner, said his law firm earned $470,000 doing legal work for local governments in Jefferson Parish.

    -Rep. Hunter Greene, R-Baton Rouge, a lawyer, reported that he and his wife made $143,366 doing work for 12 school boards.

    The base salary of a senator or House member is $22,800 per year. Additionally, they can receive up to $115 for each day the Legislature was in session this year - another $11,155 for those 97 days.

    Lawmakers in leadership positions make more. The House speaker and Senate president, Rep. Joe Salter, D-Florien, and Sen. Don Hines, D-Bunkie, each have a base salary of $32,000. The speaker pro tem and president pro tem, Rep. Yvonne Dorsey, D-Baton Rouge, and Sen. Diana Bajoie, D-New Orleans, have base salaries of $24,500. The co-chairmen of the legislative budget committee, Rep. John Alario, D-Westwego, and Sen. Francis Heitmeier, D-New Orleans, make $28,000 plus expenses.

    Sunday, July 09, 2006 by Blogger

    Our View: Citizens stiffed as Alexandria, Cleco dawdle Everyone knew the fraud fight between the city of Alexandria and Cleco Corp. would get much worse before it got better, but no one could have predicted this.

    Right now, city residents are seeing gridlock in action. Make that inaction.

    Today, city officials are no closer to reviewing the Pineville-based electric company's billing records than they were so long ago -- way back when someone outside of city government spoke up and said, hey, you might be getting ripped off -- big time.

    The fact that a review of the records has not even started does not bode well for residents and business owners in Alexandria, those who buy their electricity from the city, which buys it from Cleco. Indeed, it does not bode well for all city residents -- especially the tens of thousands of taxpayers who continue to wonder why their local officials, elected and otherwise, do not spend taxpayer dollars wisely and do not make sure they get what they paid for,

    Either these city officials cannot do the job, or they will not do the job. We suspect some of each is true, depending on which office in City Hall is talking or not talking to the public; feuding or not feuding with the office down the hall; plotting to "get" someone for some sleight, real or perceived; or planning to get something for themselves, a relative or a friend.

    To the taxpayers on the outside looking in, dysfunction appears to be the order of the day. That, by the way, is also what Cleco officials see, and their attorneys will make good use of the confusion and disarray that come with it.

    For its part, Cleco has chosen a path that has made an ugly -- and perhaps criminal -- situation even uglier. The utility clearly does not care what its behavior looks like to the city of Alexandria -- or to any of its other customers, for that matter. Through various legal maneuvers, the company has succeeded in stalling the review process, blocking reasonable requests for information, and dodging questions about accountability.

    All of that, the utility seems to think, will ensure a level playing field when the parties finally do sit down with a pile of paperwork that will show two important things: how well or how poorly the company treated the city of Alexandria and its electric customers, and how well or how poorly city officials monitored the spending of millions of taxpayer dollars.

    At the same time, Cleco's maneuvering accomplishes something else for the company -- delay, delay, delay. The hope, of course, is that the longer it takes to take a step in the review process, the more uncomfortable things get for certain people in City Hall. Perhaps someone will eventually say, Enough! Then the whole thing can be settled behind closed doors for 10 cents on the dollar.

    It wouldn't be the first time something like that happened. You'd better believe it's being discussed.

    Originally published July 7, 2006

    by Blogger

    Letter To The Editor: Regulating Hairstyles Is Not A Job For Our School System Hair not an educational issue From the Town Talk

    The Rapides Parish school system has no business regulating any aspect of students' appearance that they cannot readily modify once they leave campus. This applies to the freedom to wear one's hair as he or she wishes.

    Braids, beads, bands or other hairstyles are in no way distracting unless a boy's girlfriend is using class time to style his hair. That is a disciplinary issue. Policies against boys wearing braids are unconstitutional on two grounds. First, unless females are also not allowed to wear braids, such policies are sexist. Second, braids are almost exclusively an African-American style. Braids are an expression of ethnic heritage and must be respected as such. Stop being afraid of students who do not look like small-town Republicans. Enter the 21st century, Rapides Parish. Focus on achievement. Give students a quality education. Prepare them for college, vocations and independent living. Only the most regimented of employers have hair codes, and most colleges would not even consider such violations of personal freedom. Don't worry about how students look as long as they are modest, clean and their underwear is not visible. Any hair policy whatsoever is reminiscent of the 1960s when redneck police officers would capture an innocent hippie and shave his head! Today that would be considered assault and perhaps even a hate crime. Do you really want your system to be regarded as stuck in the 1960s? Leave the hair alone. Rhonda Browning Vidalia

    Saturday, July 08, 2006 by Blogger

    More Shameless Self-Promotion: Bringhurst Golf Course Makes The News (Again!)

    Thursday, July 06, 2006 by Blogger

    Randolph Issues Statement About Cleco, Claims City Attorney Did Inform Council About Court Filing

    by Blogger

    Dr. John Sams for Mayor: Read What Other People Are Saying About John Sams For Mayor I know Dr. Sams' website is brand new, but c'mon, this is still funny. I also enjoyed this line about his son Andy: Yes, my son DID found the first high school ACLU chapter in Louisiana. Yes, I supported his right to do so and do not regret it. My children have all been raised to be individuals who stand up for what they believe is correct BUT.....THEY are not running for Mayor of Alexandria.

    Wednesday, July 05, 2006 by Blogger

    Jacques Roy and Michael Brewer Featured in Today's New York Times (right on the front page) It's about prison labor.

    by Blogger

    Sparks Fly Over Cleco I was in the front room during this meeting, and trust me, it became very loud and heated.

    Tuesday, July 04, 2006 by Blogger

    Cleco Audit in Jeopardy

    Saturday, July 01, 2006 by Blogger

    Gannett Attempts to Squash Independent Press by Controlling Distribution Points
    Independent Magazines Found Their Racks at the Dumpster (Jackson, MS)
    Earlier today, the Dead Pelican linked to a story featured in the Independent Weekly about Gannett's latest attempt at controlling the news: Dominate distribution points by "renting out" space for independent magazines (and then share those profits with the stores that offer this service). From the Independent Weekly:

    Gannett’s pitch to retailers is that it will take on the retailer’s burden of managing the racks of free publications at a store’s location by installing one gigantic plastic box. Gannett then offers the retailer a cut of the revenue from the publications that rent the box space.

    But for the competing publications, the deal isn’t so sweet.

    Todd Stauffer, publisher of the Jackson Free Press, discovered the Gannett daily newspaper in Jackson, Miss., The Clarion-Ledger, was entering into agreements with retailers that gave Gannett exclusive rights to distribute any and all free publications. The agreement gives Gannett the right to evict publishers who don’t sign up with the service from its distribution points. In May, Stauffer wrote in his newspaper: “I understand the Mafia in New York City has a similar system.”

    The Jackson Free Press serves 190,000 Jackson residents and a metro area of 500,000 by distributing 16,000 copies of its weekly paper in more than 400 locations. After JFP published its first story on Gannett’s new distribution network, The Clarion-Ledger Publisher John Newhouse released a statement that read in part: “The growing number of free publications, not just here, but around the country, presents both opportunity and concern for all of us.” He concluded: “A distribution network will happen in Metro Jackson, if not by The Clarion-Ledger, then quite possibly by a distribution company with no connection to Jackson or Mississippi. And, based on national trends, companies from outside this market would likely charge much higher rates for the same service.”

    The Daily Advertiser Publisher Ted Power is short on details about SLP’s distribution intentions, but he parrots the Gannett party line: “If we decide to go ahead, we want to go ahead at a point before anybody else does it.”

    When Stauffer met with The Clarion-Ledger’s Circulation Manager Lee Warmouth, he requested a copy of the contract that retailers were signing with Gannett, but Warmouth refused. Stauffer then obtained a copy of the agreement from another source. “It basically says that the retailer is giving The Clarion Ledger the exclusive right to manage free distribution publications on [retailers’] premises, all the grounds, indoors and out,” he says. The deal calls for Gannett to give retailers 23 percent of the boxes’ revenue, and assuming that The Clarion-Ledger won’t pay for its own publications to be included in the boxes, Stauffer says the retailer’s cut is at most $12 a month.

    For publications that distribute to 100 - 200 locations, the price is $6.50 a month per location. For a paper with 200 locations, that’s a monthly cost of $1,300 — $15,600 annually. Publications that distribute to more than 200 locations are charged $5 a month per location. For publications like real estate guides and classified papers that can easily have up to 600 locations, the cost is even more exorbitant. “That’s a cost of $35,000 or $40,000 a year just for the right to have The Clarion-Ledger distribute them,” Stauffer says, “and we’re assuming that’s the introductory price.”

    Jackson Free Press didn’t take Gannett up on its new service, nor has any other free Jackson area publication. Instead, they formed the Mississippi Independent Publishers Alliance, a group of independent free publications that publish classified papers, real estate guides and weeklies. Each member of the alliance has pledged not to sign up with Gannett’s free distribution network. As long as Jackson’s independent publishers stick to their guns and refuse to sign onto The Clarion-Ledger’s network, it leaves the daily newspaper without income from the boxes — of which retailers have been offered a percentage — but it still leaves Gannett with exclusive distribution rights.

    “If this was truly free enterprise,” Stauffer says, “they wouldn’t have to put ‘exclusive’ [in the contract]. … They’re not truly offering a product, and that’s how I know their scheme is more evil empire than it is a service. The problem I’ve got is that my competitor is going to be setting the rate on the box, and they’re basically using the strong arm of a Virginia-based corporation to try to buy their way into something they haven’t done particularly successfully just through sweat and tears.”

    Stauffer received a letter from The Clarion Ledger on May 18 stating that Jackson Free Press must remove its racks from 167 locations by June 19. JFP’s attorneys responded by saying Gannett’s contracts with retailers were invalid since Gannett misleadingly used Jackson Free Press’ name in its marketing materials. “They suggested strongly to the locations in their pitch that most of the local free publications were on board as they went into pitch the idea,” Stauffer says. Retailers were presented with a list of publications titled “Accepted” and used the form to pick the publications they wanted in their locations. “It wasn’t that we had accepted anything,” Stauffer says. “It wasn’t that we even knew anything about the program. Prior to having talked to us, they created this list and made it look very legal. We’re saying we think that the contracts they signed while using our name are invalid.” On June 20, the Jackson Free Press reported that its readers had spotted independent publishers’ racks lined up next to dumpsters.

    “On top of that,” Stauffer says, “we learned yesterday that one of the chains of convenience stores didn’t actually sign it until this week, although we got the letter a couple weeks ago. So they’re basically just playing both sides of the fence. They’re clearly overestimating the locations they’re telling us we have to get out of, and then they’re going to the retailers and saying this is going to be a great thing, except they’re actually not going to have any free distribution papers there.”

    “I think it’s icing on the cake for them if they actually manage to make money off the distribution network,” Stauffer adds. South Louisiana Publishing’s Binkley told The Independent Weekly’s Terry that SLP’s business plan doesn’t call for making money for the first three years.

    In addition to The Independent Weekly, Acadiana publications that could be affected by Gannett’s latest ploy include Acadiana Lifestyle, 008 magazine, The Real Estate Book, Zing, The Acadian, HealthCare Highlights, House & Home and Louisiana Homes & Gardens.

    Gannett’s new distribution plan is a reaction to declining readership at Gannett’s daily newspapers. The Clarion-Ledger has launched a car classified shopper, a home classified shopper, a parenting magazine, and a weekend section, for a total of half a dozen free publications. In Lafayette, Gannett’s trying the same strategy with Acadiana Parent and L Magazine.

    “They’re going into the free publication business,” Stauffer says. “What we’re watching is our daily rolling into the free distribution business and the forced circulation business, and I assume that’s because they’re dying.”

    “It’s about free enterprise,” he adds, “and it’s about a marketplace of ideas. Gannett has a pretty bad track record of trying to own that entire marketplace. They shouldn’t feel threatened by the free publications. But the truth is they are because they don’t do a great job — at least in our market — of being the paper of record. I wish they would take their vast resources and focus more on reporting, investigating, and telling us the stories we need to hear, as opposed to trying to knock the Thrifty Nickel out of business.”

    by Blogger

    Casey Parks, Louisiana Native and ASH Graduate, Wins Prestigious New York Times Journalism Award It's worth mentioning that Casey once wrote for The Town Talk. Casey will be featured in the Ten Under Thirty feature as soon as she returns from vacation. Read Casey's award-winning essay Watch a video of Nick Kristof calling Casey More information on Casey and her work with the Jackson Free Press can be found here

    The Thursday Town Talk front page story by Jim Leggett lacked objectivity and accuracy. The article also unjustly hinted of racial bias, which may sell papers but plays no roll in fully understanding or resolving the present conflict.

    The Sisters of The Holy Family began their search for housing in Alexandria earlier this year assisted by Realtors Pattie Deville, Charles Deville and others. The Realtors and other representatives of the buyers and sellers contacted Glen Couvillion, Alexandria’s zoning control officer, prior to the sale. Couvillion advised the interested parties that they could buy and operate a ‘group home” in Single Family-2 or other single family zoned neighborhoods. This action was based on an opinion by former city planning director Darrell Williamson after a controversy concerning a group home in Plantation Acres. None of the above was disclosed publicly and the city code was not changed. It turns out that the advice of the zoning control officer was wrong. The “group home” theory used in the purchase and use of both the 3000 Elliott St. and George’s Lane houses was not valid. When I found out about this, the nuns had already purchased both homes and were occupying them. Mr. and Mrs. Brooks Harris sold the house to the nuns. They did not speak to their neighbors about the sale and they did not have to. He did contact the city zoning office prior to the sale, according to Couvillion. All of the adjoining property owners of the above property, except Dr. Michael Menache, objected to rezoning. Many other property owners, including myself, were and are opposed to the properties being rezoned, but not opposed to the nuns’ use of the property. After the problem surfaced and it became apparent that there would be some action either by the city or by a civil suit, Ellis Saybe, I have been told, began contacting and negotiating with residents of Georges’ Lane, excluding myself. We do not want the old Roy O. Martin Jr. property rezoned to allow bed and breakfasts, cemeteries, clubs, lodges, day cares, golf courses, libraries, museums and other public buildings or philanthropic institutions. We do not want to displace the nuns, but expect them to sell the property when they have recovered from the Katrina disaster. I along with others would be happy to donate money to help them recover. It is most important to maintain the essence of, quality and feeling of all neighborhoods. A residential neighborhood should remain just that unless it is affected by uncontrollable or inevitable change usually emanating by outside forces. Alexandria’s zoning codes must be updated and enforced to protect all neighborhoods. At this time I am resolved to working with Kelvin Sanders, the city attorney, and others to resolve this problem for the benefit of all Alexandria. Robert A. Wolf Alexandria

    Today's issue of the Town Talk also featured a letter from the previous home owner, Brookes Harris, in which he quotes scripture that implies Mr. Wolf could be "godless." Geez.

    More on how to misunderstand and malign a man in thirty minutes:

    1. Take an ordinary story about zoning laws and government incompetence.
    2. Single out the whistleblower who protests this incompetence.
    3. Imply that he hates nuns.
    4. Imply that he wants to make them homeless.
    5. Write about the nun's sympathetic back story. It may not have anything to do with zoning laws, but hell, it'll line people up on their side, regardless of the facts.
    6. Point out that the nuns are African-American. This will make their white neighbor look racist. (See the Town Talk's online thread if you don't believe me).
    7. Make sure your headlines are misleading. Most people just read the headlines, after all, and if it looks like these "hurricane-displaced nuns" are "fighting to stay in their home," well, that's all the public needs to know.
    8. Allow the general public to write misinformed letters of attack against Mr. Wolf. Publish these letters on your website. Allow anonymity.
    9. Imply (or allow others to imply) that Mr. Wolf had a financial stake in the sale of these homes, even though he did not.
    10. Publish a letter that implies Mr. Wolf is "godless."
    11. Do not make any factual corrections. Retract nothing. Correct nothing. Instead write an editorial about how it's unfair that someone else (that high school student from Marksville) was allowed to "break the rules," and then explain why we set up these rules for a good reason, why it doesn't matter who the rulebreaker is, and why we must enforce these rules to be fair to everyone else.

    |W|P|115307744035271250|W|P||W|P|LamarW@gmail.com7/15/2006 09:23:00 PM|W|P|Blogger|W|P| Louisiana Native Making Strong Showing At World Series of Poker My college roommate and good friend Nath Pizzolatto is making a splash at this year's World Series of Poker. This evening, he won second place in his first ever event, taking home nearly a quarter of a million dollars. You can keep track of Nath's progress on his blog, Nath Plays Poker.|W|P|115302415157154781|W|P||W|P|LamarW@gmail.com7/14/2006 02:28:00 PM|W|P|Blogger|W|P| The Man Who Cried Wolf. Who's Afraid of Robert Wolf? Wolf Attacks in Cenla. -or- How to Misunderstand and Malign a Man in Thirty Minutes The Town Talk and KALB are both running with this story about Robert Wolf's opposition of a proposed ordinance to create a special zoning exception for a couple of single family homes in the Garden District. Personally, I think this is much ado about nothing, as long as they can define the exception in very narrow, limiting language. And considering the way the Town Talk first reported this story, it seems like Mr. Wolf doesn't mind his new neighbors; he just wants to make sure that a change in zoning wouldn't compromise the value of his home. If I recall correctly, the city set up stringent zoning codes for the building that houses the Adult Emporium on Masonic Drive, and I believe there is even a line in there about the city's first right of refusal on a change in the lease agreement (or something like that. Maybe someone else can clarify this). If they can do this for the Adult Emporium, they can certainly do this for those two properties. Mr. Wolf is completely within his rights as a neighbor, a concerned citizen, and an experienced real estate broker and developer. This isn't a story about Mr. Wolf taking on a bunch of nuns, though I can certainly understand why it would be played that way. "I am opposed to rezoning," Wolf said. "I'm not opposed to nuns using the project. They are good neighbors." But it's important to understand that a change in ownership could affect the neighborhood unless the proposed ordinance provides safeguards against this. There's another story here. The Town Talk's website has given this story its own thread in which readers are encouraged to e-mail their responses, which are then posted by a moderator. The original story, written by Jim Leggett, was very clear on the facts. The headline, which I understand is typically written by an editor, may have been a little misleading ("Hurricane-displaced nuns fighting to stay in new Alexandria homes"), because the possibility of these nuns being kicked out of their new homes is extremely remote. But the article was deliberate. Mr. Leggett writes, "Wolf said he doesn't object to the nuns, but he does object to the way the city has handled the matter." Perhaps this is actually a story about government incompetence. Either way, it's highly unlikely these nuns will be forced to sale; a compromise seems inevitable. That's why the online story and thread are reckless. The headline ("Should New Orleans nuns be allowed to stay in their home on Georges Lane?) implies that a resident of Georges Lane, Mr. Wolf, is attempting to kick them out of their own home. Remember, there's another home on Elliott Street; this isn't just about Georges Lane. Readers have been pouring in support for these nuns all day long. Everyone supports the nuns. Of course. I support the nuns. Mr. Wolf supports the nuns. But because the Town Talk has set up this battle between Robert Wolf and these nuns, their readers have been writing in and slamming Mr. Wolf, and the Town Talk has faithfully published a number of these comments, some of which are anonymous. (Remember Sound Off, anyone?). Now, I know the Town Talk isn't responsible for what other people chose to say, but it is their responsibility to clearly explain this story to the public. Mr. Leggett's story seemed pretty balanced, but the follow-up story and thread are irresponsible. |W|P|115291570778085284|W|P||W|P|LamarW@gmail.com7/13/2006 01:09:00 PM|W|P|Blogger|W|P|By the way, has anyone noticed that Israel and Hezbollah are launching bombs at one another?|W|P|115282193403685467|W|P||W|P|LamarW@gmail.com7/13/2006 12:52:00 PM|W|P|Blogger|W|P|KALB: Cheetum Park Versus Compton Park|W|P|115282041070923328|W|P||W|P|LamarW@gmail.com7/13/2006 10:38:00 AM|W|P|Blogger|W|P|They're Baaaaaack: Anonymous Flame Thrower(s) Continue To Dictate The Discussion on Cenla Antics (And Guess Who They're Mad At?) On Tuesday, I responded to a question on Cenla Antics. Will I be "endorsing" a candidate for mayor on the blog? It's a good question. This blog receives about 300-450 unique visitors per day, most of whom are genuinely interested in local politics and many of whom use this blog as a vehicle for expressing their own opinions on the issues. I've met or spoken with all of the candidates (thus far) at one time or another, and I'm still undecided. But unlike most people my age in Alexandria, I plan on voting in the mayoral election, and once I've made up my mind, I won't mind telling people who I plan on voting for (and the reasons behind my decision). As always, if readers disagree with me, they can explain why right here on the blog. Anyway, someone became really offended that I would have the audacity to "endorse" a candidate. Who the hell do I think I am, after all, to use the word "endorsement?" I'm just a punk. I'm not offended by this person's decision to write an open letter of attack against me, but I'm a little disappointed by his style. It's the same old stuff about my father and my last name with a few words rearranged here and there and a handful of new adjectives. There are many other ways to make fun of me, and I'd hate for this person's rhetorical potency to be diminished by repetition. This anonymous person has also argued that my presence in the discussion about the future of our community should not be acknowledged because I somehow represent a continuation of the way things have been going here for the past twenty years. (It's worth noting that I am 24 years old). So here it is, a letter to the anonymous flame thrower. For your amusement and enjoyment. Dear Anonymous Person Who Claims He's "Nobody," I'd be remiss if I didn't thank you for all of the free publicity. Your hyperbolic words of hatred continue to generate interest in my blog and my opinions, regardless of your intentions. No doubt, the publicity you've given me is an unintended consequence of your efforts at discrediting me. If you're truly interested in discrediting my opinions and silencing my voice in this discussion, then you may want to consider changing your strategy. First, in order for people to understand your argument, they have to know exactly what you're arguing. The best way for you to clarify and hone your argument is by dropping the off-topic attacks on my family. Don't get me wrong. I'm not advising you to do this because I'm offended; by now, I'm used to this tactic. It's simply uneffective, and if the point is to once and for all tell the "truth" about my "attitude," you'll have to reference specific, topical statements that illustrate my "attitude." Also, the argument about my family is faulty, because it places you in a rhetorically untenable position. You can't argue that I don't matter because my family doesn't matter (or whatever it is you're attempting to prove with your shots at my father), because any attention toward my family may also be considered a recognition, on your part, that they do, in fact, matter. Again, it's unintended publicity that underscores precisely what you're attempting to argue against. Second, on a related note, I suggest that you actually read my blog, not because I think you'll change your opinion on me, but because you need to better familiarize yourself with my statements on the issues. There is a reason bloggers like WeSawThat defend me against your attacks: They read my blog, and they know what I've actually said. Your main problem, it seems to me, is that you've decided to conflate my opinions with your perception of the reigning paradigm of the upper class. Unfortunately, the foundation of this argument is not based on any statements I've made on the issues; it's based on a perception you've formed about who I am and what family I come from. It's a tautological argument. Refocus. Third, if you intend on having people take your comments about my naivete and ignorance seriously, you should eliminate the ridiculous junior high school remarks on the male anatomy. Once again, I appreciate the publicity. Best of luck to you. Sincerely, Lamar|W|P|115281569470867976|W|P||W|P|LamarW@gmail.com7/11/2006 09:39:00 PM|W|P|Blogger|W|P|An Anonymous Letter Of Complaint Against The Alexandria Police Department I received this e-mail today from a source who asked me to protect his anonymity. I have confirmed the veracity of his identity. However, I caution that it is impossible for me, at this juncture, to confirm the veracity of his claims. If there is reason to believe that this letter is fictional, then I invite readers to question its claims. Dear Lamar, I've been having a hard time tracking down the e-mail address of the chief of police for Alexandria, so I hope that you will post this as an open letter to the citizens of Alexandria.... (edited for personal content) Yesterday evening, while at friend's house and walking toward my vehicle to retrieve a CD, three armed police officers surrounded me and told me to put my hands on the hood of one of their police cars. This occurred late at night around Charles Park, near the Citgo gas station, formerly known as the Gate. As a resident of Charles Park, I have noticed throughout the past six years, police officers tend to congregate at the Gate during the late evening and early morning hours. I don't exactly understand why the APD chooses to dispatch several police officers at this location, considering the bulk of crime in Alexandria occurs in other areas. However, the officers told me they were investigating a string of petty thefts that had recently occurred in this neighborhood. After I placed my hands on the hood of a police car, they asked me what I was doing. I told them that I was just checking on my vehicle and fetching a CD. Then, they asked me if they could search my pockets, and I consented. I had nothing to hide. They frisked me, searched my pockets, and then asked if they could search my vehicle. I asked why this was necessary. Without an answer, they continued asking if they could search. I told them politely that there was no reason to search. They then threatened to "bring out the K-9 unit... which could take forever." Again, I had nothing to hide and allowed them to search my vehicle. After searching my car, they asked me who I was visiting. I told them my friend's name. Then, they walked over to my friend's place, knocked on the door, and asked my friend whether or not he "knew" who I was, all while holding my ID in his hand. My friend, of course, confirmed I was there and was due back. Afterward, they walked back over to me and explained that they usually worked on the "other side of town" and were used to doing things "that way." They told me that if I had been on the other side of town, I would have been "beaten by now." I believe this was supposed to be a joke. To me, this entire incident really proves what's wrong about the way the Alexandria Police Department enforces the law. First, they harassed a citizen who was merely walking toward his vehicle; I was not inebriated, and like I said, I had nothing to hide so I consented. Then, they asked to search my vehicle. I'm not sure what searchable offense occured, but still, I consented. To top it all off, they involved my friend in this whole fiasco, flashing flashlights into his windows and interrogating him about who I was. The whole incident really makes me glad I wasn't "on the other side of town." Who knows what they would have done? Let me also state that there I have no intentions whatsoever of pressing any charges. I consented voluntarily to what they demanded, and I respected their authority. I understand that crime is a problem in Alexandria, and I think it is important that our police officers enforce the law....but if my experience proves anything, it is that the method that was used on me wasn't appropriate or necessary... and bordered on harassment. |W|P|115268288619952305|W|P||W|P|LamarW@gmail.com7/11/2006 03:23:00 PM|W|P|Blogger|W|P|Cleco Audit Back On Schedule, Findings To Be Released After The Elections|W|P|115265664436532164|W|P||W|P|LamarW@gmail.com7/11/2006 07:59:00 AM|W|P|Blogger|W|P|Cleco Responds To The Town Talk Madison: From day one, Cleco has pushed to start this audit My Turn That's what we have been working for since the spring of 2004. In fact, the method for providing answers -- an audit done by experts acceptable to both parties -- is spelled out in our contract with the city.

    The Town Talk was both ill informed and irresponsible in its July 7 editorial ["Citizens stiffed as Alexandria, Cleco dawdle"]. The claim that Cleco Corp. has tried to delay an audit of transactions with the city of Alexandria has no basis in fact.

    It is a ridiculous assertion, and the people of Alexandria deserve the facts. My position hasn't changed from day one:

    An objective audit should be done as soon as possible. If, at the end of the process, Cleco owes money to the city, we will pay it.

    A business has nothing to gain from dragging out an issue with a customer. Every customer no matter their size deserves honest answers.

    Within weeks after the city first raised concerns to us, we suggested a number of nationally known accounting firms capable of conducting the audit. When that effort failed to gain traction, we continued working with city officials to find qualified firms to audit our records.

    For reasons best known to them, city officials instead decided to file a lawsuit against Cleco. Still, we worked to speed up the litigation and associated audit, not delay it.

    What may be confusing to some is the lawsuit we filed against two former employees.

    That is a completely separate issue. While there may have been a point of common origin, the lawsuit against our former employees is an employment-contract matter, and it has never delayed any audit between Cleco and the city.

    We have never tried to keep an unbiased firm from auditing our records on behalf of Alexandria residents.

    A federal judge is now overseeing what we believe will be a fair audit process, and we will continue to do all we can to move the audit forward. It is well past time to get to the real facts in dispute, rather than waste years and taxpayers' money in senseless court fights where the only winners are the attorneys and consultants collecting lucrative fees.

    For two years now, the hundreds of Cleco employees who live in this community and contribute to meet its needs have endured potshots and watched the company they proudly work for have its name dragged through the mud.

    When you look at the facts, there is no reason for this character assassination. Whether it is hurricane recovery, coaching the Little League, participating in local churches, or serving as Red Cross volunteers, Cleco and its 1,200 employees are here for this community and our customers. You don't stay in business for more than 70 years any other way.

    We are -- and always have been -- ready for an independent audit.

  • Michael H. Madison is president and chief executive officer of Cleco Corp.
  • |W|P|115263006503579426|W|P||W|P|LamarW@gmail.com7/10/2006 12:50:00 PM|W|P|Blogger|W|P|
    McPherson Businesses Cash in State Money
    Associated Press
    Monday, July 10, 2006

    Louisiana lawmakers doing business with the state and with local governments have reported earning money from Medicaid payments, legal work and insurance policies.

    All members of the Legislature must submit financial disclosure forms detailing how much, if any, money they or their spouses made in dealings with the state or with city, parish or other local governments.

    Sen. Joe McPherson, co-owner of a Lafayette nursing home, reported earning more government money than any other lawmaker. The facility, Maison de Lafayette, received $3.3 million from the state in Medicaid payments, McPherson, D-Woodworth, said in his form.

    Government watchdog groups are longtime critics of allowing lawmakers to do business with governments, saying it creates conflicts of interest when legislators must take positions on bills supported or opposed by those governments.

    Lawmakers defend the practice. Several bills to prohibit it have failed to get through the Legislature.

    Other lawmakers reporting large sums from 2005 government work include:

    -Rep. Bryant Hammett, D-Ferriday, whose engineering firm made $737,826 for projects for Columbia, Concordia and Tensas parishes, towns including Ferriday and Jonesville, and work for governments elsewhere in the state. Hammett has said he plans to give up his House seat to take a job in the Blanco administration overseeing the rebuilding of infrastructure damaged in 2005 hurricanes.

    -Rep. Karen St. Germain, D-Plaquemines, reported that a Pierre Part hardware store owned by her husband and his siblings made $56,351 from local government bodies in Assumption Parish.

    -Rep. Glenn Ansardi, D-Kenner, said his law firm earned $470,000 doing legal work for local governments in Jefferson Parish.

    -Rep. Hunter Greene, R-Baton Rouge, a lawyer, reported that he and his wife made $143,366 doing work for 12 school boards.

    The base salary of a senator or House member is $22,800 per year. Additionally, they can receive up to $115 for each day the Legislature was in session this year - another $11,155 for those 97 days.

    Lawmakers in leadership positions make more. The House speaker and Senate president, Rep. Joe Salter, D-Florien, and Sen. Don Hines, D-Bunkie, each have a base salary of $32,000. The speaker pro tem and president pro tem, Rep. Yvonne Dorsey, D-Baton Rouge, and Sen. Diana Bajoie, D-New Orleans, have base salaries of $24,500. The co-chairmen of the legislative budget committee, Rep. John Alario, D-Westwego, and Sen. Francis Heitmeier, D-New Orleans, make $28,000 plus expenses.

    |W|P|115256110261071135|W|P||W|P|LamarW@gmail.com7/09/2006 11:24:00 AM|W|P|Blogger|W|P|Our View: Citizens stiffed as Alexandria, Cleco dawdle Everyone knew the fraud fight between the city of Alexandria and Cleco Corp. would get much worse before it got better, but no one could have predicted this.

    Right now, city residents are seeing gridlock in action. Make that inaction.

    Today, city officials are no closer to reviewing the Pineville-based electric company's billing records than they were so long ago -- way back when someone outside of city government spoke up and said, hey, you might be getting ripped off -- big time.

    The fact that a review of the records has not even started does not bode well for residents and business owners in Alexandria, those who buy their electricity from the city, which buys it from Cleco. Indeed, it does not bode well for all city residents -- especially the tens of thousands of taxpayers who continue to wonder why their local officials, elected and otherwise, do not spend taxpayer dollars wisely and do not make sure they get what they paid for,

    Either these city officials cannot do the job, or they will not do the job. We suspect some of each is true, depending on which office in City Hall is talking or not talking to the public; feuding or not feuding with the office down the hall; plotting to "get" someone for some sleight, real or perceived; or planning to get something for themselves, a relative or a friend.

    To the taxpayers on the outside looking in, dysfunction appears to be the order of the day. That, by the way, is also what Cleco officials see, and their attorneys will make good use of the confusion and disarray that come with it.

    For its part, Cleco has chosen a path that has made an ugly -- and perhaps criminal -- situation even uglier. The utility clearly does not care what its behavior looks like to the city of Alexandria -- or to any of its other customers, for that matter. Through various legal maneuvers, the company has succeeded in stalling the review process, blocking reasonable requests for information, and dodging questions about accountability.

    All of that, the utility seems to think, will ensure a level playing field when the parties finally do sit down with a pile of paperwork that will show two important things: how well or how poorly the company treated the city of Alexandria and its electric customers, and how well or how poorly city officials monitored the spending of millions of taxpayer dollars.

    At the same time, Cleco's maneuvering accomplishes something else for the company -- delay, delay, delay. The hope, of course, is that the longer it takes to take a step in the review process, the more uncomfortable things get for certain people in City Hall. Perhaps someone will eventually say, Enough! Then the whole thing can be settled behind closed doors for 10 cents on the dollar.

    It wouldn't be the first time something like that happened. You'd better believe it's being discussed.

    Originally published July 7, 2006

    |W|P|115246951014960001|W|P||W|P|LamarW@gmail.com7/09/2006 10:40:00 AM|W|P|Blogger|W|P|Letter To The Editor: Regulating Hairstyles Is Not A Job For Our School System Hair not an educational issue From the Town Talk

    The Rapides Parish school system has no business regulating any aspect of students' appearance that they cannot readily modify once they leave campus. This applies to the freedom to wear one's hair as he or she wishes.

    Braids, beads, bands or other hairstyles are in no way distracting unless a boy's girlfriend is using class time to style his hair. That is a disciplinary issue. Policies against boys wearing braids are unconstitutional on two grounds. First, unless females are also not allowed to wear braids, such policies are sexist. Second, braids are almost exclusively an African-American style. Braids are an expression of ethnic heritage and must be respected as such. Stop being afraid of students who do not look like small-town Republicans. Enter the 21st century, Rapides Parish. Focus on achievement. Give students a quality education. Prepare them for college, vocations and independent living. Only the most regimented of employers have hair codes, and most colleges would not even consider such violations of personal freedom. Don't worry about how students look as long as they are modest, clean and their underwear is not visible. Any hair policy whatsoever is reminiscent of the 1960s when redneck police officers would capture an innocent hippie and shave his head! Today that would be considered assault and perhaps even a hate crime. Do you really want your system to be regarded as stuck in the 1960s? Leave the hair alone. Rhonda Browning Vidalia

    |W|P|115246695600349259|W|P||W|P|LamarW@gmail.com7/08/2006 09:59:00 AM|W|P|Blogger|W|P|More Shameless Self-Promotion: Bringhurst Golf Course Makes The News (Again!)|W|P|115237803378420363|W|P||W|P|LamarW@gmail.com7/06/2006 07:29:00 PM|W|P|Blogger|W|P|Randolph Issues Statement About Cleco, Claims City Attorney Did Inform Council About Court Filing|W|P|115223941268337222|W|P||W|P|LamarW@gmail.com7/06/2006 03:47:00 PM|W|P|Blogger|W|P|Dr. John Sams for Mayor: Read What Other People Are Saying About John Sams For Mayor I know Dr. Sams' website is brand new, but c'mon, this is still funny. I also enjoyed this line about his son Andy: Yes, my son DID found the first high school ACLU chapter in Louisiana. Yes, I supported his right to do so and do not regret it. My children have all been raised to be individuals who stand up for what they believe is correct BUT.....THEY are not running for Mayor of Alexandria. |W|P|115222630350475998|W|P||W|P|LamarW@gmail.com7/05/2006 04:20:00 PM|W|P|Blogger|W|P|Jacques Roy and Michael Brewer Featured in Today's New York Times (right on the front page) It's about prison labor.|W|P|115214172856073145|W|P||W|P|LamarW@gmail.com7/05/2006 04:09:00 PM|W|P|Blogger|W|P|Sparks Fly Over Cleco I was in the front room during this meeting, and trust me, it became very loud and heated.|W|P|115214116444711879|W|P||W|P|LamarW@gmail.com7/04/2006 02:45:00 AM|W|P|Blogger|W|P|Cleco Audit in Jeopardy|W|P|115200639944474035|W|P||W|P|LamarW@gmail.com7/01/2006 03:55:00 PM|W|P|Blogger|W|P|
    Gannett Attempts to Squash Independent Press by Controlling Distribution Points
    Independent Magazines Found Their Racks at the Dumpster (Jackson, MS)
    Earlier today, the Dead Pelican linked to a story featured in the Independent Weekly about Gannett's latest attempt at controlling the news: Dominate distribution points by "renting out" space for independent magazines (and then share those profits with the stores that offer this service). From the Independent Weekly:

    Gannett’s pitch to retailers is that it will take on the retailer’s burden of managing the racks of free publications at a store’s location by installing one gigantic plastic box. Gannett then offers the retailer a cut of the revenue from the publications that rent the box space.

    But for the competing publications, the deal isn’t so sweet.

    Todd Stauffer, publisher of the Jackson Free Press, discovered the Gannett daily newspaper in Jackson, Miss., The Clarion-Ledger, was entering into agreements with retailers that gave Gannett exclusive rights to distribute any and all free publications. The agreement gives Gannett the right to evict publishers who don’t sign up with the service from its distribution points. In May, Stauffer wrote in his newspaper: “I understand the Mafia in New York City has a similar system.”

    The Jackson Free Press serves 190,000 Jackson residents and a metro area of 500,000 by distributing 16,000 copies of its weekly paper in more than 400 locations. After JFP published its first story on Gannett’s new distribution network, The Clarion-Ledger Publisher John Newhouse released a statement that read in part: “The growing number of free publications, not just here, but around the country, presents both opportunity and concern for all of us.” He concluded: “A distribution network will happen in Metro Jackson, if not by The Clarion-Ledger, then quite possibly by a distribution company with no connection to Jackson or Mississippi. And, based on national trends, companies from outside this market would likely charge much higher rates for the same service.”

    The Daily Advertiser Publisher Ted Power is short on details about SLP’s distribution intentions, but he parrots the Gannett party line: “If we decide to go ahead, we want to go ahead at a point before anybody else does it.”

    When Stauffer met with The Clarion-Ledger’s Circulation Manager Lee Warmouth, he requested a copy of the contract that retailers were signing with Gannett, but Warmouth refused. Stauffer then obtained a copy of the agreement from another source. “It basically says that the retailer is giving The Clarion Ledger the exclusive right to manage free distribution publications on [retailers’] premises, all the grounds, indoors and out,” he says. The deal calls for Gannett to give retailers 23 percent of the boxes’ revenue, and assuming that The Clarion-Ledger won’t pay for its own publications to be included in the boxes, Stauffer says the retailer’s cut is at most $12 a month.

    For publications that distribute to 100 - 200 locations, the price is $6.50 a month per location. For a paper with 200 locations, that’s a monthly cost of $1,300 — $15,600 annually. Publications that distribute to more than 200 locations are charged $5 a month per location. For publications like real estate guides and classified papers that can easily have up to 600 locations, the cost is even more exorbitant. “That’s a cost of $35,000 or $40,000 a year just for the right to have The Clarion-Ledger distribute them,” Stauffer says, “and we’re assuming that’s the introductory price.”

    Jackson Free Press didn’t take Gannett up on its new service, nor has any other free Jackson area publication. Instead, they formed the Mississippi Independent Publishers Alliance, a group of independent free publications that publish classified papers, real estate guides and weeklies. Each member of the alliance has pledged not to sign up with Gannett’s free distribution network. As long as Jackson’s independent publishers stick to their guns and refuse to sign onto The Clarion-Ledger’s network, it leaves the daily newspaper without income from the boxes — of which retailers have been offered a percentage — but it still leaves Gannett with exclusive distribution rights.

    “If this was truly free enterprise,” Stauffer says, “they wouldn’t have to put ‘exclusive’ [in the contract]. … They’re not truly offering a product, and that’s how I know their scheme is more evil empire than it is a service. The problem I’ve got is that my competitor is going to be setting the rate on the box, and they’re basically using the strong arm of a Virginia-based corporation to try to buy their way into something they haven’t done particularly successfully just through sweat and tears.”

    Stauffer received a letter from The Clarion Ledger on May 18 stating that Jackson Free Press must remove its racks from 167 locations by June 19. JFP’s attorneys responded by saying Gannett’s contracts with retailers were invalid since Gannett misleadingly used Jackson Free Press’ name in its marketing materials. “They suggested strongly to the locations in their pitch that most of the local free publications were on board as they went into pitch the idea,” Stauffer says. Retailers were presented with a list of publications titled “Accepted” and used the form to pick the publications they wanted in their locations. “It wasn’t that we had accepted anything,” Stauffer says. “It wasn’t that we even knew anything about the program. Prior to having talked to us, they created this list and made it look very legal. We’re saying we think that the contracts they signed while using our name are invalid.” On June 20, the Jackson Free Press reported that its readers had spotted independent publishers’ racks lined up next to dumpsters.

    “On top of that,” Stauffer says, “we learned yesterday that one of the chains of convenience stores didn’t actually sign it until this week, although we got the letter a couple weeks ago. So they’re basically just playing both sides of the fence. They’re clearly overestimating the locations they’re telling us we have to get out of, and then they’re going to the retailers and saying this is going to be a great thing, except they’re actually not going to have any free distribution papers there.”

    “I think it’s icing on the cake for them if they actually manage to make money off the distribution network,” Stauffer adds. South Louisiana Publishing’s Binkley told The Independent Weekly’s Terry that SLP’s business plan doesn’t call for making money for the first three years.

    In addition to The Independent Weekly, Acadiana publications that could be affected by Gannett’s latest ploy include Acadiana Lifestyle, 008 magazine, The Real Estate Book, Zing, The Acadian, HealthCare Highlights, House & Home and Louisiana Homes & Gardens.

    Gannett’s new distribution plan is a reaction to declining readership at Gannett’s daily newspapers. The Clarion-Ledger has launched a car classified shopper, a home classified shopper, a parenting magazine, and a weekend section, for a total of half a dozen free publications. In Lafayette, Gannett’s trying the same strategy with Acadiana Parent and L Magazine.

    “They’re going into the free publication business,” Stauffer says. “What we’re watching is our daily rolling into the free distribution business and the forced circulation business, and I assume that’s because they’re dying.”

    “It’s about free enterprise,” he adds, “and it’s about a marketplace of ideas. Gannett has a pretty bad track record of trying to own that entire marketplace. They shouldn’t feel threatened by the free publications. But the truth is they are because they don’t do a great job — at least in our market — of being the paper of record. I wish they would take their vast resources and focus more on reporting, investigating, and telling us the stories we need to hear, as opposed to trying to knock the Thrifty Nickel out of business.”

    |W|P|115179516808980239|W|P||W|P|LamarW@gmail.com7/01/2006 12:48:00 PM|W|P|Blogger|W|P|Casey Parks, Louisiana Native and ASH Graduate, Wins Prestigious New York Times Journalism Award It's worth mentioning that Casey once wrote for The Town Talk. Casey will be featured in the Ten Under Thirty feature as soon as she returns from vacation. Read Casey's award-winning essay Watch a video of Nick Kristof calling Casey More information on Casey and her work with the Jackson Free Press can be found here|W|P|115178418724957171|W|P||W|P|LamarW@gmail.com-->

    The Thursday Town Talk front page story by Jim Leggett lacked objectivity and accuracy. The article also unjustly hinted of racial bias, which may sell papers but plays no roll in fully understanding or resolving the present conflict.

    The Sisters of The Holy Family began their search for housing in Alexandria earlier this year assisted by Realtors Pattie Deville, Charles Deville and others. The Realtors and other representatives of the buyers and sellers contacted Glen Couvillion, Alexandria’s zoning control officer, prior to the sale. Couvillion advised the interested parties that they could buy and operate a ‘group home” in Single Family-2 or other single family zoned neighborhoods. This action was based on an opinion by former city planning director Darrell Williamson after a controversy concerning a group home in Plantation Acres. None of the above was disclosed publicly and the city code was not changed. It turns out that the advice of the zoning control officer was wrong. The “group home” theory used in the purchase and use of both the 3000 Elliott St. and George’s Lane houses was not valid. When I found out about this, the nuns had already purchased both homes and were occupying them. Mr. and Mrs. Brooks Harris sold the house to the nuns. They did not speak to their neighbors about the sale and they did not have to. He did contact the city zoning office prior to the sale, according to Couvillion. All of the adjoining property owners of the above property, except Dr. Michael Menache, objected to rezoning. Many other property owners, including myself, were and are opposed to the properties being rezoned, but not opposed to the nuns’ use of the property. After the problem surfaced and it became apparent that there would be some action either by the city or by a civil suit, Ellis Saybe, I have been told, began contacting and negotiating with residents of Georges’ Lane, excluding myself. We do not want the old Roy O. Martin Jr. property rezoned to allow bed and breakfasts, cemeteries, clubs, lodges, day cares, golf courses, libraries, museums and other public buildings or philanthropic institutions. We do not want to displace the nuns, but expect them to sell the property when they have recovered from the Katrina disaster. I along with others would be happy to donate money to help them recover. It is most important to maintain the essence of, quality and feeling of all neighborhoods. A residential neighborhood should remain just that unless it is affected by uncontrollable or inevitable change usually emanating by outside forces. Alexandria’s zoning codes must be updated and enforced to protect all neighborhoods. At this time I am resolved to working with Kelvin Sanders, the city attorney, and others to resolve this problem for the benefit of all Alexandria. Robert A. Wolf Alexandria

    Today's issue of the Town Talk also featured a letter from the previous home owner, Brookes Harris, in which he quotes scripture that implies Mr. Wolf could be "godless." Geez.

    More on how to misunderstand and malign a man in thirty minutes:

    1. Take an ordinary story about zoning laws and government incompetence.
    2. Single out the whistleblower who protests this incompetence.
    3. Imply that he hates nuns.
    4. Imply that he wants to make them homeless.
    5. Write about the nun's sympathetic back story. It may not have anything to do with zoning laws, but hell, it'll line people up on their side, regardless of the facts.
    6. Point out that the nuns are African-American. This will make their white neighbor look racist. (See the Town Talk's online thread if you don't believe me).
    7. Make sure your headlines are misleading. Most people just read the headlines, after all, and if it looks like these "hurricane-displaced nuns" are "fighting to stay in their home," well, that's all the public needs to know.
    8. Allow the general public to write misinformed letters of attack against Mr. Wolf. Publish these letters on your website. Allow anonymity.
    9. Imply (or allow others to imply) that Mr. Wolf had a financial stake in the sale of these homes, even though he did not.
    10. Publish a letter that implies Mr. Wolf is "godless."
    11. Do not make any factual corrections. Retract nothing. Correct nothing. Instead write an editorial about how it's unfair that someone else (that high school student from Marksville) was allowed to "break the rules," and then explain why we set up these rules for a good reason, why it doesn't matter who the rulebreaker is, and why we must enforce these rules to be fair to everyone else.

    |W|P|115307744035271250|W|P||W|P|LamarW@gmail.com7/15/2006 09:23:00 PM|W|P|Blogger|W|P| Louisiana Native Making Strong Showing At World Series of Poker My college roommate and good friend Nath Pizzolatto is making a splash at this year's World Series of Poker. This evening, he won second place in his first ever event, taking home nearly a quarter of a million dollars. You can keep track of Nath's progress on his blog, Nath Plays Poker.|W|P|115302415157154781|W|P||W|P|LamarW@gmail.com7/14/2006 02:28:00 PM|W|P|Blogger|W|P| The Man Who Cried Wolf. Who's Afraid of Robert Wolf? Wolf Attacks in Cenla. -or- How to Misunderstand and Malign a Man in Thirty Minutes The Town Talk and KALB are both running with this story about Robert Wolf's opposition of a proposed ordinance to create a special zoning exception for a couple of single family homes in the Garden District. Personally, I think this is much ado about nothing, as long as they can define the exception in very narrow, limiting language. And considering the way the Town Talk first reported this story, it seems like Mr. Wolf doesn't mind his new neighbors; he just wants to make sure that a change in zoning wouldn't compromise the value of his home. If I recall correctly, the city set up stringent zoning codes for the building that houses the Adult Emporium on Masonic Drive, and I believe there is even a line in there about the city's first right of refusal on a change in the lease agreement (or something like that. Maybe someone else can clarify this). If they can do this for the Adult Emporium, they can certainly do this for those two properties. Mr. Wolf is completely within his rights as a neighbor, a concerned citizen, and an experienced real estate broker and developer. This isn't a story about Mr. Wolf taking on a bunch of nuns, though I can certainly understand why it would be played that way. "I am opposed to rezoning," Wolf said. "I'm not opposed to nuns using the project. They are good neighbors." But it's important to understand that a change in ownership could affect the neighborhood unless the proposed ordinance provides safeguards against this. There's another story here. The Town Talk's website has given this story its own thread in which readers are encouraged to e-mail their responses, which are then posted by a moderator. The original story, written by Jim Leggett, was very clear on the facts. The headline, which I understand is typically written by an editor, may have been a little misleading ("Hurricane-displaced nuns fighting to stay in new Alexandria homes"), because the possibility of these nuns being kicked out of their new homes is extremely remote. But the article was deliberate. Mr. Leggett writes, "Wolf said he doesn't object to the nuns, but he does object to the way the city has handled the matter." Perhaps this is actually a story about government incompetence. Either way, it's highly unlikely these nuns will be forced to sale; a compromise seems inevitable. That's why the online story and thread are reckless. The headline ("Should New Orleans nuns be allowed to stay in their home on Georges Lane?) implies that a resident of Georges Lane, Mr. Wolf, is attempting to kick them out of their own home. Remember, there's another home on Elliott Street; this isn't just about Georges Lane. Readers have been pouring in support for these nuns all day long. Everyone supports the nuns. Of course. I support the nuns. Mr. Wolf supports the nuns. But because the Town Talk has set up this battle between Robert Wolf and these nuns, their readers have been writing in and slamming Mr. Wolf, and the Town Talk has faithfully published a number of these comments, some of which are anonymous. (Remember Sound Off, anyone?). Now, I know the Town Talk isn't responsible for what other people chose to say, but it is their responsibility to clearly explain this story to the public. Mr. Leggett's story seemed pretty balanced, but the follow-up story and thread are irresponsible. |W|P|115291570778085284|W|P||W|P|LamarW@gmail.com7/13/2006 01:09:00 PM|W|P|Blogger|W|P|By the way, has anyone noticed that Israel and Hezbollah are launching bombs at one another?|W|P|115282193403685467|W|P||W|P|LamarW@gmail.com7/13/2006 12:52:00 PM|W|P|Blogger|W|P|KALB: Cheetum Park Versus Compton Park|W|P|115282041070923328|W|P||W|P|LamarW@gmail.com7/13/2006 10:38:00 AM|W|P|Blogger|W|P|They're Baaaaaack: Anonymous Flame Thrower(s) Continue To Dictate The Discussion on Cenla Antics (And Guess Who They're Mad At?) On Tuesday, I responded to a question on Cenla Antics. Will I be "endorsing" a candidate for mayor on the blog? It's a good question. This blog receives about 300-450 unique visitors per day, most of whom are genuinely interested in local politics and many of whom use this blog as a vehicle for expressing their own opinions on the issues. I've met or spoken with all of the candidates (thus far) at one time or another, and I'm still undecided. But unlike most people my age in Alexandria, I plan on voting in the mayoral election, and once I've made up my mind, I won't mind telling people who I plan on voting for (and the reasons behind my decision). As always, if readers disagree with me, they can explain why right here on the blog. Anyway, someone became really offended that I would have the audacity to "endorse" a candidate. Who the hell do I think I am, after all, to use the word "endorsement?" I'm just a punk. I'm not offended by this person's decision to write an open letter of attack against me, but I'm a little disappointed by his style. It's the same old stuff about my father and my last name with a few words rearranged here and there and a handful of new adjectives. There are many other ways to make fun of me, and I'd hate for this person's rhetorical potency to be diminished by repetition. This anonymous person has also argued that my presence in the discussion about the future of our community should not be acknowledged because I somehow represent a continuation of the way things have been going here for the past twenty years. (It's worth noting that I am 24 years old). So here it is, a letter to the anonymous flame thrower. For your amusement and enjoyment. Dear Anonymous Person Who Claims He's "Nobody," I'd be remiss if I didn't thank you for all of the free publicity. Your hyperbolic words of hatred continue to generate interest in my blog and my opinions, regardless of your intentions. No doubt, the publicity you've given me is an unintended consequence of your efforts at discrediting me. If you're truly interested in discrediting my opinions and silencing my voice in this discussion, then you may want to consider changing your strategy. First, in order for people to understand your argument, they have to know exactly what you're arguing. The best way for you to clarify and hone your argument is by dropping the off-topic attacks on my family. Don't get me wrong. I'm not advising you to do this because I'm offended; by now, I'm used to this tactic. It's simply uneffective, and if the point is to once and for all tell the "truth" about my "attitude," you'll have to reference specific, topical statements that illustrate my "attitude." Also, the argument about my family is faulty, because it places you in a rhetorically untenable position. You can't argue that I don't matter because my family doesn't matter (or whatever it is you're attempting to prove with your shots at my father), because any attention toward my family may also be considered a recognition, on your part, that they do, in fact, matter. Again, it's unintended publicity that underscores precisely what you're attempting to argue against. Second, on a related note, I suggest that you actually read my blog, not because I think you'll change your opinion on me, but because you need to better familiarize yourself with my statements on the issues. There is a reason bloggers like WeSawThat defend me against your attacks: They read my blog, and they know what I've actually said. Your main problem, it seems to me, is that you've decided to conflate my opinions with your perception of the reigning paradigm of the upper class. Unfortunately, the foundation of this argument is not based on any statements I've made on the issues; it's based on a perception you've formed about who I am and what family I come from. It's a tautological argument. Refocus. Third, if you intend on having people take your comments about my naivete and ignorance seriously, you should eliminate the ridiculous junior high school remarks on the male anatomy. Once again, I appreciate the publicity. Best of luck to you. Sincerely, Lamar|W|P|115281569470867976|W|P||W|P|LamarW@gmail.com7/11/2006 09:39:00 PM|W|P|Blogger|W|P|An Anonymous Letter Of Complaint Against The Alexandria Police Department I received this e-mail today from a source who asked me to protect his anonymity. I have confirmed the veracity of his identity. However, I caution that it is impossible for me, at this juncture, to confirm the veracity of his claims. If there is reason to believe that this letter is fictional, then I invite readers to question its claims. Dear Lamar, I've been having a hard time tracking down the e-mail address of the chief of police for Alexandria, so I hope that you will post this as an open letter to the citizens of Alexandria.... (edited for personal content) Yesterday evening, while at friend's house and walking toward my vehicle to retrieve a CD, three armed police officers surrounded me and told me to put my hands on the hood of one of their police cars. This occurred late at night around Charles Park, near the Citgo gas station, formerly known as the Gate. As a resident of Charles Park, I have noticed throughout the past six years, police officers tend to congregate at the Gate during the late evening and early morning hours. I don't exactly understand why the APD chooses to dispatch several police officers at this location, considering the bulk of crime in Alexandria occurs in other areas. However, the officers told me they were investigating a string of petty thefts that had recently occurred in this neighborhood. After I placed my hands on the hood of a police car, they asked me what I was doing. I told them that I was just checking on my vehicle and fetching a CD. Then, they asked me if they could search my pockets, and I consented. I had nothing to hide. They frisked me, searched my pockets, and then asked if they could search my vehicle. I asked why this was necessary. Without an answer, they continued asking if they could search. I told them politely that there was no reason to search. They then threatened to "bring out the K-9 unit... which could take forever." Again, I had nothing to hide and allowed them to search my vehicle. After searching my car, they asked me who I was visiting. I told them my friend's name. Then, they walked over to my friend's place, knocked on the door, and asked my friend whether or not he "knew" who I was, all while holding my ID in his hand. My friend, of course, confirmed I was there and was due back. Afterward, they walked back over to me and explained that they usually worked on the "other side of town" and were used to doing things "that way." They told me that if I had been on the other side of town, I would have been "beaten by now." I believe this was supposed to be a joke. To me, this entire incident really proves what's wrong about the way the Alexandria Police Department enforces the law. First, they harassed a citizen who was merely walking toward his vehicle; I was not inebriated, and like I said, I had nothing to hide so I consented. Then, they asked to search my vehicle. I'm not sure what searchable offense occured, but still, I consented. To top it all off, they involved my friend in this whole fiasco, flashing flashlights into his windows and interrogating him about who I was. The whole incident really makes me glad I wasn't "on the other side of town." Who knows what they would have done? Let me also state that there I have no intentions whatsoever of pressing any charges. I consented voluntarily to what they demanded, and I respected their authority. I understand that crime is a problem in Alexandria, and I think it is important that our police officers enforce the law....but if my experience proves anything, it is that the method that was used on me wasn't appropriate or necessary... and bordered on harassment. |W|P|115268288619952305|W|P||W|P|LamarW@gmail.com7/11/2006 03:23:00 PM|W|P|Blogger|W|P|Cleco Audit Back On Schedule, Findings To Be Released After The Elections|W|P|115265664436532164|W|P||W|P|LamarW@gmail.com7/11/2006 07:59:00 AM|W|P|Blogger|W|P|Cleco Responds To The Town Talk Madison: From day one, Cleco has pushed to start this audit My Turn That's what we have been working for since the spring of 2004. In fact, the method for providing answers -- an audit done by experts acceptable to both parties -- is spelled out in our contract with the city.

    The Town Talk was both ill informed and irresponsible in its July 7 editorial ["Citizens stiffed as Alexandria, Cleco dawdle"]. The claim that Cleco Corp. has tried to delay an audit of transactions with the city of Alexandria has no basis in fact.

    It is a ridiculous assertion, and the people of Alexandria deserve the facts. My position hasn't changed from day one:

    An objective audit should be done as soon as possible. If, at the end of the process, Cleco owes money to the city, we will pay it.

    A business has nothing to gain from dragging out an issue with a customer. Every customer no matter their size deserves honest answers.

    Within weeks after the city first raised concerns to us, we suggested a number of nationally known accounting firms capable of conducting the audit. When that effort failed to gain traction, we continued working with city officials to find qualified firms to audit our records.

    For reasons best known to them, city officials instead decided to file a lawsuit against Cleco. Still, we worked to speed up the litigation and associated audit, not delay it.

    What may be confusing to some is the lawsuit we filed against two former employees.

    That is a completely separate issue. While there may have been a point of common origin, the lawsuit against our former employees is an employment-contract matter, and it has never delayed any audit between Cleco and the city.

    We have never tried to keep an unbiased firm from auditing our records on behalf of Alexandria residents.

    A federal judge is now overseeing what we believe will be a fair audit process, and we will continue to do all we can to move the audit forward. It is well past time to get to the real facts in dispute, rather than waste years and taxpayers' money in senseless court fights where the only winners are the attorneys and consultants collecting lucrative fees.

    For two years now, the hundreds of Cleco employees who live in this community and contribute to meet its needs have endured potshots and watched the company they proudly work for have its name dragged through the mud.

    When you look at the facts, there is no reason for this character assassination. Whether it is hurricane recovery, coaching the Little League, participating in local churches, or serving as Red Cross volunteers, Cleco and its 1,200 employees are here for this community and our customers. You don't stay in business for more than 70 years any other way.

    We are -- and always have been -- ready for an independent audit.

  • Michael H. Madison is president and chief executive officer of Cleco Corp.
  • |W|P|115263006503579426|W|P||W|P|LamarW@gmail.com7/10/2006 12:50:00 PM|W|P|Blogger|W|P|
    McPherson Businesses Cash in State Money
    Associated Press
    Monday, July 10, 2006

    Louisiana lawmakers doing business with the state and with local governments have reported earning money from Medicaid payments, legal work and insurance policies.

    All members of the Legislature must submit financial disclosure forms detailing how much, if any, money they or their spouses made in dealings with the state or with city, parish or other local governments.

    Sen. Joe McPherson, co-owner of a Lafayette nursing home, reported earning more government money than any other lawmaker. The facility, Maison de Lafayette, received $3.3 million from the state in Medicaid payments, McPherson, D-Woodworth, said in his form.

    Government watchdog groups are longtime critics of allowing lawmakers to do business with governments, saying it creates conflicts of interest when legislators must take positions on bills supported or opposed by those governments.

    Lawmakers defend the practice. Several bills to prohibit it have failed to get through the Legislature.

    Other lawmakers reporting large sums from 2005 government work include:

    -Rep. Bryant Hammett, D-Ferriday, whose engineering firm made $737,826 for projects for Columbia, Concordia and Tensas parishes, towns including Ferriday and Jonesville, and work for governments elsewhere in the state. Hammett has said he plans to give up his House seat to take a job in the Blanco administration overseeing the rebuilding of infrastructure damaged in 2005 hurricanes.

    -Rep. Karen St. Germain, D-Plaquemines, reported that a Pierre Part hardware store owned by her husband and his siblings made $56,351 from local government bodies in Assumption Parish.

    -Rep. Glenn Ansardi, D-Kenner, said his law firm earned $470,000 doing legal work for local governments in Jefferson Parish.

    -Rep. Hunter Greene, R-Baton Rouge, a lawyer, reported that he and his wife made $143,366 doing work for 12 school boards.

    The base salary of a senator or House member is $22,800 per year. Additionally, they can receive up to $115 for each day the Legislature was in session this year - another $11,155 for those 97 days.

    Lawmakers in leadership positions make more. The House speaker and Senate president, Rep. Joe Salter, D-Florien, and Sen. Don Hines, D-Bunkie, each have a base salary of $32,000. The speaker pro tem and president pro tem, Rep. Yvonne Dorsey, D-Baton Rouge, and Sen. Diana Bajoie, D-New Orleans, have base salaries of $24,500. The co-chairmen of the legislative budget committee, Rep. John Alario, D-Westwego, and Sen. Francis Heitmeier, D-New Orleans, make $28,000 plus expenses.

    |W|P|115256110261071135|W|P||W|P|LamarW@gmail.com7/09/2006 11:24:00 AM|W|P|Blogger|W|P|Our View: Citizens stiffed as Alexandria, Cleco dawdle Everyone knew the fraud fight between the city of Alexandria and Cleco Corp. would get much worse before it got better, but no one could have predicted this.

    Right now, city residents are seeing gridlock in action. Make that inaction.

    Today, city officials are no closer to reviewing the Pineville-based electric company's billing records than they were so long ago -- way back when someone outside of city government spoke up and said, hey, you might be getting ripped off -- big time.

    The fact that a review of the records has not even started does not bode well for residents and business owners in Alexandria, those who buy their electricity from the city, which buys it from Cleco. Indeed, it does not bode well for all city residents -- especially the tens of thousands of taxpayers who continue to wonder why their local officials, elected and otherwise, do not spend taxpayer dollars wisely and do not make sure they get what they paid for,

    Either these city officials cannot do the job, or they will not do the job. We suspect some of each is true, depending on which office in City Hall is talking or not talking to the public; feuding or not feuding with the office down the hall; plotting to "get" someone for some sleight, real or perceived; or planning to get something for themselves, a relative or a friend.

    To the taxpayers on the outside looking in, dysfunction appears to be the order of the day. That, by the way, is also what Cleco officials see, and their attorneys will make good use of the confusion and disarray that come with it.

    For its part, Cleco has chosen a path that has made an ugly -- and perhaps criminal -- situation even uglier. The utility clearly does not care what its behavior looks like to the city of Alexandria -- or to any of its other customers, for that matter. Through various legal maneuvers, the company has succeeded in stalling the review process, blocking reasonable requests for information, and dodging questions about accountability.

    All of that, the utility seems to think, will ensure a level playing field when the parties finally do sit down with a pile of paperwork that will show two important things: how well or how poorly the company treated the city of Alexandria and its electric customers, and how well or how poorly city officials monitored the spending of millions of taxpayer dollars.

    At the same time, Cleco's maneuvering accomplishes something else for the company -- delay, delay, delay. The hope, of course, is that the longer it takes to take a step in the review process, the more uncomfortable things get for certain people in City Hall. Perhaps someone will eventually say, Enough! Then the whole thing can be settled behind closed doors for 10 cents on the dollar.

    It wouldn't be the first time something like that happened. You'd better believe it's being discussed.

    Originally published July 7, 2006

    |W|P|115246951014960001|W|P||W|P|LamarW@gmail.com7/09/2006 10:40:00 AM|W|P|Blogger|W|P|Letter To The Editor: Regulating Hairstyles Is Not A Job For Our School System Hair not an educational issue From the Town Talk

    The Rapides Parish school system has no business regulating any aspect of students' appearance that they cannot readily modify once they leave campus. This applies to the freedom to wear one's hair as he or she wishes.

    Braids, beads, bands or other hairstyles are in no way distracting unless a boy's girlfriend is using class time to style his hair. That is a disciplinary issue. Policies against boys wearing braids are unconstitutional on two grounds. First, unless females are also not allowed to wear braids, such policies are sexist. Second, braids are almost exclusively an African-American style. Braids are an expression of ethnic heritage and must be respected as such. Stop being afraid of students who do not look like small-town Republicans. Enter the 21st century, Rapides Parish. Focus on achievement. Give students a quality education. Prepare them for college, vocations and independent living. Only the most regimented of employers have hair codes, and most colleges would not even consider such violations of personal freedom. Don't worry about how students look as long as they are modest, clean and their underwear is not visible. Any hair policy whatsoever is reminiscent of the 1960s when redneck police officers would capture an innocent hippie and shave his head! Today that would be considered assault and perhaps even a hate crime. Do you really want your system to be regarded as stuck in the 1960s? Leave the hair alone. Rhonda Browning Vidalia

    |W|P|115246695600349259|W|P||W|P|LamarW@gmail.com7/08/2006 09:59:00 AM|W|P|Blogger|W|P|More Shameless Self-Promotion: Bringhurst Golf Course Makes The News (Again!)|W|P|115237803378420363|W|P||W|P|LamarW@gmail.com7/06/2006 07:29:00 PM|W|P|Blogger|W|P|Randolph Issues Statement About Cleco, Claims City Attorney Did Inform Council About Court Filing|W|P|115223941268337222|W|P||W|P|LamarW@gmail.com7/06/2006 03:47:00 PM|W|P|Blogger|W|P|Dr. John Sams for Mayor: Read What Other People Are Saying About John Sams For Mayor I know Dr. Sams' website is brand new, but c'mon, this is still funny. I also enjoyed this line about his son Andy: Yes, my son DID found the first high school ACLU chapter in Louisiana. Yes, I supported his right to do so and do not regret it. My children have all been raised to be individuals who stand up for what they believe is correct BUT.....THEY are not running for Mayor of Alexandria. |W|P|115222630350475998|W|P||W|P|LamarW@gmail.com7/05/2006 04:20:00 PM|W|P|Blogger|W|P|Jacques Roy and Michael Brewer Featured in Today's New York Times (right on the front page) It's about prison labor.|W|P|115214172856073145|W|P||W|P|LamarW@gmail.com7/05/2006 04:09:00 PM|W|P|Blogger|W|P|Sparks Fly Over Cleco I was in the front room during this meeting, and trust me, it became very loud and heated.|W|P|115214116444711879|W|P||W|P|LamarW@gmail.com7/04/2006 02:45:00 AM|W|P|Blogger|W|P|Cleco Audit in Jeopardy|W|P|115200639944474035|W|P||W|P|LamarW@gmail.com7/01/2006 03:55:00 PM|W|P|Blogger|W|P|
    Gannett Attempts to Squash Independent Press by Controlling Distribution Points
    Independent Magazines Found Their Racks at the Dumpster (Jackson, MS)
    Earlier today, the Dead Pelican linked to a story featured in the Independent Weekly about Gannett's latest attempt at controlling the news: Dominate distribution points by "renting out" space for independent magazines (and then share those profits with the stores that offer this service). From the Independent Weekly:

    Gannett’s pitch to retailers is that it will take on the retailer’s burden of managing the racks of free publications at a store’s location by installing one gigantic plastic box. Gannett then offers the retailer a cut of the revenue from the publications that rent the box space.

    But for the competing publications, the deal isn’t so sweet.

    Todd Stauffer, publisher of the Jackson Free Press, discovered the Gannett daily newspaper in Jackson, Miss., The Clarion-Ledger, was entering into agreements with retailers that gave Gannett exclusive rights to distribute any and all free publications. The agreement gives Gannett the right to evict publishers who don’t sign up with the service from its distribution points. In May, Stauffer wrote in his newspaper: “I understand the Mafia in New York City has a similar system.”

    The Jackson Free Press serves 190,000 Jackson residents and a metro area of 500,000 by distributing 16,000 copies of its weekly paper in more than 400 locations. After JFP published its first story on Gannett’s new distribution network, The Clarion-Ledger Publisher John Newhouse released a statement that read in part: “The growing number of free publications, not just here, but around the country, presents both opportunity and concern for all of us.” He concluded: “A distribution network will happen in Metro Jackson, if not by The Clarion-Ledger, then quite possibly by a distribution company with no connection to Jackson or Mississippi. And, based on national trends, companies from outside this market would likely charge much higher rates for the same service.”

    The Daily Advertiser Publisher Ted Power is short on details about SLP’s distribution intentions, but he parrots the Gannett party line: “If we decide to go ahead, we want to go ahead at a point before anybody else does it.”

    When Stauffer met with The Clarion-Ledger’s Circulation Manager Lee Warmouth, he requested a copy of the contract that retailers were signing with Gannett, but Warmouth refused. Stauffer then obtained a copy of the agreement from another source. “It basically says that the retailer is giving The Clarion Ledger the exclusive right to manage free distribution publications on [retailers’] premises, all the grounds, indoors and out,” he says. The deal calls for Gannett to give retailers 23 percent of the boxes’ revenue, and assuming that The Clarion-Ledger won’t pay for its own publications to be included in the boxes, Stauffer says the retailer’s cut is at most $12 a month.

    For publications that distribute to 100 - 200 locations, the price is $6.50 a month per location. For a paper with 200 locations, that’s a monthly cost of $1,300 — $15,600 annually. Publications that distribute to more than 200 locations are charged $5 a month per location. For publications like real estate guides and classified papers that can easily have up to 600 locations, the cost is even more exorbitant. “That’s a cost of $35,000 or $40,000 a year just for the right to have The Clarion-Ledger distribute them,” Stauffer says, “and we’re assuming that’s the introductory price.”

    Jackson Free Press didn’t take Gannett up on its new service, nor has any other free Jackson area publication. Instead, they formed the Mississippi Independent Publishers Alliance, a group of independent free publications that publish classified papers, real estate guides and weeklies. Each member of the alliance has pledged not to sign up with Gannett’s free distribution network. As long as Jackson’s independent publishers stick to their guns and refuse to sign onto The Clarion-Ledger’s network, it leaves the daily newspaper without income from the boxes — of which retailers have been offered a percentage — but it still leaves Gannett with exclusive distribution rights.

    “If this was truly free enterprise,” Stauffer says, “they wouldn’t have to put ‘exclusive’ [in the contract]. … They’re not truly offering a product, and that’s how I know their scheme is more evil empire than it is a service. The problem I’ve got is that my competitor is going to be setting the rate on the box, and they’re basically using the strong arm of a Virginia-based corporation to try to buy their way into something they haven’t done particularly successfully just through sweat and tears.”

    Stauffer received a letter from The Clarion Ledger on May 18 stating that Jackson Free Press must remove its racks from 167 locations by June 19. JFP’s attorneys responded by saying Gannett’s contracts with retailers were invalid since Gannett misleadingly used Jackson Free Press’ name in its marketing materials. “They suggested strongly to the locations in their pitch that most of the local free publications were on board as they went into pitch the idea,” Stauffer says. Retailers were presented with a list of publications titled “Accepted” and used the form to pick the publications they wanted in their locations. “It wasn’t that we had accepted anything,” Stauffer says. “It wasn’t that we even knew anything about the program. Prior to having talked to us, they created this list and made it look very legal. We’re saying we think that the contracts they signed while using our name are invalid.” On June 20, the Jackson Free Press reported that its readers had spotted independent publishers’ racks lined up next to dumpsters.

    “On top of that,” Stauffer says, “we learned yesterday that one of the chains of convenience stores didn’t actually sign it until this week, although we got the letter a couple weeks ago. So they’re basically just playing both sides of the fence. They’re clearly overestimating the locations they’re telling us we have to get out of, and then they’re going to the retailers and saying this is going to be a great thing, except they’re actually not going to have any free distribution papers there.”

    “I think it’s icing on the cake for them if they actually manage to make money off the distribution network,” Stauffer adds. South Louisiana Publishing’s Binkley told The Independent Weekly’s Terry that SLP’s business plan doesn’t call for making money for the first three years.

    In addition to The Independent Weekly, Acadiana publications that could be affected by Gannett’s latest ploy include Acadiana Lifestyle, 008 magazine, The Real Estate Book, Zing, The Acadian, HealthCare Highlights, House & Home and Louisiana Homes & Gardens.

    Gannett’s new distribution plan is a reaction to declining readership at Gannett’s daily newspapers. The Clarion-Ledger has launched a car classified shopper, a home classified shopper, a parenting magazine, and a weekend section, for a total of half a dozen free publications. In Lafayette, Gannett’s trying the same strategy with Acadiana Parent and L Magazine.

    “They’re going into the free publication business,” Stauffer says. “What we’re watching is our daily rolling into the free distribution business and the forced circulation business, and I assume that’s because they’re dying.”

    “It’s about free enterprise,” he adds, “and it’s about a marketplace of ideas. Gannett has a pretty bad track record of trying to own that entire marketplace. They shouldn’t feel threatened by the free publications. But the truth is they are because they don’t do a great job — at least in our market — of being the paper of record. I wish they would take their vast resources and focus more on reporting, investigating, and telling us the stories we need to hear, as opposed to trying to knock the Thrifty Nickel out of business.”

    |W|P|115179516808980239|W|P||W|P|LamarW@gmail.com7/01/2006 12:48:00 PM|W|P|Blogger|W|P|Casey Parks, Louisiana Native and ASH Graduate, Wins Prestigious New York Times Journalism Award It's worth mentioning that Casey once wrote for The Town Talk. Casey will be featured in the Ten Under Thirty feature as soon as she returns from vacation. Read Casey's award-winning essay Watch a video of Nick Kristof calling Casey More information on Casey and her work with the Jackson Free Press can be found here|W|P|115178418724957171|W|P||W|P|LamarW@gmail.com-->

    The Thursday Town Talk front page story by Jim Leggett lacked objectivity and accuracy. The article also unjustly hinted of racial bias, which may sell papers but plays no roll in fully understanding or resolving the present conflict.

    The Sisters of The Holy Family began their search for housing in Alexandria earlier this year assisted by Realtors Pattie Deville, Charles Deville and others. The Realtors and other representatives of the buyers and sellers contacted Glen Couvillion, Alexandria’s zoning control officer, prior to the sale. Couvillion advised the interested parties that they could buy and operate a ‘group home” in Single Family-2 or other single family zoned neighborhoods. This action was based on an opinion by former city planning director Darrell Williamson after a controversy concerning a group home in Plantation Acres. None of the above was disclosed publicly and the city code was not changed. It turns out that the advice of the zoning control officer was wrong. The “group home” theory used in the purchase and use of both the 3000 Elliott St. and George’s Lane houses was not valid. When I found out about this, the nuns had already purchased both homes and were occupying them. Mr. and Mrs. Brooks Harris sold the house to the nuns. They did not speak to their neighbors about the sale and they did not have to. He did contact the city zoning office prior to the sale, according to Couvillion. All of the adjoining property owners of the above property, except Dr. Michael Menache, objected to rezoning. Many other property owners, including myself, were and are opposed to the properties being rezoned, but not opposed to the nuns’ use of the property. After the problem surfaced and it became apparent that there would be some action either by the city or by a civil suit, Ellis Saybe, I have been told, began contacting and negotiating with residents of Georges’ Lane, excluding myself. We do not want the old Roy O. Martin Jr. property rezoned to allow bed and breakfasts, cemeteries, clubs, lodges, day cares, golf courses, libraries, museums and other public buildings or philanthropic institutions. We do not want to displace the nuns, but expect them to sell the property when they have recovered from the Katrina disaster. I along with others would be happy to donate money to help them recover. It is most important to maintain the essence of, quality and feeling of all neighborhoods. A residential neighborhood should remain just that unless it is affected by uncontrollable or inevitable change usually emanating by outside forces. Alexandria’s zoning codes must be updated and enforced to protect all neighborhoods. At this time I am resolved to working with Kelvin Sanders, the city attorney, and others to resolve this problem for the benefit of all Alexandria. Robert A. Wolf Alexandria

    Today's issue of the Town Talk also featured a letter from the previous home owner, Brookes Harris, in which he quotes scripture that implies Mr. Wolf could be "godless." Geez.

    More on how to misunderstand and malign a man in thirty minutes:

    1. Take an ordinary story about zoning laws and government incompetence.
    2. Single out the whistleblower who protests this incompetence.
    3. Imply that he hates nuns.
    4. Imply that he wants to make them homeless.
    5. Write about the nun's sympathetic back story. It may not have anything to do with zoning laws, but hell, it'll line people up on their side, regardless of the facts.
    6. Point out that the nuns are African-American. This will make their white neighbor look racist. (See the Town Talk's online thread if you don't believe me).
    7. Make sure your headlines are misleading. Most people just read the headlines, after all, and if it looks like these "hurricane-displaced nuns" are "fighting to stay in their home," well, that's all the public needs to know.
    8. Allow the general public to write misinformed letters of attack against Mr. Wolf. Publish these letters on your website. Allow anonymity.
    9. Imply (or allow others to imply) that Mr. Wolf had a financial stake in the sale of these homes, even though he did not.
    10. Publish a letter that implies Mr. Wolf is "godless."
    11. Do not make any factual corrections. Retract nothing. Correct nothing. Instead write an editorial about how it's unfair that someone else (that high school student from Marksville) was allowed to "break the rules," and then explain why we set up these rules for a good reason, why it doesn't matter who the rulebreaker is, and why we must enforce these rules to be fair to everyone else.

    |W|P|115307744035271250|W|P||W|P|LamarW@gmail.com7/15/2006 09:23:00 PM|W|P|Blogger|W|P| Louisiana Native Making Strong Showing At World Series of Poker My college roommate and good friend Nath Pizzolatto is making a splash at this year's World Series of Poker. This evening, he won second place in his first ever event, taking home nearly a quarter of a million dollars. You can keep track of Nath's progress on his blog, Nath Plays Poker.|W|P|115302415157154781|W|P||W|P|LamarW@gmail.com7/14/2006 02:28:00 PM|W|P|Blogger|W|P| The Man Who Cried Wolf. Who's Afraid of Robert Wolf? Wolf Attacks in Cenla. -or- How to Misunderstand and Malign a Man in Thirty Minutes The Town Talk and KALB are both running with this story about Robert Wolf's opposition of a proposed ordinance to create a special zoning exception for a couple of single family homes in the Garden District. Personally, I think this is much ado about nothing, as long as they can define the exception in very narrow, limiting language. And considering the way the Town Talk first reported this story, it seems like Mr. Wolf doesn't mind his new neighbors; he just wants to make sure that a change in zoning wouldn't compromise the value of his home. If I recall correctly, the city set up stringent zoning codes for the building that houses the Adult Emporium on Masonic Drive, and I believe there is even a line in there about the city's first right of refusal on a change in the lease agreement (or something like that. Maybe someone else can clarify this). If they can do this for the Adult Emporium, they can certainly do this for those two properties. Mr. Wolf is completely within his rights as a neighbor, a concerned citizen, and an experienced real estate broker and developer. This isn't a story about Mr. Wolf taking on a bunch of nuns, though I can certainly understand why it would be played that way. "I am opposed to rezoning," Wolf said. "I'm not opposed to nuns using the project. They are good neighbors." But it's important to understand that a change in ownership could affect the neighborhood unless the proposed ordinance provides safeguards against this. There's another story here. The Town Talk's website has given this story its own thread in which readers are encouraged to e-mail their responses, which are then posted by a moderator. The original story, written by Jim Leggett, was very clear on the facts. The headline, which I understand is typically written by an editor, may have been a little misleading ("Hurricane-displaced nuns fighting to stay in new Alexandria homes"), because the possibility of these nuns being kicked out of their new homes is extremely remote. But the article was deliberate. Mr. Leggett writes, "Wolf said he doesn't object to the nuns, but he does object to the way the city has handled the matter." Perhaps this is actually a story about government incompetence. Either way, it's highly unlikely these nuns will be forced to sale; a compromise seems inevitable. That's why the online story and thread are reckless. The headline ("Should New Orleans nuns be allowed to stay in their home on Georges Lane?) implies that a resident of Georges Lane, Mr. Wolf, is attempting to kick them out of their own home. Remember, there's another home on Elliott Street; this isn't just about Georges Lane. Readers have been pouring in support for these nuns all day long. Everyone supports the nuns. Of course. I support the nuns. Mr. Wolf supports the nuns. But because the Town Talk has set up this battle between Robert Wolf and these nuns, their readers have been writing in and slamming Mr. Wolf, and the Town Talk has faithfully published a number of these comments, some of which are anonymous. (Remember Sound Off, anyone?). Now, I know the Town Talk isn't responsible for what other people chose to say, but it is their responsibility to clearly explain this story to the public. Mr. Leggett's story seemed pretty balanced, but the follow-up story and thread are irresponsible. |W|P|115291570778085284|W|P||W|P|LamarW@gmail.com7/13/2006 01:09:00 PM|W|P|Blogger|W|P|By the way, has anyone noticed that Israel and Hezbollah are launching bombs at one another?|W|P|115282193403685467|W|P||W|P|LamarW@gmail.com7/13/2006 12:52:00 PM|W|P|Blogger|W|P|KALB: Cheetum Park Versus Compton Park|W|P|115282041070923328|W|P||W|P|LamarW@gmail.com7/13/2006 10:38:00 AM|W|P|Blogger|W|P|They're Baaaaaack: Anonymous Flame Thrower(s) Continue To Dictate The Discussion on Cenla Antics (And Guess Who They're Mad At?) On Tuesday, I responded to a question on Cenla Antics. Will I be "endorsing" a candidate for mayor on the blog? It's a good question. This blog receives about 300-450 unique visitors per day, most of whom are genuinely interested in local politics and many of whom use this blog as a vehicle for expressing their own opinions on the issues. I've met or spoken with all of the candidates (thus far) at one time or another, and I'm still undecided. But unlike most people my age in Alexandria, I plan on voting in the mayoral election, and once I've made up my mind, I won't mind telling people who I plan on voting for (and the reasons behind my decision). As always, if readers disagree with me, they can explain why right here on the blog. Anyway, someone became really offended that I would have the audacity to "endorse" a candidate. Who the hell do I think I am, after all, to use the word "endorsement?" I'm just a punk. I'm not offended by this person's decision to write an open letter of attack against me, but I'm a little disappointed by his style. It's the same old stuff about my father and my last name with a few words rearranged here and there and a handful of new adjectives. There are many other ways to make fun of me, and I'd hate for this person's rhetorical potency to be diminished by repetition. This anonymous person has also argued that my presence in the discussion about the future of our community should not be acknowledged because I somehow represent a continuation of the way things have been going here for the past twenty years. (It's worth noting that I am 24 years old). So here it is, a letter to the anonymous flame thrower. For your amusement and enjoyment. Dear Anonymous Person Who Claims He's "Nobody," I'd be remiss if I didn't thank you for all of the free publicity. Your hyperbolic words of hatred continue to generate interest in my blog and my opinions, regardless of your intentions. No doubt, the publicity you've given me is an unintended consequence of your efforts at discrediting me. If you're truly interested in discrediting my opinions and silencing my voice in this discussion, then you may want to consider changing your strategy. First, in order for people to understand your argument, they have to know exactly what you're arguing. The best way for you to clarify and hone your argument is by dropping the off-topic attacks on my family. Don't get me wrong. I'm not advising you to do this because I'm offended; by now, I'm used to this tactic. It's simply uneffective, and if the point is to once and for all tell the "truth" about my "attitude," you'll have to reference specific, topical statements that illustrate my "attitude." Also, the argument about my family is faulty, because it places you in a rhetorically untenable position. You can't argue that I don't matter because my family doesn't matter (or whatever it is you're attempting to prove with your shots at my father), because any attention toward my family may also be considered a recognition, on your part, that they do, in fact, matter. Again, it's unintended publicity that underscores precisely what you're attempting to argue against. Second, on a related note, I suggest that you actually read my blog, not because I think you'll change your opinion on me, but because you need to better familiarize yourself with my statements on the issues. There is a reason bloggers like WeSawThat defend me against your attacks: They read my blog, and they know what I've actually said. Your main problem, it seems to me, is that you've decided to conflate my opinions with your perception of the reigning paradigm of the upper class. Unfortunately, the foundation of this argument is not based on any statements I've made on the issues; it's based on a perception you've formed about who I am and what family I come from. It's a tautological argument. Refocus. Third, if you intend on having people take your comments about my naivete and ignorance seriously, you should eliminate the ridiculous junior high school remarks on the male anatomy. Once again, I appreciate the publicity. Best of luck to you. Sincerely, Lamar|W|P|115281569470867976|W|P||W|P|LamarW@gmail.com7/11/2006 09:39:00 PM|W|P|Blogger|W|P|An Anonymous Letter Of Complaint Against The Alexandria Police Department I received this e-mail today from a source who asked me to protect his anonymity. I have confirmed the veracity of his identity. However, I caution that it is impossible for me, at this juncture, to confirm the veracity of his claims. If there is reason to believe that this letter is fictional, then I invite readers to question its claims. Dear Lamar, I've been having a hard time tracking down the e-mail address of the chief of police for Alexandria, so I hope that you will post this as an open letter to the citizens of Alexandria.... (edited for personal content) Yesterday evening, while at friend's house and walking toward my vehicle to retrieve a CD, three armed police officers surrounded me and told me to put my hands on the hood of one of their police cars. This occurred late at night around Charles Park, near the Citgo gas station, formerly known as the Gate. As a resident of Charles Park, I have noticed throughout the past six years, police officers tend to congregate at the Gate during the late evening and early morning hours. I don't exactly understand why the APD chooses to dispatch several police officers at this location, considering the bulk of crime in Alexandria occurs in other areas. However, the officers told me they were investigating a string of petty thefts that had recently occurred in this neighborhood. After I placed my hands on the hood of a police car, they asked me what I was doing. I told them that I was just checking on my vehicle and fetching a CD. Then, they asked me if they could search my pockets, and I consented. I had nothing to hide. They frisked me, searched my pockets, and then asked if they could search my vehicle. I asked why this was necessary. Without an answer, they continued asking if they could search. I told them politely that there was no reason to search. They then threatened to "bring out the K-9 unit... which could take forever." Again, I had nothing to hide and allowed them to search my vehicle. After searching my car, they asked me who I was visiting. I told them my friend's name. Then, they walked over to my friend's place, knocked on the door, and asked my friend whether or not he "knew" who I was, all while holding my ID in his hand. My friend, of course, confirmed I was there and was due back. Afterward, they walked back over to me and explained that they usually worked on the "other side of town" and were used to doing things "that way." They told me that if I had been on the other side of town, I would have been "beaten by now." I believe this was supposed to be a joke. To me, this entire incident really proves what's wrong about the way the Alexandria Police Department enforces the law. First, they harassed a citizen who was merely walking toward his vehicle; I was not inebriated, and like I said, I had nothing to hide so I consented. Then, they asked to search my vehicle. I'm not sure what searchable offense occured, but still, I consented. To top it all off, they involved my friend in this whole fiasco, flashing flashlights into his windows and interrogating him about who I was. The whole incident really makes me glad I wasn't "on the other side of town." Who knows what they would have done? Let me also state that there I have no intentions whatsoever of pressing any charges. I consented voluntarily to what they demanded, and I respected their authority. I understand that crime is a problem in Alexandria, and I think it is important that our police officers enforce the law....but if my experience proves anything, it is that the method that was used on me wasn't appropriate or necessary... and bordered on harassment. |W|P|115268288619952305|W|P||W|P|LamarW@gmail.com7/11/2006 03:23:00 PM|W|P|Blogger|W|P|Cleco Audit Back On Schedule, Findings To Be Released After The Elections|W|P|115265664436532164|W|P||W|P|LamarW@gmail.com7/11/2006 07:59:00 AM|W|P|Blogger|W|P|Cleco Responds To The Town Talk Madison: From day one, Cleco has pushed to start this audit My Turn That's what we have been working for since the spring of 2004. In fact, the method for providing answers -- an audit done by experts acceptable to both parties -- is spelled out in our contract with the city.

    The Town Talk was both ill informed and irresponsible in its July 7 editorial ["Citizens stiffed as Alexandria, Cleco dawdle"]. The claim that Cleco Corp. has tried to delay an audit of transactions with the city of Alexandria has no basis in fact.

    It is a ridiculous assertion, and the people of Alexandria deserve the facts. My position hasn't changed from day one:

    An objective audit should be done as soon as possible. If, at the end of the process, Cleco owes money to the city, we will pay it.

    A business has nothing to gain from dragging out an issue with a customer. Every customer no matter their size deserves honest answers.

    Within weeks after the city first raised concerns to us, we suggested a number of nationally known accounting firms capable of conducting the audit. When that effort failed to gain traction, we continued working with city officials to find qualified firms to audit our records.

    For reasons best known to them, city officials instead decided to file a lawsuit against Cleco. Still, we worked to speed up the litigation and associated audit, not delay it.

    What may be confusing to some is the lawsuit we filed against two former employees.

    That is a completely separate issue. While there may have been a point of common origin, the lawsuit against our former employees is an employment-contract matter, and it has never delayed any audit between Cleco and the city.

    We have never tried to keep an unbiased firm from auditing our records on behalf of Alexandria residents.

    A federal judge is now overseeing what we believe will be a fair audit process, and we will continue to do all we can to move the audit forward. It is well past time to get to the real facts in dispute, rather than waste years and taxpayers' money in senseless court fights where the only winners are the attorneys and consultants collecting lucrative fees.

    For two years now, the hundreds of Cleco employees who live in this community and contribute to meet its needs have endured potshots and watched the company they proudly work for have its name dragged through the mud.

    When you look at the facts, there is no reason for this character assassination. Whether it is hurricane recovery, coaching the Little League, participating in local churches, or serving as Red Cross volunteers, Cleco and its 1,200 employees are here for this community and our customers. You don't stay in business for more than 70 years any other way.

    We are -- and always have been -- ready for an independent audit.

  • Michael H. Madison is president and chief executive officer of Cleco Corp.
  • |W|P|115263006503579426|W|P||W|P|LamarW@gmail.com7/10/2006 12:50:00 PM|W|P|Blogger|W|P|
    McPherson Businesses Cash in State Money
    Associated Press
    Monday, July 10, 2006

    Louisiana lawmakers doing business with the state and with local governments have reported earning money from Medicaid payments, legal work and insurance policies.

    All members of the Legislature must submit financial disclosure forms detailing how much, if any, money they or their spouses made in dealings with the state or with city, parish or other local governments.

    Sen. Joe McPherson, co-owner of a Lafayette nursing home, reported earning more government money than any other lawmaker. The facility, Maison de Lafayette, received $3.3 million from the state in Medicaid payments, McPherson, D-Woodworth, said in his form.

    Government watchdog groups are longtime critics of allowing lawmakers to do business with governments, saying it creates conflicts of interest when legislators must take positions on bills supported or opposed by those governments.

    Lawmakers defend the practice. Several bills to prohibit it have failed to get through the Legislature.

    Other lawmakers reporting large sums from 2005 government work include:

    -Rep. Bryant Hammett, D-Ferriday, whose engineering firm made $737,826 for projects for Columbia, Concordia and Tensas parishes, towns including Ferriday and Jonesville, and work for governments elsewhere in the state. Hammett has said he plans to give up his House seat to take a job in the Blanco administration overseeing the rebuilding of infrastructure damaged in 2005 hurricanes.

    -Rep. Karen St. Germain, D-Plaquemines, reported that a Pierre Part hardware store owned by her husband and his siblings made $56,351 from local government bodies in Assumption Parish.

    -Rep. Glenn Ansardi, D-Kenner, said his law firm earned $470,000 doing legal work for local governments in Jefferson Parish.

    -Rep. Hunter Greene, R-Baton Rouge, a lawyer, reported that he and his wife made $143,366 doing work for 12 school boards.

    The base salary of a senator or House member is $22,800 per year. Additionally, they can receive up to $115 for each day the Legislature was in session this year - another $11,155 for those 97 days.

    Lawmakers in leadership positions make more. The House speaker and Senate president, Rep. Joe Salter, D-Florien, and Sen. Don Hines, D-Bunkie, each have a base salary of $32,000. The speaker pro tem and president pro tem, Rep. Yvonne Dorsey, D-Baton Rouge, and Sen. Diana Bajoie, D-New Orleans, have base salaries of $24,500. The co-chairmen of the legislative budget committee, Rep. John Alario, D-Westwego, and Sen. Francis Heitmeier, D-New Orleans, make $28,000 plus expenses.

    |W|P|115256110261071135|W|P||W|P|LamarW@gmail.com7/09/2006 11:24:00 AM|W|P|Blogger|W|P|Our View: Citizens stiffed as Alexandria, Cleco dawdle Everyone knew the fraud fight between the city of Alexandria and Cleco Corp. would get much worse before it got better, but no one could have predicted this.

    Right now, city residents are seeing gridlock in action. Make that inaction.

    Today, city officials are no closer to reviewing the Pineville-based electric company's billing records than they were so long ago -- way back when someone outside of city government spoke up and said, hey, you might be getting ripped off -- big time.

    The fact that a review of the records has not even started does not bode well for residents and business owners in Alexandria, those who buy their electricity from the city, which buys it from Cleco. Indeed, it does not bode well for all city residents -- especially the tens of thousands of taxpayers who continue to wonder why their local officials, elected and otherwise, do not spend taxpayer dollars wisely and do not make sure they get what they paid for,

    Either these city officials cannot do the job, or they will not do the job. We suspect some of each is true, depending on which office in City Hall is talking or not talking to the public; feuding or not feuding with the office down the hall; plotting to "get" someone for some sleight, real or perceived; or planning to get something for themselves, a relative or a friend.

    To the taxpayers on the outside looking in, dysfunction appears to be the order of the day. That, by the way, is also what Cleco officials see, and their attorneys will make good use of the confusion and disarray that come with it.

    For its part, Cleco has chosen a path that has made an ugly -- and perhaps criminal -- situation even uglier. The utility clearly does not care what its behavior looks like to the city of Alexandria -- or to any of its other customers, for that matter. Through various legal maneuvers, the company has succeeded in stalling the review process, blocking reasonable requests for information, and dodging questions about accountability.

    All of that, the utility seems to think, will ensure a level playing field when the parties finally do sit down with a pile of paperwork that will show two important things: how well or how poorly the company treated the city of Alexandria and its electric customers, and how well or how poorly city officials monitored the spending of millions of taxpayer dollars.

    At the same time, Cleco's maneuvering accomplishes something else for the company -- delay, delay, delay. The hope, of course, is that the longer it takes to take a step in the review process, the more uncomfortable things get for certain people in City Hall. Perhaps someone will eventually say, Enough! Then the whole thing can be settled behind closed doors for 10 cents on the dollar.

    It wouldn't be the first time something like that happened. You'd better believe it's being discussed.

    Originally published July 7, 2006

    |W|P|115246951014960001|W|P||W|P|LamarW@gmail.com7/09/2006 10:40:00 AM|W|P|Blogger|W|P|Letter To The Editor: Regulating Hairstyles Is Not A Job For Our School System Hair not an educational issue From the Town Talk

    The Rapides Parish school system has no business regulating any aspect of students' appearance that they cannot readily modify once they leave campus. This applies to the freedom to wear one's hair as he or she wishes.

    Braids, beads, bands or other hairstyles are in no way distracting unless a boy's girlfriend is using class time to style his hair. That is a disciplinary issue. Policies against boys wearing braids are unconstitutional on two grounds. First, unless females are also not allowed to wear braids, such policies are sexist. Second, braids are almost exclusively an African-American style. Braids are an expression of ethnic heritage and must be respected as such. Stop being afraid of students who do not look like small-town Republicans. Enter the 21st century, Rapides Parish. Focus on achievement. Give students a quality education. Prepare them for college, vocations and independent living. Only the most regimented of employers have hair codes, and most colleges would not even consider such violations of personal freedom. Don't worry about how students look as long as they are modest, clean and their underwear is not visible. Any hair policy whatsoever is reminiscent of the 1960s when redneck police officers would capture an innocent hippie and shave his head! Today that would be considered assault and perhaps even a hate crime. Do you really want your system to be regarded as stuck in the 1960s? Leave the hair alone. Rhonda Browning Vidalia

    |W|P|115246695600349259|W|P||W|P|LamarW@gmail.com7/08/2006 09:59:00 AM|W|P|Blogger|W|P|More Shameless Self-Promotion: Bringhurst Golf Course Makes The News (Again!)|W|P|115237803378420363|W|P||W|P|LamarW@gmail.com7/06/2006 07:29:00 PM|W|P|Blogger|W|P|Randolph Issues Statement About Cleco, Claims City Attorney Did Inform Council About Court Filing|W|P|115223941268337222|W|P||W|P|LamarW@gmail.com7/06/2006 03:47:00 PM|W|P|Blogger|W|P|Dr. John Sams for Mayor: Read What Other People Are Saying About John Sams For Mayor I know Dr. Sams' website is brand new, but c'mon, this is still funny. I also enjoyed this line about his son Andy: Yes, my son DID found the first high school ACLU chapter in Louisiana. Yes, I supported his right to do so and do not regret it. My children have all been raised to be individuals who stand up for what they believe is correct BUT.....THEY are not running for Mayor of Alexandria. |W|P|115222630350475998|W|P||W|P|LamarW@gmail.com7/05/2006 04:20:00 PM|W|P|Blogger|W|P|Jacques Roy and Michael Brewer Featured in Today's New York Times (right on the front page) It's about prison labor.|W|P|115214172856073145|W|P||W|P|LamarW@gmail.com7/05/2006 04:09:00 PM|W|P|Blogger|W|P|Sparks Fly Over Cleco I was in the front room during this meeting, and trust me, it became very loud and heated.|W|P|115214116444711879|W|P||W|P|LamarW@gmail.com7/04/2006 02:45:00 AM|W|P|Blogger|W|P|Cleco Audit in Jeopardy|W|P|115200639944474035|W|P||W|P|LamarW@gmail.com7/01/2006 03:55:00 PM|W|P|Blogger|W|P|
    Gannett Attempts to Squash Independent Press by Controlling Distribution Points
    Independent Magazines Found Their Racks at the Dumpster (Jackson, MS)
    Earlier today, the Dead Pelican linked to a story featured in the Independent Weekly about Gannett's latest attempt at controlling the news: Dominate distribution points by "renting out" space for independent magazines (and then share those profits with the stores that offer this service). From the Independent Weekly:

    Gannett’s pitch to retailers is that it will take on the retailer’s burden of managing the racks of free publications at a store’s location by installing one gigantic plastic box. Gannett then offers the retailer a cut of the revenue from the publications that rent the box space.

    But for the competing publications, the deal isn’t so sweet.

    Todd Stauffer, publisher of the Jackson Free Press, discovered the Gannett daily newspaper in Jackson, Miss., The Clarion-Ledger, was entering into agreements with retailers that gave Gannett exclusive rights to distribute any and all free publications. The agreement gives Gannett the right to evict publishers who don’t sign up with the service from its distribution points. In May, Stauffer wrote in his newspaper: “I understand the Mafia in New York City has a similar system.”

    The Jackson Free Press serves 190,000 Jackson residents and a metro area of 500,000 by distributing 16,000 copies of its weekly paper in more than 400 locations. After JFP published its first story on Gannett’s new distribution network, The Clarion-Ledger Publisher John Newhouse released a statement that read in part: “The growing number of free publications, not just here, but around the country, presents both opportunity and concern for all of us.” He concluded: “A distribution network will happen in Metro Jackson, if not by The Clarion-Ledger, then quite possibly by a distribution company with no connection to Jackson or Mississippi. And, based on national trends, companies from outside this market would likely charge much higher rates for the same service.”

    The Daily Advertiser Publisher Ted Power is short on details about SLP’s distribution intentions, but he parrots the Gannett party line: “If we decide to go ahead, we want to go ahead at a point before anybody else does it.”

    When Stauffer met with The Clarion-Ledger’s Circulation Manager Lee Warmouth, he requested a copy of the contract that retailers were signing with Gannett, but Warmouth refused. Stauffer then obtained a copy of the agreement from another source. “It basically says that the retailer is giving The Clarion Ledger the exclusive right to manage free distribution publications on [retailers’] premises, all the grounds, indoors and out,” he says. The deal calls for Gannett to give retailers 23 percent of the boxes’ revenue, and assuming that The Clarion-Ledger won’t pay for its own publications to be included in the boxes, Stauffer says the retailer’s cut is at most $12 a month.

    For publications that distribute to 100 - 200 locations, the price is $6.50 a month per location. For a paper with 200 locations, that’s a monthly cost of $1,300 — $15,600 annually. Publications that distribute to more than 200 locations are charged $5 a month per location. For publications like real estate guides and classified papers that can easily have up to 600 locations, the cost is even more exorbitant. “That’s a cost of $35,000 or $40,000 a year just for the right to have The Clarion-Ledger distribute them,” Stauffer says, “and we’re assuming that’s the introductory price.”

    Jackson Free Press didn’t take Gannett up on its new service, nor has any other free Jackson area publication. Instead, they formed the Mississippi Independent Publishers Alliance, a group of independent free publications that publish classified papers, real estate guides and weeklies. Each member of the alliance has pledged not to sign up with Gannett’s free distribution network. As long as Jackson’s independent publishers stick to their guns and refuse to sign onto The Clarion-Ledger’s network, it leaves the daily newspaper without income from the boxes — of which retailers have been offered a percentage — but it still leaves Gannett with exclusive distribution rights.

    “If this was truly free enterprise,” Stauffer says, “they wouldn’t have to put ‘exclusive’ [in the contract]. … They’re not truly offering a product, and that’s how I know their scheme is more evil empire than it is a service. The problem I’ve got is that my competitor is going to be setting the rate on the box, and they’re basically using the strong arm of a Virginia-based corporation to try to buy their way into something they haven’t done particularly successfully just through sweat and tears.”

    Stauffer received a letter from The Clarion Ledger on May 18 stating that Jackson Free Press must remove its racks from 167 locations by June 19. JFP’s attorneys responded by saying Gannett’s contracts with retailers were invalid since Gannett misleadingly used Jackson Free Press’ name in its marketing materials. “They suggested strongly to the locations in their pitch that most of the local free publications were on board as they went into pitch the idea,” Stauffer says. Retailers were presented with a list of publications titled “Accepted” and used the form to pick the publications they wanted in their locations. “It wasn’t that we had accepted anything,” Stauffer says. “It wasn’t that we even knew anything about the program. Prior to having talked to us, they created this list and made it look very legal. We’re saying we think that the contracts they signed while using our name are invalid.” On June 20, the Jackson Free Press reported that its readers had spotted independent publishers’ racks lined up next to dumpsters.

    “On top of that,” Stauffer says, “we learned yesterday that one of the chains of convenience stores didn’t actually sign it until this week, although we got the letter a couple weeks ago. So they’re basically just playing both sides of the fence. They’re clearly overestimating the locations they’re telling us we have to get out of, and then they’re going to the retailers and saying this is going to be a great thing, except they’re actually not going to have any free distribution papers there.”

    “I think it’s icing on the cake for them if they actually manage to make money off the distribution network,” Stauffer adds. South Louisiana Publishing’s Binkley told The Independent Weekly’s Terry that SLP’s business plan doesn’t call for making money for the first three years.

    In addition to The Independent Weekly, Acadiana publications that could be affected by Gannett’s latest ploy include Acadiana Lifestyle, 008 magazine, The Real Estate Book, Zing, The Acadian, HealthCare Highlights, House & Home and Louisiana Homes & Gardens.

    Gannett’s new distribution plan is a reaction to declining readership at Gannett’s daily newspapers. The Clarion-Ledger has launched a car classified shopper, a home classified shopper, a parenting magazine, and a weekend section, for a total of half a dozen free publications. In Lafayette, Gannett’s trying the same strategy with Acadiana Parent and L Magazine.

    “They’re going into the free publication business,” Stauffer says. “What we’re watching is our daily rolling into the free distribution business and the forced circulation business, and I assume that’s because they’re dying.”

    “It’s about free enterprise,” he adds, “and it’s about a marketplace of ideas. Gannett has a pretty bad track record of trying to own that entire marketplace. They shouldn’t feel threatened by the free publications. But the truth is they are because they don’t do a great job — at least in our market — of being the paper of record. I wish they would take their vast resources and focus more on reporting, investigating, and telling us the stories we need to hear, as opposed to trying to knock the Thrifty Nickel out of business.”

    |W|P|115179516808980239|W|P||W|P|LamarW@gmail.com7/01/2006 12:48:00 PM|W|P|Blogger|W|P|Casey Parks, Louisiana Native and ASH Graduate, Wins Prestigious New York Times Journalism Award It's worth mentioning that Casey once wrote for The Town Talk. Casey will be featured in the Ten Under Thirty feature as soon as she returns from vacation. Read Casey's award-winning essay Watch a video of Nick Kristof calling Casey More information on Casey and her work with the Jackson Free Press can be found here|W|P|115178418724957171|W|P||W|P|LamarW@gmail.com-->