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CATS bus driver resuscitates infant who stopped breathing after collision

Connie D. Drake was at the right place at the right time.

On Oct. 31, the Capital Area Transit System bus operator of two years was manning her bus at the Cortana Mall stop, when the driver of a pick up truck accidentally backed into the bus.

The driver of the truck had children in the car, including an infant. The infant stopped breathing.

Drake, who has been trained as a paramedic, rushed into action. She performed CPR on the infant — resuscitating the child before an ambulance arrived.

Drake was recognized for her “heroism” on Tuesday at the Capital Area Transit System Board meeting.

Drake humbly commented that she didn’t need the recognition.

“I don’t need the recognition to help someone, because I always will,” she said.

Is there a Metro “Council Curse”? Last five members to run for another office have lost


Councilman Trae Welch is the latest victim of what the Baton Rouge council members are jokingly referring to as the “Council Curse.”

AX096_24D7_9At least the last five council members who have run for an office outside of their council seat have been defeated.

Most recently it was Welch who challenged Mike Erwin for his 19th judicial district court seat on Nov. 4.

But last year, Scott Wilson, who represents the Central area, ran for and lost a seat in the state House of Representatives against political newcomer Barry Ivey. Wilson was criticized by opponents as being not conservative enough. Wilson had a conservative voting record on the council, however, opponents were still able to find ways to use it against him. For example, he was criticized for approving wasteful spending simply for voting in favor of the mayor’s annual budget for the city-parish.

Former Mayor Pro Tem Mike Walker also ran a spirited but fruitless campaign for mayor president in 2012 against Kip Holden.

And C. Denise Marcelle and Donna Collins-Lewis both ran for the same legislative seat in 2011. And they both lost to State Rep. Alfred Williams.

AX058_71D9_9Now, Buddy Amoroso is hoping he can buck the trend. The first term  Republican councilman is running for Hunter Greene’s vacated seat in a March special election.

The Metro Council hasn’t always been cursed. Some elected officials got their start on the Metro Council — including Holden. State Sen. Sharon Weston Broome also did a stint on the council.

It’s an obvious launch pad for a more glamorous political career. Both John Delgado and Tara Wicker have expressed interest in running for mayor-president. Councilman Ryan Heck flirted with running for the 6th district’s U.S. Congressional seat, but ultimately never ran.


This story has been modified from its original version to remove mention of former legislator Woody Jenkins. The initial story said he criticized Wilson, however, Jenkins said he never took an official position against Wilson and recused himself from a vote of the East Baton Rouge Parish Republican Party that resulted in an endorsement of Ivey. Jenkins’ newspaper ran pro-Ivey ads during the election, however, they were paid ads and not newspaper endorsements.



Ousted Parish Attorney Mary Roper fires off five more lawsuits against council members

Fired Parish Attorney and scorned woman Mary Roper just fired off five more lawsuits, suing five individual council members for not responding to public record requests she submitted in August.

Roper was fired in September. On Monday, she filed a suit against the city-parish and council administrator’s office for not responding to her record requests seeking council members’ emails, texts, memos and social media messages that make mention of her, or other issues related to her firing and the office of the parish attorney.

Late Wednesday, she filed five more lawsuits, which are nearly identical to the one she previously filed against the city-parish, suing  the individual council members personally for failing to turn over their records. The council members she’s suing are: Chandler Loupe, Buddy Amoroso, C. Denise Marcelle, John Delgado and Trae Welch.

Loupe said Wednesday he turned over all of his personal and work emails that matched the criteria, however he said he doesn’t know how to access text messages that have been deleted from his phone.

Roper is seeking messages dating back to 2008.

Her attorneys say the public record requests could be used to gather evidence that the council was colluding to remove her. The request could also be used for a defamation case Roper said she is planning to file against several of the council members for alleging she was involved in a stolen computer program scheme.


Hundreds in Baton Rouge sign up as bone marrow donors

More than 300 people in East Baton Rouge Parish have registered as blood marrow donors as part of a 90-day bone marrow donor drive.

The effort was especially important for the African American community, which comprises only 7 percent of the 10 million people on the national bone marrow registry. The push in Baton Rouge began in August, with donation events set up at places like Southern University, Perkins Rowe and Pennington Biomedical Research Center.

More than half of the people in Baton Rouge who signed up for the registry are black.

“For someone needing a transplant, finding the right match means staying alive and keeping their family intact,” said Mayor-President Kip Holden in a news release. “If you or one of your family members needed a transplant, just think about what finding a match would mean. It’s just the greatest gift you can give.”

Holden was inspired to join forces for the donor drive with Mary Bird Perkins – Our Lady of the Lake Cancer Center and “Be the Match” after hearing Good Morning America’s Robin Roberts’ story. Roberts suffered from a bone marrow disease, and her sister, WWL-TV news anchor Sally Ann Roberts, donated bone marrow.

The Roberts’ efforts triggered more than 40,000 people to join the national registry.

Anyone hoping to join the registry must be between age 18 and 44 and meet certain health requirements. More information is available at the Mary Bird Perkins-OLOL Cancer Center.

City employees to present Metro Council with petition to fund raises in 2015 budget

The city-parish employee union representing mostly public works employees is submitting a petition to the East Baton Rouge Parish Metro Council urging them to find the funding for pay raises in the 2015 budget. 

Alvin Rattle, a leader with the Service Employees International Union Local 21, said organizers started collecting signatures on Friday and will present the council with a petition with between 250 and 300 signatures at the meeting today.

Mayor-President Kip Holden  presented his $830 million budget proposal for the city-parish last week, which lacked funds for substantive pay increases for employees.

Employees have been negotiating with the Mayor’s Office for more than a year to overhaul the pay structure to get them closer to the regional averages for their positions. A study released last year found that Baton Rouge city employees are underpaid compared to their regional peers.

The Mayor’s Office proposed structural changes that would give modest increases to all city employees, however, it accomplishes it by cutting back retirement and leave benefits. The changes are expected to go into effect in the first quarter of 2015 with a budget supplement.

Negotiations have been strained because employees, including fire fighters, police department and DPW employees, don’t think the proposed raises go far enough and don’t want to lose benefits.

Rattle said the union is urging the council to reject the mayor’s budget, unless they find money for better employee raises.

The budget does include funds for the 3 percent merit increases that employees currently receive. However, many employees are ineligible for the merit increases.

The Metro Council will vote on whether to approve Holden’s budget on Dec. 9.





Mary Roper requests every email she ever sent or received while working for city

UPDATE: Mary Roper filed a motion to appeal Judge Michael Caldwell’s September ruling today. One of her attorneys said she is not seeking reinstatement or damages. She just wants the circuit court to clarify that the office of the Parish Attorney is a not an at-will position.

Former East Baton Rouge Parish Attorney Mary Roper was fired in September, and she left guns blazing — publicly criticizing the motivations and actions of the Metro Council members who voted to remove her.

AX028_198A_9While she’s already lost one lawsuit that she filed against the Metro Council, it’s possible she might have some more tricks up her sleeve.

Attorney Murphy Foster III, who defended the Metro Council against Roper’s suit, said this week that while that lawsuit is over — and no appeal was filed — he is still being retained by the council to deal with the onerous public record requests being submitted by Roper.

A few days after Roper was officially fired, she sent a public record request directly to Information Services Director Eric Romero, asking for a copy of every email she sent or received from when she was hired in Oct. 1993 until the present.

The request generated “roughly 90,000 documents which must first be reviewed for privileged and nonpublic information,” Foster said.

He said he’s currently at an impasse with Roper, because he asked her to agree to pay for the cost of reviewing those documents, which will be extremely time consuming and labor intensive.

Roper, Foster said, contends she should not have to pay for the labor.

Foster said he has also asked Roper to narrow her search.

“Our office and Ms. Roper are in discussions about the next step,” he said.

The Metro Council will be asked to extend Foster’s contract compensation ceiling to $50,000 from $32,500, since he continues to rack up charges associated with Roper’s requests.

Foster said he wouldn’t rule out another lawsuit being filed by Roper.

Roper’s initial lawsuit claimed she was being denied due process by the council in their proceedings to remove her. She also claimed in the suit, that she was not an at-will employee and the council couldn’t remove her without cause. A 19th district court judge ultimately ruled against her and the council subsequently fired her. A faction of the council said they’d lost confidence in her ability to manage and lead the parish attorney’s office, and questioned her judgment related to filing a suit against the council.


Buddy Amoroso kicks off election campaign for Hunter Greene’s vacated seat

State Rep. Hunter Greene’s victory over longtime family court judge Annette Lassalle is good news for Baton Rouge Metro Councilman Buddy Amoroso.

Amoroso capitalized on the win Thursday, reminding voters that he is officially running for the District 66 legislative seat being vacated early by Greene.

Greene was already term limited in the state house, but his judicial election win means he’ll be leaving office a year early, paving the way for a special election to fill his seat.

AX058_71D9_9“It has been an honor to serve the residents of Southeast Baton Rouge on the Metro Council,” Amoroso said in a statement Thursday. “I look forward to continuing to work for them in the Louisiana House of Representatives.”

Amoroso describes himself as a true conservative who has a record of voting “pro-family” and “anti-tax” on the council.

Amoroso is one of the most vocal St. George supporters on the council, taking stands against measures that could present set backs to the proposed city, which is an area included in the legislative district he is seeking to represent. Amoroso’s campaign manager is Lionel Rainey, who is also the spokesperson for the St. George incorporation effort.

“I take a common sense conservative approach to the decisions I make and I will bring the same practical approach to the State House of Representatives,” Amoroso said in the statement.

The anticipated special election date will be March 28, 2015.

So far, no other candidates have officially declared. However, Susan Nelson, a consultant and former free lance journalist, has said she is pondering a run. She is a registered independent.

Amoroso is a first-term Metro Councilman who won his seat in 2012 unopposed.

Mayor will release East Baton Rouge budget today

East Baton Rouge Parish Mayor-President Kip Holden will release his 2015 budget proposal at 4 p.m. today at City Hall.

Despite pressure on the mayor to add city worker raises and more funding for the East Baton Rouge Parish Redevelopment Authority, his staff’s public comments indicate that it is not likely either will be included in the 2015 budget. Talks are in progress to add city worker raises as part of a budget supplement between January and March of next year.

The 2014 budget was more than $804 million, nearly a 3 percent increase from the 2013 $781 million budget.

Police and fire union representatives are currently amid negotiations with city officials for pay raises.

Advocate readers love to hate on LSU football game day traffic

A story in The Advocate on Tuesday triggered many LSU fans to escape from their Ole Miss victory dazes and sound off about game day traffic gridlock.

The original story recounted the nightmarish experience of a Nicholson Lakes resident waiting in his car for hours while being denied entrance into his own neighborhood. Many of the purple and gold faithful have written to The Advocate with similar stories that paint post-game day Baton Rouge as a grid of unmoving traffic and rude police officers.

One reader, Gary P. Haindel, wrote that it took him more than two hours to move three miles on Saturday to return home in University Club South. Another reader, Ellen Roche, wrote that police cars blocked the left travel lane on Bluebonnet Blvd. on Saturday, forcing all of the drivers to merge right and defeating the purpose of contra flow.

Ryan LeGuluche, another Nicholson Lakes resident, wrote that the police officers near his neighborhood have been troublesome since the first game this season.

Most of those voicing complaints list the attitude of the police officers as one of the biggest problems.

“The impression the police give, at every game, is they are angry they are out there having to direct traffic,” wrote Eddie Daigle.

Earlier this week, Baton Rouge Police Department Sgt. David Wallace said officers monitoring traffic do not block any neighborhoods. He said people may have trouble with contra flow if they are moving against the direction of traffic, but pointed out that LSU fans often start contra flow themselves.

Wallace said they will continue to revamp and modify how contra flow works for next season after LSU’s last home game Nov. 8 against the University of Alabama. Adam Smith, the director of parking operations for the LSU Athletic Dept., said contra flow is working and the goal is to add more vehicle capacity to Nicholson Drive southbound. They should have a plan in place for next season by April 2015, Smith said.

Fans who are trying to voice their complaints to LSU should contact or 225-578-2184.

Kip Holden: Baton Rouge Mayor-President or Celebrity Maître d’?

Imagine a classy night out in Baton Rouge. The ambiance of downtown at night, steaks at Stroube’s and now a new sight — Baton Rouge Mayor-President Kip Holden as your Maître D’?

It doesn’t end there. Visit Baton Rouge President Paul Arrigo will serve as your auctioneer for a VIP package to Bayou Country Superfest 2015 and more.

“What can I get you to drink tonight?” not just any waiter will ask. How about Downtown Development District Executive Director Davis Rhorer at your hand and foot? Or maybe local author Leo Honeycutt?

It’s not a dream. All of this will happen from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 29 at Stroube’s on 107 Third Street. The Celebrity Waiters Night is part of a fundraiser for Baton Rouge’s Red Stick Revelry New Year’s Eve party.

The New Year’s Eve party, which will feature live music and a midnight drop of a lit-up red stick, is supported by sponsorships, donations and merchandise sales. This year’s celebration will feature performances by funk/soul band Phat Hat and country artist David St. Romain.

For those who dine at Stroube’s, their tips, prize bids and a portion of their meal proceeds will go toward Red Stick Revelry. Reservations for two seatings, one at 6:30 p.m. and another at 8 p.m. are available at 225-448-2830.