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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 athletics@lsu.edu 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.

 

Number of signatures needed for St. George petition in dispute

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St. George organizers have submitted the much-anticipated petition needed to put the new city proposal to a vote of its own residents.

But the question remains: How many signatures do they need to qualify?

The number has been a moving target for the better part of a year. Now that the petition is in, St. George supporters and opponents are having a disagreement about what the true threshold will be.

At first, St. George organizers estimated the goal was about 18,000. But as they got closer to the finish line, the need for specificity became more urgent.

A few months ago, the Registrar of Voters told the group the number would be 17,746 signatures. The group submitted the petition on Oct. 20 with about 18,200 signatures. Then the Registrar updated the number of signatures required on the petition to 16,500.

Registrar Elaine Lamb said the number reflected 25 percent of the registered voters in the boundaries of the proposed new city on the day the petition was submitted, which is the number they would be held to.

But St. George opposition group Residents Against the Breakaway is contesting that number. Dianne Hanley, a spokeswoman with the group said their analysis of voter precincts shows there are 71,184 registered voters in the St. George area, meaning 17,752 are required as of Sept. 18. They think the number may be a little higher because more people have registered to vote ahead of the November election.

But, St. George spokesman Lionel Rainey said he believes the number is below 17,000.

Lamb acknowledged Monday the 16,500 estimate might have been an inaccurate count. But she said she’s done estimating the total for the public until she can sit down with St. George organizers and look at the specific boundary lines of the proposed city. She said there are several split precincts which is why the count is complicated.

She also said the recent annexations of properties into the City of Baton Rouge will not their counts for the petition because there are few if any registered voters in that area and because they can only go by what is included in the initial petition.

Once early voting ends, she said her office will begin to determine the exact number of necessary signatures. She estimated her office would take at least a month to validate the petition.

 

 

RDA Board opts against calling meeting to discuss Monsour’s future

Redevelopment Authority board chairman John Noland said Monday afternoon that there will not be a board meeting this week to consider the future of RDA executive director Walter Monsour.

Noland said he was unavailable to answer further questions, but in an email he said the board decided not to call the meeting, despite a report by the Baton Rouge Business Report that Noland had confirmed a quorum could be called to “evaluate our course of action” with Monsour’s future. On Monday, the RDA website also advertised an Oct. 30 special meeting.

The report was a response to The Advocate’s story on Sunday that reported the law firm of Monsour’s son earned $190,000 in legal fees from clients benefiting from RDA. Monsour’s son Jordan Monsour worked directly with the RDA on two our of three of the contracts, which could pose an ethical violation.

The Advocate also reported that the RDA initially asked the Ethics Board for an opinion about the business relationship, but withdrew their request before the board weighed in.

CORRECTION: This report has been updated to reflect that the Business Report story about Noland suggested a meeting could be called, but had not yet been made official.

St. George to answer questions at public meeting Tuesday

Advocate staff photo by CATHERINE THRELKELD

Advocate staff photo by CATHERINE THRELKELD

 

UPDATE: The St. George public meeting is being rescheduled because of a family emergency among one of the organizers. There will be no meeting on Tuesday.

St. George officials will answer your questions on Tuesday night at the Bluebonnet Branch Baton Rouge Library at 6:30 p.m.

The organizers of the incorporation effort are hosting a public meeting where they will  ”detail the plan for the city of St. George and release the new St. George budget.”

The group released an initial one-page budget for the proposed city  several months ago made up mostly of sales taxes that projected revenues of $81 million.

But it’s been unclear what the impact of recent annexations of high revenue generating businesses into the City of Baton Rouge would do to St. George’s proposed budget.

St. George officials estimated previously that they’ve taken a 20 percent budget hit because of the loss of L’Auberge Casino and the Mall of Louisiana. But they said they’ll still have a budget surplus of about $5 million.

Touchdown Express service restored after LSU game day contraflow issue resolved

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The Capital Area Transit System is bringing back its unlimited version of the Touchdown Express, game day shuttle service from downtown Baton Rouge to Tiger Stadium.

In August, the agency begrudgingly announced that it would have to limit ticket sales for the lucrative and convenient transport service because of recent plans by LSU and Baton Rouge Police Department to implement contraflow after games which  prevented CATS buses from making back and forth trips after games.

CATS was limited to just one trip from campus to downtown after the game ended. But this week the agency announced the issue has been resolved, and CATS buses will be allowed to use emergency vehicle lanes after games to make multiple trips to downtown.

The shuttle service is designed to give drivers an off campus option for parking. It’s grown in popularity and provided CATS an additional revenue stream. Last year, the $10 round trips generated $73,000 for the bus agency.

On Saturday, CATS will begin selling tickets and begin transporting passengers 4 hours prior to the start of the game. The last pick up after the game will be no later than an hour after the game ends. Pass sale locations will be Hollywood Casino, Hotel Indigo, L’Auberge Casino, and Florida Street at the I- 110 underpass. Pick up locations will be Hollywood Casino, Hotel Indigo, L’Auberge Casino, Florida Street at the I-110 underpass, Riverfront Transit Shelter, Belle of Baton Rouge, and the Hampton Inn. One–way tickets can be purchased for $5.00 for a return trip on the bus. Pick up and drop off locations will remain at lot 406.

Touchdown Express passes can be purchased prior to Game Day at the Customer Care window located at the Terminal Transfer Center at 2250 Florida Blvd, or by calling Customer Care at 225.389.8282.

Metro Council gives green light for Uber to service airport

The East Baton Rouge Parish Metro Council gave the go-ahead on Wednesday for ride share service Uber Technologies, Inc. to operate out of the Baton Rouge Metropolitan Airport for at least a year.

None of the council members even discussed the measure, as they quickly approved it and moved on. Uber drivers are independent contractors who transport riders in their own vehicles and respond to ride requests via an app on their smart phones.

Cab drivers in the Capital City have been none-too-pleased about their new competition, which started operating over the summer. Their business at the airport is already slow and they often struggle to find riders.

“We already feel the pinch,” said Bennett Mackie, a 76-year-old cab driver who said he’s been driving airport cabs for 40 years. “If they (Uber) come, I don’t know how much of the pie’s left, so to speak.”

In addition to Baton Rouge, Uber has expanded into New Orleans recently as well. 

 

The wait for CATS bus benches drags on to 2015

Bus riders hoping to see covered seating at the bus stops will have to keep on waiting.

About 100 covered, lit bus shelters were promised by the Capital Area Transit System during the 2012 tax election. Currently, many bus stops lack so much as a bench. And few of the bus stops have a covering to protect riders from the elements.

But as of October, only 10 bus shelters are finished, and 30 more are under construction. They are expected to be complete in November. The goal for the remaining 60 bus shelters has now moved for June 2015, and that’s a best case scenario.

Initially, the bus shelters were promised to be completed by March of this year, when the full roll out of new services was unveiled. However, the agency was unable to make the deadline. This year CEO Bob Mirabito said he expected all of the bus shelters to be finished by the end of the year.

Mirabito said his hands are tied because the last batch of shelter construction is being controlled by the state Department of Transportation and Development, because the state controls the state grant funding the work. The other ones were done in house and with the assistance of the city-parish.

Mirabito said he’s requested that CATS take control of the procurement and bidding process to try to expedite construction.

“It’s up to them, we’re trying hard, we know they’re trying hard,” he said. “But it’s their process.”

He said if the shelters aren’t completed by June 2015, then the grants will lose their value. The grant currently only requires a 5 percent local match, but after June, it will change to a 20 percent local match.

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St. George petition verification will be tedious, long process

 

Patrick Dennis

Patrick Dennis

The Registrar of Voters has the herculean task of validating more than 18,200 signatures on a petition seeking a vote on creating the city of St. George.

Initially, St. George organizers wanted 20,000 signatures to create a substantial cushion in case names were tossed on technicalities. But since the required number of signatures dropped to 16,500 (it was adjusted to count the number of registered voters the day the petition was submitted), St. George organizers will still have a healthy overage of signatures.

The process to validate the signatures will take at least a month, said Registrar Elaine Lamb.The extremely tedious work requires looking at each person, checking to ensure the address is actually in the boundaries of the proposed city of St. George, checking to make sure they still live there, and validating the signature by comparing it to signatures on voter registrations and other records.

Lamb said she couldn’t estimate how many signatures are typically tossed during the validation period.

The only comparable petition verification she’s overseen was the City of Central, which required only about 5,000 signatures. Lamb said she expects she’ll have to seek outside help from the Secretary of State’s office for the job.

And the timing couldn’t be worse, since early voting started Tuesday. She said her office won’t even begin the verification process until early voting ends.

If St. George falls short on the number of verified signatures it needs for an election, organizers will have 60 days to make up the difference.

Attorney Mary Olive Pierson, representing the city of Baton Rouge in its fight against St. George, said she questions whether St. George officials gave themselves enough of a room for a “margin of error.”

“Some of those signatures won’t be able to be certified,” she said. “They’ve been trying to get signatures for more than a year now. I’m sure some of those people have died.”

Public meetings scheduled for Baton Rouge Lakes master plan

The Baton Rouge Area Foundation is reaching out for public input to help shape the master plan for the University and City Park lakes.

There will be four public meetings. So far, dates have only been set for the first two:

Nov. 6, 2014 – 6-8 p.m. at the LSU E.J. Ourso Business School Auditorium

Dec. 11 – 6-8 p.m. at the LSU Union Cotillion Ballroom

BRAF is spearheading a massive plan to restore the six Baton Rouge lakes, which are too shallow and reverting back to swamp land. The plan will ultimately determine what method will be used to preserve the lakes, and will outline park amenities and landscaping for the land surrounding the lakes.

Residents can also share opinions and ideas anytime at TheLakes.MindMixer.com, an online public engagement platform. More information about the project is also at BatonRougeLakes.org.

-batonrougelakes.org

-batonrougelakes.org