The Advocate Blog Network

Search
Banner image

Woody Jenkins won’t seek appeal to lawsuit challenging Mall of Louisiana annexation

Newspaper owner and former legislator Woody Jenkins announced today that he’s not going to appeal a decision challenging the annexation of the Mall of Louisiana into the city of Baton Rouge.

He filed his lawsuit last year, saying the annexation was unreasonable because it was missing the anchor stores.

The merits of the lawsuit were never litigated, because the case was ultimately tossed with the state and appellate judges agreeing that Jenkins did not have standing to challenge the annexation.

Jenkins initially said he would take his case to the state Supreme Court if necessary.

The Mall of Louisiana is considered a major financial generator for the city-parish government. It was annexed in an attempt to prevent the proposed city of St. George from being able to claim its tax dollars in the potential city.

Here’s Jenkins’ full statement:

After careful consideration, we have decided not to file an appeal in the case involving the Metro Council’s annexation of portions of the Mall of Louisiana.

We filed suit nearly one year ago, on June 12, 2014, challenging the lawless action by the Council in attempting to annex bits and pieces of the Mall.  Despite the fact that the Plan of Government requires that all annexations be of a “compact body of land adjacent to the City,” their annexation looked like a batch of donuts, full of holes for Penney’s, Macy’s, Dillard’s, and Sears, which were not annexed.  The Council failed to require the petition signatures and the property valuations required by the Plan of Government or to comply with the 10-day public notice requirements set by state law.

Despite our strong case challenging the illegality of the annexation, it has now been almost one year, and we have still not had our day in court on the merits of the case.  State law provides that challenges to annexations will be tried expeditiously, and the Plan of Government provides that no annexation shall go into effect until a challenge has been resolved.

Nevertheless, the District Judge in the case, Janice Clark, took her time on the matter and never held a trial on the substance of our lawsuit.  Instead, she ruled that I didn’t have “standing” to file the suit, despite the clear language of the Plan of Government that “any citizen of the City” of Baton Rouge has standing to file suit against an illegal annexation.

After long delays, we finally got a hearing before a three-judge panel of the Court of Appeal.  The decision by the Court of Appeal seemed to hinge on a statement by Judge John Guidry that the additional cost of providing police protection for the 15 million visitors to the Mall of Louisiana would be paid for by the additional revenue the City of Baton Rouge would receive by the sales taxes it would capture by annexing the Mall.  That rationale was completely flawed because of our unique City-Parish government.  The City of Baton Rouge already received the revenue from the sales taxes levied in the Mall of Louisiana, and the annexation had no effect whatsoever on sales tax collections.

All along, the opponents of incorporating St. George have said this suit is about St. George, whereas I have repeatedly said it is not about St. George but about trying to get the Metro Council to live within the Plan of Government that they adopted.  The purported annexation is clearly illegal under the Plan of Government. However, they have effectively blocked any citizen of the City of Baton Rouge from challenging their illegal action by claiming citizens do not have “standing” to file suit.

The legal options for us were to ask for a rehearing at the Court of Appeal and then a writ of certiorari to the Louisiana Supreme Court.  That process would take us to early 2016.  At that point, the Supreme Court could remand the case to the Court of Appeal to reconsider its opinion.  If we were successful at that point — nearly two years after filing suit — we would then be back in District Court with Judge Janice Clark to begin a trial on the merits of the case.  That would begin the process all over again with appeals to the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court, taking perhaps another two years.

The entire process would take easily four years.

This is contrary to the Plan of Government that says any citizen can file suit within 30 days of an annexation, and the annexation would not go into effect until a final judgment.  The City of Baton Rouge has been functioning as though the annexation occurred even though suit was filed against the annexation in June 2014.

I sat through the hearings Judge Clark held on the incorporation of the City of Central.  She delayed and delayed until the Court of Appeal finally took the case away from her.  In another matter, our newspaper, the Central City News, filed suit for access to public records, a procedure which under state law is supposed to be tried within 10 days of filing suit.  Judge Kay Bates never held the trial on the merits of the case, and it took us four years to finally win before the Supreme Court.

It is clear that justice delayed is justice denied.

The majority of the Metro Council has been a willing participant in this charade and has funded their special counsel to prevent the Plan of Government and state law from being enforced in this annexation case.

Our attorney, Alex St. Amant, has done an excellent job in representing us in this case and has served pro bono without compensation as a service to the citizens of Baton Rouge.  He is willing to continue to donate his valuable time and effort throughout this process.  However, I can see when the legal deck is stacked against us.  Simply put, even if we win in the Supreme Court after two years, we are back in Judge Clark’s court beginning the process all over again.  I would rather devote our time and resources to other battles which will need to be fought.  We are grateful for all those who have assisted in this suit, and we will continue our efforts in other ways.

Sincerely,

Woody Jenkins

Library Board seeking realtor to help find south branch site

The East Baton Rouge Parish Library system continues to hunt for a south branch location to add to its 14 other libraries. Advocate staff photo by Patrick Dennis.

The East Baton Rouge Parish Library system continues to hunt for a south branch location to add to its 14 other libraries. Advocate staff photo by Patrick Dennis.

The East Baton Rouge Parish Library board will hire a realtor to help them hunt for a South Branch location after years of bad luck trying to find one on their own.

The board voted 4-2 at their monthly meeting Thursday to seek a realtor’s help, though they added that the realtor should come at no cost to the library and be paid for by the land or property seller or their agent. Library staffers and board members said they were tired of their exhaustive search of the southern portion of the city for a suitable plot of a land for a 15,00 square foot library.

The South Branch was in the past slated to be built on property at developer J.T. “Tommy” Spinosa’s mixed use development Rouzan. But the Library Board pulled out of the agreement in 2013, frustrated by a lack of progress on infrastructure construction at the site.

A few months ago, Library Director Spencer Watts said he was excited about a possible location near Lee High School but neighbors complained that they did not want a library in the area.

Plans for a South Branch have reverted back to the drawing board, with some Library Board members even questioning if they should scrap plans for the branch altogether.

Watts said they have to change their parameters for a south branch and perhaps seek a smaller plot of land.

Board member Travis Woodward likened trying to find a suitable site in the area as putting a square peg in a round hole, but other Library Board members were more open to continuing the hunt. The Board has never contracted a realtor to help in the search.

“One would think that if we do take that approach and let’s say we do come up empty handed…then maybe we do as a board need to revisit as Travis [Woodard] was saying about where we are with our options,” said board member Terrie Johnson.

Carole Anne Brown, president of the Southside Civic Association, thanked the board members for their continued efforts to locate and build a south branch.

“It’s taken lots of time and lots of patience but we really appreciate it,” she said. “We don’t want to give up and we don’t want y’all to give up.”

Official plans coming soon for Baton Rouge mental health center despite tax defeat

The One Stop Homeless Services Center, run by Capital Area Alliance for the Homeless, is one of the few places in Baton Rouge where mentally ill people can go for help. The Baton Rouge Area Foundation is hoping to change that with a proposed mental health crisis center. Advocate Staff Photo by HEATHER MCCLELLAND.

The One Stop Homeless Services Center, run by Capital Area Alliance for the Homeless, is one of the few places in Baton Rouge where mentally ill people can go for help. The Baton Rouge Area Foundation is hoping to change that with a proposed mental health crisis center. Advocate Staff Photo by HEATHER MCCLELLAND.

Despite the Metro Council rejecting the tax to build and operate it, the Baton Rouge Area Foundation is still moving forward with plans for a mental health crisis center.

BRAF will unveil the design draft for the mental health center at 1 p.m. on April 27 at the Main Library on Goodwood Boulevard. Politicians, prison officials and BRAF executives have all called on Baton Rouge to decriminalize mental illness, as many homeless and mentally ill people in the city have nowhere to go for treatment and instead land in jail.

The mentally ill used to go to a specialized mental health emergency unit at Earl K. Long Medical Center in north Baton Rouge before the hospital closed in April 2013.

The crisis center would have several different units for treating mental illness. Among them are a medical detoxification unit, a medical stabilization unit, a sobering beds unit, a peer-run drop-in unit, and a recovery and empowerment center with a triage and assessment unit.

Case managers and liaisons would set up shop in the mental health center. Along with them, the center would have several different response teams who specialize in treating mental illness.

They would include a child and adolescent response team, an adult outreach team, a Baton Rouge behavioral health team and a crisis intervention team made up of law enforcement officers.

The center was part of a $335 million public safety tax plan proposal that Mayor-President Kip Holden unveiled in January. The proposal included more than $16 million from sales taxes to build the mental health center and an additional .5 mill property tax to operate the center.

The Metro Council rejected sending the tax plan to voters, with many of them saying they were not convinced that taxes were the best way to pay for the improvements. Most Metro Council members did acknowledge that Baton Rouge needed a mental health facility, but questioned the funding source.

Since then, BRAF has continued to fully develop plans for a mental health center though a new funding source has not yet been identified.

Baton Rouge and New Orleans top business, civic leaders sign on for 2015 Canvas Trip to Arizona

UPDATE: Baton Rouge Mayor-President Kip Holden is now confirmed for the 2015 Canvas Trip. New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu has been asked to give some opening remarks at the New Orleans airport on Sunday before departure.

 

The guest list for the 2015 Super Regional Canvas Trip to Phoenix and Tucson, Arizona is set and includes 145 of the top parish, business and civic leaders in the New Orleans and Baton Rouge regional areas.

Noticeably missing from the list are New Orleans and Baton Rouge mayors Mitch Landrieu and Kip Holden.

St. Tammany Parish President Pat Brister, St. James Parish Parish President Timmy Roussel, and St. John the Baptist Parish President Natalie Robottom are attending the trip.  Baton Rouge City Council members Chandler Loupe, Ryan Heck and John Delgado have signed on as well as city council members from Jefferson Parish, St. Bernard Parish and Ascension.

The semi-annual destination workshop started off as a Baton Rouge Area Chamber organized trip to allow the parish’s leaders to learn about other cities’ successful economic and community development policies and implementation. Previous canvas trips have included Austin, Nashville, Raleigh-Durham, Portland, Richmond, Pittsburgh, Louisville, and Central Florida. In 2013, BRAC partnered with GNO Inc. in an effort to make create a regional alliance.

This year the trip will focus on Phoenix and Tuscon which have recently embraced a sense of regionalism, according to organizers of the trip.

Last year, Holden was the highest ranking elected official on the trip of 175 regional leaders. But he caused some friction with Electronic Arts Inc. during a workshop where he spoke for several minutes, commanding the attention of the room and questioning the business’s commitment to Baton Rouge. People in attendance referred to Holden’s actions as “embarrassing” and “confusing.” He later said he didn’t intend to insult EA officials.

Here’s the 2015 guest list:

  • Michael Airhart, Capital Area Finance Authority, Executive Director
  • Barney Arceneaux, City of Gonzales, Mayor
  • Jane Arnette, South Central Industrial Association, Director
  • Paul Arrigo, Visit Baton Rouge, President & CEO
  • Cheri Ausberry, East Baton Rouge Mortgage Finance Authority, Chairperson
  • Rhonda Bagby, Humana, Market President
  • Bob Barton, Taylor, Porter, Brooks & Phillips, Partner
  • Mark Baum, Chenevert Architects, LLC, Principal
  • Dennis Blunt, East Baton Rouge Mortgage Finance Authority, Vice – Chairperson
  • Buddy Boe, St. Charles Parish, Chief Administrative Officer
  • Jerry Bologna, Jefferson Parish Economic Development Commission, Executive Director
  • Pat Brister, St. Tammany Parish Government, Parish President
  • Chris Brooks, Launch Media, Business Development & Marketing Director
  • Sarah Broome, THRIVE, Baton Rouge
  • Patricia Calfee, Baton Rouge Area Foundation, Special Projects Officer
  • Stephanie Cargile, ExxonMobil, Public and Government Affairs Manager
  • Teri James Casso, Ascension Parish Council, Councilwoman
  • Kerry Chauvin, Terrebonne Economic Development Authority, Commissioner
  • Norman Chenevert, East Baton Rouge Mortgage Finance Authority, Board Member
  • Michel Claudet, Terrebonne Parish Consolidated Government, Parish President
  • Byron Clayton, Research Park Corporation, President & CEO
  • Astrid Clements, EBR Mortgage Finance Authority, Board Member
  • Kahli Cohran, Civil Solutions Consulting Group, Inc., President
  • Kenny Cole, BCBSLA, Assoc. Chief Medical Officer and VP of Care Delivery
  • Rebecca Conwell, City of New Orleans, Senior Advisor to the Mayor for Economic Development
  • Richard Cortizas, Jones Walker, LLP, Special Counsel
  • Helena Cunningham, East Baton Rouge Mortgage Finance Authority, Board Member
  • Ronnie Daigle, R. J. Daigle & Sons Contractors, Inc., President
  • John Delgado, City of Baton Rouge, Metro Councilman
  • Sherrie Despino, Ascension Chamber of Commerce, President/CEO
  • Eric Dexter, Civil Solutions Consulting Group, Inc., Director of Business Development
  • Carling Dinkler, Ochsner Health System, Director,  Government Relations
  • Rachel DiResto, Center for Planning Excellence, Executive Vice President
  • Michael DiResto, BRAC, Senior VP for Economic Competitiveness
  • Jill Dyason, EBR Parish School Board, Board Member
  • Jason El Koubi, One Acadiana, President & CEO
  • Eugene T. Eski, Kenilworth Science & Technology School, CEO/Superintendent
  • Eliza Eugene, St. John the Baptist Parish, Economic Development
  • Connie Fabre, Greater Baton Rouge Industry Alliance, Executive Director
  • Corey Faucheux, St. Charles Parish Dept. of Economic Development & Tourism, Director
  • Stephanie Ferry, Raymond James, Managing Director
  • John Foley, Pan-American Life, Senior Vice President – Domestic Markets
  • Tommy Fonseca, GNO, Inc., Vice President of Corporate Relations
  • Penny Font, Business Report, Executive Editor
  • Charlie Freeburgh, Baton Rouge Community College, Sr. Vice Chancellor for Workforce Development
  • Barbara Freiberg, EBR School Board, Board Member-VP
  • John Paul Funes, Our Lady of the Lake Foundation, President/CEO
  • David Gaines, Ochsner Health System, CEO-System Retail Services/Marketing and Senior Vice President-Public Affairs
  • Melissa Gibbs, Gibbs Construction, LLC, Business Development & SBE/DBE Outreach
  • Shabaka Gibson, ExxonMobil, Public and Government Affairs
  • Kristin Gisleson Palmer, Louisiana Super Region Rail Authority, Chair
  • Fran Gladden, Cox Communications, Vice President – Government Affairs
  • Blair Green, One Acadiana, Director – Events & Special Projects
  • Jake Greig, NRG Energy, Director – Origination & Business Development
  • Phil Gunn, Postlethwaite & Netterville, Managing Director, New Orleans Office
  • Gwen Hamilton, New Schools for Baton Rouge, Community Engagement Director
  • Greg Hanly, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Louisiana, Regional Sales Director
  • Brian Haymon, SGS Petroleum Service Corporation, CEO
  • Cordell Haymon, SGS, Senior Vice President
  • Michael Hecht, GNO, Inc., CEO
  • Ryan Heck, East Baton Rouge Parish / City of Baton Rouge, Metro Councilman
  • Kasey Henry, Forum 35, President
  • Scott Hensgens, Breazeale Sachse & Wilson, Managing Partner
  • Bill Hines, Jones Walker, LLC, Managing Partner
  • Scott Howard, Regions Bank, President – New Orleans
  • Jim Hudson, IBERIA BANK, Southeast Regional Chairman
  • Councilman Casey Hunnicutt, St Bernard Council
  • Andrew Jacques, St. Bernard Economic Development Foundation, Executive Director
  • Bryan Jones, HNTB Corporation, Government Relations
  • Ric Kearny, Capital One Bank, Baton Rouge Market President
  • Scott Kirkpatrick, Roedel Parsons Koch Blache Balhoff & McCollister, Attorney
  • Adam Knapp, BRAC, President and CEO
  • Gus Kousoulas, Louisiana State University, Associate Vice President (STEM)
  • Mathew Laborde, Forum 35, Vice President of Development
  • Julie Laperouse, BRAC, Director of Talent Development
  • Ray Lauga, St. Bernard Parish Council, Councilman
  • Walter Leger, Leger & Shaw, Attorney
  • Tony Ligi, Jefferson Business Council, Executive Director
  • Larissa Littleton-Steib, Delgado Community College, Vice Chancellor for Workforce Development
  • Chris Loar, Ascension Parish Council, Parish President Candidate
  • Jared Loftus, MasteryPrep, COO
  • Chandler Loupe, City of Baton Rouge, Metro Councilman/Mayor Pro-Tem
  • Ben Louviere, Waldemar S. Nelson and Company, Inc., Business Development
  • Courtney Maciasz, Capital Region Planning Commission, Economic Development/PIO
  • Mandi Magill, BRAC, Director of Events
  • Derrick Martin, Algiers Economic Development Foundation, Executive Director
  • Todd Matherne, Biz New Orleans, Publisher
  • Marty Mayer, Stirling Properties, President & CEO
  • Van Mayhall, Baton Rouge Area Chamber, Chairman of the Board
  • Guy McInnis, St. Bernard Parish Council, Councilman
  • Carolyn McKnight, BREC, Superintendent
  • Patty McMurray, Adams and Reese, LLP, Partner
  • Earl Meador, Fletcher Technical Community College, Chancellor
  • Chris Meyer, New Schools for Baton Rouge, CEO
  • Philip Meyers, GEC, Inc., Senior Vice President
  • Walter Monsour, CSRS, Inc., Business Unit Leader
  • Beverly Moore, Baton Rouge Area Foundation, Director of Civic Leadership Initiatives
  • Carlo Mulvenna, Pan-American Life Insurance Group, Vice President
  • Todd Murphy, The Jefferson Chamber of Commerce, President
  • Michelle Octave, St. James Parish Government, Chief Administrative Officer
  • Laverne Osiris, St. John the Baptist Parish, Special Assistant – Economic Development
  • Nial Patel, Cornerstone Government Affairs, Vice President
  • Abhay Patel, New Orleans Business Alliance, Vice President of Business Development
  • Skip Philips, Taylor, Porter, Brooks & Phillips, Managing Partner
  • Tina Rance, Commercial Properties Realty Trust, Director of Marketing/Leasing
  • Davis Rhorer, Downtown Development District, Executive Director
  • Coleman Ridley, Jr., Business Council of New Orleans and the River Region, Managing Director
  • Paul Rivera, JEDCO, Chairman
  • Chris Roberts, Jefferson Parish Council, Councilman, At-Large Division A
  • Kimberly Robinson, Jones Walker, LLP, Partner
  • Natalie Robottom, St. John the Baptist Parish, Parish President
  • Deborah Sternberg, Starmount Life, Executive Vice President
  • Randy Roussel, Phelps Dunbar, LLP, Partner
  • Timmy Roussel, St. James Parish Government, Parish President
  • Shelby Russ, aos interior environments, President/CEO
  • Ryann Sanchez, City Year Baton Rouge, Development Director
  • Shane Sandefer, Kean Miller, LLP, Partner
  • Monique Scott-Spaulding, Jani-King, Franchise Owner
  • Henry Schexnayder, Whitney Bank, Baton Rouge Market President
  • Rachel Shields, GNO, Inc., Chief of Staff
  • Pam Shows, Humana, Health Solutions Client Executive
  • James Slaton, Stone Pigman Walther Wittmann, L.L.C., Member
  • Bill Slaughter, SSA Consultants, President
  • Ronnie Slone, The Slone Group, President
  • Mark Slyter, Baton Rouge General, President and CEO
  • Jared Smith, Baton Rouge Metropolitan Airport, Chairman Baton Rouge Metropolitan Airport Commission
  • John Spain, Baton Rouge Area Foundation, Executive Vice President
  • Mark Spansel, Adams and Reese, LLP, Partner
  • Allen Square, PosiGen, Chief Technology & Innovation Officer
  • Ralph Stephens, Postlethwaite & Netterville, Director
  • Trevor Theunissen, Ride New Orleans, President
  • Boo Thomas, Center for Planning Excellence, President and CEO
  • David Thornton, Thornton, Musso & Bellemin, Inc, President
  • Tina Tinney, Northshore Technical Community College, VC for Strategic Initiatives
  • Ann Forte Trappey, Forte and Tablada, CEO/President
  • Raul Travieso, NRG Energy, Inc., Director, Cooperative & Customer Relations
  • Gabe Vicknair, Downtown Development District, Assistant Executive Director
  • Czarina Walker, InfiniEDGE Software, CEO
  • Donald Washington, Jones Walker LLP, Partner
  • Scott Whittaker, Stone Pigman Walther Wittmann, L.L.C., Member
  • Dr. David Winwood, Pennington Biomedical Research Center, Chief Business Development Officer
  • Travis Woodard, CSRS, Inc., Business Unit Leader
  • Maggie Woodruff, Regional Planning Commission, Director of Economic Development
  • Ansley Zehnder, BRAC, Senior Vice President of Marketing
  • Devin Zito, Teknarus, President

The Advocate will also be in attendance this year.

Donald Trump, Miss Universe org. confirm Miss USA coming back to Baton Rouge

(AP Photo/Jonathan Bachman)

(AP Photo/Jonathan Bachman)

This Miss Universe Organization confirmed today that the Miss USA pageant will be held in Baton Rouge on July 12.

The organization has been silent on the announcement, as rumors swirled and were eventually confirmed last week by Mayor-President Kip Holden that the event would return to the Capital City for the second year in a row.

 

(AP Photo/Jonathan Bachman)

(AP Photo/Jonathan Bachman)

“The 2014 MISS USA Pageant delivered an unprecedented amount of national and international exposure for Baton Rouge, taking its reputation for tourism and business opportunities beyond the local level,” said Donald Trump, who owns the organization, in a statement. “This year’s pageant will be no different. Continuing our partnership guarantees another sold-out show that will provide Louisiana’s capital with another three hours of primetime television coverage.”

The event will be broadcast from the Baton Rouge River Center and the contestants will be housed at the L’Auberge Baton Rouge Casino and Hotel.

“We are elated that the pageant is returning to Baton Rouge. Visitors, contestants and the nation alike saw the uniqueness of Baton Rouge’s attractions, food and culture last year,” said Paul Arrigo, president and CEO of Visit Baton Rouge. “With so much more to see and do in Baton Rouge, we cannot wait to showcase everything else our great city has to offer.”

Last year, Miss USA BR Productions received an incentive package of $365,000. It also received another $1.25 million in tax credits, awarded two weeks ago.

This year, the production company is being offered a package of $545,000, and it applied for the same amount in tax credits, which are often swapped out for cash by out-of-state film companies.

The incentive package comes from a combination of funds from the city-parish and state government.

“Last year’s pageant was great exposure for Louisiana. We showed off Louisiana’s unique culture, abundant leisure opportunities and delicious seafood,” said Lt. Governor Jay Dardenne in a statement. “We are excited to have the Miss Universe Organization back in 2015 to share our one-of-a-kind hospitality with the contestants and the pageant’s millions of television viewers.”

Dardenne’s office is putting forth $50,000 for the second year in a row toward the incentive package.

Lionel Rainey on St. George: forgeries sensationalized, taxes won’t increase, racism claims false

BX166_68D6_9 (1)

Lionel Rainey gave an impassioned one-hour interview defending the proposed City of St. George on Podcast225 this week.

In his interview, he discussed the recent discovery of forgeries on the St. George petition, impacts of St. George to the East Baton Rouge Parish School System and allegations that the proposed city is racially motivated.

The entire podcast can be heard here. But here are a few snippets:

On the forgeries:

“Nobody’s perfect,” Rainey said.

He said for an effort so large  — more than 18,000 signatures — there were bound to be a few rogue signatures.

Rainey floated the theory that opponents of the St. George movement could have signed the petition with the intention of later coming forward to say that it was a forgery in an attempt to discredit the efforts.

“I believe it very well could have happened,” he said. “It’s not outside the realm of possibility.”

He also said the issue has been blown out of proportion by The Advocate and called the headlines “clickbait.”

Only six of the signatures have been identified as forgeries. District Attorney Hillar Moore III said he is investigating the forgeries as potential crimes, based on a complaint filed by one of the victims.

On East Baton Rouge Parish School System:

Rainey said that East Baton Rouge Parish could end up in a better position if St. George leads to the creation of an independent school system.

He said the school system would be smaller and “more nimble,” and with the leadership of newly hired superintendent Warren Drake, they could make strides toward improvement.

“I hope other school systems that are in trouble see what we do and it gives them the belief that they can do it too and it spreads like wildfire,” Rainey said.

Rainey also said that outgoing Superintendent Bernard Taylor couldn’t have been “a worse superintendent.”

On raising taxes in St. George:

Rainey again shot down the idea that St. George would have to increase taxes to operate independently.

He said the group has engaged a national firm to go through the Faulk and Winkler accounting report, released last year that said taxes would need to be raised.

On the accusation that St. George supporters are distancing themselves from the majority-black inner city:

Rainey got emotional as he shot down allegations of racism.

“It’s so lazy and so inaccurate. I’ve seen every race card, I’ve seen a whole deck of race cards when it comes to St. George,” he said.

 

 

In surprising move, anti-tax council member Delgado supported pro-library tax board member

Metro Councilman John Delgado voted for a new Library Board member who asked the board to support a property tax increase. Delgado originally said he would not support any public official who wanted a tax increase.

Metro Councilman John Delgado voted for a new Library Board member who asked the board to support a property tax increase. Delgado originally said he would not support any public official who wanted a tax increase. Advocate staff photo by Patrick Dennis.

One of the new members the Metro Council just appointed to serve on the East Baton Rouge Parish Library Board of Control lobbied the Library Board last month to seek a property tax increase — an increase Council members have said was ill-advised .

Many Metro Council members have slammed the Library Board for requesting an election for an 11.1 mills property tax — the same amount that voters approved in the last two election cycles. The tax has been rolled back to 10.78 mills as property values have increased, and the new tax would mean a higher bill for property owners.

Two of the Library Board members who supported the higher tax are finishing their terms and the Metro Council replaced them on Wednesday. But instead of appointing staunch anti-tax advocates, the council appointed Kathy Wascom, who previously worked for the library system, and Donald Luther Jr., a local businessman who owns a driving school.

Two other more openly conservative, anti-tax candidates — Rick Bond and J Hudson — were nominated for the positions but did not receive enough votes.

Wascom’s appointment seems to conflict with the position Metro Councilman John Delgado took just a day before the meeting.

“I’m not voting to reappoint anyone that supported increasing our taxes,” Delgado said then.

Wascom helped persuade the Library Board last month to not lower its proposed tax in the fall 2015 election. And Delgado is one of the seven council members who voted for Wascom to sit on the Library Board.

“Now that the library system is on solid financial footing, it is not the time to decrease its income,” Wascom told the Library Board in March. “…You don’t want to diminish the library. We have worked so hard to create a wonderful, wonderful library.”

Wascom and Luther will replace longtime Library Board members Tanya Freeman and Stan Bardwell. Wascom regularly attends Library Board meetings and often shows up at Metro Council meetings and planning and zoning meetings as well.

Delgado said Thursday he knew Wascom was qualified for the Library Board position and that she has been a longtime advocate for the library. He said Wascom’s views on the library’s budget may change now that she is an appointed official on the board.

“The distinction is of course that she was speaking as private citizen, not as a member of the library board,” he said about her asking the Library Board to reject a tax decrease.

 

Council curse lives: No sitting councilmember to run for higher office has won since 1999

Political hopefuls may see the Baton Rouge Metro Council as a stepping stone for a higher state or parish office. But in recent years, the local seat has proven to be an impediment. At least 16 sitting council members since 1999 have consecutively lost their elections seeking higher officers.

The last sitting council member to run for a higher office and succeed was Mike Futrell in 1999.

AX058_71D9_9After Councilman Buddy Amoroso narrowly lost his state legislative race to former councilman Darrell Ourso, he jokingly told a reporter, “The curse is still alive.”

The curse he’s referring to is the “council curse,” which even Ourso fell victim to when he was a sitting councilman in 2002 seeking the job of Parish Assessor.

Here’s a list of council members who failed at the ballot box while still holding their Metro Council seat:

  • Buddy Amoroso, lost state representative race in 2015.
  • Trae Welch, lost 19th Judicial District Court judge race in 2014.
  • Scott Wilson, lost state representative seat in 2013.
  • Mike Walker, lost Mayor-President race in 2012.
  • C. Denise Marcelle, lost state representative race in 2011.
  • Donna Collins-Lewis, lost state representative race in 2011.
  • Wayne Carter, lost Mayor-President race in 2008.
  • Byron Sharper, lost state representative race in 2007.
  • Lorri Burgess, lost state representative race in 2007.
  • Pat Culbertson, lost state representative race in 2007.
  • Charles Kelly , lost state representative race in 2005
  • Martha Jane Tassin, lost state representative race in 2005.
  • Ulysses “Bones” Addison, lost state representative race in 2002.
  • Darrell Ourso, lost parish assessor race in 2002.
  • David Boneno, lost state representative race in 2001.
  • Joe Greco, lost state senate race in 1999.

Baton Rouge gears up for sexual assault awareness month

In this photo, participants march in a Take Back the Night rally on LSU's campus. April is sexual assault awareness month. ADVOCATE STAFF PHOTO BY PATRICK DENNIS.

In this photo, participants march in a Take Back the Night rally on LSU’s campus. April is sexual assault awareness month. Advocate staff photo by Patrick Dennis.

April is sexual assault awareness month, and Baton Rouge’s Sexual Trauma Awareness and Response organization and partners are hosting events to raise awareness all month long.

STAR reports that Louisiana had a rate of 30.3 rapes per 100,000 inhabitants in 2009.  One in five women and one in 71 men in the United States have reported experiencing either an attempted or completed rape sometime in their lives, according to Department of Justice statistics that STAR cited.

Upcoming events in Baton Rouge to commemorate sexual assault awareness month include:

Survivor Tree Lighting

6-7 p.m. April 7

Hosted by Baton Rouge Area Victims Empowered

North Boulevard & 9th Street

 

D2L Stewards of Children Training

6-8 p.m. April 16

Hosted by Darkness to Light

BREC Milton J. Womack Park on Marquette Ave.

 

Krav Maga: Self-Defense Training

Noon-2:30 p.m. April 18

Hosted by STAR and Baton Rouge Krav Maga

10231 Patriot Dr Suite A, Baton Rouge, LA70816

 

Bistro for a Cause

5-9 p.m. April 20

Hosted by STAR & Bistro Byronz

5412 Government St.

 

The Hunting Ground Screening

6-8:30 p.m. April 21

Hosted by LAFASA; STAR; LSU Women’s Center; It’s On Us, LSU; LSU Lighthouse Program

LSU Student Union– Atchafalaya Room

 

Evening of Remembrance

6-8 p.m. April 22

Hosted by East Baton Rouge Sheriff’s Office

BREC Independence Park Theater

 

Picnic in the Park

April 25

Hosted by East Baton Rouge District Attorney’s Office

HowellPark

 

Shine the Light

6-8:30 p.m. April 27

Hosted by STAR and HAART

Main Library, 7711 Goodwood Blvd.

 

Purple & Teal Reception

6-8 p.m. April 27

Hosted by LaFASA & LCADV

Juban’s Resturant

 

Purple & Teal Day at the Capitol

9 a.m. to 5 p.m. April 28

Hosted by LaFASA & LCADV

Louisiana State Capitol

 

*Note: This post has been updated to reflect different hosts for some of the events.

Councilwoman Chauna Banks-Daniel spent campaign funds on clothes, hair and nails

AX179_5265_9

 

UPDATED: Councilwoman Chauna Banks-Daniel did not return calls or emails seeking comment for this post. But in the comments she responded, noting that she donated her own personal funds to the campaign. Here’s her full comment which she posted Thursday morning to this story:

“Rebekah Allen’s use of media stereotypes as a shorthand method of defining my character in ways that are easy for people to identify and categorize as a “self-serving politician”. What these stereotypes all have in common is that they reduce to a one-sided, superficial and exaggerated depiction of reality, variety, depth and complexity of a people. She consistently “inflame” stories dedicated to undermine the Black female council members. Though the media today is more sensitive to issues of culture and gender than it once was, Rebekah is dedicated to the creation and perpetuation of common misconceptions about groups of people. Her oversimplified and inaccurate portrayal of me and other woman on the council are intended to profoundly affected how we are perceived, how we relate to one another, and how we value ourselves.
SEE BELOW:
Hi Chauna –
I wanted to ask you about some expenditures listed on your campaign finance report. When the reports came out, I had seen that you spent some money on clothes, hair and nails. I only recently learned though, that the Ethics Commission has ruled that clothing expenditures are not considered allowable expenditures for campaign finances.
This has come up previously with some other legislators and judges and they were fined.
I wanted to get your take on why you think these are considered allowable expenditures for campaign finances?
Thanks,
Rebekah
THE ADVOCATE
Rebekah Allen
Reporter
rallen@theadvocate.com
Tel: (225) 388-0099
www.theadvocate.com
Cell: (225) 229-8766
NOW THIS IS WHAT I LEARNED FROM THIS REPORTER:
2013-MAKE UP OR EXXAGERATE MY RESPONSES TO MAKE THE STORY JUICY OR KEEP THE MESS GOING.
2014-CREATE STORIES REGARDING ME USING MY EMAILS.
2015-PULL ETHICS REPORT, THOUGH SHE IS EMAILING ME FOR A RESPONSE…SHE HAS ALREADY WRITTEN A SCANDOLOUS ARTICLE. REBEKAH WILL NOT INCLUDE THAT I CONTRIBUTED ALMOST $1200 OF MY PERSONAL FUNDS IN MY CAMPAIGN FUND, WHICH MORE THAN COVERS ANY INCIDENTALS, SHE IS REFERRING TO 4 OR 5 PURCHASES TOTALING LESS THAN $300.00. I AM CONSTANTLY CALLED UPON TO MAKE DONATIONS, GIVE DOOR PRIZES, AND PROVIDE CLOTHING, FOOD, GROOMING, AND TRANSPORTATION TO THOSE THAT I SERVE.
I send out a press release at least once a month of positive things that me and my staff are doing in District 2, NOT ONE has been printed in The Advocate in 2 years.

Was Rebekah at our SCOTLANDVILLE COMMUNITY MEETING two nights ago, of course not. Rebekah is assigned to cover City-Parish government, as long as she is, I will CONTINUE to be off limits to her. She will have to continue to “intensify and make-up” stories concerning me.”

Baton Rouge Metro Councilwoman Chauna Banks-Daniel spent more than $350 of her campaign finance contributions last year on clothing, beauty supplies and getting her hair and nails done.

The first-term council woman who represents North Baton Rouge and the Scotlandville/Baker area spent a total of $10,500 in campaign funds in 2014. She did not return a call or email for this post.

The 12 council members are not in an election year, so spending and fundraising was relatively unnoteworthy for the rest of the council members in 2014, based on their annual campaign finance reports turned in last month.

Banks-Daniel’s expenses related to clothing and beauty services in 2014 are: 

  • Jan. 25: Rochelle Singleton for “hair grooming,” $41
  • May 13: Pearl Nails for “nail salon,” $30
  • May 15: Beauty Plus for “beauty supplies,” $31.20
  • Sept. 29: Gina Fashion for “clothing,” $21.79
  • Sept. 29: Pearl Nails for “nail salon,” $30
  • Oct. 2: Trung Luong for “nail salon,” $29
  • Oct. 11: Hair Connection for “hair salon,” $115
  • Nov. 10: Dillard’s for “clothing,” $54.27

Banks-Daniel also spent $83.92 for “car care” at Benny’s Car Wash on May 21 with her campaign funds.

Campaign finance law says campaign funds can only be spent on political campaigns or the costs associated with holding public office. Expenses like sports tickets, renting cars, babysitters and meals are often considered appropriate expenditures.

But Banks-Daniel’s purchases could potentially be viewed as inappropriate, considering the Ethics Board has previously gone after other officials for spending campaign funds on their personal appearances.

In 2002, State Judge Janice Clark paid a $5,000 fine for illegally using $32,000 from her campaign fund to “to enhance her personal appearance and wardrobe.” Clark also repaid the $32,000 to her campaign account.

“Unfortunately, the Board has considered such requests in the past and has consistently held that clothing expenses cannot be paid for out of campaign funds,” Kathleen Allen, a Louisiana Ethics Board administrator wrote in an 2009 opinion.

Another ethics opinion from 1998 reads: “The following expenses are illustrative of the types of expenses that may not be paid with campaign funds: household food items and supplies, routine living expenses, clothing…”