Monday, October 30, 2006
Visions of sugar mills
Bob Odom pursues empire-building in the cane fields
Just when we thought we were safe, Bob Odom comes tilting for another sugar mill.
In his mind's eye, he sees one rising in Bunkie, and a magnificent vision it must be, to judge from the price tag. Odom wants to spend $135 million, exactly three times more than it cost to build his first mill in Lacassine. He says that one will finally open for business soon.
An obsession with sugar mills, in an agriculture commissioner, does not necessarily signify mental disturbance. But, by all objective assessments, this mill-building jag is nuts.
ON THE HILL
News from the Louisiana delegation in the nation's capital
By Bruce Alpert and Bill Walsh
Breaux moving into 'huge and sexy' digs
The lobbying business is evidently going well for former Sen. John Breaux, D-La. He and his wife, Lois, are paying $902,000 for a new condo in Washington's trendy West End neighborhood, according to property records. The spacious two-bedroom, two-bath spread features what the property listing described as a "huge and sexy balcony," although a picture simply showed a concrete patio, a dining set and a grill.
News and views from the Louisiana Capitol
Heitmeier unhappy with groups' ads
Sen. Francis Heitmeier, D-Algiers, is firing back at his critics who ran an ad against his campaign for secretary of state in the Sept. 30 primary. He has asked the state Board of Ethics to examine the campaign spending disclosures of the organizations behind the advertisements. Heitmeier ran second in the primary and then dropped out of the runoff after figuring he would fall short of the voter turnout he needed to win, thereby giving the office to Sen. Jay Dardenne, R-Baton Rouge.
Backed with money from the Business Council for New Orleans and the River Region, the political action committees Citizens for Tax Equity and Keep New Orleans Moving Forward ran TV ads in September holding Heitmeier culpable for botched flood protection partly because of his opposition to forming a single regional levee board. The ads showed scenes of wrecked houses and people wading through post-Katrina floodwaters, while branding Heitmeier as "the career politician most responsible for opposing flood protection reform." Heitmeier says the ads were offensive and deceiving about who was paying for them. The ads say they are "paid for by the New Orleans Business Council's PACs Citizens for Tax Equity and Keep New Orleans Moving Forward."
Heitmeier said "New Orleans Business Council PAC" is not a registered political committee. But the ad does not say the Business Council is a PAC, said Bruce Gallassero, chairman of the political committees. It just says the Business Council is supporting the PACs, which he said raises no ethics problems. Campaign reports for the two PACs list the Business Council's contributions to the committees as required, Gallassero said. Ethics board staff did not comment on the complaint, which could be considered in a future board meeting.
"We are not 'rebirthing.' We are stagnant. In the French Quarter, there is no garbage pickup, and the stench is unbelievable."
SHIRLEY DELUZIAN of Mandeville, a member of the Louisiana Tourism Promotion District, critical of the lack of progress despite the state's "Louisiana Rebirth" tourism initiatives.
Nagin vanishes on assessor issue
Mayor Ray Nagin doesn't bring it up much these days, but if you ask his staff about the upcoming vote to merge New Orleans' seven assessor offices, they'll remind you that he's "been ahead of the curve" on the issue.
La’s legal bills in oil-gas fight at $500,000
By MICHELLE MILLHOLLON
Advocate Capitol News Bureau
The state’s legal bills so far total more than $500,000 in the battle against the federal government over offshore oil and natural gas exploration.
The state hired Van Ness Feldman, a Washington, D.C., law firm populated with former government attorneys, to block an August sale of drilling leases.
A federal judge ruled against the state on holding up the August sale.
Our Views: A single plan for Louisiana healthcare
Advocate Opinion page staff
Can Louisiana afford to build new charity hospitals and at the same time provide lots of money for health insurance for the uninsured?
But so far, the state’s collective leadership hasn’t been able to force itself to make a choice. Instead, the state approaches health care with a bipolar case of fiscal denial.
Washington Watch for Oct. 29
By GERARD SHIELDS
Advocate Washington bureau
The Financial Services Roundtable, a group of more than 100 of the nation’s largest financial institutions, issued its findings last week in a 71-page report titled “Accelerating the Katrina Recovery.” The group made 24 recommendations ranging from coastal protection to basic public services.
“No one was taking a look at this from 30,000 feet,” said roundtable member Scott Talbott. “This is our answer.”
At the top of the list was a call for federal, state and local governments to work together to speed up the recovery process. The roundtable recommends the creation of regional government councils that could work on similar needs.
Politics for Oct. 29Blanco leaves for trip
By CAPITOL NEWS BUREAU
Democrats absent from District 16 ballotNo Democrat jumped into the south Baton Rouge Senate District 16 special election by the time candidate signup ended Friday.
Lining up as Dardenne’s possible successor are Baton Rouge physician Dr. Bill Cassidy and state Rep. William Daniel, both Republicans, plus Libertarian insurance broker S.B.A Zaitoon.
The special election is Dec. 9.
The Nov. 7 Amendments
Louisiana voters will decide the fate of eight proposed changes to their constitution on Nov. 7.
No. 1: Give a property-tax break to many disabled military veterans by freezing the value of their homes for tax purposes.
No. 2: Allow parishes to keep $850,000 of the severance taxes the state collects each year from oil and gas pumped out of those parishes. Parishes now get to keep $750,000.
No. 3: Exempt from property taxes medical equipment leased long-term by three small, rural hospitals.
No. 4: Prohibit property taxes on motor vehicles; only Orleans Parish collects such a tax now.
No. 5: Exempt from property taxes art pieces that artists consign to art shops.
No. 6: Allow the Legislature to create special family or juvenile courts within district courts. Currently voters must pass a constitutional amendment for each special court.
No. 7: Merge the seven tax assessors' offices in New Orleans into one office to set the value of property in that parish.
No. 8: Carve an independent school district out of the Central area of East Baton Rouge Parish.