Update (4 p.m.): Laura Maggi reports in The Times-Picayune that Children's Hospital this afternoon issued a statement saying it is in fact not planning on reopening the New Orleans Adolescent Hospital.
From the story:
"We articulated the hospital's position that relocating mental health services from the Calhoun campus to the deteriorated NOAH campus would not be economically feasible. We will continue to provide mental health services on the Calhoun Campus," according to the statement.
Neither Abramson nor representatives of Children's Hospital immediately returned requests for comment.
In the meantime, take a look at Act 867 of 2012, which authorized the transfer of the property to Children's Hospital. The law provided that the Louisiana Division of Administration may enter into a lease with Children's, provided that it happens by Feb. 1, 2013. Here's what happens otherwise:
"The lease provided for in Section 3 and Section 4 shall be executed by February 1, 2013. Failure to execute the lease shall render Section 3 and Section 4 null, void and without effect. After such time or when Children's Hospital refuses to enter into the lease, whichever is sooner, the commissioner of administration is authorized to to offer a lease of the property ... to the highest bidder."
If Children's Hospital didn't sign the lease by February, the state could offer NOAH up to anyone. Children's signed it on Jan. 25. The lease requires the hospital to provide the same services NOAH did before it was closed, but it gives the hospital two years (plus reasonable time extensions) to bring it up to code. If Children's fails to live up to the agreement, the property simply reverts back to state contol. Meanwhile the state and Children's Hospital are able to negotiate the sale of the property, which is, according to Maggi's report, what Children's wants.
Here's what happened earlier today (after the jump):
Now the singer has doubled down, canceling a planned appearance on tonight's Jimmy Kimmel Live because cast members from the Louisiana reality show Duck Dynasty also will be on Kimmel:
Morrissey says he can't perform on a show with what he called people who "amount to animal serial killers."
A&E's Duck Dynasty reality show follows a Louisiana family with a business selling duck calls and decoys.
A&E did not immediately respond to requests for comment from it and the Robertson family.
The appearance has been rescheduled, and surely Kimmel will ask the Robertsons about it tonight. In the meantime, read Lauren LaBorde's 2012 interview with Duck Dynasty's Willie Robertson.
Gov. Bobby Jindal appeared with Mass Gov. Deval Patrick this morning on Meet the Press, discussing the sequester, the federal budget and taxes. Jindal also discussed what the GOP has to do to appeal to voters, talked about his support for "traditional marriage," and told President Barack Obama to "stop campaigning . . . . Roll up your sleeves and do the hard work of governing."
Takeaway quote: "Nobody in the Republican party should be thinking about running for president."
Attorneys representing Michael Sandlin, who owns Tony, a 550-pound Bengal tiger residing at Sandlin's Tiger Truck Stop, argued before a three-judge 1st Circuit Court of Appeal panel yesterday to keep Tony where he is, despite arguments from the Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF).
Sandlin's attorney Jennifer Treadway Morris argued that state District Judge Mike Caldwell was not allowed to deny the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF) from issuing Sandlin a new permit to keep Tony in 2011. When the department didn't enforce Caldwell's ruling, the ALDF filed another suit to prompt the department to take action and remove the tiger from Caldwell's custody. (The department has since said it would not take action until litigation ended.) At yesterday's hearing, however, the department argued that the ALDF had no legal standing to sue the department.
ALDF attorney Brandy Sheely argued that Tony's health and safety (and the public's) interfered with the ruling, and referred to LWDF rules stating that big cat permits must be issued to an individual (not Tiger Truck Stop, a business) and that the owner must live there. (Sandlin also has filed a suit against the state to overturn its ban on big cat ownership — current law, which went into effect August 2006, allows exotic cats as pets if owned before then.) For now, the groups expect a decision in the appeal case in the coming months, while Tony remains at the truck stop.
"As this is going on Tony is still living at the truck stop, day in and day out," said ALDF communications director Lisa Franzetta. "At this point we’re confident the law is on our side. ... The law says Sandlin can’t have Tony at the truck stop. It's just legal delay tactics that keep the process going."
Pending a conclusion to the years-long legal tug of war, and if the state rules that Tony has been kept illegally at the truck stop, Tony will not live with another private owner in Louisiana, as the state outlaws big cat ownership. It's likely he will leave Louisiana, as there are no fitting sanctuaries in the state. "ALDF’s hope is for the best possible outcome for Tony — that he goes to an accredited big cat sanctuary where he can live out his life in a habitat appropriate for a tiger, with his own welfare and quality of life as the first priority," Franzetta said.
Zack Kopplin, the 19-year-old Rice University student and Louisiana native who's spent the last two years advocating for repeal of the Louisiana Science Education Act, was named the inaugural "Troublemaker of the Year" by a private foundation that seeks to honor people in their teens who stir up, well, trouble:
What kind of trouble? The good kind — when you are not afraid to speak your mind on important matters even when everyone around you disagrees, when you take a risk and bend social norms for a greater good, when you pick a direction and go for it, even if others tell you to turn around.
The troublemakers that the award seeks are young women and men from around the globe, who demonstrate inspiration, original thinking, leadership and outstanding commitment to their troublemaking cause. Their activism not only turns heads, but also delivers tangible positive impact on their local community, home town, country, or perhaps the entire planet Earth.
The organization, founded by self-described "angel investor and serial entrepreneur" Semyon Dukach, awarded Kopplin a $10,000 prize.
Zack’s bold campaign to repeal the 2008 Louisiana Science Education Act (LSEA) has made waves in state politics and in public education. Kopplin has gathered the support of 78 Nobel Laureate scientists, the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), the New Orleans City Council, and other major organizations. His petition to repeal the law has 74,000 supporters across the US. Working with Louisiana State Senator Karen Carter Peterson, Zack has fought for two bills to repeal the LSEA. He has spoken out before the Louisiana legislature and State Board of Education, debated creationist politicians, held rallies, and had been covered in hundreds of interviews in national and international media. Kopplin is preparing to fight for a third repeal bill.
Read Gambit's 2011 profile of Kopplin here.
John Mathew, president and CEO of Wick Communications, said the newspaper has long been in direct competition with many publications, and because St. Tammany Parish is so connected to metropolitan New Orleans and so many of its residents have moved to the Northshore in recent years, the newspaper has had a tough time finding the sense of community that a community newspaper needs to be successful.
Twenty-four positions will be lost as a result of the newspaper’s closing, though several employees will be offered positions at other locations within the company. Employees will receive severance and assistance in resuming their careers elsewhere, Mathew said.
Both The News Banner and the Slidell Sentry News began publishing in the 1970s as suburban growth created a new demand for newspapers in St. Tammany Parish. Wick Communications owns several other community papers, including L’Observateur in LaPlace and The Daily News in Bogalusa.
DC Comics’ storied superhero supergroup Justice League of America will become Justice League of Louisiana, sort of. On Wednesday, Feb. 20, the publisher will unveil its series of covers picturing League members hoisting every U.S. state flag, including Louisiana's. DC offered Gambit the first glimpse of the issue.
The latest series re-launch, written by Geoff Johns and illustrated by David Finch, begins with the 40-page issue No. 1 — the cover recalls Joe Rosenthal’s iconic image of U.S. troops raising the American flag on Iwo Jima, but with League members Catwoman, The Green Lantern and Green Arrow raising the Louisiana flag. Finch is a former Marvel Comics artist who helmed DC’s Batman: The Dark Knight, which wrapped 15 issues before he began working on the latest Justice League series.
You can find the issue at Crescent City Comics (916 Freret St., 504-891-3796), More Fun Comics (8200 Oak St., 504-865-1800), BSI Comics (3030 Severn Ave., Metairie, 504-885-2550) and Media Underground Comics (4953 W. Napoleon Ave., Metairie, 504-301-2435), among others.
For more comics, read this 2010 Gambit cover story on Louisiana's comic cottage industry.
A bill filed this week by state Rep. Jerome "Dee" Richard, Independent of Thibodaux, and Sen. Rick Gallot, Democrat of Ruston, would repeal an exemption to the state Public Records Act called the "deliberative process privilege." The privilege protects deliberative (or pre-decisional) communications within the governor's office — though it's unclear just what is meant by "deliberative" and "governor's office."
The privilege has recently been applied to requests for (1A) records that were submitted after a state policy decision was made, (1B) records of communications that (arguably) themselves took place after a policy decision was made and (2) records from any executive agency, not just the Office of the Governor.
From our earlier coverage:
The News-Star attempted to confirm [Louisiana Department of Education Superintendent John] White's remarks by filing a public records request for internal DOE emails, specifically those "regarding phases included in the process for school approval for the Louisiana Scholarship program." A copy of the request was provided to Gambit by News-Star attorney William McNew.
The department did not hand over the requested emails.
After the paper published an editorial excoriating the state for its lack of transparency, White responded, claiming DOE was not obligated to produce the records because of something called the "deliberative process privilege," an exemption to the Louisiana Public Records Law that Jindal rammed through the Legislature in 2009 over the objections of the state's largest newspapers. White claimed in his letter that the privilege, which critics say applies only to the governor's office, "protects documents reflecting advisory opinions, recommendations and deliberations comprising part of a process by which governmental decisions and policies are formulated."
(More after the jump)
A national survey of state and local tax codes by Washington think tank the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy (ITEP) shows that Louisiana's poorest residents pay the highest levels of state and local taxes as a percent of income — more than twice the relative burden on the state's highest earners — due in large part to combined local and state sales taxes.
The ITEP study comes as the state's political leaders ponder a major tax code overhaul. Gov. Bobby Jindal has called for the elimination of personal income and corporate taxes, possibly replacing the revenue with increases in sales taxes, already among the highest in the country.
According to the study, released this month, the poorest 20 percent of state residents — average income $10,000 — pay 10.6 percent of their income in state and local taxes on average, with the overwhelming majority coming from sales taxes. Louisianians in next 20 percent — $22,000 average income — generally pay 10.5 percent, again mostly in sales taxes. In contrast, the wealthiest one percent — a group whose average income is $979,000 — pay only 4.6 percent of their income in state and local taxes, with the largest share coming from personal income taxes.
Under its current laws, the state did not make it into ITEP's list of the ten most regressive tax systems, where the poorest residents have the highest tax burden. In fact, Louisiana's poorest 20 percent actually pay a smaller share of taxes than the national average for the same group: 11.1 percent. The burden on the next 20 percent, however, is above the national average of 10 percent, and the burden for the richest Louisiana residents is below the national average of 5.6 percent.
The report's findings suggest Jindal's plan could mean significantly higher taxes on the poor. Four of the states on the list don't levy a personal income tax. These include the two most regressive in the country, Washington and Florida, where the bottom 20 percent pay 16.9 percent and 13.2 percent, respectively, of their income in state and municipal taxes. Tennessee, another state on the most regressive list, collects taxes on interest and dividends from investments but not on regular income. Known as the Hall Income Tax, it produced only $184 million during the 2011 fiscal year, less than two percent of $10.5 billion total state tax collections that year.
The governor's office has pledged to mitigate the impact of any sales tax increase for the poor. But with the state legislature set to convene in April, Jindal is yet to release the details of the plan.
Read the full report “Who Pays? A Distributional Analysis of the Tax Systems in All 50 States" whopaysreport_1_.pdf
Government transparency watchdog organization Sunshine Review has released its first ever assessment of "proactive disclosure" on state, county, city and school district websites. Based on the group's 10-point transparency checklist — including current and archived budget information, contracts, lobbying activity and contact info for elected representatives — the state of Louisiana scores an overall C-plus, 33 out of 50 states for website transparency, just behind Montana. The top-ranked state was California. Nebraska scored the lowest.
Important to keep in mind: This study only scores government websites, which might not represent be Louisiana's most significant transparency problem. Also see this. And this. And this. There are more.
Of the three subcategories, Louisiana's state website scored the best, with a B-minus. Websites for the state's five largest parishes scored a C-plus, as did the five largest cities. The five largest school districts' websites scored lowest, with a D-plus.
Note: Sunshine Review's report does not say whether it counted Orleans Parish as a single district, as the state does in op-eds, or whether it only examined the Recovery School District, the larger of the two. If the former, it does not say if the website in question is the RSD website, which is hopefully a work in progress, the serviceable Orleans Parish School Board website or the ever-changing state Department of Education website.
Read the report: 2013_Transparency_Report_Card_1_.pdf
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