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Not Just the Facts 

Not Just the Facts

  The fourth edition of the Louisiana Fact Book, published every two years by the Council for A Better Louisiana, is now available on CABL's Web site, www.cabl.org. In addition to an indispensable compilation of accurate data about many things Louisiana, the latest edition focuses on the organization's "Quantum Change Agenda," a comprehensive reform agenda promulgated by CABL before the 2007 statewide elections. In particular, the book concentrates on an "information agenda" for Louisiana, noting that many of the group's proposals for ethics and tax reform have been enacted. "We are talking about more targeted, strategic investment in higher education research and development, with a more focused goal of creating knowledge-based jobs through the economic development that could be generated out of that research," says CABL president Barry Erwin. "New Orleans in particular could benefit from this if we are successful in promoting it because of LSU Health Sciences Center, Tulane, and other existing research facilities." For a hard copy of the 20-page book, contact CABL at (225) 344-2225. — Clancy DuBos

Shea to Declare for Judge

  The April 4 special election for judge of Traffic Court in New Orleans kicks off this week with attorney Mark Shea scheduled to announce his candidacy at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday in the Knights of Columbus hall on Vicksburg Street in Lakeview. Shea is one of two Lakeview candidates expected to make the race, the other being assistant city attorney Joe Landry, who is expected to announce his candidacy shortly before qualifying in mid-February. — DuBos

'Another Scapegoat'

  No retrospective of President George W. Bush's eight years in office would be complete without a tough, hard look back at the fall of 2005, when Hurricane Katrina reshaped the New Orleans region and redefined the Bush presidency. MSNBC's Chris Matthews does just that in his new documentary The Decider, and the footage that's exclusive to the Web is just as damning. In particular, former Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco, a Democrat, offers up a GOP conspiracy theory in one interview. She says Bush was getting slammed "nationally and internationally" for his handling of Katrina during those early, desperate days after landfall, and an executive decision was made to shift the blame. "[Bush's] political office decided that another scapegoat had to be identified," Blanco says. "And they identified me in that instance." She adds that an entire media campaign was crafted around the mission. "The message du jour was to go after Blanco," the former governor says. "She's expendable. She's a woman." Blanco also says national reporters tipped her off that Karl Rove, Bush's top political advisor, was personally making phone calls to float stories about her decision-making and suggests the White House even leaned on The Washington Post to run unflattering stories on its front page that were overly critical of her handling of Katrina's aftermath. — Jeremy Alford

Got Jobs?

  Louisiana had nearly 18,000 fewer unfilled jobs in the second quarter of 2008 than it did during the same period last year, according to a survey released last month by the state Workforce Commission. That's a dip of one percentage point, giving Louisiana a new "vacancy rate" of 4.1 percent (four available jobs for every 100 in the state). The "2008 Job Vacancy Survey" identifies the number and types of jobs available in specific industries and regions of the state. For instance, the New Orleans region reported 29 percent of all job vacancies in the state. However, the region's 4.3 percent job vacancy rate is down from the 6.6 percent rate recorded in 2007. There were 22,252 open jobs during the second quarter with an $11.25 median hourly wage. The largest number of job vacancies was found in production (3,250 available positions). In other areas, the Lake Charles region had the lowest vacancy rate in the state with 2.8 percent. The bayou parishes, anchored by Houma, had the highest vacancy rate in the state with 6.2 percent. While oil and gas would normally be the likely suspect, the survey attributed the coastal increase to vacancies in education and health services. — Alford

FEMA Helps Jeff's Homeless

  A sizeable federal grant has been awarded to Jefferson Parish to help feed and temporarily house needy residents through regional shelters, soup kitchens and food banks. The money was made available through the Emergency Food and Shelter Program, an initiative administered by FEMA. The FEMA grants were allocated last week to localities based on population, unemployment and poverty levels, and Jeff is in line for nearly $196,000. A portion of the money will be distributed by agencies such as the American Red Cross, National Council of the Churches of Christ, Salvation Army and United Way. U.S. Rep. Charlie Melancon, a Napoleonville Democrat who represents a swath of the parish, says the grants will be used chiefly to address homelessness caused by the recent hurricanes. "This federal grant funding will help supplement the private donations that our local support agencies rely on to help those who are struggling to meet their most basic needs — food and shelter," Melancon says. According to a 2007 survey conducted by the state Department of Social Services, some 6,000 individuals in Louisiana were homeless during one 24-hour period last year, from Jan. 30 to Jan. 31. Of those, 266, including 101 children, were in Jefferson. Unsheltered persons are traditionally difficult to identify and count, and officials admit as much in the survey, adding the population coverage is "limited" as well. Still, it's among the best statewide estimates available. About 2,700 persons identified themselves as hurricane evacuees who fled as Katrina and Rita came to shore. The survey was conducted more than a year before Hurricanes Gustav and Ike pushed wind and water into the same regions. — Alford

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