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No Help for Fishermen
The Commerce Department recently announced the release of $128 million for assistance to fisheries in the Gulf Coast states. Louisiana's share is $52.9 million, even though the state's loss during last year's storms is estimated to be almost $1 billion. Five Gulf states had requested $1.1 billion in the Iraqi/Katrina Emergency Supplemental Appropriations Bill, but the final legislation contained barely 10 percent of that. As for the fishermen who suffered the uninsured loss of boats, docks, nets and other essential equipment, none of the latest federal funds will compensate them for their losses. According to Karen Foote, an administrator for the Marine Fisheries Division of Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF), the money will be allocated for oyster bed reseeding and restoration, removal of obstructions and debris from fisheries and cooperative research to monitor recovery of fisheries. "We asked for that money (direct assistance to fishermen), but we didn't get it," Foote said. Fishermen still hope to get some relief from the Magnuson-Stevens fisheries bill, pending in Congress and co-sponsored by Sen. David Vitter, which would provide $105 million in assistance over six years. Meanwhile, Rex H. Caffey, director of the Center for Natural Resource Economics and Policy at Louisiana State University, says it will take the fisheries roughly five years to recover from the storms. The only good news for local fishermen is that the federal money could require underwater debris to be removed and data collected from the commercial and recreational sectors, and that could create jobs they may be able to fill. -- Winkler-Schmit and Alford

 

Early Voting Starts Sept. 18
Early voting for the Sept. 30 election will be conducted Sept. 18-23 at only two locations -- the Old Algiers Courthouse and the City Hall offices of Registrar of Voters Sandra L. Wilson. Voters also may cast ballots by mail, fax or courier. "You can fax your ballot back to us but there is a secrecy waiver that has to be signed," says Abigail Washington, Wilson's confidential assistant. Written requests for mail-in ballots and secrecy waivers, if requested, must be received by the registrar no later than 4:30 p.m. on Sept. 26. Mail-in ballots must be returned to the registrar's office no later than 4:30 p.m. on Sept. 29 -- except for military personnel, whose ballots will be accepted up until 4:30 p.m. on Election Day. Registration for the Sept. 30 election closed two weeks ago. For more information, contact the registrar's office at (504) 658-8300. -- Johnson

 

Melancon Posts Monster Numbers -- In Own Poll
Poll numbers from the red-hot Third Congressional District race were finally released last week by the campaign of incumbent Congressman Charlie Melancon. Not surprisingly, the survey gave Melancon a 32-point lead over his main challenger, state Sen. Craig Romero of New Iberia. Anzalone-Liszt Research, an Alabama-based polling firm, was commissioned by Melancon, a Democrat, to interview by phone 600 likely voters in the Third District. The survey spanned four days last month and included displaced residents who have moved back to St. Bernard, Jefferson and Plaquemines parishes, according to an in-house memorandum. Romero, the leading GOP candidate who lost by less than 1 percent in 2004, "has not been within 30 points of Melancon in our polling since July 2005," the memo states. The horserace question included two minor candidates and showed Melancon with 55 percent to Romero's 23 percent. The "unknown" figure was not released. Brent Littlefield, Romero's campaign manager, says polls can be manipulated to reveal almost anything. "It's a poll bought and paid for by Charlie Melancon and his campaign," he says. "They would not be issuing polls or press releases unless they felt a real threat. Stay tuned for Election Day." Littlefield has said in the past that he has a longstanding policy of not releasing or discussing his campaign's poll numbers, but he left himself an out last week: "We may be changing that soon." -- Alford

 

Nothing to Show?
After 12 blistering workdays, another election-season session of Congress comes to an end this week. Louisiana Democratic Party Chairman Chris Whittington, in a move that presages the coming campaign, lashed out at the state's GOP delegation for perpetuating a "do-nothing Congress" with its pro-Bush voting records. Whittington pins the Republican incumbents for voting against Democratic efforts to secure money for the state's ports and first responders. The delegation has "been a rubber stamp for the failed policies of the Bush Administration," he says. "Instead of doing the people's business, they have wasted time twiddling their thumbs and pointing fingers at Democrats who have introduced bill after bill to keep us safer and more secure." -- Alford

 

'Don't Blame Me' Campaign Gearing Up Again
It started out as a humorous (in some circles) grassroots campaign. The Louisiana Republican Party ordered bumper stickers and couldn't keep them in stock. Following Hurricane Katrina, it became a GOP war cry: "Don't Blame Me, I Voted for Jindal." It's a swipe at Gov. Kathleen Blanco, a Democrat, who bested U.S. Rep. Bobby Jindal during the 2003 gubernatorial election. Many are expecting a rematch next year -- including the Republican Party, which has launched DontBlameMeIVotedForJindal.com. The site includes unflattering pictures, "Blancoisms" and negative press reports about Blanco. Visitors can sign up for one of those free bumper stickers, but that's not the real focus of the site. "The governor's term in office has been a model of government bureaucracy and inefficiency," says LAGOP Chair Chairman Roger F. Villere Jr. "This site will discuss her lack of fiscal responsibility, inability to pass significant legislation and complete failure to find any solutions to the problems of this state." -- Alford

 

History in a Hurry
One year after Hurricane Katrina, historians are scrambling to record the recollections of eyewitnesses to America's costliest natural disaster. "As you tell a story again and again, you sort of streamline it to become more interesting," says Mark Cave, director of an oral history project on Katrina for the Historic New Orleans Collection. "And you lose some of the detail with each telling." Cave recently journeyed to Washington to interview staffers of Congressmen William Jefferson and Charlie Melancon. The staffers recalled that when the storm severed communications to the city, people who had relatives in New Orleans or who simply wanted to help phoned offices of the Louisiana congressional delegation -- around the clock. "They were wonderful interviews," Cave says. The Collection, which aims to become the national repository for Katrina histories, recently received word that the U.S. Coast Guard would participate in Cave's project. The archivist has interviewed dozens of cops and firefighters about their Katrina experiences, and last week began interviewing jailers (though not inmates) at Orleans Parish Prison, scene of flooding, deprivation and controversial mayhem during the storm. However, medical providers have been harder to find for the two-hour-plus interviews. Medical providers who were in New Orleans during Katrina or the immediate aftermath can participate by calling the Collection at (504) 598-7132. -- Johnson

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