Terrell Mulls Options
Talk about quiet. The medical community has been raising hell for more than a year about state Attorney General Charles Foti's efforts to prosecute Dr. Anna Pou and two nurses for the deaths of four patients at Memorial Medical Center. However, none of Foti's political foes has remained more conspicuously silent than former state Elections Commissioner Suzanne Haik Terrell of New Orleans, who lost a bitter runoff election to Foti in 2003. Will Terrell, the first Republican woman to win a statewide election in Louisiana history (over fellow Republican Woody Jenkins), seek a rematch with the politically weakened Foti? Terrell, who has been working at a federal agency in Washington since Hurricane Katrina, declined public comment. Sources say she's been talking with GOP bigwigs about possible runs for state Treasurer, state Attorney General or -- should U.S. Rep. Bobby Jindal continue his runaway campaign for governor -- Congress. As of Feb. 15, Terrell had $94,565 left over from her 2003 race for AG, but she could easily raise more money with the help of her GOP allies. In October 2005, shortly after Hurricane Katrina, President George W. Bush appointed Terrell as an adviser to the Economic Development Administration, an agency of the U.S. Department of Commerce that is tasked with helping to generate jobs and economic growth in economically distressed areas. -- Johnson
Bush's First Veto Override?
If the Louisiana delegation sticks to its guns and an overwhelming majority of congressional members don't waver on their support of a far-reaching water-resources bill, President George W. Bush could face his first veto override later this year. According to the Congressional Research Service, there have been 2,551 vetoes since the founding of the federal government in 1789, of which only 106 have been overridden (4 percent). This is a historical footnote to keep in mind when considering the Water Resources Development Act, which the House enthusiastically endorsed by a 181-40 vote earlier this month. Louisiana's two U.S. senators, Democrat Mary Landrieu of New Orleans and Republican David Vitter of Metairie, tried to force a vote in the upper chamber as well, but the legislation has been put on hold until lawmakers return from a month-long break on Sept. 4. "When we do get to a vote, we expect another overwhelming majority," says Landrieu's press secretary, Stephanie Allen. While Congress appears ready to break the now-storied logjam over WRDA, President Bush isn't faltering on his threat to veto the measure. It takes a two-thirds vote in each body to override, and the president is facing a showdown on the $21 million bill that authorizes a plethora of water-related projects. The Louisiana delegation has vowed to push for an override if Bush vetoes. The upcoming Senate vote will be telling. "September is going to be a very big month," says Congressman Richard Baker, a Republican from Baton Rouge who helped broker the first comprise on WRDA in seven years. -- Alford
Kennedy Rubs It In
It appears the Louisiana Legislature made the right decision when it stalled the administration's efforts during the recent regular session to sell the state's remaining tobacco settlement. According to Treasurer John Kennedy, who led a high-profile campaign against the proposal, the state would have lost an estimated $240 million in bond proceeds if Gov. Kathleen Blanco's financing plan had been approved in June. "It's a good thing the Legislature didn't approve these transactions, especially because the municipal bond market for tobacco bonds continues to deteriorate," Kennedy says. The treasurer, who announced last week that he will seek re-election instead of running for attorney general, has heard rumblings, however, that the proposal isn't dead. "There's now talk that the administration could bring a tobacco proposal up for a legislative vote by mail ballot in the near future," he says. Blanco wanted to sell off the state's remaining payments from a 1998 tobacco settlement for a lower lump sum that could be pumped into education, health care and coastal restoration. -- Alford
City Bleeds, Sleeps
It's been a bloody summer. John Gagliano, chief investigator for the Orleans Parish Coroner's Office, says the city's homicide total hit 121 late last week -- including the earlier, same-day murders of two brothers suspected in a total of 18 killings. Texas State University criminologist Peter Scharf predicts New Orleans will see 190 to 210 murders by year's end. "It could be worse, but Jefferson (Parish) has absorbed some of the Orleans murder total," Scharf says. As the city prepared for a Saturday crime summit at Gallier Hall, the professor said he is disturbed by the lackluster public response to the violence. For example, Newark, N.J., has been in an uproar since the execution-style midnight murders of three youths in a schoolyard, Scharf says. By comparison, New Orleans "still sleeps" despite its nation-leading murder rate. Scharf says he also is concerned about the effects of policing the illegal drug trade. "Destabilizing drug markets through arrests and incarceration might be exacerbating the violence," he said, adding that poor race relations are hampering the city's crime fight as well. "Everybody walks around the issue of race in New Orleans. And it needs to be addressed." -- Johnson
'March for Education'
"There isn't a microwave solution to being the murder capital of the United States," says Lance Hill, a historian at Tulane University and a 35-year expert on race relations. "We're caught in a criminal justice system model of trying to solve social and psychological problems of violence and drug abuse that are largely compounded by the traumatic stress of (Hurricane) Katrina." Too many youths are self-medicating with crack and alcohol since the storm, Hill says. And law enforcement cannot stop the rising tide of crime resulting from social inequities in education, health care, employment and housing opportunities. "Break out of the criminal justice system model," he says. "Make sure all children have a chair and a desk and a pencil and a paper when school starts this year." Referring to the Jan. 11 march on City Hall, Hill says white professionals who are angry enough to march against crime should also protest a public education system that is failing the city's poor, mostly black children. Until then, do not expect crime or race relations to improve much, he says. "African-Americans don't trust white people who do not take a public stand against the profound inequalities in public health care, housing, education and employment that bedevils New Orleans in the wake of Katrina," Hill says. -- Johnson
House Seat Opens
State Rep. Loulan Pitre, a Republican from Cut Off whose district includes parts of Jefferson Parish, will not seek re-election this year. Instead, he says, he will spend more time with his two children and focus on his oil-and-gas law career. There won't be any endorsements coming from him this fall, either. Pitre says he would like to see a Republican replace him in House District 54, but he won't be proactive on that front. "The people in this district just aren't partisan like that," he says. Joshua Stockley, former president of the Louisiana Political Science Association and professor of government at Nicholls State University, says the seat could be tough for the GOP to hold. "You have a lot of old, die-hard Democrats in that district, and they really don't care about party," he says. "They care more about people they know." No one has officially announced for the seat, but former state Rep. Mitch Theriot of Raceland, whom Pitre defeated four years ago, and fellow Democrat John Melancon Jr. , owner of Rae Shipyard in Golden Meadow, both have signs across the district. Those two candidates are godsends to the Louisiana Democratic Party in light of the GOP's ongoing effort to take control of the House this fall. "Democrats have historically been strong in this district, and we feel confident we can regain it this fall," says Julie Vezinot, Democratic Party spokesperson. -- Alford