QUOTES OF THE WEEK
"Cuba has more sunshine than we've got in Louisiana. You ought to stand up for the state of Louisiana and stop drinking Kool-Aid." — Sen. Robert Adley, R-Benton, objecting to Senate Bill 278, which largely exempts Gov. Bobby Jindal's office from Louisiana's open-records law
"We've got to rebuild the wetlands. We've got to get oil companies to stop digging where the salt water comes into the marshlands. Somebody has to make a decision. It will all come down to this: Will big money win out or will the people have a chance?" — Dr. John, in the Lexington Herald-Leader
"That's his late Father's Day present. He's with me all the time. When I got up to bat, I knew he was going to do something big for me. I spent the past 15 Father's Days without him. Today, I just happened to be in Omaha playing in the biggest game of my life, and he was here with me." — Mikie Mahtook, whose RBI single in the 11th inning sealed the first game of the College World Series for LSU. His father, LSU linebacker Mike Mahtook, died when Mikie was 4.
Evidence of a Warning
Regardless of who is prosecuted for the estimated $200,000 missing from NOPD's evidence and property room, Police Chief Warren Riley's administration cannot say it was never warned of the dangers of one of the department's most banal but important duties. In a 1991 management audit of the NOPD, the International Association of Chiefs of Police stated: "Failure to observe evidence and property handling standards frequently leads to lost cases, tarnished public image, and in the more extreme circumstance, considerable legal difficulty." The NOPD has custody of cash, guns, drugs and other evidence needed for criminal trials.The report, conducted during the administrations of Police Chiefs Warren Woodfork and Arnesta Taylor, concluded: "The evidence and property function of the New Orleans Police Department is sound and administered professionally. Security is clearly a priority." Riley, a 29-year veteran of the NOPD, blamed a former captain for mismanaging the property room and promised a thorough investigation. A state auditor's investigation of the alleged scandal is expected, once the chief formally responds to preliminary findings of the report. — Johnson
Next: Grand Isle Cart Races
The Legislature's work during the recent session was no laughing matter, but that doesn't mean this item shouldn't lead with a joke that cuts to the heart of the issue:
Q: Why did the Grand Isle native cross the road in his golf cart?
A: Because Gov. Bobby Jindal said he could.
With bipartisan flair, Jindal, a Republican, signed into law last week Senate Bill 180 by Sen. John Alario, D-Westwego. The bill — seriously — authorizes golf carts to cross La. 1 within the town of Grand Isle. Of course, if you know the sand-covered stretch of highway targeted by the law, then you know why it isn't a big deal. There's very little traffic along La. 1 once you cross over the bay in Grand Isle, and what traffic does exist is limited by a very slow speed limit. Four-wheelers and golf carts already are commonplace along the road, which leads to some of the best saltwater fishing in south Louisiana. Beginning Aug. 15, they'll be legal — as long as operators have a valid driver's license and are traveling between sunrise and sunset. The law also calls for the Department of Transportation and Development to erect crossing signs at important points, which should make for some interesting designs. — Alford
Generator Maintenance 101?
Among the lower-profile bills passed during the recent legislative session was House Concurrent Resolution 53 by Rep. Nita Rusich Hutter, R-Chalmette, which requests the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) to develop and implement an "age-appropriate unit on hurricane awareness" for students in all local public school systems. Hutter wants BESE to include issues related to evacuations, family displacements, death, loss of homes and missing pets. She also calls for a curriculum that would emphasize what kinds of problems and hazards can be expected during and after a major hurricane strikes an area. "This is one way to minimize the effects of these hazards and to alleviate potential trauma," Hutter writes in her resolution, which lawmakers supported unanimously. — Alford
Mineral Leases Fall Again
As in practically every other month this year, the June mineral lease sale dashed expectations and hit a three-year low by bringing in only $1.4 million for the state. In all, the Louisiana Mineral Board awarded 11 leases, most of them located in northern parishes. By comparison, last year's June sale produced more than $35.8 million in payments for the state and 38 leases for oilmen and independent producers. On a more positive note for a state facing a $1.3 billion shortfall, the year-to-date collections remain historically high at $200 million. In 2008 at this time, the Mineral Board had collected roughly $63 million. This spike came about this year because of a buying frenzy in north Louisiana's Haynesville Shale. Industry estimates indicate the natural gas in the formation may become the largest onshore find in the United States. A recent study by Baton Rouge economist Dr. Loren Scott found the Haynesville Shale contributed about $2.4 billion in new business sales statewide last year and created more than 32,000 new jobs. That frenzy is over, however, and many companies are choosing to sit on their 2008 investments instead of continuing to suck up leases. State officials also point to unpredictable oil prices and an unstable economy as factors in the lull. — Alford
Training cops to help victims
Higher training standards for Louisiana law enforcement, including cops and jailers in New Orleans, take effect Thursday (July 1). Among the changes: All 23 police training academies statewide must teach cops 12 hours of curricula in the legal rights of crime victims and witnesses, as well as the impact of crime on the elderly, according to the Louisiana Commission on Law Enforcement at Baton Rouge. Police agencies that fail to comply with the new standards do so at a price, says David Kent, an LCLE member and local victims' rights advocate. "They can lose their (state) certification, and their officers will not receive their state supplemental pay," says Kent, vice president of Victims & Citizens Against Crime. VCAC President Beverly Siemssen, 68, applauded the new requirement for training officers and prosecutors. "We have been trying for a couple of years to make police aware of state laws requiring them to notify victims of emergency services and reimbursements," Siemssen says.
Gambit detailed NOPD's difficulties adhering to Louisiana's crime victims assistance laws in a cover story last year ("What About the Victims?," May 20, 2008). But Siemssen says cops in other parishes occasionally have trouble following the state laws, which carry no penalties. Bob Wertz, a criminal justice policy planner for the state agency, says cops need training about crimes against the elderly, too. "Senior citizens are twice as likely to be seriously injured in a crime as younger victims," Wertz says. There are eight law enforcement training academies in the metro area, almost equal to the number of four-year colleges and universities in Orleans Parish. — Johnson