Big Endorsements, No Foes
Attorney Mark Shea announced a slew of endorsements at the outset of the three-day qualifying period last week in the special election for Traffic Court Judge in New Orleans. More than a dozen major political officeholders threw their support to Shea, which may have factored into him drawing no opponents as of press time. In the event Shea does draw an opponent, he can count on support from New Orleans DA Leon Cannizzaro, Criminal Sheriff Marlin Gusman, clerks of court Dale Atkins and Arthur Morrell, state Sens. David Heitmeier and J.P. Morrell, state Reps. Jeff Arnold, Walt Leger and Nick Lorusso, Assessors Tom Arnold and Claude Mauberret, First City Court Constable Lambert Boissiere Jr. and City Councilwoman Cynthia Hedge-Morrell, among others. Shea served as a public defender in several of the city's courts before announcing his candidacy for Traffic Court judge. He seeks the seat vacated by former Traffic Court Judge Paul Bonin, who won a seat on the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeal last October. The special election for Traffic Court judge, Municipal Court judge and state representative in District 97 is set for April 4. — Clancy DuBos
'Gaps' in Consumer Laws
Major gaps in the law have compromised consumer protection in Louisiana, and recent court rulings have opened the door to predators and abuses, according to a new report by the National Consumer Law Center, a Boston-based advocacy group. The group's findings suggest that Louisiana's UDAP laws, referring to unfair or deceptive acts or practices, include "broad prohibitions that would be far more valuable to consumers were its scope not so limited." For instance, Louisiana is among three states that exempt most lenders and creditors from UDAP statutes. Insurers and most utility companies enjoy shelter in the Bayou State as well. These laws are supposed to be a frontline of defense for consumers in the most common transactions, says Carolyn Carter, an NCLC senior attorney and the author of the report. "Yet in some states these laws provide almost no protection to consumers," she says. Louisiana is also among nine states that deny consumers the right to join together in a class action under UDAP laws. To read a more detailed breakdown of Louisiana's standings in "Consumer Protection in the States: A 50-State Report on Unfair and Deceptive Acts and Practices Statutes," visit www.nclc.org/issues/udap/content/UDAP_Report_Feb09.pdf. — Jeremy Alford
Federalize Mardi Gras?
To most children, Mardi Gras already looks like a national holiday. Businesses close, streets shut down and everyone you know is at the biggest party of the year. But, alas, Fat Tuesday isn't on the same level as Presidents' Day, Thanksgiving, Christmas or even Columbus Day: It isn't a federal holiday. Could that change? According to a recent nationwide poll, nearly 7 of 10 Americans support making Mardi Gras a national holiday, and more than half say they already celebrate Mardi Gras in some fashion. Zatarain's, the 120-year-old New Orleans food giant, commissioned the survey by Maryland-based Impulse Research in December, using a random sample of 1,022 adults. Zatarain's also launched www.MotionforMardiGras.com in an effort to gather 100,000 online signatures to present to Congress. So far, roughly 2,100 people have signed the petition.
Scott Bolonda, president of Zatarain's, says the idea came to him when he noticed that Mardi Gras was being celebrated in many places outside Louisiana, and he figures it would be a good promotional tool for the state. While most people surveyed associated Mardi Gras with beads, parties and parades, most Mardi Gras revelry takes place far from Bourbon Street and focuses on food. To drive home the point, Zatarain's drafted Olivia Manning, mother of celebrated NFL quarterbacks Peyton and Eli Manning. "In my home, Mardi Gras is already an official holiday and the centerpiece of the party is the food," she says in a press release. "Our celebrations are always filled with close family, great friends and, of course, terrific New Orleans-style cuisine." In the United States, a federal holiday means that nonessential offices and nearly all employees get a paid day off. Private banks, stock markets and futures exchanges must also close on federal holidays. There are presently 11 federal holidays, of which most are likewise recognized as state holidays. In Louisiana, Mardi Gras is a state holiday. — Alford
The Sound of Silence
Nobody ever said progress was going to be painless — or easy on the ears. That bit of wisdom recently was thrust upon folks in Slidell, where one of the state's cornerstone construction projects is generating mixed reactions. The Department of Transportation and Development (DOTD) is advancing an improvement to I-12 between the interchanges of Airport Road/Northshore Boulevard and I-12/I-59/I-10. Business interests and residents support the project, which widens a stretch of the interstate and modifies existing ramps. During public meetings earlier this month, concerns arose about noise and emissions pollution. Now engineers are developing plans for sound barriers to run along the highway in eastern St. Tammany Parish. In a letter to DOTD officials, state Rep. Kevin Pearson, a Slidell Republican, wrote that the issue has become important to locals. "After listening to the feedback given at the public hearing and the numerous emails and phone calls to my office, I think the expansion project must also include a sound barrier to preserve the quality of life in neighborhoods and residential zones bordering this heavily traveled Interstate," wrote Pearson. So far, DOTD has been silent. — Alford