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Privatization of Lakefront Airport Draws Heat
The Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) has asked the Federal Aviation Administration to extend the official comment period on the privatization proposal for the New Orleans Lakefront Airport. Additional heat is coming from Kenner resident and former Orleans Levee Board employee Vincent Bruno.

The Levee Board, which owns the airport, has been losing money on the facility and is now pursuing a privatization plan. American Airports Corporation, which operates nine other general aviation airports, has submitted a proposal to administer the airport under a 50-year lease.

In addition to requesting more time, AOPA is concerned about the manner in which the selection process has been handled. In a letter to the Department of Transportation, AOPA senior vice president Andrew V. Cebula writes, "Our initial review of available information published to this docket revealed a number of areas that raise numerous questions and significant concern regarding the accuracy of some information provided to the FAA in the application process."

In a letter to Louisiana Congressman Billy Tauzin, Bruno asks that the privatization process be examined by an impartial investigative body. "The privatization attempt is not in the best interest of the citizens of Louisiana because it appears to unfairly enrich cronies of the Orleans Levee Board," Bruno writes. Bruno also says that American Airports Corporation's bid of $300,000 per year to operate the Lakefront Airport is inadequate, considering that the airport property is worth $50 million. "I believe that this is the biggest land grab in recent history," says Bruno. "From the beginning, I think the fix was on."

Jim Huey, president of the Board of Commissioners of the Orleans Parish Levee Board, strongly disagrees. "Bruno's comments are absolutely sour grapes because he was terminated," Huey says. "There has never been anything that has any fact associated with it." Bruno worked at the Orleans Parish Levee Board as an assistant to Huey from 1996 until 2001, when he was terminated by Huey. Huey says he believes that a bitter Bruno is engaging in a campaign to damage the privatization process. He also dismisses Bruno's concerns about American Airports Corporation. "I've never seen any group that is not politically connected," Huey says. "They are a very legitimate outfit, and they will have to meet the requirements of the FAA."

The FAA will call a public hearing on the airport privatization sometime in May.

Scalise Considering State Senate
Jefferson Parish State Rep. Steve Scalise is seriously considering a race for the state Senate seat being vacated by gubernatorial candidate Ken Hollis. Scalise, a conservative Republican who has served in the Louisiana Legislature since 1995, says he has been approached by supporters, but adds that "it is too early for me to make a final decision."

Scalise could just run for re-election and serve four more years in the state House before being term-limited. Or he could await a move by 1st District Congressman David Vitter, a potential candidate for higher office -- including the U.S. Senate in 2004. If Vitter ever vacates his congressional seat, Scalise will, no doubt, be very interested in succeeding him.

If Scalise decides to run for state Senate instead, he likely will face at least two fellow Republicans -- state Rep. Tom Capella of Metairie, whose House district will be lost to reapportionment, and former Jefferson School Board member Polly Thomas, who has announced for the race. Scalise is expected to make a final decision about his political future before the end of the legislative session in June.

Treen to Announce Another Run for Governor
This week, former Gov. Dave Treen will formally announce his intention to run for governor again in 2003 and immediately embark on a statewide tour of Louisiana. In most statewide polls conducted on the governor's race, Treen ranks in the top tier of candidates.

A major message of the Treen campaign will be the establishment of the Coastal Wetlands Environmental Levy (CWEL). This is a tax on petroleum products transferred across the state of Louisiana. Treen believes CWSEL can generate $1 billion per year for the state, although the same proposal died in committee when he was governor from 1980-84. He proposes using the revenue to increase teacher salaries, match federal dollars to restore our coastal wetlands and reduce business taxes to attract industry to the state. According to Treen, 80 percent of the tax will be paid by out-of-state companies, so the net impact on state companies and citizens will be lower taxes.

Treen's formal announcement brings to seven the number of Republicans in the governor's race. That concerns many in the Louisiana GOP, and some want an endorsement process to winnow the field. With so many GOP hopefuls in the race, many Republicans fear two Democrats have a good chance to win both run-off positions.


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