News » Scuttlebutt: Louisiana News Briefs

Scuttlebutt

comment
Who's Getting Contracts?
The Louisiana Ethics Commission this week begins publishing the names of elected officials and their immediate family members who are receiving federal contracts for hurricane recovery work. Kathy Allen, general counsel for the ethics board, said the information will be posted on the board's Web site (www.ethics.state.la.us) by Thursday (Jan. 5). The names on the so-called "1114.3 disclosures" also will be listed on the board's agenda for its Jan. 12 meeting in Baton Rouge. The disclosures are required by a new state law that was adopted in the November special session. The deadline for submitting the disclosure forms was Dec. 29, 2005. Late filers face a $100-per-day fine. -- Johnson

 

New Orleans Makeover?
The state may be overlooking a major issue -- consolidation of local political offices -- in the effort to rebuild New Orleans, according to a recent position paper released by the Council for a Better Louisiana, a nonprofit government-watchdog group. CABL argues that some local elected offices and government agencies in the city ought to be consolidated. The topic could become a major sticking point as rebuilding progresses. Orleans Parish has seven tax assessors, two sheriffs, multiple law-enforcement agencies, two separate court systems and 10 offices that perform the tasks of the clerk of court. In other parishes, such as Lafayette, East Baton Rouge and Jefferson, local government seems to move along with only one official for each of those entities. Post-Katrina, even with thousands of residents returning, projections estimate that New Orleans will be smaller -- and that the city's tax base will decrease by as much as 42 percent. The CABL issues paper chalks up much of the problem to the city's political history, but adds that the recent hurricane has presented an opportunity to rewrite that history. "In part, that means shedding negative costs and images of the past and creating more efficient and modern services for citizens and businesses," the paper states. -- Alford

 

Tracking Blanco
The political stars still aren't lining up for Louisiana's embattled governor. The latest poll conducted by SurveyUSA, which is funded by a consortium of media organizations, shows Democratic Gov. Kathleen Blanco continuing to slip in popularity. The latest poll interviewed 600 voters Dec. 9-11 and showed the governor with a 33 percent approval rating -- compared to 55 percent in May. Her support among women and blacks, however, hovered in the mid- to high-40s. Meanwhile, The Advocate newspaper in Baton Rouge recently sized up the governor's political future by quoting an African American, female, Democratic lawmaker -- representing one of Blanco's strongest bases -- who admitted the governor would need something "miraculous" to rebound in time for re-election in two years. -- Alford

 

Fahrenholtz to Settle Up
Orleans Parish School Board member Jimmy Fahrenholtz, an announced candidate for mayor, finished 2005 atop a list of politicians owing past-due fines to the Louisiana Ethics Commission. "No one else comes close," says ethics board staff attorney Alesia Ardoin. Fahrenholtz, a New Orleans attorney, acknowledges owing $27,370 in unpaid fines and court judgments for failing to file financial disclosure reports for his School Board campaigns -- violations of state campaign finance laws. He has offered various explanations for why he has not paid the fines, but showed new resolve last week as 2005 drew to a close. "I've got to settle that thing," Fahrenholtz told Gambit Weekly. "I am going to have my lawyer, Phil Costa, call them (the ethics board) on Monday (Jan. 2). I've learned my lesson." The ethics board has sued Fahrenholtz, one of the school board's reformers, three times in state court since 2004 for separate reporting violations -- most recently in December. In addition, the state panel has received court-ordered garnishments of Fahrenholtz's School Board paychecks since Jan. 23, 2005. However, the payments amount to only $57.24 every two weeks, a sliver of the debt he owes the state. -- Johnson

 

Calls for Reform
The recent fatal police shooting of a mental patient marks the second time NOPD has killed an erratic, knife-wielding suspect in two months, according to police reports. The police encounter with Anthony Hayes, a schizophrenic, on Dec. 26 -- captured on videotape -- has prompted public calls for more training and better tactics to reduce the likelihood of police use of deadly force. On Nov. 11, police killed an unidentified Hispanic man when he allegedly attacked a cop with a Buck knife after trying to commandeer a garbage truck. Local criminologist Peter Scharf says it is "extremely rare" for police in the U.S. to use deadly force against suspects armed with weapons other than a firearm. "These two cases raise the issue of the Police Department needing training or [the force] being out of control, or both," Scharf says. But James Arey, a mental-health counselor and civilian employee of NOPD's hostage-negotiation team, says the mental health-care delivery system is "the missing piece" in such cases. Arey says media scrutiny of the Hayes case should include mental-health workers who were supposed to help patients control their behavior by monitoring their medications and other treatment. "Once a guy is psychotic and running around with a knife, our options [as police] are very limited," said Arey. -- Johnson

 

Katrina Cut Cops' Training
Only 40 percent of the officers on the New Orleans Police Department have been trained to deal with mentally ill patients, Police Chief Warren Riley says. In addition, the three-year training program that brought cops and mental-health professionals together at the DePaul-Tulane Behavioral Health Center in Uptown New Orleans was indefinitely canceled after Hurricane Katrina hit Aug. 29, NOPD officials say. In the wake of a police killing of a mental patient on Dec. 26, there have been calls for police to use SWAT teams and less-than-lethal tactics (stun guns, K-9 dogs, etc.) when encountering threatening behavior by deranged people. Mental-health professionals say specially trained police units cannot always get to a scene in time; they suggest that the best deterrent is to train the entire police force to prevent encounters with mental patients from escalating to a violent end. Meanwhile, Chief Riley says, veteran Sgt. Ben Glaudi of NOPD's crisis transportation unit instructs officers at the Police Academy on how to handle police signal "103-Ms" -- the code for disturbances involving mental patients. Riley says he will consider expanding the number of training hours for Glaudi's course to help offset the lost training opportunities at DePaul-Tulane. -- Johnson Landrieu's GOP Move U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu, a dyed-in-the-wool Democrat, has hand-selected a Republican as her new chief of staff. Ron Faucheux, a Louisiana native and former state representative from eastern New Orleans, will replace departing chief of staff Norma Jane Sabiston. Nationally, Faucheux is best known as the former owner and publisher of Campaigns and Elections magazine, a must-read rag for political junkies. His appointment could be a sign that Landrieu will attempt to soften the perception of her liberal edge in coming months, especially in the face of an electorate turning more conservative and a state losing large portions of its Democratic voting base after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. -- Alford

Add a comment