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Wildlife Post Officially Vacant
Dwight Landreneau officially vacated the top job at the Department of Wildlife and Fisheries last week, making him the latest member of Gov. Kathleen Blanco's team to jump ship in recent months. Landreneau, who became the associate vice chancellor of the LSU AgCenter on Sept. 1, served as secretary during a historic time for the department. Not only did he turn an entire agency -- from boats to biologists -- into a full-scale search-and-rescue operation in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, but he saw his main constituency and internal resources devastated by the storms. It was rumored that former House Speaker Charlie DeWitt, an Alexandria Democrat, might be tapped for the job, but he swatted down the suggestion last week by saying the governor has yet to call. Bo Behringer, the department's press secretary, says WLF's upper brass hasn't been involved in the decision-making process and he has no idea when the governor might name a replacement. "It's all open ended," Behringer says. In the meantime, three undersecretaries will share the responsibility of running the department. A call seeking comment from the governor was not returned by press time. -- Alford


Ain't Like the Saints
Gov. Kathleen Blanco's less-than-stunning approval ratings are no secret to political reporters, but now even writers on the sports beat are chiming in. In a column written by the "Sports Curmudgeon" on SportsFanMagazine.com, Blanco is slammed for her sideline comments during the Saints' recent Monday night exhibition game. As the team faced off against the Dallas Cowboys in Shreveport, Blanco told a commentator that the Saints were iconic and -- in short -- a symbol of its people. "Ouch, that's not such a good line, Madame Governor," the diatribe goes. "Since the merger of the NFL and the AFL in 1970, the Saints have lost 323 games. That's more than any other team in the NFL." -- Alford

 

Commemoration Train
Not to be outdone by those catchy slogans that broadcast news outlets apply to major events, like war and famine, a variety of politicians attempted to label the Katrina anniversary last week with varied zeal. The governor titled her activities as "A Week of Recovery, Progress and Promise." U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu, meanwhile, led the "Hope and Recovery Tour," making regular entries into a travel diary on the news site BayouBuzz.com along with high-profile guests like ABC talking head George Stephanopoulos. Landrieu also took questions about the recovery over Yahoo! through the "Generation Next: Talk to Power" program. At press time, there were more than 800 messages posted for Landrieu. -- Alford


'No Silver Bullet'
Presidents of the eight institutions in the University of Louisiana System signed a compact in 2004 to raise graduation rates to a level where they might meet or exceed national averages. The goal is a great one on paper, but it is supposed to be accomplished by 2012. Randy Moffett, president of Southeastern Louisiana University and coordinator of the initiative, says there is still a long way to go. Graduation rates for the system presently hover around 36 percent, and first-time freshmen retention is about 75 percent -- figures that are well below national averages. "We have worked hard to instill a lot of good things on our campuses such as selective admissions, new degree programs and up-to-date classroom buildings and residential facilities," he says. "But we can't fail to acknowledge that this is a critical issue about which we need to be proactive. We have a lot of work ahead of us -- no one silver bullet exists to provide a cure." Student preparation in critical content areas, such as English and mathematics, heads the official "to-do" list, as does improving the mix of traditional and non-traditional students and quality of advising. -- Alford


Aid OK for Gov't Workers

Anyone who wants to help government employees offset their financial losses from Hurricane Katrina can do so -- thanks to recent state legislation passed over the objections of the Louisiana Ethics Commission. State ethics laws prohibit public employees from accepting anything of economic value -- other than their government paychecks and benefits, said ethics board general counsel Kathleen Allen. However, Gov. Kathleen Blanco and lawmakers earlier this year approved a pair of laws allowing storm-affected government workers to receive up to $25,000 each in donations through select nonprofit groups through Dec. 31, 2006. Authored by state Rep. Karen St. Germain (D-Plaquemine), Acts 22 and 422 require participating nonprofits to report the names of each public employee, his or her agency and the type and value of each donation. The data is due by Feb. 15, 2007. Earlier this year, the state ethics board unanimously opposed St. Germain's proposal. However, the Legislature unanimously ignored the ethics board. "We did not oppose this exemption," says Jim Brandt, president of the Public Affairs Research Council, a government watchdog group that typically opposes exceptions to the ethics code. Among the nonprofits approved for accepting disaster aid are the New Orleans Police Foundation Inc. and the Louisiana State Firemen's Association. -- Johnson


Jefferson's 'Haul Ass' Law
The Jefferson Parish Council last week passed an emergency ordinance allowing the parish president to impose a 24-hour curfew on residents who refuse to heed a mandatory evacuation order. Council members said the emergency law is aimed at deterring would-be lawbreakers from roaming evacuated neighborhood streets. The new ordinance harkens back to the frustration Jefferson Parish President Aaron Broussard and other parish leaders expressed on WWL-AM Radio on Aug. 28, 2005, as Hurricane Katrina took aim at Louisiana. Parish officials pleaded for residents to evacuate, but many seemed to hesitate. Exasperated, Broussard turned the mic over to Sheriff Harry Lee, who said, "You owe it to your family and to yourself to haul ass now! How much more emphatic can we be?" Broussard did not call for a mandatory evacuation before Katrina, which would have required house-to-house enforcement by Lee's deputies. The new mandatory evacuation ordinance reportedly allows parish officials to suspend parish water service, garbage collection, and other amenities -- making staying behind for a hurricane less desirable. -- Johnson

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