Busted Flat in N.O.? There could be a growing rift between Baton Rouge and New Orleans, two cities that already have a long-time rivalry. In recent weeks during the legislative session, New Orleans lawmakers scrambled to amend legislation that would have moved the Louisiana Boxing Commission to Baton Rouge. Members of the Orleans delegation also played defense over a non-binding resolution requesting that the LSU School of Medicine be relocated to the Capital City. New chatter about relocating the state Supreme Court to Baton Rouge has likewise been promptly squashed by Big Easy lawmakers. New Orleans lawmakers see such developments as part of a larger effort to gut the city's political clout and possibly even stifle its recovery. Similarly, changes facing Baton Rouge after Katrina have surprised officials there.Ê"Certainly, we knew we would have more presence statewide over time," says Baton Rouge Metro Councilman Darrell Ourso, a Republican. "But there was never an organized agenda where we set out to make this happen. A lot of it is still happening on its own because of the hurricanes and the increase in people who settled here." Albert L. Samuels, a political science professor at Southern University in Baton Rouge, says the battles of this session could be repeated as Red Stick pulls legislative seats away from New Orleans after the next U.S. Census. "New Orleans cannot continue to justify the number of seats they have in the Legislature, not with all their constituents living in Baton Rouge," he says. "All of what's happening is inevitable. And whoever is elected to the next Legislature will be huge because they'll be the ones redrawing the districts." But it will take time for that transformation to happen, Samuels adds. -- Alford
What Goes Around...
The Louisiana GOP was ever so quick to pounce on former U.S. Sen. John Breaux when he flirted with running for governor after having established a residence in Maryland. Now it's the Democrats' turn. Country singer Sammy Kershaw, a Republican, recently announced his candidacy for lieutenant governor against Democratic incumbent Mitch Landrieu, prompting the state Democratic Party to ask, "Will the Louisiana Republican Party hold Sammy Kershaw, a citizen of Nashville, Tennessee ... to the same residency rigors ... ?" A press release from the Democrats called upon the GOP to "be consistent" in its scrutiny of candidates' qualifications. "Although it is true Kershaw is a native of Kaplan, according to recent court documents, he has retained residency in Tennessee for years," the Demo press release states. "His qualifications to effectively assume responsibilities of this office are non-existent." James Quinn, executive director of the Louisiana Republican Party, called the Democratic broadside " a non-issue. Sammy is a citizen of Louisiana.Ê Sammy has been registered to vote in this state since 1999 and has voted consistently in Louisiana.Ê He also maintains a residence and pays taxes here.Ê The Democrats are just trying to distract from the fact that Mr. Kershaw brings a fresh approach and new ideas to the Lt. Governor's position." DuBos
Jordan's River of Debt
Orleans Parish District Attorney Eddie Jordan Jr. does not face reelection until the fall of 2008. But deep into his first six-year term, Jordan is polling badly, his campaign is struggling to pay off $75,000 in debts from his 2002 election victory, and his chief political patron, Congressman William Jefferson, faces federal corruption charges. Jordan, a former U.S. Attorney, has remained silent on Jefferson's indictment. But the political repercussions from the charges are clear to the Jordan camp. "We're pretty much on our own now," one Jordan supporter said. Jordan's latest filings show his campaign raised only $4,650 in contributions last year -- including $1,000 from First Assistant DA Gaynell Williams, and $2,500 from her husband, Bobby Harges. Jordan's campaign spent $8,500 last year -- most of it on interest payments on bank loans -- leaving the DA with only $1,472 "on hand," as of Feb. 11, 2007. In addition, Jordan still owed local banks a total of $42,500 for campaign loans and $33,000 to key advisors from his first political victory, including $7,500 each to Jefferson's brother, Mose Jefferson, and Jordan campaign treasurer Jack Swetland, who also is the CPA for Jefferson's political family. A recent Ed Renwick poll for WWL-TV showed Jordan had a 78 percent negative rating among Orleans Parish voters (80 percent among whites; 66 percent among blacks). Only President Bush fared worse, with an 80 percent negative rating. A spokesperson for Jordan declined comment. -- Johnson
Lee's Helping Hand
With no announced opposition for the Oct. 20 primary and his leukemia in remission, Jefferson Parish Sheriff Harry Lee is free to help his political friends campaign for office. Since Hurricane Katrina, the sheriff has scattered contributions to candidates for major and minor offices in the metro area. Notable recipients include Billy Nungesser, who was elected president of Plaquemines Parish in January, $600; Jefferson Parish Council member Chris Roberts, $500; and Jefferson DA Paul Connick Jr., $1,250. In December, Lee paid a printer nearly $14,000 for "news print" attacks against state Rep. Karen Carter of New Orleans, who failed to unseat incumbent Congressman Bill Jefferson in the congressional runoff election. Lee's pick to beat Jefferson -- former New Orleans City Councilman Troy Carter -- received $2,100 from the sheriff, but fared poorly in the primary. Meanwhile, Lee continues to carry no-interest loans his campaign made last year to several campaigns. They include $2,500 to his nephew, Glen Lee, a candidate for the House District 80 seat this fall; state Insurance Commissioner Jim Donelon, $5,000; and state Sen. Francis Heitmeier, $1,000. After helping his political allies, Lee reported $141,914 left for his own campaign on April 13. Lee's next campaign report is due July 23. His annual fundraiser, the 20th Cajun Chinese Cowboy Fais Do Do, is scheduled for Aug. 25 at the Riverside Hilton Hotel. -- Johnson
Minor Arrests, Major Pain
New Orleans police continued their allegedly undue emphasis on arrests for traffic violations and other minor offenses, after Police Chief Warren Riley told the City Council late last year he would review department policies on apprehensions, records show. The pro-law enforcement Metropolitan Crime Commission reported last week that 51 percent of roughly 14,800 arrests in the first quarter of 2007 were for traffic and municipal offenses -- up 12 percent per capita from the same period in 2005, before Hurricane Katrina depopulated the city. Rafael Goyeneche, president of the MCC, urged NOPD to focus instead on violent offenders. At NOPD's budget hearing before the City Council on Nov. 14, City Council member James Carter, chair of the council committee on crime, urged Chief Riley to consider a "philosophical shift" towards issuing summons, instead of jailing people for minor offenses. The chief replied that most minor offenses do not result in apprehensions, unless the law mandates arrest or unless the alleged violator has a "severe criminal history." In the latter instances, Riley said, "We will arrest him so we can get him off the street." But Carter asked Riley to review the practice and consider a "policy change," to which Riley replied, "We'll look at that." A new study by the Vera Institute in New York urged the city to pursue a variety of alternatives to incarcerating minor offenders, a process that "uses up valuable jail and police resources." -- Johnson
Unimpressed by Arrests
"Don't be impressed by arrests," says lawyer Graymond Martin, an ex-NOPD lieutenant and architect of police reforms under former Mayor Marc Morial. Police traditionally respond to public alarm over crime waves with arrest figures, but Martin suggests that citizens should demand an accounting of arrests that result in convictions. "The goal of policing should be minimal intrusive law enforcement," Martin says. "If I'm bragging about arrests that don't lead to convictions, then I am bragging about repression -- depriving citizens of their liberty without just cause." Increasingly, in recent months, Police Chief Warren Riley has emphasized the social, economic and educational disadvantages of many of the young men NOPD cops typically encounter. "We can't arrest our way out of this [crime] problem," Riley told a television news reporter recently. -- Johnson
Foti's Collection Dept.
The Louisiana Ethics Commission has given the state attorney general's office a list of politicians who reportedly still owe the state nearly a quarter of a million dollars in court-ordered judgments. "All outstanding judgments have been turned over to the Louisiana Attorney General collections section as of May 25," says Alesia Ardoin, staff attorney for the state ethics board. State Attorney General Charles Foti's office will receive 25 percent of whatever his agents collect. Ardoin said Foti's agents will file monthly reports with her office; progress in the new collection efforts will be noted on the ethics board Web site (www.ethics.state.la.us). Most of the debts arise from tardy campaign reports and other violations of state campaign finance disclosure laws. Some debts stem from campaigns that took place 10 years ago. Area politicos who may get a visit from Foti's collection agents include the following (the list includes the offices sought and the amount allegedly owed): Kenneth Bazile, Orleans Parish School Board, $1,300; Jonathan Bolar, Gretna City Council, $7,080; George Chaney Jr., judge, New Orleans Municipal Court, $600; Lois DeJean, Orleans Parish School Board, $3,240; Albert "Al" Donovan Jr., Secretary of State, $23,500; John J. Doyle III, Harahan police chief, $280; Demetrie E. Ford of New Orleans, state representative, $840; Yancy Carter, judge, New Orleans Criminal District Court, $840; Orleans Parish School Board member "Jimmy" Fahrenholtz, $16,000; "Bobby" Ragsdale Jr., Jefferson Parish sheriff, $180; Anne Marie Vandenweghe, Harahan City Council, $420; and Franz Zibilich, judge, New Orleans Criminal Court, $1,100. -- Johnson
Med Records Fight
The Louisiana House overwhelmingly endorsed a healthcare policy proposal last week that would give attorneys greater access to their clients' medical records under limited circumstances. Right now, many healthcare providers only release such records directly to patients, says Rep. Damon Baldone, a Houma Democrat, while others charge attorneys a higher fee than the law allows. Baldone wants the state's medical records law to cover legal representatives or agents with written authorization. "If (an attorney) requests medical records and they're denied, right now the only thing they can do is go to court," he says. "I think they have a right to get the claimant's information for them on their behalf." Baldone's House Bill 452 applies only to cases where patients are filing for Social Security benefits. Marla Herndon, president of the Mandeville-based MedSouth Record Management, which maintains medical records for more than 400 facilities in Louisiana and Mississippi, says the proposal allows attorneys to circumvent pricing guidelines. "This is meant to benefit lawyers," she says, "who litigate at a profit." According to the current law, the "cost of each photocopy shall not exceed 50 cents per page for the first five pages and 25 cents for each additional page," but it does not clearly define what party should be charged under the fee schedule. Baldone says he would prefer to eliminate the fee altogether. "Texas doesn't charge anything at all," he says. -- Alford
An unnamed mental health expert mentioned in last week's Scuttlebutt on police suicide prevention counseling was not affiliated with the New Orleans Police Department, as the article stated. Gambit Weekly regrets the error.