Southern evaluates existence in exigency
After declaring a financial emergency, Southern University finds itself at a crossroads where its leaders are planning for a future that involves controlling costs and investing in academic strong points. In October, the SU board voted without objection to declare a financial emergency at the Baton Rouge flagship. The move allows for easier termination of programs and tenured faculty. Faculty and alumni leaders were opposed, but university administrators say it's the only way forward for a school decimated by state budget cuts and declining enrollment. In academic circles, a financial emergency, known as "exigency," is the nuclear option. While the declaration may have the unintended effect of scaring off potential teachers and students, supporters say it presents an opportunity, not just to balance the budget, but to strategically reassess where Southern is today and where it's going. In the lead are four men who've all been on the job less than 18 months. "I wake up saying, 'This is a real challenge,' " says Chancellor James Llorens. "But I'm convinced it is a challenge that can be met." Read the full Business Report cover story by David Jacobs here.
Today's poll question: Do you think Southern University will emerge from its financial emergency a stronger institution?
B.R. 59th on 'best cities for business' list; N.O. most improved
The Baton Rouge metro area is ranked 59th on The Wall Street Journal Marketwatch Best Cities for Business list analyzing 102 metro areas in the country. However, the Capital Region is bypassed on the list by New Orleans, which made the largest gain of any metro area on the list, rising 44 spots, from 77th in 2010 to 33rd this year. As recently as 2009, New Orleans was in the bottom 10 of the list. In compiling the rankings, the publication compares 15 criteria falling into one of two general categories: economic stability and company concentration. The publication cites multiple reasons for New Orleans' rapid climb on the list. Notably, the New Orleans region ranked first in long-term personal income growth and in the top quarter of cities for short-term personal income growth. Some other positive factors include recent changes to the methodology, which now includes tourism activities. "Being named No. 1 most improved metro in the country by The Wall Street Journal is a great validation of our efforts as a community," says Michael Hecht, president and CEO of Greater New Orleans Inc. "We are particularly pleased that this top ranking was based on independent statistical analysis, which then supports the story we are witnessing every day on the street." You can see the full list and read a larger story on New Orleans' recovery since Hurricane Katrina at the Wall Street Journal Marketplace website here.
Poll shows La. voters have great concerns about public education
A recent survey of "likely Louisiana voters" shows widespread dissatisfaction with public education in the state. The survey from Southern Media & Opinion Research Inc., conducted twice annually, is funded by Baton Rouge businessman Lane Grigsby, whose Alliance for Better Classrooms political action committee was very active in the recent Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education elections. When asked to grade public education in general, just 4% of respondents gave it an "A," while 36% gave it a "C," 29% gave it a "D" and 13% gave it an "F." Survey results also showed:
• 26% say the quality of public education is improving, 31% say it's getting worse, and 41% say it's staying the same.
• 53% say they're dissatisfied with public schools in their own parish, compared to 41% who are very satisfied.
• 67% say they support Gov. Bobby Jindal's plan to reform public education.
• 25% say the main problem Jindal and lawmakers face is education; 22% say jobs and unemployment constitute the main problem.
• 90% say they support changes that would require tenured teachers to undergo periodic approval to keep their status.
The statewide poll was completed by phone with 601 people from Nov. 28 through Dec. 3. The margin of error is 4%.
Mike Anderson's eyes rebuild but loses holiday business
There are plans for Mike Anderson's Seafood to be rebuilt following a fire early Tuesday morning—suspected to be arson—that has shuttered the popular restaurant on West Lee Drive. But a complete rebuild will likely take months, says business manager Lynn Juban, meaning the restaurant will be closed during one of the busiest times of the year, while dozens of holiday parties and other private events will have to be rescheduled elsewhere. "The banquet room is gone. That's where all the major damage is," Juban says. Around the holidays, he says, there are typically three large private events held in the banquet room every day. At the moment, there's no way to estimate revenue losses, but Juban says it's going to be "pretty dramatic." The dining room was also damaged in the blaze, while the kitchen was unharmed and the side porch sustained only minimal damage, Juban says. "Our goal is to reopen the dining room as rapidly as we can. The banquet room is obviously going to take a lot longer," Juban says. "We may target to open the dining room by Christmas, but there's so many unknowns at this moment." As the rebuild begins, the restaurant will continue to do some offsite catering—beginning later this week—and all employees will continue to be paid, Juban says. Investigators say they suspect an arsonist is responsible for the blaze, which occurred around 1:30 a.m. Tuesday. The investigation is ongoing. —Steve Sanoski
Parents say N.O. public schools have improved since Katrina
Two-thirds of public school parents in New Orleans feel the city's post-Katrina school system is an improvement over what existed prior to the 2005 hurricane that devastated the city, according to a new survey commissioned by Tulane University researchers, The Times-Picayune reports. Just 31% of those surveyed in 2009 agreed that schools were better than they were before Katrina; 66% agreed this year. And 74% agreed that they are still improving. Roughly 98% agree that it's important to be able to choose which public school their child attends—one of the most distinctive and controversial features of the new system—and 86% say information about their options is readily available. Overall, the survey results suggest parents are happy with the system of autonomous charter schools that has evolved over the past six years and are optimistic that things will continue to improve. Yet the drawbacks and contradictions posed by the new system also show up in the results. Although an overwhelming majority of parents appear to value choice, 82% also said it was important that their child be able to attend their neighborhood school, an choice that's not always possible to grant in a system based on maximizing options. Many New Orleans schools have enrollment caps, and most are required to take students from across the parish, limiting the space for neighborhood students. Read more about the survey and its findings in The Times-Picayune here.
Honey Badger takes team MVP
The Honey Badger may not have brought home the Heisman Trophy, but his teammates don't care. The Tigers chose to give sophomore cornerback Tyrann Mathieu the Charles McClendon Award as LSU's most valuable player for the 2011 season at the team's annual awards banquet. Mathieu was also named one of five permanent team captains as voted on by the team. He is joined on the list of captains by quarterback Jordan Jefferson, offensive guard Will Blackwell, cornerback Morris Claiborne and safety Brandon Taylor. Senior quarterback Jarrett Lee took a share of the Jeff Boss Unsung Hero Award for contributions to the team with the least amount of recognition. Lee shared the award with linebacker Ryan Baker, center/guard T-Bob Hebert and defensive tackle Bennie Logan. See the full list of award winners here.
News roundup: Mann talks Daisy Petals and Mushroom Clouds on NPR today … N.O. business and maritime groups partnering on economic development strategies
On the air: One might say everything is coming up daisies for LSU Manship School of Mass Communication professor Robert Mann. His book, Daisy Petals and Mushroom Clouds: LBJ, Barry Goldwater and the Ad That Changed American Politics, has taken him across the country in promotional appearances, and today he'll be on NPR's Talk of the Nation at 1:30 p.m. to discuss the book as part of the show's "Political Junkie" segment. The local NPR affiliate is WRKF at 89.3 FM. The book discusses the infamous "Peace, Little Girl" ad from Lyndon Johnson's 1964 presidential campaign, which featured a young girl picking flowers leading up to a nuclear explosion. It cast a deep, emotional contrast between the campaigns of Johnson and Republican opponent Barry Goldwater, and is considered a landmark in political advertising. You can learn more about the book, which was published this fall by LSU Press, by clicking here; and you can watch a recent CBS interview with Mann here.
On the water: The New Orleans Business Alliance and the maritime industry serving the Port of New Orleans have signed an agreement to promote greater collaboration between the two as it relates to economic development. Alliance President/CEO Rodrick Miller and Michael Kearney, chair of the New Orleans Board of Trade, signed the Memorandum of Understanding Tuesday evening. The Board of Trade will provide the business alliance with guidance, assistance and data pertaining to members in the maritime industry. The measures will ensure an allied effort between the business community and the Port of New Orleans on issues related to economic development, the groups say.
An item in Tuesday's Daily Report PM edition stated library Director David Farrar has filed a lawsuit against the East Baton Rouge Library Board of Control for "alleged illegal termination of employment." The library's assistant director, Mary Stein, clarifies that the suit has not been filed, but is prospective and will be filed in the event that Farrar is fired, which has not occurred.