Daily Report

This Morning's Headlines / Wed, November 28, 2012

'Business Report' unveils 2012 Forty Under 40 honorees

Since 1994, Business Report has been spotlighting young, rising stars of the Capital Region with its annual Forty Under 40 honors. More than 230 nominations and applications were submitted to Business Report for consideration this year, and prominent members of the business community were involved in the selection process. Among the honorees this year, 30 are men and 10 are women, and 90% are in their 30s. The youngest person on the list is 26. The oldest is 39. Some other interesting statistical notes about this year's honorees: About two-thirds have pets, 97.5% use smartphones, 82.5% own a home in the Capital Region, and 72.5% are Louisiana natives. They come from a wide variety of backgrounds and professions, but they all have one thing in common: Each is playing a distinct role in the community. See who made the Forty Under 40 list this year, and learn some essential information about all of them in their profiles from the new issue of Business Report. It's all available here.

Planner: Southdowns needs a neighborhood plan

FuturEBR, the East Baton Rouge Parish's new comprehensive land use plan, provides a broad outline as to how various areas should look. But it doesn't provide a detailed blueprint for every neighborhood. "The planning document is meant to be a guide," says Camille Manning-Broome, director of planning with CPEX, who spoke about implementation of the FuturEBR plan at a 2012 Louisiana Smart Growth Summit seminar on Tuesday. "But it's a guide that changes with time. Things constantly need to be evaluated and re-evaluated through public discourse." Cities that plan successfully have a big-picture document, like FuturEBR, then drill down to the ground level, she says. Manning-Broome suggests a more detailed plan for the Southdowns area could be applied to resolve controversies over specific parcels, such as the possible rezoning of a property at the corner of Perkins Road and Stuart Avenue for a medical office. "What's really needed for that area is a neighborhood plan," she says. A Metro Council representative, a neighborhood group, or city-parish planners could initiate the effort. As an example, she cites a detailed plan for Old South Baton Rouge that CPEX helped create. While FuturEBR's land-use map depicts Southdowns as low-density residential, with primarily single-family homes, the map is only one component of any planning or zoning decision, says Ryan Holcomb, planning project coordinator for the city-parish Planning Commission. Surrounding land uses, trends in the area, and proximity to a highway are among the other considerations. —David Jacobs

Third Street building slated for renovation

The roughly 4,000-square-foot building at 336 Third St. in downtown Baton Rouge that, until a week ago, was home to Riverside Patty for the past 30 years, is slated to undergo a significant renovation as negotiations with potential new tenants get under way. "It needs some work. So we’re going to go in there and kind of gut it to a large extent, and then, depending on the tenant, renovate it to suit their needs," says building owner Gordon LeBlanc Jr. "We plan on beginning the renovation in the next month or two and getting a new tenant in there a couple months after that." LeBlanc says a wall that currently divides the interior will be taken out to "open the building up a little and give people a better feel for its possibilities." A number of potential tenants have already expressed interest in the location, LeBlanc says. "We’re open to a number of uses, and we have been talking to a couple people who are interested, but we’ve not reached an agreement with one." Riverside Patty owner Nader Tahmasebi closed his original downtown restaurant (a second location off Siegen Lane is still open) on Wednesday, Nov. 21, because he couldn’t work out a new lease deal with LeBlanc. Also, he says, revenue had been siphoned off in recent years from the increase in competition from food trucks. You can read more about Riverside Patty’s closing from Daily Report here. —Steve Sanoski

College accrediting body questions merger of top LSU jobs

The LSU governing board's decision to merge two of the system's top jobs has raised concerns within the Georgia-based organization that accredits Southern colleges, which is pressing for details about the changes. The Associated Press reports that leaders of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools are questioning whether LSU officials are in compliance with accreditation standards. They outlined concerns in emails and a letter to LSU officials. At issue are the dual appointment of William Jenkins as interim chancellor of LSU's flagship campus and interim president of the LSU System and the board's plan to consolidate the positions. SACS officials say a merger of roles needs approval from its Commission on Colleges before it can be done. Jenkins and LSU leaders say they are providing more information to SACS and are in compliance with accreditation standards. Read a recent Business Report story on the leadership consolidation issue here.

Voucher lawsuit to be heard in B.R. today

Lawyers for unions and school boards challenging Gov. Bobby Jindal's statewide voucher program are making their pitch to Judge Tim Kelley in Baton Rouge today that the program should be shut down. Two statewide teacher unions and 43 school boards say the voucher program violates the state constitution by allowing tax dollars to be spent on sending children to private schools. They argue the Louisiana Constitution does not allow for payment of the program to come through the public school funding formula, and they claim lawmakers didn't follow the process for passing the applicable laws. Jindal and Superintendent of Education John White say the program were funded and created in line with the constitution and state law. More than 4,900 students are enrolled in 117 private schools with vouchers.

Report: Louisiana among states with lowest average mortgage

If you're the average Louisianan, your monthly mortgage payment is $786, and that's about 23% of your total household income (which is roughly $41,700). Those figures come from a new report by online lending exchange firm LendingTree that ranks all 50 states and Washington, D.C., based on the average monthly mortgage payment. On it, Louisiana is included in the 10 states with the lowest average payment, and ranks No. 44 overall. Washington, D.C., tops the ranking, with an average mortgage of $1,641 (or 31% of the average household income), followed by Hawaii and California. Nebraska has the lowest average mortgage, at $711. According to the report, Louisiana is also home to the lowest average credit score in the nation, at 729. You can check out a map of average mortgage rates by state online here, and get more a more detailed look at the numbers here.

Today's poll question: How much is your monthly home mortgage?

News roundup: Renowned researcher joins The Water Institute of the Gulf … Three BP employees to be arraigned in oil spill probe today … State issues proposal request for establishment of 'reverse auctions' process

Current affairs: The Water Institute of the Gulf has hired Mead Allison as director of physical processes and sediment systems. Allison comes to the Baton Rouge-based nonprofit science institute from the University of Texas at Austin, where he served as associate director of the Institute for Geophysics in the Jackson School of Geosciences. He has researched river delta systems for nearly 25 years and is recognized as one of the foremost experts on the Mississippi River's sediment transport processes, says The Water Institute, which has more on Allison's hire at its website here.

On the stand: Two BP rig supervisors and a former BP executive were scheduled to be arraigned today on criminal charges stemming from the deadly Deepwater Horizon rig explosion and the company's response to the massive 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. BP well site leaders Robert Kaluza and Donald Vidrine were indicted this month on manslaughter charges in the death of 11 rig workers. The federal indictment accuses them of disregarding abnormal, high-pressure readings that should have been glaring indications of trouble just before the blowout of BP's Macondo well. The full story is here.

Buy it now: The Office of State Purchasing has issued a request for proposals from private-sector service providers to establish and conduct "reverse auctions" for goods and services bought by the state. "A reverse auction is designed to save taxpayer dollars because, unlike ordinary auctions in which buyers compete and drive up prices, vendors participating in a reverse auction will compete in a real-time, online environment that drives prices down," says Commissioner of Administration Kristy Nichols. The RFP is available online here.

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