Daily Report

This Morning's Headlines / Mon, December 31, 2012


Holden to be sworn into office after midnight

Mayor Kip Holden will ring in the new year, quite literally, by taking the oath of office to begin his third term just minutes after midnight tonight. Holden's official inauguration will be Friday, but the mayor is putting his customary capstone on New Year's Eve celebrations tonight with a swearing-in ceremony at the new North Boulevard Town Square. "Most people don't realize that, according to the plan of government, the mayor must take office on Jan. 1," says Holden's political consultant, Rannah Gray, who is helping to plan the swearing in. "As [Holden] has done in his previous terms, he has decided to take the oath right away so he is ready to hit the ground running in the morning." The ceremony, which will be administered by local attorney and longtime Holden friend Leo Berggreen, will also cap the annual Historic Beauregard Town–Spanish Town New Year's Eve Celebration. Traditionally, that progressive party ends with the ringing of the bell on the State Capitol grounds. This year, revelers will have the option of taking a trolley from the dessert party to Town Square. —Stephanie Riegel

Bowling center opens in Ascension; movie theater on the way

Ascension Parish's first bowling alley, Premier Lanes Entertainment Center, opened for business Sunday to packed crowds. "It was like Disney," says Charlene Ourso, a marketing manager for Malco Bowling Division. "We had lines out to the door. We had waiting lists." Home to more than two dozen lanes, the complex on Airline Highway in Gonzales also includes an arcade, a cafť and lounge, and eventually, if everything goes according to plan, a movie theater. The company plans to break ground on the theater by fall 2013, with an opening possible before the end of the year. No decision has been made on the number of movie screens that may be included. Malco, which is based in Memphis, owns other bowling alleys, including Circle Bowl and Metro Bowl in Baton Rouge, and more than 300 theaters. But the Ascension Parish complex could be the first of Malco's to have both a bowling alley and movie theater, Ourso says. —David Jacobs

Velvet Cactus deal signed following resolution of site troubles

Nearly five months after signing a purchase agreement, two New Orleans restaurateurs have closed on their $900,000 deal to acquire the vacant building on Old Hammond Highway that formerly housed the renowned Chalet Brandt gourmet restaurant and, more recently, Another Broken Egg Cafť. That clears the way for Herb Dyer and Rusty White—owners of The Bulldog bars on Perkins Road and in New Orleans—to redevelop the property and build on it a new 4,000-square-foot restaurant called The Velvet Cactus. "The property is going to be totally redeveloped because the building is functionally obsolete," says Mark Hebert of Kurz & Hebert Commercial Real Estate, who represented Dyer and White. "The kitchen is outdated, and everything about it is inappropriate for a restaurant today." Negotiations over the transaction stalled earlier this year because of a cell phone tower on the site that would have impeded the redevelopment. Hebert says the lot was subdivided so the tower is no longer on the property. Slated to be completed in 2013, this will be the second Velvet Cactus location for Dyer and White; they opened one early this year in New Orleans' Lakeview neighborhood. —Stephanie Riegel

Area mortgage lenders association reoriented to help young homebuyers

While BRAC works to identify local employment opportunities for Capital Region graduates, the Greater Baton Rouge Mortgage Lenders Association says it wants to connect those same young people with residential growth that is sprouting in the area. "We're going to try and reach out to a lot of young, local graduates and try and keep them here," says Cristyn Hodges, the incoming 2013 president of the association. Hodges, a loan officer at Assurance Financial for nine years, says she wants to revamp the group by getting more young people involved in it and bringing together depository lenders and non-depository lenders in a collaborative working manner. "We have not done a good job of working together as a lending group," says Hodges. The top mortgage originator at Assurance Financial says local lenders have not done enough to make lending easier for homebuyers as banks have tightened their lending restrictions over the past three years. Hodges says she plans to have influential leaders speak at the lenders association's quarterly meetings about ways members can work together toward making the community more aware about the help it can get from the local association when seeking a mortgage. "You have to adapt to change," Hodges says. —Adam Pearson

Louisiana officials keep tabs on schools by subbing as teachers

Many lawmakers who make policy for elementary and secondary education in Louisiana "think our schools are still like the ones that Wally and Beaver went to, and they're not," says state Treasurer John Kennedy. To get firsthand knowledge of what public schools are really like, Kennedy moonlights as a substitute teacher. In 2004 Senate President John Alario, R-Westwego, sponsored a resolution urging statewide elected officials and legislators to experience the public school system by voluntarily substitute teaching at least three full schooldays a year. Two hours into his stint as a substitute teacher at Magnolia Woods Elementary School in Baton Rouge, Kennedy had banished one third-grader to the corner and guided the rest of the class through a writing exercise. The school's principal, Donna Wallette, popped in to quiz the students about Kennedy's regular job as the state's money manager. "Mr. Kennedy is the Louisiana state treasurer. What does treasurer mean?" she asked. Third-grader Dillon Cage's hand shot into the air. "You dig up treasure," Dillon offered. Third-grader Javiona Griffin took a different tack, asking, "Is Mr. Kennedy, like, famous?" Kennedy put an end to the questions and returned to the lesson projected onto a classroom screen. Spending the day filling in as a substitute teacher is something Kennedy has tried to do several times a year for the past nine years. Read the full story here.

Nominations for 2013 Business Awards and Hall of Fame due today

You've only got a few hours left to make your nominations for the 2013 Business Awards and Hall of Fame, presented by Business Report and Junior Achievement. The awards annually honor a Business Hall of Fame Laureate for a lifetime of achievement; Company of the Year, with one award going to a business with 100 employees or more and another going to one with fewer than 100 employees; Young Businessperson of the Year, which goes to someone 40 or younger; and Businessperson of the Year. You can nominate your company, yourself, a client, vendor or friend online here. Nominations will be accepted until 5 p.m. today. Winners will be profiled in a March issue of Business Report, and will be honored at a March 19 banquet held at the Crowne Plaza Hotel and sponsored by Franklin and Capital One Bank.

News roundup: Biden and McConnell press on with budget negotiations as midnight deadline nears … Clemson enters Chick-fil-A Bowl with sagging odds … New year, same political debate at State Capitol

Cliffhanger: Vice President Joe Biden and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell continued urgent talks today over a deal to avoid the "fiscal cliff" after Democrats offered several significant concessions on taxes, including a proposal to raise rates only on earnings over $450,000 a year. With a New Year's Eve deadline hours away, Democrats abandoned their earlier demand to raise tax rates on household income over $250,000 a year. To read more, click here.

A weak bet: Clemson has bowl issues. The Tigers were humiliated, 70-33, by West Virginia in last season's Orange Bowl and are 1-6 against the spread in their last seven bowls, including a 1-3 against-the-spread mark under Dabo Swinney. All that, combined with other big-game struggles, have created a perception that Swinney's Tigers (10-2, 8-4 ATS) are still a notch or two below college football's elite teams, like LSU. To read more, click here.

Loggerheads: As a new year starts, the political battles and debates remain largely the same at Louisiana's Capitol, with the state's financial woes stretching into their sixth year and influencing most decision making. Lawmakers will haggle again about whether to raise taxes, fees and college tuition to fill budget gaps. Gov. Bobby Jindal will continue to butt heads with conservative Republicans who criticize his spending decisions and with Democrats who believe the GOP governor is less interested in the budgetary needs of Louisiana than in how his decisions position him on the national political scene. To read more, click here.

Today's poll: How will you be celebrating New Year's Eve?

Editor's note: In observance of New Year's Day, Daily Report will not be published on Tuesday.

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