Daily Report

This Morning's Headlines / Fri, January 04, 2013

CATS board shakeup likely

The new year will potentially bring several new faces to the board overseeing CATS. Because of their staggered terms, four of the nine CATS board members are up for reappointment by the Metro Council, including chairman Jared Loftus, Dalton Honore, Deborah Roe and Marla Williams. As of Thursday's noon deadline, 16 hopefuls had submitted their names for consideration, including all four who currently fill the slots and are eligible for reappointment. It's likely to be a contentious issue when the council takes it up at its first meeting next week. Community leaders have made plain their displeasure with the existing board—save for Loftus, who appears to have broad support—and have said they want fresh blood on the board. "We definitely want to see good board members appointed," says BRAC CEO Adam Knapp. "We have been looking for folks to serve and making calls to folks to encourage them to do it." Sources tell Daily Report other community leaders have also been working behind the scenes to help change the makeup of the board. Council members, who say they are starting to get calls from interested nominees and their supporters, agree that CATS needs to change. "We need some new people who are willing to roll their sleeves up and get their hands dirty," says Councilman Joel Bo, adding that he supports Loftus but not the other three. "This is not a board where you can [only] go to a meeting once a month." —Stephanie Riegel

Local lawyer renominated for federal judgeship in Baton Rouge

President Barack Obama has renominated Shelly Deckert Dick to fill a vacancy on the federal bench in Baton Rouge. Dick, a Baton Rouge attorney, originally was nominated in April 2012. She is one of 33 candidates for federal judgeships who were renominated Thursday by Obama. Dick answered questions before a Senate panel last month, but the full Senate did not vote on her nomination before the conclusion of the 112th Congress. The president says in a statement that many of the nominations "could have and should have been confirmed" before the Senate adjourned. Dick was nominated to fill the seat in the Middle District of Louisiana left vacant by the death of Chief U.S. District Judge Ralph Tyson. She is a founding partner at the Baton Rouge law firm of Forrester & Dick.

LaPolitics by Maginnis: Landrieu starts election cycle with staff shuffle; legislator may be joining administration

U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu has begun her re-election cycle with a staff shuffle that gives her a "war-time consigliore," to borrow from The Godfather. Landrieu has swapped duties of her two top aides, with Don Cravins Jr., a former state senator, becoming her chief of staff, while former chief Jane Campbell assumes Cravins' job as staff director for the Senate Small Business Committee that Landrieu chairs. "Starting an election cycle, it's helpful that Don is from Louisiana and was an elected official," says a Landrieu aide.

—A vacancy in the Department of Veterans Affairs could be filled by Rep. Nick Lorusso, R-New Orleans. With the retirement in December of Lane Carson, legal counsel David LaCerte was named interim secretary by Gov. Bobby Jindal. That leaves open the legal counsel job, which attorney Lorusso, who is a lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Army Reserve Judge Advocate General Corps, is a candidate to fill, according to some Republican legislators. Lorusso did not return a call for comment.

They said it: "Not very many good things happen at 2 in the morning." —U.S. Rep. Steve Scalise, R-Jefferson, on the fiscal cliff–averting vote, in The Times-Picayune

(John Maginnis publishes LaPolitics Weekly, a newsletter on Louisiana politics, at LaPolitics.com.)

Editor’s note: This column has been changed since its original publication. An earlier version incorrectly identified David LeCerte's departure as a resignation. He has retired.

Today's poll question: Do you think U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu will be re-elected in 2014?

U.S. economy adds 155K jobs; unemployment rate stays at 7.8%

Employers across America added 155,000 jobs in December, a gain that shows hiring held up during tense negotiations over the so-called fiscal cliff in Washington, D.C. However, the job growth wasn't enough to push down the unemployment rate, which stayed at 7.8% last month, according to a Labor Department report released today. November's rate was revised higher from an initially reported 7.7%. Stock futures rose modestly after the report was released. Robust hiring in manufacturing and construction fueled the December gains. Construction firms added 30,000 jobs, the most in 15 months. That increase likely reflects additional hiring needed to rebuild after Superstorm Sandy and also solid gains in home building that have contributed to a housing recovery. Manufacturers gained 25,000, the most in nine months. Even with the gains, hiring is far from accelerating. Employers added an average of 153,000 jobs a month last year, matching the monthly average in 2011. Employers added 1.84 million jobs in 2012, the same as the previous year. The unemployment figures come from a separate survey of households, while the job counts are derived from a survey of businesses. The Associated Press has more details in the full story here.

'225 Dine': Plan your spring garden now

Louisiana's nearly year-round growing season means there's no rest for backyard gardeners. According to the LSU AgCenter, January is a busy time for home growers who have the green light on planting first or second crops of turnips, radishes, potatoes, spinach, English peas, peppers and other vegetables. The AgCenter's trustworthy Louisiana Vegetable Planting Guide is available online here. It's too early, of course, to plant the mother of all backyard veggies, tomatoes, but it is the right time to seed them, especially if you're into heirloom varieties, says AgCenter horticulturist Kiki Fontenot, who recommends ordering seeds now from reputable companies such as Johnny's or Burpee, but cautions consumers that these companies run out of heirloom stock as the winter progresses. Moreover, be sure to order heirloom varieties that perform well in the Deep South, such as Cherokee Purple and Black Cherry. Heirlooms bring intense flavor and juicy deliciousness, but they do require more handholding when it comes to pests and bacteria since they're not bred to be disease resistant. —Maggie Heyn Richardson Get more culinary news in the new 225 Dine e-newsletter here.

'60 Minutes' to explore digital evolution of 'Times-Picayune' on Sunday

On Sunday, CBS's 60 Minutes will air a story on the declining nature of print journalism by highlighting the transformation that has taken place at The Times-Picayune since the New Orleans newspaper scaled back its print publication schedule in October and increased emphasis on its online product. The story, titled "The Paper" and reported by veteran journalist Morley Safer, is slated to air at 6 p.m. In a preview of the story CBS released on Thursday, 60 Minutes says the new business model the New Orleans newspaper is experimenting with will be "a fate many more newspapers face as the Internet becomes the source of almost instantaneous news." In a post Thursday, Times-Picayune columnist Dave Walker says Safer visited New Orleans in September to do interviews for the segment, shooting footage inside the newspaper's Howard Avenue newsroom and production facility. Among those interviewed for the story were Mayor Mitch Landrieu, editor Jim Amoss and former newspaper columnist Lolis Eric Elie. You can check out a video preview of the broadcast at the 60 Minutes website here.

News roundup: Caddo commissioners keep term limits … 5.5M pounds of explosives moved at northwest La. site … U.S. service firms grow by most in 10 months

It's all about time: Caddo voters won't be asked to consider term limits for their commissioners this spring, reports the Shreveport Times. The Parish Commission voted Thursday against a proposal to remove language from the home rule charter that limits commissioners to serving three consecutive four-year terms. If it had been approved, the measure would have gone before voters. The full story can be found here.

Finishing the job: State police say that 5.5 million pounds of explosive propellant have been moved at the northwestern Louisiana industrial site where the material was found to be improperly stored several weeks ago. On Thursday, crews moved about 93,600 pounds of it, bringing the total safely moved and stored to around 5.5 million. Officials estimated that roughly 6 million pounds was found at the site of an explosives recycler at Camp Minden in Webster Parish. The effort was set to resume this morning.

Order up: U.S. service firms' activity expanded in December by the most in nearly a year, driven by a jump in new orders and hiring. The Institute for Supply Management says its index of non-manufacturing activity rose to 56.1 in December from 54.7 in November. That's the highest level since February and above the 12-month average of 54.7. Any reading above 50 indicates expansion. The report measures growth in industries that cover 90% of the workforce, including retail, construction, health care and financial services.

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  • Of the nearly 36,000 Louisianans who registered to vote in the past two months, roughly half did not align themselves with either the Republican or Democratic parties. What do you think this is a reflection of?
  • It's a reflection of voters' growing frustration with both parties.
  • 70%
  • It's a reflection of voters' increasing unwillingness to label themselves politically.
  • 18%
  • It's a reflection of a shift in Louisiana's political culture away from party affiliations.
  • 8%
  • I don't know.
  • 4%
  • Total Votes: 770