Daily Report

This Morning's Headlines / Fri, February 15, 2013


Police chief says in affidavit only one officer escorted Farrakhan

Following the visit Nation of Islam minister Louis Farrakhan made to Southern University in October, Baton Rouge Police Chief Dewayne White signed an affidavit stating that "Only one Baton Rouge Police officer accompanied State Police" in the department's "routine involvement" in the escort of Farrakhan from New Orleans. Mayor Kip Holden says in a letter outlining his reasons for firing White released Wednesday that the police chief was not truthful about the "the lack of overtime required for the detail," among other accusations. In the affidavit, which White apparently wrote and signed following Metro Council member Mike Walker's campaign advertisement criticizing the mayor and police department for escorting Farrakhan, the police chief says it is departmental policy to escort public and controversial figures. "This includes insuring [sic] the safety of public figures that may be controversial and may invite a threat to their safety and the safety of the general public," White wrote. He says Walker was "ignorant at best" to insinuate the police department was "relegated to the position of chauffeur" for Farrakhan. There is no date on the affidavit, which was obtained through a public records request. White's attorney, Jill Craft, had mentioned during a news conference last week that the police chief signed the affidavit. White will appeal his firing in a public hearing at 9 a.m. Monday on the third floor of City Hall, 222 St. Louis St. —Adam Pearson

Alvarez scrapping plans for offices at Jamestown

Changing market conditions have prompted builder Carlos Alvarez to change his plans for a portion of Jamestown that was originally intended for office space. Instead, the developer wants to build 51 single-family homes on the 8-acre tract. Alvarez has filed a revised plan for the Jamestown Square portion of his planned unit development on Perkins Road with the Planning Commission, and says the new plan is a better use of the land. "I don't want to say there is no market for the office space," says Alvarez, who originally hoped to develop 17 office buildings in the square, each between 10,000 and 12,000 square feet. "But it's a difficult market right now. For us being home builders, this was a better avenue to get that land developed." The homes in the revised plan will be zero-lot line homes, but will have more upscale amenities and amenity options than other homes in the development. Prices will range from $275,000 to $300,000. Plans for the 108-acre Jamestown, which has 280 homes built so far and 48 undeveloped lots, also call for retail development. Alvarez says he has several promising leads but no deals just yet. —Stephanie Riegel

Administration weighs debt restructuring

Commissioner of Administration Kristy Nichols says the Jindal administration is looking at ways to restructure Louisiana's debt to keep dollars flowing for state construction projects, even as the state hovers near its debt ceiling. Refinancing debt to take advantage of low interest rates is one option being considered. Nichols says the administration will ask the Bond Commission next week for approval to bring on a financial adviser to help chart the plans. The state borrows money to pay for construction projects through bond sales to investors, with the debt paid off with interest over decades. But Louisiana has a constitutional limit on debt, and the state is $22 million away from hitting its $605 million debt ceiling, the amount allowed for annual debt-repayment requirements. State Treasurer John Kennedy says the decisions could have implications on Louisiana's credit ratings. He says he'd suggest scrapping, or at least delaying, some projects that haven't begun and that aren't urgent needs. However, Nichols says the administration won't support stalling projects already given lines of credit and doesn't anticipate any delays with planned construction.

Research firm: Raising Cane's No. 1

Baton Rouge-based Raising Cane's Chicken Fingers was ranked the No. 1 quick-service restaurant chain in the nation for 2012 by a national food service research firm, the company announced Thursday. According to the Sandelman & Associates Quick-Track study, Cane's scored the top overall honors along with several first-place awards in the chicken-chain category, such as ingredient quality, accuracy of filling orders and convenience of locations. The 2012 awards are based on surveys of more than 110,000 quick-service restaurant customers covering 1.4 million fast-food visits in over 90 U.S. media markets. Consumers are asked to provide feedback on 16 attributes of their dining experience. According to the study, in 2012 fully 63% Raising Cane's customers rated their most recent visit "excellent" overall (rating of "5" on a 5-point scale), the company says.

Airlines merger may lead to service cuts

The airline industry took a decisive step toward greater concentration Thursday with the announcement that American Airlines and US Airways have agreed to merge, forming the nation's biggest airline, The New York Times reports. The merged airline, to be called American, leaves just three major carriers, including Delta Air Lines and United Airlines, able to offer extensive domestic and international service. But while airline executives argue that mergers are good for passengers because they bring more service to more destinations, some economists and consumer advocates warn that consolidation comes at a price for travelers. With fewer carriers, passengers have fewer options, and fares and fees are now more likely to go up, particularly for flights between midsize cities. And more cities, especially smaller ones, can expect to see further reductions in service. "It's much easier to have tacit collusion with just three airlines," says George Hoffer, a transportation economist at the University of Richmond. The last time the Justice Department challenged a merger was the proposed combination of United Airlines and US Airways in 2001. That merger was rejected on the grounds that it would reduce choice and possibly lead to higher fares. Since then, regulators have taken a different view, focusing on whether a merger would decrease competition on specific routes.

'225 Dine': New food truck puts barbecue on wheels

Where can you find cochon de lait-along with chicken, ribs and sausage-waiting on the street corner? New food truck Big Los' Chicken n Ribs aims to please with a menu of delicious, fresh-made barbecue. Racks of smoking meat make it easy to follow your nose to owner Carlos Decuir's truck, which turns out everything from pulled pork to whole barbecued chicken. Decuir, who holds down a day job in the insurance industry, says he was driven to start the truck through his passion for good food. "I've been cooking since I was 14," he says. "I love to cook." Already the new truck is appearing at local events. Read about Big Los' Chicken n Ribs and get more local culinary news from the new 225 Dine e-newsletter here.

News roundup: 'Billboard': Voodoo Fest sold … Baton Rouge High alum wins 'Troublemaker Award' … HP to adopt Android for mobile devices

When the music's over: Voodoo Fest founder Stephen Rehage isn't commenting on a Billboard magazine report that he has sold the festival he launched in New Orleans City Park in 1999, according to The Times-Picayune. The festival, formally known as the Voodoo Music + Arts Experience, was reportedly purchased by media mogul Robert F. X. Sillerman's SFX Entertainment.

Standing up for science: Zack Kopplin, a Rice University student who graduated from Baton Rouge Magnet High, has won the "Troublemaker Award" for his fight to repeal the Louisiana Science Education Act, according to a press release. The award, which comes with a $10,000 cash prize, was founded by a Russian-born American angel investor and entrepreneur.

Drastic measures: Having failed to carve out a place for itself in the post-PC era, Hewlett-Packard is throwing a "Hail Mary pass" by adopting Google's Android operating system to run a series of upcoming mobile devices, readwrite reports. HP's first Android device will be a high-end tablet that is powered by NVIDIA's Tegra 4 chip, and it could be announced soon, according to two sources familiar with the matter.

Today's poll: Do you think former Baltimore Ravens offensive coordinator Cam Cameron is a good choice for the same position at LSU?

Editor's note: John Maginnis is on vacation today. LaPolitics will return next week.

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