Daily Report

This Morning's Headlines / Wed, March 13, 2013

Grant funds sought to target crime in 70802

While the new city-parish crime-fighting initiative known as the Baton Rouge Area Violence Elimination program, or BRAVE, targets violent criminals in the 70805 ZIP code, District Attorney Hillar Moore III and Mayor Kip Holden's office have applied for three additional federal grants worth a total of nearly $1.7 million to focus on other trouble spots around Baton Rouge. Two of the grants in particular would be used to bring targeted policing and beefed-up patrols to the 70802 ZIP code, which is adjacent to 70805 in northwest Baton Rouge. The two ZIP codes collectively account for nearly half the city's crime, Moore says, despite comprising just 3.5 square miles and having just 13,800 residents. The grant application notes that additional policing is needed in those areas, particularly as BRAVE cracks down on known drug gangs and repeat offenders in 70805. Data shows that "as crime goes up in 70805 it goes down in 70802 and vice versa," the application reads. "GIS mapping clearly demonstrates that there are a number of active crime 'groups' that simply move across the artificial zip code barrier from the Istrouma neighborhood in 70805 to the bordering Eden Park, Greenville Extension and Midtown neighborhoods in 70802." Moore hopes to know whether Baton Rouge will get the grant funds in the next couple of months. In the meantime, he says, law enforcement is preparing for BRAVE's first "call in" of dozens of targeted offenders from 70805 who have been identified as key players in the area's crime problem. —Stephanie Riegel

U.S. Chamber lobbyist in B.R. blasts Congress, Obama

The chief lobbyist for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce sharply attacked Congress and the Obama administration at BRAC's annual shareholders meeting this morning, bemoaning increased partisan gridlock and polarization in Washington, D.C. Yet Bruce Josten, executive vice president of government affairs with the U.S. Chamber, offered a glimmer of hope that successful tax reform is possible. "I think this session may be different," says Josten, who was tapped to give the keynote Tuesday afternoon after U.S. Chamber president and CEO Thomas Donohue had to cancel his scheduled appearance due to illness. "There are some signs that an appetite to actually do something is appearing. I think the next few months in particular are going to matter in terms of how much political goodwill and trust between the two sides is available to move forward." Josten says that's going to depend largely on the spending and tax debates over the next few months. "The table is already being set now," he says, adding that both sides want to "eliminate tax expenditures [and] deductions, close loopholes, raise revenue." —April Castro

Red Six Media graduating from LSU tech center, moving downtown

Advertising agency Red Six Media is graduating from LSU's Louisiana Business & Technology Center after more than three years in business and is taking the company's offices downtown. "It's a very exciting time for us. When we started in 2009, we didn't know the first thing about running a business; but with a lot of late nights, hard work, and the help and guidance of the advisers and staff of the LBTC, we were able to start a company in one of the worst economic years on record," says Joe Martin, one of three principals of the firm, along with Matt Dardenne and Kristen Morrison—all LSU graduates. The firm will move its offices to 315 Third St. Since entering the LSU Student Incubator at the LBTC in 2009, Red Six Media has "grown into a reputable agency generating more than a half million dollars in revenue in 2012," says Jennifer Fowler, director of the LSU Student Incubator at the LBTC.

La. lawmakers holding hearing on Medicaid expansion

State lawmakers are holding a hearing this morning to discuss the pros and cons of expanding Louisiana's Medicaid program to cover more uninsured adults. The Senate and House insurance committees kicked off the hearing at 9:30 this morning to get information about the federal health care law that allows for the expansion. Though several states with Republican governors who vowed not to participate have since relented and accepted the expansion, Gov. Bobby Jindal has steadfastly opposed the expansion under the Affordable Care Act. Lawmakers, however, haven't voted on the idea. A bill has been filed to authorize the expansion, for consideration in the upcoming legislative session that begins April 8. Jindal calls the Medicaid expansion an inappropriate growth of an inefficient, government-run health program and too costly for states, though the federal government would pick up the bulk of the price tag. Estimates are that as many as 400,000 more Louisiana residents could be eligible for Medicaid under an expansion.

Today's poll question: Do you think Gov. Bobby Jindal will reverse his opposition to the state’s participation in the Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act?

LSU salary database launched by student newspaper

An updated database detailing the salaries of all LSU faculty members, searchable by name, job title, university building and department, is being launched today by the university's student newspaper, The Daily Reveille. The database also includes interactive maps displaying the highest and lowest salaries by building, department and job title. A quick search of the database reveals the average salary for an LSU faculty member is $68,389, while the finance department is the most profitable department and the Football Operations Building houses the highest-paid employees. Bryan Stewart, managing editor of external media for the student newspaper, says completion of the updated database is a "huge step in our continuing effort in shifting toward digital journalism and satisfying the increasing demand for online content." It will be continuously updated, he says. You can check it out here.

Fire burns after tug, barge hit La. gas pipeline

A fire that ignited when a gas pipeline was hit by a tugboat pushing an oil barge burned into the morning hours today in a bayou south of New Orleans amid reports that oil had leaked into the water. There was still liquid petroleum gas in the 19-mile pipeline, and authorities were waiting for it to burn out, Coast Guard Petty Officer Alex Washington says. Coast Guard Ensign Tanner Stiehl says the collision happened Tuesday at about 6 p.m. on Bayou Perot, in a marshy area near where Lafourche and Jefferson parishes meet, about 30 miles south of New Orleans. The tugboat and barge were engulfed in flames and heavy smoke billowed from the scene. "All crew members were able to exit the tug; the captain reportedly suffered second- to third-degree degree burns," the Coast Guard says in a news release today. Stiehl says the barge was carrying oil and that "there have been reports of oil in the water." Washington says authorities later today will have a better idea of how much oil has leaked from the barge. It was holding 92,000 gallons of crude oil, the Coast Guard said. The tugboat had 1,000 gallons of diesel fuel. WWL-TV reported that the tug's captain was transferred to the burn center at Baton Rouge General Hospital. The Associated Press has more details in the full story here.

Lawsuit against Jindal considered over reef money

Gov. Bobby Jindal's appointees on the state's wildlife and fisheries regulatory panel are threatening to sue the governor's administration, The Associated Press reports. At issue is Jindal's continuing diversion of millions of dollars donated by oil companies—specifically to turn old drilling rigs into artificial reefs—to instead pay for other items across state government. Jindal proposes using nearly $21 million from the fund for public colleges in the 2013-14 budget that he submitted to lawmakers. That would nearly drain the fund. Billy Broussard, vice chairman of the Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Commission, says if the fund gets raided again without plans for repayment, the commission intends to file a lawsuit. Sean Lansing, a spokesman for Jindal, says the administration is continuing negotiations with commission members about the money, without offering further details.

Tickets still available for 2013 Business Awards & Hall of Fame Banquet

Get your tickets for Tuesday's 2013 Business Awards & Hall of Fame Banquet, presented by Business Report and Junior Achievement, before they sell out. The banquet is set to take place from 6:30 to 9 p.m. at Crowne Plaza, 4728 Constitution Ave. Tickets are $80 each, or $750 for a table of 10. Complete details for the event and tickets can be found here. This year's winners—who include James "Jim" Bernhard (Hall of Fame Laureate), Teri Fontenot (Businessperson of the Year), Brandon Landry and Jack Warner (Young Businesspersons of the Year), Sparkhound (Company of the Year, 100 or more employees) and GoTech (Company of the Year, less than 100 employees)—are all profiled in the current issue of Business Report. You can find all the profiles here.

News roundup: U.S. retail sales up solid 1.1% in February … GOP sends mixed signals on Obama's outreach effort … Entrepreneurs float idea for a startup colony anchored in the Pacific

Ring it up: Americans spent at the fastest pace in five months in February, boosting retail spending 1.1% compared with January. About half the jump reflected higher gas prices, but even excluding gas purchases, retail sales rose 0.6%. The report from the Commerce Department today shows that Americans kept spending last month despite higher Social Security taxes that took effect this year. The retail sales report is the government's first look each month at consumer spending, which drives about 70% of economic activity. More details can be found in the full story here.

Modern diplomacy: House Republicans are sending mixed signals in agreeing to meet with President Barack Obama for talks over the budget impasse, while the president is conceding that a political accommodation may be impossible. On the one hand, many Republicans who long have chided Obama for failing to engage their party on the nation's biggest problems are applauding his newfound outreach. On the other hand, neither side is backing down from entrenched positions that have prevented deals in the past. The Associated Press has the full story here.

Born to rock the boat: Two Silicon Valley entrepreneurs, frustrated by the shortage of visas that keep some of the world's brightest science and engineering minds from building companies on dry U.S. soil, have hatched a plan to build a startup colony in the Pacific Ocean. Max Marty and Dario Mutabdzija say they plan to park a cruise ship 12 nautical miles off the coast of Northern California in international waters. Foreign-born entrepreneurs would live and work on the ship, building startups within commuting distance of Silicon Valley. They wouldn't have to get work visas, which are hard to come by. They would just need business tourism visas that would let them ferry back and forth to Silicon Valley once or twice a week. The Los Angeles Times has the story and a rendering of the floating startup here.

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