BRAF-backed poll: Consolidate law enforcement
In a recent poll underwritten by the Baton Rouge Area Foundation, 60% of East Baton Rouge Parish residents said they support consolidating the EBRP Sheriff's Office and the Baton Rouge Police Department. The poll results make up part of BRAF's annual "Baton Rouge CityStats" report, which tracks more than 70 quality-of-life indicators. The same poll found that 43% think the area in which they live is "getting better," while 30% think it is "getting worse." The poll found 58% of residents feel safe walking alone at night in their neighborhoods, while 25% reported being a victim of crime. Residents are divided on gun control, with 52% saying they would be against a parish-level assault weapons ban, but 51% voicing support for a ban on high-capacity magazines. On gay marriage, 47% are for making it legal, compared to 45% against. Fire protection and the East Baton Rouge Parish Library received high marks for effectiveness. More than half of residents—56%—said "progress" in East Baton Rouge is too slow. LSU's Public Policy Research Lab conducted the poll of 360 landlines and 153 cell phones; the margin of error is 4.3%. Read the report here.
Today's poll question: Do you think the quality of life in Baton Rouge is getting better?
Four firms apply to be CATS program manager
Four transportation firms have submitted proposals to serve as CATS program manager, which will be selected later this summer to oversee long-promised service upgrades and improvements to the bus system. The firms include: URS, a publicly traded company based in San Francisco with more than 50,000 employees in 50 countries worldwide; SJB Group, a local company that does planning, engineering, environmental and site-development work; MV Transportation, a transit management company operating 200 transit systems in 28 states and two foreign countries; and Veolia Transportation, a transit management company with 160 clients worldwide, including New Orleans' Regional Transit Authority. Last month, CATS issued a RFQ for a program manager to help implement service upgrades that voters were promised when they approved a dedicated property tax for CATS. Chief among those improvements is the change from a hub-and-spoke to a grid system and the construction of several new bus shelters. The RFQs have not been made available at this time, so it is unknown how much the four firms have proposed charging for their services and what the scope of their work would entail. —Stephanie Riegel
B.R. gas prices post penny decline on the week
With a gallon of regular unleaded gas selling for $3.29 on average in Baton Rouge as of this morning, gas prices are down 1 cent on the week, according to the AAA Daily Fuel Gauge Report. However, today's price is also one penny higher than it was both one month and one year ago. The Louisiana average, at $3.31 per gallon, is well below the U.S. average of $3.63. The state average is flat from a week ago, as well as a month ago, and is 2 cents higher than one year ago. The U.S. average is up one penny from a week ago, 6 cents on the month and 9 cents on the year. Louisiana currently has the fifth-lowest average price of all the states. South Carolina motorists are paying the lowest price in the country, $3.20 per gallon, while Hawaii has the highest average price, $4.35. A total of six states have averages over $4 per gallon. You can check out the complete AAA Daily Fuel Gauge Report here.
BRAC releases overview of legislative session
While BRAC's top priorities for the legislative session that ended last week included workforce education reform, improving K-12 education, and preserving economic development incentives, the organization says it was also pleased to see gains in other areas, such as crime reduction strategies and health care. BRAC, which released a full analysis of the session this morning, concludes that it "was less successful and productive than prior years but produced a few incremental gains for economic development issues." On crime reduction, BRAC applauds the passage of House Bill 256, which puts on the Nov. 4 ballot a constitutional amendment that would make it easier for redevelopment authorities around the state to seize blighted properties that have unpaid property tax liens against them. "Blighted properties can harbor criminals, criminal activity, and fugitives. They also create an appearance of community and neighborhood decline, which is viewed by experts as fostering criminal activity," BRAC says in its analysis. On the health care front, BRAC says it was pleased with the passage of House Bill 549, which it says will create the framework for the establishment of a destination health care market in the Capital Region.
Food stamps used by 21% of Louisianans
Slightly more than one in five Louisiana residents were enrolled in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, also known as food stamps, as of March, according to the most recent figures available from the U.S. Census Bureau. With total enrollment at 951,535, roughly 21% of all Louisianans are relying on food stamps to make ends meet. Only Washington, D.C, at 23%, and Mississippi, at 22%, have a higher percentage of their population on food stamps. Enrollment in Tennessee, New Mexico and Oregon is also at 21%. As The Wall Street Journal reports, 8% of all Americans were enrolled in the food stamp program in 1975. Nationwide participation is 15% today. Enrollment soared to 47.8 million Americans in recent months, an increase of 70%. Since 1990, the number of people using food stamps has risen by 140%. And while the Congressional Budget Office predicts unemployment will drop to 4.6% by 2017, SNAP enrollment is only expected to drop to 43.3 million people. The full story and an interactive map of food stamp use in every state can be found here.
Barksdale furloughs almost 1,400 workers
Barksdale Air Force Base officials say the nation's premier bomber base has issued 1,372 furlough letters to Department of Defense civilians working there, reports The Shreveport Times. The furloughs, similar to those used in recent years by many private-sector businesses, begin July 8 and will take workers off the payrolls at the rate of one furlough day per week for 11 weeks. A release from 2nd Bomb Wing Public Affairs says the expected savings from the Barksdale furloughs will total more than $1.6 million, with overall Department of Defense savings expected to be $1.8 billion. In addition to serving as the home of the 2nd Bomb Wing and the Air Force Reserve Command's 307th Bomb Wing and the bulk of the nation's B-52 fleet, Barksdale is home to the 8th Air Force and Air Force Global Strike Command.
News roundup: Energy emissions rose to record high in 2012, IEA says … S&P boosts outlook for U.S. government debt … Social networking dominates smartphone, tablet use
The price of power: The International Energy Agency says the world's energy-related carbon dioxide emissions rose 1.4% in 2012 to a record high of 31.6 gigatons, even as the U.S. posted its lowest emissions since the mid-1990s. In a report released this morning, the IEA says China saw the largest emissions growth last year, but the increase was among the lowest seen in a decade amid investments in renewable energy and energy efficiency. The IEA says the energy sector accounts for about two-thirds of global emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases.
Prognosticators: Standard & Poor's Ratings Services is boosting its outlook for U.S. government debt, citing stable government spending levels and predicting economic improvements, it announced this morning. The credit rating service revised its outlook to "stable" from "negative," which means it's less likely to downgrade the country's debt in the near future. S&P downgraded the U.S. government's long-term credit rating in 2011 after a battle in Congress over whether to raise America's borrowing limit.
One screen leads to another: Each month, smartphone users spend an average of 9 hours and 6 minutes on social networks, while Apple iPad users devote, on average, 3 hours and 41 minutes to Facebook, Twitter and other social networks. That's according to a new report from Nielsen examining consumer use of portable devices. The time spent on social networking dwarfs that of streaming video or accessing sports, Nielsen shows in its report. The Los Angeles Times has the full story here.