This Afternoon's Headlines / Thu, March 14, 2013
Petco plans new location in Acadian Village
New renderings of the Acadian Village Shopping Center contained in a marketing brochure making the rounds among local real estate brokers show Petco as one of the center's tenants, and two Petco executives confirm the California-based company is planning to open in the center later this summer or by early fall. Pete Perez, Petco's district manager in New Orleans, says the company has finalized a lease to move into the 102,630-square-foot shopping center, which is to be located on Perkins Road and South Acadian Thruway. The store would be Petco's third in the Capital Region, along with one on Siegen Lane and another in Denham Springs. "We love being near universities," says Perez, explaining Petco's attraction to the shopping center. "The location is a natural for us, and it's a great opportunity to expand into Baton Rouge." Petco's average store typically runs about 12,500 square feet, and Perez says the Acadian Village location will be about that size. A spokesperson for Commercial Properties Realty Trust, which owns and is developing the center, says the center is elated to have Petco as a tenant. Other announced tenants are Trader Joe's, which has already announced its plans to open this fall, and restaurants Acme Oyster House and Galatoire's Bistro, both of which are already open. To see the brochure and renderings, click here. —Stephanie Riegel
Education expert says La. system destined for failure
Diane Ravitch—a former proponent of the conservative education agenda turned critic—bashed Louisiana schools today, arguing that the state's current school system is based on a radical political agenda destined for failure. "Louisiana is dismantling one of the essential institutions of our democratic society," she told attendees at today's Leaders With Vision luncheon. In a fast-paced and pointed critique of Louisiana schools, Ravitch—who's also a former U.S. Assistant Secretary of Education and current New York University research professor, education historian and author—called vouchers, charter schools and teacher merit pay programs "risky." She adds there's no scientific evidence that such initiatives work as well as supporters say they do. "This is not a conservative plan; it is a radical plan," she says. "It is reckless with children's lives and with taxpayers dollars." Ravitch, speaking ahead of BESE head Chas Roemer, rattled off a list of the best practices of nations with the highest-performing education systems, and noted: "Louisiana is not following any of the best practices." Instead, she says the state is "engaging in massive privatization schemes … designed to hand off students and taxpayer dollars to little religious schools, entrepreneurs, chain schools and for-profit corporations." Roemer acknowledged widespread weaknesses in the Louisiana public school system but defended charter schools and voucher programs. "We have to offer parents and kids choices," he said. —April Castro
Norquist: Jindal has 'boldest, most pro-growth' tax reform plan in U.S. history
The great debate over tax reform in Louisiana officially began today with Gov. Bobby Jindal unveiling the long-awaited details of his plan to overhaul the state's tax code. Jindal immediately got support from a leading voice of the right, Grover Norquist, who penned a column with Patrick Gleason for Reuters today calling Jindal's plan "the boldest, most pro-growth state tax reform in U.S. history." Norquist, a lobbyist who's perhaps best known for getting Republican lawmakers to take the Taxpayer Protection Pledge, notes many governors around the United States have proposed rate-reducing tax reforms similar to Jindal's call to eliminate personal and corporate income taxes. "But Jindal's plan sets a gold standard for pro-growth reform," reads the column. "His proposal could mean more disposable income for families while increasing the job-creating capacity of employers across the Pelican State." The column says Jindal's plan would make Louisiana more conducive to economic growth and is a model for lawmakers in other states—and Washington, D.C.—to follow. "His plan adheres to the conservative principle that the tax code should not be used to pick winners and losers in the economy. It demonstrates that the purpose of real tax reform is to make the tax code more efficient and competitive—not to raise additional revenue." You can find the full column here.
BP contractor comes up with cement samples midtrial
A lawyer for the cement contractor on the Deepwater Horizon drilling project says the company has found cement samples possibly associated with BP's Macondo well that weren't turned over to the Justice Department for testing. But Halliburton lawyer Donald Godwin told U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier today that the company believes the material found this week at its lab in Lafayette has no bearing on the ongoing trial in New Orleans over the 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. A plaintiffs' attorney countered that the samples are cement a Halliburton employee used for testing of the well before a blowout triggered a deadly explosion. In an email to the court late Wednesday, Godwin says Halliburton is investigating whether the material should have been turned over as evidence in response to subpoenas.
Census shows record 1 in 3 U.S. counties seeing population declines
A record number of U.S. counties and parishes—more than 1 in 3—are now dying off, diminished by an aging population and weakened local economies that are spurring young adults to seek jobs and create families elsewhere, according to new U.S. census estimates released today. The 2012 estimates highlight the population shifts as the U.S. encounters its most sluggish growth levels since the Great Depression. The findings also reflect the increasing economic importance of foreign-born residents as the U.S. ponders an overhaul of a major 1965 federal immigration law. Without new immigrants, many metropolitan areas—including New York City, Chicago, Detroit, Pittsburgh and St. Louis—would have posted flat or negative population growth in the last year. With a slowly improving U.S. economy, young adults are now back on the move, departing traditional big cities to test the job markets mostly in the South and West, which had sustained the biggest hits in the housing bust. Also seeing big declines now are rural and exurban areas, along with industrial sections of the Rust Belt. Census data show that 1,135 of the nation's 3,143 counties are now experiencing "natural decrease," where deaths exceed births. That's up from roughly 880 U.S. counties, or 1 in 4, in 2009. Already apparent in Japan and many European nations, natural decrease is now increasingly evident in large swaths of the U.S. Despite the eclipsing of births by deaths, the U.S. population as a whole continues to grow, boosted by immigration from abroad and relatively higher births among the mostly younger migrants from Mexico, Latin America and Asia. Many more details from today's report can be found in the full story by The Associated Press here.
Sports roundup: Tigers men's basketball team beats Georgia in SEC Tournament … LSU football expected to overcome loss of players to NFL Draft this season … Saints reportedly close to sealing deal with Keenan Lewis
Off the dribble: After amassing a 20-point lead over Georgia at the end of the first half, LSU nearly blew the lead in the second half, but managed to hold on and win 68-63 at the SEC Tournament in Nashville today. The victory means the Tigers get to face the No. 1 tournament seed, Florida, at noon on Friday. LSU's Shavon Coleman led his team's scoring with 24 points. Johnny O'Bryant scored 12 points and had 12 rebounds. Andre Stringer scored 16 points. Complete tournament scores and schedules can be found here.
Under the microscope: As part of a series looking at the 25 "most interesting teams" in college football, Yahoo! Sports.com columnist Frank Schwab—also known as Dr. Saturday—takes a look today at the LSU Tigers football team as it begins spring practice. While much has been made about the fact that 13 players left LSU for the NFL Draft after last season, Schwab says: "LSU recruits so well that there will be talent on the field no matter who wins the starting jobs. The coaches' challenge this spring is identifying which players are ready to step into bigger roles." Read Schwab's complete analysis here.
In negotiations: The New Orleans Saints may be nearing a deal with Pittsburgh Steelers unrestricted cornerback Keenan Lewis, according to a league source. The Times-Picayune is reporting the source says the two sides are "very close" to having an agreement worked out. Lewis, a New Orleans native who prepped at O.P. Walker, is visiting with the Saints today. If the 26-year-old signs with the Saints, he'll be the first free agent from another team they've picked up since the start of the free agency signing period. The full story is here.
Real estate recap: DPW reorganization recommendations coming … Capital Region home sales post 5% gain in February … WWII bombing range near Hammond at center of new lawsuit
New airline eyeing Baton Rouge
Office Parks Get a Makeover
What Families Are Spending on Prom Night