This Afternoon's Headlines / Thu, March 21, 2013
LSU presidential choice used to dealing with politics
Holden rips Marcelle's annexation idea
Metro Councilwoman C. Denise Marcelle's interest in annexing certain areas outside the city limits is a bad idea, according to Mayor Kip Holden, who says it would be cost-prohibitive and doesn't make sense. "She rarely talks to us," Holden says of Marcelle, who is increasingly at odds with the mayor politically. "She paddles her own boat without sitting down at the table and understanding that we have a budget to take care of Baton Rouge, and we have to work within the constraints of that budget." At last week's council meeting, Marcelle said she is working with the Parish Attorney's Office to determine what is involved in expanding the city's boundaries into certain unincorporated areas of the parish—specifically, Towne Center and Gardere. Marcelle says her proposal would be a way of increasing the city's property tax revenues, since unincorporated areas are not subject to municipal taxes. But Holden says annexation would also mean the city is responsible for providing more services, which at this point is not practical, he says. "We have a top-rated fire district," Holden says. "For us to provide free fire protection to Gardere would jeopardize that rating and would be cost prohibitive." Holden says he will oppose any such effort, at least for now, adding that Marcelle "has to take a broader perspective of what is going on." —Stephanie Riegel
Georges says 'Advocate' has all the resources, people it needs to compete
While sources say employees of The Advocate are on pins and needles as they await word on what the pending sale of the family-owned newspaper will mean to them, the man who may soon be their boss has at least some reassurances for them. "In my opinion that place has all the resources and all the people that it needs to compete," says New Orleans businessman John Georges, who last week signed a letter of intent to acquire the paper. "There are some great people who work there." Georges, who was at LSU's E. J. Ourso College of Business this morning for the kickoff of Lemonade Day Louisiana, says if and when the sale is finalized, he will do the same thing at The Advocate that he has done at all the companies Georges Enterprises has acquired over the years. "When we acquire a company, we enhance them," he says. "We make them competitive by giving them the resources they need to compete." Many publishing companies around the country are selling or closing their newspapers because of declining circulation and revenue, which is the result of increased online competition. But Georges says newspapers are like any other business and can be profitable if resources are used correctly. He declines to discuss specifics of his business plan for the paper, citing a confidentiality agreement. The deal is expected to close by June 1. —Stephanie Riegel
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Local leaders kick off Lemonade Day
Business leaders joined with Mayor Kip Holden and officials from LSU to announce the kickoff of this year's Lemonade Day Louisiana, which will be held May 4. The national program seeks to empower kids by teaching them the rudiments of setting up a small business, while also encouraging them to save money and give back to the community. "It's a great program to teach kids about doing lemonade stands," says Raising Cane's founder Todd Graves, one of the program's sponsors. "But it's also a way to inspire them." Last year, more than 10,000 children in south Louisiana participated in the program. This year, the organization plans to reach 12,500 kids statewide. To learn more about the program or to register, click here.
News roundup: Huntsman Corp. planning $78M expansion in Geismar … Citizens borrowing plan stalls in Bond Commission … State terminates controversial Medicaid claims processing contract
Rolling on the river: Huntsman Corp. announced today plans to spend $78 million to expand its Geismar chemical facility by the end of 2014. The expansion will increase its output of methylene diphenyl isocyanate—known as MDI, a key component of polyurethanes—by 50 kilotons. State officials estimate the project will create 75 new direct and indirect jobs. The state is providing the Texas firm an incentive package that includes a $1.5 million Modernization Tax Credit, payable over five years. Gov. Bobby Jindal, who joined officials to announce the project, has more details at his website here.
In limbo: State officials have stalled a decision on whether the state's property insurer of last resort should borrow $100 million to help close an anticipated budget gap. The Bond Commission, which includes lawmakers and statewide elected officials, didn't take any action today on the request from the board for the Louisiana Citizens Property Insurance Corp. Gov. Bobby Jindal's top financial adviser, Kristy Nichols, and Insurance Commissioner Jim Donelon disagree with the borrowing plan, saying Citizens has money available to cover its immediate costs.
Upon further review: Commissioner of Administration Kristy Nichols announced today the state is terminating its contract with CNSI for processing of Medicaid claims, effective immediately. "The state will work with the current contractor, Molina Medicaid Solutions, to provide services during this transition and until a new RFP, overseen by the Division of Administration, is completed," Nichols says in a prepared statement. "We have asked the Inspector General to look into this matter and provide assistance. We have zero tolerance for wrongdoing, and we will continue to cooperate fully with any investigation." A company that was competing for the contract, but not selected, had protested the state's awarding the contract to CNSI, claiming the company had unfairly lowballed its bid.
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