Daily Report

This Afternoon's Headlines / Thu, August 21, 2014

Majority in BR say BRAVE has had positive impact on crime reduction

Of the 58.5% of Baton Rouge residents who have heard of the Baton Rouge Area Violence Elimination (BRAVE) Project, 79% feel as if the initiative has had a "somewhat positive" or "very positive" impact on crime reduction. Those are some of the findings of a survey released today by the LSU Public Policy Research Lab on the BRAVE Project, which was launched in late 2012. "These numbers are certainly encouraging," says East Baton Rouge District Attorney Hillar Moore III, whose office was instrumental in rolling out the program along with local law enforcement agencies, Mayor Kip Holden's office, LSU and other local agencies and organizations. "I was really encouraged that BRAVE has become a brand for crime reduction." Moore credits BRAVE with helping in the reduction of violent crime in recent years, especially in the 70805 and 70802 ZIP codes in which BRAVE is focused. Homicides in the city-parish dropped to 64 in 2013, down from 83 the year previous, and Moore says this year's numbers are tracking about even with last year. Still, the survey shows there's still work to be done in getting the message out that BRAVE is helping to reduce crime, Moore says. When asked if violent crime has increased, decreased or stayed the same over the past year, roughly 30% said it has "increased a lot," 22.5% said it has "increased some" and about 34% said it has "stayed about the same." Just 9% said it has "decreased some," while 1.5% said it has "decreased a lot." —Steve Sanoski Read the full story here.

Northern loop around BR 'still breathing,' transportation advisor to Holden says

Representatives from Ascension, West Baton Rouge and East Baton Rouge parishes who addressed a Leaders With Vision forum this afternoon say revenue shortfalls and too-local mindsets are hurdles to improving traffic in the Capital Region. Mike Bruce, principal of ABMB Engineers and an advisor to Mayor Kip Holden on transportation, criticized past administrations for failing to have a long-term vision for the area. Bruce and other leaders stressed the importance of installing the northern loop plan that's been discussed and debated for years. "It's still breathing," Bruce said. The loop plan is caught somewhere in the red tape of federal regulations, he added. To pay for it, Bruce suggested a 16-cent-per-mile toll. "That's less than a dollar for a five-mile trip," Bruce said. "Certain people will be willing to pay it. Those may save 70% to 80% of their time on a trip." And those that refuse to pay it could still save 40% of their time on the road, because less cars will clog the free arteries. Other panelists included WBR Parish President Riley Berthelot and Ascension Parish Councilman Chris Loar. They stressed the importance of incorporating the entire region into any plan to ease traffic. "We think about economic development regionally," Bruce added, reasoning that it only follows to think about transportation regionally as well. —Kelly Connelly

Library board considers action to expedite south branch search

The East Baton Rouge Parish Library Board of Control is considering a measure this afternoon that could speed up the site-selection process for a new south branch. The measure would give the library director and board president authority to sign a non-binding letter of intent for a new site, should one be identified, without having to seek approval of the full library board. Any site acquisition would ultimately have to be approved by the Metro Council, regardless of this measure. "If we have just met and then we really find something, say, next week, we won't have to wait another three weeks to give them a non-binding letter of intent," Freeman says. "This is just to let the property owner know we are truly serious because governmental agencies take forever to get things done … and we really need property in the south area." The library board hired a site-selection firm earlier this year after a deal with developer Tommy Spinosa to build a new branch at Rouzan fell apart. As reported this morning, the board is also expected to recieve a brief report this afternoon detailing the age and status of all of the parish's branch libraries, a move intended to explain why the board is spending $98,000 on a branch assessment plan. Board members will also get an update on a strategic plan and on the design, currently under way, for a new downtown branch. The meeting begins at 4 p.m. in the first floor conference room at the main library, 7711 Goodwood Blvd. —Stephanie Riegel

Entrepreneur: Stacey Moore

Stacey Moore calls herself "a seeker," always looking for ways to do things better. As Business Report details in its new Entrepreneur feature on Moore, that inclination moved her to leave Our Lady of the Lake hospital after four years there as a critical care nurse to pursue a master's degree in public administration at LSU. Graduating in December 1998, Moore was hired by Woman's Hospital, where for 14 years she served as a project coordinator and supervisor in Nursing Administration. At Woman's, she says, "I really developed and fine-tuned the skill set needed to start my own business." That aim evolved over the last few years. She'd seen the importance of high-quality, in-home caregivers for members of her own family. In January she resigned from Woman's to launch Moore Care, administering a network of caregivers. She says, "I don't use the term 'sitter agency,' because we're not sitting; we're giving care. We are the family when the family can't be there." Read the full feature. Send your comments to editors@businessreport.com.

BR casino take flat in July

Baton Rouge's three riverboat casinos collectively won slightly more than $24.1 million in July, which was only about $93,000 more than they won during the month a year earlier. According to new figures out today by the Louisiana Gaming Control Board, The Belle of Baton Rouge was the only casino of the three to post a year-over-year increase in winnings. The Belle won roughly $5.4 million last month, a 10.7% increase over July 2013 winnings. Hollywood Casino won just shy of $6 million last month, a 4.9% decline. And while L'Auberge Casino won more than the city's other two casinos combined in July—about $12.7 million—it also posted a 0.9% decrease compared to July last year. The relatively flat figures for the Baton Rouge market are in line with other markets in Louisiana. Statewide, the 21 casinos took in about $213 million last month, just $384,300 more than a year earlier. Riverboat winnings fell 1.3% to $151.6 million and race track slots casinos fell 2.2% to $32.9 million. But land-based casino winnings rose from $25.4 million to $28.5 million. Revenues rose at just four of the state's 14 riverboats—with The Belle posting the biggest increase by percentage. Access complete gaming revenue reports. —Steve Sanoski

LSU sends collection letter to hospital manager

LSU has sent a collection letter to the nonprofit foundation running the university's hospitals in Monroe and Shreveport, saying it owes the LSU System more than $25 million. The money is for physician, transition and other services related to the privatization that should have been paid by the Biomedical Research Foundation of Northwest Louisiana, according to LSU. In a letter obtained by The Associated Press, LSU says the foundation hasn't assumed the financial obligations required under its contract, despite taking over hospital management 10 months ago. The university says the foundation has used LSU as its "personal piggy bank." Stephen Skrivanos, research foundation chairman, says LSU's claims "strain credulity." He says the foundation disagrees with the amount owed and blames LSU for making the transition more difficult than necessary.

News roundup: Dietzel II gets endorsement from Huckabee … Rotolo's enters Thibodaux market … La. lotto posts near-record year for revenue

Naming names: Former Arkansas governor, 2008 presidential candidate and Fox News host Mike Huckabee is endorsing Paul Dietzel II in the race for Louisiana's 6th Congressional District, for which as many as 11 candidates are expected to qualify this week. Dietzel announced the endorsement today. "I've watched Paul work and gotten to know him," Huckabee says in a prepared statement. "He doesn't tinker around the margins, and he isn't interested in simply rearranging the deck chairs on the sinking ship of the federal government's bureaucracy."

Now open: Baton Rouge-based Rotolo's Pizzeria announced today that it is expanding into Thibodaux with its 33rd overall location, which opened last week at 100 East Bayou Road. The restaurant is Rotolo's 27th in Louisiana—with others located in Alabama, Florida and Texas—and the sixth to open in the past seven months. The Thibodaux restaurant is owned and operated by Marcel Fournier, who opened a Houma location two years ago.

Feeling lucky: With more than $450.5 million in revenue reported for fiscal year 2014, the Louisiana Lottery Corporation says it has transferred $161.6 million to the state treasury for K-12 public education. That's about $1.4 million more than last year and second only to 1993, when the lottery was the only form of gaming in the state. Sales of scratch-off tickets grew by nearly 10%, placing the Louisiana lottery among the country's top 10 for product line sales growth, says the Louisiana Lottery Corp., which has more details on today's announcement.
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