Daily Report

This Morning's Headlines / Fri, September 19, 2014

Tin Roof Brewery sells land on Oklahoma St. to BRAF for $350K

Land purchased by the Tin Roof Brewing Company last year for $115,000—once the planned location for a new brewery—has been sold for $349,308 to an entity affiliated with the Baton Rouge Area Foundation, according to records filed with the East Baton Rouge Parish Clerk of Court's office. The vacant property at 635 Oklahoma St., at the intersection of River Road, measures just under 1 acre. Tin Roof bought it last August, just before plans for the nearly 30-acre, $50 million Water Campus research and office park were publicly announced in December. Construction of the Water Campus' first building is set to begin before the end of the year, less than a block from the parcel BRAF has purchased from Tin Roof. BRAF is a key partner in the development of the Water Campus. Tin Roof Brewing co-founder William McGehee III says the sale hasn't interfered with the brewery's expansion plans. McGehee says after they bought the land, they realized it would be too small for their plans and decided to stay put at their current location, which is about a block away. "We started reevaluating and realized we were going to be where we are for a while," McGehee says. The brewery installed new fermentation vessels that increased its brewing capacity at the 1624 Wyoming St. location at the beginning of the year and plans to open its highly anticipated taproom in the next two weeks, with a grand opening in mid-October. For more on the Water Campus, read the Business Report cover story from December. Check out a 225 profile of the Tin Roof Brewery from April. —Kelly Connelly

'Times-Pic' request for Kenner to rebid ad contract falls on deaf ears

The Kenner City Council has decided, for now at least, not to reconsider its selection of The New Orleans Advocate as the city's official journal of record. Earlier this month, NOLA Media Group, which owns The Times-Picayune/NOLA.com, accused Advocate President and COO Dan Shea of inflating the newspaper's circulation data in the New Orleans area and asked the Kenner council to reconsider the contract it awarded The New Orleans Advocate in June, making it the city's official newspaper. At its regular meeting Thursday night, however, council members cited an opinion from the Kenner city attorney, saying there is no legal reason to throw out The Advocate's bid. At least one council member also said circulation data was not the basis for awarding the contract. NOLA Media Group Executive Vice President David Francis, who testified at Thursday's meeting, disagrees with the council decision. "The purpose of the official journal is to properly notify local citizens of the ongoing operations of their government," he tells Daily Report. "The Times-Picayune serves that purpose far better than The Advocate, reaching 10 times more Kenner citizens. While circulation was not part of the RFP, it was disingenuous for Mr. Shea to misrepresent and inflate The Advocate's circulation." In his Sept. 11 letter to the council, Francis said Shea overstated the paper's New Orleans-area circulation for the first quarter of 2014 by 18% and for the second quarter by 22%. Francis also said Shea overstated the Kenner circulation figures by 17% and 22% during the same periods. Shea has denied the circulation numbers were inflated. —Stephanie Riegel

LaPolitics: Media buy coming for constitutional amendments

The Louisiana Hospital Association, Louisiana Nursing Home Association, Louisiana Pharmacists Association, ambulance providers and intermediate care facilities are pooling their resources and planning for a statewide media buy to promote the passage of the first two constitutional amendments on the November ballot. Sources say the buy will include TV, radio and web, but no specific dollar amount has been set. The hospital association has already launched a website, VoteYes1and2.org. But a major component of the campaign will be on the grassroots level, with face-to-face contacts made in community meetings and other venues. "We're not taking this for granted," says Sean M. Prados, executive vice president and chief operating officer of the Louisiana Hospital Association. "We're going to be doing a lot of education." It'll be a tough fight to grab the attention of voters with a major U.S. Senate race being waged, but the recent headlines involving financial turmoil at hospitals in Baton Rouge and LaPlace will help make the amendments relevant and timely. According to the Public Affairs Research Council, which has published a guide to the amendments, Constitutional Amendment No. 1 would give constitutional protection to the Louisiana Medical Assistance Trust Fund. It would also set a baseline compensation rate for nursing homes and other health care providers like ambulance companies that pay a special fee. One group, Louisianans United for Home Care, is already sponsoring web videos arguing the amendment could make it harder for certain individuals to obtain home care as opposed to institutionalized care. Constitutional Amendment No. 2 would create the Hospital Stabilization Fund, allowing hospitals to deposit assessments and draw down more federal Medicaid money. Critics argue this could further open up higher ed and other health care providers to budget cuts, since they wouldn't have the same protections. To be certain, universities may be wishing they would have done something similar if the second amendment on the ballot passes.

—After failing to pass reform legislation aimed at the payday loan industry last year, state Sen. Ben Nevers, D-Bogalusa, says he is considering bringing a bill again in 2015 but is still on the fence. "I haven't decided yet," he says. "There's an audit advisory meeting I want to attend in October that should give me a better idea. I've been told there are strides being made in monitoring the industry. I'm trying to listen to all sides right now and figure out what is best." Nevers doesn't sound eager to repeat the huge lobbying battle that was waged during the spring session. Yet he is still interested in learning more about the issues of repeat lenders, who lend to those consumers who repeatedly take out payday loans, and what reporting requirements look like. Right now, local-level governments, like the Baton Rouge Metro Council, are taking turns looking into the industry, but there's no telling where that might all end up. Meanwhile, the industry has formed a new trade group, the Louisiana Payday Loan Association. Lobbyist Danny Ford, a spokesman for the association, says members will be meeting soon to discuss a 2015 legislative agenda and to address potential regulations that may be handed down by the federal government. "But it's too early to tell what kind of strategy we might have for next year," he says.

They said it: "The first time I ran for office, I was polling within the margin of error, which means I was zero." —Gov. Bobby Jindal, on his 3% showing in a New Hampshire Republican primary poll, on CNN.

(Jeremy Alford publishes LaPolitics Weekly, a newsletter on Louisiana politics, at LaPolitics.com. Follow him on Twitter, or on Facebook. He can be reached at JJA@LaPolitics.com.)

'225 Dine': Ryan Andre to be executive chef of City Pork's second BR location

Ryan Andre, a local chef who previously worked at Le Creolť, has been named the executive chef for City Pork's second Baton Rouge location, 225 Dine reports. The restaurant is slated to open sometime this fall at 7327 Jefferson Highway, in the former location of Dempsey's. Andre has teamed up with the City Pork brand and says he's excited to bring his flavors to the restaurant. Already, he's started collaborating with City Pork Deli & Charcuterie executive chef Troy Deano on a menu for the new location. "We complement each other well," Andre says. "We're going to bring Louisiana flair to every dish. We'll be incorporating German, Asian influences and more, but keeping it local, using fresh, Louisiana ingredients." The new location will not include a butcher shop, as the original does, but will instead focus on the dine-in experience. Andre and Deano say the feel will be approachable and casual, but they want to impress local diners with the food. Construction on the interior of the restaurant is nearly finished. City Pork Deli & Charcuterie opened near the Perkins Road overpass at 2362 Hollydale Ave. late last year. Read the rest of this story and get your fill of more local culinary news in the new 225 Dine e-newsletter.

Executive Editor: Can Baton Rouge have a civil conversation about racism?

In response to a recent Business Report cover story on Tigerland, the iconic neighborhood of apartments that was once the place to be for LSU students, executive editor David Dodson received an email that read, in part: "Of course it would be impossible to state that the real downfall of the once beautiful Tigerland Apartment development was that minorities came in, which brought drugs, gangs, shootings, and robberies which quickly spiraled [sic] the death knell of that area. ... Look at every neighborhood in south and north Baton Rouge that was once beautiful and proud but [is] now a wasteland of despair due to the elements I so name above." In his latest column, Dodson explains how he contacted the letter's author to tell him he intended to run his email as a letter to the editor, as it included his name, address and phone number. "Like it or hate it, the sentiment expressed is common in Baton Rouge," writes Dodson. "This guy is not alone." Dodson says the author essentially begged him via email not to run the letter. "I don't want to be labeled a 'racist' because I am not a racist," the reader wrote. "I do not want to lose my job just because I am saying something that no one wants to say. But the facts are there that prove this is happening all over Baton Rouge and the country. ... Am I racist for stating the facts?" The email exchange got Dodson thinking about race and racism in Baton Rouge, and he says it's unfortunate that a civilized discussion on the issue doesn't seem possible in our community. "We are so afraid of race and discussions about race that we jump at our own shadow when we make race-based statements," he writes. "In fact, a lot of us conclude it would be better not to mention race at all, much less discuss it openly … This is madness. We are never going to solve our race problems by keeping our mouths shut." Read the full column. Send your comments to editors@businessreport.com.

La. lawmakers say VA's slow payments hurting La. veterans' credit

All eight members of Louisiana's congressional delegation say the Department of Veterans Affairs is hurting the credit of hundreds of Louisiana veterans by failing to pay on time for emergency health care at private facilities. The Associated Press reports a letter sent Thursday to Secretary Robert McDonald asks how the VA plans to correct its mistakes in Louisiana and make sure they never happen again. According to the letter, leaders of the Veterans Integrated Service Network covering Louisiana have said at public meetings that they incorrectly rejected claims from hundreds of veterans. The letter was released by U.S. Rep. Charles Boustany. In July, he and Sen. Mary Landrieu introduced a bill that would require the secretary to report on each service network's record in paying emergency medical claims on time.

News roundup: BR man named Louisiana's 2014 Cox Conserves Hero … Jindal returning to New Hampshire next week ... Agency can look at rig owner's role in BP oil spill

Helping hands: Cox Communications and The Trust for Public Land announced this morning that Matt Thomas of Baton Rouge has been selected as Louisiana's 2014 Cox Conserves Hero. As his nonprofit of choice, The University Lakes Improvement and Preservation Association will receive a $10,000 grant as a result. Thomas is receiving the award for his efforts to preserve the LSU lakes, removing invasive plants and debris that cause water quality problems. Cox has more details on the award and grant.

Frequent flyer: Gov. Bobby Jindal will make his second trip to New Hampshire this month when he travels to Nashua next week to address a "Pastors and Pews" event on Thursday, WMUR-TV reports. Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee will speak to the same crowd on Friday. Both are widely thought to be likely candidates in the New Hampshire primary in 2016 as Republicans. Jindal was in New Hampshire earlier this month, when he spent a full day at Republican events. His trip next week will be his fourth visit to the state this year.

The show must go on: A federal appeals court in New Orleans has upheld a federal safety board's right to investigate the role of Transocean Deepwater Drilling Corp. in the 2010 Gulf oil disaster. Transocean owned the Deepwater Horizon rig that was drilling for BP PLC at its Macondo well, about 50 miles off the Louisiana coast when an explosion killed 11 workers and led to the nation's worst offshore oil spill. The company had challenged the authority of the U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board, often referred to as CSB, to do the investigation. The Associated Press has the full story.

Today's poll question: The Capital Area Transit System is currently negotiating a long-term contract with CEO Bob Mirabito, who has led CATS since May of last year. Do you think CATS should sign him on to lead the agency for the long haul?

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