Disappointment follows Graves decision not to accept planning post
Cincinnati Planning Director Charles Graves III won't say why he decided to decline the position of East Baton Rouge Parish planning director, which was offered to him earlier this week by the Planning Commission. But he tells Daily Report this afternoon that he has only good things to say about Baton Rouge and the planning community here. "It's a great city that is embracing planning and neighborhood development, and the best days are in front of them," says Graves, who notified Planning Commission chairwoman Tara Wicker earlier today he is withdrawing his name from consideration. Graves, who spearheaded a comprehensive planning process in Cincinnati that won regional and national awards, was one of six finalists who interviewed here last weekend for the position, which has been vacant since Troy Bunch retired in late November. His job offer was contingent on the outcome of a successful background check, and some questioned why the position had been offered to him before all the due diligence was completed. Still, he appeared a shoo-in for the job, and reaction to his decision as first reported by Daily Report was disappointment. "He was a heck of a candidate," says Planning Commission member Greg Ducote. "I guess, now, we're back to square one, or maybe square two." Stakeholders who monitored the selection process say several of the other finalists were impressive and remain strong candidates. "I am disappointed because so many people were favorably impressed by Graves," says CPEX Executive Director Boo Thomas. "But we have other very good candidates." Interim Planning Director Ryan Holcomb says the planning staff has no details yet on how the planning commission will proceed. Wicker could not be reached for comment this afternoon before deadline. —Stephanie Riegel
New Juban's Grille coming to Highland Park area
Realtor George Kurz and Kean's Fine Dry Cleaning owner Rock Rockenbaugh have filed a permit with the Planning Commission to develop Juban's Grille, a new restaurant that will be located in a retail development adjacent to Alexander's Highland Market, near the intersection of Highland and Old Perkins roads. As its name suggests, the new venture will also be affiliated with the venerable Juban's restaurant in Southdowns, though details remain under wraps for now. Juban's manager, Scott Callais, will say only that the restaurant will make an announcement about Juban's Grille in the next few weeks. According to records filed at the Planning Commission, the new restaurant will be 6,662 square feet and will serve alcohol. This is not Rockenbaugh's first project in the burgeoning area off Highland Road. Last fall, he confirmed plans to open a new Kean's location
in the Highland Park shopping center later this year. —Stephanie Riegel
Capitol Views: Common Core debate starts prematurely
Despite the author's assurances that his bill about updating the process for selecting textbooks has nothing to do with Common Core standards, citizens came to the table anyway to argue over what will be the session's hottest issue. Senate Education Chairman Conrad Appel, R-Metairie, carefully explained that his SB 336 modernizes what he called an "antiquated" process of selecting textbooks by enabling parents to comment on educators' evaluations of materials, while leaving the final decisions of what to purchase up to local school districts. Still, four different parents went to the table to praise the bill for setting up "Common Core-aligned standards" and clearing a path for the controversial law. "This is not about standards," a patient chairman repeated. Then came Sandy McDade, political chairwoman of the conservative Eagle Forum, who opposed the bill because, "It truly is about standards." After another round of explanations and assurances from Appel, however, McDade conceded there was enough parental involvement in the process and withdrew her objections to the bill, which the panel approved without objection. If the committee hearing proved anything, it's that citizens and even lawmakers are not sure what Common Core is, so they are ready to engage in arguments over anything that even looks like it. In regard to the real timetable, House Education Committee Chairman Steve Carter, R-Baton Rouge, does not expect to bring up any Common Core bills until at least the third week of the session. As its Senate counterpart was meeting, Carter's committee deferred action on HB 867 by Rep. Frank Hoffman, R-West Monroe, which also seeks to address textbooks for elementary and secondary schools. It's a duplicate of Appel's measure. Hoffman said he held off on his bill to work with school superintendents and other parties who had voiced concerns. "But it has nothing to do with Common Core," he said. "Nothing at all." LaPolitics
has more on how the issue is shaping up with the so-called fiscal hawks in the House.
—In related action, the Senate Education Committee likewise gave approval to Appel's SB 62 to streamline student applications to Louisiana's public colleges and universities. Advanced without opposition, the legislation would allow the Board of Regents and the state's postsecondary education management boards to create a single form so that students can apply for admittance to all systems at once. The common application, as it's referred to, would be made available to resident and nonresident students. They would be allowed to submit the common application to as many institutions as they wish. The bill also allows for associated fees, to be determined by each public college and university. If approved by lawmakers and the governor, the process will be in place in time for the 2015-2016 academic year.(John Maginnis and Jeremy Alford will publish Capitol Views each afternoon on
Daily Report PM through the end of the legislative session on June 2. The report is also available to subscribers at LaPolitics.com. Registration is available on the homepage.)
Louisiana Public Broadcasting is providing a daily video update featuring highlights of the session, which you can see beginning at 6 p.m. here
EBR housing authority set to begin $3.67M renovation of Roosevelt Terrace
The East Baton Rouge Parish Housing Authority's nonprofit development arm, Partners for Progress, is embarking on a $3.67 million renovation of the Roosevelt Terrace apartments at 1225 Roosevelt St., between Nicholson Drive and River Road, says Morise Duffin, COO of Partners for Progress. The project, which will convert 50 apartment units into 40 larger units, is expected to begin in April, with an anticipated completion date of May 1, 2015. The 44-year-old Roosevelt Terrace apartments have been on the top of the Housing Authority's list of developments in need of rehabilitation since the 1990s, Duffin says. Tax credits have recently made the project possible. The project will reconfigure 20 one-bedroom units into 10 three-bedroom units; 10 three-bedroom units into 10 two-bedroom units; and 20 two-bedroom units into 20 one-bedroom units. It will also update amenities and appliances and add a wrought iron fence around the nine-building development. Duffin notes that the project is in an area poised for redevelopment, near Old South Baton Rouge and the Nicholson Drive corridor. "In that particular area there's a lot of discussion of different types of developments," Duffin says, emphasizing, "But the bottom line is that the Housing Authority's goal is to improve all of its existing stock, and whenever we can find funding, that's what we're going to do." The EBRPHA works to provide suitable housing to low-income families.—Rachel Alexander
FHL opposing demolition of downtown home by Louisiana Realtors
The Foundation for Historical Louisiana says it will fight the proposed demolition of the Louisiana Realtors Association's downtown offices, a 93-year-old former residence at 821 Main St. The Realtors group filed a permit with the city-parish Planning Commission last week to demolish the home and build a new headquarters on site. In a statement issued today, the historical foundation says it will discuss the matter at its meeting next Thursday and subsequently deliver a formal recommendation to the Planning Commission, adding that representatives of the Realtors group have been invited to discuss the matter. In its demolition application, the Realtors say the building has been significantly modified and renovated several times, detracting from its original historical value. "The structure was investigated for its potential adaptive reuse but it has been determined the nature and condition is not suitable for the purpose and use of the new owner," the permit application states. Collis Temple Jr. currently owns the building but has a purchase agreement with the LRA. FHL Chair Doug Cochran says in the statement issued today that the group acknowledges some "add-on" sections of the building do not need to be preserved, but adds: "We hope to meet and work with the organization to save the original portion of the home." —Staff report
House panel backs ban on tanning beds for minors
Anyone under the age of 18 would be banned from using tanning beds, if lawmakers agree to a proposal overwhelmingly backed today by the House health care committee. Rep. Helena Moreno, D-New Orleans, said her bill would lower risks of skin cancer associated with exposure to ultraviolet radiation from sunlight or tanning lamps and beds. She said she introduced the measure after hearing from dermatologists and reviewing data about the dangers associated with indoor tanning equipment. "It was absolutely clear to me then that Louisiana needs legislation like this so we can prevent cancer cases," she told the House Health and Welfare Committee. Under current law, teenagers from the ages of 14 to 18 can use indoor tanning facilities if they get a written statement from their parents saying they understand the risks and give their consent. Anyone under 14 years old must be accompanied by a parent. Dermatologist Mara Haseltine said that incorrectly gives parents the general perception that tanning beds must be safe, if it is allowable for minors to use them. Haseltine, who has a practice in Metairie, supported Moreno's bill, saying tanning beds give off stronger levels of UV light than typical sun exposure, raising the risk of cancer. She said melanoma skin cancer is one of the most common forms of cancer in young people, and she said the bill would save lives and raise awareness about the dangers. Read the full story.
News roundup: Amedisys reports lower Q4 revenue … Bechtel awarded pre-construction contract for Louisiana Gulf Transfer Terminal … Appeals court delays disclosure on La. execution drugs
By the numbers:
Baton Rouge-based home health and hospice provider Amedisys Inc. reports that its fourth quarter net service revenue last year slipped 13.7% to $303.5 million, compared to the same quarter a year earlier. That resulted in a net operating loss of $2.2 million on the quarter, down from a net income of $6.3 million on the quarter a year earlier. More earnings details can be found in the full statement issued today by Amedisys. Inked:
Venice-based Bechtel has been awarded a pre-construction contract for a massive, $1.5 billion offshore cargo terminal called the Louisiana International Gulf Transfer Terminal. Financial terms of the contract were not disclosed in a press release issued by Bechtel, which says it has already begun pre-construction work on the port, which will be the largest deepwater facility of its kind in the country when complete. Bechtel has more details on the contract announcement.Day to day:
A federal appeals court today delayed a judge's order that Louisiana reveal information about the seller and maker of drugs the state uses in executions. U.S. District Judge James Brady in Baton Rouge had ruled last week that state Corrections Department officials must provide the information. The state appealed to the 5th Circuit on Tuesday. Today, the court agreed to temporarily delay Brady's order while it considers that appeal. The Associated Press has the full story.