This Morning's Headlines / Fri, December 13, 2013
Bluebonnet Parc Shopping Center sells for $21 million
The Bluebonnet Parc Shopping Center next to the Mall of Louisiana has been sold for $21 million to Viking Partners, a Cincinnati-based company that owns about 20 shopping centers across the Midwest and Southeast. Bret Caller, one of the owners of the company, says the 18-acre property at 5909 Bluebonnet Boulevard is Viking's first Louisiana investment. "Our plan is to re-tenant or re-lease the shopping center," Caller says. "There are two tenants moving out. One of them is Mitchell's, and one of them is Cost Plus World Market." Cost Plus World Market, which currently operates out of an 18,300-square-foot space in the shopping center, is reportedly relocating and building an approximately 18,500-square-foot location in the Siegen Lane Marketplace. Caller also says Viking Partners may add another 15,000-square-foot building on the empty pad next to Mitchell's. "We're talking to many prospective tenants," Caller says, though he said he can't yet name them. "Some of them would be new to Baton Rouge. They're anxious to relocate around the Mall." Viking Partners completed the deal with Retail Properties of America Wednesday. —Rachel Alexander
LaPolitics: Negative robocalls hit candidate in 6th District
Earlier this week, just a few days after he announced his bid for the 6th Congressional District, state Sen. Dan Claitor, R-Baton Rouge, fell under fire from negative robocalls. Based on reports from LaPolitics Weekly subscribers and an interview with Claitor, the calls accused him of wanting to tax Christians and of being opposed to the tea party movement. "I've never said either of those things," Claitor says. Some of his constituents shared the caller ID information with Claitor and the incoming phone number matches up with one the D.C.-based Family Research Council once used for polling, according to online call center forums. But that's far from definitive and nailing down who sponsored the negative robocalls has proven tricky. It's an interesting situation, since FRC president Tony Perkins has said he is interested in running for the 6th District seat. LaPolitics has more on Perkins' prospects and a response from the FRC regarding the robocalls.
—BESE President Chas Roemer says that despite rumors of his interest in Congress and the U.S. Senate, he's not eager to get on another ballot. "I'm not eaten up with running for anything. If my goal was a political goal, that would be easy to define and decide," he says. "I'm not plotting a political career." As for where he might be most comfortable in the GOP, whether it be to the far right on the religious fringes or with tea party enthusiasts, Roemer admitted it changes "day to day" and really doesn't really amount to much anyway. "You know who cares where I fall on the political spectrum?" Roemer asked. "People who make a living off of it." LaPolitics has more from its candid interview with Roemer, including why he supports a single board of education, how he could have the most to lose over Common Core and some insights into growing up as a governor's son.
Political takeaways: With the House expected to adjourn for the year possibly today and the Senate to follow suit on Dec. 20, there's not much else lawmakers can do to rework the image they've cultivated of having an unproductive year. A last-minute fix or delay for skyrocketing flood insurance rates could have helped, but that's among many issues being left unwrapped as the holiday break approaches. LaPolitics takes a closer look at what else went wrong, as well as other major headlines from the past week.
They said it: "We do not have Democrats who win anything in this state today." —Baton Rouge pollster Bernie Pinsonat, in The New York Times.
(John Maginnis and Jeremy Alford publish LaPolitics Weekly, a newsletter on Louisiana politics, at LaPolitics.com. Follow them on Twitter or on Facebook.).
Bipartisan budget pact passes the House
After a sweeping vote by conservative Republicans controlling the House and President Barack Obama's Democratic allies, a bipartisan budget pact is in the hands of the Senate, where it will encounter stronger but probably futile resistance from Republicans, The Associated Press reports. The modest package passed by the House on Thursday would ease the harshest effects of another round of automatic spending cuts set to hit the Pentagon and domestic agencies next month. Supporters of the measure easily beat back attacks on it from conservative organizations. At the same time, Democrats who were upset that the bill would not extend jobless benefits for the long-term unemployed suppressed their doubts to advance the measure to the Democratic-led Senate, where Obama's allies appear set to clear it next week for his signature. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said Friday morning he would confer with GOP leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky to push consideration of the budget agreement sooner. Senate Democrats promise to force a vote on extending unemployment benefits when the chamber reconvenes next year. They hope that political pressure after 1.3 million people lose their benefits on Dec. 28 will force GOP leaders to knuckle under and extend aid averaging under $300 a week to people who've been out of work longer than six months. The bipartisan bill breezed through the House on a 332-94 vote, with lopsided majorities of Republicans and Democrats alike voting in favor. Read the full story.
Executive editor: Our energy situation is not either-or
For Business Report Executive Editor David Dodson, the topic of sustainable energy is a sensitive one. Prior to returning to Baton Rouge earlier this year, Dodson spent "20 years putting food on the table by handling media affairs for an energy company," as he puts it in his latest column. "I sleep just fine at night knowing that I contributed to the extractive economy and played a role in moving unbelievable quantities of carbon-based energy halfway across the continent (I had some help), but I also recognize that our current extract-transport-burn economy based on hydrocarbons is the opposite of sustainable," Dodson writes. "We have got to face facts. The future must have less carbon—and not because carbon is inherently bad (although it is deeply flawed) but because it is inherently limited. But don't let anybody persuade you that we are in an either-or situation." Dodson says you shouldn't buy into the false dichotomy that it is either immediate abandonment of carbon or planetary death—that the future is either carbon-based or green. "It has to be both. We have to use our current carbon fuels to sustain the economy until viable, commercial-scale, non-carbon sources of energy are available, affordable and practical. That day is not today.” But, Dodson notes, "the oil-and-gas boom will inevitably go bust … we have to think about tomorrow. Today would be a good time to start." Read the full column. Send your comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.
'225 Dine': Gumbo weather at Restaurant IPO
Now that the cold weather has finally come to Baton Rouge, it's a perfect time for some hot gumbo. Over the past couple of weeks, 225 Dine has had a few bowls of the Louisiana staple from The Chimes and George's. This week, the weekly e-newsletter turns its attention to the hen, oyster and andouille gumbo from Restaurant IPO. The restaurant's take on gumbo is similar to the kind Chef Scott Varnedoe's mother made, with one exception—substituting hen for her traditional duck. Varnedoe says he likes his roux dark, with a little bitterness to it, but not an overwhelming bitterness. He uses the hen to make a stock, with oysters and an oyster liquor to add richness to the gumbo, plus andouille to complete what he calls "the holy trinity." Patrons have been ordering it more, especially during these cooler temperatures. However, it's on the menu at all times. For Varnedoe, a good gumbo is made from "whatever you have on hand.” "It screams cold weather. It's hearty. Throw some popcorn rice in there and it's a really good dish." Read the full story and get more local culinary news in the new 225 Dine e-newsletter.
U.S. Senate spends second all-nighter voting on presidential nominations
The U.S. Senate pulled its second consecutive all-nighter Thursday night, The New York Times reports, a form of retaliation by the Democrats against Republicans' delaying tactics on confirmations. Republicans, furious that Democrats last month stripped away most of their power to filibuster presidential nominations, are using every procedural barricade available to them, forcing it to run the clock as long as possible while they vote on a series of President Obama's nominees. Democrats, in turn, are scheduling votes at all hours of the day and night. What members of both parties bemoaned more than anything was not the lack of civility or bipartisan cooperation, but what they said they see as the irreversible damage inflicted on an institution they claim to revere. Nonetheless, the all-nighter produced results. In the wee hours of the morning, the Senate confirmed Cornelia T.L. Pillard to the country's most powerful appeals court, the District of Columbia Circuit, as well as Chai Feldblum to serve as a commissioner on the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission; Elizabeth Wolford to Federal District Court for the Western District of New York; and Landya B. McCafferty to the Federal District Court for the District of New Hampshire. They held their first post-sunrise vote at 7 a.m. this morning, confirming Deborah James to be secretary of the Air Force. Read the full story.
News roundup: LSU to establish Baton Rouge branch of New Orleans medical school … LSU considering raising ticket prices … New Orleans named one of the 'most exceptional destinations'
Coming soon: LSU will establish a Baton Rouge branch campus of its School of Medicine in New Orleans, The Associated Press reports. It would be the first permanent medical school campus in Baton Rouge. The branch would bring students to Baton Rouge full-time for their third and fourth years of medical school. The phase-in begins in July, with 32 future physicians arriving for their third year of medical school. Those students would stay here for their fourth year while a new group of third-year students arrives.
Tiger tickets: The Associated Press reports that the LSU Board of Supervisors is considering Athletic Director Joe Alleva's request to boost the price of tickets and parking at sports events at its regular meeting this morning. Alleva has a laundry list of 150 changes that would notably include a hike in ticket prices for the 2014 football season and 2015 baseball season. Alleva estimates the changes would raise about $2.3 million in the current budget year, rising to $4 million a year later. The money would pay for rising costs in the athletic department, Alleva says. The AP notes the LSU athletic department will reap millions in incremental revenue from a new television contract scheduled to begin next year.
Big Easy 'must-see': New Orleans has been cited as one of the "most exceptional destinations" in world travel by National Geographic Traveler, the New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau announced in a press release today. One of only two cities in the U.S. meriting that designation, New Orleans made the elite list of 21 "must-see" destinations worldwide due to the "vibrant, authentic and culturally rich" experience it offers travelers, Mayor Mitch Landrieu said in the release.
Today's poll question: LSU may raise ticket prices for football and baseball. Do you support such a move?
St. George battle long in the making
Battle of Baton Rouge
GOP split on budget deal
Juking the ObamaCare Stats
Foreclosures drop to lowest level in 7 years
Stocks slide despite U.S. budget deal