Daily Report

This Morning's Headlines / Mon, July 28, 2014

CityStats survey shows crime worries down in EBR, growing divide on traditional vs. charter schools

Residents of East Baton Rouge Parish are less concerned about crime this year, according to the results of the annual CityStats survey by the Baton Rouge Area Foundation, released this morning. In another key finding about the community, the numbers also show locals are divided on the question of performance of traditional public schools versus charters. The percentage of people in the city-parish who say they feel safe walking alone in their neighborhoods at night increased to 63% this year, up from 58% a year ago and 55% in 2012. Also this year, just 49% of people say they are worried they will become victims of crime in the coming year, down from 57% last year and 62% two years ago. BRAF says the reductions are "likely the result of authorities pursuing crime more aggressively and succeeding at it," noting there were fewer murders last year than there have been in any of the last five years and nonviolent crimes have been in decline since 2006. "Yet there is a dividing line," BRAF notes. "Twenty-six percent of African Americans said they were victimized by criminals in the previous year; 20% of whites did. Thirty-three percent of blacks, twice the figure of whites, were 'much more concerned' about being crime victims next year." On education issues included in this year's CityStats survey, the results show 41% say charter schools are providing a better education than traditional public schools, while 33% say they are not and 25% say they don't know or don't have an opinion. Also notable, 68% of respondents say they would vote for a property tax to pay for early childhood education for all children in the city-parish. The CityStats survey, which annually gauges opinion on everything from the local economy and schools to the arts and public safety, included 522 respondents this year and has a margin of error of +/-4.3%. See the complete CityStats survey results. —Steve Sanoski

CityStats: More moderates in BR, fewer 'very conservative' views

Baton Rougeans expressed more moderate views in this year's CityStats survey than they have in years past. The Baton Rouge Area Foundation says approximately 34% in the 2014 survey identify themselves as moderates, up from 31% the year before. Inversely, those identifying as "very conservative" fell from 15% to 11%. Survey responses to progressive policy questions followed suit. About 65% of respondents say they favor legalizing marijuana for medicinal purposes, with 64% saying the legalization of marijuana sales and consumption in Louisiana is inevitable. Still, 55% are against legalizing possession for personal use. The number of respondents who believe we are currently in a period of global warming also increased—from 58% to 61% this year—and 68% also say they want the government to do more to regulate emissions responsible for global warming, up from 63% in 2013. The CityStats report also indicates a rise in support for gay marriage locally. For the first time in four years, a majority of respondents—54%, up from 47% last year—say they support a constitutional right for same-sex marriages. Also, as BRAF noted last week, nearly 62% of respondents say they support a local ordinance banning discrimination based on sexual orientation in housing and employment. That’s in contrast to the divisiveness of the issue reflected at last week’s three-hour public hearing on a proposed ordinance amendment to prohibit discrimination in employment, public accommodations and housing on the basis of gender identity and sexual orientation at the Metro Council, which ultimately ended before the council could vote on the proposal. Overall, the majority of survey respondents, 55%, believe they have "little" or "no" influence over elected officials. See the complete CityStats survey results. —Rachel Alexander

Today's poll question: On the whole, how do you identify your political and social views?

Editor: Executive overreach issue tongue-ties all but one 6th Congressional District candidate

One of the hot-button issues at a recent forum of the eight Republican candidates running for the 6th Congressional District seat was the perceived executive overreach of President Barack Obama. "It's a familiar lament," writes Business Report Editor Stephanie Riegel in her latest column. "Democrats said it of George W. Bush. And now, critics of President Obama feel so strongly that he abuses his constitutional powers when he can't get his way legislatively that they want to take him to court." Riegel says nearly all the 6th District candidates weighed in on the subject and said, if elected, among their top priorities would be reining in the president and restoring Congress to its rightful place in the system of checks and balances. "Given these shared views, how, I asked the candidates, could they square that with the lack of criticism of Gov. Bobby Jindal's many attempts to kill Common Core even when it is clearly the will of the legislative branch and the preference of the state agencies charged with knowing about such things?" writes Riegel. "How did the eight congressional candidates answer the question? Three chose not to answer, which was their prerogative under the rules of the forum. Of the five who did, four sidestepped the issue." Only one candidate had the courage to answer the question directly, "which says a lot about the nature of what passes for conservatism today and also about those hoping to represent the 6th District," says Riegel. Read the full column. Send your comments to editors@businessreport.com.

Flood insurance becomes political tool in La. Senate race

It's been months since Congress acted to protect thousands of homeowners from dramatic premium increases under the National Flood Insurance Program. But for Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu and the leading Republican in the race to take her seat, the issue is still very much alive. As Gannett Louisiana reports, Landrieu and Rep. Bill Cassidy, R-Baton Rouge, regularly remind Louisiana voters of their individual roles in helping win passage of the Homeowner Flood Insurance Affordability Act. The bill, signed into law on March 21, caps annual increases in federal flood insurance premiums at 18%. The issue is among the tools that Landrieu and Cassidy, locked in a heated election race, use to score political points on the campaign trail. The race could be crucial in determining which party controls the Senate beginning next year. "This is an issue that both will use, and have been using, to say, 'Look, here's an example of what I've been able to accomplish in Washington, D.C.,''' says Joshua Stockley, a political scientist at the University of Louisiana at Monroe. "They see it as a positive that they can accentuate. But I don't think either campaign realistically is using this issue as the issue by which they're going to win.'' Stockley says both Landrieu and Cassidy can legitimately claim to have played a vital role in getting the flood insurance bill passed. And both candidates are doing their very best to ensure they get credit for it as they campaign against one another. Read the full story.

Three projects vying for People's Choice Award from BR Growth Coalition

The Baton Rouge Growth Coalition wants to hear from the public on which of the following three projects completed over the past year they think will have the greatest effect on our community in the future: the Baton Rouge Magnet High School rehab project, The Crest at Galvez Plaza stage sculpture or the YMCA at the Americana development in Zachary. The Growth Coalition is conducting an online poll, which is open today through Tuesday, to find out. The project receiving the most votes will win the People's Choice Award as part of the 2014 Good Growth Awards, which will be announced at a gala Aug. 21 at the Renaissance Hotel. The Good Growth Awards celebrate quality residential and commercial construction projects in the Capital Region. Business Report is the official media sponsor of this year's Good Growth Awards and gala.

US companies increasingly looking overseas for growth

Major U.S. companies are starting to reap their most rapid growth in fertile lands of opportunity far from home. Technology trendsetters Apple, Google, Facebook and Netflix all mined foreign countries to produce earnings or revenue that exceeded analysts' projections in their latest quarters. Prodded by the steadily rising demand for Internet access and online services in developing countries, these technology companies will likely be wading even deeper into overseas markets for years to come. "The philosophy is to start your growth in the states and then take your fight overseas," says BGC Financial analyst Colin Gillis. "That's what the big guys are doing." The intensifying international focus extends beyond technology. Century-old companies such as Coca-Cola and Ford Motor Co. also are hoping to make more money in countries including China and India. Few U.S. industries are tying their fortunes to overseas markets as aggressively as the technology sector, where new sources of revenue are often just a matter of equipping people with a computing device and an Internet connection. The Associated Press has the full story.

News roundup: BR pharmaceutical consulting firm expanding into Miss. … Gonzales infant supply company inks agreement with Carter's to expand product offerings … Instead of DEQ fines, La. plant sees tax breaks after explosion

Crossing the state line: Baton Rouge-based Pharmaceutical Consulting Services of America says it has signed a contract to expand its services into the Mississippi market. "The timing is right to expand into Mississippi," says PCSA President/CEO William Day in a prepared statement. "We see a major need for our independent pharmacy consulting services, which in addition to our normal medication regimen review, also includes an extensive anti-psychotic review and an innovative proactive disease state management program that just currently isn't being offered by other companies in this region." PCSA currently serves more than 230 facilities in Louisiana and east Texas.

On the grow: Crown Crafts Infant Products Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Gonzales-based Crown Crafts Inc., has expanded its licensing agreement with Carter's to offer infant bed sets and decor at the company's more than 800 stores and online. Crown Crafts has had an agreement with Carter's for its line of toddler bedding products for about the past two years. "This is part of our ongoing effort to strategically expand our offerings of popular, high-quality brands and licensed products in the infant and toddler bedding market," says Crown Crafts Chairman, President and CEO E. Randall Chestnut in a prepared statement.

Neighborhood dispute: Multi-Chem, a Halliburton-owned business that blends chemicals for oilfield production, including fracking, paid no state environmental fines when its New Iberia plant exploded in 2011. Instead, The Advertiser reports, the company received an expedited environmental permit to build a new plant in Vermilion Parish without public notice or a public hearing and was granted $1.8 million in state property tax exemptions over a 10-year period to build the new plant. Now the company wants a permit to discharge water from its Vermilion Parish facility into area waterways, and some residents aren't happy. Read the full story.

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