B.R. at bottom of national rankings for transit access
With just 45.7% of its jobs located in neighborhoods with public transit service, Baton Rouge is ranked 97th out of the nation's 100 largest metro areas for transit coverage. That's according to a new Brookings Institution analysis of data from 371 transit providers. The report also indicates just 19.3% of Baton Rouge residents can reach their job within 90 minutes via public transit, which places it 73rd in the nation. "The suburbanization of jobs obstructs transit's ability to connect workers to opportunity and jobs to local labor pools," the analysis says. "As metro leaders continue to grapple with limited financial resources, it is critical for transit investment decisions to simultaneously address suburban coverage gaps as well as disconnected neighborhoods." Over three-quarters of all jobs in America's 100 largest metropolitan areas are in neighborhoods with transit service. Western metro areas including Los Angeles and Seattle have the highest coverage rates, while rates are lowest in Southern metro areas including Baton Rouge and Atlanta. The "typical job" in America is accessible to only about 27% of its metropolitan workforce by transit in 90 minutes or less, the analysis says. See the report on Baton Rouge here; and see the full report with data on the nation's largest 100 metros here.
LABI president announces retirement, plans for finding replacement
Dan Juneau, president of the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry since 1989, has announced to LABI's board of directors he will retire at the end of 2013. The nearly 18-month lead time will enable the powerful business organization to conduct a national search for his replacement and get the new president up to speed for the 2014 election cycle, says Bridgette Nieland, LABI vice president of communications. Prior to Juneau's retirement, however, several other high-profile personnel changes are scheduled to take place. Ginger Sawyer, vice president of political action, will retire at the end of this year, though she will stay on as LABI's energy council director. Sawyer will be replaced in January by Brian Landry, who currently serves as director of LABI's small business council. Nieland, meanwhile, will become vice president for workforce development and research. She will be replaced as vice president of communications by Kristi Barnett Williams, who until recently handled public relations for BREC. The executive level restructuring comes as LABI prepares to launch a major new technology initiative in September. —Stephanie Riegel Read the full story here.
State mulls over ways to boost its debt collection
Louisiana officials are considering a number of initiatives they believe could beef up efforts to collect hundreds of millions of dollars in debts owed to agencies across Louisiana government. Louisiana doesn't have a centralized collection agency that handles all state government debts. Lawmakers authorized the creation of a two-year pilot program that would let the state sell or auction off long-term delinquent accounts to companies that believe they can collect some of the money owed. Commissioner of Administration Paul Rainwater told a cash management panel today that his office was considering the pilot program idea and would have recommendations within two months. Hammond Republican Rep. Chris Broadwater, sponsor of the legislation, says in the fourth quarter of 2011 state agencies had more than $753 million in accounts receivable that were more than 180 days old.
Groundwater monitoring program launched in La.
In partnership with the U.S. Geological Survey, the Louisiana DNR is launching a three-year, $2.7 million program to upgrade the state's capability in monitoring groundwater as well as analyzing changes in groundwater levels and quality. DNR Secretary Scott Angelle laid out details of the Enhanced Groundwater Monitoring and Resource Assessment program today. He says federal funding will cover the cost of equipping approximately 200 additional water well monitoring sites around the state, nearly doubling the existing count of such sites. The program also provides for mapping and analysis of the data collected at the sites, as well as sampling in targeted areas to address potential water-quality concerns. "Effective management of our groundwater is a critical issue in our state, where it supplies half of our drinking water and more than two-thirds of our agricultural water demand," Angelle says. A 2012 Water Resources Commission report concluded that groundwater monitoring capability is "the single most significant and fundamental groundwater resource management issue" on which Louisiana should focus immediate attention. Get more details about the program at the DNR's website here.
Springfield mayor, police chief indicted on conspiracy charges
A Livingston Parish grand jury today indicted the mayor and police chief of Springfield—a town of roughly 400 people located about 40 miles east of Baton Rouge—on charges they conspired to hide a woman's 2011 drunken driving citation. Louisiana Attorney General Buddy Caldwell's office says the four-count indictment charges Mayor Charles Martin and Police Chief James Jones with obstruction of justice, criminal conspiracy to obstruct justice, injuring public records, and criminal conspiracy to injure public records. Martin and Jones were booked on related charges last year. Caldwell's office says the 62-year-old mayor and 48-year-old police chief plotted to conceal evidence and obstruct the prosecution of a suspect arrested in April 2011 on suspicion of drunken driving. Martin and Jones didn't immediately respond to a message for comment left at the town's administrative office by The Associated Press.
Wells Fargo pays $175M in discrimination settlement
Wells Fargo Bank will pay at least $175 million to settle accusations that it discriminated against black and Hispanic borrowers in violation of fair-lending laws, the Justice Department announced today. Wells Fargo, the nation's largest residential home mortgage originator, allegedly engaged in a pattern or practice of discrimination against qualified minority borrowers from 2004 through 2009. U.S. Deputy Attorney General James Cole says the bank's discriminatory lending practices resulted in more than 34,000 black and Hispanic borrowers in 36 states and the District of Columbia paying higher rates for loans solely because of judgments based on the color of their skin. With the settlement—the second-largest of its kind in history—the government will ensure that borrowers hit hard by the housing crisis will have an opportunity to access homeownership, Cole says. Wells Fargo noted in a statement that it has denied the claims. The bank has agreed to pay $125 million in compensation for borrowers who were steered into subprime mortgages or who paid higher fees and rates than white borrowers because of their race or national origin, rather than because of differences in credit-worthiness. Wells Fargo also will pay $50 million in direct down payment assistance to borrowers in areas of the country where the Justice Department identified large number of discrimination victims. Those areas include Washington, D.C., Chicago, Philadelphia, Oakland and San Francisco, New York City, Cleveland and Baltimore.
Sports roundup: Deadline to apply for LSU's new south end zone seats nearing … Louisiana chefs to bring a dash of Cajun spice to Olympics … Lawmakers denounce Team USA's Chinese-made uniforms
A new view: You have just under three weeks to get on the waiting list for one of the new 3,000 seats or 60 suites to be added to Tiger Stadium's south end zone. Applications and deposits are due on July 31. The Tiger Athletic Foundation has the full details and is accepting applications online here. TAF says it will begin to call donors in mid-August to begin the process of awarding seats and suites.
In training: As Team USA prepares to make the journey to the London 2012 Olympic Games, a pair of Louisiana's culinary superstars are preparing to show their own well-honed talent at the games. Chefs John Folse and Michael Sichel, executive chef at Galatoire's in New Orleans, are Louisiana's representatives on a team of eight Gulf Coast chefs who will take part for four days in a BP-hosted series of events called "Spirit of the Gulf." BP says three Gulf Coast bands will also get in on the act, which is geared at promoting Gulf Coast tourism.
Imported by the USA: The U.S. uniforms for the Olympics are the traditional American red, white and blue—but they're made in China, and that has congressional leaders seeing red. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid says the U.S. Olympic Committee should be ashamed of itself, and today suggested the uniforms be tossed into a big pile and burned. House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi says she's proud of the athletes but that they should be wearing uniforms made in America. The uniforms were designed by American Ralph Lauren, and Nike has also created many of the competition uniforms.