Archive for February, 2014

More on Monroe Budget Meeting

Picture Displayed @ Monroe Budget Hearing – 2/24/14

Picture Displayed @ Monroe Budget Hearing – 2/24/14

At last night’s Monroe budget hearing, District 4’s Kenny Wilson also displayed several pictures of drainage problems on Monroe’s South Side. See one of them posted above.

Wilson said that the ditches and canals hadn’t been cleaned out in many years, and that culverts are stopped up. These issues contribute to flooding problems on the Southside, Wilson said, and the $100 thousand allocated to drainage maintenance isn’t nearly enough.

Finley Jefferson of Community Youth Activity Sports requested monies (about $20 thousand) to help fund youth sports programs. Both Wilson and District 5’s Eddie Clark were participants in youth sports programs when they were young.

The only person from Mayor Jamie Mayo’s staff to attend the meeting was City Attorney Nanci Summersgill. It is unclear whether she had dispensation from Mayo to attend, or whether she defied his proclamation last week that no one from the administration participate in the budget hearings.

Her department’s budget was questioned about a line item listed as “legal and other professional” that was budgeted for $30 thousand for 2014-2015, but had no money allocated for last year.

Summersgill said she did not know for what purpose the money was intended. Said Summersgill, “I just really don’t know.”

Quipped Clark, “That may be the $30 thousand for our kids,” referring to the sports programs funding.

District 3’s Betty Blakes questioned $300 thousand in overtime for airport security.

She also wanted a breakdown and list of the vendors for $170 thousand in “public relations” funds that are budgeted for the year.

Perhaps some of the money found its way to the “real” news media outlets in Monroe – TV, newspapers, etc. That might account for the fawning and uncritical coverage Mayo regularly receives from them.

Homeless in Monroe?

Picture Displayed @ Monroe Budget Hearing - 2/24/14

Picture Displayed @ Monroe Budget Hearing – 2/24/14

Money should be allocated for a homeless shelter, Monroe City Councilwoman Betty Blakes (District 3) said at tonight’s meeting of the council, which served as a budget hearing reviewing the city’s 2014-2015 budget.

Said Blakes, “There’s a picture there – of homeless – and they’re sleeping up under the bridge on Grammont Street. I’d like to see us do something instead of just on cold, cold nights to open up the recreation centers, that we do something to keep people from sleeping up under the bridge.”

District 4’s Kenny Wilson also displayed pictures of drainage problems on Monroe’s South Side.

Mayor Jamie Mayo, nor any of his department heads – save one – were at tonight’s meeting.

We will have more reporting tomorrow.

WalMart Looting Update – 2/24/13


31 SNAP recipients to be disqualified for misuse of EBT cards during outage

By Clint Durrett

NEW ORLEANS —Thirty-one people who receive food benefits via Louisiana’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program will be disqualified after they allegedly attempted to overspend during an October 2013 outage, officials with the Louisiana Department of Children and Family Services said Monday.

Officials said a system failure by Xerox in October disabled the EBT system in Louisiana and other states. The failure essentially erased any spending limits on many beneficiaries’ EBT cards for a period of time.

As a result of the outage, the DCFS Fraud and Recovery Unit received details of approximately 12,000 insufficient funds transactions conducted while the system was down. The DCFS said no unauthorized taxpayer dollars were used during the outage, and the retailers are responsible for the cost of any non-sufficient funds transactions.

Monday, officials said six SNAP recipients were disqualified from benefits after they attempted to intentionally and grossly misuse taxpayer dollars by using their EBT cards to make purchases that exceeded the available balance during the multi-state system failure last year. Officials with the DCFS said 25 additional recipients are in the process of being disqualified.

Here are the original news accounts:

Springhill, Mansfield WalMarts Looted Saturday Night

WalMart Looting Story – Update 10/14/13

Monroe City Council Tuesday


The Monroe City Council will meet Tuesday, February 25, 6:00 PM, Monroe City Hall, 400 Lea Joyner Expressway.

Here is the agenda.

St George, LA Update – 2/22/14


Letter: St. George opponents want to keep BR money together

I read with interest the front page article about some citizens joining to fight the new city of St. George. It is interesting that NOW they want to say we are “stronger together.” St. George people have been begging for representation and to get “something” for the money they pour in to the city of Baton Rouge. They asked repeatedly to get local schools and better facilities in their area. They were stopped each time. No one listened which caused this drive to form a new city.

Let me tell you how it looks to me: “We need you because we are afraid to lose your money. We don’t want to help you or represent you and we don’t care about you but we want your money and we want you to be quiet.” That is not Better Together!

More power to St. George for taking steps necessary to make their community better. Baton Rouge had its chances to “be better together.” They were not fair with St. George and they will now have to fight to keep St. George’s money while appearing to have St. George’s interest at heart. We all know it is about the money, not about the people of St. George.

Janelle Labbé
office manager

Mayo Forbids Department Heads from Meeting with Council on Budget


It’s my way or no way on the budget, controversial Monroe Mayor Jamie Mayo has decreed in a letter to the members of the Monroe City Council earlier this week. Mayo’s 2/17/14 edict said that he would not allow department heads to participate in budget meetings with the council next week. Proclaimed Mayo:

Last year for the first time known to the Administration the participation by Department Heads was unnecessary and yielded no input that was accepted by the Monroe City Council in determining the budget finally approved by the Monroe City Council and vetoed by me. Therefore, there will be no input from Department Heads to the balanced budget that I already submitted until the introduction of the budget by the Council. The Administration has determined the Charter will be strictly adhered to and meetings with Department Heads is not authorized in Section 5-02 and 5-05 of the Monroe City Charter.

See here the letter.

Here is the agenda for the Monday, February 24 budget hearing at Monroe City Hall, 401 Lea Joyner Expressway, 5:30 PM.

School Board Sells Bonds


The Lincoln Parish School Board (LPSB) sold $8 million in general obligation (GO) bonds to fund various projects in the Ruston School District at yesterday’s meeting of the board. This is the first bond sale of about $20 million total that was approved by the voters in an election last fall.

An interest rate of 2.86% was obtained on the sale, compared to an estimated rate of 4%, according to bond attorney Grant Schleuter of Foley & Judell, LLP.

Schleuter said the good rate was a result of the district’s overall financial health and a sound fiscal oversight team.

In Reports, School Improvement and Accountability Coordinator Donna Doss gave a presentation of the upcoming Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for Colleges and Careers (PARCC) testing. In late March “field testing” of the program will begin.

The tests will be conducted online and will give administrators feedback on implementing the program. The program is designed to develop a common set of K-12 assessments in English and math anchored in what it takes to be ready for college and careers.

Technology/Instructional Facilitator Debbie Pender said the schools were all sufficiently prepared from a technology standpoint for the tests.

Superintendent Danny Bell told the board of another potential charter school application via a letter of intent from Kia Baldwin Richardson. The application deadline is March 7.

Lafayette DA Update – 2/20/14


Harson-Stutes battle in 15th Judicial DA race heating up

By Billy Gunn

LAFAYETTE — The money is flowing in for this year’s 15th Judicial District Attorney’s race, one that pits a four-time incumbent who is used to running unopposed against his former lead prosecutor, who decided to run in the midst of a bribery scandal that has racked the office.

Campaign finance records show incumbent District Attorney Michael Harson raised $380,825 in 2013, while challenger Keith Stutes collected $208,825.

University of Louisiana at Lafayette political science professor Pearson Cross said the support Stutes is receiving is unusual because longtime local-level officeholders such as Harson often are returned to office as long as they want. After Harson’s first election, where he had opposition, he ran unopposed the next three times.

Though Harson has raised more money, Stutes has picked up endorsements from former U.S. Attorneys Mike Skinner and Donald Washington, who are sponsoring a $250-a-couple fundraiser on May 1 for Stutes.

More on Jonesboro Council Meeting


Last night’s meeting of Jonesboro’s Board of Aldermen saw a lot of discussion on several subjects: travel trailers, vicious dogs, and substandard property.

The proposed ordinance 720 on trailers would allow the owner ten days to apply for proper permitting. The present ordinance requires the permitting before setting up the trailer and obtaining utilities.

During the discussion, it was decided to table the vote on the ordinance and revise the 10 days to 30 days, and also another ordinance that would reiterate the requirement that permitting be obtained prior to connection to utility service. Presumably, the council will choose between the two at the next meeting.

Another discussion that took place was about vicious dogs, but no ordinance has yet been introduced on the subject.

District A’s Sam Lamkin read from some notes that were prepared using dog ordinances in several other towns comparable to Jonesboro.

Among the requirements:

No dogs allowed to run at large
Annual rabies inoculation
Collars and tags
“Dangerous” defined as aggressive by nature or training, or a history of attacks
Pens and enclosures for vicious dogs described
Liability insurance of $100 thousand for owners of vicious dogs

Police Chief Wesley Horton noted that most of the requirements that Lamkin cited were already codified in existing ordinances.

Said Horton, “Ninety percent of what Mr. Lamkin in proposing is already in the ordinances.”

He suggested that he and Lamkin meet and compare notes before a formal ordinance is introduced.

On the issue of nuisance abatement of substandard structures, District B’s Renee Stringer asked about the proper procedure to demolish those structures.

During the discussion, it was brought out that many older houses contained hazardous materials, and the cost of abatement often was more than the value of the land.

Pine Belt Multi-Purpose Community Action Agency’s Conchita Malone brought a group of students for a presentation about tobacco-free living.

Finally, District D’s Devin Flowers strongly noted that the just-released qualified audit on the town’s finances was for the year 7/1/2012 to 6/30/2013, and represent a time frame when former mayor Leslie Thompson was in office.

A presentation on the audit was on the agenda, but auditor Jonald Walker was not at the meeting, so the report will be presented at a future meeting. Stringer said she had several questions of Walker as to how he arrived at his conclusions.

Jonesboro Mayor’s Pay Slashed


On a motion by District B’s Renee Stringer, the Town of Jonesboro’s Board of Aldermen voted 2-1 to cut the pay of the town’s mayor from $70 thousand/year to $52 thousand/year at tonight’s meeting.

Voting yes was Stringer and Sam Lamkin (District A). Voting no was Devin Flowers (District D). Absent for the vote were Charla Mason-Thompson (District C) and LaStevic Cottonham (Alderman-at-Large). Mason-Thompson arrived later in the meeting.

The mayor pay issue has been a controversial issue since it first came up in early 2011. At that time, the pay was increased from $35 thousand/year to $70 thousand. The ordinance enabling the raise was challenged in court, and was ruled illegal. Appeals up to and including the Louisiana Supreme Court upheld the ruling.

In May of 2013, an ordinance was again enacted setting the pay at $70 thousand/year.

We will have additional reporting later on the rest of the meeting.