LA: Jindal’s Tarnished Image

The reformist image of Gov. Bobby Jindal, considered by Republicans a top potential vice-presidential choice, has recently taken a beating after Mr. Jindal refused to veto a sizable pay increase that Louisiana legislators voted for themselves this month.

When Gov. Bobby Jindal made ethics the cornerstone of his campaign last fall, I thought he was avoiding substantive issues and the controversy that generally accompanies them.

Much in Louisiana needs fixing: public health care, public education, our eroding coast. But discussion of these issues might have lost Jindal as many votes as it gained him. Jindal chose not to focus on them.

Jindal’s critics have argued that that governor’s ethics reforms lacked teeth. Last week’s resignations of several members of the state Board of Ethics raises even more questions about whether these so-called reforms can be effective.

To observers outside the state of Louisiana, these resignations and their attendant controversies might not have mattered. The image of Jindal the reformer was well-etched in the national mind.

But the governor’s role in doubling the pay of the Legislature has again put him in the national spotlight, and tarnished his image as a reformer.

Whether his real focus was on reforming the state’s ethics laws or cleansing the state’s image hardly matters. Jindal is failing at both.

Or maybe Jindal is just too concerned about the chance of McCain picking him as the VP.

FL: Free Hurricane Inspections

The inspections only are available for single-family, detached dwellings, and provide homeowners with recommendations for upgrades and forms that could reduce their insurance premiums.

“It is imperative that people sign up in the next few days if they want to take advantage of this free program,” said Ken Walton, owner of Panhandle Windstorm Inspections, a state-certified windstorm inspection company that services Pensacola east to Jacksonville and south to Ocala.

As of Friday afternoon, only about 18,000 free inspections through the My Safe Florida Home remained available. About 4,500 per day are redeemed by Florida residents.

However, one local inspector said north Floridians haven’t responded to the program the way residents in other parts of the state have.

Bobby Cresap is a state-certified windstorm inspector with Panhandle Windstorm Inspectors. He said he probably will inspect fewer than 4,500 houses in the Panhandle.

People!  Why would you not take advantage of this FREE service?  Do Not be silly–sign up now!

FL: Voters Step Forward!

As local and national elections get closer, elections officials in Escambia and Santa Rosa counties want registered voters to know whether they are on the active or inactive voter lists

Inactive voters must prove they still live at their current address but chose to not vote in the last two general elections to bring their status back to active. In Escambia County, there are more than 177,000 registered voters. Of those, about 35,000 — or roughly 5 percent — are inactive, meaning the voters either haven’t voted in the last two general election cycles, or they have moved and mail such as a sample ballot sent to previous addresses was returned to the elections office.

Please, get involved!  Your vote is all you have in the political process and you only get to use it when they want you to, so step forward and VOTE!

Gulf South: Can Obama Win The South?

As the nation’s first major party African American nominee for president, Democrat Barack Obama would be testing the audacity of hope in his effort to wrest large blocks of the old Confederacy from Republicans.

The plan is simple: Take record African American turnout in states with large black populations, peel off young, college-educated whites, divide the opposition with a third-party candidate where you can, and reach a “win number” to take Virginia, North Carolina and Georgia.

If things go really well, aim to add Mississippi, South Carolina and Louisiana, at a minimum forcing Republican Sen. John McCain to spend money and time where he has none to spare

Obama has other advantages. McCain is not as popular as President Bush was in the South. He lost most of the Southern primaries to former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee and is not well liked among evangelicals, the base of the Southern GOP. A recent poll in Georgia showed McCain 16 percentage points behind where Bush was in 2004. Former Georgia Republican turned Libertarian Bob Barr could siphon about 5 percent of the GOP vote.

Obama’s appeal falls further in less-urbanized states. Unlike Georgia and Virginia, neither South Carolina nor Mississippi has ever elected an African American to statewide office. In two other states of the old Confederacy, Arkansas and Tennessee, Obama faces his “Appalachian problem” with blue-collar white voters who spurned him in the primaries against Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Obama may face his biggest hurdles in states with the largest black populations, said David Bositis, an expert on black voting patterns at the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, because that is where racial polarization is most pronounced.

Mississippi’s 37 percent black population is the largest in the country. Louisiana and South Carolina are over 30 percent.

Sen. Barack Obama aims to reverse Republican Richard Nixon’s famous “Southern Strategy” of appealing to white voters by increasing African American turnout to try to make inroads into the Republican stronghold.

LA: Jefferson Parish Nooses

Two Jefferson Parish supervisors testified Thursday that they didn’t take offense to two nooses, a bullwhip, whipping post sign and other objects, so they never thought to report them as inappropriate workplace decorations.

General Superintendent Glenn Miller and foreman Michael Chauvin made the statements during a hearing to appeal their suspensions imposed after Sewer Department laborer Terrence Lee made photos of the items public and accused his bosses of harassment and racial intimidation.

Assistant Director Michael J. Stamps and Superintendents Randolf G. Doucet and Billie Hartline also are appealing their four- and six-week suspensions for not reporting the objects that hung in the Rheem Building on Jefferson Highway for years. All of the supervisors are white.

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Lee, who is black, is awaiting his own hearing to appeal his discipline for insubordination.

The items include two ropes knotted in the shape of nooses, a wooden contraption that kicks the person who pulls one of the attached ropes, a dartboard with a photo of a man at the bull’s-eye, a leather whip and a “BILL’S WHIPPING POST” sign.

FL: The Gulf, “Florida’s Toilet”

What Floridians already are doing to the Gulf of Mexico is 100 times worse than the risk of pollution from offshore drilling, the leader of an environmental group said Thursday.

That’s the title of a new report issued by Young’s organization. It says the Gulf and associated waters are being fouled in part because sewage treatment facilities have failed to keep up with growth. Weak laws and lax enforcement also share the blame, the report concludes

The report details violations of environment standards by sewage systems from Pensacola to Key West from 2003 to 2008. It concludes that violations of water quality standards, leaky pipes and accidental spills were the rule rather than the exception.

The excessive nutrients and bacteria have been linked to red tide and other harmful algae blooms, fish kills and contaminated beaches and seafood.

“You don’t poop where you eat, and that’s what we’re doing,” said Jack Rudloe, director of the Gulf Specimen Marine Laboratory, who joined Young at the news conference.

The report recommends tougher enforcement and stronger laws, advanced treatment of all sewage, and more money for wastewater treatment. It also calls for bans on discharges into surface waters and on new connections to out-of-compliance systems and growth limits in areas without adequate sewage facilities.

This is just not a Florida problem, the whole of the Gulf Coast is this way.  The Gulf is truly a toilet and the sooner everyone realizes it the sooner that the clean-up can begin.

LA: FEMA Unveils Parrish Flood Maps

A toll-free help line, 1 (866) 751-3989, operates Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., to answer citizens’ questions, Thomas said.

Parish and municipal officials at the open house said residents also can call their respective local government offices to have questions answered.

Old flood maps in St. Tammany were in the process of being updated by FEMA long before Hurricane Katrina. After the storm, FEMA issued new advisory elevations for new construction and the rebuilding of structures more than 50 percent destroyed by the storm. The advisory elevations, issued for areas south of Interstate 12 in St. Tammany and adopted by local governments, require new construction to be built about a foot higher than required under the old maps.

The new maps propose elevations largely similar to the ones in the advisory, local officials said. “It stays about the same in most of the parish,” said Alan Pelegrin with the parish’s flood zone office. “In some places, it fluctuates a foot or two.”

In most of Mandeville, however, the new maps reduce the minimum elevation by 3 to 4 feet from those required in the advisory, according to Chris Brown, the city’s flood plain administrator.

In Slidell, city engineer Donna O’Dell said there are no drastic changes in the proposed new maps. However, some areas that previously weren’t delineated as flood-prone are now designated as flood zones, she said. The city is compiling a list of addresses that now are in flood zones in the new maps, she said.

AL: Companies Get Tax Extension

South Alabama companies would get more time to take advantage of a Hurricane Katrina-related tax break under a waiver tucked into a housing bill now before the Senate.

Under the waiver, businesses in Mobile, Baldwin and nine other “Gulf Opportunity Zone” counties in the state would no longer have had to break ground on new projects by the end of last year to qualify for accelerated depreciation benefits, said Natalie Naquin, a spokesman for U.S. Rep. Gene Taylor, a Mississippi Democrat pushing the measure. The waiver drops that deadline, she said, but does require the projects to be finished by the end of this year.

The bill would also add Dallas and Colbert counties to the overall GO Zone as a way of letting them take advantage of tax-exempt bond financing. The full Senate could vote on the measure–which is mainly aimed at helping homeowners facing foreclosure — this week. If approved, it would go back to the House for further action, a spokeswoman for Senate Banking Committee Chairman Christopher Dodd, D-Conn.said today.