A river runs through us

The transformation of Lafayette from an agricultural parish to a fast-growing metro area has placed increasing emphasis on the Vermilion’s original role as the main source of drainage for the parish. It’s unclear if the river is up to the task.

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Gov. Edwards appeared at UHC to stump for a fix to the state’s budget crisis

The gist: Edwards held a press conference at UHC to highlight the impact of a budget impasse in the state legislature. The budget currently working its way through the legislature imposes steep cuts to healthcare and the apparent damage could be devastating. UHC officials have warned that the hospital would effectively shut down if a budget deal doesn’t fund the partnership that operates it. Just last week, 37,000 patients in medicaid funded nursing home care were alerted that their coverage may disappear.

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”It shouldn’t be this hard” was Edwards basic message exhorting lawmakers to put aside politicking and sort out a proper budget. Edwards rallied local firepower behind that message. Richard Zuschlag, CEO of Acadian Companies, set the governor up with an emotional appeal for bipartisanship to solve the budget crisis:

“Failure to do so would cause a catastrophic healthcare crisis,” Zuschlag said. “This isn’t about Republicans and Democrats. It’s about the people of Acadiana.”

Zuschlag also penned a #SaveUHC letter in The Advocate. 

The state needs to close the gap on $648 million in lost revenue this session because a temporary sales tax will expire.  Edwards noted that number would climb if the partner hospitals close; the state receives $168 million in lease payments from its private partners like Lafayette General Health, which operates UHC. Edwards said running the state’s partner hospitals costs about $200 million annually.

Indeed, it’s argued that losing UHC would crush Acadiana economically, potentially siphoning off $70 million in lost money.

What does Edwards want? Long term, he says he wants a stable budget process. Right now, he’s asking for a portion of that one-penny temporary sales tax to stay on the books. He said today that will fully fund essential services and reduce tax collections by $400 million.

But isn’t this really about politics? It’s hard to see it any other way. For a bipartisan appeal, Edwards spent a lot of time in his remarks raking legislators over the coals for failing to create a sustainable budget structure over the past two years of special sessions and partisan haranguing.

On the right, folks will tell you that Edwards is fear-mongering — Rep. Nancy Landry used that word exactly in a tweet — and that no one believes that the budget as written will go forward.

But, there’s talk out there that Republican lawmakers simply don’t want a Democratic governor to have a win. Edwards said there are legislators “praying for others to have the courage to do the right thing” so healthcare can be restored to full funding while they quietly vote against raising revenue.

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A new flood research center at UL aims to unify fractured flood control efforts

The Louisiana Watershed Flood Center and a proposed regional flood monitoring network are positioned to plug a huge gap in Acadiana’s ability to understand how we flood and how to effectively plan for and respond to floods.

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Carlee Alm-LaBar is leaving her post as planning director

The gist: Alm-LaBar has given notice that she will leave her post as director of Lafayette Consolidated Government’s Development and Planning Department, effective June 22, to take a planning position with Southern Lifestyle Development, a Lafayette-based real estate group known for traditional neighborhood developments like River Ranch.

Who is she and why is this a big deal? Alm-LaBar was one of a few holdovers from the administration of Joey Durel. She last served as chief development officer in that administration, a position Robideaux eliminated upon taking office.

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In her eight years with LCG, Alm-LaBar spearheaded the development of the Unified Development Code and PlanLafayette, pushing city-parish government toward modernized urban planning. She also led the Evangeline Thruway Redevelopment Team, a committee charged with planning and redevelopment efforts in the neighborhoods inside the future impact zone of the I-49 Connector.

Robideaux’s policies Downtown and in the city’s urban core arguably reflect Alm-LaBar’s influence.

What to watch for: Robideaux’s administration has now lost two experienced and respected directors this spring — Alm-LaBar and [LUS chief Terry Huval] — and three in total, counting the departure of Public Works Director Tom Carroll last year. Replacing Huval and Alm-LaBar will be an important task for Robideaux’s administration and will give some indication of his administrative vision.

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Russo loses attempt to invoke 5th in Stabil Drill suit

The gist: Former Stabil Drill executive Chris Russo suffered a major setback a few days ago when a Texas appellate panel shot down his attempt to invoke the Fifth Amendment to avoid turning over a cache of emails to Superior Energy Services. Superior sued Russo and another top executive in 2016 for tens of millions of dollars, alleging the duo masterminded an elaborate scheme to defraud the company.   

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Perspective: Katie Hebert UHC's CEO explains the hospital's vital role to the health of Lafayette’s economy and its people.

UHC’s CEO says losing the hospital would deal a devastating blow not only to Lafayette’s economy but also the region’s poorest population.

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Library taxes and the city-parish divide

Arguing about library taxes proves we should be talking about consolidated government and how it simply isn’t working out.

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Downtown is running out of sewer capacity That’s another roadblock for redeveloping the Old Federal Courthouse

Not long after the city received and released ideas for the Old Federal Courthouse from five interested developers, it surfaces that Downtown may not have the sewer capacity to serve their ambitions.

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Closing UHC will open up a world of hurt on Lafayette’s economy It should be a non-starter. Not a bargaining chip.

If Lafayette loses UHC, our community will be sicker, poorer, weaker, and less able to dig our way out of the $10 billion economic hole we find ourselves in now.

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In defense of well-funded libraries An All-American call to arms

Critics have taken aim at the library’s reserves. But, as local governments look to stabilize budgets in times of economic flux, fund balances are key to long-term planning.

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Cashing in on blockchain What does that mean for Lafayette?

The mayor’s cryptocurrency cash grab took the lead in local day-after headlines, but it may be worth paying more attention to his interest in blockchain

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Mixed Use A snapshot of the five bids to redevelop the Old Federal Courthouse

The Old Federal Courthouse in Downtown has languished unoccupied for about 10 years now. Last year, a team of consultants advised the city to do something with the property, warning that it had become a “monument of indecision” — words now stenciled in polite graffiti on the courthouse door. Now, five groups have thrown their hats into the ring to redevelop it, responding to the city’s call for credentials. The projects and players range in ambition and notoriety. One idea would add 135 new residences to the district. Below are the responses and some overviews. 

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