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Summary of recent Louisiana newspaper editorials


Recent editorials from Louisiana newspapers:

Feb. 15

The Advocate, Baton Rouge, Louisiana, on sad end of the Ray Nagin era:

The sad remainders of the Ray Nagin era were settled in U.S. District Court with the sentencing of Frank Fradella, bag man to the mayor who thought he was a rock star and ended up in the pen for petty corruption.

Fradella was a devastating witness against Nagin, who is now serving a 10-year sentence. The New Orleans businessman who paid most of the bribes was sentenced to a year and a day in prison on Wednesday by U.S. District Judge Susie Morgan.

Under a plea deal with the government signed in 2012, Fradella faced a maximum of five years in prison. He was the last figure in the Nagin corruption case to be sentenced, and his punishment is the same as the one doled out to Rodney Williams, another star witness who testified against the mayor.

As the case wound its way through the courts, the people of New Orleans had a right to feel betrayed by Nagin and his cronies. But it is one of the ironies of the case that Fradella's faithful payoffs to Nagin never got him the big score he was after: a huge contract to oversee a redevelopment, perhaps of the decrepit Market Street power plant or the flooded Six Flags amusement park.

Showering the mayor with "gifts" and free granite for his family's countertop business was a symptom of the rot that ran through Nagin's City Hall, even as a deeply wounded community needed every bit of leadership and integrity that the mayor ought to have offered.

The wages of sin came to about $200,000 in cash and gifts over several years, including $112,500 in nine monthly "consulting payments" Fradella made to the mayor after his exit from City Hall. Fradella also testified to providing the Nagin family's granite business with two truckloads of free granite and other payments of $50,000 in cash through a third party.

In return, Nagin vouched for Fradella with bankers, helping him land a $40 million line of credit, and he tried to help him get a bigger redevelopment contract, Fradella said — though none ever materialized.

Fradella pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit bribery and one count of false certification of financial reports, each of which carries a maximum penalty of five years.

Failure at double-dealing was rarely so comprehensive or expensive. But the real price was paid by the people of Nagin's city and state who looked to him for guidance and saw instead a huckstering prima-donna in one of the great crises of the 300-year history of New Orleans.


Feb. 18

American Press, Lake Charles, Louisiana, on economic development:

It was good news recently when another LNG plant announced it was coming to Southwest Louisiana. It shows that economic development is still on track for our region of the state.

The announcement was made with company officials of Parallax Energy of Houston and Gov. Bobby Jindal, who said it is a welcomed addition to the number of major industrial projects already planned for Southwest Louisiana

The LNG liquefaction plant and export facility will be built on a 350-acre parcel along the western side of the Calcasieu Ship Channel, west of the Industrial Canal. The project is the eighth of its kind planned for the region.

"When a company spends $2 billion here, when they create hundreds of direct and indirect jobs, that helps the entire economy," Jindal told community leaders at the SEED Center presentation.

Live Oak LNG will consist of four trains each capable of producing 600,000 metric tons of LNG each year. The facility will also have two storage tanks capable of holding up to 130,000 cubic meters of LNG and port facilities that will accommodate standard-size carriers.

Live Oak LNG is expected to create 100 direct jobs with an average annual salary of $75,000 before benefits and 385 indirect jobs. The project is also expected to create 1,000 construction jobs over a three year period.

Martin Houston, Parallax Energy's chief operating officer, said the facility will provide an "efficient, cost-effective way to safely deliver similar and smaller amounts of clean fuel to global buyers who can purchase (LNG) incrementally."

"We really don't care what the (oil) price is today," Houston said. "We care about what the price will be for the next few decades."

Houston said Parallax will begin the project's permitting process with federal regulators "within this quarter."

Local and state economic officials, along with a welcoming attitude of the people of Southwest Louisiana, all deserve some of the credit for this very hopeful and promising industrial development boom.


Feb. 15

The Times-Picayune, New Orleans, Louisiana, on Mardi Gras:

Our Mardi Gras roots run deep, whether you count the Fat Tuesday in 1699 when the LeMoyne brothers discovered the mouth of the Mississippi River and christened the spot Point d'Mardi Gras or the masquerade balls and parades that came later.

Those 300 years of tradition have led us to the raucous, joyous, kaleidoscopic celebrations around New Orleans today. At this point, it is our duty to mask -- to carry on history, to show our visitors how it's done. And with the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina and the levee breaches approaching, to remind ourselves how much we cherish what we feared we had lost.

Remember that first Carnival after the disaster, when revelers fashioned costumes out of FEMA's blue tarps and parade-goers held up signs as floats passed along St. Charles Avenue saying simply: Thank you.

We have traveled far from that February day in 2006. There are new parades and marching krewes with seemingly endless creativity. Even the construction pit covering the entire Napoleon Avenue neutral ground is a sign of recovery, if an annoying one.

This has been a particularly beautiful parade season, from Krewe du Vieux on. That was marred Thursday night when two young men -- 21 and 22 years old -- were shot along the St. Charles Avenue parade route and later died. Their deaths were a reminder of the stubborn problem New Orleans has with violence.

Police officers stationed along the parade route quickly chased down a suspect, 19-year-old John Hicks. He was charged with two counts of second-degree murder Friday and was being held on $1 million bond. He's also facing one count of using a firearm during a crime of violence on a parade route. The Legislature passed that law after Latasha Bell, a young mother, was killed in 2004 when rival neighborhood groups opened fire on each during the Muses parade.

NOPD officials said John Hicks and a group of friends had an argument that turned physical with another group Thursday during the Muses parade, and he opened fire.

A shooting such as this shakes people's sense of security. How could it not?

Parades feel like a safety zone even in a city that is consistently ranked high nationally in violent crime per capita. And they should be safe.

The fact that violence intrudes at what should be such a carefree moment is especially upsetting.

"On behalf of Muses, the hearts have just fallen out of everyone," krewe captain Staci Rosenberg said Friday. "We all feel terrible. It's such a tragedy. Our hearts go out to the families of everyone involved."

She noted that there is a strong police presence along the 5-mile route. "I would hate for people to change their plans because of something like this," she said. "Mardi Gras is a huge, wonderful cultural celebration, and incidents like this are extremely rare."

Many readers said they wouldn't let Thursday's violence deter them.

A reader whose user name is Jnnola said: "It's sad, terrible and sickening that something like this happens during something that is supposed to be a celebration. However, Mardi Gras is not really unsafe ... The routes are miles long and hundreds of thousands of people attend parades with absolutely no problem."

Another reader posted a photo from Instagram of a smiling little girl decked out in pink and loaded down with beads. The caption read: "This, friends, is Mardi Gras. Not knuckleheads with guns. This."

Yes, happy, tired children who catch more trinkets than they can carry are what Mardi Gras is about. The topic of discussion after a parade should be: Did you get a hand-decorated shoe? A bracelet? Beads that blink?

The Carnival celebration leading up to Lent is one of the things that makes our community so special. How many places get to embrace life in this way? Year in and year out. Despite the trials of everyday life. Despite the grievous losses we suffered when the levees broke in Katrina. ' Times-Picayune columnist Jarvis DeBerry described that spirit in an essay in December 2005 as people debated whether Mardi Gras should go on: We've lost homes. Big ones, little ones, shotguns, camelbacks, cottages, mansions. We've lost neighborhoods. ... We've lost schools and congregations. We've lost jobs. ... We've lost people. Not just random people, either, but loved ones: mamas and daddies, marrains and parrains, our neighbors, our classmates, grandparents. So many grandparents. You ask, who in their right minds would think of this as a time to plan a celebration. We would.

We did. And here we are in the midst of another Carnival. As long as we continue to cherish and nourish these traditions, the celebration will go on and on.


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