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    Brief news from across Tangipahoa to East Baton Rouge parishes.

    HOUMA
    A Louisiana school board member refuses to resign after she said that streets named after Martin Luther King are racist since the Confederate flag is racist. The NAACP wants Terrebonne Parish School Board member Vicki Bonvillain to step down after she made a series of Facebook posts earlier in July, whining about the backlash toward the Confederate flag in the wake of the killing of nine African-American churchgoers in South Carolina by a white supremacist Confederate sympathizer in June. Bonvillain posted an image on her Facebook page saying that if the Confederate flag is racist then so is the Democratic Party, BET, Hispanic Scholarship Fund, the NAACP, Black History Month, and La Raza. In her opinion, all of these are “racist” symbols that should be destroyed.

    NATIONAL
    In an effort to cut recidivism, the Obama Administration plans to restore federal funding for prison inmates to take college course. This move is considered part of the President’s broader push to “overhaul the criminal justice system according to the Wall Street Journal. The plan would allow thousands of inmates across the United States to access higher education.

    STATE
    The Board of Secondary and Elementary Education has approved a plan to increase access to affordable child care and to raise funding levels for qualified childcare centers and teachers across the state. The plan will increase the amount of money the state will pay per child from $35 to $93 a week for children in the Child Care Assistance Program. It will also allow families to remain eligible for CCAP for at least one year regardless of changes in work or school status of parents. Praised for its increased funding, the plan does not increase the number of children served in CCAP which has dropped over the last six years.

    BATON ROUGE
    Louisiana, Mississippi, and New Mexico rank the worst states for child wellbeing by the Annie E. Casey Foundation. According to the 2015 Kids Count Data Book, more families are struggling to make ends meet and a growing number of kids live in high poverty neighborhoods. Louisiana ranks 48th overall with 28 percent of children in poverty, 34 percent of children whose parents lack secure employment, and 12 percent of teens not in school and not working. In education, 50 percent of children don’t attend preschool, 77 percent of fourth graders are not proficient in reading and 79 percent of eighth graders are not proficient in math. ONLINE: www.aecf.org

    HAMMOND
    The 2015 Northshore Gubernatorial Forum is set for 8 p.m. on Wednesday Sept. 2 in Southeastern Louisiana University’s Columbia Theatre for the Performing Arts. The four leading candidates in the race have indicated their intent to participate in the forum, which is being underwritten by First Guaranty Bank, Northshore Business Council, Northshore Legislative Alliance, and Southeastern Student Government Association. A collaborative effort of the regional business, economic development and higher education communities, the event is free and open to the public.

     

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  • COMMENTARY: Stopping access doesn’t stop payday debt traps

    The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, a government agency created after the 2008 financial crisis, is in the process of creating the first set of federal rules governing the short-term lending industry. Fearing that consumers are getting caught in “debt traps” — borrowing money to pay back previous loans over and over again and never getting out of debt — the agency is pushing for new regulations on small-dollar credit products like payday loans, title loans, and high-cost installment loans.
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    About 12 million Americans rely on short-term loans each year. Traditional banks have long ignored these customers, since banks are unable to underwrite such loans profitably.

    But as written, the regulations could wipe out most — if not all — of the entire short-term lending industry, leaving consumers without any market alternatives. That’s why the CFPB should scrap its regulations and instead focus its efforts on either addressing the problematic features of short-term lending products or creating a framework to encourage industry innovation.

    If the CFPB enacts rules that essentially put the short-term lending industry out of business, what are consumers to do?

    Some say they should save more.

    But the Federal Reserve found that 47 percent of Americans couldn’t pay for an unexpected $400 expense with savings or a credit card, but would be forced to sell a possession or borrow.

    Others say they should ask family.

    While some are fortunate enough to have friends or family members to turn to, many don’t. Of those unable to meet a shortfall of $250, many do not have friends or family with money to lend.

    Others suggest they should go to a bank.

    But it’s not profitable for banks to make short-term loans. With fixed costs of operations, underwriting, servicing, compliance and charge offs, banks cannot offer loans of a few hundred dollars.

    The CFPB’s new regulations would dictate exactly how lenders should assess a consumer’s ability to repay a loan. This will disproportionately impact those who lack traditional income documentation, like the elderly, divorcees, minorities, and low-income Americans. These are the people the proposal is supposed to protect.

    A better solution would allow short-term lenders to follow the guidance imposed from the credit card reforms, like reasonable income and expense verification, or a safe harbor for responsible lenders who have proven they can manage risk effectively.

    The ideal framework would protect consumers by ending problematic practices, but keep credit flowing to responsible, hard-working Americans. Reasonable procedures for income and expensive verification, rules ensuring payments cover interest and reduce principal, and eliminating bad actors will go a long way to achieving the consumer protections the CFPB desires.

    The CFPB’s proposal would reduce access to credit, which would increase bankruptcies, lower credit scores, and force borrowers to turn to more expensive options with fewer consumer protections. It would stifle innovation and reduce choice for consumers who desperately need more, not fewer, options.

    The CFPB should adopt a framework that incentivizes innovation and market alternatives instead of prescribing a one-size-fits-all mandate. It should work to expand access to credit in struggling, low-income communities, not restrict it.

    Submitted by Sasha Orloff


    Sasha Orloff is the CEO and co-founder of LendUp, a venture-backed startup that builds credit solutions for consumers who banks and traditional lenders can’t help.

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    Southeast Regional Biblical Institute (SRBI)

    The Baton Rouge community has another opportunity to study God’s word and prepare ministers and laypersons for the work of ministry. The 2015 Fall Semester class for first term at Southeast Regional Biblical Institute, at 185 Eddie Robinson Sr Dr., will begin on August 17, at 6 pm.

    This diploma program is through Samford Ministry Training Institute, Birmingham, Alabama. The student will earn the Biblical Studies diploma after the completion of 6 classes of concentration in Biblical Studies plus an additional four classes of electives chosen by the student. This Diploma Program of biblical and theological education is being offered to ministers and laypersons. This Extension Institute has been designed for persons who want to improve their biblical and theological knowledge. This Institute will further prepare men and women for ministry. ALL interested persons, with or without college degrees are invited to participate. The courses will be taught by seminary trained instructors and experienced pastors.

    ONLINE: www.srbi-br.org

    For more information, contact: Dr. Mary W. Moss, Director of The Southeast Regional Institute at (225) 772-0307 or email-pastormoss@att.net or Thelma Jones,
    tjones1972@cox.net.

    By Community News Submission

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    Woman to Watch: Blair Imani Brown

    Last year, when hundreds of students gathered at LSU by candlelight in response to the Mike Brown indictment decision, it was the organizing work of Blair Imani Brown and Peter Jenkins. The event became the catalyst for the group now known as Baton Rouge Organizing, and Brown, Shamaka Schumake, Majdal Ismail, Zandashé Brown, Aryanna Prasad, and Leonela Guzman became co-founders. Soon after, they organized a Die In on LSU’s campus, an #ICantBreathe A Rally for Eric Garner on the steps of the Louisiana State Capitol, a rally for Victor White III, a Google Hangout about Freddie Gray, while providing support for events outside of Baton Rouge including a Die In and Solidarity March in Lafayette. They have also organized to push for animal rights and push against homophobia and sexism.

    But those efforts at social justice only seem to reveal the tip of Brown’s passion for equality, giving meaning to the work she has begun around human rights. The budding lawyer said she’s learned how important it is to change policies. “I’m a nerd about the civil rights movement,” she said. “I’m enchanted by it and it’s transferred into an urgency to be part of changing how we think of things through law. The push right now is education because (we) don’t have the ability to initiate public policy.”

    At 21 years old, Brown has stepped up to address the daunting, and often times risky, challenge of fighting for equal rights and fair treatment of all humans. Her demands have lead to her being threatened by email, followed to her apartment, and called a N*gr B. They have also lead to changes at LSU. For one, Brown was able to have the Odell S. Williams African American Museum included on in the Department of History’s internship program.

    “When I found out about the museum was not a part of the program, I was confused and I spoke to professor… What kind of failure of the institution is this?” she said with a laugh. “But I believe it was just miseducation and they sincerely did not know and were not overlooking. It was important that they acknowledged it and willingly corrected it.” Now the university can introduce students to the city’s only public museum dedicated to Black history.

    Through Baton Rouge Organizing, Brown and the other leaders galvanized students to push the LSU police department to change how it identifies suspects on the campus wide alert system. The police would announce that the suspect was a “Black male wearing a hood” and the group used that in a 15-person demonstration on the campus where they wore hoodies and held up signs that stated “He fit the description.” The demonstration included students and the university’s director of diversity. They also sent a letter to the LSU PD requesting that they “respond responsibly”.

    “(We used a) combination of the wide spread social media presence and main stream media and LSU media,” Brown said, “It was something that couldn’t be ignored.” The system now offers more detailed descriptions on campus alerts.

    “Education is the best vehicle for awareness and change,” she said. As her awareness of injustices increased, Brown said she began noticing that the women around the world had similar experiences, “I founded Equality for HER a women’s empowerment organization dedicated to bring awareness to women’s health, education, and rights…and to address the intersections of one’s identities that constitute their being.”

    She has been able to work with women as far away as Latin America, Egypt, and Lagos.

    “I feel that too often we are made to choose one part of identity in order to join a given group. For example there’s often a narrative that I must divorce my heritage as a Black person in order to “focus” on women’s rights or conversely remove my identity as a women in order to work on LGBTQ or minority rights. While this narrative is unfortunately very prominent, I think I have proved it to be false.”

    For that, Blair Brown is a Woman to Watch.
    image

    Blair Imani Brown, 21
    LSU Student
    Founder and President, Equality for HER
    Co-Founder, Baton Rouge Organizing

    Hometown: Pasadena, CA

    Moves made: In January 2014, As I began my efforts with Equality for HER, I simultaneously worked as the assistant organizer of the Louisiana Queer Conference in 2014 with student activist Michael Beyer…I developed an intersectional presentation on dating violence. I was able to do a few presentations at Louisiana State University, develop a web module about Breaking the Cycle on EqualityforHER.com, and provide commentary about Louisiana’s issues with domestic violence for media outlets…After the decision was announced not to indict the officer who shot and killed Michael Brown, Peter Jenkins and I used social media to bring the Baton Rouge Community together for a candlelight vigil in less than 24 hours. The Baton Rouge Organizing Facebook group turned into an amazing phenomenon. With Equality for HER, we have just finished our Women’s History Month features where in we feature a variety of multicultural women achievers that have made contributions to our society. However, perhaps the most inspirational endeavor I have been a part of is the work with the family of Victor White III…and getting a petition circulating on Change.org urging the New Iberia coroner to change the cause of death from suicide to homicide. This petition was delivered (to the coroner’s office) on the anniversary of Victor White Iasi’s death. More than a year after his mysterious death we still await justice for Victor White III.

    What to expect from you: This year began with all eyes on Baton Rouge Organizing. We have been able to initiate, sponsor, and promote various protests around many issues. We have held rallies, demonstrations about racial profiling, vigils for “Our Three Winners” Deah, Yusor, and Razan who were victims of Islamophobia. Shortly after the (Victor White III) petition’s delivery, I visited Howard University Law School, and I made the decision to attend there in the fall…Working with Rev. Victor White Sr. and his family has further encouraged me to pursue a legal career, so that much like Attorney Marilyn Mosby, I can be apart of the systematic change required to root out the racism and corruption within the court system…I continue to organize events surrounding social justice issues.

    What music are you dancing to? Anything from Motown Records. I love the empowering message of the protest songs of the ‘60s and ‘70s. I have also found a renewed appreciation for the rap music of the ‘90s.

    What are you reading? “Death of a King” by Tavis Smiley

    Mentors and Role Models: My mother, Kristina Brown, she has taught me strength and resilience. My father, DeWalt Brown, is someone who I also admire because of his commitment to social justice and belief in humanity. The person who I both identify with and aspire to emulate is Attorney General Kamala Harris. I also look up to Representative John Lewis, Dr. Terrence Roberts, and Melissa Harris Perry.

    Personal Resolution: My personal resolution for 2015 is to find a balance between my efforts in social activism and my academic career. I have resolved to take on less projects while cultivating leadership skills in my peers. I have also become committed to being an advocate of causes that I may not directly identify with. I have recently converted to Islam and getting closer to God has given me a lot more strength and helps me give up my fears and worries to him.

    Company Resolution: With Equality for HER, we will be transitioning the brand under the leadership of Sophia Herzog as we work in collaboration while I am starting my first year of law school.

    Life motto: To create and implement change and to advocate for all marginalized people.

    Where to find you online? www.BlairB.com or on LinkedIn.

    Read more »
  • Community Events: July 19 – 31

    Here are your upcoming community events, meetings, and workshops in and around the Ponchatoula, Hammond, and Baton Rouge area. Complete this form to share your upcoming events: Drum Community Events or email information to news at thedrumnewspaper dot info.

     

    July 18, 24, and August 1

    Play Streets, 10am-2pm, 5820 Evangeline Street. Several streets in the Brookstown neighborhood will be closed to traffic to allow children to play as part of Pennington Biomedical Center’s Play STreets program. This program affords children and families in a local neighborhood increased space to play outside and engage in physical activity.

     

     

     

    July 19 – 25

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    SPIRIT OF PENTECOST APPREHENDED, 7pm nightly, World Link of Churches and Ministries, 2103 S. Philippe Ave., Gonzales, featuring 10 guest ministers and Apostle Lloyd Benson Sr. Youth Fresh will be held Tuesday, July 21 with Prophet Richard Horace of Houston Texas.

     

     

     

    July 21
    Ponchatoula Mayor’s Court
    , 5:30PM, Ponchatoula City Hall,125 W. Hickory Street. Click HERE to pay fines online. For information regarding Mayor’s Court please call (985) 370-7500.

    July 22
    Early Childhood Care and Education Advisory Council Meeting, 
    1pm,Thomas Jefferson Room, Claiborne Building, 1201 N. 3rd Street.The Louisiana Department of Education will present the major proposed improvements to the eligibility and funding rates for the Louisiana Child Care Assistance Program. One proposed change is for families to remain eligible for at least one year regardless of life changes. ONLINE: http://bese.louisiana.gov/home

    July 25

    save_our_cities_now_15adg001001Save Our Cities Prayer Initiative, 8am, prayer march from the Governor’s Mansion in Baton Rouge to the La. State Capitol Building. According to organizers, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference president Charles Steele Jr., the Rev. Jessie Jackson of the Rainbow Push Coalition, and the Rev. Al Sharpton of the National Action Network will join in the march led by Chief Apostle Lloyd Benson Sr. ONLINE: saveourcitiesnow.org or www.wlcm.org

     

     

     

    July 30

    The July Meeting of The Diabetic Kitchen. 5pm, First United Methodist Church Fellowship Hall, 119 Jefferson St, New Iberia. Guest speaker will be Dr. Shelley Smith of Audibel Hearing Healthcare in New Iberia and Abbeville. Smith’s focus and specialty include adult and pediatric diagnostic testing, adult and pediatric amplification and tinnitus management. Contact: Nathaniel Mitchell Sr., Nateyes@bellsouth.net or The Diabetic Kitchen on Facebook.

     

    Invite us out!
    Complete this form to share your upcoming events: Drum Community Events or email information to news at thedrumnewspaper dot info

    Join the show!
    If you would like to be a guest on Let’s Talk About it; The Ed Show on WSTY in Hammond, La. Complete the form with all details or call the show producer, Eddie Ponds, at (985) 351-0813.

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    Attorney announces candidacy at demolished hospital

    Jordan seeks to represent Dist. 29

    Using the partially demolished LSU Earl K Long Hospital as his backdrop on yesterday (July 15), Brusly attorney Edmond Jordan announced  his candidacy for the Louisiana House District 29.

    “I will fight to balance the disproportionate economic disparity between north and south Baton Rouge….We need to bring businesses to District 29 and help rejuvenate this district,” Jordan told the small gathering of supporters.

    “If we do things the way that they’ve always been done, then things will remain the way that they’ve always been… It’s time to change what we’ve been doing. Let’s work together to stop the decline in the quality of life for the citizens of Louisiana,” Jordan told the small gathering of supporters.

    image

    Edmond Jordan

    State Representative Regina Ashford Barrow has termed out of the District 29 seat after having represented the area since 2005.

    For Jordan this is an opportunity for meaningful change.

    He said an individual who knows how to fight for the best interest of people should hold the office of State Representative.

    “The time is now to elect such an individual. I am that individual,” he said.

    Jordan said he will travel throughout the district, which covers a portion of North Baton Rouge through West Baton Rouge, and reach “like-minded citizens searching for strong, responsible and inspirational servant leadership” for the district.

    A life-long resident of Brusly, La., Edmond Jordan is a graduate of Brusly High School, Southern University A&M College and the Southern University Law Center.  Jordan has been an attorney for 17 years, representing the Louisiana Public Service Commission, LDEQ, and the United States Department of Homeland Security.  Additionally, he a co-owner of Cypress Insurance Agency in Baton Rouge, LA. 

    He currently serves as director/trustee on the boards of Essential Federal Credit Union, South Louisiana Charter Foundation and Capitol City Family Health Center.

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    Message to the Community from BREC Superintendent Carolyn McKnight

    I cannot in good conscience justify spending scarce taxpayer resources for a swimming pool that only five people walked to and used on a daily basis. I am writing to set the record straight about the imminent removal of the Gus Young swimming pool.

    BREC’s 2004 Imagine Your Parks plan evaluated the entire park system and the BREC Commission approved a separate aquatics plan which recommended modernizing some pools and creating an aquatic system that offered more options in strategic locations, including learn to swim pools, splash pads and centrally located Liberty Lagoon Water Park. The plan, prepared by a national aquatic firm familiar with best practices, also included partnering with other agencies to enable us to use resources more efficiently.

    The closing of pools at Baringer, Webb, Jefferson Highway and Gus Young Neighborhood Parks and the renovation of pools at Howell, City-Brooks and Anna T. Jordan Community Parks are part of that plan. The plan recommended having aquatic features only in community parks which serve a much larger population than neighborhood parks like Gus Young. In 2012, BREC was forced to close the 50-year old pool because it did not meet safety and health requirements and could not be repaired.

    BREC places a high priority on teaching children to swim and continues to expand its partnership with the YMCA. Together we offer swimming lessons at BREC and YMCA pools and have created a free water safety program taught to students and parents during the school year. We are proud to say that in addition to teaching more than 475 kids to swim last year hundreds more have signed up for swimming lessons again this summer.

    BREC transports hundreds of children from our summer camps to our pools and to Liberty Lagoon on a daily basis. Outside camps also use those locations. Using cost savings from the closure of neighborhood pools, and working with the YMCA, we created a “Splash Pass” which offers children the ability to swim at YMCA pools at BREC prices during our public swim times. Liberty Lagoon, in its fifth season, continues to thrive, frequently reaching maximum attendance levels and serving people throughout the parish.

    More than that, BREC places a high priority on serving youth and teens across the parish in order to offer healthy, safe, structured activity and protect them from exposure to violence or juvenile delinquency. Here is a snapshot of programs currently offered:

    • BREC on the Geaux serves 35 locations with 29 in the inner city area servicing approximately 8,000 youth and teens since January.
    • BREC offers 61 Recreation classes and programs for youth in the inner city areas and 28 programs for teens.
    • BREC offers 41 summer camps with 17 in the inner city area. 2015 summer camp enrollment has increased by nearly 1,400 children for recreation camps alone.
    • BREC hosted 16 Community Events in the inner city area since January servicing approximately 4,675 people.
    • BREC’s sports leagues such as baseball, football and basketball have served approximately 10,497 youth and teens since January.
    • BREC’s Outdoor Adventure serves 236 youth and teens with programs.
    • BREC’s Golf Department offered 72 programs targeted to youth and teens through the First Tee and other programs.
    • BREC Belfair Teen Center has served approximately 75 teens through a job training program.

    Later this summer, BREC will present several options to replace the 50-year old pool at Gus Young at a public meeting. Community leaders have asked us to consider building a splash pad which would require a significant amount of private funding and Commission approval since it is counter to our Aquatics plan. BREC simply cannot afford to build splash pads or pools in neighborhood parks. If a sufficient amount of private funding is not located, we have ideas on how to enhance this active park and the many events held there now.

    BREC remains committed to serving the entire parish while making the best use possible of limited taxpayer dollars that fund more than 180 parks. We also remain committed to partnering with the YMCA and schools to teach children to swim, offer quality recreation programs for youth and teens during after school and out of school breaks and creating a healthier and safer community.

    Carolyn McKnight
    BREC Superintendent
    cmcknight@brec.org

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    50th Anniversary of the MC Moore desegregation Case featured on The Ed Show

    Blacks in Ponchatoula, La., are still pushing for equality in the Tangipahoa Parish School System after 50 years.
    This segment of The Ed Show: Let’s Talk About It, features the original family of the M.C. Moore Desegregation Case.

    The Ed Show is hosted by The Drum Newspaper publisher Eddie Ponds on WSTY-TV in Hammond. To be a guest, complete the form on the Submit News page of this site or click here.

    Read more about this case at Does the education of Black children matter in Tangipahoa?

    @jozefsyndicate

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    Conference to focus on advancing leadership in economic development

    The Southern University College of Business is hosting its Second Annual Advancing Leadership in Economic Development conference on June 11 -13 at the Southern University College of Business’ T.T. Allain Hall.

    The two-day conference will feature local and nationally recognized business leaders who will share effective leadership strategies and successful economic development programs.

    Featured speakers include: James Joseph, former ambassador to South Africa and former public policy professor at Duke University;  Richard McCline, Ph.D., with the Fanning Institute for Leadership Development at the University of Georgia; and Will Campbell with Capital One.

    Topics include regional economic growth and development opportunities, revitalizing rural and inner-city neighborhoods, leadership models that get results,  and the role of political leaders in economic development.
    It is targeted to small business owners, community development professionals, nonprofit organizations, city and state leaders, and anyone else who is interested in learning more about leadership and business opportunities in our area.

    “This conference encourages attendees to play a greater role in growing their businesses and organizations and to take advantage of the many economic opportunities available in our city and state,” said Donald Andrew, Ph.D., dean of the College of Business and coordinator of the conference. ‘It also gives attendees the tools they need to succeed and it’s a great networking opportunity.”

    Registration is $50.  For more information on speakers and to register, go to subruniversitycenter.org or call (225) 771-5640 or (225) 771- 6248.

     

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  • Caldwell tells ATF to protect popular bullets

    Louisiana Attorney General Buddy Caldwell has joined a bipartisan group of state Attorneys General to encourage the federal government to permanently shelve a proposal to ban a popular type of ammunition used by shooting sports enthusiasts.

    Caldwell and 22 other Attorneys General said in a letter to the head of the ATF that a ban on the sale of M855 5.56 x 45 mm cartridges would threaten American citizens’ Second Amendment rights.

    “I am alarmed by this attempt to infringe upon the Second Amendment rights of Louisianans by prohibiting the sale of ammunition widely used by target shooters.”  Caldwell said, “It is important to make sure that the plan never resurfaces. I and my colleagues across the country will keep monitoring this issue.  The ATF has indicated they will extend the deadline for comments and I encourage everyone to continue to fight the fight against this proposal by continuing your comments to the ATF opposing the ban.”

    The cartridge is used in the Modern Sporting Rifle (AR-15) and is one of the most popular types of ammunition sold. ATF would be abusing its authority by banning the sale of the ammunition, the letter stated.

    Caldwell and other attorneys general said that a ban, if followed to its logical end, could result in a prohibition of the sale of a wide range of other types of rifle ammunition.

    Caldwell and the group emphasized that while the safety of law enforcement agents is foremost in their thoughts, there is no evidence that the ammunition poses a specific threat to officers.

    Joining Caldwell in signing the letter were Attorneys General from: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Utah and Wyoming.

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  • After ‘Earth,’ ‘Men in Black 3,’ ‘Seven Pounds’…there’s ‘Focus’

    Film Review

    It’s been a while since Will Smith lived up to his star status in a film worth having his name above the marquee. As Nicky, a con artist’s con artist in Focus, he redeems himself somewhat in a generic but often entertaining game of who’s fooling who. Nicky Spurgeon – part con artist and part thief – was trained by his dad and granddad in the fine art of deception: Focus your victim’s attention in one direction, while you steal him blind out of his line of vision.

    One night in a New York bar, Jess (Margot Robbie, The Wolf of Wall Street), a novice shyster, picks him up and brings him back to her hotel. Her enraged husband barges into the room demanding money from Nicky, or he’ll kill him. Don’t BS a BSer. Nick knows the two are on the con. He schools them. That would have been the end of a strange night, except Jess wants to learn the ropes from a master and Nicky is smitten with the svelte blonde. Nicky works Jess into his gang of thieves.

    In New Orleans, they pickpocket, swipe jewelry and steal money with a nerve and rhythm that is precision. At a football game, Nicky schemes on a wealthy man named Liyuan (BD Wong) who likes to bet on anything. He pulls an unwitting Jess into his ruse.  Once he’s done, he leaves her. Three years later in Buenos Aries, Nicky shows up for a job involving the racecar world and a coveted algorithm. He’s working for a slick dude named Garriga (Rodrigo Santoro).  He’s shocked one night when he finds a beautiful blonde cozying up to his mark. It’s Jess. The cagey film The Grifters, starring Annette Bening, Anjelica Houston and John Cusack, directed by Stephen Frears, set the bar real high for all con artist movies that followed. This nicely crafted and very slick looking production isn’t as gripping or original as the aforementioned, but that doesn’t stop it from being fun. You won’t be astonished, but you won’t be bored either.

    Writer/directors Glenn Ficara and John Requa (Crazy, Stupid, Love) mix in enough hijinks (thieves working a New Orleans crowd), violence (a car crash, punched faces and gun play) and titillation (Smith goes bare chest, Robbie does not, their modest love sex scene lacks chemistry) to keep your interests piqued.

    The screenplay has a lot of twists and turns, and you can’t quite guess where the story is leading, though you know instinctively that a big con is coming. Jan Kovac’s (Curb Your Enthusiasm) editing is pretty nimble and well accommodates the film’s four acts, which unfold in 104 minutes. There is a happy marriage between Xavier Grobet’s (Mother and Child) glossy cinematography, Beth Mickle’s (Thanks for Sharing) production design and Kelly Curley’s art direction, which tends to favor teal blue. The musical score by Nick Urata (I Love You Phillip Morris) is reminiscent of 1980s hip nightclub music, like the hit song “Ghost Town” by The Specials. Margot Robbie, certainly tall and beautiful in a Victoria Secrets kind of way, has a tough interior. Adrian Martinez (American Hustle) as Farhad, one of Nicky’s cronies, brings humor to the gang. As Jess sits in the back seat and Nicky drives the car, Farhad blurts out, “You hitting that?” Gerald McRaney (TV’s House of Cards) plays the perfect henchman.

    Rodrigo Santoro is fine as the Argentinean playboy, but he was much more electric in 300: Rise of an Empire. Will Smith carries this film on shoulders. His cool demeanor and devil-may-care attitude are appealing. He has tremendous stage presence and he knows how to work the camera. Physically, for a 47 year-old-man, he’s in great shape and aging like Dorian Grey. What Smith’s career needs now, is a blockbuster that can put him back on top of the heap. Focus is a bit too slick, but engaging nonetheless.  It doesn’t give up.  It doesn’t stop. Or, as Nicky puts it, “Never drop the con. Die with the lie.”

    By Dwight Brown
    NNPA Film Critic
    DwightBrownInk.com

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  • Group to receive $900,000 for North BR charter school developments

    New Schools for Baton Rouge announced earlier this week that it is investing $900,000 in HOPE Christian Schools from its $30 million Excellence Fund.

    Although no sites have been identified, NSBR officials said HOPE is preparing to launch its first school as early as Fall 2016.HOPE plans to open a total of four schools, serving 1,000 students in grades K-12 by 2022.

    NSBR’s board voted to make the investment after reviewing HOPE’s leadership, transformational school model, growth plan, and plans to engage the local community. HOPE is the first nonpublic school to receive an investment from NSBR’s Excellence Fund.

    Chris Meyer New Schools for Baton Rouge

    Chris Meyer
    New Schools for Baton Rouge

    “We are excited to welcome HOPE Christian Schools to Baton Rouge and provide the families of North Baton Rouge with another excellent school choice,” said Chris Meyer, CEO of NSBR. “HOPE schools have a track record of success. For the past three years, 100% of HOPE’s seniors were accepted into college. They are a great addition to our network of excellent schools as we work to ultimately deliver great schools, both public and nonpublic, to 12,000 students in underperforming schools in North Baton Rouge by 2017.”

    “HOPE is pleased to partner with NSBR to bring the students of North Baton Rouge our school model, which focuses on character and academic performance,” said Andrew Neumann, Ph.D., president and CEO of Educational Enterprises and HOPE Christian Schools, Inc. “Our schools are designed to put students on the path to college from day one through our model which integrates a focus on academic excellence, character development and faith formation.  We do this through providing strong leadership and passionate teachers, creating a positive and nurturing culture for learning, and using data to drive purposeful instruction.”

    Andrew Neumann, Ph.D. Hope Christian Schools

    Andrew Neumann, Ph.D. Hope Christian Schools

    HOPE Christian Schools is a network of five Christian, college-preparatory schools in Milwaukee’s central city that opened in 2002 with one school and nearly 50 students. Today, HOPE serves nearly 1,600 students in kindergarten (K4 and K5) through 12th grade with the 3 C’s - Christ. College. Character® HOPE aims to launch in areas of unmet educational needs with high at-risk populations. In their current network, 90% – 100% of students qualify for free or reduced lunch.  Across their three K-8 schools last year, HOPE averaged over 1.5 years growth on the Northwest Evaluation Association’s Measures of Academic Progress assessment and their high school students outperformed the city, state and national ACT average for African-American students.

    NSBR’s Excellence Fund is a collection of local and national resources to catalyze the transformation of schools in what NSBR calls the Baton Rouge Achievement Zone.. NSBR’s top priority is to support the expansion of proven, high-performing schools by investing exclusively in organizations that have track records of success, a transformational school model, and a commitment to the Baton Rouge community.

     

     

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  • Winter Dance Company presents “Oh Happy Day”: A Black History Tribute Production

    Winter Dance Company will team up with area dancers and singers in celebration of Black History for the  2nd Annual “Oh Happy Day’ production, Sunday, March 1, at McKinley Middle Magnet School,1550 Eddie Robinson Sr. Drive.

    Performing again this year will be MOKA Dance Association, Anointed 2 Dance, D-Icon Productions, Pirouette Dance Studio, and many others.This astounding dance presentation made its grand debut last at The Dufroq School with nearly 300 people in attendance. The performances last year brought the audience to their feet as they danced to old negro spirituals including “Wade in the Water,” “Change Gon’ Come,” and “Oh Happy Day, along with a combination of monologues, skits, and other presentations in celebration of heritage and culture.

    Organizers said the production of “Oh Happy Day” was a creative way for the talents involved to pay respect to those who have paved the way, not only Blacks, but for all mankind. Special thanks to Megan Lawrence who will assist again with the program, the layout and concept of the program. “I am so very grateful for the support that the local community gave us for “Oh Happy Day last year” said Winter McCray. “And, we thank the Baton Rouge Community in advance for supporting for this year’s event.”

    Doors will open at 4pm. Production starts at 5pm. Admission is $5.

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  • LSU Summer Scholars Class of 2015 Accepting Applications

    LSU University College’s Summer Scholars program is currently accepting applications for its Class of 2015. Su>mmer Scholars is an eight-week summer program that prepares high-achieving, under-represented minority students to make a successful transition from high school to college. The program is only open to 2015 high school graduates who have applied and are eligible for enrollment at LSU. This summer experience offers students the opportunity to become adjusted to the academic, personal, and social challenges they may encounter as new freshmen at LSU.

     LSU Summer Scholars awards scholarships covering tuition, housing, meal plan and cultural and enrichment activities. The deadline to apply for Summer Scholars is March 20.For more information or to apply for LSU Summer Scholars Class of 2015, visit www.lsu.edu/ssp <http://www.lsu.edu/ssp> .

    “LSU Summer Scholars is an opportunity for incoming minority students to arrive on campus for a summer experience that not only involves enrollment in freshman level classes, but also the opportunity to integrate themselves to the campus community and build a network of fellow students who support each other and grow together in a close bond that lasts beyond their freshman year,” said R. Paul Ivey, executive director of LSU University College.

    Summer Scholars are provided with a structured environment conducive to building the fundamental skills necessary to enhance the likelihood of successful completion of a bachelor’s degree. The program includes enrollment in six credit hours of coursework; study/discussion groups with supplemental instructors and tutors; social and cultural enrichment activities; residence in on-campus housing for the entire summer term; academic, self-improvement, and leadership seminars; and academic advising, course scheduling, and career goal development.

    “Summer Scholars helps students pursue their dream of coming to LSU,” said Riad Elhhanoufi, president of Summer Scholars Class of 2014 and LSU chemical engineering major. “The program has Tiger Exploration talks where various speakers share with us specifics of their industry and resources to help us in our lives at the university. Summer Scholars provides me the opportunity to get one step ahead of the game.”

    Ivey said that former participants in the Summer Scholars Program live by the motto, “Once a Scholar, Always a Scholar,” so the networking opportunities extend far beyond the boundaries of campus.

    “Scholars receive an experience that helps prepare them for their upcoming college careers,” said Natalie Derouen, a 2009 Summer Scholar participant and LSU biology major. “They build friendships that will last a lifetime, and they become part of a family that has been established for more than 20 excellent years.”

    Since 1933, LSU University College has served as the portal of entry for students enrolled at LSU. Academic and personal success is the hallmark of a well-rounded student and University College provides a foundation of support services for students beginning their academic careers at LSU. University College has two enrollment divisions: The Center for Freshman Year and The Center for Advising and Counseling. In addition, a variety of retention-specific programs, targeting particular student populations, play a significant role in accomplishing our mission. These programs include Student Support Services, Ronald E. McNair Research Scholars and Summer Scholars. For more information on LSU University College or Summer Scholars, visit www.uc.lsu.edu <http://www.uc.lsu.edu>  or follow the conversation at www.facebook.com/LSU.UniversityCollege <http://www.facebook.com/LSU.UniversityCollege>

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  • Poet Laureate nominations sought

    NEW ORLEANS –The Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities (LEH), authorized by the Governor and State of Louisiana, is seeking nominations for Louisiana’s next Poet Laureate. The LEH has appointed a selection committee, as required by state legislation. The selection committee is now soliciting nominations of poets either born or domiciled in Louisiana at the time of nomination. The selection committee will submit three fi nalists to the governor, from whom he shall choose a nominee, subject to state senate confirmation. Nominees shall have published works in books, anthologies, literary journals or magazines. The selection committee will seek input from the general public, and the literary community, and shall select nominees who refl ect the diverse cultures and heritage of Louisiana. A poet may not self-nominate.

    Committee members may not be nominated. The selection committee will deliberate in March 2015 and make its recommendations to the governor. A final announcement will be made in May 2015.

    The poet laureate shall serve a two-year term and deliver an annual public reading in the state as designated by the LEH. Poet laureates may not serve two consecutive terms. Letters of nomination should be specific as to the above criteria. The deadline for nominations is Feb.27.

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  • Food for Fines at Local Libraries All December

    The East Baton Rouge Parish Library is hosting a program throughout the month of December as a special holiday gift for our patrons, as well as for those in need. Patrons can donate a non-perishable food item at any of the 14 library branch locations throughout December, and the Library will waive $1 of the total late check-out fine per donated item. All items will benefit the Greater Baton Rouge Food Bank. Food can include canned vegetables, soups and meat; flour; rice; peanut butter; pasta; corn meal; breakfast cereal and bars; or any canned, bagged or boxed non-perishable food item.

    ONLINE:

    www.ebrpl.com.

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  • Scotlandville Assembly seeks action on dangerous rail crossing, food access and emergency prep

    Spend a few minutes at the intersection of Scenic Highway and Scotland Avenue, and you are likely to see car after car stopping at a red light while parked directly over the rail tracks that cross the intersection. When the train comes, you’ll see drivers having to decide whether to run a red light or get hit by a train. And you’ll see drivers approaching the intersection with traffic lights that are green for their direction, while a train barrels toward the intersection in front of them.

    “Right now, this crossing is a recipe for disaster,” said the Rev. Clifton Conrad, pastor of Camphor Memorial United Methodist Church. “With all the chemical and refining plants in our area, these trains aren’t just carrying daisies. We’re looking for action from our officials to make our community safer.”

    Winning safety improvements at the intersection is one of the goals of the TBR Scotlandville Assembly on Thursday evening, including better street markings, signal pre-emption so that the train and traffic lights are coordinated and the installation of traffic gates, which the crossing currently does not have.

    In addition to rail safety, TBR leaders will seek commitments from emergency preparedness officials and major industries in the area to work with them to develop a neighborhood-level emergency readiness plan and seek support for strategies to attract grocery stores to Scotlandville.

    The meeting is part of a Together Baton Rouge strategy to focus increasingly on local, neighborhood organizing, in addition to large-scale issues affecting the city-parish and the state.

    The meeting is being organized by TBR member institutions in the Scotlandville neighborhood, including Allen Chapel AME Church, Community Against Drugs and Violence, Camphor Memorial United Methodist Church, Community Bible Baptist Church, Greater Mt. Carmel Baptist Church, Mount Pilgrim Baptist Church, St. Michael’s Episcopal Church, Scotlandville CDC and Southern University.

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  • ,

    Political strategist, Donna Brazile, donates papers to LSU

    Though she has made her name and home in Washington D.C. for the past three decades, distinguished LSU alumna, veteran political strategist and commentator, author and Democratic Party official Donna Brazile makes no secret of her pride in being a native of Louisiana and an LSU graduate.

    Now an important piece of Brazile’s personal history has returned to her home state with the recent donation of her papers to the LSU Libraries Special Collections.

    Donna Brazile

    Photographs, correspondence and speeches, as well as other writings, memoranda, reports and analyses, campaign management and research files, and memorabilia comprise the collection.

    Together, the 32 boxes of materials document Brazile’s involvement in Democratic politics and the Democratic National Committee; her interest in and efforts to mobilize Black voters, elect women to office and advocate for voting rights; her public speaking and teaching; her work with the Louisiana Recovery Authority; and her participation in every presidential campaign between 1976 and 2000, including as manager of the Gore-Lieberman bid for the White House.

    Brazile, who was the first Black American to lead a major presidential campaign, said, “LSU was an indispensable part of my education, as a person and as a political operative.”

    “From taking classes with life-changing professors to writing opinion pieces in the Daily Reveille to weekly Friday discussions on campus about the social justice issues of the day, LSU engrained in me a lifelong love of learning and shaped me as a political organizer. Because LSU gave me so much, I am humbled to give LSU Libraries Special Collections my papers and grateful to share my life’s work to encourage and inspire the next generation of political activists to take their seats at the table.”

    A native of Kenner, La., Brazile graduated from LSU in 1981, and the university awarded her an Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters in 2005. In the early years of her career, she was involved in grassroots efforts to establish a holiday celebrating the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., and she organized the 20th anniversary celebration of the March on Washington. She then worked as chief of staff and press secretary to Eleanor Holmes Norton, Congressional Delegate for the District of Columbia. She went on to be an advisor to the Clinton-Gore presidential campaigns and, as noted above, to manage Al Gore’s 2000 presidential bid. A significant figure in Democratic politics, Brazile currently serves as vice chair of voter registration and participation at the Democratic National Committee, and formerly served as interim chair of the Democratic National Committee and chaired its Voting Rights Institute.

    She is an adjunct professor in the Women’s Studies Program at Georgetown University who has also taught at the University of Maryland and has been a resident fellow at Harvard University’s Institute of Politics.

    Brazile is also a nationally syndicated columnist, a political commentator for CNN and ABC News and a contributing writer to Ms. Magazine and O, The Oprah Magazine. In 2004 she published Cooking with Grease: Stirring the Pots in American Politics (Simon and Schuster), a memoir of her life and her 30 years in politics.

    In the aftermath of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005, former Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco tapped Brazile to serve on the Louisiana Recovery Board. Brazile is also the founder and managing director of Brazile and Associates, a political consulting and grassroots-advocacy firm based in Washington, D.C. “On behalf of the LSU family, we enthusiastically accept Donna’s papers with the utmost gratitude in doing so,” said LSU Executive Vice President and Provost Stuart Bell, “A pioneer for many, future generations will cherish the rich history that abounds in these treasured documents; those that detail her journey and someone with Louisiana beginnings who has achieved such great impact. We are extremely proud of Donna Brazile, her many contributions to society and are humbled that she is sending her papers home to her LSU alma mater.”

    “Donna Brazile’s longtime involvement in presidential politics and policy making, her status as a trailblazer for women and African Americans, her close and ongoing identification with Louisiana and LSU and the profile she has built in the public arena through her writings, television commentary and service to the DNC all combine to make her papers a welcome and important addition to our political collections,” said LSU Libraries Curator of Manuscripts Tara Laver.

    Brazile’s papers are part of the Louisiana and Lower Mississippi Valley Collections in the LSU Libraries Special Collections, located in Hill Memorial Library.

    Follow Brazile on Twitter @donnabrazile

    Read more »
  • ,

    Candidates bow out alderman race

    OPELOUSAS– The race for District D Alderman in the city of Opelousas is down from four candidates to two. Derri Levier and Alfred Dupree Jr. are no longer running for office after their opponent Sherell Roberts filed suits against the two. She said neither candidate lives within the district. According to court documents, Roberts alleged that Levier actually lives in Palmetto, and only changed her voter registration to a home in District D to qualify. In another lawsuit, Roberts claimed that Dupree lived in the Opelousas subdivision of Broadmoor, outside of District D and only recently changed his registration to a District D address. Roberts also filed suit against her final competitor, Rachel Babineaux, who is staying in the race after a judge ruled that she is eligible. Election day is November 4th. Current District D alderman Reggie Tatum is not running for re-election and instead is running for mayor of Opelousas.

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  • ,

    Technology firm to bring 200 jobs

    LAFAYETTE– Perficient, a St. Louis-based information technology and management consulting firm, will open a center in Lafayette that hopes to create 245 full-time jobs within six years and spawn 248 indirect jobs, Gov. Bobby Jindal and Perficient President and CEO Jeff Davis announced Sept. 4. The company will open in November and begin hiring. Operations will begin in late 2014 and the company hopes to reach 50 employees by the end of 2015, Davis said. The direct jobs will average $60,000 a year in pay, plus benefits. The company is expected to provide jobs for computer science graduates from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette and South Louisiana Community College, which initiated a two-year software application program this semester.

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  • ,

    Housing listening tour comes to Baton Rouge

    Louisiana Housing Alliance (LHA) will host the Annual Listening Tour in Baton Rouge, Louisiana on August 29, 2014. The Listening Tour is a week-long road trip during which LHA visits each of Louisiana’s 9 regions to listen to the concerns and successes of housing providers, advocates, working, families, local officials and policy makers.

    The information obtained enables LHA to set its legislative and advocacy agenda for the following year, and work collectively with local regions to promote housing opportunity and strong communities for all. LHA also uses these conversations to learn about technical assistance and capacity-building needs of housing providers and advocates, so that it can design a series of workshops programs to address the needs identified.

    The Baton Rouge Listening Tour meeting will be held at the Baton Rouge Area Foundation, 402 N. Fourth Street, 9:30am–11:30am. To register, visit www.lahousingalliance.org or call 225-381-0041.

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  • EBR home to 500 high-powered rifles, more

    ICYMI: Kiran Chawla WAFB reports several military tools, like high-powered rifles and Humvees, are showing up in cities across the country and many are ending up in police departments, including the Baton Rouge area, without the public’s knowledge.

    Chawla reported, “The New York Times published a study showing the districts where some surplus military-style equipment is going and East Baton Rouge Parish tops the list in Louisiana for assault rifles received. The law enforcement agencies in the parish have received 558 assault rifles through the program.”

    Read the entire story at WAFB.com

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  • LLBC secures $5.4 million for education

    The LOUISIANA LEGISLATIVE BLACK CAUCUS successfully secured $5.4 million for all Councils on Aging and school districts across the state of Louisiana. The money was placed in the Conference Committee Report of HB 1094, a supplemental appropriation bill, and has been allocated: $42,187.50 to each of the 64 Parish Councils on Aging and $35,065.00 to each of the 79 School Districts for Technology Improvements.

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  • Battle to incorporate City of St. George continues

    WHEN THE BATON ROUGE Metro Council voted 9-3 to approve the annexation of the Mall of Louisiana and two major hospitals into Baton Rouge earlier this month, some people said it was a big blow to the effort to incorporate the proposed City of St. George.

    It is an effort that supporters said would improve education and create an independent school district. Opponents said it would pose an economic threat to the parish and some even have called it white flight.

    By definition, white flight, a term first used in 1967, is the departure of whites from places (urban neighborhoods or schools) increasingly or predominantly populated by minorities.

    Nestled in East Baton Rouge Parish, the proposed city is more than 84 square miles and has a population of more than 107,000 people. If supporters have their way, it will become the fifth largest incorporated city in the state.

    “This started about and continues to be about public education,” said Lionel Rainey III, spokesperson for the incorporation effort.

    Rainey said that six out of 10 schools in the East Baton Rouge Parish School System are failing. He called the school system one of the worst in the state and coun- try. He cited hundreds of students arrested within a school year.

    “It’s just a failed school system,” said Rainey, who added that the system is being investigated for a major grade changing scandal.

    He stressed that the incorporation effort is not white flight and not about race at all.

    “It’s got nothing to do with skin color. Those who have the ability to leave are leaving – it’s middle class flight,” Rainey said. “The first thing I say is who are we breaking away from? This area is not a part of Baton Rouge. That’s rheto- ric used by someone who doesn’t know what’s hap- pening.”

    Residents Against the Breakaway, or Better Together, created by East Baton Rouge Parish residents against the incorporation, said online that the best way to solve the problem is by working together, not separating.

    lionel_rainey_876894969

    Lionel Rainey III, spokesperson for the incorporation effort.

    This group said in a media release that 7,000 students would be displaced by the incorporation by be- ing forcibly displaced from their schools and that the new school district would create a major school capacity crisis for southeast residents.

    But Rainey said it’s just not true. He said students could go to the schools that will be built in the city of St. George, a school system that will be designed by the person who designed the gifted and talented program for East Baton Rouge Parish schools.

    “I don’t think that tens of thousands of students should suffer so you can have a great magnet school,” he said.

    District 7 Councilwoman C. Denise Marcelle has been vocal about her opposition of the incorporation of St. George, citing it would hurt the city of Baton Rouge financially.

    “This is just a bad deal for Baton Rouge,” she said.

    Marcelle, whose mother lives in the St. George area, said the city has invested $300 million of infrastruc- ture out in that area. She added that it would be un- fair to receive and benefit from the improvements and then decide to break away.

    “When my mom moved out there, none of that was there,” she added as she talked about how the city has widened and improved streets in that area to enhance the city as a whole.

    Marcelle said that the fire and police department would suffer greatly along with the city from this incorporation. She also said that it would add more leaders, something that the parish does not need.

    “Duplication of government doesn’t make us stronger,” she continued.

    Marcelle said the council voting in favor of annexing the Mall of Louisiana, Our Lady of the Lake Hos- pital and Baton Rouge General Medical Center’s Bluebonnet Campus opens the doors for other businesses to come in as well.

    C Denise Marcelle

    District 7 Councilwoman C. Denise Marcelle

    She said she expects LSU to come in automatically because part of their campus would be in St. George and the other in Baton Rouge with the new city’s borders. She also expects businesses such as L’Auberge Casino and Perkins Rowe to want to be annexed into Baton Rouge because of not wanting to go with the unknown. She said that if the city is incor- porated it could levy a tax as a new city to help build schools, city hall and pay the salaries of a mayor and council members.

    “I think they [St. George incorporation organizers] acted prematurely because they didn’t talk to these businesses. You should have them on board beforehand,” she said. “Perhaps they would have had a better outcome.”

    An LSU analysis of the economic impact of the in- corporation, jointly com- missioned by the Baton Rouge Area Chamber and the Baton Rouge Area Foun- dation, was published in December. It revealed that the incorporation would lead to significant reductions in public services, particularly police protection.

    The analysis, which was conducted pre Mall of Loui- siana annexation, stated that this effort would take $85 million, or 30 percent, from the East Baton Rouge Parish General Fund, which is mainly supported by sales taxes. Even with the mall out of the equation, there are still major sales tax gen- erators that contribute to this number.

    The study also showed that the incorporation would threaten economic development and job creation ef- forts due to fractured and duplicative regulatory and permitting processes and the interjection of sales tax competition between two cities currently considered one community.

    The study revealed that this effort would jeopardize retirement and post-employment benefit costs, unless the new city shares in legacy costs, which is an obligation of all taxpayers in East Baton Rouge Parish.

    Another issue highlighted is that the new city would cut funding for the EBRPSS even more than the break away district proposed in 2012 and 2013, mainly be- cause the proposed city has a larger geographic area with major destination retailers that produce sales taxes from people all over the parish.

    Supporters of this effort are still working to gather enough signatures to put the incorporation on the ballot for the Nov. election.

    Under the Lawrason Act, a petition must be cir- culated and signed by 25 percent of all registered voters located within the proposed new city before it can be submitted to the Registrar of Voters for cer- tification and ultimately the Governor, who will place the issue to be voted upon by proposed residents.

    Rainey would not release the number of petition signatures obtained but did say that they are well on their way of having the number needed to place this issue up for vote. He said he’s confident the sig- natures would be obtained by the deadline.

    Better Together has launched a signature removal campaign in addition to a petition of its own opposing the St. George incorporation.

    Marcelle, who started an effort years ago to annex several of the surrounding areas, said she looks forward to annexing other incorporated areas of Baton Rouge in the near future.

    “It should be what can we do better to make the city better, not what divisive can we do,” Marcelle said.

    By ANASTASIA SEMIEN

    Contributing Reporter 

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  • Luter, Johnson join Ponchatoula church in celebrating dedication

    PONCHATOULA— For more than eight years, the members of First True Love World Outreach Ministries believed they were building their sanctuary.

    Pastor Carl Coleman said, “It’s been a long, but a steady journey since construction began in June of 2005, and now the church congregation is enjoying the fruits of their hard labor.”

    In 2005, Coleman, began seeking financing for the construction, but was set back when a banker told him they will be charged a $20,000 fee to begin their loan. That when we decided we would build it in phases and pay for it as we went, he said. We built the church without incurring any debt.”

    First, builders poured the slab then started with beams for the building. Over time, a roof and walls were added and then the interior was filled with 2,200 sheets of sheetrock.

    “We brought the congregation on tours of the church five or six times during construction,” Coleman said. “It showed people what we were doing

    and kept them motivated. We had our first service in the new church Easter Sunday.”

    Now finished, the 30,000 square-foot church has a large sanctuary, several Sunday School classrooms, office space, seven bath room and many other features.

    church outside

    On May 28, the church hosted three nights of special services.

    Fred Luter Jr., president of the Southern Baptist Convention and pastor of Franklin Avenue Baptist church in New Orleans, was the guest speaker.

    Guest speakers were Pastor Samuel Brown of Mt. Vernon and Mt. Pleasant Baptist Church of Hammond, while Bishop Raymond Johnson of Living Faith Center of Baton Rouge.

    While talking about the new church Coleman was proud, with a smile on his face, but humble in his soft-spoken mannerisms and giving all the credit to God. He attributed the growth of the congregation and building of the new church to God and good

    services, which led to the church spreading by word of mouth.

    Co1eman said the church’s capacity, as listed by the State Fire Marshal, is 1,184. The church has an average attendance of between 500 and 600 during Sunday services, but Coleman is planning for future growth.

    The old church was not large enough to hold that many people in one service, so there were two Sunday services.

    “The new church has more than enough room for the current congregation and room to grow,” he said. Sunday service at First Tine Love World Outreach Ministries begins with 8:30am Sunday School.. The church is located at 41239 South Range Road in Ponchatoula.

    By Eddie Ponds

    The Drum Publisher

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  • Future of children’s insurance questioned

    BY NAYITA WILSON

    THE 2015 EXPIRATION OF THe Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) has advocates asking Congres- sional leaders to commit to funding the program be- yond the expiration date.

    CHIP, which provides coverage to about eight million U.S. children, is a federal state program that provides coverage for chil- dren who don’t qualify for Medicaid, but whose par- ents cannot afford private coverage.

    The Affordable Care Act (ACA) of 2010 retains CHIP’s eligibility stan- dards through 2019 and funds the program through October 2015. ACA also provides $40 million in federal funds to promote Medicaid and CHIP enrollment.

    More than 400 advocacy groups in support of the program sent a letter to President Barack Obama as well as minority and majority leaders in both the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives asking them to secure CHIP’s future this year so that states can operate their programs without interruption.

    The challenge, accord- ing to Bruce Lesley, presi- dent of First Focus, a bipartisan advocacy group on federal policy and budget issues relating to issues af- fecting children which co- ordinated the letter, is that children currently enrolled in CHIP may find them- selves uninsured if the pro- gram expires and parents can’t afford to go into the private markets.

    Additionally, children who are forced to go into the exchange market brought about by ACA may find themselves in receipt of inferior benefits, he said.

    Here, the Louisiana Children’s Health Insur- ance Program (LaCHIP) provides coverage to children up to the age of 19 who meet citizenship and income criteria that deem them eligible to receive health care, mental health, immunizations and other 5 medical services. Approximately 121,095 children were enrolled in LaCHIP in June of last year according to its 2013 an- nual report.

    One Louisiana orga- nization, Mary Queen of Vietnam Community Development Corporation, Inc. (Mary Queen), signed the letter in support of seeing CHIP remain in place.

    Tap Bui, deputy direc- tor for Mary Queen, said, “As a nonprofit organiza- tion providing services to the underserved communi- ties of New Orleans East, we hope that our represen- tatives take into consider- ation the needs of the com- munity and support the CHIP program.”

    The Louisiana Weekly reached out to the entire Louisiana Congressional delegation for comments and their stances on the CHIP reauthorization.

    Congressman Cedric Richmond shared the fol- lowing statement: “The Children’s Health Insur- ance Program is crucial to

    so many low-income fami- lies who may be just above the Medicaid threshold, but cannot afford private insurance. I believe that it is important to continue to invest in our youth whether it is health care, food assis- tance, education, and so many more valuable pro- grams that if not properly funded would not only be morally reprehensible, but end up costing even more money in the future. I will continue to fight for criti- cal programs such as CHIP and many others that in- vest in our youth.”

    U.S. Senators Mary Landrieu and David Vitter as well as U.S. Representa- tives Steve Scalise, Charles Boustany, John Fleming, Vance McAllister and Bill Cassidy had not responded by print deadline.

    A representative from within the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Service’s press office con- firmed that CHIP is set to expire in October 2015, but could not yet provide an answer with regard to what would become of the chil-dren enrolled in the program should CHIP expire in 2015.

    Read more »
  • ,,

    EBR School Board seeks District 11 resident to replace Lamana

    The East Baton Rouge Parish School Board announces a vacancy on the school board due to the death of School Board Member Randy Lamana on April 16, 2014.  At a special meeting to be held on Thursday, May 1, 2014, the Board will appoint a qualified resident of School Board District 11, in the Parish of East Baton Rouge to serve until the duly elected member takes office January of 2015.   

    Qualified residents of District 11 interested in serving should submit a letter of intent along

    image

    with a resume and/or short
    biographical sketch.  Each applicant must also submit a Certificate of Residency/Qualifications from the East Baton Rouge Parish Registrar of Voters.  The Certificates of Residency/Qualifications can be obtained free of charge.  Please submit the requested documentation to the attention of:

    Mr. David Tatman, President
    East Baton Rouge Parish School Board
    1050 South Foster Drive
    Baton Rouge, Louisiana 70806

    The deadline for submitting a letter of intent is Wednesday, April 30, 2014 at 3:00 PM.   

    QUALIFICATIONS FOR SCHOOL BOARD MEMBERS

    Persons eligible to serve as members of the School Board shall have the following minimum qualifications:

    1. A Board member shall have attained the age of eighteen (18).
    2. A Board member shall be domiciled in the election district for the preceding year, except after reapportionment.
    3. A Board Member shall have resided in the state for the preceding two (2) years.
    4. A Board Member shall be able to read and write.
    5. A Board Member shall not be serving on certain other boards specified in the Constitution of Louisiana.
    6. A Board Member shall have affirmed to the prescribed oath.

    All applicants must also disclose if a member of their immediate family is an employee of the school system.  “Immediate family” as the term relates to a public servant means his children, the spouses of his children, his brothers and their spouses, his sisters and their spouses, his parents, his spouse, and the parents of his spouse.

    For more information, please visit the school system’s web site at www.ebrpss.k12.la.us or contact us by phone at 225-922-5567. 

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  • Students remember integrating BR High School

    IT BEGAN ON SEPT. 3, 1963, the first day of school in Baton Rouge. The tem- perature was 75 degrees, but the social climate was much hotter. This was the day that 13 Black students desegregated Baton Rouge High School.

    Cabs provided by the American Friends Service Committee drove up Gov- ernment Street, with the Black students four to a car. Police officers, report- ers, spectators and heck- lers lined the breezeway of BRHS and stood either silent or snickering as the

    11 girls and two boys made their way to the entrance. None of the students nei- ther –white nor Black – knew what to expect on the other side.

    “I knew a lot of kids whose parents wanted them to just wait a few days to go back to school,” said Milou Barry, who attended BRHS when the 13 Black students arrived. “There was a plan being discussed that a group of Key Club members and cheerleaders should greet those taxis and escort those terrified Black students up the long walk to the front doors of that huge school. The rest

    of us were supposed to ap- plaud them.”

    But that didn’t hap- pen. The Black students entered the school quietly, seemingly invisible to the white students – until they were heckled or physically attacked.

    The Black students, who had been recom- mended by their teach- ers, came from McKinley High School and South- ern University Laboratory School. Once they passed an entrance exam, the stu- dents began regular meet- ings with the NAACP and church leaders for training in non-violence and survival strategies. The same measures were not taken on the other side.

    “As far as I know there were no workshops or instructions to the white students who were at the school about what we should expect or, more importantly, what was expected of us in order to fa- cilitate the integration of BRHS,” said Robb Forman Dew, one of the white students at BRHS in 1963. “Had the grownups in our lives wanted the experience to go well they could have done a great deal to make it happen. Many of our teachers were truly racist, and cer- tainly didn’t want the experience to go well, I imagine. Of course, some were wonderful people who were horrified by racism. But no one thought to put in place a code of conduct, or even to try to ame- liorate problems before they came up.”

    This was 10 years after the unanimous opinion of the Supreme Court in Brown v. Board of Educa- tion, declaring “separate but equal” schools unconstitutional. Before that, desegregation of schools had been happening across the nation since 1940 – in small instances, with the admission of one student here and there, mostly at colleges and universities. In 1960, deseg- regation began in Louisiana with New Orleans public schools. Three years later, in the heat of the Civil Rights movement, Baton Rouge began to integrate Lee High, Glen Oaks High, Istrouma High and Ba- ton Rouge High.

    One of the 13 Black students, who is now in her 60s and asked to remain anonymous, recalled a mo- ment when her frustrations over- came her preparation and training one afternoon at lunch. An incident involving her and a white student took a violent turn. After having a

    lunch plate of food dumped on top of her head by the white classmate, she sent multiple plates crashing atop of the tow-headed boy, leav- ing him red with blood.

    “It was senior day and the theme was cowboy day and none of the [Black] classmates wanted to dress up, but I dressed like a cow- girl,” she said. “That boy dumped his food all over my head; mashed potatoes and gravy and greens. That prompted me to find every plate I could find, breaking them over his head. It was something I wouldn’t normally do, because we were coached and very well trained on nonviolence. I don’t know why he did that, but I think that he was frustrated that his sister and I befriended one another in choir. They [BRHS] suspended me for one day, but it was worth it. That day I earned the name Cassius Clay; it’s what everyone wrote in my yearbook.” (Cassius Clay, who later changed his named to Mu- hammad Ali, won the 1960 Olym- pics gold medal for boxing.)

    And, while that incident may have been an extreme response, softer, quieter events agitated situations like that daily. Most white youths refused to partner with Blacks during class projects, leaving a few brave students and teachers to play those roles. And, then there were some students like Mimi Riche who said she regrets not befriending her Black class- mates.

    “Unfortunately for me, I was not classy enough to step across the line and engage with my new class- mates other than to quietly speak in passing,” Riche said. “Today, I would imagine we might be good friends. The past 50 years have brought us a long way, in many ways, not nearly far enough”

    The class of 1964’s story was all over the nation on television, on the radio and in various news- papers and magazines. The largest media response was in 1963 when NBC evening news aired a report by anchor David Brinkley about the desegregation of Baton Rouge high schools. He noted that the capital city had waited nearly 10 years after Brown vs. Board of Education to begin opening their high schools up to all races. And, the Black students who were described as brave, strong and determined were not getting the same positive messages from their classmates, school system administration, or the city at large.

    Here on the home front, the Black students were told daily that they would never graduate. Many of them said they believed it until May 1964, when they were lined up in an LSU auditorium for com- mencement – some graduating to no applause, but
    with scholarships and high honors. The daily nightmare was nearly over, but the memories remained deep wounds that are still healing.

    “That year at BRHS ran the gamut of human emotions: excitement, wonder, anxiety, fear and closeness to my fel- low [Black] travelers and many other feel- ings,” said Charles R. Burchel, one of the 13 Black students. “I’m glad I did it. For me and others not to have done it would have helped to solid- ify racist stereotypes that were so prevalent.”

    With the 50-year reunion ap- proaching in May, some of the white students have befriended Black students throughout the planning for the event that began in 2011. Several former students said the feeling of a two-year friendship versus what could have been a 50- year relationship weighs heavily on what were once the terrified hearts of teenagers.

    Former student Walter Eldredge and other white students said they now regret not forming relationships with the new stu- dents that year, blaming ignorance as the culprit.

    “My overwhelming memory of that year is that I knew the ostra- cism of those kids was wrong, yet I allowed myself to be diverted into my own little teen-world events and I let others establish the status quo, rather than make myself a target by reaching out,” he said.

    BY Leslie Rose

    Assistant Managing Editor 

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  • DOTD highlights April as Highway Safety Awareness Month

    Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development Secretary Sherri H. LeBas, P.E., announced April 2, at  the state’s month-long campaign to promote safe driving practices, especially emphasizing the need to use extreme caution while driving through work zones.

    “Safety while driving is the responsibility of all motorists,” said DOTD Secretary LeBas. “I urge everyone to practice safe driving and remain cautious and focused behind the wheel, especially when driving through work zones.”

    “Work Zone Speeding: A Costly Mistake.” In line with this year’s theme, DOTD will join forces with its federal, state and local safety partners to promote highway safety with a number of events and activities, including two Facebook campaigns.

    Since 1989, in work zones, there have been 314 motor-vehicle fatalities in Louisiana, and most recently, in 2012, 12 deaths and 661 injuries. The data gathered is the most recent year for which figures were available from the federal Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS).

    “Reducing congestion and crashes in work zones is a priority for the Federal Highway Administration here in Louisiana as well as across the country,” stated Wes Bolinger, Division Administrator, Federal Highway Administration, Louisiana Division.

    Also, through the Destination Zero Deaths initiative, Louisiana has made tremendous progress in improving safety on its roadways by decreasing the number of motor-vehicle fatalities from 993 in 2007 to 722 in 2012. However, the department believes one fatality is too many.

    Nationally recognized, Louisiana proclaimed April 7-11 as Work Zone Awareness Week and a 609-safety cone memorial was  be displayed on the front lawn of the DOTD Headquarters Building in Baton Rouge, to recognize those who lost their lives in work zones nationwide. Similar cone memorials will be erected in other areas around the state.

    “The Louisiana State Police has a long standing partnership with the Department of Transportation and Development, and troopers will continue to work diligently to promote work zone safety in Louisiana. Troopers remain committed to aggressive enforcement and delivering a proactive safety education message. Through these efforts, we hope to increase public awareness and directly improve work zone safety not only for the motoring public, but for the workers as well,” said Colonel Mike Edmonson, Louisiana State Police Superintendent.

    “Safety in work zones won’t happen by itself,” said Lt. Col. John LeBlanc, Executive Director, Louisiana Highway Safety Commission. “We are all in this together. Everyone is responsible for work zone safety, from engineers and planners to drivers and pedestrians.”

    Also, DOTD has also launched its statewide “Vested Interest in Safety” Facebook campaign to display photos of companies, employees, community members and local leaders wearing orange safety vests. The public is encouraged to participate by submitting “vested” photos to DOTD’s Public Affairs Office, dotdpi@la.gov. Photos will be proudly displayed on the department’s Facebook page.

    Lastly, DOTD will join forces with its Destination Zero Deaths partners, For more information, please visit www.dotd.la.gov, email dotdcs@la.gov, or call DOTD’s Customer Service Center at (225) 379-1232 or 1-877-4LADOTD (1-877-452-3683). Business hours are 7:30 a.m. – 5 p.m., Monday through Friday.

    Motorists can access up-to-date travel information by dialing 511 or by visiting www.511la.org. Out of-state travelers can call 1-888-ROAD-511 (1-888-762-3511).

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  • New Orleans aims to be most literate city by 2018

    Grammy award winning bandleader and New Orleans native Irvin Mayfield is working with city leaders to make New Orleans the most literate city by 2018.

    Last year New Orleans was ranked the 25th most literate city among 75 U.S. cities according to a study conducted by Central Connecticut State University.

    Actor Wendell Pierce, best known for his work on  “The Wire” and “Treme”, kicked off the program in January by trying to break the Guinness world record for the largest read aloud event where he read “The Bourbon Street Band is Back” to an estimated 500 children.

    Turn the Page is a campaign to make New Orleans the most literate city in America by 2018. The campaign will focus on raising awareness of issues, available resources and programming related to literacy.

    The Turn the Page program will connect 11 library systems including

    The New Orleans Public Library and 10 other regional parish libraries, including Tangipahoa, Lafourche, St. Charles, St. Tammany, St. John the Baptist, Terrebonne, Jefferson, Ascension, Livingston and St. Bernard.

    The campaign will operate by raising awareness of issues, available resources and programming related to early childhood, school success, digital literacy and adult literacy available at the libraries

    Mayfield, co-chairman of   Turn the Page and Chairman of the Board of the New Orleans Public Library Foundation, said As a young musician,it was the public library that allowed him access to his passion, music, through their collection of records and cassettes

    Turn the Page  blitzed the city with 30 literacy-encouraging events in 30 days, such as the “Super Bowl of Reading,” through which people vote for their favorite author to be featured at area libraries, individual computer classes to help people get online, and a pajama story time for kids.

     

    Mayfield said that a future with higher literacy rates could mean a better quality of life for all, as everyone would be able to make informed decisions and lead more productive lives, bettering society for workforce development.

     

    The group plans to schedule more  “30 in 30” events with similar events throughout year .

     

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  • Police seek community help finding missing teens,16, and infant

     

    Tangipahoa  Parish Sheriff Daniel Edwards  is asking for your assistance in locating three runaway teens.

    Briannica Foster, 16, and her infant son Jordan Foster, 9 months were last seen on Tuesday, January 21, 2014. Briannica Foster ran away from her Tangipahoa home and took Jordon with her. Kiana Robertson, 16, of Independence, and Aquaila Singleton, 16, of Independence, have both been missing since December 2013. Robertson and Singleton are believed to be together in the Baton Rouge area. Singleton is also known as Bird and Aquaila Mosley. Anyone knowing the whereabouts of these teens or the infant is asked to please contact sheriff’s office at (985) 902-2014 .missing teen mom and son

     

     

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  • Remembering the life, legacy of Amiri Baraka

    Prolific poet, playwright, essayist, and critic Amiri Baraka, one of the literary giants of the 20th century was called home.

    As we offer condolences to his wife, children and family, we remember the 79 year-old Baraka not only for his bold, inventive and iconoclastic literary voice, but also as a courageous social justice activist.  His ideas and work had a powerful impact on both the Black Arts and Civil Rights movements beginning in the 1960s.

    Baraka was best known for his eclectic writings on race and class.  He extended many of the themes and ideals of the 1960s Black Power movement into the realm of art, which he saw as a potent weapon of change; and like many good revolutionary artists, he sometimes went out of his way to offend the status quo.  He has been variously described as a beatnik, a Black nationalist and a Marxist.  But he was first and foremost a writer and social commentator of uncommon skill and insight.

    His 1963 masterpiece, “Blues People,” which explored the historical roots and sociological significance of the blues and jazz, has become a classic that is still taught in college classrooms today.  Almost every Black and progressive writer and thinker of the 20th century shared a kinship, friendship or feud with Baraka.  But, undergirding everything he wrote and stood for was his desire to lift up the downtrodden and disenfranchised, especially in his hometown of Newark, New Jersey.

    As a testament to his broad influence, more than 3,000 people attended his funeral last Saturday at Newark Symphony Hall.  The actor Danny Glover officiated and noted Baraka’s influence on his career.  Cornel West called Baraka “a literary genius.” Sonia Sanchez read a poem for him written by Maya Angelou. Speaking at the wake the night before, Jesse Jackson honored Baraka as “a creative activist and change agent who never stopped fighting or working for the formula to create social justice.”

    Born Everett LeRoi Jones, the writer changed his name to Amiri Baraka in 1968 to refl ect his embrace of Islam and the philosophy of Malcolm X.  He attended Rutgers, Howard and Co- lumbia, served in the Air Force and began his literary career in the 1950s in the Beat poet scene of New York’s Greenwich Village.  His one-act play, “Dutchman,” won the Obie Award as the best off-Broadway production of 1964.  In 1965, he co-founded the Black Arts Movement in Harlem, infusing the Black Power movement with powerful artistic voices.  His numerous awards and honors include his selection as the Poet Laureate of New Jersey in 2002 and his 1995 induction into the exclusive American Academy of Arts and Letters.

    Controversy was a mainstay of Amiri Baraka’s career.  Ishmael Reed, another provocative poet and contemporary of Baraka recently noted, “

    Amiri Baraka was controversial because his was a perspective that was considered out of fashion during this post race ghost dance, the attitude that says that because we have a Black president, racism is no longer an issue, when the acrimonious near psychotic reaction to [Barack Obama’s] election only shows the depth of it.”   Amiri Baraka always challenged us to face such uncom- fortable truths – and we are better because of it.

    Amiri Baraka passed away on Tuesday, January 9th.

     

     

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  • ,

    Public to gather against St. George incorporation, Feb. 4

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    Several hundred people are expected to attend the first public assembly of the Better Together Campaign, a citizen-led movement to oppose the St. George incorporation.

    The assembly will take place Feb. 4, 6:30pm, at St. Patrick Catholic Church, 12424 Brogdon Lane.

    The event will include the debut of a new public information presentation about the effects the St. George incorporation would have on our economy, taxes, public services and our schools.

    The event will launch a grassroots strategy of action to oppose the breakaway effort.

    “The silent majority on this issue has been silent for too long,” said Kathleen Randall, a resident of the proposed breakaway area and a leader in the effort. “It is time for us do the work we need to do to hold this city-parish together.”

    The Better Together campaign started organizing just a few weeks ago, under the leadership of Residents Against the Breakaway, a newly incorporated non-profit organization.

    Already, the campaign has a Facebook page with 3,000 followers, a website with information about the effects of the breakaway and hundreds of  grassroots leaders who are dedicated to holding our city-parish together. 

    ONLINE: www.bettertogetherbr.org.

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  • Postal Services raised cost of first class stamp

    UNITED STATES POSTAL Service approved a temporary price hike of three cents for a first-class stamp, bringing the cost to 49 cents a letter.

    The increase comes as an effort to help the Postal Service recover from severe mail de- creases brought on by the 2008 economic downturn.

    The last increase for stamps was a year ago, when the cost of sending a letter rose by a penny to 46 cents.

    The Postal Service lost $5 billion last year and has been trying to get Congress to let it end Saturday delivery and reduce payments on retiree health benefits.

     
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