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Clarification Regarding Northshore Community Foundation: What’s In A Name

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Response to last week’s article is that the Northshore Community Foundation is gathering the actual details of the project for presentation to Mayor Cooper’s office and the Covington Business Association, suggesting that the information contained within last week’s article was erroneous or inaccurate. The information presented in the Covington Weekly article came directly from nola.com, the Advocate and the Northshore Community Foundation website. Time will tell how the previously presented information will be transformed into something else.
Opinionated conclusions and suggestions are presented in the CW article, based on tax information offered by the Northshore Community Foundation, and based on past experience in researching how non-profits operate in a governmental role while avoiding the classification of being a ‘quasi-public entity’, or in this case, ‘private foundation’. The point disregarded here is that when government tells their constituency that they will not only be subsidizing a private business enterprise from out of the area, but also at the expense of existing local business, we are no longer in the realm of representative democracy.
Another comment with regard to the article claimed that it was a partisan attack on a public charity. There is nothing partisan about questioning the use of public money, or questioning projects involving public money and private enterprise, or the relationship between local governments and non profit organizations. They call it accountability.
Timothy Gates may be reached at covweekly@gmail.com.

Local News Opinion

Reply Letter RE: Causeway Bridge Safety

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Here is my answer to Mr. LaSalle and Mr. Ligi’s reply to Representative Paul Hollis.
How can Mr. LaSalle and Mr. Ligi say there is “enough proof” and “years of study by the world’s foremost experts” when the Causeway has stated it does not have one (repeat, not one) study to show that the so-called “improvements” will improve anything?
The Causeway itself confirmed that in writing in its response to my Public Records Request.  So why are Mr. Ligi and Mr. LaSalle refuting the Causeway’s own PRR written answers?  Both cannot be true.
Worse, the Causeway confirmed it does not have ONE study to show that its proposals may in fact actually REDUCE SAFETY.
Why?  Because the so-called safety bays will ruin the main safety attribute of the Causeway, namely, it’s a straight-away with limited entry/exit/intersection points.  The safety bays will add 12 to each side.
The higher rails may simply cause cars to ricochet into the following lanes of traffic, thus maybe killing innocent followers.  Want to be a soccer mom with kids in the back and be hit by a ricocheting car?
The Causeway has refused to do a rudimentary “Cost Benefit Analysis.”  Why?  Because it knows that a Cost Benefit Analysis will not justify these proposals.  The Causeway does not even have to follow the same criteria as LaDOT.  That’s inexcusable, disgraceful and outrageous.
Texas A&M was tasked with designing rails, not conducting a study to see if higher rails are even needed.  This is another example of how the Causeway Commissioners and General Manager twist things.  If Mr. Ligi and LaSalle don’t know this, they have no business referring to it.
Since Ligi/LaSalle refer to LaDOT, so will I.  LaDOT stated, per the Causeway General Manager, that the Causeway is 2.1 times safer than the area Interstates.  It’s also safer than the roads leading to and from the Causeway…  Hmmm.  Mr. Ligi and/or Mr. LaSalle asked the general manager in my presence “where did this 2.1 come from?”  The General Manager replied “from LaDOT.”
WOW …  DOUBLE WOW … these Commissioners who did not even know that the Causeway was already 2.1 times safer than area Interstates, and safer than the roads that lead to it and from it, but yet voted to  spend money they don’t have to fix problems they don’t have.  That, to put it mildly, is flunking due diligence but excelling in fiduciary and managerial malfeasance.
But 2.1 times safer is a measure of ACCIDENTS.  It’s 3 times safer when measured by FATALITIES per Federal  DOT.


Whether it’s 2.1 times safer or 3 times safer, by either measure, it’s safe enough.  Not incidentally, just how is a disabled or broken-down vehicle supposed to get itself to a safety bay?
I’d fire any employee of mine who wanted to spend over $100 million ($196 million with interest) without a single study (again, per the Causeway’s own written admission to my PRR), not the false Ligi-LaSalle claims.  I imagine any reasonably objective employer would fire them too.
‘Inadequate shoulders” are an apples and oranges comparison.  Shoulders  along Interstates are effective because they stretch for miles and miles, and typically on both sides, as opposed to intermittent shoulders only some 3 tenths of a mile rather than lengthy stretches.
Yes, the Causeway is safe, and it’s safe enough.  And, again, per the Causeway’s reply to my PRR, it does not have ONE study to show its proposals will result in a safer Causeway, and worse, not one study to show that its proposals may in fact make things LESS SAFE.  That’s also inexcusable, disgraceful, and outrageous.
What we “need to suspend” are the untruths being spouted by the Causeway folks, and instead rely on facts without the twists and half-truths by people like Ligi and LaSalle.
Why not first try some cost-effective means such as requiring all trucks to stay only in the right lane to reduce lane-changers, and just lowering the speed limit (65 to 60 only adds 2 minutes to a commute, and 65 to 55 only adds 4 minutes).  It was originally 55, and we all ‘survived’ quite well.
Several other cost-effective proposals have been presented to the Causeway, but they were not even tried, presumably, because those proposals do not keep the Causeway in debt.  Without that debt,  the Causeway would be policed by the state and without a toll.  That’s what is intolerable, to the Causeway folks anyway.
To refer to St Tammany and Jefferson councils “approving” spending money they don’t have to fix a problem they don’t have is proof-positive that “politics as usual” is alive and well in both parishes.  No objective analysis will condone these proposals.  Not one.
 B. Charles Goodwin, Mandeville

Opinion

On the Status of the American Dream

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Opinion by Timothy A. Gates, CW Correspondent

The flurry of activity from the national level to the local level in the days following the Fourth of July Holiday has produced a week of stark realities. Not to belittle lives lost or acts of treason committed by high-ranking officials, two items of note include a Federal Ruling suggesting that the Dusky Gopher Frog has more rights than citizens, and the Tammany West issued the strongest statement against Helis Oil and Gas Co. to date from a local media outlet:

“If ever there was a set of executives who cared less for a local community it will be hard to find them.  If Helis Oil officials truly cared at all for operating as a ‘good neighbor’ wherever they look for oil, they would pull up stakes today and call this endeavor quits.” – Kevin Chiri, Editor, Tammany West

the-american-dream

Lawrence Britt wrote about 14 Characteristics of Fascism in the Spring 2003 edition of “Free Inquiry” magazine*, compiled from research of past fascist regimes.  At a quick glance, this Country is running fairly strong on all 14 Characteristics. While the political theory tends to be overgeneralized and applied liberally to incite emotional response, fascist tendencies are as seemingly innocuous as the consolidation of power between Government and Corporations. The result of that consolidation is evident by economic development initiated without the consent of the governed, but funded by them; appearing subtle, with something more beneath the surface, including long-term consequences not acknowledged or even known until well after the fact.  So much for the American Dream.

Hunter_S_Thompson_caricaturaHunter S. Thompson penned a poignant sentiment about the American Dream in “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas” when he wrote that his search led him to the inevitable conclusion that he was actually chasing the Death of the American Dream. Thinking about it literally, maybe the American Dream never actually existed, considering that a dream is an idea or vision created in the imagination, as per Merriam Webster’s second definition of the word.

Some would even call it “programming.”

The concept that heavy industry is equivalent to a violent action against an existing environment, which in this case includes frogs, people and all other manner of life, is not so far-fetched when closely observing the results, and ultimately, someone, somewhere, is responsible.  A mere century and a half prior, things might have been settled by a duel at the Helis well-pad at high noon.  This is, admittedly, a grim prospect, but certainly a more decisive and efficient one, in a fascist kind of way.

Gopher frog (Lithobates (Rana) capito) at the Lowry Park Zoo in Tampa, FL. (Image ID: ANI071-00308)

Gopher frog (Lithobates (Rana) capito) at the Lowry Park Zoo in Tampa, FL. (Image ID: ANI071-00308)

* not to be construed as an endorsement of secular humanism

“By the sword you did your work, and by the sword you die.”

            – Aeschylus’s Agamemnon, circa 458 BCE

General Local News Opinion

Rumination on the First Amendment

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by Timothy Achan Gates

Amendment 1 – “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”

Covington Weekly began as an idea that Chelsea Cochrane and I developed after watching several businesses in the downtown area close their doors. We wanted a medium to promote all the great things happening in Covington, because we live here and we love where we live. We came up with something that was focused on offering a lower cost method of advertising geared to small businesses.

Besides promoting the many positive and beneficial things happening in Covington, it also provides an outlet to voice opinions on things happening here in the area. Because we are not controlled by large corporations, we are able to discuss things that other outlets do not. In short, Covington Weekly is a private venture, the opinions expressed in my features are my own, and we have every right to print them. We do not resort to libel, slander or ad hominem attacks.

It was brought to my attention that the Sheriff’s race article drew the ire of certain members of the community, citing “bias” in the fact that the current Sheriff Strain was not mentioned by name in the article. It is my opinion that mentioning Sheriff Strain is irrelevant.

I would like to relate a personal incident that happened to Chelsea and me which illustrates an actual example of bias exhibited by Deputies of the current Sheriff’s Office: After being pulled over on Collins Blvd. at 1:00 in the morning for a non-working license plate light, we were briefly detained by Sheriff’s Deputies. A field sobriety test was administered (which I passed), and discussion ensued which led to this exchange:

“What do you do (for a job)?badcop

“We run the Covington Weekly.”

“We hate Covington.” Looks at partner.

“Yeah, we hate Covington.” Partner concurs.

Fortunately, a senior officer was on hand to mediate the situation and he sent us on our way. As a general rule, I exhibit respect and deference to law enforcement; in this instance, the intimidating and unprofessional remarks made by the deputies reflected very poorly on the integrity and objectivity of the current office. If you hate where you work as a public servant, please go somewhere else.

 

 

Local Events Local News Opinion

Meet The Candidates For The Upcoming St. Tammany Parish Sheriff’s Race

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by Timothy Gates, CW Correspondent

St. Tammany Parish Sheriff

St. Tammany Parish Sheriff

Ask some locals (those living here before Katrina), and they will tell you that the St. Tammany Parish Sheriff’s Office is mired in controversy; just about anyone with this mindset has at least one story of their own. The Office actually has a pretty good record according to their numbers, and St. Tammany continues to be a safe place to live and enjoy life, despite the problematic work release program, challenges to methods of operation, and racially sensitive jokes from good-hearted people.

The D.A.’s race revealed some hypocrisies within the structure indicative of the same cavalier attitude exhibited by other parish administrative bodies when it is found that they engage in activities that would land the rest of us in jail. While the current administration is insistent that no change is necessary, three candidates seem to think otherwise – in alphabetical order, by last name:

Scott Illing: Mr. Illing has a law enforcement career beginning with the Covington Police Department, The Louisiana State Troopers and Federal service as a U.S. Customs Agent. From scottforsheriff.com: “Scott Illing will bring a new, independent focus to our sheriff’s department. We invest over $68 million in tax dollars to the Sheriff’s office, yet our officers are amongst the lowest paid. Scott understands the human factor is the most important consideration in policing our community.”

Randy Smith: “Chief Randy Smith is a 28-year veteran law enforcement officer. A native of Slidell and a lifetime resident of St. Tammany Parish, Randy has dedicated himself to serving the public and advancing law enforcement his entire life. He was elected in May of 2010 with 60% of the vote and is honored to serve the people of Slidell as their Chief of Police.” – randysmith.la

Jennifer Werther: At 17 yo, she enlisted in the Naval Reserve and continued a successful 23-year career with highest advancement to Chief. Navy Chiefs are a special group that leads, manages, and uses their worldwide network in coordination and cooperation. She served through the Cold War, Gulf War, and Global War on Terror and is decorated for achievements and operations.

Jennifer Werther plans to prioritize violent crime, institute programs to develop life skills, demonstrate fiscal conservatism by identifying and eliminating waste and have zero tolerance for brutality. werther4sheriff.com

“Citizens Rights By Principle” – Jennifer Werther

Early voting begins Saturday, October 10, 2015.

Contact Timothy Gates at covweekly@gmail.com

General Local News Opinion

Why The Race For Parish President Is About So Much More Than Fracking

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by Timothy Achan Gates, Correspondent

Faimon A. Roberts III of The Advocate writes that fracking is the lead issue in the St. Tammany Parish President race. It is one of the bigger economic debates to appear locally in this writer’s recent memory, with no qualms about expressing opposition to the project.

Fracking is less a partisan debate than Rep. Steve Scalise would like to pretend; V.P. Joe Biden’s son Hunter oversaw hydraulic fracturing operations in the Ukraine while a governor of Maryland, Larry Hogan, was the first Republican governor to ban fracking statewide.

Fracking, an increasingly controversial practice of oil and gas extraction labeled as economic development, is a symptom of a larger problem: the manipulation of Constitutional Law to the benefit of the manipulators.

The Constitution is meant as a safeguard for the citizenry. However, it doesn’t matter what laws are in place when there are legislators willing and able to circumvent said laws for personal gain, and that of political allies. Add large amounts of money from the lobbyists sponsoring the changes, and suddenly the law is unconstitutional.

Conflicts of interest among our elected officials routinely keep them in their positions due to the flow of money established by said conflicts. For example, Rep. Tim Burns is Vice President and General Counsel of Florida Marine, the transport company associated with the fleet of tugboats owned by St. Tammany Parish through Economic Development Foundation revenue bonds.

He's just a bill.

He’s just a bill.

Rep. Burns submitted legislation that provides specific exception to State of Louisiana Ethics Laws for the St. Tammany Parish Economic Development Foundation. The public is told that with regard to fracking, it is a State Law issue, and therefore should be addressed at the State level. This writer’s question is, if they can write legislation to circumvent State Law with regard to Ethics, why can’t they write legislation to circumvent State Oil & Gas Laws?

This is the type of question that should be answered by the current office holders looking to keep their office, rather than their overplayed stance on fracking. If the Federal Government followed its own laws, fracking would not even exist in its current form.

A Thank You to The Advocate, for letting me know what the most important issue is in this race. If only it were that simple. In the meantime, I’m going to send a message to the EDF and request some quasi-public documents while I wait for a response to the question above.

Contact Timothy:  covweekly@gmail.com

Local News Opinion

5 Reasons Karen Champagne Might Be A Good St. Tammany Parish President

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By Timothy Achan Gates, Correspondent

Karen Treadway Champagne is challenging Pat Brister for Parish President in this coming October election. Karen is active in lobbying efforts at the state level with a focus on individual liberties and constitutional action/remedy. Recognizing the need for oversight of corporate influence on legislative activity, Karen co-founded The People, LLC in order to address issues of civil and personal liberty.  The following are five reasons why Karen Champagne might make a good parish president of St. Tammany.
1. Champagne understands what is happening.
In June of 2014, Covington Weekly published How The EDF Can Operate Outside Of State Ethics Laws, detailing legislative maneuvering inconsistent with constitutional law. As the legislative session was happening, Champagne was in Baton Rouge, actively working to convince LA Rep. Tim Burns to pull the bill. Angela Alef recounts: ‘Burns laughed and responded, I’m not pulling that bill.’
2. Champagne would like to do better things with your money. After taking some heat for her stance on fracking, Champagne claims misquotation in a local paper with regard to this issue, in which she was quoted that she would not fight to keep it out. She has released a video clarifying that the issue resides at the state level, and she would not use tax dollars to fight fracking at the parish level. Conversely, her stance on representational and limited government would indicate that Champagne is not in agreement with business dealings pursued by St. Tammany Parish that occur outside of public knowledge.
3. Champagne is already working for the people.
Champagne formed The People, LLC along with Angela Alef in 2010 as a lobbying force in Baton Rouge. Their blog contains a list of legislative action influenced by The People, LLC (thepeoplellc.weebly.com).

The People, LLC

The People, LLC

At karenchampagneforparishpres.blogspot.com:
“I co-founded The People, LLC. This way, I could answer the question that most lawmakers wanted to know before they would speak to me. They would ask, Who are you with? I could then answer, The People.”
4. Champagne is responsive to the increasingly difficult situation of small business. From her campaign website: “I have first-hand knowledge of the endless regulations and the taxes and fees that go along with them; as well as, how they negatively affect a businesss ability to stay afloat, expand, or even get off the ground. The cycle of investing our tax dollars into businesses from outside of St. Tammany must stop and returning tax dollars to the homegrown business owners in the form of decreased regulation, reduced taxes and fees must start.” Karen Champagne
5. Champagne’s disillusionment with the action of the local Republican leadership is refreshing. While the concept of partisanship does an excellent job of maintaining a polarized voting base, it is increasingly clear that corruption is found rampant in both parties. In order to address the problems successfully, Republicans, Democrats, Independents, Libertarians, Socialists, Greens and everything in between will need to work together in order to restore local and regional government to something more in line with what was originally intended, with Liberty and Justice For All People, regardless of familial relationship, socio-economic or corporate status.
Contact Timothy Gates: covweekly@gmail.com

Local News Opinion

Welcome to the Resiliency Games by Timothy Gates, CW Correspondent

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Did you know that the Federal Government made a game out of Natural Disaster Recovery and Preparation? You should, because you are a player. Responding to demand from state, local and tribal leaders, the National Disaster Resilience Competition was announced by the White House in June of last year.

The competition touts nearly $1 billion in available funds through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, identifying the ability of communities to recover from recent disasters as well as rebuild better and stronger for the future. According to the website:

“It will allow them (the communities) to engage local stakeholders, nongovernmental organizations and the philanthropic sector to protect their own communities from the impacts of climate change by enhancing resilient infrastructure, building on sound science, and deploying innovative approaches to investments.”

An unfortunate truth regarding the above statement is that it is observed in this parish that the recipient groups which fit this description locally are not accountable to the public, and choose to plan and initiate “projects” whether the public approves or not (or even knows at all).

Instead of public conversation, articles like “Why Didn’t New Orleans Bury Its Powerlines After Katrina?” appear on Nola.com. The NOLA article reveals that it is not cost effective for Entergy, and customer rates would increase. Haven’t they heard the old saying, “you’ve got to spend money to make money”? Wait, that’s only for suckers.

With hundreds of millions of federal taxpayer dollars at stake, every single thing imaginable, from beignets to buried power lines, will become Resilient. Resiliency will be the new State of Being. Resiliency: It’s the way to be! This feels like scripting for a reality show.

Why Does A National Natural Disaster Recovery Competition Remind Me Of The Hunger Games?

When the issue of Sophisticated Woman with Councilman Reid Falconer on the cover was released in June 2015, confusion set in first, then understanding. This concept was an episode of Parks & Recreation that I watched with Chelsea several months prior, in which Ron Swanson was chosen for a Woman of the Year award, to Leslie Knope’s dismay. Cute idea, but it gives rise to the unsettling reality that if the parish is reaching that far for material, perhaps we are watching things unravel in real time.

resiliencygames-page-001In furtherance of this train of thought, consider varied geographic locations across the country (districts, if you will) that experienced crippling disasters, competing with each other based on their own ability to recover from said disasters and prevent against future disasters for a monetary prize (hundreds of millions of dollars), all while struggling to survive a flailing economy, increasing taxes and a rising cost of living. I’ve seen that movie, and it wasn’t called the National Disaster Resilience Competition. Not that there’s anything wrong with resiliency, or for that matter, competition.

It’s just that taxpayer money is being used as a Prize in a Competition of communities who are still recovering from disasters. A “survival of the fittest,” competitive mentality does not correspond to the situation of natural disaster and economic recovery, nor does it lend itself to a realistic discussion of disaster and economic recovery.

Let the Resiliency Games begin, and may the odds always be in your favor.

Timothy Gates can be reached at covweekly@gmail.com

Opinion

The Transparent Parish Government by Timothy Achan Gates, Correspondent

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While the public has called for better representation and more oversight of local government on the parish level, the current response is to provide more insulation from the public. Transparency rules the day once again.

With former ADA Julie Knight’s departure from the new administration at the St. Tammany Parish D.A.’s Office, Warren Montgomery is moving forward on outstanding cases. The Parish Council subsequently voted to remove the D.A.’s Office as legal counsel (for the Council). The only “No” vote was Councilman Jacob Groby.

This type of oversight is one of the necessary balances in local government and an action to remove it gives rise to conflicts of interest and favored contracts, such as certain situations observed during the D.A.’s race involving the St. Tammany Parish Sheriff’s Office and the law firm of Talley, Anthony, Hughes and Knight.

The fact that the Parish Council is attempting to distance itself from the D.A.’s Office may be completely unrelated to Knight’s departure, regardless of timing. A poorly directed decision by Councilman Tanner, it does reveal little confidence in Montgomery’s administration.

GotEthicsNewBlurring The Lines Even More With The STPEDF

Enter the St. Tammany Parish Economic Development Foundation, which is confusing enough as it exists. The EDF is a private, not-for-profit foundation that works with the Parish Economic Development Office on projects in that regard. Some of the agreements managed by the EDF involve state and federal dollars, but the organization is not accountable to the public, or to the Parish Council for that matter.

One example is a lawyer who represents an organization (say, the EDF) in a legal capacity, and also sits on the board of that same organization. Rather than address the conflict, the solution is to draft legislation that provides specific exemption to State Ethics Laws.

A larger example would be the questions raised by District 7 representative Jake Groby with regard to the Folger’s Plant bond issue (involving the EDF), which to this writer’s knowledge have not been adequately addressed. CW’s involvement with that particular issue included a published response to a Tammany West article addressing the situation, which also lacked acknowledgment.

Recently, St. Tammany Parish Government announced that S. Michele Blanchard-Airey was appointed to fill the vacant District 13 Chair on the Parish Council. Blanchard is also a board member of the Economic Development Foundation. This presents a very clear conflict of interest as the Parish Council often votes on proposals presented to them by the Parish Economic Development Office, which represents the Economic Development Foundation in such proposals. In effect, Blanchard could potentially vote on matters concerning an organization of which she is a sitting board member. That the Parish would continue to pursue obvious conflicts such as this indicate a reluctance to present a proper representational government, much less an actual democratic process.

Perhaps this view is off-mark, and Blanchard is there to usher in a new era of accountability by presenting details of EDF activities to the public. Indeed, stranger things have happened. Councilwoman Blanchard will meet with her constituents August 31st in Slidell. (see stpgov.org)

Timothy may be reached at covweekly@gmail.com.

Opinion

“Totally Awesome” Consumer Advisory by Timothy Gates, CW Correspondent

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“Most of the chemicals, if not all, have common household uses.” Charlotte Batson of Batson and Company made this statement in an interview with Don Dubuc on WWL AM 870 that took place on June 12, 2015, with regard to the Helis Oil and Gas Company’s hydraulic fracturing endeavor in Mandeville.  As ridiculous as the statement sounds, Batson is absolutely correct on this point.

totallyawesome - CopyOne such product is LA’s Totally Awesome, “as seen on TV” and making its rounds locally and cheaply.  The active ingredient of this particular “non-toxic and biodegradable” cleaner is 2-butoxyethanol.  Also the main component of Corexit (the dispersant sprayed in the Gulf after the BP Deepwater Horizon disaster), the substance is an endocrine disruptor that allows the passage of other chemicals and toxins through cell membranes.  The website claims the product is “non-toxic,” and the bottle is printed with the advice “Keep Out Of Reach Of Children” and “Warning:  Eye Irritant” with further precautions.

This may not be the most toxic fracking fluid component, as per the brief list of substances, many carcinogenic, compiled and published in a letter by local Oncologist Dr. Jay Saux, but its use as an everyday household cleaner seems excessive.  This writer has no background in endocrinology, but a basic understanding of the action of this substance should lead one to the conclusion that it can have very negative effects on biological systems.

According to the Agency for Toxic Substances & Disease Registry (1998):  “This Public Health Statement is the summary chapter from the Toxicological Profile for 2-butoxyethanol. This information is important because this substance may harm you.  The effects of exposure depend on the dose, the duration, how you are exposed, personal traits and habits, and whether other chemicals are present.”

Considering that at least one individual known to this writer has endured 8 months of detoxification and rehabilitation from exposure to Corexit after diving in the post-disaster Gulf of Mexico during clean-up and recovery, consumers may want to think twice about this super-cheap cleaner.

Contact Timothy at covweekly@gmail.com

Opinion

Air Monitoring System Grossly Insufficient by Timothy Achan Gates, CW Correspondent

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Representatives of the Parish inspected the Helis Oil & Gas well site recently, finding that only permitted work was being done as air monitoring equipment on Lakeshore High School property was finalized. The concept of a monitoring station at the school is intended to serve as a reminder that the company is actively providing protections as the project moves forward. A single air monitoring station at the school is grossly insufficient; the obvious solution is individual, hand held air monitoring devices for the kids.

GasAlert available at PKSafety.com

GasAlert available at PKSafety.com

The BW Honeywell GasAlert Quattro 4-Gas Monitor has four full-sized sensors to detect oxygen and any serious atmospheric changes therein. The unit detects hydrogen sulfide (H2S), carbon monoxide (CO) and a variety of dangerous flammable and or combustible gases. If anything were to happen at the well site, the children carrying this device will be some of the first to know with a 95dB alarm, vibration alert and an array of warning lights. The Quattro’s simple interface allows ease of use and ensures confidence in safety.

The Quattro comes individually packaged in a cardboard box including a 120v AC battery charger, an operator’s manual, a cd-rom owner’s manual, calibration/bump test adapter w/18 inches of clear pvc tubing, a double ended screwdriver (No. 1 Phillips – 5/64 Hex Allen) and a factory calibration certificate. Calibration gas may be ordered separately, and ships separately.

Lakeshore High has a student population near 1,000. The units run about $650 apiece, so Helis would be able to provide every student with their own unit for somewhere in the neighborhood of $700,000. This is a small price to pay considering that the children are the future. Plumes are subject to weather conditions and other variables, and one part of the campus may be a hazard while another part of the campus may be perfectly safe. For this reason, a handheld, individual air monitor for every student is absolutely imperative.

Do we want to leave the health and safety of the children to the responsibility of a remotely monitored station, or give them the power to monitor the air they breathe in their own hands? The answer is obvious, as individual air monitors would reduce liability and ensure safety.

Timothy Gates may be reached at: covweekly@gmail.com

Titelbild.indd

Opinion

Continuing Adventures of Tammany J. Frog by Timothy Achan Gates, Correspondent

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Mark Twain“History doesn’t repeat itself, but it often rhymes.”  This saying is attributed to the infamous lower mid-western writer, Mark Twain (Samuel Clemens).  While there is no direct evidence that Twain spoke or wrote this phrase, there was a direct experience that illustrated the concept with regard to Twain’s short story, “The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County”.

Upon learning of an ancient Greek story that mirrored his own, Twain wrote,  “no occurrence is sole and solitary, but is merely a repetition of a thing which has happened before, and perhaps often…”  The alleged “Greek” version, presented by a Professor Sidgwick of England, actually was Twain’s jumping frog story, included in a textbook for students learning to translate English texts into Greek.

English papers reproved Sidgwick for his omission, but he maintained his innocence, believing that the story was so well known that formal mention of it was unnecessary.  Sidgwick personally related this to Twain in England around the turn of the century (1900), but still failed to acknowledge Twain in later editions of his textbook.

Illustration “The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County” by Mark Twain  -- thepinetree.net

Illustration for “The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County” by Mark Twain — thepinetree.net

Twain is marked for his humorous and satirical work, the jumping frog swindle in particular.  Lesser known is that he was highly critical of imperialistic political motivation, as well as a supporter of abolitionism.  The following passage shares insight into Twain’s political philosophy:

“Why is it right that there is not a fairer division of the spoil all around? Because laws and constitutions have ordered otherwise. Then it follows that laws and constitutions should change around and say there shall be a more nearly equal division.”

This quote is reminiscent of ideology within national scale social movements like “Occupy Wall Street” and the efforts to bring accountability to the “too big to fail” banks.  If one considers that the etymology of {the word} government is to control the mind, and that the economic system of capitalism was developed specifically with the interest of members of society already owning capital, there is no need to search for obscure and problematic conspiracy theories, because the facts are there for all to see.  The constructs are tactics of division that are used to the advantage of the control structure.  If there ever was a truly “free” market, this Great Experiment would likely look much different than it does currently, filled with problematic conflicts of interest, favored contracts, cronyism, and the use of public monies for anything besides what is in the public’s interest.  When used in the context of the proletariat, the term socialism receives venomous criticism; when it relates to aristocracy, it is understood to be a privileged given.

Tammany J Frog

Tammany J Frog

Unfettered by a belly full of buckshot, Tammany J. Frog continues to hop around the parish.  Tammany J. Frog was introduced by Covington Weekly in December of last year as a light-hearted symbol representing the operation of economic development in St. Tammany Parish, and because those who question Hydraulic Fracturing were referred to as loonies. Now, it’s Christmas in July as Helis Oil & Gas Company begins to prepare their exploratory well near Lakeshore High School.   The Parish administration plays at listening to the public while reviewing grant money, writing private bonds (the details are not disclosed to the public) and declaring exemptions and incentives to friendly neighborhood corporations and developers, while small business owners struggle to pay their bills and taxes with little relief.

corp-not-peop-290x290

occuprint.org

No real operational difference exists between social welfare and corporate welfare; they both fall within the definition of socialism, and they are both forced sharing.  Time will tell what St. Tammany Parish’s historic rhyme sounds like.

Timothy Achan Gates is a local writer and musician. Contact: codexproventus@gmail.com.

Opinion

Dividing Tactics & Personal Responsibility by Timothy Achan Gates

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Named for Julius Caesar by the Roman Senate, July is the seventh month, marking the halfway point of 2015. It has indeed been a year of action so far.

Julius Caesar is thought of as one of the greatest military commanders in history, and through the ancient political maxim ‘divide et impera’ (divide and rule), dissolved the Roman Republic and planted the seeds that led to the rise of the Roman Empire after his assassination.

This method of control is very effective and exists to this day, exemplified by the divisions of race, gender, social status, religion, political affiliation, etc. While Covington is a fairly quiet community, technology allows a greater connection to events happening on a national level. No community is immune to tragedy, but local administration is proactively taking a positive approach.

CPD Chief Tim Lentz is making strides to foster a stronger sense of community by partnering with the Boys and Girls Club in town. Local businesses that support this endeavor include Brooks’ Bike Shop on the Trace and the Center Of Performing Arts at the corner of Columbia and Rutland. It is hopeful to see positive activity to balance the stress of a rapidly changing world.

There is a personal responsibility that each citizen has to their community and surrounding environment: Nurture It. Every religion has its own ideas, but a common theme among all of them is the ancient concept of the individual acting in a way they would like others to act toward them, known as reciprocity , or the Golden Rule. Do Good.

Individuality is a prized component to humans, while genetically, the human population is 99.9% similar. When the created divisions cause harm to others, it is time to address the issues raised and adjust accordingly. At this point, self preservation becomes important.

If people are to accept the goal of helping others, or at the very least, of doing no harm, the right frame of mind is necessary. Self preservation in this sense deals with identifying information or ideas that are harmful to self or others, and eliminating them. Things have power only because they are given power, and the choice to challenge that power is always there.

Painting by Vincenzo Camuccini, 1798. Public domain.

Painting by Vincenzo Camuccini, 1798. Public domain.

In the case of Julius Caesar, his power was challenged, and he met an untimely death. He initially fought back, until he glimpsed Brutus. Perhaps his own sense of empathy hit him and he gave in to fate, realizing that he had taken enough. Or maybe he was like Anderson’s emperor with the new clothes, too immersed in himself to see the truth before him. Either way, the emperor lies before all, unclothed, broken and bleeding.

Timothy Gates is a Correspondent for Covington Weekly, and can be reached at codexproventus@gmail.com.

Opinion

The Obfuscation Of Economic Development by Timothy Achan Gates, Correspondent

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The process of economic development in St. Tammany Parish is an intricate web consisting of subdivisions of the state upon subdivisions of the state stretched delicately above a swamp of similar personages, all occupying key positions in multiple inter-governmental organizations with legislative influence. Covington Weekly has explored the legitimacy of such a structure previously with some public support, but ultimately without redress.

The reason for confusing the process to such a mind-boggling degree is simple: none of it matters to the real issue. It is legal maneuvering to disguise unlawful actions performed legally through ordinance and act after ordinance and act. The real issue is that no one is paying enough attention to history.

Statue of Tamanend

Chief Tamanend, St. Tammany Parish’s namesake.
Statue of Tamanend in Philadelphia

St. Tammany Parish is named after Chief Tamanend, who was neither a Saint or a Native of this area. Tamanend achieved his “affable” status for his role as a diplomat, establishing peace between natives and settlers of the earliest colonies in our Great Country. The influence of his legacy was such that Tammany Day replaced May Day (May 1st) and Tammany Societies formed throughout the colonies. One particular group, the “Sons of Tammany”, is thought to be a predecessor to the “Sons of Liberty”, who were influential in the groundswell leading up the American Revolution. From this historical perspective, the name St. Tammany connotes to this writer the ideas of peaceful relations and liberty (but not without fatigue).

NO TAXATION WITHOUT REPRESENTATION

This phrase became the rallying call of the American Revolution, as the colonists refused to pay taxes without representation in Parliament. The irony of the current situation is that nearly three hundred years later, things have come full circle as history continues to repeat itself. With regard to fracking, the public is paying for unwanted development, and they will pay even more after the fact. There is very little representation on the Parish level, save Councilman Jacob Groby, who publicly exhibits critical thinking skills. There is obviously no representation on the State level, as we are told by the Parish that we don’t have a right to self determination. Because public funds are used in the structuring of bonds related to the operations and land associated with usage, combined with the generous incentives and credits afforded to the industry, the current situation does constitute an authentic example of Taxation Without Representation, at least from a layman’s perspective. Although recent court rulings indicated that St. Tammany does not have a right to self determination through the Home Rule Charter, those decisions do not mean that an Inherent Right to Self Determination does not exist, because it does, and the discussion will continue until it is recognized by the Courts.

This writer was provided the opportunity to speak with Charlotte Batson by phone, Helis’ newest Public Relations professional, with regard to the radio interview hosted by Don Dubuc on WWL AM 870 last week. Curiosity stemmed from the comment regarding armed security at the work site, and Batson made assurances that there were no incidents or threats, and the guards are off-duty Sheriff’s Deputies paid by Helis, strictly for safety purposes (safety of site workers and the public).

Image of the on-going sinkhole in Bayou Corne, Louisiana

Image of the on-going sinkhole in Bayou Corne, Louisiana

Two erroneous statements (propaganda) made in the radio program not discussed during the phone call, are “there are strict regulations” (mentioned several times) and “industry operations have been going on for many years in Louisiana with no negative effects” (paraphrase). Unfortunately for the second comment, BP’s Deepwater Horizon Disaster had a decidedly negative impact on this state, and the Bayou Corne sinkhole continues to grow. To the former statement, fracking is specifically exempted from many federal regulations thanks to the infamous “Halliburton Loophole”.

The conclusion presented implies that the situation is not as cut and dry as a simple issue of economic development. The public is being forced to accept an operation of secret and highly questionable technology whose negative social and environmental impacts, by the industry’s estimation, are far outweighed by the long term benefits. (Whose?) As for the long term detriments? Just ask Pennsylvania, home to Tamanend, as Thomas Paine rolls in his grave.

Timothy Gates may be reached at 985-288-9609 or by emailing codexproventus@gmail.com

General Local News Opinion

Hydraulic Fracturing in St. Tammany by Timothy Achan Gates, Correspondent

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At the beginning of 2015, LOGA (Louisiana Oil and Gas Association) made some strong statements with regard to the industry in Louisiana. Backing those statements, Larry Rase of the Northshore Business Council contributed to an article detailing the enormous contribution oil and gas makes to the local and state economy. What is perplexing about these declarations is that Louisiana, historically considered an “oil and gas state”, is now facing a $1.4 billion+ budget deficit.

A January 2015 Wall Street Journal article (“Deep Debt Keeps Oil Firms Pumping“) clarifies the situation by pointing out that the industry itself runs at a huge deficit. According to the WSJ piece, the Oil and Gas Industry has increased its borrowings by 55% since 2010, bringing their current debt to nearly $200 billion on a national scale. This illustrates that the “boom” is actually a “bubble”, because the average family household knows that growth is not achieved by running huge deficits.

Example of a Hydraulic Fracturing operation in the Marcellus Shale. This type of operation was planned for the area near Lakeshore High School in Mandeville for the last 3-4 years. Photo USGS Public Domain.

Example of a Hydraulic Fracturing operation in the Marcellus Shale. This type of operation was planned for the area near Lakeshore High School in Mandeville for the last 3-4 years. Photo USGS Public Domain.

It is the opinion of this writer that hydraulic fracturing operations were termed specifically as “unconventional” for the purpose of exempting said industry from the current regulations on “conventional” operations. Four State Representatives (Matt Cartwright, PA, Diana DeGette, CO, Jared Polis, CO and Jan Schakowsky, IL) are currently working to close loopholes left open to hydraulic fracturing with a new group of bills called the “Frack Pack”. This legislation is overdue, and it is interesting to note that the four Representatives hail from states that are beginning to recognize negative effects associated with hydraulic fracturing technology. While these bills concern federal regulation, it remains a state issue.

Representative Tim Burns (Mandeville, LA–89) stated to this writer that St. Tammany does not want industrial operations.  We are home to several corporate offices, and wish to maintain those lucrative relationships, but this Parish is not suited for heavy industry.  If this is a view still espoused by Representative Tim Burns, then this writer suggests that legislation be proposed to remove permitting control from the Department of Natural Resources, and return that control to the local communities that have a right to self-determination.  The fact that the DNR cannot deny a permit without being sued by the industry indicates industry influence that reeks of corporatocracy, which is a thinly veiled version of fascism.

It is unfortunate that telling the truth about communities that have experienced sustained hydraulic fracturing operations is considered a “scare tactic”;  that alone should tell the objective reader all they need to know.  The fact that the industry runs at such a huge deficit while sucking up tax dollar-derived exemptions and credits (don’t call them subsidies!) is a blatant example of financial abuse and manipulation displayed openly before the public.

Although transparency has arrived, there will be no Rule of Law until all entities, public and private, and the State itself, are held to the same standards of accountability.

corpor1

Timothy Gates may be reached at 985-288-9609 or by emailing codexproventus@gmail.com

Local News Opinion

Court Decisions Reject Local Authority In Fracking Lawsuits

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I Support A Frack Free St Tammany ScreenprintDecisions from the 22nd and 19th Judicial Districts dismissed separate lawsuits from The Town of Abita Springs and St. Tammany Parish related to Hydraulic Fracturing permitting and zoning ordinances in St. Tammany Parish. According to Parish President Pat Brister, “Local decisions are always the most efficient and effective way to govern. However, the Court has ruled that State permitting laws have precedence over our local comprehensive zoning ordinances. The court has given us an answer about where State’s authority ends and where St. Tammany’s began.” – www.stpgov.org

More accurately, the ruling gives the answer that the State’s authority is inarguable, and that St. Tammany has no authority in the matter. There is no point in having a Home Rule Charter if it cannot protect the community from oppressive State laws. Months ago, a representative of the Department of Natural Resources related to this writer that they understood the concerns over hydraulic fracturing, and that if the law was changed at the state level, they would be happy to enforce it.

Helis Oil and Gas Company is from Texas and is one of the companies named in a lawsuit that Governor Jindal killed last year, against the recommendation of State Attorney General Buddy Caldwell. If this company was irresponsible enough to garner a lawsuit over coastal operations that the industry lobbied to eliminate, that casts a shadow on their credibility and reliability for future projects. The volunteers at Fracking 101 have comprehensive, substantiated information, including the 2014 report from the LA State Legislative Auditor’s Office naming all orphaned and abandoned sites in the state.

While the Parish Government accepts that they have no right to self-determination, Mandeville Mayor Villere calls a dog poop law a “Gestapo” law. People should be responsible for their own animals without more laws, and a community has a right to object to and/or bar an entity from entering said community.

The St. Tammany Libertarian PEC advocates for bills that are liberty related. How about a bill to get rid of this poor legislation that allows regulation-ignoring industries to trump the rights of tax-paying citizens that are ultimately shouldering a portion of the cost of the operations and mitigation? Even Governor Jindal has adopted the term “corporate welfare”. The Libertarians also support the Industrial Hemp Industry as a viable economic solution, just like the great state of Kentucky, home to the whiskey of which early Covington officials were so fond.

by Timothy Gates, Covington Weekly Correspondent – 985.288.9609

Opinion

2015 A Year of Action Says LOGA – by Timothy Gates, CW Correspondent

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In an email exchange between St. Tammany Director of Economic Development Don Shea and St. Tammany Chief Deputy Assessor Troy Dugas from May 2014, Shea states, “The general heat will die down, except for the loonies.” The email, one of several released by Concerned Citizens of St. Tammany, continues to ring true. With respect to the theme, Covington Weekly introduced Tammany J. Frog, the singing and dancing amphibian sensation who likes to entertain the Parish administration. (See “St. Tammany’s Own Michigan J. Frog,” – CW.)

While Shea’s comment reveals disdain for the growing opposition to hydraulic fracturing in St. Tammany Parish, the action detailed in the communication is inconsistent with the basic principles of a representative democracy. Dugas proceeds to outline a strategy for subverting public discourse that was admittedly used to influence past public meetings (read the email). Despite efforts to sway public opinion, several lawsuits are filed, local municipal officials have officially stated their concerns, and the citizens responded by packing standing-room-only meetings.  Perceptibly, the Louisiana Oil and Gas Association (LOGA) is now on the warpath.

Yosemite_Sam

Yosemite Sam – sourced wiki.org

Published on December 31, 2014 on www.loga.la, “2015: A Year Of Action” proposes that the oil and gas industry is under threatening attack in Louisiana.  A quick read of LOGA President Don Briggs’ diatribe against a “rogue group of environmentalists” is reminiscent of the ranting and raving of the rabbit -hating cartoon prospector Yosemite Sam.  Blame is shared with trial lawyers and activists, who elect candidates that actively work against the oil and gas industry, highlighting the dire need for “conservative, business friendly officials.”

There would be little argument against the statement that St. Tammany is a fairly conservative community with a Republican bent. The local municipal leadership familiar to this writer fits the description of both “conservative” and “business friendly.” Valid concerns about a specific technology or practice within a particular industry are not an indication that an individual is unfriendly to business or liberal, in a general sense.

Briggs harbors resentment for judges that “blatantly rule against the industry,” suggesting that all positions of influence be occupied by people who will decide only in favor of the industry, in every situation. Besides being undiplomatic, this solution more accurately describes a plutocracy, a political ideology contrary to St. Tammany Parish’s Home Rule Charter. The notion also conflicts with local control of the preservation, security and protection of our immediate environment and resources, concepts outlined in our State and Federal Constitutions.

Rather than push for unrestrained industrial development, an action LOGA could take is to ensure accountability in the existing industry. This is lacking, outlined in a report from the Louisiana State Legislative Auditor’s Office regarding Orphaned and Abandoned Wells from May 2014. In an earlier December 3rd LOGA article (“OPEC Threatened By US Shale Plays“), Briggs chides OPEC for attacking the shale industry by refusing to cut production, commenting that participating countries’ social programs will suffer, as they are subsidized through oil.  Evidenced by data found in the State Legislative Auditor’s report, some Louisiana operations inadvertently become social programs, because the public is left to pick up the tab in the mitigation of abandoned and orphaned wells.

Instead of parish correspondence that denigrates the citizenry and conspires to manipulate public meetings, establishing truthful and rational dialogue relative to the future of our community would be a good start to restoring public trust between citizens and parish administration. The consequences of fracking are generating such alarming data by independent sources that support of the practice is now decreasingly a partisan issue. Acknowledgement of a community right to self determination would preclude the perceived mutual exclusivity of economic development and community preservation, which is not partisan either.

One thing is for certain: for good or ill, 2015 is here, and early signs indicate that the new year will indeed be a Year Of Action. As the Action Unfolds, you can bet that the Loonies will be paying close attention.

Timothy Gates may be reached at 985-288-9609 or by email at codexproventus@gmail.com

Opinion

St. Tammany’s Own Michigan J. Frog – by Timothy Gates, Correspondent

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Tammany J Frog Read about Michigan J Frog at wiki.org

Tammany J Frog
Read about Michigan J Frog at wiki.org

“…the general heat will die down, except for the loonies.” – Don Shea

This is an excerpt of one of several emails referencing the St. Tammany fracking controversy publicized by the Concerned Citizens of St. Tammany as a result of records requests for official Parish correspondence. The State responded by releasing over 8,000 emails to CCST. Find out more about CCST at www.ccstp.org.

Many remember the popular Looney Toons character, Michigan J. Frog. Michigan breaks out in song and dance for only one man, who, driven by money, tries desperately to get the frog before the public, to no avail.

Meet Tammany J. Frog, Michigan’s Southern cousin. Tammany differs from his Northeast counterpart with his mustache and yat dialect, offering gifts of money. For a while, Tammany J. Frog sang and danced for the parish officials only. Now the public is beginning to see the song and dance, and something seems slightly out of tune.

St. Tammany Director Economic Development Don Shea, when asked by Parish Councilman Jacob Groby at the February 2014 Parish Council Meeting if there were any pending business proposals with regard to the Economic Development Districts, responded, “No sir, we’re quite ahead of the development curve.” (Watch the video at www.stpgov.org) While public discussion of the leaked emails exists, one noticeable discrepancy is unaddressed by the media. The tone and dates of the emails (the emails discussed in this article took place in April and May 2014 – see covingtonweekly.com) suggest a relationship that extends well beyond February 2014.

In a separate April 2014 email between Shea and Parish President Pat Brister, Shea writes that a resolution to ban fracking would hamper their efforts to grow the tax base, “give a very harmful signal to Helis of course,” and disappoint the “already substantial” oil & gas employment sector in STP. Efficiency and industriousness of our parish officials aside, it is difficult to imagine that the Parish Council or the public is expected to believe that Shea was not aware of a hydraulic fracturing project of the magnitude proposed by Helis Oil & Gas in February, a short time before the emails were written.

While the development districts were promoted to the Council as a tool to aid accountability and transparency, the released emails convey a certain degree of contempt for the public and illustrate a need for greater public oversight of Parish activity. After speaking with Mr. Shea on the phone, this writer was referred to Ronnie Simpson, Parish Director of Public Information and Intergovernmental Relations, who was not available for comment.

Timothy Gates may be reached at 985-288-9609 or by email at codexproventus@gmail.com

Referenced emails can be viewed here: Email #1  &  Email #2

For more information, visit www.ccstp.org

General Local News Opinion

Local Volunteers Host Fracking 101 – Educating the Public on Hydraulic Fracturing

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Large turnout for informational meeting held at Castine Center in Mandeville

Large turnout for informational meeting held at Castine Center in Mandeville – photo by Chelsea Cochrane

Since late April or early May, one could say that “frack” has become a four-letter word in St. Tammany. Of course, it actually has five letters and the word is the crass short name for the process of hydraulic fracturing, which we are told has been practiced safely for over 60 years. In fact, it was invented by Halliburton, the company responsible for the concrete sleeve that failed at the BP offshore platform, Deepwater Horizon. With litigation ongoing from that incident, it is not difficult to imagine a skeptical public, dismissive of reassurances from the Parish and the operators (in this case, Helis Oil and Gas Co.) that safety is of utmost importance with regard to onshore operations. The citizens of St. Tammany have consistently attended public discussions of the proposed operations for the last several months, resulting in standing room crowds at various forums and council meetings. In response to a genuine need for substantive information, a small group of dedicated volunteers have secured a location in downtown Covington to help educate the public on issues raised by hydraulic fracturing.

Emma Cuppay, 90 years old, at information meeting with sign

Emma Cuppay, 90 years old, at information meeting with sign – photo by Chelsea Cochrane

Fracking 101 is located in the Frederick Building right next to Shop Soul Boutique on Boston Street. You will find current documentation regarding social, environmental and health impacts of hydraulic fracturing from current and past operations across the nation. There was no scientific basis for objection for many years, mainly because no studies existed, and the industry was exempt from regulatory agencies thanks to the “Halliburton Loophole.” The amount of information available today is both staggering and conclusive, and the kind folks at Fracking 101 have put it all together for you to view. Contrary to media coverage that has a tendency to marginalize those opposed to fracking, the opposition consists of caring and dedicated citizens of various professional backgrounds who are weary of being mislead by their local governments and lobbying groups.

Young girl with sign at press conference in Abita Springs

Young girl with sign at press conference in Abita Springs – photo by Chelsea Cochrane

Private groups like the Northshore Business Council regurgitate numbers with regard to the Oil and Gas Industry’s contribution to the region, while neglecting the growing disillusionment of corporate welfare. Also ignored are the problems that arise from food and medicine that is intertwined with the petrochemical industry, with the taxpayer ultimately paying the price. In fact, the Louisiana State Legislative Auditor’s Office recently issued a report highlighting the inadequacy of the very agency that supposedly regulates the industry (and just so happens to issue the permits for operators), the Louisiana Department of Natural Resources and Office of Conservation, offering no less than 20 separate recommendations for improvement. That is just one of the many documents available at Fracking 101. Learn more at fracking-101.webs.com. Timothy Gates is a musican and correspondant for Covington Weekly. Photos by Chelsea Cochrane. covweekly@media9productions.com

Woman holds up sign at parish council meeting

Woman holds up sign at parish council meeting – photo by Chelsea Cochrane

 

 

Local News Opinion

The 22nd Judicial District Attorney Race & The Threat of Teenage Girls: A Study in the Application of Accountability

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CovWeek_SmallLogo_Color_Webby Timothy Gates, Covington Weekly Correspondent, codexproventus@gmail.com

With now less than one week until election day, the St. Tammany Parish District Attorney race is picking up momentum.  A Lee Zurik report recently disclosed allegations that Brian Trainor, employee of St. Tammany Parish Sheriff’s Office at the time of the incident, was hired by Attorney Charles Hughes in the case of an individual involved in a traffic accident on the Slidell/N.O. East Twin Spans.  The incident technically occurred in Orleans Parish, and Hughes involved Trainor for the assurance that his relationship with the Louisiana State Police would help to produce an accident report that would be favorable to the case. Hughes’ given reason for bringing the case to St. Tammany indicated a racial bias, and one Orleans Parish councilman has already called for the STPSO to drop Talley, Anthony, Hughes and Knight, who represent the STPSO to the tune of half a million+ yearly. At the time of this writing, a second Louisiana lawmaker has seconded the call.

While the information is chalked up to dirty politics, it brings to mind two recent unrelated incidents involving teenage girls that can serve as a comparison point with regard to decisions and equal application of law.
Several years ago, a teenager was handcuffed at school for using her cell phone in the bus line, at the authority of an on-duty Sheriff’s Deputy.  By her account, she was treated roughly by the deputy. While at the hospital for a physical examination after the incident, she was charged with battery of an officer.  In another situation, a teenager was arrested by STPSO and released to her mother for falsifying a police report filed with regard to her personal safety.

Zurik’s report highlights conflicts of interest within the district attorney’s office. The report also suggests conspiracy to manipulate official documents evidenced by a taped phone conversation, the motivation for which indicates racial bias exhibited by a public contractor (it is unclear whether either conversant was in a school bus line at the time of the conversation.)  But, watch out for female teenagers.

While the spectre of racism just won’t quite fade away into the past, the STPSO has a colorful history of racially sensitive involvements. To the credit of advocates such as Belinda Parker Brown and Louisiana United International, those attitudes and stereotypes are transforming.  In the interest of  justice, our officials have a duty to eliminate public funding to contractors that display racial bias.  As for dirty politics: at the very least, public officials should be held to the same standards of accountability that the STPSO holds to teenage girls.

Source links:

“Zurik: N.O. councilman says sheriff should fire attorney after racist remarks” – Lee Zurik, Tom Wright, Fox 8 News: http://www.fox8live.com/story/26807245/zurik-no-councilman-says-sheriff-should-fire-attorney-after-racist-remarks

“Slidell man files bar complaints against Tammany sheriff’s lawyer, top deputy” – Sara Pagones, New Orleans Advocate: http://www.theneworleansadvocate.com/news/crime/10535141-171/slidell-man-files-bar-complaints

“Zurik: New Orleans lawmaker wants Hughes barred from state business” – Lee Zurik, Tom Wright, Fox 8 News: http://www.fox8live.com/story/26885238/zurik-new-orleans-lawmaker-wants-hughes-barred-from-state-business

“School board, ADA conflict raised over handcuffed girl” – Katie Moore / Eyewitness News & Sara Pagones / The New Orleans Adovocate: http://www.wwltv.com/story/news/local/investigations/katie-moore/2014/09/18/sttammanyadaconvlictraisedbylawsuitovergirlhandcuffedinhighschool/15845271/

“St. Tammany school arrest raises more questions about dual roles of Walter Reed’s assistant” by Sara Pagones and Katie Moore, The Advocate:  http://theadvocate.com/news/neworleans/10298362-148/judge-questioned-over-lack-of

“UPDATE: St. Tammany deputies arrest teen for falsifying police report” – Alissa Vilardo, Action News: http://www.actionnews17.com/crime/artmid/496/articleid/14786/st-tammany-deputies-want-to-identify-stranger-who-approached-child

St. Tammany Parish Sheriff Jack Strain on WDSU: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5aqsFUK12I0

“St. Tammany Parish grand jury indicts alleged KKK imperial wizard, and others, in murder” – Benjamin Alexander-Bloch, NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune: http://blog.nola.com/tpnorthshore/2009/02/st_tammany_parish_grand_jury_i_1.html

“Slidell activist calls for resignation of STPSO Sheriff Strain” – Alissa Vilardo, Action News: http://www.actionnews17.com/crime/artmid/496/articleid/13221/slidell-activist-calls-for-resignation-of-stpso-sheriff-strain

Louisiana United International: http://www.launitedi.com/