In recent months, Baton Rouge Attorney Mary Olive Pierson has been the most visible face of the St. George opposition movement.
Baton Rouge officials defer to her biting comments on St. George issues when approached by the media for comment. Pierson even admits she flew to Kansas City recently to convince L’Auberge Casino representatives to join the City of Baton Rouge — a significant financial hit to the St. George proposed budget.
But Pierson’s contract with the city of Baton Rouge is limited to a lawsuit related to the annexation of the Mall of Louisiana, which is being challenged in the appellate court by former legislator and community newspaper owner Woody Jenkins.
She says her additional efforts to defend the current structure of city-parish government have been pro bono and says she’s doing it because she cares about the city. But St. George supporters have questioned her motivations and financial backers.
For her part, Pierson noted that several St. George supporters also say they are working pro bono, including spokesman Lionel Rainey, and attorney Alex St. Amant who is defending Jenkins in the mall suit.
“I have a vital interest in making sure this city I was born in and grew up in continues to flourish,” Pierson said, adding that she stepped into the role to “fill a void.”
Pierson said she paid her own way to Kansas City to meet with the casino representatives and doesn’t get paid despite “spending three meetings a week on this.”
“If I have to give all of my time on this, I might think about doing that,” she said. “They’re stuck with me.”
Winfield endorsement has a (too) familiar ring
Did I read that right? Did Lane Grigsby throw his support to W.T. Winfield in the race for East Baton Rouge Parish School Board District 5?
Well, no. The confusion comes down to one word, the word “for.”
Winfield, seeking to rejoin the board after being voted out in 2010, lists several groups in one of his campaign fliers who have either “endorsed or favored” his candidacy. One is a group called “BETTER SCHOOLS BETTER FUTURES.”
That’s very similar to the group Grigsby, founder of Cajun Industries, formed two months ago to change the School Board and the school system. Grigsby’s group is called Better Schools for Better Futures and that group is crying foul against what it views as an erroneous claim by candidate Winfield.
“Voters in District 5 should not be fooled into believing that Mr. Winfield is the endorsed candidate for Better Schools for Better Future,” said Josh Howard, a group spokesman after the flier came to light earlier this week.
Better Schools for Better Futures, in fact, has endorsed Evelyn Ware-Jackson in the four-way District 5 race and given her $2,500. Grigsby bankrolled another group in 2010 called Students First that attacked Winfield; Winfield was beaten that election by Craig Freeman, who has decided not to run again.
Winfield, however, says he’s telling the truth in his campaign flier.
“There is a group and they are named Better Schools Better Futures,” he said.
Notice that group is one word shorter than Grigsby’s, leaving out the crucial “for.” When pressed on who this other group is, Winfield said he’d have to check with an unnamed representative of the group to see if he was willing to come forward. As of late Friday, no word back from candidate Winfield.
Denham Springs postpones tough vote
The Denham Springs City Council had to take an unscheduled recess during Monday’s meeting to give a horde of residents time to exit after a last-minute decision to postpone a controversial vote.
The council will now address the hot-potato issue after election day.
Spectators stood along the back wall to attend a public hearing and weigh in on a rezoning ordinance that would clear the way for construction of a 272-unit apartment complex near the corner of Pete’s Highway and Cook Road.
Hours before Monday’s meeting, Councilwoman Annie Fugler released a statement decrying the traffic the development would cause, and the district’s school board member, Karen Wax Schmitt, voiced her opposition, saying students at the local elementary school have already been relegated to temporary buildings to fit.
Just before the public hearing was to begin, Councilman Arthur Perkins successfully moved to table the hearing and vote until Nov. 13. He said he wanted to give absent councilwoman Lori Lamm-Williams an opportunity to vote. She had previously told the council she had a personal engagement the night of the hearing.
Of the remaining members, Councilman Chris Davis said his uncle is an heir to the property in question, though the vote was postponed before he was asked to vote or abstain.
Both Davis and Lamm-Williams are currently running for reelection. Councilman John Wascom is running for mayor.
Current mayor Jimmy Durbin said after the meeting that the vote had become too political and was grateful the council members would be free to vote post-election.
Compiled by Advocate staff writers Rebekah Allen, Charles Lussier and Steve Hardy