New Roads Mayor Robert Myer invited reporters to a press conference on Friday to accuse one of his election opponents of voter fraud and intimidation. But he wound up finding himself in an uncomfortable spotlight as he faced tough questions about his claims.
Myer, who was making the allegations public just days before the Nov. 4 election, refused to answer any more questions about his claims. As he abruptly left the podium in front of the Pointe Coupee Parish Courthouse, he was trailed by reporters who continued peppering him with questions as he made his way into the courthouse.
Myer had called the news conference to accuse candidate Cornell Dukes and three members of Dukes’ campaign staff of buying one man’s vote with a 40-ounce can of beer and $2, convincing a mentally disabled man to vote and accused Dukes of refusing to leave a polling place during early voting until sheriff’s deputies escorted him away.
“A vote is worth more than 40 ounces of beer and $2,” Myer said while placing what appeared to be a large bottle of beer and two one-dollar bills on a podium.
But after fielding a few questions, Myer briefly walked away before stopping again. When asked for concrete proof of his allegations, he said, “That will be borne out in an investigation.”
He then walked through the main hallway of the courthouse and to an SUV while reporters continued shouting questions.
The Secretary of State’s Office does not discuss investigations, including whether or not an investigation exists, said Meg Casper, an agency spokeswoman.
Myer is seeking a second term as mayor while running against Dukes. Candidate Paul D’Aquila also is running.
Election season a time for punting at council
In the month leading up to Election Day, Denham Springs City Council has seemed loath to hold a vote on any divisive issues. For the second time in as many meetings, the council on Monday tabled a public hearing and a vote on a controversial matter.
The agenda for Nov. 13 — after the upcoming city council and mayoral elections — is filling with business from the past month, including Monday’s discussion of new food truck ordinances and a previously postponed vote that would rezone land allowing for a 272-unit apartment complex.
Monday’s meeting was over in a matter of just 10 minutes.
Councilwoman Annie Fugler, who drafted the proposed food truck ordinances with city attorney Paeton Burkett, successfully moved to table the issue. She spoke to Todd Sibley, who operates the city’s only food truck, outside before the meeting and said she wanted “not to make a hasty decision.”
Afterward, Sibley was optimistic that the proposed regulations would be relaxed, though specific changes to the proposals have not been discussed.
If passed, the original ordinance would have prohibited food trucks from operating “within 300 feet of any restaurant or retail business establishment that sells food products.”
Sibley, who owns the grocery store La Frontera, said he would be barred from selling from his food truck in his own store’s parking lot, where the truck currently conducts business.
Asked if the ordinance would put a 300-foot buffer zone around every Denham Springs convenience store, Burkett responded that the ordinance was intended to keep trucks away from restaurants and delis, but that the issue could be revisited if necessary.
The proposal calls for several other measures, including restrictions on where the trucks can set up, a mandate they provide trash cans and a requirement they be inspected by the Department of Health and Hospitals.
Complaints mounting about traffic gridlock
An Advocate article recounting a Nicholson Lakes resident’s nightmarish experience waiting in his car for hours while being denied entrance into his own neighborhood appears to have touched a nerve with many of the purple and gold faithful. They’ve written to the newspaper with similar stories that paint post-game-day Baton Rouge as a grid of unmoving traffic and rude police officers.
One reader, Gary P. Haindel, wrote that it took him more than two hours to move three miles on Saturday to return home in University Club South. Another reader, Ellen Roche, wrote that police cars blocked the left travel lane on Bluebonnet Boulevard on Saturday, forcing all of the drivers to merge right and defeating the purpose of contraflow.
Ryan LeGuluche, another Nicholson Lakes resident, wrote that the police officers near his neighborhood have been troublesome since the first game this season.
Most of those voicing complaints list the attitude of the police officers as one of the biggest problems.
“The impression the police give, at every game, is they are angry they are out there having to direct traffic,” wrote Eddie Daigle.
Earlier this week, Baton Rouge Police Department Sgt. David Wallace said officers monitoring traffic do not block any neighborhoods. He said people may have trouble with contraflow if they are moving against the direction of traffic, but pointed out that LSU fans often start contraflow themselves.
Wallace said they will continue to revamp and modify how contraflow works for next season after LSU’s last home game Nov. 8 against the University of Alabama.
Adam Smith, director of parking operations for LSU’s Athletic Department, said contraflow is working and the goal is to add more vehicle capacity to Nicholson Drive southbound. They should have a plan in place for next season by April 2015, Smith said.
Fans who are trying to voice their complaints to LSU should contact firstname.lastname@example.org or 225-578-2184.
How many signatures does St. George need?
St. George organizers have submitted the much-anticipated petition needed to put the new city proposal to a vote of its own residents. But the question remains: How many signatures do they need to qualify?
The number has been a moving target for the better part of a year. Now that the petition is in, St. George supporters and opponents are having a disagreement about what the true threshold will be.
At first, St. George organizers estimated the goal was about 18,000. But as they got closer to the finish line, the need for specificity became more urgent.
A few months ago, the Registrar of Voters told the group the number would be 17,746 signatures. The group submitted the petition on Oct. 20 with about 18,200 signatures. Then the Registrar updated the number of signatures required on the petition to 16,500.
Registrar Elaine Lamb said the number reflected 25 percent of registered voters in the boundaries of the proposed new city on the day the petition was submitted, which is the number they would be held to.
But St. George opposition group Residents Against the Breakaway is contesting that number. Dianne Hanley, a spokeswoman with the group, said its analysis of voter precincts shows there are 71,184 registered voters in the St. George area, meaning that 17,752 are required as of Sept. 18. They think the number may be a little higher because more people have registered to vote ahead of the November election.
However, St. George spokesman Lionel Rainey disputes that. He said he believes the number is below 17,000.
Lamb acknowledged on Monday the 16,500 estimate might have been an inaccurate count. But she said she’s done estimating the total for the public until she can sit down with St. George organizers and look at the specific boundary lines of the proposed city. She said there are several split precincts, which is what makes the count so complicated.
Lamb also said recent annexations of properties into the city of Baton Rouge will not affect their counts for the petition because there are few, if any, registered voters in that area and because they can only go by what is included in the initial petition.
Once early voting ends, she said, her office will begin to determine the exact number of necessary signatures. She estimated her office would take at least a month to validate the petition.
A story in The Advocate on Tuesday triggered many LSU fans to escape from their Ole Miss victory dazes and sound off about game-day traffic gridlock.
Advocate staff writers Daniel Bethencourt, Steve Hardy, Rebekah Allen and Andrea Gallo contributed to this report.