After winning the mental competency trial that pitted him against his daughter and her children on Thursday, Saints and Pelicans owner Tom Benson wrapped up his day by having dinner at the home of former President George H.W. Bush in Kennebunkport, Maine.
Benson — who was accompanied by his wife, Gayle — has long been friends with Bush and his wife, Barbara.
Benson and Bush each served in the U.S. Navy, and they struck up a friendship after meeting at Navy-related activities several years ago, a Saints and Pelicans spokesman said.
Benson and Bush each have won the Lone Sailor Award, which the Navy Memorial Foundation presents to veterans who have demonstrated the values of honor, courage and commitment in their post-Navy careers.
Benson was at the commissioning ceremony for the naval aircraft carrier named after Bush, and he and his wife vacation at Kennebunkport when their boat is there.
Bush also has been a recurring sight at Saints-related functions. The former president performed the pre-game coin toss when the Saints played the Falcons on the night in 2006 that the Superdome reopened after Hurricane Katrina.
A year earlier, Bush helped former President Bill Clinton host a telethon benefiting Katrina victims during the national broadcast of the Saints’ visit to the New York Giants less than a month after the storm.
The twice-widowed Benson announced several months ago that he no longer wanted his daughter, Renee Benson, or grandchildren, Rita and Ryan LeBlanc, to have any role with his various businesses or to inherit the businesses. Gayle, Benson’s third wife, is now in line to assume control of her husband’s business empire when he dies.
Renee, Rita and Ryan countered by filing a lawsuit that sought to have Benson declared mentally incompetent to make business decisions. But after a two-week trial, Orleans Parish Civil District Court Judge Kern Reese ruled that Benson is “able to make reasoned decisions as to his person and his property.”
About four hours after Reese published his ruling, Saints and Pelicans spokesman Greg Bensel went on Twitter to post a photo showing the Bensons and Bushes sitting down for dinner in Maine.
Quarterites to vote on higher sales tax
French Quarter residents will vote in October on whether to impose a nearly quarter-cent sales tax in the historic district to fund continued patrols there by the State Police.
The City Council approved the measure, and an agreement with the State Police, on Thursday — the final steps, aside from the election, needed to set up an “economic development district” that would collect the roughly $2 million a year the tax would bring in and oversee its use.
The district was pitched by Mayor Mitch Landrieu’s administration earlier this year as one part of a multipronged plan developed along with French Quarter business and residential groups aimed at getting more cops on the street. The plan includes keeping the state troopers on the streets, initiating new off-duty police details on Bourbon Street that will be paid for by businesses there, having roving off-duty officers on utility vehicles funded by businessman Sidney Torres and continuing the civilian NOLA Patrol to free police officers from some relatively minor tasks.
French Quarter residents voted down a plan for a neighborhood patrol a few years ago, but proponents of the higher sales tax will argue that it will be paid primarily by tourists, not Quarter residents — at least not Quarter residents who don’t spend much money in their own neighborhood.
Kenner council OKs plans for new terminal
The Kenner City Council has approved a conditional-use application for the construction of a new North Terminal and related improvements at Louis Armstrong International Airport.
Officials hope the new terminal increases the number of airlines and flights at the airport, which is mainly in Kenner but is owned by the city of New Orleans.
The Kenner council needed to approve the application before any construction permits could be authorized. The council did that Thursday, laying out the basic plan for the $650 million construction project, which is supposed to start later this summer and be finished by 2018.
Meanwhile, the council elected District 1 representative Gregory Carroll to be its president for the next six months. The vice president will be Michael Sigur.
Carroll succeeds Keith Reynaud as president. Sigur succeeds Keith Conley as vice president.
Carroll is in his second term on the council. Sigur is in his first term.
Jeff Coroner’s Office passes national muster
The Jefferson Parish Coroner’s Office was recently reaccredited by the prestigious National Association of Medical Examiners.
Jefferson Coroner Gerry Cvitanovich’s office is one of six — out of 1,600 offices across the country — to receive accreditation from the national association, a news release said.
Association inspectors found not a single deficiency at the coroner’s facility in Harvey among more than 350 checklist items, which included office space, training, safety guidelines, mass disaster plans and tissue donations.
“The Jefferson Parish Coroner’s Office represents one of the highest-quality systems found anywhere in the United States,” inspection team chairman Dr. David Fowler said. “The citizens can be proud of the hard work, dedication and leadership of Dr. Cvitanovich and his team in attaining this high honor.”
Former Coroner Robert Treuting first led the office to accreditation in 2009. The reaccreditation is valid through 2019.
“This accreditation means our office is not only meeting but exceeding the highest professional standards,” Cvitanovich said.
Compiled by Ramon Antonio Vargas and Jeff Adelson.