Monday, 21 August 2017

Things to Do in Lafayettte, Louisiana

Each new destination is exciting, and it’s only natural to want to make the most out of the cities you visit by exploring the things to do there. In this article, we will discuss a few fun things to do in Lafayette, Louisiana.

1. Acadian Village

The first thing to do? Visit the historic Acadian Village! This old 19th-century community features real Cajun homes, period buildings that have been recreated, and a Native American museum. It’s definitely a wonderful place to visit for those who want to get a feel for Louisiana history and culture.

2. Lafayette Science Museum

Another excellent place to visit that those who enjoy learning can enjoy is the Lafayette Science Museum. This is both a museum and a planetarium that regularly employs changing exhibits and other programs. It’s a wonderful place for the whole family, especially those who are traveling with children.

3. Evangeline State Park

Lafayette is home to a fantastic state park, which presents itself as another thing to do while in this Louisiana city. The Evangeline State Park grounds are not only beautiful to behold but feature a 18th-century Acadian shack, a Creole plantation, and a museum for visitors to enjoy.

4. Alexandre Mouton House

The last fun thing to do that we will mention here is to tour the Alexandre Mouton House. Built in 1800 by the city’s founder, this house later was passed onto son Alexandre, who became the first Democratic governor of the city of Lafayette. Today the home houses priceless antiques and paintings, as well as Mardi Gras costumes.

In conclusion, Lafayette is a thrilling city that has much to offer to those who choose to visit. For a wonderful and educational time, be sure to check out these things to do. You won’t regret it!

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Monday, 14 August 2017

High turnover, caseloads in Louisiana foster care program

Legislative Auditor Daryl Purpera.

Louisiana’s social services agency was so understaffed amid repeated budget cuts that it short-changed its foster children, skipping some background checks on foster parents and placing children with people accused of abuse, according to an audit released Monday (Aug. 14).

Legislative Auditor Daryl Purpera’s office reviewed the Department of Children and Family Services’ handling of the foster care program during former Gov. Bobby Jindal’s administration, saying that high caseloads, hefty employee turnover and ineffective computer systems damaged the agency’s oversight of children placed in its care.

"These challenges may impact (the agency’s) ability to ensure the safety and well-being of children in foster care in Louisiana," the report says.

Auditors reviewed the program from Jan. 1, 2012, through Jan. 1, 2016, finding that although the number of children in foster care increased by nearly 4 percent over the period, field staff for the program dropped by more than 3 percent.

By 2016, caseworkers carried an average of 16 cases, higher than the 10-case maximum established in agency policy, the audit says. More than 4,400 children were in the foster care program on Jan. 1 of that year.

Auditors found that 29 percent of those who took in children because they were family members or someone known by the foster child didn’t receive background checks. A handful of providers were allowed to care for children though they had prior "valid cases of abuse and neglect," the audit says. Also, the department didn’t make sure foster children were getting the medical and behavioral health treatments they needed.

The Department of Children and Family Services — which oversees child welfare, food stamps, the welfare program and child support enforcement — had a more than $1.2 billion budget with 5,200 jobs when Jindal took office. By the end of his tenure, spending was down to nearly half, and the department had fewer than 3,500 employees.

Marketa Garner Walters took over as agency secretary in January 2016, appointed by Gov. John Bel Edwards. She wasn’t surprised by the audit, which came after an Edwards transition committee determined the department couldn’t properly manage its child welfare mission.

"We knew that coming in we had inherited a mess," she said.

Since then, the department’s budget has edged up. Walters said she’s reorganized, shuffled foster care caseworkers to address shortage areas and bolstered employee coaching. She enacted a policy that no child will be placed with someone with a prior case of abuse or neglect.

"We have cleaned up so much. We are not where we want to be by any stretch of the imagination, but in 18 months we’re in a world of difference," Walters said.

Walters said the department also has changed its approach to foster parenting, beefing up education and seeking to build more community support from church organizations, nonprofits and businesses.

"The kids we get are hard, and they come with lots of trauma. So, we’re giving the parents trauma training," Walters said. "We’re being more candid and upfront."

Still, the agency has trouble, according to the audit, retaining enough foster care providers — paying foster parents less than the estimated cost to care for children. The average payment rate of $15.20 per day hasn’t been increased since 2007, and no rate hike is on the horizon amid continued state budget gaps.

FILE – In May 17, 2017 file photo, House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, of La., speaks with the media on Capitol Hill in Washington. Scalise, wounded when a gunman opened fire at a Republican baseball practice, delivered a Father’s Day message Sunday, June 18, through his Twitter account. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon, File)
City of New Orleans workers use a giant vaccum machine to suck out drains in the flooded-out areas of Treme August 7, 2017. Three of the city’s five vacuum trucks are out of service as of Thursday. (Photo by G. Andrew Boyd, NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune)

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Monday, 7 August 2017

Lafayette election could shape city’s direction for years to come

Four City Council seats up for grabs as issues of growth and regulation abound
Construction is pictured on E. Elm Street in Lafayette in July. (Cliff Grassmick / Staff Photographer)
Brad Wiesley (File Photo)

Four seats on Lafayette’s seven-member City Council will be up for grabs this November in an election that could overhaul the city’s approach to an array of issues gripping local consciousness.

Lafayette Mayor Pro-Tem Gustavo Reyna, Councilman Brad Wiesley and Councilwomen Merrily Mazza and Chelsea Behanna — the latter was appointed by council to replace former Councilman Tom Dowling last summer — will see their current terms end in November.

A future City Council is likely to see issues already present in Lafayette — questions over oil and gas regulations and retooled growth management, among others — increase in scope and with perhaps greater urgency, rather than new issues wholly foreign to the Front Range.

Merrily Mazza (File Photo)

Over the last several years, city leaders have typically approached decisions innate to Lafayette life with the left-leaning, progressive sensibilities often associated with the county at large: an eye on historic preservation against a building boom, stricter industry regulation and an emphasis on citywide social programs.

The election may serve as a referendum on such issues; a growing opposition along eastern Boulder County’s fringes — one spotlighted amid recent oil and gas debate — could spur a change in the old guard.

However, a complete identity shift among Lafayette’s leadership is unlikely.

At least one seat is guaranteed to see a fresh face — Wiesley is nearing the end of a second, four-year term and is ineligible for another under city code. The other three are campaigning for re-election.

Debate over such topics has consumed discussion within council chambers over the last year, with little sign of slowing anytime soon.

Gustavo Reyna (Courtesy Photo)

"The biggest issue right now is managing our growth in an intelligent way," Reyna said Friday. "A little bit of balance between growth that is sustainable and ensuring that there is enough affordable housing so that we’re not changing the social fabric of the town, and making sure the working class doesn’t get squeezed out."

Between 2010 and 2015, according to U.S. Census Bureau data released in March, Lafayette’s population increased by 2,995, to a total of 27,548 — a 12 percent surge.

It’s a microcosm of the growth occurring at the county level, and with the increase in people has come the need for homes to live in.

Chelsea Behanna (Courtesy Photo)

Between 2009 and 2016, the city gained 1,362 dwellings within its borders — most by developers with an eye for maximizing profit through dense "urban sprawl," locals have argued. Almost 1,700 permits are expected to be issued through 2018.

With such growth comes the fear of affordability being tossed to the wayside, Reyna and other like-minded officials say, and the void threatens to water down the city’s diversity.

"We are losing affordable housing, and what we do have is not always very good quality," he said. "The whole idea in the effort to create affordable housing is precisely about (preserving diversity). Boulder County is such a wealthy county that people don’t realize that 12 to 15 percent are living below the poverty line."

Lafayette officials approved a string of development plans in recent months aimed at ushering in large-scale, affordable housing, including the SoLa Subdivision, slated to bring 260 units to the city’s southern edge, and a $3.5 million, 24-acre land deal with Flatirons Community Church with plans for up to 500 units.

The latter development will be shaped over the next few years under a potentially fresh-faced council.

A candidate who embraces abounding development in the name of tax revenue is unlikely to be welcomed by Lafayette voters anytime soon; though signs of dissension exist.

Opposition to efforts aimed at reshaping zoning codes in Old Town — and a 90-day development moratorium in the process — have signaled residents’ reluctance to such measures amid a countywide housing crisis.

"We want to make sure that the kids we have graduating from Centaurus (High School) can afford to come back and live here later in life," Behanna said, adding that outreach to the city’s Latino population is a necessary component.

Behanna said she hopes to examine preserving the city’s mobile home parks in pursuit of affordable housing, an approach similar to Louisville’s recent efforts.

Outside of development, perhaps no issue has drawn as much scrutiny as the call for stricter oil and gas regulations within Lafayette. The city spearheaded the issue earlier this year with its "Climate Bill of Rights and Protections," an ordinance that would have sanctioned direct-action protests in response to oil and gas operations.

The bill was essentially stripped of its teeth in the final hour, to the disappointment of Mazza, who championed the measure’s original iteration. Despite the bill’s failure, she said initiatives aimed at stymieing fracking will abound over the next four years.

How to run for Lafayette City Council

Qualifications

Must be a current Lafayette resident for at least one year

Must be a registered elector

Must be at least 18 years old

Must not be in default to the city or any other government unit of the state

Nomination process

Candidates must circulate and submit a nomination petition containing signatures of at least 25 registered electors who reside within the city limits of Lafayette. Candidate petition packets and must be picked up from the City Clerk’s Office.

Nomination petitions must be returned by Aug. 28

"Debate surrounding oil and gas is certainly not going to dissipate," she said. "If anything, it’s only going to get more heated because it’s going to start to involve unincorporated Boulder County and open space.

"I don’t subscribe to this golden dome theory, where people think that nothing will happen to us in Lafayette."

Lafayette may soon draft an ordinance requiring oil and gas operators to map their pipelines throughout Lafayette, according to Mazza, legislation that failed at the state level.

Attitudes toward oil and gas development among Lafayette constituents have remained relatively steadfast. However, the current council, a board almost entirely in favor of stricter regulation, was unable to pass a landmark measure earlier this year.

Any dissention among future council members — especially at a time when the county’s moratorium no longer exists, and companies are planning 200 oil wells near the outskirts of the city — could prove troublesome for any lasting regulation efforts.

A mixture of new, conflicting ideas could prove beneficial for a council facing modern issues, Reyna said of resident interest in running for a council seat — especially from younger demographics.

"Sometimes you need to bring new thinking into the council," he said. "Experience and knowledge of the whole history of how things become what they are now is important, but so is having new people who are asking, ‘Why not trying something different?’ I like that balance."

Anthony Hahn: 303-473-1422, hahna@dailycamera.com or twitter.com/_anthonyhahn

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Thursday, 27 July 2017

Man found dead at Lafayette apparently a suicide, coroner says

Officials are investigating the death of a 20-year-old man Wednesday at Lafayette College. (CHRIS SHIPLEY / THE MORNING CALL)

The death of a 20-year-old man at Lafayette College appears to be a suicide, Northampton County Coroner Zachary Lysek said Thursday morning.

The man, who was from New Jersey, was found in a dorm Wednesday.

Police said they were called about 10:15 a.m. to 701 High St. to assist in a death investigation. The death is being investigated by Easton police, the coroner’s office and school officials.

610-820-6564

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Thursday, 20 July 2017

New charter school opens in Lafayette with non-traditional scheduling

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LAFAYETTE, La. (KLFY) – A charter school with over 400 students in the New Orleans area is expanding with a new school in Lafayette. JCFA is located at 1501 Ambassador Caffery Parkway.

According to the executive director, JCFA provides for students who are academically capable but have non-academic barriers. The school opens August 14, 2017.

JCFA Executive Director Millie Manning Harris says the first school opened seven years ago in partnership with Jefferson Parish Schools. Harris explains the story of a student who attends one of the JCFA schools. “Adrian actually started with us as a 21-year-old as a first-time freshman. He had no credits. He was able to graduate from high school.”

JCFA students attend school year-round with classes 3.5 hours per day. “Whether you’re taking care of your grandparents, taking care of a sibling; you may not be able to go to school 7:30 am to 2:30 pm,” adds Harris.

Ron Bodin is a forty year educator who says he retired from the Lafayette Parish School System.

Question: So what drives you to teach here? “It’s small, personal, individualized and we work with many kids who have been given-up on,” explains Bodin.

The executive director says when it’s all said and done students earn a high school diploma. “It’s a regular state diploma. They can get scholarships and go away to college. We had a young lady get a scholarship to Loyola in New Orleans,” says Harris.

Harris confirms that JCFA is a Type 2 Charter and operates independent of the Lafayette Parish School System. She says students from any Louisiana parish can attend.

JCFA currently operates three schools in the greater New Orleans area. The Lafayette charter will be JCFA’s fourth school. For more information, visit www.jcfa.co.

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Wednesday, 12 July 2017

Louisiana Lafayette student volunteers and helps undergrads “Gear Up”

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LAFAYETTE, La. (KLFY) – In 2014, volunteer rates were lowest among 20- to 24-year-olds (18.4 percent), according to the U.S. Department of Labor. The volunteer efforts of Caden Jones, 21 of Lafayette proves that there is truth to not forgetting where you come from.

“I got to experience going to different universities and different colleges and all kinds of different things that just inspired me to the point that I knew I wanted to go to college; at this point and time,” says Jones.

It’s been a long and bumpy road for Jones. He says at the age of 12-years-old he lost his mother to cancer. “To make a long story short. I watched for two hours and the rest is history. I quit my martial arts. There are a lot of things that progressed in life and I kept quitting things,” adds Jones.

“They’re gone but I feel like the spirit and what they put into you is still there. Elevate as if they are still alive but within yourself,” says Jones. Acadiana High School is where Caden joined the Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Program (Gear UP).

Currently, Caden attends the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. He’s an engineering major and serves as a Gear Up alumni mentor. Caden is determined to help students realize that even in difficult times there’s opportunity. “If you never quit at what you do, then there are so many great things that can happen for you,” says Jones.

“There’s always good and always bad. When the bad times came, such as anything in my life, I knew a week later or the next day I could wake up and it could possibly be good,” notes Jones. Jones advises young people to ask questions — and be willing to take advice.

“There are people you can see in random households, people you can see in college and high school. You can walk up to them and bring up a question and they’ll help you. Just start with one person and talk to them and it will spread too many people who will be motivating you and connecting you. Some of us, like me, I will be looking for you guys to give help too,” explains Jones.

For more information on Gear Up, you can log onto their website.

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Sunday, 9 July 2017

Make Your Visit to Lafayette Louisiana

When you are planning your vacation this year, you want to make sure you visit an area that not only has a lot to offer in the way of entertainment, it also allows you to get a taste of a slower time in life. After all, many of us tend to run from one stressful thing to another and we don’t necessarily have or take the time to slow down. If you would like to slow down this year on vacation, be sure that you visit Lafayette Louisiana.

The fact of the matter is, most people tend to overlook Louisiana as a vacation destination. They feel that their time would be better spent sitting under a palm tree in a tropical paradise or perhaps skiing down a mountainside in a winter vacation. Lafayette, however, is a place that should not be underestimated. It is known as the happiest city in America and once you make your visit, you will understand why.

One of the things that many people appreciate about Lafayette is the music that is available. You will be able to enjoy some of the greatest music that America has ever known. It can be found in many venues within the city and in the surrounding area. Regardless of whether you are taking in a concert or dancing in a downtown pub, it is an enjoyable time.

One other thing that you would want to make sure you did when you were in the city is eat. In fact, Lafayette is a culinary destination that is beyond compare. Take some time to research the different food options that are available in the surrounding countryside and within the city. What you get a taste for Lafayette, it will be a vacation destination that comes up on your radar every year.

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