Politics finally catch up with Seafood Board

By Jeremy Alfrod and John Maginnis

Last week saw Ewell Smith resign as executive director of the Louisiana Seafood Promotion and Marketing Board after 13 years of service. And despite the lengthy reign, it was really only the last two years that did him in, thanks in large part to coastal lawmakers.

The board was once a sleepy quasi-government organization, but that all changed when BP gave it $30 million to help the seafood industry recover from the 2010 oil spill. The last two years have seen the retail and restaurant lobbies pushing for more representation on the board, along with freshwater interests like crawfish and catfish.

With a budget roughly half the size of the original grant, the board started this year with a revised leadership structure, courtesy changes adopted in last year’s regular session, and a new chairman with a very high profile, celebrity chef John Folse.

Coastal lawmakers, however, weren’t finished tinkering with its structure and this year passed another bill moving the board from the oversight of the Department of Wildlife and Fisheries to that of Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne.

By adding language into the new law regarding the hiring and firing of the executive director, some lawmakers also made it clear they wanted changes elsewhere in the organization. Folse is now working with the board to find a replacement for Smith, but his top task may be to find a way to spend the board’s remaining multi-million dollar budget during a time when scrutiny from lawmakers has been amped up.

With this new responsibility, and relationship with Dardenne, who has total control over the marketing board now, Folse is emerging not only as a multi-talented culinary entrepreneur, but also possibly a political force. Gang violence could become legislative focusThe newly-appointed Gang Prevention Task Force has begun meeting with officials with from the Attorney General’s Office in hopes of presenting a comprehensive plan to lawmakers next year. Playing lead on the coming plan will be the House Committee on the Administration of Criminal Justice and the Senate Committee on Judiciary C, which are expected to have recommendations from the task force in hand by mid-January.

The task force is the brainchild of Rep. Jared Brossett, D-New Orleans, who hopes that bring together diverse law enforcement agencies will help the combat gang violence in a holistic way. With Louisiana’s levels of criminal violence continuing to outpace the nation, he said new methods are needed to address organized activities that spawn serious threats to public safety.

“Crime doesn’t stop at parish lines and neither should law enforcement cooperation,” said Brossett. “Experience has shown that robust coordination will make our streets safer by focusing resources on specific, identifiable threats.”

Members of the task force includes the Department of Justice, Louisiana Association of Chiefs of Police, Louisiana State Police, Louisiana Sheriffs’ Association, Louisiana District Attorneys’ Association and several parish- and local-level authorities. Number of House candidates sets recordThe 14 men who qualified last week for the Oct. 19 special election to replace Congressman Rodney Alexander, R-Quitman, in the 5th District sets a modern record for the number of candidates in any Louisiana congressional race dating back to at least 1982.

They include a public service commissioner making his 13th run for office, a state senator, three state representatives, a mayor, a former state representative and a former Rand Paul organizer who was injured during an altercation with off-duty policemen at the GOP state convention last year.

There are five Republicans, four Democrats, three black candidates, two Libertarians, two independents, a Green Party contender and two entrants from Baton Rouge and New Orleans. A state resident does not have to live in a congressional district to run for it.

Only one U.S. Senate race has drawn a larger field, when 15 ran in 1996, giving way to Sen. Mary Landrieu’s first federal victory. In the 1990 2nd Congressional District race, when former Congressman Bill Jefferson was first elected, 14 qualified but one eventually withdrew.

Setting another record is Public Service Commissioner Clyde Holloway, 69, who is making his tenth run for the U.S. House. Since 1980, he has run in four different districts—the 5th and 6th and the old 7th and 8th. He last won in 1990 and has lost three times since by only one percentage point each time.    Jindal shows better in his firm’s poll than in othersOn the same day last week, two polls were released with wildly different views of the job Gov. Bobby Jindal is doing.

A poll from OnMessage, Jindal’s consulting firm, has its client’s approval rating at 50 percent. Released the same day was an independent poll by Conservative Intel, showing that the governor’s rating had dropped to 35 percent, in line with his 35 percent mark in a spring poll by Southern Media.

Critics pounced on the fact that the OnMessage poll oversampled Republicans and under-sampled blacks.

The Republican-leaning Conservative Intel also matched up Jindal and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in a mock 2016 presidential race in Louisiana, and she led 44-42 percent.They Said It“Alcoholic friends are as easy to make as Sea Monkeys.”—State Sen. Dan Claitor R-Baton Rouge, via Twitter“I’m guilty. I do the Taco Bell $2 meal deal. Note to self: it seems to taste better after midnight.”—Claitor, again from his @DanClaitor account


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