Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Wired city: Plug Shreveport into the world

Anxiety over last-minute decisions at the office weighed on me during a family trek to Mt. Rushmore. When we pulled into a highway rest stop in Iowa, a sign declaring free Internet access was a godsend.

Disappointing my wife who declared the trip a mostly-electronic-free vacation, I popped open my laptop and logged into e-mail. After a short exchange with the office, my mind was clear.
"Can we turn it off now?" she said. We returned to the license plate alphabet game and High School Musical sing-a-longs.

In the middle of the country, business was enabled, encouraged. Traveling around, you begin to see some advantages for Shreveport to set up public-supported free Internet access. (This is being considered by the City Council).

Just like food and water, Internet connectivity is seen by the next generations as a basic need. As the global economy evolves and breathes online, we can help put our city on the fast track now. The time is nigh for us to wrap our arms around the future by investing in it.

If you want young professionals to remain and thrive, provide the kind of services they seek -- and make it easy.

It isn't necessary to blanket the city with WiFi. We could implement a phased plan. The Texas Avenue corridor, the area around courthouses and government buildings and Red River District are good places to start.

Spotlight our new services with signs announcing, "Entering a public access WiFi zone."
Imagine a passerby on I-20 looking at a billboard that says, "Free Internet access in 5 miles; Connect in Shreveport's downtown."

When conventioneers and tourists visit, they can explore and make business deals at downtown eateries or meet partners to review presentations. They'll feel unencumbered.

Make Internet access free at the local airport as a business calling card. That service will be like a mint on the pillow to high-powered executives traveling to and from Shreveport.

Phoenix offers this. Why shouldn't we? (Check others.)

An introductory step into a city-supported wireless venture would do much:
g Locals may be drawn downtown for lunch or stay downtown to work outside their cubicle.
g Internet access would serve as an incentive for small businesses to locate downtown.
g Build-it-and-they-will-come infrastructure philosophy might attract wired young professionals and some technology companies that will serve Cyber Command.

Imagine overhearing college students: "Hey, let's go over to the District and meet. We can hook up for free while we eat." If you want young professionals going downtown, give them what they seek.

Once we expand WiFi access, imagine real estate agents, city workers and sales people becoming faster and more efficient in a city supporting new ways of working. Ah, this is a quality-of-life feature we can celebrate.

As we build more roads and highways, we should build an on-ramp to the new economic and information superhighway.

While sitting on the bank of the Red River, a young woman opens her laptop to make a business decision that adds another Shreveport business to the global economy.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Bobby Jindal is on the line ...

Governor-elect Bobby Jindal called this morning thanking The Times editorial and community boards for endorsing him, for discussions of the issues and for even-handed coverage.

We talked briefly about Cyber Command and the list of good things going on in Northwest Louisiana. Jindal praised Governor Kathleen Blanco for visiting Northwest Louisiana more often than previous governors and pledged to do likewise. He explains he’ll be up here again soon.

Jindal sees the value in building up high-tech infrastructure -- as an opportunity to get ahead of other states. Jindal offered observations that some countries with rudimentary phone systems years ago leapfrogged us in technology. How did that happen?

The state with the best technology may be set to lead in an emerging global economy.

We appreciate his vision for a brighter and better Louisiana. To that end, The Times will continue to challenge and review the actions of government.

We are sending him links to our ongoing ethics series. We find it hard to accept that politicians who owe ethics fines can still run for office. Jindal agrees.

Lastly, he likens the transition process from Blanco's administration to his as “drinking water from a fire hydrant.” There is so much information and so much to do, so fast.

Jindal is expected to take the oath of office to become Governor of Louisiana on Jan. 12, 2008.
Up tomorrow: Blanco visits our community and stops by our offices.

Bobby Jindal is on the line...

Correct version: http://timeseditordesk.blogspot.com/2007/10/bobby-jindal-is-on-line.html
Blog homepage: www.timeseditordesk.blogspot.com

Friday, October 26, 2007

Bob Odom sees the S-Train coming

Why did Commissioner of Agriculture and Forestry Bob Odom drop out of the runoff and “retire”? Simple to reason.
Odom (top right) maxed out getting the number of votes he could against the Republican field in the Oct. 20th race with 41 percent.
He can't win.
He doesn’t have the support, resources, momentum or will to beat Republican Mike Strain in the Nov. 17 election. Even though Strain (bottom right) peaked at 40 percent, he likely would pick up the anti-Odom and Republican votes cast to the other challengers in the runoff.
When pressed about why he was “retiring” from the office, Odom acknowledged "the runoff definitely was a part of it."
Odom’s tenure has a history of corruption accusations and harsh criticism of his push to build a couple of mills in South Louisiana.
Odom did us a favor by keeping his engine off the track in a sure-to-happen campaign train wreck.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

More Bill Joyce sketches at Cush's

When Shreveport artist and author Bill Joyce stops for a bite at Cush's Grocery and Market, he draws on the butcher paper covering the tables.
These mealside creations are turned into a one-of-a-kind gallery by proprietors Jean and Paul Cush. They just keep adding the sketches from his visits, numbering at least 30 on the walls. Ten or more are stacked next to the bakery case ready to go up.
Joyce is the mind behind Robots, Rolie Polie Olie, Meet the Robinsons and George Shrinks.
Think about it. Some meal-induced ideas simmer inside Cush's as part of a creative process. Beloved characters for children and adults come from the same hand.
This is an exclusive gallery, and you won't see this part of Joyce's work anywhere. They aren't for sale.
"Just name your price," a visiting movie producer once pushed to no avail.
The Cush family honors a longstanding request to keep this artist's journal between friends.
And genius meets genius here. There is more than just art to enjoy.
What started out as a "grocery with a restaurant" turned into a "restaurant with a grocery," says owner's son Chris Cush. He and his brother Paul Jr. round out the family affair.
Their mom fills the shelves with gourmet items. Locals know you can find some of the finest certified Angus beef in their display case. Chef Charlie Bush whips up some fantastic meals. (Joyce orders his bread pudding.) And their cupcakes will leave you star struck. Hollywood actress Katie Holmes' taste buds put their goods on the map following her 2007 movie-making visit (Mad Money).
They've served many actors since the movie industry set up shop in Northwest Louisiana, but they fondly refer to Joyce as the first star they served.
This quaint, back-in-time respite located at 9535 Ellerbe Road is truly a Shreveport gem.

Jindal Wins & LSU Wins

Turns out the Louisiana gubernatorial election was anti-climatic as the front-runner Bobby Jindal (R) won outright. As I typed this, Jindal had 54 percent of the vote to become the nation’s first Indian-American governor. Editors untied from election pages inside The Times newsroom quickly turned to the nail-biter LSU-Auburn game after Jindal was declared winner around 11 p.m.

Next, I looked at the victory photograph of newly elected Caddo Coroner Dr. Todd Thoma, asking where is the exuberance. Multimedia editor Mike Silva explained Thoma cheered when LSU scored, but that was it. So, even that hot local race between Thoma and incumbent Dr. Mairus McFarland didn’t excite in the final moments.

Leave it to LSU on election night to give us a 30-24 victory that left a memory. They came through in the clutch as news pages needed to start clearing the floor at 11:30-11:45 p.m.

For those keeping score on election results, early editions were incomplete due to slow-reporting Bossier results. As numbers trickled in from slow-refreshing computer screens connected to the Secretary of State’s Web site and at the courthouses, we hit some snags trying to finish pages.

Some results were not available until after the press run. And The Times first edition has incumbent Attorney General Charles Foti doing much better than he actually did. We got the news that he would not make the runoff after starting the first press run. Read complete election results for more.

Some editions of The Times will be delayed this morning because we held for the latest news. That said, most editions will provide a rather complete read. Return to the Monday Times for gubernatorial race precinct-by-precinct charts and for a few select races. It is always fun to look at how your voting location did.

For now, congratulations to the winners and to those making runoffs.
Read complete election coverage.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Election Crunch Time

The average voter may have finally started to focus on the Oct. 20 election. We might pick an outright winner for governor and many other statewide and local races. Runoffs will be decided Nov. 17.

This voter is searching the Internet, reading archived headlines, poring over newspapers and listening to audio of candidates. Getting this voter to the polls is the next step.

And The Times is trying to help.

Readers can review candidate bios and links on our election Web site. This shreveporttimes.com section will contain the Election Guide material appearing in The Times special section published Thursday. A sample ballot can be downloaded now and will be published Friday and Saturday

While the mantra of change echoes with "don't put the same ol’ faces back in office," Northwest Louisiana might benefit from returning a few. If leaders like Billy Montgomery (running for District 37 Senate after being term-limited in the house), District 8 State Representative Jane Smith and District 38 Senator Sherri Cheek are elected, they offer a senior coalition for Northwest Louisiana capable of helping newbie legislators navigate in Baton Rouge. They have a record of helping with Cyber Command and championing their constituents’ interests.

Locally, the Caddo coroner race is the most heated -- and the most interesting. It has been more than 20 years since there has been head-on competition for this job.

Dr. Todd Thoma is facing off with incumbent Dr. Mairus McFarland. Thoma, with assists by local attorney John Settle, is taking McFarland to task on administrative and operational decisions. Thoma has raised important issues about fiscal responsibility and use of specialized nurses, but you are the final judge of whether those points merit replacing McFarland. McFarland is credited with digging the coroner's office out of a major mess left by the late Dr. George McCormick. To McFarland's credit, he acknowledges the need to explore local autopsy options and makes good points about why some out-of-state autopsies are needed.
There is more to this debate.

Try to catch up on election issues by reading a few aging election forum headlines (1, 2 and 3).

Do your homework and review tomorrow's election guide published in lieu of the Conversations section. This guide will set you up to use the sample ballots being published in The Times Friday and Saturday.

As gubernatorial negative ads dissolve into desperation, don't be deterred by the process. Instead listen to audio of gubernatorial candidate stances and points:
Part of our process includes interviewing all the candidates and offering endorsements. A group of volunteer community board members and The Times editorial board met with the local and statewide candidates over a three-week period. Phew! A recap of the endorsements published these past two weeks will be published Friday.

Newspapers do endorsements to offer a considered opinion and provoke thought. We take a stance everyday on the issues that face our community. Why would we sit out on the biggest decisions facing the future of our state, the 2007 election? You shouldn't sit out either.

The most effective and most American duty we have is to vote. See you at the polls Saturday. Follow results online and in The Sunday Times.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

First Amendment Inspires More Thought

Catching up with e-mails and voice mail after a week in Washington D.C. has been exhausting. I participated in the 2006 Associated Press Managing Editors Conference as an organizer and floor manager.
I did take time to step out to visit our nation's founding documents at the National Archives and jogged around the awesome monuments near the National Mall. Spending a little time with the First Amendment is inspiring.

When Caddo Federation of Teachers and Support Personnel President Jackie Lansdale invoked the First Amendment in her commentary about School Board member Tammy Phelps' push to limit school employees sharing of information and views, the founding fathers would have been proud. Some believe the embarassing report on hot school buses is one reason the School Board wants to close ranks.

The proposal by Phelps to restrict employees' freedoms to participate in such surveys and investigations without "permission" flies in the face of what makes our country great. This "kill the messenger" approach is causing a stir.

Today's story carries perspectives
on the new communication rule. The proposal only confirms what teachers tell us: they fear reprisal for speaking out and being quoted in the news as being critics on policies or plans.

Just because the board can create a policy like this doesn't mean they should. The Caddo School Board and administration should deny this Draconian proposal.

Instead, encourage teachers and personnel to feel free to be more vocal internally without reprisal to improve education. This is the answer.

Don't dampen a freedom that ultimately serves the public good as a check on government overseeing our children.

The First Amendment is FIRST for a reason. All governoring bodies should be unafraid of criticism and a redress of grievances.

On my desk:
n Governor's race endorsement runs Sunday.
n Caddo Coroner's race offered much debate and discussion for our editorial boards. Who do you think we'll endorse?
n Another story on school system policy planned for the Sunday Times.
n Election guide being published in The Times Thursday Oct. 18. (Sample ballots will run Oct. 19 and 20.)
n C.E. Byrd High School homecoming football game (vs. Captain Shreve High School) is an opportunity to explore how sports impact our lives (story Friday). Or the more important question: Will a Gator eat a Yellow Jacket?
n Red River Moms Web site is seeking new and additional discussion leaders.
n Election night planning is under way.
n Ethics fines and the lack of teeth in ethics laws concerns continue. Will Shreveport Councilman Calvin Lester and others pay their fines?
n We wished Gannett reporter John Hill well in his retirement at a Governor's Mansion reception. Governor Kathleen Blanco attended the gathering in Baton Rouge (at right).

Yellow Jackets & Gators... O' My!

C.E. Byrd High School's homecoming football game is always a big event. Everything is set as they play in-town rival Captain Shreve High School at Lee Hedges Stadium tonight in Shreveport.
The Times Publisher Pete Zanmiller (parent of a Captain Shreve student) found his door decorated by an employee who shall go nameless (a parent of a recent Byrd graduate).
In other news, Times staffer Terrie Roberts (parent of a Byrd grad) discovered a gator screen saver taunting her as she arrived to work.
Come back to shreveporttimes.com for a photo gallery and full coverage of a special matchup between Byrd's Yellow Jackets and Shreve's Gators.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

The Barksdale Warrior Engages

The launch of The Barksdale Warrior, a new publication for Barksdale Air Force Base, hits military base stands Wednesday, Oct 3. This 10,000-circulation weekly expands coverage previously housed in The Bombardier, the base publication that closed Sept. 28.
Warrior Editor Stephanie Bemrose worked for The Bombardier. Now, she brings new ideas for content to better serve our fighting and flying warriors on the new nameplate.

Times military reporter John Prime, local retirees and national military news services will assist in providing coverage, too. In the debut issue, Prime leads a special report on Cyber Command gleaned from his recent trip to Washington, D.C. These reports will be made available on shreveporttimes.com.