Alexandria City Council approves proposed settlement with Cleco with 5-2 vote

The Alexandria City Council voted  5-2 to accept the proposed settlement with Cleco.

Before the vote Council Edward Larvadain III asked that the vote be delayed citing more time was needed to process the agreement to make sure that it was the best agreement for citizens.

Larvadain and Councilman Jonathan Goins voted against the settlement.

Council President Myron Lawson, along with Councilmen Everett Hobbs, Roosevelt Johnson, Chuck Fowler and Harry Silver voted in favor.

Following the vote City Attorney Chuck Johnson and others in the administration applauded in celebration of the vote.

Wow! Cenla’s workforce lacks knowledge


By Sherri L. Jackson


It’s one thing to talk about it among your family and friends. It’s quite another thing to hear the startling statistics from people who specialize in crunching numbers and making sense of them.

And to hear Jim Clinton, Cenla Advantage Partnership’s CEO, make the statement, “Cenla lacks knowledge,” puts the ham hock in my red beans.

Before you go any further in this column, I need you to brace yourself. OK. Here it goes: more than half of Cenla’s high school graduates in 2007 did not go on to a two-year or four-year school.

Specifically speaking, 54.7 percent of students leaving their high schools with a high school diploma didn’t feel the need to further their education.

Can you see why I cringed when representatives from Regional Technology Strategies presented these statistics at a summit held at the Rapides Foundation Tuesday, Dec. 16.

I almost shouted, “Lawd, have mercy,” until I came to myself and realized I was among some really educated, smart people.

The Rapides Foundation sought an analysis of Cenla’s workforce to determine if employees have the necessary skills to do the kinds of jobs that are plentiful in Central Louisiana.

Apparently not since 83 percent of the 140 employers who responded to a survey believe that less than half of the job applicants are qualified for the jobs for which they are applying.

Let me just say if I didn’t have a few journalistic skills and didn’t publish my own newspaper, I would not be qualified for jobs relating to construction, health services and wood, all of which are king in Central Louisiana.

Still, I wonder about residents and the culture of a region that doesn’t see the need for anything past high school. I could understand if these were the 1970s and 1980s when one didn’t need anything past a high school dipolma to hit the oil rigs and work offshore.

As I past down Alexandria’s streets and see people hanging on the corners and in run-down looking convenience store parking lots, I wonder if perhaps some of these make up the number of potential employees who could fill positions.

If they had the training employers need to fill the 24,000 new and replacement jobs that’s expected over the next five years, would they do the work.

Because I’m no prophet I can’t answer that rhetorical question. But I can say that it seems Cenla Advantage Partnership is moving toward an end that would solve a lot of problems relating to training and employment.

Cenla should be proud of its various educational offerings that seek to produce well-rounded people, but if the study is true, those offerings aren’t meeting the needs of all of its customers.

Pushing for a community college that would provide students, employees and employers with the needed skills to do the available work seems to be smart and ideal to prevent us from ever having to say again, “Cenla lacks knowledge.”



United Way cuts $86,000 from Boys & Girls Club; director, participants, community vows to push on

Kim Dural, Boys & Girls Club Executive Director

Kim Dural, Boys & Girls Club Executive Director

Today, Kim Dural, executive director of the Boys & Girls Club held a press conference to express frustration and disappointment over the United Way’s decision to cut its funding to the club.

Though the press conference was called to focus attention on the Club’s funding needs, Sissy Franks, chairwoman of the United Way’s Board of Directors, attended. When asked why funding was removed from the Club, Frank said as a responsibility to the United Way’s donors, the United Way couldn’t continue funding the Club because the Club wasn’t financially stable.

I’ll talk more about the financial status of the Club a bit later. For now, read Dural’s statement she made at the press conference:


Good afternoon friends, parents, staff, and special guests. First I want to thank everyone for coming out today during this busy Christmas season to show your support for the great work we do here at the Boys & Girls Club of Central Louisiana. Your presence here today means a lot to me, my staff, and all of the families served by this organization. I asked everyone to come out today for one reason. That one reason is to reassure you that this organization with support of citizens like yourself will continue to serve the youth of Central Louisiana.

The recent news that United Way of Central Louisiana has decided that this organization is not a viable investment for its contributors is unfortunate; however, that is their decision. The news was shocking to everyone, but that is not the focus of today. I want everyone to leave this press conference with a sense of excitement and hope. A wise man told me recently that there is opportunity in crisis. The situation the Boys & Girls Clubs of Central Louisiana faces today is exactly that… An opportunity…. An opportunity to advance to another level of awareness.

For those in the community who do not know much about the Boys & Girls Clubs and all that we do, I want to clarify exactly what we contribute to the families of Central Louisiana. Boys & Girls Clubs of Central Louisiana is a 501 © non-profit organization that is a youth development agency. We are a chartered organization of Boys & Girls Clubs of America. Boys & Girls Clubs of America has been existence for over 100 years and has over 4,000 clubs chartered worldwide. We have thousands of traditional clubs throughout the United States and many military clubs that serve the children of our men and women of the Armed Forces on military bases around the world. Our mission is to inspire all youth, especially those who need us most, to realize their full potential as caring, responsible and productive citizens.

Our organization has been in existence since 1977 here in Central Louisiana. For the past 31 years we have been serving the youth of Central Louisiana. Thousands of youth have passed through these doors to participate in the many activities offered year round. One of our beliefs is that all of our programs are accessible to all. As a result, we only charge a $10/year membership fee for afterschool activities. We also only charge a minimal supply fee during the summer to our club members, and provide family discounts and hardship scholarships to ensure that any child that wants to participate in Boys & Girls Clubs activities can attend our program.

We provide programming in five core areas: Character Development, Health and Life Skills, Education and Career Development, the Arts, and Fitness and Recreation. The staff members are trained youth development professionals that provide a safe and nurturing environment for all of our youth. The staff is trained to incorporate our youth development strategy in all of our programs. This strategy focuses on incorporating four key component in every activity implemented at the club.
• A sense of belonging
• A sense of usefulness
• A sense of influence
• A sense of competence

Every club member knows that this is their club. The club offers them a sense of security and confidence because they know that they belong. We are positive place for kids to spend time to interact with their peers and responsible adult role models that want to see every club member to succeed in life.

Boys & Girls Clubs is not just for kids, either. We are a family support system to the families that utilize our services. We are there for the child whose mother is at work when they get out of school. We are there for the child that is struggling to get their homework done afterschool. We are there the family that may be going through a crisis and don’t know where to turn. Whenever a new child registers at the club I tell them and their parent, “Welcome to the Family”. We are one big family that together can get through each and every day.

We serve youth of all ages, 6-18. Our little kids are wonderful, but I want to focus some time on our teens. Our teen population is growing by leaps and bounds. We recently, this summer, added a Teen Coordinator to work specifically with the teens. The teens come to the club because they want to. No one forces them to come. They are there because they feel wanted, useful, and they are come because they have a great time. They could be anywhere, but they choose to be at the Boys & Girls Clubs in a safe environment and being productive. They aren’t out smoking or drinking or engaging in delinquent activities. They are at the club participating in Youth Crime Watch, Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program and our Tobacco Prevention Program. They are also at the club mentoring the younger kids and assisting staff with implementing programs to the younger club kids. And of course, they are at the club playing basketball, shooting pool and socializing with their peers. We are their home away from home.

Whoever thinks that the Boys & Girls Club is just a babysitter is truly mistaken. We are so much more than that. We are a vital component to this community. We provide an invaluable resource to Central Louisiana. We are developing the future citizens and leaders of this community. We are taking a proactive position in the battle of juvenile delinquency. We rather instill values and morals in our youth to prevent them from ever participating the juvenile delinquent activities than figure out how to fix it once they’ve cross that line.

Yes, I know we do a lot here, but please do not think that we feel we can fix the problems of this community alone. The Boys & Girls Clubs is a team player. We partner with many agencies within this community to address the needs of the youth of this community. Some of our partners are the City of Alexandria, the City of Pineville, the local law enforcement in both Alexandria and Pineville, Rapides Parish Sheriff Department, Louisiana State Police, FINS, 9th JDC, Hope House, Weed and Seed Program, The Junior League, Teen Court, The Lions Club, United Care, Rapides Parish School, TASC, Rapides Parish Youth Planning Board, Cenla Chemical Dependency… to name a few.

The primary goal of the Boys & Girls is to do our part in ensuring that every youth in this community has every opportunity possible made available to them to attain success in life. I believe that it takes a village to raise a child, and that is why I asked everyone here today. Boys & Girls Clubs need you help. We need you to help us to continue to serve the youth of this community. I know that this community can pull together to find a way to keep our doors open. My staff, my board, and I will do everything we can to raise to dollars needed to continue serving our families, but we can not do it without you. We want to continue doing our share of the work, but we need the community to step up and take an active role in the development of future citizens and leaders of this community.

Operating a program such as ours cost. Our annual budget is approximately $275,000. We are beginning the year with an $86,000 cut in anticipated revenue. Our children deserve better than that. I know in my heart that this community can come together not only to raise the dollars to sustain the club, but the community can raise to dollars to advanced the club to a new level of excellence. I’m going to start with me. Today, I pledge to donate $20/per pay period to the Boys & Girls Clubs of Central Louisiana. I encourage everyone that can to make a monetary commitment to sustain the services provided to this community by the Boys & Girls Clubs of Central Louisiana to please do so. Pledge cards are available for those of you who want to invest in our great work in this community.

I want to take this opportunity to thank everyone that has supported the Boys & Girls club during this time. All of your calls, donations, and prayers are greatly appreciated. I also want to thank all of the families served by the Boys & Girls Club for giving me the privilege of serving them. I love my job. I love waking up everyday knowing that I am blessed to make a living by helping others. God is an awesome God and I am humbled by the charge he has given me to serve others. God bless you and thank you for coming out to show your support for your children. You are not here for the Boys & Girls club, you are here for the youth of this community. Thank you for standing up for the youth of Central Louisiana. Thank You!!!

2008 Christmas Parade, Alexandria, LA

Enjoy these photographs from the 2008 Christmas Parade in Alexandria, LA. The parade was held Sunday, Dec. 14, a day that was cloudy and windy.

Can anyone tell me what happened to the Peabody Magnet High School Band? The parade seemed a little dry to me. Any thoughts?

Alexandria (LA) Attorney Greg Aymond missed the mark with his “nigga thug” posting

By Leonard Ford
Columnist for The Light

In your day-to-day movement in and around Central Louisiana, have any of you, by any chance, run into some “nigga street thugs?” Your answer could be a “yes” or “no.”

According to the Urban Dictionary’s Web site, a “nigga thug” is someone who is poor, uneducated, and unable to find or hold a job because of his low intelligence level. A “nigga thug” is also a street-smart person who most of the time lives in the “hood,” is very hardcore, has never learned that acting like a thug just makes him/her look like a total asshole to most people, and tends to only hang out with other “nigga thugs.”

What’s your point Leonard? Apparently, Greg Aymond, a local white attorney in November on his Web blog, called seven professional blacks “nigga thugs.” The seven are Attorney Bridgett Brown, City Councilman-at-large Myron Lawson, Councilman Everett Hobbs, Councilman Ed Larvadain III, Councilman-at-large Roosevelt Johnson, Councilman Jonathan Goins, and Attorney Kelvin Sanders. By definition, nobody in this group meets the criteria. In fact, everyone in this group is well known for helping and not hurting the city in which they are active community residents.

On the other hand, Aymond, according to his Web blog, actively participated in the Ku Klux Klan in 1979. He says he withdrew his membership after a few months.

The First Amendment affords Aymond the right to say what he wants to say, but does calling these seven Alexandrians “nigga street thugs” makes what comes out of his mouth right. You be the judge of that.

I can only assume that Aymond labeled these seven blacks such because he somehow believes they are trying to use their positions in the community and/or on the Alexandria City Council to exploit city government into spending money for major infrastructure improvements in the black neighborhoods.

I may be way out of line in my presumption, but I can’t think of any other reason for his writings.

Here’s the thing. Why is it that when a group of black individuals, especially if they are involved in city government, are looked at more closely and picked apart for coming together to discuss issues that relates to the black districts of Alexandria? That seems to be the norm as of late. When white individuals, who were involved in city government got together to discuss issues relating to the white districts of Alexandria, no one said anything about it. They were seen as the good guys just doing their job. But that’s the way it is here in Alexandria. Black equates to bad, and white equates to good.

It appears that ever since the makeup of the Alexandria City Council became majority black, Aymond has been keeping his eyes glued to city government. I guess he has appointed himself as watchdog to keep everybody in line, especially these seven blacks and others that he seems to have disdain for. He fails to realize that those whites in city government also must be watched, as they are not exempt from wrongdoing. I believe that he knows that, but prefers not to bring it to light. Right is right, and fair is fair. If we have “nigga street thugs,” then I’m sure that Aymond knows just as I know that we also have “cracker street thugs,” “redneck street thugs,” and “honkie street thugs.” Why not list their pictures on his Web site?

Yes, Alexandria has its share of “nigga thugs.” Please don’t get mad at me for saying so because it isn’t as if you didn’t know that already. But Bridgett, Myron, Everett, Ed, Roosevelt, Kelvin, and Jonathan hardly fit the profile of a “nigga thug.”

For Greg Aymond to say otherwise is asinine.”