SWLA’s Love Of Litigation
One of the contributing factors to Louisiana’s high auto insurance rates is litigation. You can’t turn on the TV without seeing an ad from a lawyer claiming to “get you what you deserve.” Some people throw around the phrase “I will sue you” just to leverage power over someone. Others sue as a get rich quick scheme, which almost always benefits the lawyer more than the client.
And now, congratulations are in order. Lake Charles leads the nation by far in the number of civil insurance lawsuits filed, according to Syracuse University’s Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse. Lake Charles made up 22 percent of the insurance lawsuits filed in federal courts this year. In the month of August, when the deadline for filing on a Hurricane Laura claim approached, the percentage rose to 40 percent. Granted, many SWLA residents have a legitimate reason to bring a lawsuit against their insurance company. But these figures aren’t going to help attract more insurance agencies to the state, especially after all the severe weather events SWLA has seen in the last two years.
An Influx Of Immigrants
SWLA has not been a hotspot with Latin American immigrants. You can spend a day in Lake Charles and likely not run into anyone of Latin American descent. Step over the state line into Texas and that changes immediately.
The recent hurricanes might just change the demographics in SWLA, or so an Advocate story claims. We definitely saw an influx of Latin Americans immediately following Hurricanes Laura and Delta. They pretty much reshingled every roof in the area, and did much of the other construction work, as well. The U.S. Census Bureau estimated that the Latin American population doubled in Calcasieu Parish from the years 2020 to 2021.
Some of the population increase is due to nomadic workers following construction jobs. I’m sure you’re acquainted with the fact that some of these construction workers congregate in one rental and send money back home to their families. There are some workers, especially if their families are here, who will choose to stay in SWLA and build a life. Many of these immigrants are from places such as Mexico and Honduras, where gang violence and femicide run rampant. Residents from certain countries can apply for asylum in the U.S. and gain legal status if the conditions in their origin country are considered bad enough.
Research indicates that immigrants are not simply congregating in large cities anymore, but are more likely to seek out smaller communities where they can settle down and raise their children comfortably. Fairview Elementary School in Lake Charles has a dual immersion program and an ESL coach to help Spanish-speaking students acclimate to their new home and school.
Marinela Faria, herself from Venezuela, is employed at Fairview; she said, “Lake Charles is a charming city, perfect for people who come with children. You don’t have the problems you have in big cities.”
The recent openings of authentic Latin American restaurants, such as Area 337, and a variety of local Latin American grocery stores, indicates SWLA might indeed be gaining more residents from Latin America.
Mississippi River Plunges
It’s been an unusually dry year for Louisiana, especially in SWLA. As I write this, SWLA has just been labeled as being in a “severe” drought.
This summer, when we couldn’t get a drop of rain to save the grass, NOLA had flash flood warnings for days at a time. However, we are in our second round of drought for the year after a temporary respite, and these conditions aren’t boding well for the Mississippi River.
The problem originated in the northern U.S., where historic drought is dropping water levels to lows not seen since 1988. Since the Mississippi runs from northern states to the Gulf of Mexico, the river gets most of its water from runoff during rain events in other states. Since Louisiana is in close proximity to the Gulf, rain falling here has a small impact on the overall water level.
The Mississippi is a vital shipping channel. But in another blow to the supply chain, water levels are beginning to affect the shipping industry. Sixty percent of the nation’s grain exports travel through the Mississippi river, as do many other commodities. Barges are currently having to lighten their loads in order to pass above the riverbed.
The big concern is the potential for saltwater contamination in drinking water. When the Mississippi River is this low, the waters of the Gulf can push up the river. Emergency dredging and other precautions are being taken.
The low water level has unveiled a shipwreck on the shores of the Mississippi in Baton Rouge, thought to be what’s left of the Brookhill Ferry, which sank in a storm in 1915. The site has now become a tourist attraction and, in true Baton Rouge fashion, visitors have already stolen planks.
Another vessel receiving visits is the USS Kidd. The land around and under the ship is dry and visitors have been taking pictures atop the giant propellers.
From Shreveport To NYFW
As the resident fashion expert, I would be remiss in my duty if I did not tell you about Steven Goudeau.
Goudeau is a native of Shreveport and held his first fashion show under his Stephen Goudeau line (you will notice Goudeau’s first name and the name of his line are spelled differently) at New York Fashion Week in September in Times Square.
Oct. 16 was proclaimed Steven Goudeau day in Shreveport. He said he gets his style from his parents, but originally wanted to “write and direct horror films.” However, he was encouraged to go into fashion by those who recognized his gift. Goudeau said he would walk around his college campus with a sketchpad.
When asked about the inspiration for his designs, he said, “my No. 1… when I do design, my inspiration is a woman. You know, I want every piece to compliment the figure of a woman.” Goudeau considers the waistline as the foundation of every design of his. His spring/summer ’23 collection of dresses includes sharp silhouettes embellished with feathers and flames.
Goudeau encourages everyone to go after their dreams. “It’s possible,” he says. It’s about “walking in your purpose.” When asked about his future plans, Goudeau said, “I want to create a Stephen Goudeau institute for kids who want to do fashion… I want those who want to get into fashion, I want to take them to the next level.”
Piety And Desire
When I’m in NOLA I always make it a point to stop by Southern Candymakers on Decatur Street and grab some of their popular tortues (turtles). However, a relatively new shop located on Magazine Street has caught my attention for its unique concept and mouthwatering products.
Piety and Desire is run by Chris Nobles. The business began with Nobles importing cacao beans and creating his own chocolate. His retail shop is housed in an old bar. Nobles calls it a “chocolate café.”
Nobles seems like the Willy Wonka of chocolate. He creates chocolate candies that look like jewels and serves what he calls “drinking chocolate.” Not to be demeaned by the phrase “hot chocolate,” drinking chocolate is a rich blend of chocolate and milk that is said to taste much like a melted chocolate bar. The drinking chocolate can be mixed with coffee. You can also order cioccogato — chocolate ice cream covered in drinking chocolate.
The name Piety and Desire is derived from the idea that chocolate was both sacred and seductive. The Maya and Aztec tribes believe that cacao was a gift from the gods, while chocolate became a common gastronomical pleasure in other areas around the world.
Whether you’re a hopeless chocoholic or want to marvel at a historic building, a trip to NOLA doesn’t sound complete without a stop at Piety and Desire at 2032 Magazine Street. They are open 11 am to 6 pm Tuesday through Saturday.