The nattering nabobs of negativism will surely frown and scoff at this, but evidence of this cityís magnetism continues to mount.

Just a month or so ago I mentioned to you how one business, Main Street Café, has collected an impressive collection of out-of-state and out-of-country guests in a signature book in a very short few months.

A similar business, but a few blocks removed from Main Street, Iberia Cash, gave me a call and invited me to look at their guest book. Name after name after name, state after state and country after country. A few years worth on that book, but mighty impressive nonetheless.

You know, I was sitting in an airport in Phoenix, Arizona in 1980 waiting for a flight home. A gentleman across from me and I were chatting. I was 16 or so. When I mentioned I was from Franklin, Louisiana (thatís what I said, because there was virtually no chance of anyone ever having heard of Charenton) the guy asked, "Hey, is the Forest still there?"

Turns out the gentleman had been a traveling salesman in the oil industry and wouldnít miss stopping off at the Forest Restaurant when in the area. He hadnít worked in that field since 1972, he said, but still remembered some fine meals and great hospitality in Franklin, Louisiana.

A city councilman at Tuesdayís budget workshop mentioned that the notion that people are leaving Franklin is bunk. He says people have been regularly coming into his establishment who are moving to Franklin. I think heís rightÖthe exodus that began with the location of big-box stores and grocers in the late 1970s and which was given the coup des gras with the oil bust of the mid-1980s ended a few years ago. There followed a period of stagnation, with virtually zero population growth or loss.

It would be foolish to say that anything or anyoneís perfect. But I remain convinced that things are looking up for this city and this area.

Also, the mayor and council, during Tuesdayís budget workshop noted the loss of $75,000 in gaming mitigation funds per year when we, the Chitimacha Tribe, bowed out of our agreement on sharing of net revenues due to declining results based on, chiefly, the Amelia Belle. It has been my honor to note that both Franklinís officials and Baldwinís officials have not cast any ill feelings at the tribe in light of that loss of revenue, seemingly aware of the circumstances and the position we have found ourselves in, and for that, gentlemen, I am grateful.

Iím not going to start a spitting match over it again, at least not today. But itís good to know that some folks remember what a good neighbor weíve been to our fellow governments over the past decade and a half.

Donít consider us down for the count, either. It ainít over yet.

Rumor on the street is that the parent company of the Amelia Belle is considering taking that particular boat out of Amelia and switching it with the one currently at dock in Baton Rouge. The Belle is apparently bigger than the one at the capital, so it appears the switch is based on size and economics. Amelia will then end up with a smaller boat, if thatís the case.

Again, thatís just what Iím hearing here and there these days, and if itís just a rumor, well, there you go.

But if it turns out to be trueÖitíll be really, really hard to keep a straight face.

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A couple of kind folks have asked me to make a speaking engagement over the last few months, and it has been to my great shame and guilt that Iíve declined.

I am not a speaker. Iíve been roped into it a couple of times, and the experience was pretty miserable for me, so I decided I just donít want to do it again. Thereís an old expression: "Those that can, speak. Those that canít, write about it."

I do feel badly for turning good folks down who apparently think I have something to say worth listening to. I still find it a little hard to believe that I have anything to write worth reading (Iíll disprove that momentarily.)

My father was a speaker. My dad loved to talk. My father could talk an evergreen tree into going deciduous. People came from all over the country to listen to my dad talk, and when they didnít come to him, the ambitious old man went to them. Reporters, writers, historians, anthropologists filed through the house constantly. It was always a prerequisite before I moved out to peek through my bedroom door to see who might be there doing an interview with my dad before I stepped out in my pajamas.

But that was Nick Stouff. Iím just not a speaker, and though Iím grateful for the invitations, I just donít have it in me. If I did, Iíd still be in radio, and thereís a thought I really donít want to contemplate any longer than I absolutely must.

óó

Newsflash! Extra! Extra! Read all about it!

According to the Associated Press today, U.S. Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman says high oil prices are starting to effect the economy!

Duh. Ya think, Sammy?

Yes, he does, the genius. He said, "I believe the 100 dollar price of oil is starting to have an impact."

One marvels at the intelligence quotient of the people in charge these days. The drive-by-media has taken great glee in reporting for years now how Americans have "absorbed" the increased costs of fuel, bragging that we havenít changed our driving habits in spite of a nearly 300 percent increase.

What the maroons never mention is that most of us are captive to our driving habits. We simply must drive a certain amount of miles every day, week and month. The recession looming over our heads has been inevitable, and dangit if you canít look back at the columns I wrote three years ago and find that prediction.

Maybe I should be Energy Secretary, whaddaya say? Iíd at least raise the IQ factor into triple digits.