By Jeremy Alford
In one of the legislative sessions more comical moments, Rep. Karen Carter Peterson, a New Orleans Democrat, wondered aloud if she would have to divorce her husband, a well-known political consultant, because an administration-backed bill would prohibit lawmakers from paying family members from their campaign accounts. I wouldnt want him running my campaign anyway, she joked. You cant be campaigning on the streets and then go home together. That would be madness. In jest, the bills author, GOP House Speaker Jim Tucker of Terrytown, suggested Peterson could pay her husband in-kind, a remark that a blushing Peterson quickly countered by saying, That would go well beyond the contribution limits. Her husband, Dana Peterson, has managed several high-profile Democratic campaigns, including Lt. Gov. Mitch Landrieus unsuccessful bid for mayor.
By Jeremy Alford
Now you can point your finger at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers online. Lt. Gen. Robert L. Van Antwerp, the chief of engineers, has ventured into the blogosphere and is posting on a blog called Corps-e-spondence. The site includes RSS capability, so readers can subscribe and automatically receive updates. Readers also may post questions and comments. This is the way of the future, Van Antwerp says. We should be out there, too clearly and openly communicating with the American public every chance we get. But dont get too excited. Despite being written in first person, the posts probably wont be any more revealing than a standard Corps press release. The first one deals with Iraqs reconstruction efforts. Other upcoming topics are likely to include the Gulf Coast recovery efforts in southeast Louisiana, a press release promises. The blog can be found on the USACE Web site at https://eportal.usace.army.mil/sites/blog
By Allen Johnson Jr.
Armed with more than $1 million in city funding for a media campaign, NOPD is about to launch a massive recruiting drive in March, says Heidi Unter, chief operating officer of the private New Orleans Police & Justice Foundation. Police Chief Warren Riley says the force is several hundred officers short of the 1,700 cops needed to protect the city, post-Katrina. The recent murder of a police officer has not discouraged potential applicants. Inquiries about recruiting have been up, not down, since the death of Officer Nicola Cotton, Unter says. Cotton was shot to death by a mental patient Jan. 28. NOPD training officers this week will receive special instruction on dealing with mental patients at a law enforcement seminar in Monroe. Dr. Jan Johnson, a clinical psychiatrist at Tulane University Medical Center, recently praised NOPD as one of the best-educated police departments in the country when it comes to handling the mentally ill. Despite the strain of working long hours since the fourth quarter of last year, Unter says there have been no reports of major disciplinary problems in the ranks. However, she could cite no official statistics to support that claim because NOPDs Public Integrity Bureau has not posted its quarterly reports on the departments Web site (www.nopd.com) since 2004.
By Allen Johnson Jr.
When will the city and NOPD come up with a strategy to keep residents as safe as visitors? The question arose anew last week as alarming crime statistics burst into public view just as once-skeptical NBA officials were praising Mayor Ray Nagin, Police Chief Warren Riley and exhausted cops for a peaceful NBA All-Star weekend. Except for an unrelated, nonfatal shooting in the French Quarter after the All-Star game, there were no major incidents a welcome contrast to the violence that marred the event last year in Las Vegas. Rafael Goyeneche, president of the private Metropolitan Crime Commission, echoed earlier remarks by City Council President Arnie Fielkow and said new figures show that NOPDs citywide crime-fighting strategies are clearly not working. In 2007, incidents of violent crime (including murders, rapes, robberies and shootings) soared by 53 percent from the previous year or by 22 percent per capita, using the departments liberal population estimate of 312,000 people. Keep in mind, the City Council gave the NOPD an extra $5 million during the last quarter for overtime pay, said Goyeneche. Even then, the department just held the line. Goyeneche is urging NOPD to issue summons for misdemeanor offenses and focus on violent offenders. We need to do some things differently, he said. NOPD did not respond to a request for comment.
By Allen Johnson Jr.
Why did attorney and government watchdog C.B. Forgotston stop posting New Orleans stubborn homicide rates on his popular Web site www.forgotston.com at the end of 2007? First, keeping up with the number of murders on a timely basis was a lot of work, Forgotston says. Then, there was the extra work of defending why my count was not the same as the New Orleans Police Department. Nobody ever asked the NOPD or The Times-Picayune to defend their under-counting of the murders. But the primary reason that I stopped counting the murders was because instead of motivating people to put pressure on the public officials to address the violent crime problem in New Orleans, I was blamed for spreading bad news about the city. Its a familiar problem. The Louisiana Weekly encountered a similar backlash (from ministers and militants alike) decades ago when it pioneered the practice of counting killings in an effort to stop black-on-black homicides. Disparities in the death toll are more easily explained than public reaction. Forgotston published figures from the Orleans Parish Coroners Office, which counts all violent deaths (including, for example, justifiable homicides). NOPDs tally does not include justifiable homicides, of which there are six to 12 in a typical year. Ive actually been told by people that it seems violent crime is less in the city since I stopped reporting the murders, Forgotston says. Ironically, there have been no justifiable homicides this year through Feb. 21. As a result, both the coroner and NOPD tallies were the same (25 total killings) as of that date.
By Jeremy Alford
The first few days of the special session on ethics reform was chock full of lobbyist reform bills, most notably a measure that would prohibit them from spending more than $50 per lawmaker per meal and reporting requirements that reveal financial and client information. Some of the more draconian bills, however, never came up for debate or werent debated until the final hours of the session. Among them were measures to prohibit lobbyists from passing notes to lawmakers on the House floor, force them to wear special badges, forbid them from sitting in seats behind the House floor, and require them to be sworn in before providing testimony.
By Jeremy Alford
While Louisiana newspapers and evening broadcasts continue to report from the state Capitol without any direct comments from the Jindal Administration, even when the story is held for several days to permit an interview, Gov. Bobby Jindal made time last weekend for CNNs Late Edition with Wolf Blitzer. Not surprisingly, the exchange quickly touched on the question of whether Sen. John McCain of Arizona, the presumptive GOP nominee for president, would tap Jindal as his veep. The rumors have been swirling in Louisiana since conservative mouthpiece Rush Limbaugh suggested Jindal as a VP pick and crowned him the next Ronald Reagan. When Blitzer pushed for an answer, Jindal all but turned down the gig. Look, hes not going to ask me. But, no, my focus is on Louisiana, the new governor told CNNs audience. Ive been elected. Ive told the people of Louisiana this is our chance to fix our state, and I mean that. I dont think well get this chance again in our lifetimes. So it is my responsibility to work with the Legislature and the voters. I promise your viewers this: Well move Louisiana from the bottom five to the top five when it comes to ethics and good government. Jindal also told Blitzer that Louisiana is in the middle of an historic ethics session and outlined a busy next few months for those involved with the legislative process. We have a second session coming up in a couple of weeks to cut taxes on businesses, he said. We have a third regular session coming up in March. Well revamp workforce training, revamp our health care systems.
by Sam Winston
I had my second memorable European soccer experience yesterday; a packed barroom of Hamburg SV fans watching their boys take on the country's top club, Bayern Munich.
Having showed up an hour and half early to claim my barstool, which I had called in to reserve the day before, a few insights from a suspenseful 1-1 draw...
by Sam Winston
A Recovery School District teacher professes his love for the city and for the Hornets on Slate.com
While there is no question that the Saints are the "city's team," it's the Hornets who are more emblematic of New Orleans. There was no sudden miracle. The team was slow to return and hasn't been given enough attention by the nation at large. Rooting for them is marked by a spirit of unvanquished optimism (these guys could win a championship) and realist doubts (these guys could be in Oklahoma in two years). They are thriving despite it all, but the future seems grave.
Click HERE for the full article.
If you're still looking for something to do with the fabulous weekend weather, why not roll out for an early-spring day trip to Cajun country - to see Grammy-nominated Cajun and zydeco artists and contribute to a good cause, to boot?
Tomorrow afternoon in Scott, LA, Bourque's Social Club at 1012 St. Mary Street (click here for directions) hosts a benefit to defray medical expenses for Robert Guidry, a leader in the movement to preserve French language and culture in Louisiana. The event, which goes from noon until sunset, features five top Cajun artists, plus food, crafts and beverages. Schedule below.
12 p.m. Zachary Richard
3 p.m. La Bande Feufollet
4 p.m. The Pine Leaf Boys
5 p.m. Jam session with all artists
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