Thursday, February 25, 2010

DA and Police Processing Drug Cases Faster

Posted By on Thu, Feb 25, 2010 at 3:09 PM

The New Orleans criminal justice system has cut down from 64 days to 10.5 days the time it takes to process simple drug possession cases in the Orleans criminal court through an initiative by the Criminal Justice Leadership Alliance (CJLA).

"This is a result of much better cooperation particularly between the police department and the district attorney’s office to get these things moving through the system,” says New Orleans Councilman James Carter, who started CJLA in the fall of 2007 along with Luceia LeDoux, a public safety and program director for Baptist Community Ministries.

By expediting the process, Carter says it allows the New Orleans Police Department and the DA to concentrate its resources on building strong cases against repeat felony suspects, and, at the same time, release those indigent defendants that spend time in Orleans Parish Prison waiting for a determination on misdemeanor charges.

Often referred to as “victimless” crimes, simple drug possession can be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on the amount and whether or not there was an intent to distribute. Possession charges account for roughly one-third of the state arrests in Orleans Parish.

The “Expedited Screening and Disposition” initiative was started in March of 2009, and combines efforts by CJLA members, which include representatives from the NOPD, the district attorney’s office and other parts of the criminal justice system. By the terms of the initiative, NOPD agreed to email police reports and field test reports to the DA’s office within 48 hours of an arrest (except on weekends). In turn, the DA’s office assented to make a screening decision within 24 hours of receiving the reports, the defendant’s criminal record and after interviewing the arresting officers.

Previously, the New Orleans Police Department and the Orleans District Attorney’s Office would wait until near the end of the time provided — 45 days for a misdemeanor and 60 days for a felony — to complete the police paperwork and to decide whether or not to prosecute a case.

For January, the initiative reports a decrease from 61 days to seven days the time required to arrest a suspect and to decide whether or not they will be charged with a crime. What has changed little is the time it takes from the filing of the DA’s screening decision to a defendant’s arraignment in court, which stands at 4.5 days.

Carter has made criminal justice reform one of his main concerns during his time with the council.

"I'm leaving the Council soon, and, hopefully, this work can continue on into the next administration,” says Carter, whose term ends this May.

The Vera Institute of Justice, a nonprofit concerned with improving justice systems, advises CJLA. Jon Wool, the institute’s New Orleans director, will present the imitative’s report today at the general meeting of the New Orleans City Council.

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How Now, Brown & Cao?

Posted By on Thu, Feb 25, 2010 at 12:41 AM

brownie

Sen. Scott Brown, meet Rep. Anh “Joseph” Cao. You two have a lot in common.

Brown became a hero of conservative Republicans last month when he was elected to the Massachusetts Senate seat held for decades by the late Democratic stalwart Ted Kennedy — but he saw how quickly the political winds can turn this week when, in his first vote since being sworn in Feb. 4, he broke ranks with the GOP and voted for Sen. Harry Reid’s jobs bill. Brown, who had raised more than $14 million in the 19 days before the election, found himself under attack by the very conservative media which had buoyed him (Glenn Beck, once a supporter, took to the airwaves to denounce Brown as a "liar") and besieged by angry donors nationwide asking for their money back.

It all might sound familiar to Cao, the Louisiana Republican who was hailed as a hero when he took the traditionally Democratic 2nd District seat in January 2009. At the time, House Minority Leader Rep. John Boehner issued a statement titled “The Future is Cao” -- but the honeymoon was definitely over in November, when Cao was the only Republican to vote for a version of President Barack Obama’s health care bill, and suffered the financial consequences from his own party. According to an Associated Press report this week, Cao’s campaign contributions dropped 40 percent in the three months since that vote. The AP also reported Cao had raised $874,602 since beginning his reelection campaign last year -- but had spent $640,000 of it on more fundraising. (Cao will need all the money he can get, as Democratic state Rep. Cedric Richmond has already announced he's running for the seat later this year.)

It may be too early to tell whether Brown will feel the slap of checkbooks closing, but his supporters went into paroxysms of fury on his Facebook page, many of them swearing never to give the junior senator another cent. Perhaps the unkindest cut of all came from the blog The Rude News, which headlined its condemnation “Heckuva Job, Brownie.” Ouch.

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Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Leaks & Lies

Posted By on Wed, Feb 24, 2010 at 11:42 PM

A run-down facility, leaked radioactive materials and untrustworthy executives persuaded the Vermont senate to vote to close the Vermont Yankee power plant, run by New Orleans-based Entergy Corporation.

What does this mean for Louisiana? Well, Entergy fed Vermont misinformation about known faults in the plant's piping — or, as the Alliance for Affordable Energy states, Entergy showed "at least, profound ignorance of the design of this plant." What does that say about Entergy Louisiana's Waterford 3 nuclear facility in St. Charles Parish, or the Entergy Gulf States River Bend facility in St. Francisville? The Louisiana Public Service Commission's latest renewable portfolio standard strawman proposal suggests nuclear power as a "renewable" source that utilities companies include in Louisiana's future.

The Alliance issued a statement earlier this week before the Vermont ruling:

Entergy Corporation has shown that it cannot be trusted to safely operate these facilities or to provide honest, accurate information about the risks involved.

This disaster clearly demonstrates the risks associated with nuclear generation.  Nuclear power is not clean, not safe, and not renewable, and it has no place in policies designed to encourage renewable energy generation.  Furthermore, nuclear power is expensive.  The potential for disasters such as the one at Vermont Yankee are both a risk for communities and add to the financial burdens that nuclear projects carry, including large sums for decontaminating the sites that house these facilities.  Importantly, ratepayers are those who foot the bill for these projects, which endanger their very lives.

Subsidies and other incentives for energy generation should be reserved for clean, safe, renewable energy sources that can create jobs for Louisiana residents.  We hope that the Louisiana Public Service Commission sees the risks inherent in these plants and adopts a policy that does not include nuclear power.

If unchallenged, this will be the first time in more than 20 years the public or law closed a reactor. (The last was the 1989 closure of a Sacramento plant with faulty electronics.)

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2010 Jazz Fest Congo Square poster released

Posted By on Wed, Feb 24, 2010 at 6:56 PM

... and it's called "Say Uncle" -- an image of the inimitable Uncle Lionel Batiste of the Tremé Brass Band, painted by Terrance Osborne. Osborne did the 2007 poster of Rebirth Brass Band's Philip Frazier, and this one is done in the same style.

Here's the link to Osborne's gallery, and the link to pre-order a poster. Prices range from $69 (unsigned) to $329 (double-signed).

Thoughts, Gambiteers?

Congo Square

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Questionland: video question of the day- LENT

Posted By on Wed, Feb 24, 2010 at 4:59 PM

Questionland: question of the day

What (if anything) are you giving up for Lent?

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Tuesday, February 23, 2010

You want more free pancakes? We got more free pancakes.

Posted By on Tue, Feb 23, 2010 at 9:59 PM

Fries

Earlier today, Lauren LaBorde pointed Gambiteers to IHOP's Free Pancake Day. Apparently spurred on by Lauren's post, now Denny's has come up with its own free pancake offer, throwing in a delicious starch to set off all those carbohydrates. Yes, it's FREE FRIES:

Starting now and continuing through the end of March, Denny's is offering unlimited free refills of two of America's favorites, French fries and pancakes, at participating locations nationwide. Valid 24 hours a day, seven days a week, the offer applies to any order of French fries or pancakes served with an entrée.

It's like Denny's took a look at IHOP and said "Free Pancake Day? How about "Free Pancakes, Plus Fries, For A-Little-More-Than-A-Month"?" As John Dillon, vice-president of marketing for the Denny's Corporation put it, "Who doesn't want seconds of pancakes and fries... especially when they're free?"

Hell, at this rate, by tomorrow Piccadilly and Shoney's are going to be offering free pancakes, fries, and soft-serve dessert product for a year.

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"Peyton (Manning) a Double Agent? Some Think So"

Posted By on Tue, Feb 23, 2010 at 6:57 PM

conspiracy

To the birther, truther, 9/11 Elvis Capricorn One Lee Harvey Oswald Conspiracy file, we can now add a new sinister theory: Peyton Manning intentionally threw the Super Bowl so the Saints would beat the Colts.

That's the prospect raised by Terence Moore, columnist for the Web site NFL Fanhouse, in an entry titled "Peyton a Double Agent? Some Think So":

I sought the views of the Colt Nation, and this was interesting: Spanning from Monument Circle to Conseco Fieldhouse to Circle Center Mall to the area near the little race track that features 500 miles each May, a slew of folks alluded to the "c" word, but not for choke. They viewed The Interception as their version of a second gunman on the grassy knoll -- as in conspiracy.

Among the conspiracists, some said Manning threw The Interception on purpose to defensive back Tracy Porter who sprinted 74 yards for a touchdown to seal the Saints' 31-17 victory. Most said he threw it subconsciously.

Whatever the case, both sides said Manning had the Saints' welfare more than that of the Colts dancing around his mind at the moment.

Consider the evidence for the conspiracists: Manning was born and raised in New Orleans. And his father, Archie, is legendary around the Gulf Coast region. And the Mannings (which includes New York Giants quarterback Eli) knew as well as anybody before the game how much a world championship in New Orleans would brighten the souls of those still recovering from Hurricane Katrina. And [Reggie] Wayne, who possibly ran a shoddy route against Porter, also is from New Orleans.

So Reggie Wayne was in on it, too! This goes deeper than any of us could have imagined. But what does Indianapolis mayor Greg Ballard think of this possible act of civic sabotage?

He couldn't stop laughing from the conference room next to his office when told of the Manning conspiracists who won't back down.

"So Peyton works his entire life to get this point, and he's going to throw it all away," said Ballard, laughing again. His press secretary, Robert Vane, added nearby, between chuckles, "And we also never landed on the moon."

But, seriously. Was that intentional?

Said Ballard, easing into the non-nonsense voice that he used when he was a lieutenant colonel for the Marines, "That's ludicrous. It's just plain ludicrous for people to think that way (about the Super Bowl). There is no question that Peyton Manning wanted to win that game."

Zounds! Everyone knows that if you deny a conspiracy, you must be one of the conspirators! Apparently Mayor Ballard is in on it too!

At least (dun dun dun dun DUNNNN) ... some think so.

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National Pancake Day is upon us

Posted By on Tue, Feb 23, 2010 at 3:22 PM

We've received several emails in anticipation of this, and this day has finally arrived: free pancakes, y'all.

IHOP locations around the country are giving away free short stacks — three buttermilk pancakes — in honor of National Pancake Day (a day I'm pretty sure was arbitrarily created by IHOP. I suppose as the international pancake house, they have the authority to do such things). But don't be a freeloader: IHOP is also asking for donations to the Children's Miracle Network, and donations from the New Orleans stores will go to the CMN program at Children's Hospital.

And it keeps getting better. For those who enjoy their free-ish pancakes at the new Downtown location (833 Canal St.), you also get to hang out with Miss New Orleans (who may or may not have a name), who will be there with "other beauty queens." Because when I think of beauty queens, the first thing I think of is stacks of buttery carb discs.

Here's the other nearby IHOP locations: 12150 I-10 Service Rd., 151 Westbank Expressway, Gretna; 1719 Manhattan Blvd., Harvey; 3400 South I-10 Service Road W., Metairie; 3400 Williams Blvd., Kenner; 61101 Airport Rd., Slidell.

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Monday, February 22, 2010

Marching In

Posted By on Mon, Feb 22, 2010 at 10:51 PM

The past few weeks have been chaos for Roots of Music. The program moved down the street from its comfortable space at the Cabildo to a one-room auditorium at the U.S. Mint, and instructors had to get more than 100 students ready for six parades. Add the usual headaches — arranging transportation, feeding 100-plus mouths, tutoring — and a grim reality: If program directors can't scrape together funding within the next few weeks, March looks bleak. In this week's cover story, I followed Roots of Music as its 2010 class prepared for its Mardi Gras debut, and hopefully not its last.

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The free program for at-risk students ages 9 to 14 helps low-income families get their children on the right track. Derrick Tabb (Rebirth Brass Band drummer and CNN Hero) and Allison Reinhardt founded Roots of Music in 2007, and it includes (among other things) free transportation from school (and back home), meals, tutoring (required) and a world-class music education from Tabb and New Orleans musicians like Edward Lee from Soul Rebels Brass Band, as well as Allen Dejan Jr., Shoan Ruffin and Lawrence Rawlins. Oh, and Trombone Shorty and Phil Frazier serve on the board.

Gambit photographer Cheryl Gerber documented the band's three-step parade prep: rehearsal, dress, and the finalemarching and playing in Carnival 2010. (Hit the jump for the photos.)

Continue reading »

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Questionland: Question of the day

Posted By on Mon, Feb 22, 2010 at 3:41 PM

What Random Acts of Kindness have you witnessed recently?

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