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Eddie Jordan Responds

It is, by now, a well-known fact that the Orleans Parish District Attorney's Office has always been underfunded and therefore lacks the resources necessary to do the best job it is capable of performing. I am pleased to announce that the end of the latest legislative session represents a new beginning for funding in the DA's office ("Aim Higher Next Year," July 8). Of seven bills that I proposed or supported through the Louisiana District Attorneys' Association, six of them passed. These are bills that will allow me to retain and hire additional experienced trial attorneys, increase the funds in my operating budget through increased court fees and possibly gain new revenue from the New Orleans Fair Grounds.

While we still have a long journey ahead, the level of cooperation and support of our state legislators should make that journey a much smoother one. Significant progress in the DA's office can only be achieved with the support of everyone. The strong support and commitment of our legislators ultimately means a stronger DA's office and better crime fighting at Tulane and Broad.

We passed six bills during the legislative session, almost all dealing with financial issues. Obviously, these bills alone will not remove the DA's office from the financial abyss into which it has fallen. But this legislative session was a great start. Our research has not revealed another legislative session in the past 30 years in which so many bills designed to help this office have been passed. We must understand that the financial problems I inherited took years to create, and it will take more than one legislative session to fix. Based on my lobbying experience during this past session, I am confident that our state legislators will continue to support our crime-fighting efforts by helping us to build a sound financial base, which will allow us to hire more experienced attorneys and win the tough convictions that will get the bad guys off the streets of New Orleans.

Here is a rundown of the bills that I proposed and/or supported:

S.B. 625: Introduced by Sens. Lambert Boissiere and Paulette Irons, this bill allows additional civil penalties to be placed on individuals who violate public nuisance laws. For example, the law would punish a motel owner who allows his business to be used as a haven for drug dealing. The new penalties include attorney's fees, investigative fees and a fine up to $10,000.

S.B. 828: Introduced by Sen. Boissiere and Rep. Edwin Murray, this bill allows an "eligible" gaming facility in New Orleans and provides $50,000 of the proceeds from that facility to be paid to the Orleans Parish DA's Office, pending a referendum vote by the people of New Orleans.

H.B. 877: Introduced by Rep. Joseph Toomy, it allows for an increase in the amounts collected on worthless checks. Fees will be changed from $10 to $15 for checks of less than $15 dollars; $20 to $35 for checks written for more than $15; from $60 to $75 for checks between $100 and $300; from $100 to $125 for checks between $300 and $500; and from $150 to $175 for checks over $500. The district attorney's worthless check collection fee is also increased from $15 to $25 per worthless check collected.

H.B. 1118: Introduced by Reps. Toomy and Beverly Bruce, it allows a $15 fee to be collected with every criminal bond posted. Additionally, it allows the DA's office to collect $7 on every closed case in Criminal District Court.

H.B. 1144: Introduced by Reps. Cedric Richmond and Murray, it allows an additional $10 court fee charged to convicted felons to be remitted to the DA's office of New Orleans, to be used at the DA's discretion. This allowance will help defray costs in the DA's office, thus improving the office's current financial deficiency.

H.B. 1143: Introduced by Reps. Richmond, Leonard Lucas, Murray, Kenneth L. Odinet Sr. and Sen. Diana Bajoie, it allows the DA's office of New Orleans more discretion in paying assistant district attorneys. The DA is now allowed to reallocate the $30,000 annual salary for attorneys any way he sees fit by splitting and/or combining his monies.

I thank the New Orleans delegation and the entire Louisiana Legislature for recognizing the Orleans Parish District Attorney's special needs during this session and helping us to meet them. I am eager to further improve our financial standing in the next legislative session, and I look forward to the Legislature's full support again in the fall.

--Eddie J. Jordan Jr.
Orleans Parish District Attorney

And He Would Know

My hat's off to Gambit Weekly for your cover story on women who have led the environmental fight here in Louisiana since day one ("We Had to Do Something," July 15). They are every bit what you say. They have taken abuse from the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality, various governors and more rude legislators than you would want to believe existed. A few have been sued for no more than telling it like it is. None have blinked. They make you proud.

--Oliver Houck

History at It's Best

Peggy Frankland's forthcoming book on Louisiana's female environmentalist activists will be a testament to her own enlightened ability to document a good story ("We Had to Do Something," July 15). Oral history is documentary work at its best; it lets real voices be heard.

Women are already too invisible in history books. Frankland had the foresight to record memories of women like Helen Solar before they forget. When I read Solar's observation that "I thought our government took care of us and would not allow this to happen," my heart stopped.

These women activists have been called "hysterical housewives, wackos and barefoot epidemiologists" by their opponents. Instead, Frankland's recordings shriek of anger, sincerity, expertise, determination and sheer bravery. She has done us all a tremendous favor by preserving eyewitness accounts of innocent deaths, environmental racism, corrupt policymakers, greedy corporations and environmental principles gone wrong. The woman's memory of a church being co-opted for a mere $200 donation made this reader sputter.

All of Frankland's subjects are women activists who have chosen to become involved. We need more recorders like Frankland and clones of the 40 activists.

--Genie K. Potter
Author, Kentucky Women
Louisville, Ky.

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