CityWorks will unveil its own work-in-progress at White Linen Night, the Warehouse District art gallery-opening event taking place this Saturday, Aug. 5. Launched in part by the local chapter of the American Institute of Architects, the nonprofit group is trying to serve as an information hub for neighborhood associations organizing around issues of rebuilding New Orleans. With offices under an art gallery, CityWorks is taking advantage of foot traffic on Saturday night to preview its map and directory of groups that are assisting neighborhoods with recovery efforts. Besides food, drink and music, CityWorks will offer an abbreviated version of its map, and a complete directory will be available on the group's Web site (www.city-works.org) soon, with continuous updates. The CityWorks office reception (841 Carondelet St.) will last from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday. Groups that would like to be included in the directory should contact CityWorks via email at email@example.com or phone 525-2121. -- Coviello
Terminal Leave Questions
The Nagin Administration says it will pay hundreds of laid-off and retired employees several million dollars in "terminal leave" -- just as soon as the city can raise the money. Terminal leave refers to the unused annual leave and sick pay which the city pays out when a worker retires, resigns, dies or is laid off. Veteran city employees, including cops and firefighters, count on terminal leave payments as high as $50,000 when trying to decide whether to retire. And in post-Katrina New Orleans, more and more cops and firefighters are weighing their options. The city says it's broke. However, the Nagin Administration hopes a combination of government loans, bonds and a $150 million line of credit from a consortium of banks will help raise the money needed to pay off the city's terminal leave debt. "As soon as we get one or all of these [funding sources] finalized, we hope to pay the terminal leave," Cary Grant, deputy chief administrative officer, told the city Civil Service Commission recently. Grant said the more than 3,000 city employees laid off after Katrina would probably be paid first, followed by the city's recent retirees. Pressed by firefighters union president Nick Felton, Grant said the terminal leave issue should be resolved by Christmas. But after the meeting, the deputy CAO said it would be difficult for the city to commit to a timetable. "It's kind of not in our hands," Grant said. -- Johnson
What the Media Missed
A new exhibit by the Historic New Orleans Collection exposes the limits of the national news media coverage of the desperate aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Most media focused on the deprivations of thousands of mostly poor and African-American evacuees sheltered at the Superdome and New Orleans Convention Center. But Coast Guard videotape included in The Collection's "City of Hope" exhibit shows haunting images of the storm's toll on predominantly white St. Bernard Parish. Nearly all of the 27,000 homes in the parish were destroyed by flood. In one video, scores of weary-looking St. Bernard evacuees gather on a barge transporting them up the Mississippi River to an unspecified location. Not shown are the bodies of Katrina's suburban victims, some of whom were placed in the closets of two high school evacuation shelters, says Mark Cave, curator of The Collection's ongoing oral history project on Katrina. Also unreported by the media were the fights that broke out among St. Bernard evacuees as the heat soared and food and water supplies dwindled, Cave said. With jail cells under water, authorities handcuffed unruly evacuees to rooftop fixtures. "There were incidents taking place all over the metro area that were every bit as dire as what was going on at the Convention Center and the Superdome," Cave said. The exhibit, which emphasizes the historic resiliency of flood-prone New Orleans, is free and open to the public from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday at the Williams Gallery (533 Royal St.) through Nov. 4. -- Johnson
Chasing a Chairmanship
Congressman Richard Baker of Baton Rouge continues to court the favor of Republican colleagues in his quest to become the next chairman of the House Committee on Financial Services, a powerful position in the financial sector. The contest between Baker and fellow Republican Spencer Bachus of Alabama has become "very competitive," according to the Washington newspaper Roll Call. Both men are raising money for the GOP and spreading around personal campaign cash to other incumbents. Although Baker has the seniority and institutional knowledge, an unnamed "leadership aide" gives Bachus the edge. Baker's independent spirit and pointed remarks at President George Bush in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina are blamed for his underdog status. Michael DiResto, Baker's press secretary, says the race is still undecided, and it would be a "timely opportunity" for the congressman to serve as chair when Louisiana desperately needs help in regards to insurance, capital investment, housing and other financial matters. -- Alford
New Gretna Rag?
The state Ethics Board ruled this month that a member of the Gretna City Council can start a local newspaper, but its decision suggests that the publication would make more news than money. The ethics ruling notes that Councilwoman Belinda C. Constant would presumably have at least a 25 percent ownership in any such paper. As long as she is involved, says board attorney Tracy M. Walker, the paper would be "prohibited from selling advertising to any person or company which has a contractual, business or financial relationship with the City of Gretna." The paper would also be prohibited from seeking to become the city's official journal. -- Alford
Ethics Board Okays New Chair's Cleco Deal
The state Ethics Board ruled this month that state Rep. Taylor Townsend, a Natchitoches Democrat, can buy ownership in a company that plans to purchase property from a publicly regulated utility. Townsend, who was recently appointed chairman of the powerful House Ways and Means Committee, wanted to know whether he could be a part of Kipco Holdings if the company has a financial transaction with a subsidiary of the Cleco Corporation. Kathleen M. Allen, an attorney for the board, wrote in the ruling that Townsend's acquisition would be legit as long as fair market value is paid for the property and Cleco doesn't provide him with anything of "economic value" that might influence his decision over a related piece of legislation. -- Alford
Who's Robbing Whom?
As the U.S. Senate prepared to debate Louisiana's effort to obtain more offshore oil royalties last week, environmental groups placed advertisements in several Beltway publications depicting the Gulf Coast as "Oil's Next Victim" -- because the proposals being considered would open up the Gulf to more drilling activity. The ads warned against everything from oil spills to over-drilling. Sen. Mary Landrieu, a New Orleans Democrat, issued a press release countering the ads -- just days after she blasted a Washington Post editorial that depicted the proposal as "Robbing the Feds." Landrieu and U.S. Sen. David Vitter, a Metairie Republican, questioned the Post's assertion that "coastal states don't deserve" a share of the oil and gas revenues generated off their coasts. The senators pointed out that the paper failed to mention that 28 other inland states already receive a 50 percent share of similar revenues. Louisiana, meanwhile, helps generate more than $5 billion a year for the federal treasury from offshore drilling but gets back only about $39 million a year. -- Alford
A flurry of fundraising benefits has raised approximately $150,000 for New Orleans policeman Andres "Chico" Gonzales, who was shot and seriously wounded in the line of duty May 22, according to Lt. William Ceravolo of the Fourth District in Algiers. Meanwhile, a group of area law enforcement officers and business leaders, including Blaine Kern and Ronnie Lamarque, are expected to meet this month to begin planning an annual event aimed at raising a million-dollar fund to support NOPD officers injured in the line of duty. "It would be like the Zoo-to-Do," Ceravolo said, referring to the annual fundraiser for the Audubon Zoo. A June 28 benefit for Gonzales at Mardi Gras World raised more than $120,000, he added. Several smaller fundraisers raised a combined total of $30,000. The Venue nightclub has set a fundraising goal of $50,000, said club operator Danny Tysen, who worked with Gonzales when both were deputies at the Orleans Parish Criminal Sheriff's Office. Beginning at 5 p.m. Wednesday (Aug. 2), Ninja Restaurant, 8433 Oak St., will donate the evening's proceeds to Gonzales, 25, a two-year veteran of the NOPD. -- Johnson
New Orleans Police recently credited support from National Guard troops with helping cut the city's homicide rate by more than half in recent weeks. But a single sign outside the new office of the Orleans Parish Coroner may give a hot-tempered gun-owner cause for pause, too. "Thou Shall Not Kill," warns the black-and-white placard at the entrance of the New Orleans Forensic Center at 2612 Martin Luther King Blvd. Other signs bearing the biblical commandment dot a stretch of neutral ground along the boulevard in Central City, the neighborhood with the city's highest murder rate these days. "Somebody just put them up and down the road," Coroner Dr. Frank Minyard said. "We just 'stole' one and stuck it in the front." -- Johnson