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AFL-CIO Backs Heitmeier
Democratic State Sen. Francis Heitmeier of Algiers has received the endorsement of the Louisiana AFL-CIO in his bid to become the next secretary of state. The special election to fill the unexpired term of the late Fox McKeithen is set for Sept. 30. The statewide labor group said it chose Heitmeier because of his voting record in the Legislature and "his commitment to the protection of voting rights for all citizens of Louisiana." The secretary of state is Louisiana's top elections officer in addition to being the custodian of official state and corporate records. -- DuBos

Satellites Grounded
Satellite voting centers for displaced Louisiana voters will not be set up around the state for the November congressional primaries, but a state election official says mail ballots will still be allowed. Ten satellite voting centers opened for voters who couldn't make it back to New Orleans for the April citywide election and the May runoff, but that was a one-time deal, says Jennifer Marusak of the secretary of state's office. Mailed absentee ballots, which have been used for decades, can still serve as long-distance proxies -- if voters request them. "We contacted all of these voters already when we did it for New Orleans," Marusak says. "We sent instructions to everybody, telling them to contact their registrar or clerk to see how they could participate." There are no plans to mail out another set of instructions, Marusak says. There's also no chance the candidates could get hold of the mailing list, which was compiled by FEMA and confined to government use only. "It's a bum list anyway," Marusak says, noting that it dates from last December and hasn't been updated since. -- Alford

Alliance Forums
The Orleans Parish chapter of the Alliance for Good Government will host a public forum featuring statewide candidates and issues on the Sept. 30 special election ballot on Wednesday night (Aug. 30) at Loyola University's Roussel Hall. Candidates for state insurance commissioner face off first at 7:15 p.m., candidates for secretary of state begin at 8 p.m. and the Committee for 1 Greater New Orleans will close the forum with a presentation in support of the proposed constitutional amendment to consolidate area levee boards. "The insurance commissioner's race is very important because affordable homeownership insurance is on everybody's mind right now," says local Alliance president Robert Moffett. "The Secretary of State runs Louisiana's elections. Anybody living in Orleans Parish knows you can't take an orderly election for granted anymore." Admission to Alliance forums is free and open to the public. For more information, call 822-2224. -- Johnson

Critics Still Wincing
State officials are challenging a report by Forbes.com that ranks Louisiana as the worst place to do business. Meanwhile, New Orleans and the state are taking a beating in other financial media reports pegged to the one-year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. An article in Fortune details the city's sluggish recovery and covers familiar ground, taking particular aim at the city's elite. "For years the city's debs-and-dinner-parties set was proudly insular, its attention focused on its own affairs even as the city decayed. Corruption, inefficiency and crime were the subject of ironic jokes over cocktails, not protests." Katrina has since made self-reliant activists out of rich and poor locals alike, the article suggests, but more effective government is needed. "New Orleans' best chance for recovery may lie in its reawakened sense of community because government, it is now clear, will not act unless pushed hard." The Financial Times of London reports increased racial tensions in post-Katrina New Orleans as well as a resurgence of crime and the nation's apparent indifference to the city's chronic poverty. Tulane University historians Lance Hill and Douglas Brinkley provide analyses. -- Johnson

Ethics Board Blesses Marriage, Not Clients
Former state Rep. Arthur Morrell, a Democrat who is now Clerk of Criminal District Court in New Orleans, was no stranger to the state Ethics Board when he was serving in the lower chamber. The board ruled that he used his position in the Legislature to help his law clients, and Morrell says he is awaiting another hearing based on new evidence in that case. Meanwhile, the Ethics Board has blessed Morrell's dealings with, of all people, his wife -- professionally, at least. The board ruled earlier this month that Cynthia Hedge-Morrell, a member of the New Orleans City Council and chair of the council's Budget Committee, could still participate in a decision-making capacity on matters involving the Clerk of Criminal Court's office. -- Alford

Buy the Numbers?
Shreveport demographer Elliott Stonecipher says one population survey due out soon is troublesome because the state is co-sponsoring it. The forthcoming survey is a cooperative endeavor between the Centers for Disease Control, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the Census Bureau and the Louisiana Recovery Authority. "That really worries me," Stonecipher says of the LRA's involvement. "I think they might be acting too positive." Stonecipher says that because federal funding is linked to population counts, the state would naturally want higher figures. He says he's concerned about blue-collar workers and illegal immigrants giving what amounts to false readings on south Louisiana's population counts. Meanwhile, Lester Brown, president of the Earth Policy Institute, is touting a study that identifies Katrina's mass migration as the first exodus of "climate refugees" in the world. Brown estimates that 250,000 of the one million Gulf Coast residents who fled Katrina will not return. They are refugees, he says, because they represent a class of people driven from their homes because of inclement weather associated with global warming. -- Alford

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