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Where's C. Ray?
Wondering where Mayor Ray Nagin has been lately? Some would say it's a good thing he's been less than highly visible, given his tendency to shoot from the lip. Then again, New Orleans could use a good mayor right about now. If you're one of thousands who've been venting privately about hizzoner, a locally owned T-shirt design firm known as DirtyCoast has produced a unique shirt aimed at finding our MIA mayor. The shirt follows a "Where's Waldo" theme, featuring orange horizontal stripes with the words, "C. Ray? Not lately" emblazoned across the stripes. "One way to not make any mistakes or embarrassing comments is simply to disappear," says the DirtyCoast Web site. "We hope you enjoy wearing this shirt around New Orleans while looking for evidence that we still have a mayor." DirtyCoast is the brainchild of friends Blake Haney and Patrick Brower, who launched the company shortly before Katrina to exhibit designs unique to New Orleans and its culture. Designs are printed locally on American Apparel shirts with lead-free ink and cost $15 to $25. Just in time for the holidays, they can be ordered at www.dirtycoast.com. -- DuBos

 

Extra Patrols: $88K a Day
Feeling Secure: Priceless

National Guard troops and Louisiana State Police have been patrolling New Orleans for almost six months now. Hardly anyone in this crime-weary city questions the need for the extra protection, given NOPD's thinning ranks since Hurricane Katrina. But how much is the deployment costing the state? Answer: $88,000 per day. The 300 Guard troops costs $78,000 a day; the 60 State Police troopers, at least $9,294 a day, according to figures compiled by the governor's press office at the request of Gambit Weekly. The first troops -- and troopers -- began arriving in the city June 19 at the request of Mayor Ray Nagin in the wake of a quintuple homicide. The price tag for the 300 Guard troops through Dec. 31 will be $13.5 million. "That includes hotels and per diems," says Blanco press secretary Marie Centanni. For the 60 state troopers, the total cost will be $1.9 million, a figure that includes overtime, meals and mileage but not lodging. NOPD Chief Warren Riley recently asked Gov. Kathleen Blanco to let the troops stay until June 2007. Blanco has not set a timetable for the withdrawal of the troops. "She's saying she's not going to abandon the city, but she wants to make sure that NOPD has a clear plan on how to build up its force to be able to fully take back the reins," Centanni says. -- Johnson

 

Ready, Set -- Scalp!
The final step in Louisiana's push to legalize online ticket scalping for concerts and sporting events came last week when the state attorney general's office released an opinion in support of a new state law authorizing limited forms of ticket scalping. The opinion essentially allows any "legitimate holder of tickets" to sell them over the Internet -- as long as the letter of the new law is followed. That means you can sell those 50-yard-line Saints tickets for $100 above face value as long as the Saints front office doesn't object and the transaction takes place on a Web site that offers full refunds if the game is canceled. The New Orleans Saints have already launched their own ticket exchange program. The team will charge buyers a 10 percent transaction fee, and sellers will be charged 15 percent. -- Alford

 

Insurance Crisis Now, Crime Problem Soon
The post-Katrina insurance crisis in the New Orleans area could soon become a crime problem, the editor of a national industry trade journal warns. "When the market gets hard and the price gets high, then the charlatans move in, because all of a sudden people are desperate for coverage," says Carol McGraw, editor of the Surplus Line Reporter in Gretna. Louisiana saw a wave of insurance scams after price spikes in the late 1980s. Three consecutive insurance commissioners were convicted and sent to prison after federal corruption probes. Today, thousands of area homeowners and businesses face major rate hikes and cancellations following the announced withdrawal by Louisiana's largest commercial insurance provider. Federal hurricane recovery czar Donald Powell and state Insurance Commissioner Jim Donelon have asked St. Paul Travelers Cos. Inc. to reconsider its recent decision to pull out of metro New Orleans. "I think the market will correct itself if given a chance and if it is not meddled with by government regulators," McGraw says. "I think Commissioner Donelon understands that." Travelers says the state of the local levee system was a factor in its decision. However, the company denies any connection between its planned pullout and a recent adverse decision by U.S. District Judge Stanwood Duval on the flood-exclusion language on its policy forms as well as those used by other insurers. -- Johnson

Crime Summit Pays
Here's some good news from an unlikely quarter -- the city's much-maligned criminal justice system -- and it's the apparent result of a much-maligned concept: the crime summit. The Sept. 16 summit was criticized by some as a desperation move, but District C Councilman James Carter, who chairs the council's committee on crime, says the summit fostered the recent funding of an independent monitor for NOPD and other crime-fighting initiatives. A detailed report on pending reforms will be announced Jan. 20 at Crime Summit II at Gallier Hall. "This represents, for the first time in my understanding of crime summits, tangible results coming out of a summit," Carter says, referring to the council's recent budget allocations. Since the summit, city officials, criminal justice experts and citizens have been meeting to discuss ways to reduce crime while rebuilding the storm-battered criminal justice system. In addition to $200,000 for funding an independent monitor of NOPD -- an alternative to police civilian review boards that has languished for years -- the council approved $200,000 for attorneys to represent juvenile defendants and $580,000 in salary increases for state prosecutors. In addition, Criminal Sheriff Marlin Gusman has agreed to work on prison reform ideas with the nonprofit Vera Institute in New York. Carter's message to crime-weary New Orleanians: "Keep the faith. Change is coming to the criminal justice system." -- Johnson

Scalise Passes $100K Mark in Senate Bid
With legislative term limits kicking in for the first time next year, members of both chambers are eyeing spots across the Capitol Rotunda. Rep. Steve Scalise, a Harahan Republican, is wasting no time gearing up his campaign for the seat of term-limited state Sen. Ken Hollis, a fellow GOP diehard from Metairie. According to a news release, Scalise recently surpassed the $100,000 mark for money raised this year for the fall 2007 election. While that figure is impressive, the names attached to Scalise's fundraiser are even more significant. The event was hosted by Hollis and the committee included Republican stalwarts like Joe Canizaro, Boysie Bollinger and Phyllis Taylor. By the end of the year, Scalise says, he'll have $150,000 in the bank. -- Alford

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