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High Hype, Low Turnout
Despite plenty of national media hype, the thousands of people that Rev. Jesse Jackson envisioned for his Ninth Ward hurricane recovery march on April 28 simply didn't show up. Crowd estimates ranged from 250 to 750, nowhere near the thousands Jackson led in an April 2006 march across the Crescent City Connection to protest West Bank police conduct in the chaotic aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. There was no shortage of elected officials at the recent Lower Ninth Ward march, however. They included Mayor Ray Nagin, former Mayor Marc Morial, U.S. Rep. Bill Jefferson, state Sen. Diana Bajoie, state Sen. Cleo Fields, Rep. Nina Marchand and New Orleans City Council members Oliver Thomas, James Carter and Cynthia Willard-Lewis. Nagin exhorted the small crowd to "take this thing to the next level" and to "bring this fight to Baton Rouge." A grassroots rally for victims of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita is scheduled on the steps of the state Capitol next Tuesday (May 15). -- Johnson

 

Nagin's Numb Numbers
Mayor Ray Nagin has often violated his Jan. 11 promise to stop blaming federal and state officials for the city's post-Katrina woes. However, the intensity of his attacks against Baton Rouge appeared to reach new rhetorical highs during the April 28 march through the Lower Ninth Ward. "We're going to have to get angry! ... We're going to have to find the right bullet and the right target!" Nagin said in a fiery speech to a small crowd of marchers. Ironically, a new Ed Renwick poll for WWL-TV, aired days before the march, showed many New Orleans voters are already angry -- at Hizzoner. Nagin's "negative" rating of 77 percent among all New Orleans voters is surpassed only by President George Bush (80 percent) and local District Attorney Eddie Jordan Jr. (78 percent). In fact, Nagin's rating is worse than that of Gov. Kathleen Blanco (69 percent). NOPD Police Chief Warren Riley drew a 56 percent negative rating. The highest "positive" rating of various leaders ranked by New Orleans voters went to Jefferson Parish Sheriff Harry Lee (47 percent). Riley received a 28 percent positive rating, putting him slightly ahead of Blanco at 27 percent. Only 19 percent of voters gave Nagin a positive rating; Jordan received only 13 percent. Renwick said the district attorney's numbers are the lowest he has seen in more than 30 years of polling. -- Johnson

 

Boxing Commission: Goodbye Big Easy?
The gloves may be coming off, figuratively at least, this legislative session when lawmakers consider revising several laws governing the Louisiana State Boxing and Wrestling Commission. House Bill 348 by William Daniel, a Baton Rouge Republican, would, among other things, move the commission's headquarters from New Orleans to Baton Rouge. The legislation also adds "mixed technique events" to the commission's supervisory authority. That could pave the way for the kind of all-out brawls marketed on Pay-Per-View channels. Fees for booking agents and event coordinators would be eliminated under Daniel's bill, but a new $250 fee would be charged for matchmakers and promoters of wrestling and mixed martial arts matches. The current requirement that clubs publish seat prices in a local newspaper at least two days prior to a contest would also be repealed. The big winner in all of this, though, seems to be the commission itself. Aside from the new digs, the bill would create a new $80 travel per diem for commissioners -- in addition to their salary -- and provide "free seating at each event for the commission as is necessary for the attendance of the commission and its staff." Apparently Louisiana is about to get a few politically connected members of the Raw Fan Nation. -- Alford

 

AG Race Kicks Into High Gear
Attorney General Charles Foti, a Democrat, is sitting on a $1.1 million war chest. But despite Foti's cash, there's blood on the water because of the way he handled a few high-profile cases over the past four years. Royal Alexander, a Shreveport Republican and attorney, is expected to run against Foti. He reportedly has $210,000 on hand now and should surpass $300,000 in the coming weeks. Where is Alexander's cash coming from? No one knows just yet because he didn't kick off his campaign until after quarterly financial reports were due. To build his name recognition, Alexander says he is preparing to launch a "statewide media blitz, which will feature outdoor advertising, a Web site launch and radio commercials." Turn on your spam filters, folks, because part of that effort includes a "high-tech friend-to-friend campaign" that will be supported by a "huge e-mail database." Meanwhile, Buddy Caldwell, district attorney for East Carroll, Madison, and Tensas parishes since 1978, officially announced his intentions to oppose Foti last week. Caldwell's finance report shows a meager $8,300 on hand, but his camp reportedly is courting medical professionals still irate at Foti for arresting a doctor and two nurses for murder in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. Caldwell may make conviction rates his top issue. He says he has achieved a 99 percent conviction rate, and he holds the state's highest per capita collection rate for past-due child support. -- Alford

 

Buckle Up, Chief
New Orleans Deputy Police Chief Marlon Defillo may now be the department's leading advocate for seat belt safety. Defillo, commander of NOPD's Internal Affairs Division, suffered a fractured right arm, bruises and abrasions after a drunk driver reportedly slammed into his police Expedition recently. "I had my seat belt on, fortunately," Defillo says. "The seat belt really prevented me from being more seriously injured." The collision occurred on the night of April 17, shortly after the deputy chief left SUNO's lakefront campus, where he teaches a graduate course. Defillo said he was driving eastbound on Old Gentilly Road near Press Drive when a vehicle speeding from the opposite direction swerved into his lane, striking the police vehicle nearly head-on. After the wreck, the other driver tried to flee on foot, but was captured by Defillo and an off-duty cop. Michael Toy, 44, was treated for his injuries at a local hospital, then jailed for his third DWI arrest, hit and run, and two outstanding warrants, including criminal mischief. Defillo says he was treated and released after undergoing the substance test required of all city employees involved in accidents with city vehicles. The case is being investigated by NOPD's Traffic Division. "I went to work the next day," Defillo says. "I got too many things to do." In addition to his regular police duties, Defillo also supervised off-duty NOPD security details at Jazz Fest. -- Johnson

 

Gone But Not Forgotten
Five years ago this week, Ray Nagin took his oath of office as mayor after beating popular New Orleans Police Chief Richard Pennington in a bitter runoff election. Pennington later moved to Atlanta where he became that city's top cop in July 2002 -- apparently leaving behind one bit of unfinished business from his first run for political office, according to the Louisiana Ethics Commission. The board maintains that Pennington owes the state a $100 fine for filing a campaign finance report one day late -- a civil violation of Louisiana's campaign finance disclosure laws. No late fees have been assessed against Pennington because the Baton Rouge-based board had no forwarding address for him, says board attorney Alesia Ardoin. "I was not aware he was the new police chief of Atlanta." Pennington's name is listed on the commission's Web site for "outstanding fines." When contacted by Gambit Weekly, Pennington responded by email and promised to make sure the fine gets paid. -- Johnson

LABI Keeping Eyes on Training Fund
About eight years ago, the Legislature bulked up its Incumbent Worker Training Program with a $50 million budget, making it the largest initiative of its kind in the country. The program is set to expire this year, and Dan Juneau, president of the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry, hopes his membership will lead efforts to convince lawmakers to extend the program. The IWTP encourages Louisiana companies to train their existing employees to help accommodate growth, using money that would otherwise go to unemployed workers. LABI and others previously expressed concern over increasing the size of the fund. "It was recommended that the funding amount gradually ramp up over a period of years to assure better management," Juneau says. "This advice went unheeded and, not surprisingly, problems occurred." His recommendation: $35 million is a more appropriate amount for the IWTP, and the program shouldn't be funded if the Louisiana Unemployment Compensation Trust Fund (where the program's money comes from) drops below $1 billion. It's presently at $1.3 billion. "This must happen for businesses to be confident that their tax dollars are being well used," Juneau says. -- Alford

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