Nagin for Governor?
Rumors are rife that Mayor Ray Nagin is thinking of running for governor in the fall elections. Hizzoner has not been shy about raising campaign money after his re-election last May, and many have wondered why he continues to squeeze cash out of city contractors when he is term-limited as mayor. Some speculate that he may run for Congress if embattled Congressman Bill Jefferson is forced out of office as a result of an ongoing federal criminal investigation. A run for Congress is possible -- but not with the money that Nagin has been raising thus far. That cash falls under state campaign finance laws and cannot be used in a federal campaign. Nagin could, however, use his current campaign fund to run for governor. Several sources say Nagin is serious about making the race, even if he realizes he has little chance of winning. A race for governor at this time would likely be more about Nagin's ego and long-term political and personal aspirations than about actually winning the Governor's Mansion, sources say. Nagin now sees himself as poised to fill a statewide African-American leadership void -- and ultimately to succeed Revs. Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton as a national black spokesman. Those who know Nagin's record as mayor may find it hard to suppress laughter at that notion, but think about this: Has Jackson ever won an election or run a city? Has Sharpton ever managed a large private company? Nagin is charming, handsome, quotable (often for controversial reasons, which is not necessarily a handicap in this context) and almost two decades younger than Jackson and Sharpton. He also has a national presence already, thanks to Katrina. A race for governor would give him statewide publicity, and if he should make a runoff, he would gain even more national notoriety. Closer to home, a high-profile black candidate for governor would galvanize black turnout in the statewide elections, which would be good for Democratic and black candidates all over Louisiana -- and that would make Nagin a hero in many quarters, not just among black voters and politicos. -- DuBos
Boasso Shows Hand
While all of the other candidates running for governor have been relatively quiet, at least as far as the media is concerned, state Sen. Walter Boasso, a St. Bernard Parish Democrat (recently converted), is firing off press releases criticizing the presumptive frontrunner, Congressman Bobby Jindal, a Kenner Republican. The race for the Governor's Mansion has been somewhat subdued since the legislative session kicked off, but things should heat up soon after it ends June 28. For now, Boasso is showing off a strategy of knocking Jindal at every opportunity. In a missive, Boasso criticizes Jindal for voting against a consumer-pricing gas bill. Earlier in May, he took a swipe at the congressman for standing with President George Bush on war funding. The rhetoric isn't likely to slow down. "We are going to take our shot at this race with paid communications and it will be fun," says one source close to the Boasso campaign. -- Alford
Brown Paper Due Soon
Criminal justice consultant Lee Brown, the former Houston police chief and national drug czar, this month is expected to announce preliminary results of a management study of the New Orleans Police Department, sources say. An advocate of community policing, Brown's assessment team has been quietly impressing the many skeptics inside NOPD. Funded by private donations, the team of consultants has reportedly conducted dozens of interviews of NOPD personnel. Topics include systems operations and accountability. -- Johnson
Optimistic and Under Fire
A pattern is emerging in the city's post-Katrina murder rate: a lull in the violence followed by a public figure suggesting a light at the end of the tunnel, then another rash of murders. Add local FBI Special Agent-in-Charge Jim Bernazzanni to a high-profile list of "victims" of the unscientific trend. Others who have fallen victim to it include Mayor Ray Nagin, Police Chief Warren Riley and UNO criminologist Peter Scharf. Buoyed by increased citizen cooperation and the FBI's new joint crime-fighting role with the NOPD, Bernazzanni sounded an optimistic note on the Friday before Memorial Day weekend: "We have momentum; it's on our side. If you don't like the quality of life in your neighborhood in regards to crime, call the NOPD and the FBI and we will kick some ass." The agent said citizen tips have jumped to "half a dozen a day" from one every two weeks since the FBI-NOPD venture began Feb. 5. And he urged the public to call local FBI headquarters day or night at 816-3000. A string of murders followed Bernazzanni's comments, including five homicides in three days. The Orleans Parish Coroner's office reported that the shooting death of a cab driver pushed the city's homicide total to 82 for the year as of noon on May 29. That announcement came less than eight hours before Nagin's annual "State of the City" address. -- Johnson
Gaining Experience, FBI Help
The head of the local FBI says bureau homicide experts are helping the New Orleans Police Department solve more murders. FBI Special Agent-in-Charge Jim Bernazzanni says the NOPD homicide division's "clearance rate" for murders has jumped from 19 percent to 60 percent since the bureau began a joint crime-fighting effort with local cops on Feb. 5. "Clearance" refers to homicides solved by arrest or by "exception," such as the death of the suspected killer or his incarceration in another jurisdiction on other charges. Bernazzanni stressed that FBI homicide investigators were brought in to support NOPD's undermanned homicide unit of 15 investigators. New Orleans led the nation in per capita homicides last year with 96 killings per 100,000 people. Bernazzanni says bureau experts are "amazed at the dedication" of the NOPD homicide team. Jimmy Keen, a retired NOPD homicide commander and deputy director of the UNO Center for Society, Law & Justice, agrees. "The NOPD homicide unit in the last six months has restructured its command staff and the group that they have put together is a very high-functioning team," Keen says. "I have a lot of confidence in them. They are a young homicide division. You don't get better overnight. You get better through experience." Typically, FBI agents bring added prestige and resources to joint task forces, and local cops often respond by trying to elevate their own job performance, Keen notes. The NOPD homicide unit is led by Lt. Joseph Meisch, who was recently named "Policeman of the Year" by area members of the American Legion. -- Johnson
Another Crack at Litter
A St. Mary Parish lawmaker wants to change the way the state cracks down on litterbugs. A proposal by Sen. Butch Gautreaux, a Morgan City Democrat, would establish a study group within each of Louisiana's 64 parishes to create a pilot program specific to each locale. Each group would contain a variety of state and local officials, along with representatives from private business and civic groups. Gautreaux says Louisiana must evaluate its litter laws, rules and regulations because most programs were slashed after the 2005 hurricane season. "This is going to be a pilot program to see if there are things that work more effectively than what we have today," he says. "I'm confident what we have today isn't working, and you can see it just driving down the road." A public notice of all meetings, along with agendas, is required under the proposed law, and all findings would be forwarded to the House and Senate environmental committees before the 2008 legislative session. Gautreaux says the report would contain recommendations for a pilot program for the control and reduction of litter in each parish, to be implemented over a 12-month period. Gautreaux says he came up with the idea after hearing about potential companies pulling out of Louisiana because of roadside trash and other troublesome debris. "So this is also an economic development tool," he says. -- Alford
Saying 'Merci,' Post-K
A statewide convention of the American Legion this week plans to pass a resolution thanking French veterans of World War II for sending $20,000 to help aging American allies recovering from Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. "I'd like to distribute (the money) to about 10 guys," says Bill Detweiler, a former national commander of the American Legion. French Air Force Col. (ret.) Andr Humbert organized the fundraising effort and spoke at recent ceremonies honoring American armed forces at the National World War II Museum. Humbert said donors want the money to go to American veterans who helped liberate France from Nazi occupation after the D-Day invasion on June 6, 1944, at Normandy. Humbert, 76, says he was just a boy of 13 when he saw an American B-17 bomber shot down over his hometown, a Paris suburb. "France will never forget what she owes America, her lifelong friend," Humbert told a crowd of about 200 people at the World War II Museum. Louisiana war vets will respond in kind at the American Legion convention, beginning Thursday (June 7) at Alexandria Detweiler says. -- Johnson
What About Daisy Duke?
Even though Sen. Derrick Shepherd, a Democrat from Marrero, couldn't pull off the feat when he was in the House, an alderman from Delcambre is pushing a proposed law that would deter young people from wearing sagging pants. Shepherd drew the hilarious scowl of Comedy Central's Daily Show when he introduced a similar measure on the state level in 2004, but Albert Roy's efforts have yet to draw much attention. According to the Daily Iberian, Roy will introduce the ordinance sometime this month, based partly on similar local laws adopted in Lafayette and Mandeville, which issue $500 fines and possible jail time for full or partial nudity in public. "It's mostly the youngsters with the way they wear their clothes. It's ridiculous," Roy, an African American, told the Iberian. "It's a very big problem everywhere, but especially with our black people. I hate to go there, but I am. It's predominantly black and I'm trying to curb it if I can. That's all I can do." -- Alford