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Jindal Supporters Hit With Ethics Fine
Republican Gov.-elect Bobby Jindal promises that Louisiana will soon have some of the toughest ethics laws in the nation. Already, however, some of his supporters have run into trouble over the existing standards " the ones that Jindal derided as too low during the campaign. The Livingston Parish Republican Executive Committee owes a total of $2,945 for late filings of two campaign finance reports. One report was filed 37 days late and the other was 73 days late, says Alesia Ardoin, staff attorney for the Louisiana Ethics Commission. Ardoin says she has obtained a judgment ordering the Livingston GOP leaders to pay up. Jindal carried Livingston Parish, a rural suburb of Baton Rouge, with 67 percent of the vote. " Johnson

 

Lost in Transition
Gov.-elect Bobby Jindal, a Republican, has set up his transition organization as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit with a self-imposed $10,000 contribution limit. Additionally, all finances will be fully disclosed, according to Jindal. Actually, the Louisiana Ethics Board already requires that donations be made public, but the governor-elect does not have to set a contributor's cap or release information on expenditures. Four years ago, Gov. Kathleen Blanco, a Democrat, only revealed donors' names in mid-March. Jindal, having won in the primary, enjoys a one-month jump that most of his predecessors never had. His first financial report is due Dec. 15 and will detail the period of Oct. 21 through Nov. 30. In all, Blanco raised more than $1 million for her 2003 transition team. Roughly half of that amount, though, was spent on her inauguration. The rest of the loot was used to host a health-care summit, pay for general operations and support a variety of other things the public will never know about. " Alford

 

Blue Dog Days Ahead
Right after the Oct. 20 primary, it became clear that the 39-member state Senate would be a Democrat-controlled chamber. In the primary, Republicans won 12 seats, Democrats won 17 and 10 more are up for grabs in the Nov. 17 runoffs. However, of those 10 that are still unresolved, five feature two Democrats, one has two Republicans, and four sport a classic 'R" vs. 'D" match-up. That means the Democrats are guaranteed a minimum of 22 Senate seats. Sen. Reggie Dupre, a Democrat from Bourg, believes this presents an opportunity for conservative-minded Democrats to become a swing bloc in the Senate. Among those mentioned: Sens. Butch Gautreaux of Morgan City, Willie Mount of Lake Charles and Ben Nevers of Bogalusa. In Congress and certain state legislatures (like California), 'Blue Dog" caucuses have been formed for Democrats who tilt toward the other end of the political spectrum. U.S. Rep. Charlie Melancon of Napoleonville is one card-carrying member. 'I could certainly see that happening in the Senate this upcoming term," Dupre says. " Alford

 

Murder by Any Measure
Like a California wildfire, New Orleans' murder rate continues to roar, overwhelming local authorities by any measure. 'We're up to 185 [homicides]," as of Oct. 25, says John Gagliano, chief investigator for the Orleans Parish Coroner's Office. That comment came the morning after a four-murder night. Meanwhile, the New Orleans Police Department reported 174 murders for the same time period. Unlike the coroner, NOPD does not include the city's 'justifiable homicides" in its murder total, which accounts for the discrepancy between the two totals. Peter Scharf, a criminologist at Texas State University, says that the NOPD's more conservative indicator of violence, which is reported in annual FBI statistics, will nonetheless make New Orleans the nation's murder capital " again. 'I am projecting 210 murders by the end of the year, which is 76 murders per 100,000 residents," Scharf says. Last year, New Orleans led the nation in per capita murders with 63 murders per 100,000 residents, after finishing the year with 161 total murders. The professor used city population estimates of 275,000 residents for both this year and last year. The October murder rate raged on despite the mid-month presence of more than 17,000 off-duty cops who were in town for the International Association of Chiefs of Police convention. 'Is anyone in New Orleans going to hold the leadership accountable for these disastrous results?" Scharf asked. 'Where are the watchdogs? Where are the stakeholders in this community?" Mayor Ray Nagin, who began the year with a promise to end the city's notorious violence, has recently characterized New Orleans' violence as no worse than that of any other city and concentrated in neighborhoods with a lot of drug activity. Police Chief Warren Riley has asked the state to let 300 National Guard troops and 60 State Police extend their stay in the city until NOPD can shore up its ranks with a new recruit class in the spring. " Johnson

 

Retired Agent 'Aggravated'
More public involvement " not a change of police chiefs " is the answer to New Orleans' stubborn violent crime rate, says Richard Woodfork, a 38-year law enforcement veteran who recently retired as chief spokesperson for the local U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). 'People start screaming for the chief's head " that's not the solution. Public apathy is the problem," says Woodfork, whose career began at NOPD in 1968. Woodfork suggests the city could contract retired law enforcement officers to work at NOPD as 'street supervisors," stanching the loss of veteran cops and possibly resolving a public debate over NOPD's arrest practices. The private Metropolitan Crime Commission recently reported that NOPD continues to give undue attention to arrests for minor offenses and traffic violations while violent crime persists. Police Chief Warren Riley defended the practice, saying arrests for minor offenses also keep career criminals in check. During a breakfast at a Lakeview restaurant, Woodfork sided with the chief: 'Those misdemeanor arrests are paramount to keeping order on the streets." At the same time, Woodfork, who retired from the DEA in February, said using more police retirees as contract supervisors could help younger officers to better exercise their powers of discretionary arrest over minor offenses, resulting in fewer law-abiding citizens going to jail but continued vigilance of known criminals. And yes, he might come out of retirement, if needed. 'I get so aggravated when I see some of this stuff," Woodfork frowned as his grandbaby smiled at him from across the table. Woodfork's daughter is a sergeant with the NOPD. His older brother, Warren Woodfork, retired as the city's first black police chief and has lived in southwest Louisiana since Hurricane Katrina. " Johnson

 

The Power Committee
A spot on the House or Senate Governmental Affairs committee has replaced a money panel seat as the Legislature's status symbol. That's because legislators taking office next year will be charged with redistricting, which impacts everyone in both chambers. Needless to say, there will be a long line of lawmakers wanting to give input, and members of governmental affairs will have a ton of clout. The leadership on both sides has already admitted the jockeying will be fierce, but competition for the subcommittee spots, where reapportionment begins, will be ferocious as well. " Alford Local Fire Inspection As the eyes of the nation turn to the deadly wildfires in California, local firefighters are checking their own ranks and resources. The New Orleans Fire Department is understaffed, fire stations have not yet been rebuilt since Hurricane Katrina flooded the city two years ago, and water pressure for fire hydrants is still problematic, says Nick Felton, president of New Orleans Fire Fighters Association Local 632. 'The greatest need is staffing," Felton says. 'We are down 140 to 150 positions out of 700, and it's not getting any better." Experienced veterans are leaving faster than new recruits can be hired. 'It takes three to five years for recruits to get up to speed," Felton says. In addition, the department and the understaffed Sewerage & Water Board are struggling to maintain water pressure throughout a vast network of fire hydrants, some of which had fallen into disrepair before Katrina hit. Felton says the good news is that his union supported the successful voter passage of two statewide constitutional amendments on the Oct. 20 primary election ballot, including Amendment One. The proposal, which passed by 59 to 41 percent of the statewide vote, will protect present and future state supplemental pay hikes for cops and firefighters from state budget cuts. " Johnson

 

A Vote That Floats
Harbor Police Department Chief Robert Hecker last week seemed like he was floating on air " rather than water " after voters approved a constitutionally protected pay raise for his 60-member safety force at the Port of New Orleans. 'I feel like I just won the Super Bowl," Hecker, a retired New Orleans Police captain, said. Amendment 2, which passed by a margin of 56 to 44 percent on Oct. 20, will provide the HPD's 43 cops and 17 firefighters with $5,100 a year in state supplemental pay. The monthly payments of $450 could begin as soon as Jan. 1, 2008. Since assuming command of the harbor force 12 years ago, Hecker has lobbied state lawmakers to include port safety officers in the state's supplemental pay plan for law enforcement and firefighters. After Hurricane Katrina, Hecker and other harbor cops helped rescue hundreds of mostly impoverished Ninth Ward residents trapped by rising floodwaters. " Johnson 'Reopen Charity' Ramps Up In the wake of the Oct. 20 primary, The Committee to Reopen Charity Hospital is ramping up efforts to pressure the state to resume operation of the iconic facility, which has been shuttered since Hurricane Katrina. Post-election strategies include screenings of filmmaker Michael Moore's critical documentary of the nation's health-care system, titled Sicko, as well as potential legal action by attorneys Bill Quigley and Tracie Washington aimed at forcing the state to reopen Charity, says activist K. Brad Ott. The Committee's demand for the reopening of 'Big Charity" and for independent evaluations of the flood-damaged hospital enjoys support from an eclectic coalition of community activists, law enforcement officials and elected officials. Among them: Jefferson Parish Acting Sheriff Newell Normand, Criminal Court Judge Calvin Johnson, City Council District A member Shelley Midura, state Rep. Cheryl Gray, former state Rep. Kenneth Odinet, NOPD mental-health experts Jim Arey and Cecile Tebo, Rev. Marshall Truehill, local NAACP vice-president Darius Johnson and activist Malcolm Suber. Updates on the campaign will be posted on the group's Web site, www.charityhospital.net. " Johnson

 

Old Arrest Surfaces
An old arrest for the alleged misdemeanor battery of a police officer was dismissed by Assumption Parish's 23rd Judicial District Court last Wednesday, clearing Joe Harrison of Napoleonville, a Republican candidate in House District 51, of any wrongdoing. He is challenging incumbent Rep. Carla Dartez, a Morgan City Democrat, who likewise has had to explain her own recent brushes with the law. Harrison was arrested two years ago following an incident in Assumption Parish with a pair of enforcement agents from Wildlife and Fisheries. Harrison says the agents were 'getting rough" with his son-in-law during a drinking-and-driving investigation, throwing the man to the bottom of the boat and trying to force a field-sobriety test in the dark of night. After the agents supposedly spewed 'profanities" at his wife and daughter, Harrison says he responded angrily, but 'never laid one finger on anyone." In the process of being handcuffed, Harrison, a special-commissioned sheriff's deputy in Assumption Parish, says his wrist was broken, which prompted a personal lawsuit against the department that is still pending. Dartez's legal problems, meanwhile, include a 1998 DWI. In September, she was cited for improper lane usage after hitting a pedestrian with her car. Complicating matters, her husband, Lenny J. Dartez, a member of the Democratic State Central Committee, was indicted earlier this month for harboring illegal aliens through his construction business. " Alford

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