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Liberal or Moderate?
It will be one of the banner questions raised during the upcoming U.S. Senate race: Is incumbent Democrat Mary Landrieu of New Orleans liberal or moderate? Without question her opponents will label her as a liberal if past campaigns are any indication. And Landrieu, surely, will fire back that she is in fact a moderate. If it does come down to such a tit-for-tat exchange, Landrieu has at least one nugget of independent verification to cite. According to an annual study by Congressional Quarterly, only one other Senate Democrat crossed the aisle more often than Landrieu in the past year " Sen. Ben Nelson of Nebraska. Furthermore, Landrieu serves as co-chair of the Common Ground Coalition, a bipartisan group of senators that approach issues in a consensus-building way. 'I do not approach Senate votes as a Democrat or as a Republican," Landrieu says. 'I support the president when it is right for Louisiana, including voting to shelve irresponsible taxes that left Louisianans footing the bill for national energy policy. But I will also continue to stand up to the White House when administration policy hurts us." Landrieu picked up significant support from Louisiana's energy sector when she crossed party lines and voted in favor of a GOP version of the recent Energy Bill. That version beat back Democratic attempts to impose higher taxes on the oil and gas industry, and Landrieu cast the deciding vote in the Senate. Kevin Whitton, president of the Louisiana Propane Gas Association, issued a statement earlier this month thanking Landrieu and Republican U.S. Sen. David Vitter for helping to defeat the taxes. State Treasurer John Kennedy has announced he will run against Landrieu, while Secretary of State Jay Dardenne is still weighing his options. Both men are Republicans. " Alford

 

Up and Running
You don't have to call him governor-elect anymore. In fact, you don't even have to visit Bobby Jindal's transition Web site any longer. That's because Jindal now has claim to the official Web site of Louisiana's governor (www.gov.state.la.us). True to Team Jindal form, it's a modern-looking site, not unlike the tricked-out campaign Web site Jindal used during last year's election. Such a tech-savvy approach has become a hallmark of Jindal's political brand, as has the new governor's semi-casual attire (the top images on the governor's official site are of Jindal sans tie, as usual). There's also a video where Jindal makes a personal pitch for ethics reform, an early indication that the governor may be taking his message directly to the public " again " in advance of his Feb. 10 special session. And if you've got the time, you can watch last week's inauguration on the site as well. First Lady Supriya Jindal has her own page on the state's server as well. While the new Web site was an easy way to get the new administration off to a quick start the morning after the inauguration, Jindal really got down to work last week when the full Cabinet met for the first time at the Governor's Mansion. " Alford

 

Govs. Jindal, Pinchback
Gov. Bobby Jindal last week became both the nation's first elected Indian-American governor and the first elected nonwhite governor of Louisiana. P.B.S. Pinchback, the state's first and only African-American governor, was not elected to Louisiana's highest office and served only briefly during the Reconstruction Era, says Tulane University historian Dr. Lawrence Powell. Like Jindal, however, Pinchback ascended to office at a time of racial transformation and public frustration with government misconduct. 'Pinchback came in via the impeachment of Gov. Henry Warmoth," Powell said. The year was 1873. Pinchback was lieutenant governor. Warmoth, mired in corruption scandals, resigned. Pinchback then became acting governor, serving 62 days in the state's highest office. Pinchback, who also founded historically black Southern University at Baton Rouge, did not challenge the segregationist policies of his day unlike many in the predominantly pro-integration 'Afro-Creole" population of New Orleans. 'He was ardently disliked by Afro-Creoles who were much more principled than he was about fundamental issues of equality and open access to public spaces," Powell said. Last week " 135 years later " the inauguration of Jindal, a Republican conservative, was applauded as progress for self-described 'persons of color," such as state Sen. Karen Carter, D-New Orleans. " Johnson

 

Uncommitteds' Preparing for Tuesday Caucuses
While all of Louisiana's delegates to the Republican National Convention are, by rule, supposed to be officially uncommitted on the first ballot " unless one of the candidates captures a majority of the vote in the Feb. 9 presidential primary " organizers for the leading GOP candidates are hoping to get 'their" uncommitted slates of state convention delegates elected at the various caucuses scheduled for 5 p.m. Tuesday (Jan. 22) at 11 sites across the state. The delegates chosen on Tuesday will attend a state convention on Feb. 16 " a week after Louisiana's primary. At the state convention, delegates to the national convention will be chosen. At least one group of GOP activists is trying to put together a slate of delegates that is truly not committed to any candidate, perhaps in the hopes that a brokered convention will put Louisiana in the catbird seat. 'I am getting some folks involved who are uncommitted to any candidate but who see a lot of good in most of the candidates," says Ross Little Jr., a Lafayette banker and social conservative who is leading the effort. 'We don't have a candidate. We don't have any money. We're all just volunteers. We favor the Republican platform." When asked to describe his group's agenda, Little remained uncommitted on that point as well, saying, 'I don't think I want to go there." " DuBos

 

Don't Forget the Jailer
Some of the pillars of the local criminal justice system gathered at City Hall earlier this month to point to signs of progress for the New Year, including FBI Special Agent in Charge Jim Bernazzani, Police Chief Warren Riley, interim District Attorney Keva Landrum-Johnson and City Council member James Carter. But after much ado about ending the city's chronic violence and the 'revolving door" for convicted felons at Tulane and Broad, a reporter inquired about the conspicuous absence of the city's jailer, Orleans Parish Criminal Sheriff Marlin Gusman. 'It was an oversight," says businessman Gregory Rusovich, chair of the New Orleans Crime Coalition, the network of 17 area business and civic groups which hosted the press event. Often overlooked in systems that focus more on police strategies for crime control, the potential impact of corrections on violence is becoming a hot topic elsewhere. For example, Seattle attributes a 12 percent drop in major crimes in 2007 to a 'sharper focus" on the monitoring of people released from prison, according to a front-page story published in USA Today on Jan. 8. Gusman last week announced the post-Katrina reopening of a jail facility for a prison education program, the 'Alternative Learning Institute." The program, a joint effort of the sheriff's office and Orleans Parish Public Schools, aims to help pretrial detainees who are between the ages 17 and 21 become more employable by improving their literacy skills. The program also helps participants obtain their General Equivalency Diploma (GED). There are about 40 female detainees and 160 male detainees enrolled in the voluntary program, says Institute principal Bill Delaney. (There were 2,475 people incarcerated in the Orleans Parish Prison system as of Jan. 16). In addition to Gusman, only two other elected officials attended the reopening of the jailhouse schoolhouse: Councilman Carter and School Board member Phyllis Landrieu. " Johnson

 

FBI: N.O. Has 'One Shot'
FBI Special Agent-in-Charge Jim Bernazzani says 2008 will be a 'very important year" for the post-Katrina recovery of New Orleans, which has been dogged by violent crime. 'We've got one shot at it," Bernazzani told Gambit Weekly. He said the District Attorney's Office, under interim DA Keva Landrum-Johnson, has recorded sharp declines in the so-called '701 releases" of jailed offenders (those freed because no charges were brought within 60 days of arrest), which should help restore community confidence in the criminal justice system. Bernazzani praised Mayor Ray Nagin and Police Chief Warren Riley for putting together pay packages to improve NOPD recruiting. The local FBI boss also said New Orleanians can look forward to a new 'strategic" educational, anti-violence program for inner city disadvantaged youth spearheaded by Loyola University Prof. Michael Cowan and retired Loyola president Rev. James Carter. The program will probably begin with a pilot program in Central City. '[Chief] Warren Riley and his talented staff can make arrests until the cows come home, but it does us no good to take [a gunman] off the street when there are 15 people waiting to take his place." The program is modeled after a similar initiative in Boston. " Johnson

 

ULL Head Lands at CABL
Dr. Ray Authement, president of the University of Louisiana at Lafayette (at least until he retires later this year), has landed a posh gig with the Council for a Better Louisiana, albeit a volunteer position. He will serve as chairman of the good-government group this year. As CABL embarks upon its 46th year, Authement says the organization will continue to focus its efforts in the areas of education reform, ethics, improving Louisiana's economy and encouraging sound fiscal policies for state government. 'The 2007 elections were critical to Louisiana's future, and CABL will play a leading role," Authement says. 'Our goal is to have a positive impact at the Capitol, in a nonpartisan way, to help move Louisiana forward." Al Badeaux, one of CABL's regional vice presidents, adds that all of the right elements have come together in time for Gov. Bobby Jindal's special session on ethics, which is scheduled to begin Feb. 10. As usual, CABL is in the thick of the coming ethics proposals. A nonpartisan, nonprofit think-tank, CABL monitors the activities of state government and seeks to influence the process based on priorities approved by its board. Along with other groups of similar scope, such as LA Ethics 1, Blueprint Louisiana and the Public Affairs Research Council, CABL was at the table with Jindal's transition team working on the planks that will make up the new governor's ethics package in the special session. " Alford

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