"You can't put your ego ahead of the good of the city — and we haven't had a leader like that in a long time." — Former mayor Sidney Barthelemy to Gambit, Aug. 24.
Murder by the Numbers
On Aug. 27, New Orleans Police Superintendent Warren Riley dismissed as "ridiculous" a wire service story listing New Orleans' per capita homicide rate as the third-highest in the world. "That report is absolutely incorrect," said Riley, referring to a report by Agence-France Presse (AFP) and based on findings from a nongovernmental watchdog group in Mexico. It listed the drug war-torn border city of Ciudad Juarez as the world's deadliest city with 130 murders per 100,000 residents in 2008. Caracas, Venezuela was second (96 per 100,000) and New Orleans, third, (95 per 100,000). Riley argues the city's 179 murders for 2008 was no higher than 57.5 per 100,000 people, based on a conservative post-Katrina population estimate of 311,000 published by a local nonprofit data center.
Assuming Riley is correct, New Orleans would still have the highest murder rate in the U.S. Baltimore was second with 45 murders per 100,000; Baghad was 10th on the AFP list with 40 murders per 100,000. Using Mayor Ray Nagin's estimate of 367,000 residents in 2009, Riley says the 132 murders as of Aug. 27 puts the murder rate so far this year at 35.9 per 100,000. "(Locals) say we beat ourselves up too much with bad news, but this (report) is an international story and New Orleans is a world tourist destination," said Rafael Goyeneche, president of the private Metropolitan Crime Commission. Both Goyeneche and Riley expressed guarded optimism that a state jury's conviction last week of Michael Anderson for the 2006 murders of five other teenagers could signal increased public confidence in the beleaguered criminal justice system. — Allen Johnson Jr.
This past Saturday marked four years since Hurricane Katrina, and since 2006, the anniversary has been celebrated, scorned and ignored. Last week saw two events of significance on the ground in New Orleans: the grand opening of the Langston Hughes Elementary School on Trafalgar Street, the first of the Recovery School District's "Quick Start" schools, and the groundbreaking for the new Lafitte Housing Development, where 1,500 homes and apartments will be built as part of a planned community. Both are joint projects between the state and federal government, and the timing of each — four years after there was an immediate need for them — offers a variety of contexts.
While attending the school's opening, Gov. Bobby Jindal remarked it's great to see signs of recovery. He added that it's going take a lot more work before Louisiana can truly get past Katrina's legacy. Meanwhile, we can continue to shake off the three other major hurricanes that have knocked on our door since Katrina. "This sort of spirit and attitude is embodied in many parts of our state as we have continued to recover from four storms in three years," Jindal says, "but there is no doubt that we need to see more of this teamwork at all levels of government as we continue to rebuild and recover from the effects of four hurricanes." — Jeremy Alford
Jindal Gambles — Again
If you're a Republican running for office in a conservative district in south Louisiana, you couldn't ask for a more enthusiastic cheerleader than Gov. Bobby Jindal. Just ask former Lafourche Parish Councilman Brent Callais, R-Cut Off, who garnered Jindal's blessing in Aug. 29's special election in Senate District 20 (conducted just after Gambit went to press). A mailer that swamped the district last week saw the governor calling Callais a "proven leader," and Jindal appeared at a Callais campaign fundraiser as well. "We're expecting to raise about $100,000 from the event," Callais said prior to the fundraiser. The candidate also had the support of the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry and enjoyed high marks from the Louisiana Family Forum and National Rifle Association. His opponent was former political consultant and landman Norby Chabert, D-Houma, the son of the late state Sen. Leonard Chabert and brother of former state Sen. Marty Chabert.
For Jindal, the race presented an opportunity to save face. Earlier this year, the governor got involved in another state Senate race in which his anointed candidate was handily defeated — something that wasn't lost on political pundits. In that contest, Jindal even recorded a series of phone calls that blanketed Baton Rouge's Senate District 16, but it did little to help the chances of local businessman Lee Domingue, who managed to carry only a dozen precincts in his loss to fellow Republican and Baton Rouge attorney Dan Claitor. — Alford
New Boat Title Law
The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF) started accepting applications for boat titles last week. It's a new service for anyone wishing to get his or her hands on official proof of ownership of any vessel that's not already documented by the U.S. Coast Guard. While it sounds voluntary, a few boat owners have no choice but to submit an application. For instance, anyone who is required to register a new or previously owned boat valued at $2,500 or more that will be financed through a lending institution must obtain a title. Titling a vessel through the new process, however, is optional for people who already own their boat outright or have already paid off a related loan. Additionally, if you've already registered your boat with the state prior to last week under the old process, there's no need to do it again. The certificate of title costs $26 and can be obtained by mailing an application form or applying in person at the LDWF office in Baton Rouge. An application form is also available at www.wlf.louisiana.gov/boating/registration. Call (225) 765-2898 for more information. — Alford