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First in Line
Absentee balloting for the Nov. 5 elections begins statewide Thursday, Oct. 24. But before absentee balloting begins, people with disabilities will cast the first local votes for the United States Senate and the House. Orleans Parish Registrar of Voters Louis Keller Sr. says voting officials will fan out across the city Monday through Wednesday, Oct. 21-23, to record the votes of some 70 people with permanent physical disabilities who are both unable to make it to the polls and cannot vote absentee in person at his office. Keller says those voters are registered with his office's "special handicapped program," which was established by his predecessor during the late 1970s.

Keller says he also is encouraging more than 300 registered voters age 100 or older to avoid standing in line on Election Day by voting absentee in person at his first-floor City Hall office or at the Algiers courthouse, 225 Morgan St. Most of these individuals are frequent voters, Keller says.

To learn how to qualify for the disabled voter program, write to Louis Keller Sr., Orleans Parish Registrar of Voters, City Hall Room 1W23, New Orleans, LA, 70112. The program is open to any physically disabled voter over the age of 18. A certificate from a doctor is required.

Firing Felons
Even as suspended state Insurance Commissioner Jim Brown began serving a six-month federal prison term last week, a constitutional amendment on the Nov. 5 ballot to remove convicted felons from public payrolls has somehow managed to escape the public spotlight.

Amendment No. 4 would require the termination of all state and local employees convicted of a felony during employment after all appeals have been exhausted. Current law allows for the immediate suspension of most elected officials and unclassified employees but leaves the ouster of convicted classified workers up to agency supervisors and state and local civil service systems.

State Sen. John Hainkel, R-New Orleans, filed the proposed amendment after the Louisiana Supreme Court last year ruled that that the Legislature violated the separation of powers principle by passing a fire-the-felon law that usurped the executive branch authority of state Civil Service. In the same ruling, the High Court upheld the removal of unclassified workers convicted of a felon because they do not enjoy "protective status" under state law, according to the Public Affairs Research Council.

Raphael Goyeneche, president of the private Metropolitan Crime Commission says the MCC would take no public position on Amendment No. 4, but he personally favors the measure. "It's only fair that if public officials can be removed from office under state law, then the same should apply to public employees," Goyeneche says. Other proponents argue that government should require higher codes of conduct for employees.

If approved, however, Amendment 4 "will probably open up the state to expensive, protracted litigation under the equal protection clause," says PAR president Jim Brandt.

Joe Cook, executive director of the Louisiana chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, opposes Amendment 4. He says the legislature has not demonstrated that there is a "rampant" problem of convicted felons working in government. "Our position is there could be some serious due process questions regarding this amendment," Cook says. "This appears to be a case of the Legislature passing a law in search of a problem to address."

New Orleans Civil Service Director J. Michael Doyle says he takes no position on the amendment, but adds: "If the fear is that there is no management oversight of employees, then maybe this is essential. But in 99 out of 100 cases where you have sound management, a person who is convicted of a felony is going to be terminated. This amendment limits management's discretion in disciplinary cases."

Brawl in St. Bernard
U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu this week is scheduled to go to St. Bernard Parish to face at least half of the eight challengers who are trying to unseat her in the Nov. 5 elections. Landrieu will defend her record against three Republicans -- U.S. Rep. John Cooksey, state Rep. Tony Perkins and state elections commissioner Suzanne Haik Terrell -- and fellow Democrat Rev. Raymond Brown beginning at 8 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 23, at the parish Council Chambers, 8201 W. Judge Perez Drive, Chalmette. The forum is co-sponsored by four area chapters of the Alliance for Good Government. The other four candidates on the Nov. 5 ballot are Republican Ernest Skillman Jr., Libertarian Gary D. Robbins, and two independents: Patrick "Live Wire" Landry and James Lemann.

Last week, the Alliance endorsed the re-election of Republican incumbents David Vitter and Billy Tauzin, of the first and third congressional districts, respectively. But the group backed state public service commissioner Irma Muse Dixon in her bid to upset 12-year veteran incumbent U.S. Rep. William Jefferson. Both are Democrats.

Gridiron Threepeat
Twice postponed by advancing hurricanes, the Press Club of New Orleans has again re-scheduled its 41st annual gridiron show to 9 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 16, at Carlone's Dinner Theatre. The local media will lampoon the "reform" administration of Mayor Ray Nagin. Proceeds go the club's scholarship fund. For tickets call 523-1010.

Coming Clean
Mayor Ray Nagin and local business leaders will meet at the headquarters of a peppermint mouthwash/antiseptic manufacturer in an attempt to clean up the image of the New Orleans Business & Industrial District (NOBID). Nagin and officials from the New Orleans Regional Chamber of Commerce, MetroVision and the district will unveil plans to stimulate businesses in eastern New Orleans. "The Summit on the Future of the New! Orleans Business & Industrial District" begins at 9 a.m. Thursday, Oct. 24, at the Dr. G.H. Tichenor Antiseptic Co.

Promoters concede the eastern New Orleans district is notorious for its illegal dumping problems. However, Nagin and others want to refocus public attention on the fact that the district is the home of 87 businesses, including the NASA/Michoud Assembly Plant. When NOBID was originally created 20 years ago as the Almonaster-Michoud Industrial District, local urban planner Dr. Anthony Mumphrey envisioned 50,000 jobs in the district by the year 2000. The district currently employs more than 12,000 people, the majority of whom live outside of Orleans Parish. During the last two years, 10 businesses have moved to the district, which offers special tax exemptions to those who qualify.

Atkins-Jordan Debates Scheduled

Dale Atkins and Eddie Jordan, the two run-off candidates for Orleans Parish District Attorney in the Nov. 5 elections, will debate at 8 p.m. Monday, Oct. 21, in Room 110 of the Tulane Law School, 6329 Freret St. Pamela Metzger, director of Tulane's Criminal Law Clinic, will moderate the forum, which is co-sponsored by the Black Law Students Association and the Criminal Law Society. The event is free and open to the public.

The candidates face off again in a one-hour public television debate beginning at 9 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 23, on WLAE-TV (Channel 32). The Oct. 23 forum is under-written by the McGlinchey-Stafford law firm.


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