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Flood Summit
No-Shows For all the grandstanding that some politicians have done on the issue of flood control, several high-profile elected officials are going to be no-shows at a crucial flood control summit this Monday (Nov. 26) in New Orleans. The Southeast Louisiana Flood Authority-East, the new regional levee board created in 2006, is hosting the summit. Authority president Tim Doody of St. Bernard and member John Barry of New Orleans conceived the idea of a conclave on flood control issues to get local and statewide officials on the same page before Gov.-elect Bobby Jindal and the state Legislature spend (or squander) more than $1 billion in state surplus revenues. That surplus, which may approach $2 billion by summer, could go a long way toward paying the state's share of coastal restoration and flood control projects, but only if the governor, local leaders, both U.S. senators and others are marching lock-step in the same direction. 'We need to identify existing and potential obstacles to achieving a 100-year level of hurricane protection by 2011, as promised, and to begin a discussion of the solutions," says Doody. Among the no-shows at the conclave (scheduled for 9 a.m. Monday at Ralph's On the Park in New Orleans) are Jindal, U.S. Sens. David Vitter and Mary Landrieu (Landrieu initially promised to attend; Vitter reportedly declined when he learned it might attract the media) and Mayor Ray Nagin. Among those who will attend are Congressman Charles Melancon, D-Napoleonville; New Orleans at-large Councilmembers Arnie Fielkow and Jackie Clarkson; state Treasurer John Kennedy; state Transportation and Development Secretary Johnny Bradberry; Sidney Coffee, chair of the state Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority (CPRA); state Natural Resources Secretary Scott Angelle; Jefferson Parish President Aaron Broussard; Plaquemines Parish President Billy Nungesser; new St. Bernard Parish President Craig Taffaro Jr. ; state Rep. Jim Tucker of Algiers, the apparent new House speaker; several high-ranking officers of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers; and a host of new and re-elected state lawmakers. " DuBos


Murder Rate Overshadows Riley's Anniversary
Police Chief Warren Riley was expected to mark his second year as superintendent the day after Thanksgiving, but he is accustomed to a lack of anniversary fanfare. Nagin appointed Riley as the city's top cop on Nov. 24, 2005 " during the first Thanksgiving holiday after Hurricane Katrina. Riley 'celebrated" the milestone last week by announcing an update of a 'community policing" strategy he unveiled in July. Meanwhile, the city's alarming homicide rate continued to haunt the chief and his top brass, which is still headquartered in FEMA trailers more than two years after the storm. As of Nov. 20, the city's chief coroner's investigator, John Gagliano, reported 199 homicides so far this year. That's an alarming number for a city with a population of only 288,000. New Orleans saw 255 homicides in all of 2004, but back then the city's population was roughly 465,000. " Johnson


Bye-Bye, State Police
Those 60 Louisiana State Police troopers that Gov. Kathleen Blanco first deployed in June 2006 to help New Orleans cops cope with a rising crime rate will be gone by the end of the year. 'We do have an exit strategy," said State Police Public Affairs Commander Lt. Lawrence McLeary, chief spokesperson for State Police Superintendent Stanley Griffin. 'We have already [withdrawn] 10 of the 60 officers. The remaining 50 will be phased out in an orderly fashion." McLeary declined to give a timetable for the drawdown. However, one local source, who asked not to be named, says the blue-uniformed troopers will be replaced by Louisiana National Guard patrols, which will supplement the 300 Guard troops that Blanco also deployed last year. Gov.-elect Bobby Jindal, who takes office Jan. 14, has said the state will continue to help protect New Orleans. Meanwhile, local fans of the state troopers should not despair. Another detachment of troopers will be deployed to New Orleans roughly 10 days before Mardi Gras (Feb. 5) to help NOPD handle Carnival crowds. The Carnival troopers won't be the same as those who will soon be relieved, says McLeary. State troopers have distinguished themselves among the many law enforcement agencies assisting NOPD since Katrina by meticulously ticketing bad drivers. One pair of troopers captured two armed robbers following a high-speed chase and crash last year. They booked the fleeing felons with a raft of major felonies " and for driving without seat belts. " Johnson


House Re-orientation
The Louisiana House has at least 60 new members, thanks mostly to term limits. It's a historic number, says House Clerk Butch Speer, and staffers have been preparing for the turnover for the past four years. Another large freshman class (though not this large) was ushered in during the early 1980s, but they were basically 'thrown into the deep end and told to swim," Speer says. Freshmen who won in the primary started their training in October, meeting with senior staff and learning the legislative process. The rest of the bunch will gather Dec. 9-12 in Baton Rouge to get their orientation process underway. 'Just getting that many people to sit down during a session and take care of the mundane things, like what the buttons on their desk do, is daunting enough," Speer adds. 'They don't have senior members like Charlie DeWitt and John Alario to show them how things work anymore. They'll be looking over their shoulders to see what to do, but they'll probably be looking at another freshman." As a way to ease the process, Speer says House staffers are compiling DVDs and online videos of the orientation sessions so new members elected once the coming term starts will have something to rely on. 'This is just a huge task," he adds. 'It's consuming the entire staff." " Alford


Understated Indictment
Local U.S. Attorney Jim Letten's office recently announced the indictment of New Orleans 'police officer" Daryl R. Odom as the result of a workmen's compensation fraud probe. In fact, Odom is a former police sergeant who had more than 15 years of experience on the NOPD, including at least six years as a ranking supervisor. He resigned Feb. 3. The feds allege that is the same day Odom illegally used the United States mail to carry out a scheme to defraud the city of four months of worker's compensation benefits totaling $10,324. Odom allegedly filled out worker's comp forms for each month, stating he was 'not self-employed or involved in any business enterprise," the indictment states. In fact, the indictment continues, Odom was employed as a contractor, 'repairing and directing the repair of hurricane-damaged" homes during that same period. The feds' probe of Odom was based on an investigative complaint brought last year by Anthony Radosti, vice president of the private Metropolitan Crime Commission, who also is a retired NOPD detective. " Johnson


Online Tax Sale
Mayor Ray Nagin and other techies are eagerly anticipating the city's first online tax sale this week. An estimated 2,500 properties in Orleans Parish, covering adjudicated tax delinquencies from 2003 to 2005, will be sold to the public for the amount of the overdue taxes, plus penalties and interest. Owners of the properties auctioned off will still have three years to redeem their properties, but that redemption period will be shortened to 18 months if a property is abandoned or blighted. The sale is not an auction. Properties will be sold on a first-come basis, from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., Monday through Wednesday (Nov. 26-28). Properties can be viewed and purchased online at Interested persons who do not have access to the Internet can use computers at Civil District Court, 421 Loyola Ave. 'This is really an exciting thing," says a lawyer close to the process. 'The computerization of City Hall is really the legacy of the Nagin Administration." As the Thanksgiving holiday approached, there was no word on how much the city stood to gain from the sale or how the proceeds would be spent. The sale is being facilitated by Strategic Alliance Partners, a local firm that won a contract formerly held by Heard Linebarger of Texas, which had the contract during ex-Mayor Marc Morial's administration. " Johnson


'Blind Eye' to Rudy?
Republican presidential contender Rudy Giuliani is pro-choice, pro-gay rights and pro-gun control, which is why so many people scratched their heads in wonder when bedrock conservatives like U.S. Sen. David Vitter and Congressman Charles Boustany endorsed the former New York City mayor. Will the state's GOP base stand behind Vitter and Boustany as the presidential primary draws near? Already there are signs that the Christian Right is turning up the heat against Giuliani. Most recently, the former vice president of the Southern Baptist Convention, which has 15 million members nationwide, called for a boycott of CBN and The 700 Club after Pat Robertson endorsed Giuliani. Additionally, Campaign for Children and Families, a leading West Coast pro-family organization, is condemning the 'selling out of family values" by Christian Right leaders who endorse Giuliani. 'Pat Robertson is casting a blind eye to Rudy Giuliani's big-time advocacy of the transsexual, bisexual and homosexual agenda " an intolerant agenda that harms children, religious freedom, parental rights, the institution of marriage and the Boy Scouts," says CCF President Randy Thomasson. " Alford


Melancon Flanks
Right U.S. Rep. Charlie Melancon is indeed a Blue Dog Democrat. The Napoleonville congressman tows the conservative line on social issues, much to the delight of his constituency, but some of his friends on the Hill (like House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of San Francisco) have prompted his opponents in past campaigns to tag him as liberal. The label never stuck back home, but Melancon's latest policy move makes it clear he's taking no chances. He has filed legislation that offers 'common sense measures" to address the nation's continuing challenges with illegal immigration. The Secure America through Verification and Enforcement Act, also known as SAVE, is a three-part plan to drastically reduce illegal immigration through stricter border security, employer verification and interior enforcement. 'Illegal immigration is a threat to our communities and a burden on our local governments," says Melancon. 'We must do something to solve this problem." Melancon says it is estimated that more than 12 million people are in the U.S. illegally, and thousands more are coming in every week. 'Americans are demanding a solution," he adds. Specifically, the SAVE Act would add 8,000 new patrol agents to the nation's borders, require employers to verify legal status and further enforce existing laws that the congressman says lack real bite. " Alford


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