An all-volunteer task force appointed to advise Mayor Ray Nagin on how to improve public safety in New Orleans says it's time to ask the criminals for some tips.
The transition team report recommends that, within the first 18 months of the Nagin administration, "The City of New Orleans, in collaboration with area universities, should conduct a survey of incarcerated inmates and un-incarcerated offenders to determine: Why certain targets are selected for major crimes; attitudes on use of violence to complete crimes; how weapons are obtained; (and) attitudes on drug treatment."
In addition, the panel recommends polling offenders on what security measures provide the most effective deterrents to crime and what "criminal justice sanctions" thwart criminals.
"Research has shown that many perpetrators of crimes are quite skilled at their trade and develop over time a great deal of information useful to law-abiding citizens in planning security countermeasures," according to the Nagin report.
The mayor's public safety task force is co-chaired by public relations consultant Sandra Gunner, along with Walter Becker, former chief of the criminal division of the local United States Attorney's office. Public discussion was led by Randy Evans, a local attorney and president of Forum for Equality. The final report is available on the Web site www.nagintransition.com/reports/.
Evaluating Civil Service
The Bureau of Governmental Research (BGR) has launched a year-long study of the city civil service system, which various mayors have blamed -- rightly or wrongly -- for "deadheads" and other inefficiencies of city government.
BGR president Janet Howard says veteran researcher Patricia Morris will lead the study of the civil service system, which issues pay plans and disciplinary appeals for more 5,000 classified city workers. "We will have a symposium on civil service issues in the fall," Howard says.
"Our doors are open," says civil service director J. Michael Doyle. "We have had one of the (BGR) research assistants in here for the last couple of weeks." Responding to general criticisms of civil service echoed most recently by former Mayor Marc Morial's administration, Doyle counters: "The appointing authorities are in charge of the departments, not civil service. And the appointing authorities do the employee evaluations every year, not civil service."
State Rep. Peppi Bruneau (R-New Orleans) will be skewered, roasted and served as main course at a benefit for Delgado Community College on Friday, May 31, in the Pontchartrain Room of the Student Life Center on the Delgado City Park campus. A patron party begins at 7 p.m., with a 7:30 p.m. reception and 8 p.m. dinner following.
Rosters include Senate President John Hainkel, House Speaker Charles DeWitt, Sen. Lambert Boissiere, Jefferson Parish Councilman Edmond Muniz and others. Gambit Weekly contributor Ronnie Virgets will emcee. Bruneau, who is noted for his sharp tongue during legislative debates, has reserved the right of reply. The Lakeview lawmaker, who also serves as Speaker Pro Tem of the House, has been a frequent champion of Delgado in the Legislature.
Tickets start at $150 for individuals and $250 for couples. For more information, call 483-4118.
The newly elected board of directors of the Press Club of New Orleans will be sworn in at 7 p.m. Saturday (June 1) during the 44th annual journalism awards competition and banquet at Astor Crowne Plaza Hotel, at the corner of Canal and Bourbon streets.
Hoda Kotbe, a national correspondent for NBC News and former anchor for WWL-TV, will give the keynote address. Lifetime Achievement awards will be presented to writer, radio personality and Gambit Weekly contributor Ronnie Virgets, and Jack Wardlaw, retired capitol bureau chief of The Times-Picayune.
Belinda Hernandez, assignment editor at WDSU-TV, will be sworn in to her second consecutive one-year term as president of the Press Club. Tickets are $45. Call 523-1010 or visit www.pressclub.org.
Rouselle's Twists and Turns
"Life has its many twists and turns," says veteran political consultant Bill Rouselle, who also owns and operates the Bright Moments public relations firm. Currently working on attorney James Gray III's bid for district attorney of New Orleans, Rouselle recently managed the May 4 campaign of newly elected state Rep. Rosalind Peychaud, an employee of Rouselle's firm in the early 1990s.
Peychaud won the state House District 91 seat in the May 4 special election by defeating Jalila Jefferson, daughter of U.S. Rep. Bill Jefferson (D-New Orleans). Jefferson outspent Peychaud five to one, says Rouselle.
Previously, Bill Jefferson twice retained Rouselle to help with his own campaigns. In 1982, Jefferson lost a run-off election for mayor to incumbent Mayor Dutch Morial. And in 1990, Rouselle worked as a media consultant in the congressional incumbent's narrow election victory over Marc Morial. "It was a battle of titans," Rouselle recalls.
In 1994, Rouselle campaigned for Oliver Thomas, who defeated Jefferson protégé Renee Gill-Pratt for the District B City Council seat.
Pratt later won the House District 91 seat, which she vacated in February after winning the District B council seat in a landslide election over another opponent. Peychaud then won Pratt's old House seat.
Meanwhile, Rouselle doubts former Mayor Marc Morial will seek a re-match with Jefferson in the fall congressional elections. "Marc is the only one who can really challenge Jefferson because he (Morial) certainly has the name recognition and financial resources," Rouselle says. "But I don't think Marc will do it. That's my gut."