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For weeks, C.B. Forgotston had been trying to get the media and City Hall to address an undercharge he spotted on local water bills. Mayor Ray Nagin's administration acted first. As a result, after three months of undercharging customers for state taxes on water, the Sewerage & Water Board voted to pay for its $87,000 mistake rather than penalize customers.

"The board decided the board would pay the $87,000; they are taking it out of the general fund," says SWB spokesperson Joe Puglia.

Even though Forgotston had sent prodding emails to The Times-Picayune on the issue, the paper failed to identify him by name as the person responsible for sounding the alarm, referring to him only as "a resident" of Orleans Parish. Forgotston, who is generally unsparing in his criticisms of media and government miscues and neglect, downplayed his personal role in the matter, preferring to accent the positive outcome of his civic endeavor.

"I'm pleased to see the Sewerage and Water Board take full responsibility for its error," he says. "It's rare for a government agency in Louisiana, much less one in New Orleans to do so. It's further evidence that under the Nagin Administration, it is no longer business as usual in New Orleans."

  On the Way to the Forums

Mayor Ray Nagin kicked off the first of seven monthly town hall meetings at the Treme Community Center over the weekend. Meanwhile, a group of activists and faith-based organizations scheduled an alternative forum at a church in Central City.

Nagin's next Community Actions Forums will be held in six remaining neighborhoods targeted for improvement in the mayor's housing plan: Algiers, Central City, Gert Town, the Lower Ninth Ward, the Bienville Corridor in Mid-City, and the Seventh Ward. All executive staff is required to attend, including Police Chief Eddie Compass, acting CAO Charles Rice and economic development chief Beth James. The public is invited to step up to a microphone and ask questions of the mayor and his staff, a change from a much-criticized public forum on crime last month, during which questions were required in writing.

As the mayor's team convened in Treme, an ecumenical "Day of Healing, Peace and Solutions" was set up at Peck United Methodist Church (3631 Washington Ave.) to address violence in inner-city neighborhoods. "The immediate solution has to be found in the church and in the community," says minister Randy Mitchell, one of several speakers who has lost family members to violence. "Government can be a part of the solution, but they must meet the people where they are. ... [T]hey have to hear that anger and not turn it into reactionary anger back onto the people," Mitchell adds, referring to police sweeps initiated in response to the violence. Other speakers included poet Kalamu ya Salaam, former kickboxer Al Mims, community activist Albert "Chui" Clark, housing activist Yvonne Marrero and Donna Johnigan of Moms Against Violence.

  Ron Ridenhour Awards

The Nation Institute in New York and the New Orleans-based Fertel Foundation are seeking candidates for two new prizes honoring courageous activists, journalists and whistle-blowers. The awards honor the memory of Ron Ridenhour, a Vietnam War veteran who exposed the My Lai massacre and an investigative journalist whose works appeared in Gambit, among other publications.

The inaugural Ron Ridenhour Prize for Truth-Telling, a $10,000 award, will recognize a courageous act that occurred between Jan. 1, 2002, and May 31, 2002, according to Taya Grobow, executive director of the Nation Institute, which is affiliated with The Nation magazine. Judges are also seeking nominations for the Ron Ridenhour Book Prize, a $10,000 award for an English-language book published in 2002 that promotes social justice and protects the public interest. Deadline for nominations is June 16.

The awards will be presented at a luncheon of the National Press Club in Washington this fall. For more information, visit www.ridenhour.org or email ridenhour@nationinstitute.org.

  Honoring Bob and Jan -- and Buddy

New Orleans media icons Bob and Jan Carr and sports journalist Buddy Diliberto will receive Lifetime Achievement awards at the 45th annual Press Club of New Orleans awards ceremonies beginning at 6 p.m. Saturday, May 31, at the Astor Crowne Plaza Hotel. Awards will be presented in more than 45 categories to local news media and public relations professionals. Scholarships also will be presented to local communications students, including an inaugural $1,000 scholarship honoring the memory of the late television photographer John "Fritz" Fritzinger. Susan Roesgen, an evening anchor on WWNO-FM and former anchor at WDSU-TV, will deliver the keynote address.

The Carrs, who host a weekly radio program on WGSO-AM and serve as executive editors of Prime Magazine, got started in television broadcasting in the early 1950s as a husband-and-wife team in Wheeling, W.Va. Their New Orleans career started in the 1960s at WWL-AM. They moved to WDSU, where they hosted Second Cup and appeared on the Midday show. Buddy "Buddy D" Diliberto began his career as a sports reporter with The Times-Picayune while attending Loyola University in 1950. He moved to television in 1966, working first as sports director for WVUE-TV, then from 1980 to 1990 as sports director/anchor for WDSU. Buddy began working for WWL-AM in 1991 and has hosted the city's top-rated sports radio talk show since 1992.

Tickets to the event are $45; for more information, call the Press Club at 523-1010.

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