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Nagin's 100-Day Plan
Mayor Ray Nagin's "game plan" for the first 100 days of his second term should be ready by "halftime," Gambit Weekly has learned. "We will do something at the midway spot, around July 20," says lawyer Rob Couhig, who co-chairs the mayor's 100-Day Initiative Plan with business owner Judith Williams. Couhig says the mayor's plan will list work the Nagin Administration has done during the first 50 days since his second term began June 1, as well as the goals for the next 50 days and the next four years. Nagin's "big focus" now is the criminal justice system, Couhig says. The mayor also is looking "candidly" at reorganizing key posts in his administration. A Republican candidate for mayor against Nagin in the April primary, Couhig helped Nagin win the May 20 runoff and then joined the mayor as an unpaid adviser on issues such as economic development, health care and higher education -- and hizzoner's 100-day plan. Working with Couhig to shake up Nagin's second administration are businessman Mel Lagarde, longtime Nagin friend David White, attorney Kim Boyle, former City Councilman Jim Singleton and Nagin himself. -- Johnson


So Many Crises, So Little Time
Mayor Ray Nagin is not the only one at City Hall with shifting priorities and a changing schedule. After five youths (ages 16 to 19) were shot to death June 17 in a massacre that police say was drug related, the New Orleans City Council called for a "crime summit" within two weeks. "We have to deal with it now," new City Council at-Large member Arnold Fielkow says. "If we don't make people feel safe in their homes, nothing will happen. Let's make this priority No. 1." However, after a wave of power outages, Entergy New Orleans' request for massive rate hikes, a public uproar over the lack of a recovery plan and other crises, the crime summit has been delayed until later this month. The summit is tentatively set for Wednesday, July 19, in the City Council Chamber, says council spokesperson Danae Columbus. -- Johnson

 

Ethical Delays
District A Council member Shelley Midura wants to know what's keeping the city from creating an office of Inspector General and appointing a local ethics board. In 1995, at the urging of then-Mayor Marc Morial, voters approved amendments to the City Charter requiring the City Council to establish a city ethics board and giving the council the option to create an inspector general. So far, voters have gotten neither. A public hearing on establishing a local ethics board is scheduled for 10 a.m. Wednesday (July 12) before the council's Committee on Governmental Affairs. -- Johnson

 

Follow the Money
The state has approximately $150 million earmarked in its annual spending plan for seven hurricane evacuations. Some believe that number is on the high end and that Louisiana will not have to cover the cost of seven different evacuations. If the state has less than seven evacuations, there could be a pot of money left in the budget. Dan Juneau, president of the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry, wonders what might happen to it. "It will be interesting to see exactly how that large appropriation will be spent during the next budget year, and what constitutes 'emergencies' that are addressed with the money," Juneau says. If the money remains unspent, homeowners may grouse because lawmakers rejected a proposal to use the cash to offset increases in the costs of homeowners insurance. -- Alford

 

Can You Hear Me Now?
Although lawmakers balked at some efforts to improve emergency communications during hurricanes, Congress is poised to vote on an amendment that would expedite funding for first responders. U.S. Sen. David Vitter, a Metairie Republican, inserted a committee amendment into the Communications, Consumers' Choice and Broadband Deployment Act that would release $1 billion for "interoperability" funding in September, rather than over the next four years as originally proposed. "We haven't made much progress on interoperability since Sept. 11, 2001, which was made clear again during Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, when we had a complete breakdown in communications in the hardest hit areas," Vitter says. The full Senate is expected to consider the bill later this year. -- Alford

 

Poll: Sportsmen Care About Global Warming
You might not expect hunters and fishermen to be warm and fuzzy on the issue of global warming, but a recent survey by the National Wildlife Federation suggests otherwise. Based on the responses of licensed anglers, 76 percent agree that global warming is occurring and the same percentage claim they have observed changes in climate conditions where they live, such as warmer and shorter winters; hotter summers; earlier spring and less snow. More than half also said they believe these changes are related to global warming. Nationwide, approximately one out of every five voters is a sportsman, according to the NWF. In 2004, they voted 2-to-1 for President George Bush over Sen. John Kerry. They also identify themselves overwhelmingly as moderate to conservative in their political outlook. "We are reaching a tipping point in this country where the vital sportsmen's constituency is adding its voice to those who recognize global warming is occurring, that it poses serious threats and that action must be taken to address it," says Larry Schweiger, President of the National Wildlife Federation. -- Alford

 

Governors Gone Wild?
Gov. Kathleen Blanco, in one of her last acts as chair of the Southern Governors Association, will host the group's annual meeting in storm-battered, tourist-starved New Orleans. Founded in 1934, the group of 17 governors -- nine Republicans and eight Democrats -- will descend on the city Friday (July 14) for a three-day conference. The governors hail from as far south as Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands and as far north as West Virginia. Their agenda includes sessions on improving emergency preparedness, high school dropout prevention and developing secure regional medical records systems. The governors also plan "an evening of fine New Orleans dining and entertainment." Blanco is urging her fellow governors to roll up their sleeves and volunteer a little time with Habitat for Humanity, which is building homes for New Orleans musicians in the Musicians Village. The conference closes with Blanco passing the gavel to Gov. Haley Barbour of Mississippi. -- Johnson

 

Psychiatric Care Still Sub-par
The state is hiring crisis-intervention counselors and opening more psychiatric beds in the New Orleans area, but not nearly enough to address the city's post-Katrina mental health-care crisis, Bob Johannessen, a spokesperson for the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals (DHH), acknowledges. The counselors should begin appearing in local hospital emergency rooms in August. "The rollout has been delayed by a staff shortage, quite frankly," Johannessen says. DHH also is proceeding with plans to open 20 adult psychiatric beds at New Orleans Adolescent Hospital (NOAH) Uptown, one of the few state-owned facilities to escape flood damage. NOAH already has opened 15 psychiatric beds for juveniles. However, the state has made no progress toward opening a crisis intervention unit for monitoring the mentally ill, a longstanding request of local mental health advocates and New Orleans police. Cops nowadays encounter increasingly combative mental patients on city streets, according to the Orleans Parish Coroner's office. Before Katrina hammered the city last Aug. 29, there were a total of 460 psychiatric beds at public and private facilities in Orleans Parish, Johannessen says. "Today, they are only 87." And, the DHH spokesperson notes, mental health care in New Orleans was "inadequate" before Katrina. -- Johnson

 

Eye on Ieyoub
Former state Attorney General Richard Ieyoub faces plenty of challenges as Mayor Ray Nagin's new unpaid advisor on the city's troubled criminal justice system -- despite his years of experience as a prosecutor. "He has a long learning curve," Rafael Goyeneche, president of the private Metropolitan Crime Commission, says of Ieyoub. "By the time he learns the politics alone, Rome will be burning." A former district attorney from Lake Charles who served three terms as state AG, Ieyoub has little experience with local politics, the Kremlin-style intrigues of the NOPD and the finger pointing that characterizes a criminal justice system dominated by elected officials with big egos. Ieyoub also will have little power as Nagin's commissioner of the Mayor's Criminal Justice Coordinating Council. The grant-dispensing council and its commissioner were created in 1992 as a vehicle for then-Mayor Marc Morial to organize the disparate functions of the criminal justice system. However, Morial turned the commissioner's post into a political sinecure -- and Nagin did little with the council until he appointed Ieyoub June 26. At his first meeting, sources say, Ieyoub asked all stakeholders in the system -- from judges to community service providers -- to give him a list of "needs" by the council's next meeting. Ieyoub then met with reporters, vowing to give his new office his "total focus." -- Johnson

 

Early State Retirement
Louisiana will begin offering state workers an early retirement option next year in hopes that payroll costs, and the annual budget, will deflate accordingly. In the wake of last fall's hurricanes, hordes of state workers either lost the buildings where they once worked or lost everything else. Many have left the state or are suffering from various ailments, says Rep. Warren Triche, the Chackbay Democrat who sponsored an early retirement bill in the recent legislative session. Gov. Kathleen Blanco signed Triche's bill into law last week. The state's program will offer early retirement to members of the Louisiana State Employees' Retirement System who are at least 50 years old with 10 years of service. If an employee decides to take advantage of the program, he or she will receive a retirement benefit of up to 2 percent of their average compensation multiplied by the number of years of creditable service. Only one-third of the vacancies created by the program will be refilled, Triche says, unless the commissioner of administration and the secretary of state Civil Service decide to retain the position. The program would run from Jan. 1, 2007, through Dec. 31, 2008, and save approximately $4 million a year. -- Alford

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