Having just finished recapping 2011, what else to do but handicap 2012? Herewith a look ahead at the headlines we're likely to be discussing in the next 12 months.
Federal Corruption Investigations — This should be the year that somebody connected to the River Birch landfill is indicted ... or not. By that I mean if there's going to be an indictment at all, it should come before the end of 2012. As a run-up to that, look for some action in the Aaron Broussard case — most likely a plea deal for the former Jefferson Parish president's ex-wife. Maybe one for former parish attorney Tom Wilkinson as well. I hear rumblings about a possible investigation into St. Bernard Parish big shots — alleged funny dealings with BP and possibly the Meraux Foundation. Also begging for attention are the Jefferson Parish Performing Arts Center and NOPD.
Speaking of NOPD — If the federal consent decree to reform the department is going to get done via negotiations, it should happen in the first half of 2012. It will be interesting to see what Mayor Mitch Landrieu can negotiate in terms of maintaining some measure of control (he likes control) over the cop shop.
Mayor Mitch Landrieu, Year 3 — This is the year the mayor needs to make a dent in the murder rate, or else he will be looking at potential challengers for re-election in early 2014. Next year (2013) will see a slow but steady build-up to the February 2014 citywide elections, so the time to establish his political invincibility (to the extent he can do it) will be this year and the first half of 2013.
Elections — First up will be the contest for Arnie Fielkow's old at-large seat on the New Orleans City Council, along with a judicial race for Civil District Court. In the fall, look for a nasty congressional showdown between Republican U.S. Reps. Charles Boustany and Jeff Landry in the 3rd District. Meanwhile, the presidential race won't mean much here. Fill in the name of the GOP nominee and that's who'll carry Louisiana on Nov. 6, probably with 60 percent or more of the vote.
Bobby Watch — Gov. Talking Points has lots of public support for his education reforms; now all he has to do is figure out which reforms he wants to implement. He has been meeting with lawmakers to gauge support for what promises to be the biggest fight of the annual legislative session. Meanwhile, his name continues to be tossed around as a rising star in national GOP circles, which tells us two things: (1) He still can't wait to get outta here; and (2) the GOP has a really, really weak bench.
Suburban Politics — There's been a changing of the guard in the 'burbs. John Young continues to put his stamp on Jefferson Parish government, although he will continue to get pushback (some of it public, most of it private) from his old foes on the council. In St. Bernard, new Sheriff Jimmy Pohlmann is closely tied to former Sheriff Jack Stephens, but other new faces in parish government represent significant breaks from the past. It will be interesting to see who emerges as the dominant player in St. Bernard, particularly if the feds swoop in. Meanwhile, Plaquemines has a new sheriff (Lonnie Greco) and St. Tammany has a new parish president (Pat Brister) who could reshape the politics of their respective parishes. At a minimum, we'll see some big changes in political style.
As always, this should be a year to remember.