Donald E. Powell, President Bush's Gulf Coast rebuilding czar, has quietly begun assessing one of the more complex challenges of his mission: reconstituting New Orleans' troubled criminal justice system. Sources say that in recent meetings with Powell or his staff, high-level federal, state and local law enforcement officials have portrayed Orleans Parish District Attorney Eddie Jordan's much-maligned office as the main obstacle to reform. Others disagree. "Eddie's got his problems," one insider told Gambit Weekly, "but most of the problems are systemic. Focusing on Jordan's office alone is not going to fix this system." For example, the source said, NOPD lost its crime lab during Katrina. A March 20 proposal by Mayor Ray Nagin's Bring New Orleans Back Commission for a "state-of-the-art regional crime laboratory" has foundered because of a lack of political support from neighboring parishes, sources say. Powell's mission? Build consensus among officials for a safer region. -- Johnson
"Dr. Phil" Holding Former Chief's Badge
An afternoon television show is now the talk of local police circles. In a recent interview with TV psychologist "Dr. Phil," New Orleans Police Chief Eddie Compass suddenly gave the talk show host his superintendent's badge. "It's too much for me," Compass told Dr. Phil (Phil McGraw) of his controversial departure from the NOPD following Hurricane Katrina. McGraw told Compass he would keep the badge in a shadow box for Compass' young daughter. McGraw befriended Compass after an earlier, emotional interview during the chaotic days immediately after the storm. In a follow-up series pegged to the first anniversary of Katrina, Dr. Phil pressed Compass and Mayor Ray Nagin in separate interviews about Compass' sudden "resignation" as police chief on Sept. 27, 2005 (http://drphil.com). Compass said he was fired because of his emotional television interviews after Katrina and because the mayor mistakenly believed he had violated a ban on unauthorized TV appearances. Nagin said Compass was "breaking down on a fairly regular basis in public" after Katrina, and freely resigned later. The mayor acknowledged sending an email to then-Chief Compass asking for a meeting to discuss a "30-to-60 day exit plan for you." But Nagin told Dr. Phil: "Nothing in that letter says he was forced to resign." -- Johnson
Levee Board Blues
With only a few days to go before the primary election for secretary of state, the Louisiana Republican Party lobbed some dirt on state Sen. Francis Heitmeier, a New Orleans Democrat seeking the post. But it was largely ignored for a variety of reasons, ranging from timeliness to the fact it was overshadowed by news that Mike Francis, a Lafayette Republican, wasn't reporting expenses related to his private jet. Nonetheless, it offers an early look at the mud that will be slung during the Nov. 7 runoff between Heitmeier and state Sen. Jay Dardenne, a Republican from Baton Rouge. GOP Chairman Roger F. Villere Jr. is circulating a laundry list of curious deeds involving the infamous Orleans Levee Board, Heitmeier, and his friends and family. For instance, Villere points to a Los Angeles Times story linking Heitmeier's brother to an alleged multi-million-dollar no-bid contract to purchase eyeglasses for the levee district. "Talk about defrauding the people of Louisiana," Villere says. There's little doubt the Republican Party will try to fracture Heitmeier's base in southeast Louisiana with similar attacks, which -- not at all coincidentally -- is the same region that voted overwhelmingly last month to abolish the local levee board. -- Alford
Jindal Still Spending
Like a ransom note, it made firm demands. "Deadline: $39,319.14 by midnight Saturday!!!" But no one had been kidnapped -- it was the subject line from a fundraising email sent out last week by GOP Congressman Bobby Jindal. The Metairie freshman blanketed supporters with the digital appeal just four days before quarterly finance reports were due to the Federal Elections Commission on Oct. 1. Aside from pushing to meet his goal, Jindal also wrote to his "friends" that the campaign would spend another $700,000 over the next few weeks -- and that's on top of the $1 million Jindal already spent during the second quarter, largely on a massive media buy. Still, Jindal, who has roughly $1.8 million in the bank as of the latest count, faces no real competition. In fact, his closest opponent has cobbled together just over $16,000 to mount an offensive. "We are not taking anything for granted," Jindal writes. "With three opponents working to defeat me, we need your help." Obviously, the Louisiana Republican Party isn't taking anything for granted, either, as they continue branding everything from bumper stickers to Web sites with the GOP mantra of 2007: "Don't Blame Me, I Voted For Jindal." -- Alford
'How to Get Elected'
Political analyst John Maginnis of Baton Rouge and the Alliance for Good Government will present a one-day seminar, "How to Get Elected," starting at 9 a.m. next Saturday (Oct. 21) in the offices of Jones Walker law firm, 201 St. Charles Ave., 52nd floor. The program will cover the fundamentals of running a political campaign, drawn from recent elections, to help first-timers avoid mistakes that cost elections -- with practical tips and advice from recent winning candidates and campaign professionals. Topics will include campaign organization and structure, budgeting, research, fundraising, databases and the Internet, grass roots campaigning, advertising and get-out-the-vote techniques. Get examples of effective TV and radio ads and direct mail pieces as well as handouts useful for organizing and fundraising. Admission is $145. More information is available at (800) 673-5577 or at www.LaPolitics.com. -- DuBos Justice (and Fun) For All The 18th annual Justice For All Ball, the annual fundraiser for the Pro Bono Project, will feature food, libations, music and an auction beginning at 8 p.m. Nov. 10 in City Park's Pavilion of the Two Sisters. The Pro Bono Project is a nonprofit organization of volunteer lawyers who represent indigent clients in civil matters in the parishes of Orleans, Jefferson, St. Bernard, St. Tammany and Washington. "In spite of the loss of so many people from the city, our volunteer ranks have been supplemented and supported by a steady stream of out-of-state lawyers and law students providing services for needy citizens trying to stabilize their lives," says project executive director Rachel Piercey. "Hurricane Katrina created additional legal complications and burdens, particularly in the areas of family law and home ownership, so the need for funding and community support is greater than ever." This year's ball will feature music by Kermit Ruffins and the BBQ Swingers as well as the Rites of Swing, and food donated by the city's top restaurants. Tickets are $100 per person and may be obtained by calling 581-3480. -- DuBos
Human Rights for U.S.
Ajamu Baraka, director of the U.S. Human Rights Network, will speak on human rights issues related to Hurricane Katrina at 7 p.m. next Monday (Oct. 16) in Tulane's Freeman Auditorium in the Woldenberg Art Center. Baraka, an internationally recognized human rights defender, has been on the front lines of human rights issues related to the storm. His speech is titled "Katrina: The Necessity for a Human Rights Framework for the United States." Baraka leads a coalition of more than 200 national human rights organizations that monitor issues ranging from poverty, homelessness, discrimination and torture, to housing rights, employment rights, criminal justice and the "war on terror." -- DuBos
On the Road Again
Just back from a trade mission to Shanghai, China, Jefferson Parish Sheriff Harry Lee says murders have doubled in the city's largest suburb and he wants expert advice on how to stop it. Lee and members of the NAACP Stop the Violence Committee will visit police officials in New York City, Boston and Newark, N.J, during a three-day trip Oct. 18-21, led by University of New Orleans criminologist Peter Scharf, a paid advisor to the sheriff. All three of the host cities have seen sharp declines in their respective homicide rates in recent years. Scharf said he brought St. Tammany Sheriff Jack Strain on a similar tour in 1997. -- Johnson
Saints Marching in Kenner
Post-Katrina excitement over the New Orleans Saints has sold out the Superdome for the entire season for the first time in team history. But will the Saints Hall of Fame museum in Kenner see higher attendance, too? "No question -- attendance has already ramped up," says Ken Trahan, general manager of the museum and a local sportswriter. New Orleans and Green Bay are the only two NFL franchises with team museums. Conceptualized in 1985 by then-Mayor Aaron Broussard, the Saints Hall of Fame also is one of seven attractions in Kenner's family-oriented Rivertown Historic District. Traditionally, attendance at the museum has lagged far behind the Toy Train Museum, says Kenner employee Janice Mayer. But the train museum, the Louisiana Wildlife & Fisheries Museum and the popular Space Station have all been closed since Katrina -- giving the Saints' relics a shot at more visitors. The museum's attendance always rises and falls with the team's performance, Trahan cautions. The facility has been open since Rivertown resumed operations in October 2005. Hurricane-related repairs should be complete before the Hall of Fame Weekend ceremonies (Oct. 27), Trahan adds. Center Joel Hilgenberg will be inducted into the Hall and the late sportscasting icon "Buddy" Diliberto also will be honored. The museum is open 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. -- Johnson