Riley Math 'Best Practice?'
It's official. A spokesperson for the New Orleans Police Department confirmed to Gambit Weekly for the first time that the per capita crime statistics posted on NOPD's Web site are the only figures that will be posted for the third quarter. The absence of raw crime numbers (e.g., 55 murders in the third quarter of 2007) in the department's quarterly reports is a major departure from NOPD policy. Police Chief Warren Riley's decision to use the most optimistic population figures available (more than 311,000 for the third quarter) will certainly give NOPD lower crime rates. But Riley's record keeping and reporting change also may give fodder to his critics. Among them: The Times-Picayune, which recently dubbed the chief 'Superintendent of Spin." At a time when the criminal justice system is striving to implement 'best practices," even the chief's most loyal supporters may be asking if Riley's new math makes the grade. "
Mary's Campaign Pick
In the wake of GOP Treasurer John Kennedy's not-so-surprising announcement that he will challenge her, U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu, a New Orleans Democrat, has tapped Jay Howser to lead her 2008 re-election campaign. Howser served as campaign manager for Democratic state Sen. Walter Boasso of Arabi in Boasso's recent bid for governor. His aggressive style could mean that Landrieu will not play it safe next year, opting instead to engage early in what should be one of the hottest contests in the nation. A SurveyUSA poll conducted exclusively for Roll Call newspaper and released earlier this month shows Landrieu leading Kennedy by a margin of 46-42 percent. The survey has a 3.9 percent margin of error. While Kennedy leads by 12 points among men and 22 points among whites, Landrieu leads him by 19 points among women and by 60 points among blacks " thus creating a 31-point 'gender gap." Kennedy has touted a poll conducted for his campaign by Zogby International, which, to no one's surprise, showed Kennedy leading the incumbent. The Zogby poll, however, was taken while Kennedy was saturating the state with TV ads back in October " even though he had no opponent in his bid for re-election as state treasurer. The wild card in the race could be Secretary of State Jay Dardenne, a Republican from Baton Rouge who received more votes statewide during this year's primary than any other politico on the ballot. Dardenne has not ruled out his potential candidacy. "
NOPD: Maybe Manana
The office of interim Orleans Parish District Attorney Keva Landrum-Johnson barely missed our deadline in the last issue for a comment " in Spanish " on the successful prosecution of two admitted robbers who held up four immigrant workers from Honduras. DA spokesperson Dalton Savwoir sent us an entire, first-ever news release in Spanish " after getting translation help from bilingual Assistant District Attorney Myles Ranier, who tried the immigrant-robbery case with co-prosecutor Fran Bridges. NOPD cops " including two detectives and a K-9 dog team " captured the bandidos. However, unlike the English version, the DA's Spanish-only news release does not mention NOPD's heroes by name. And despite a bigger budget and more PR personnel than the DA and the Criminal Sheriff combined, NOPD's public affairs staff has no Spanish-speaking officers. Two weeks later, our request for a Spanish quote remained unfulfilled, but not forgotten, a spokesperson assured us. NOPD's $230,000 'community policing" strategy calls for a 'global" PR plan, but not necessarily one that includes speaking a foreign language. Federal authorities estimate upwards of 60,000 immigrant workers have come to New Orleans since Katrina. Many are targeted by criminals, authorities say. "
Wheeling and Dealing 101
Despite Gov.-elect Bobby Jindal's pledge to bring a fresh approach to his new job, he has learned that not everything can be reformed. After promoting the notion of legislative independence, he stepped into the races for House speaker and Senate president " not quite backing his own candidates but rather confirming a 'consensus" reached by lawmakers in each chamber. The formal leadership votes will occur Jan. 14. Now, as pressure builds in regard to key committee assignments and chairmanships, it seems that Jindal has gotten involved on that level as well. It's what former governors did, of course, but it is a major departure from what Jindal promised as a candidate. He's even using the old executive trick of holding out a golden carrot: a piece of the state's unprecedented $1.7 billion surplus. The price for lawmakers will surely be swallowing the governor-elect's entire ethics reform package, which he will present during a special session early next year. 'We basically said we're not doing anything else," Jindal told the Associated Press recently. 'It will take a two-thirds vote of the Legislature and the governor calling a special session until they can spend that surplus, and we said, "We're not touching that until we get ethics done.' It's that important to us." "
Checks Held for FBI, Mose
State Treasurer John Kennedy's office reminds thousands of Louisianans at this time of year to check the treasurer's Web site (www.treasury.state.la.us) to see if they can collect old paychecks, forgotten utility deposits and other forms of 'unclaimed property." Gambit Weekly made a spot check and discovered that the treasurer is holding at least $400 for Mose Jefferson, a local political strategist and brother of indicted U.S. Rep. William Jefferson. Some of Mose's money has been unclaimed for years, including a safety deposit box from the Jeffersons' hometown of Lake Providence, La.; more than $100 in refunds or rebates from his old business, Cellco Partnership; more than $100 in money orders from a bank; $50 to $100 in credits from an alarm company that once protected 3313 S. Saratoga St., a Central City apartment complex that doubled as longtime headquarters for Jefferson's Progressive Democrats; and $14.44 in dividends from a New York bank. 'We'll certainly file the necessary paperwork," Ike Spears, Mose Jefferson's criminal defense attorney, chuckled. Spears also was happy to hear that more than $400 in unclaimed checks are being held for his law firm. Ironically, Kennedy's office has been waiting since 2005 for the New Orleans office of the FBI to claim $50 to $100 in checks written by the 'City of Shreveport" to the misnamed 'Louisiana Chapter of the FBI." "
The Rich Get Richer?
State Treasurer John Kennedy's 'unclaimed property" Web site reads like a who's who of Louisiana politicians and notables. Among those who have old checks and rebates waiting at the Treasurer's office are family members of Democratic incumbent U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu, including her mother, Verna Landrieu, and a brother, Mark K. Landrieu. Kennedy, a new member of the GOP, has announced his intention to challenge Mary Landrieu in the 2008 elections. The David Vitter Campaign Fund can claim more than $100 in outstanding 'vendor checks" from Pfizer Inc., the pharmaceutical giant and maker of " ahem! " Viagra. Outgoing state Attorney General Charles Foti Jr. has more than $100 in dividends coming from the Foti Financial Group, LLC. There is also more than $120 waiting for the NOPD. State Sen. Derrick Shepherd has $10.52 to claim. Imprisoned former bail bond king Louis M. Marcotte III can collect more than $100 in unclaimed dividends when he makes a fresh start. Former Mayor Marc Morial has $400 in state tax refunds, escrow funds and auto policy insurance benefits to claim. Mayor Ray Nagin can snare an old check for up to $100 from Cox Communications, his last private-sector employer. "
No Gifts, Please
Yes, Macy's may be having a sale. And yes, you may have a bona fide friendship. But no, you cannot give a state employee a gift " or anything of value for that matter " if you or your company does business with the agency or department that employs your friend. Retiring DEQ Secretary Mike M. McDaniel made that clear in a letter he sent earlier this month to all his employees. The letter may have struck some as Grinch-like, but it is consistent with Louisiana's Code of Governmental Ethics. While lawmakers can accept hard-to-get BCS championship game tickets that can easily be re-sold for thousands (although that would be a code violation), state employees can't even nibble on a holiday cookie from the company that supplies their paper clips. 'It is natural (and perhaps even expected) that business relationships in the private sector be nurtured by gifts during the holiday season to show appreciation for the service provided throughout the year," McDaniel writes. 'Yet we in the public sector must strive to meet the standards expected of us all year-round, even during the holiday season, by refusing to accept such traditional tokens of appreciation. We ask that you help us meet the standards of the Code of Governmental Ethics and avoid even the appearance of impropriety by refraining from sending to our employees or bringing to the agency gifts of any kind (including food and drink)." Ho, ho, ho. "
Vitter Tapped Again
Despite his admission of 'a very serious sin," U.S. Sen. David Vitter, a Metairie Republican, has again been named as deputy whip by the Senate's Republican leadership. Vitter had filled that role on the leadership team of Sen. Trent Lott of Mississippi, who recently announced his retirement. Sen. Jon Kyl of Arizona is the new Republican whip, and he has tapped Vitter to continue serving. Vitter, who is still a freshman senator, was also appointed last week as ranking member of the Commerce, Science and Transportation Subcommittee on Space, Aeronautics and Related Sciences. With this new committee assignment, Vitter will play an important role in keeping Louisiana in a favored position on matters relating to NASA. 'NASA has a long history and significant presence in Louisiana," Vitter says. 'Thousands of Louisianans are employed by the Michoud Assembly Facility and Stennis Space Center, and the impact of the space program on Louisiana cannot be overstated." " Alford Props to Christmas With almost the entire Louisiana delegation standing on the side of Santa recently, the U.S. House of Representatives actually took the time to pass a resolution regarding the significance of Christmas. While many saw symbolic merit in the gesture, others viewed it as a 'complete waste of time." Rep. Jim McDermott, a Washington Democrat, blamed Republicans for pushing the issue as a way to ignore more pressing matters. 'It's Christmas time," McDermott told a Seattle newspaper. 'There are lots of Christians in the U.S. Hurray for Christmas. It's ridiculous. What are you going to say? You're against Christmas?" While 372 House members voted for the resolution, there were 19 others, like McDermott, who will undoubtedly find coal in their stockings for voting against it or refusing to vote at all. Another 40 lawmakers missed the vote, including Gov.-elect Bobby Jindal, a Metairie Republican about to vacate his seat. Jindal was the only Louisiana congressman not to weigh in on the importance of holiday spirit, eggnog and wrapping paper. (We can see the attack ads now: Jindal Misses Vote, Ruins Christmas!) Christian groups are furious, however, because all but two of the lawmakers who voted against the Christmas resolution previously voted in favor of a resolution recognizing Ramadan. In that vote, the House showed more love for the Muslim religious observance than it did for Christmas. Mathew D. Staver, founder of Liberty Counsel and Dean of Liberty University School of Law, was among those upset. 'Our founders believed that Christianity was the best foundation for a republican form of government and freedom," he said. 'It is disturbing that a small number of representatives support Ramadan and Islam but not Christmas and Christianity." "