Mystery of the Retired Cop
The mystery over the sudden retirement of New Orleans Deputy Police Chief Anthony Cannatella may have just deepened at NOPD, where bureaucratic intrigues and infighting have rivaled those of the Kremlin. Heidi Unter, chief operating officer of the nonprofit New Orleans Police & Justice Foundation, has confirmed that Cannatella, a tough, decorated 42-year NOPD veteran, has returned to the force — as a contract employee of the Foundation. 'He was assigned to the reserves division," Unter says. Cannatella left the department abruptly last month, stunning his many loyal subordinates. In a brief press release, NOPD announced he retired June 1 as chief of operations, where he had overseen all patrol officers and specialized units. Conflicting reports as to why he retired fueled speculation that Cannatella left because he and Police Chief Warren Riley were too far apart philosophically, especially on discipline matters. However, on Jan. 25, Cannatella received the coveted Charles E. Dunbar Award for civil service (the police chief normally makes the nomination for the honor). Today, Cannatella is one of 50 retired NOPD officers who is back on the force, thanks to a one-year federal grant of 'a little less than a $1 million," Unter says. She adds: 'The Chief (Riley) tells us who he wants." — Johnson

Wendy Weighs In
Wendy Vitter, wife of embattled U.S. Sen. David Vitter, weighed in against the controversial legislative pay raise last Wednesday (June 11), just as the raise was being considered — and ultimately approved — by the House and Governmental Affairs Committee. Vitter sent a pointed email to 10 individual state representatives, most of them from metro New Orleans and all of them Republicans, expressing her 'complete opposition" to the pay raises. 'The job of a state legislator is not and was never meant to be a full-time job. It should be paid as such," Vitter wrote. 'I have complete confidence that you will loudly oppose this raise and speak boldly on behalf of your constituents who struggle every day to make ends meet." Vitter's confidence was misplaced, however. Of the 10 GOP lawmakers she emailed, four sit on the House and Governmental Affairs Committee — and three of them voted for the pay raises: Reps. Pat Connick of Marrero, Cameron Henry of Jefferson and Tony Ligi of Kenner. The lone recipient of Vitter's email to vote against the raise in committee was Rep. Jane Smith of Bossier City. Of the 13 representatives voting for raises in committee, eight are Republicans. The raises were up for final vote in the House on Friday, as Gambit Weekly was going to press. The most poignant comment on the raises may have come from veteran legislative critic C.B. Forgotston, who noted, 'The leges are so overworked and underpaid that they want their pay raise effective July 1, 2008. However, they voted to delay the taxpayers a small increase in their paychecks [via an income tax break] until July 1, 2009." — DuBos

Vitter for V-P?
No, it's not serious — but it is seriously funny. Someone has launched a satirical Web site ( promoting U.S. Sen. David Vitter for vice president over Gov. Bobby Jindal. 'Why David Vitter for vice president? He's young. He's from the South. He's a social conservative. He's a confirmed hypocrite. In other words, he's the perfect Republican Party vice presidential candidate in 2008," the site proclaims, adding, 'Vitter puts the vice in vice president." The site also has links to hilarious 'facts" and haikus as well as 'merch" — complete with McCain/Vitter T-shirts. Touting Vitter's political skills, the site notes, 'If he can survive the "DC Madam' scandal and the reports of having hired prostitutes in Louisiana, a presidential election campaign should be nothing!" No word yet from the Vitter camp or from U.S. Sen. John McCain. — DuBos

Follow Bobby, Not Ray
Married guys who qualify next month to run for public office in the fall elections might be advised to follow the example of Gov. Bobby Jindal rather than that of New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin. Nagin remembered his Sept. 18 wedding anniversary last year, taking his wife Seletha to lunch at the popular restaurant Lilette. Unfortunately for Hizzoner, Nagin paid the $91.57 anniversary tab — and those for other meals with his wife at tony local restaurants — by using his city-issued credit card, according to a Times-Picayune report published last week. Nagin was on a trade mission to South Africa last week and could not be reached for comment. By contrast, Jindal set the tone for both his public career and his marriage 11 years ago by consulting the Louisiana Ethics Board as to whether he could accept wedding gifts from certain types before tying the knot with his wife Supriya, records show. Jindal was then secretary of the state Department of Health and Hospitals. The ethics board told the future governor that he was correct not to accept gifts from DHH employees and lobbyists, among others, or he would run afoul of state ethics laws. The ethics board also issues advisory opinions requested by candidates and elected officials regarding expenditures of public funds and campaign monies. — Johnson

Young and Restless
With a campaign war chest of roughly half a million dollars, Jefferson Parish Councilman-at-Large John F. Young Jr. seems destined for higher office, but apparently not the state Public Service Commission. The powerful state ratemaking authority for utilities, trucks and other industries has been a political stepping stone for politicians from the late Gov. Huey Long to former Gov. Kathleen Blanco. However, Young and his campaign advisers have decided to take a pass on a PSC race this fall against incumbent Jay Blossman of St. Tammany, who has been mired in scandal. Young was expected to mull over political prospects with supporters last week at his annual $100-a-person 'Spring Fling" fundraiser on the West Bank, one source says. Yielding to GOP political considerations, Young recently stayed on the sidelines while fellow Republican Steve Scalise won a special election for the congressional seat vacated by Bobby Jindal's election to the governor's office last October. Young won re-election last October, and rumors have swirled since as to what his next move will be. Many expect it will be a run for Jefferson Parish president in 2011, when incumbent Aaron Broussard will have to retire because of term limits. — Johnson

Yes to Umbilical Cords, No to Embryonic Stem Cells
While both chambers of the Legislature voted against advancing the medical applications of embryonic stem cells, the House approved a $2 million line item last week for a program that would utilize stem cells from umbilical cord blood. The policy juxtaposition might seem odd, especially as conservative religious groups tighten their grasp over Louisiana lawmakers, but the morals that special interests assign to both issues are dramatically different. House Bill 370 by Cameron Henry, R-New Orleans, would ban public funding for therapeutic cloning. Advocates of the practice contend it could lead to a cure for diabetes and other diseases, but opponents argue it would create and kill human embryonic stem cells. Meanwhile, Henry's colleagues last week approved House Bill 1287 by Rep. Jim Fannin, D-Jonesboro, whose supplemental appropriations bill funds the Louisiana Public Umbilical Cord Blood Program to the tune of $2 million. Scientists have successfully used umbilical stem cells to treat leukemia, thalassemia, immuno-deficiencies and some 70 other conditions. It's a proven process, whereas embryonic stem cell research is still developing. If further proof is needed that Christian conservatives are safe on the issue, President George Bush signed into law in 2005 the Stem Cell Therapeutic and Research Act, which created a national network that matches cord blood with patients in need. — Alford

Coastal Cash Boost Fails
Citing an unpredictable economy, the House Appropriations Committee killed two attempts last week to steer more oil and gas money to coastal restoration and hurricane protection efforts. Rep. Damon Baldone, D-Houma, offered two constitutional amendments to help Louisiana raise enough money to match the feds' anticipated coastal investment. Had they passed, the amendments would have appeared on the Nov. 4 ballot. State engineers and geologists say Louisiana has lost more than 14 million square yards of shoreline this year alone. The federal government is expected to spend as much as $15 billion on the problem by 2012 — with Louisiana putting up a $1.8 billion match — and that's just the first wave. House Bill 703 sought to give Louisiana voters the option of dedicating 25 percent of all new mineral revenues to the Coastal Protection and Restoration Fund. Currently, that money is channeled into the state Budget Stabilization Fund, commonly referred to as the Rainy Day Fund, which in theory is used for emergencies. According to the Legislative Fiscal Office, the CPRF is scheduled to receive $37.4 million in 2009 and $34.4 million in 2010. If the constitutional amendment were in place, those transfers would increase to $406.3 million in 2009 and $368.8 million in 2010. Technically, the Rainy Day Fund wouldn't lose a dollar under the proposal — because it's already maxed out, which means the money Baldone seeks is flowing to the state general fund. Rep. Jim Fannin, a Jonesboro Democrat and chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, argued that the money is already committed to ongoing expenses and cannot be moved. He did promise to look at the issue again next year. — Alford

Name That Storm
The House overwhelmingly approved a bill last week to allow insurance companies to set different 'named-storm" deductibles based on where you live. The bill could be one hearing away from being sent to Gov. Bobby Jindal. Senate Bill 160 by Sen. Don Cravins, D-Opelousas, creates a special deductible level that would be triggered when coastal homeowners file claims for damages caused by named tropical storms or hurricanes. The bill calls on the Department of Insurance to create a map detailing which regions are covered by the proposed deductibles. New Orleans area and coastal lawmakers worry that homeowners in south Louisiana will shoulder costs for the rest of the state. Rep. Jerry 'Truck" Gisclair, D-Raceland, tried to amend the bill so that insurance companies would have to write policies for homeowners in south Louisiana if they're doing the same for those in north Louisiana. 'We need to treat everyone equally," Gisclair says. GOP House Speaker Jim Tucker opposed the change, saying it would upset the free market system and 'keep rates high." That assured the amendment's defeat. The bill's current version limits the deductible to 4 percent of a home's value. That means you could pay the 4 percent deductible if you live in a low-lying coastal area such as New Orleans, but only 1 percent if you live in Shreveport. Cravins says the bill is needed because Louisiana is the only state that requires insurers to set a statewide deductible level. The current system is designed to spread risk, but some say it chases away insurers. — Alford

Yet Another Road Home
As storm victims struggle to rebuild houses and make sense of the infamous Road Home program, the House of Representatives has approved an initiative to help 100 college graduates buy homes. House Bill 1156 by Rep. Neil Abramson, D-New Orleans, is designed to entice Louisiana grads to remain in Louisiana. 'We are educating them, and then they go to Houston, Dallas, Atlanta or Washington, D.C.," Abramson says. The Louisiana Housing Finance Agency would oversee the program, and the 100 winners of the Grants for Grads Program would be selected 'by random lottery," according to the legislation. That means an applicant with money to buy a home has just as good a shot at landing assistance as someone struggling to make ends meet after tuition. The maximum grant would be $10,000 per person toward a down payment on a new house. In exchange, graduates would have to work in Louisiana for no less than five years. The Legislative Fiscal Office estimates the cost to taxpayers could be more than $1.1 million annually. The House approved the bill by a vote of 72-24 last week. Its next scheduled hearing is with the Senate Education Committee. — Alford

Senator's Fashion Passion
It's hard to imagine that state Sen. Ann Duplessis could generate more media attention than she did with her controversial bill (SB 672) to triple the salaries of Louisiana lawmakers — but this week she'll try. Duplessis and her District 2 Enhancement Corp. will present a 'Passion for Fashion" show to raise money for merchandising scholarships for young residents in her eastern New Orleans district. The show also will be a learning experience and crowning event for the Fashion Institute of New Orleans, an eight-week intensive training program facilitated with the help of Louisiana retailers, Louisiana State University and state Department of Economic Development. '[FINO students] worked closely with fashion industry experts in image consultation, fashion design and merchandising, modeling, makeup artistry, photography and videography," Duplessis said in a statement. The show runs from 6:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. at Ray's Over the River on the 31st floor of the World Trade Center at the foot of Canal Street. For ticket information, call 244-0090. — Johnson

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