The 50 New Orleans Newsmakers of 2011

Kevin Allman and Alex Woodward on the people who made a name for themselves this year ... for better or for worse

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The famous, the infamous, the people of substance and the flashes in the pan: this year brought them all. These are 2011's persistent headline-makers in New Orleans and south Louisiana, the people who at times seemed as ubiquitous as honey badgers, pop-up restaurants and pumped-up kicks.

50. New Orleans Airlift
The Avant-Garde
  In October, the remains of a collapsed Bywater cottage made some of the biggest noise in New Orleans, literally — a host of international musicians and artists brought the scraps back to life in the form of musical structures, from shacks to treehouses, each holding homemade instruments amid a playground of artful reconstruction. Jay Pennington (aka DJ Rusty Lazer) of the New Orleans Airlift kickstarted the installation with street artist Swoon, and orchestras (with maestro Quintron) performed a series of performances to overflowing crowds. Guest musicians ranged from Hamid Drake to Andrew W.K. to Mannie Fresh, and the installation caught the attention of The New York Times and the imagination of its guests, who also were invited to play the houses themselves.

49. Renee Gill Pratt
The Racketeer
  The former District B rep on the New Orleans City Council went on trial in February on one charge of racketeering, but a lone holdout juror forced a mistrial. At a July retrial, a federal jury found Pratt guilty, and in November she was sentenced to 87 months in prison. On Dec. 15, though, U.S. District Judge Ivan Lemelle ruled Pratt could remain free on bond while she appeals. Pratt was the girlfriend of the late Mose Jefferson (brother of former Rep. Bill Jefferson), who was convicted of bribery in 2009 and died in April. Pratt's conviction was another blow to the crumbled Jefferson political empire.

48. Varla Jean Merman
The Entertainer
  The drag alter ego of local actor Jeffery Roberson began the year with a Gambit cover, went on to star in an off-Broadway musical (which closed quickly), toured the U.S. all year with his one-man show and saw the film festival premiere of his first starring movie, Varla Jean and the Mushroomheads. Varla is ringing in the new year back in New Orleans with frequent co-star Ricky Graham at a show at Mid-City Theatre.

47. Preservation Hall Jazz Band
The Standard-Bearers
  Band director Ben Jaffe, the son of Preservation Hall founders Allan and Sandra Jaffe, has demonstrated how the band can grow while still staying rooted in the hall's famed jazz tradition, one Louis Armstrong once triumphed. With seemingly endless tours, music festival gigs, a starring role in Danny Clinch's documentary Louisiana Fairytale and performances alongside Pres Hall superfans My Morning Jacket, last year also saw the release of the album Preservation, the band's best-seller, showcasing its inimitable chops alongside the likes of Tom Waits and Pete Seeger. But 2011 wasn't the band's biggest year: the group enters 2012 celebrating its 50th anniversary at an all-star gig at Carnegie Hall with another roster of music stars — performers bowing to Pres Hall's evolving legend. In June, Jaffe told Gambit, "The only moment you get to go into this creative cocoon is when you perform, and I want to amplify that. I want to make it bigger."

46. Caroline Fayard
The Confounder
  Fayard got the attention of state Democrats when she ran an exceptionally strong race for lieutenant governor in 2010 against Jay Dardenne. She was one of the party's few bright rising stars — until an infamous appearance at a Washington Parish Democratic meeting where she declared, "I hate Republicans. They are cruel and destructive. They eat their young. They don't think. They don't allow people to think. They are bullies." Despite the negative fallout, in May Fayard announced she'd run for secretary of state. She dropped the bid in September.

45. Harry Shearer
The Documentarian
  The actor/writer/radio host/multihyphenate New Orleanian continued to travel and promote The Big Uneasy, his 2010 documentary about the federal levee failures after Hurricane Katrina and the faults of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. In May, he appeared in the musical adaptation of Dan Baum's book Nine Lives.

44. Cedric Richmond
The Representative
  Having defeated Anh "Joseph" Cao in November 2010, the former member of the Louisiana House of Representatives moved up to Washington, D.C. in January. A past controversy about the suspension of his law license seemed behind him — and in a truly surprising display of bipartisanship, Richmond forged a professional and personal friendship with Rep. Steve Scalise, his political polar opposite. Both men saw the sense of working together for the benefit of the metro New Orleans area and were a rare breath of cooperation in an increasingly bitter Congress.

43. Kenneth Feinberg
The Accountant
  Mounds of lawsuits have piled against BP for damages following the Gulf oil disaster. Managing BP's Gulf Coast Claims Facility is Feinberg, whose firm Feinberg Rozen holds the purse: BP's $20 billion escrow account set up for victims of the disaster. In June, claims offices started closing and consolidating along the coast. Two months later, Feinberg announced that BP paid out $5 billion in claims and, "Overall, we've largely succeeded in getting money out to eligible claimants." Meanwhile, hundreds of plaintiffs in lawsuits across the Gulf Coast accuse Feinberg of losing paperwork, having slow processing times, inconsistent or low-balling payments and more. By December, more than $1 billion of the fund has been paid to Louisiana fishermen, and Feinberg said he'd double payments to affected fishing communities.

42. Anh "Joseph" Cao
The One-and-Done
  The congressman from eastern New Orleans who was vaulted into office after the resignation of Bill Jefferson did not survive re-election. While in Washington, Cao stressed his closeness with President Barack Obama, but back in Obama-unfriendly Louisiana, Cao tried to put plenty of air between himself and the president. Cao flirted with running for state attorney general, then showed interest in running the state's department of education, but neither panned out. Today, his Facebook page says he'd like to be a judge on Iron Chef: America.

The Buzz Band
  Having met while students at the University of New Orleans, the members of GIVERS moved back to Lafayette and made a name for themselves there before signing with Glassnote Records and getting a national push for their June album In Light and its sunshiney single "Up Up Up." The song landed them a performance on Late Night With Jimmy Kimmel and is No. 17 on's list of Best Songs of 2011. In Light, the album that contains the song, is No. 29 on Amazon's list of Best Albums of 2011.

40. Arnie Fielkow
The Goodbye Guy
  Fielkow surprised the local political establishment in August when he announced he would return to the private sector and the sports world as CEO of the National Basketball Retired Players Association. He had served on the City Council since 2006, when he'd left his job in the New Orleans Saints' front office to try his hand at politics.

39. Curtis Matthews
The Slain
  The brother of Telly Hankton prosecution witness John Matthews was shot to death in October, three weeks after Hankton was found guilty of murder. Mayor Mitch Landrieu, NOPD chief Ronal Serpas and DA Leon Cannizzaro wasted no time condemning the murder and expressing their belief it was a hit carried out by Hankton associates. "I'm sending a message loud and clear to Telly Hankton and his family and anyone else associated with this," Landrieu said at a press conference. "We're coming to get you." Matthews, 61, was a retired postal carrier who had relocated from North Carolina to New Orleans.

38. Zack Kopplin
The Giant-Killer
  The Baton Rouge high school senior took on the Louisiana public school textbook committee on the question of including "intelligent design" in state schoolbooks — and won, becoming an improbable leader in the fight against creationism. He didn't fare as well when he attempted to convince the Louisiana Legislature to repeal the pro-intelligent design Louisiana Science Education Act. In a December email to Gambit, Kopplin said he's now a freshman at Rice University, but will return to Louisiana on his school breaks to organize high school students for his cause.

37. Jackie Clarkson
The Veteran Pol
  Clarkson entered her third decade of public service and became the president of the New Orleans City Council in May, a comeback of sorts for the veteran councilwoman who lost her bid for an at-large seat in 2006 to Arnie Fielkow. But three months later, she found herself defending remarks she'd made about the 1940s and 1950s in New Orleans being a "golden age" — which didn't sit well with some of her African-American constituents. Clarkson pronounced herself baffled by the whole controversy.

36. Occupy NOLA
The Movement
  The local Occupy movement pitched its tents in Duncan Plaza and lived there for two months with the passive blessing of Mayor Mitch Landrieu and NOPD Chief Ronal Serpas. In early December, Landrieu announced the city would begin enforcing the park's curfew law; the protestors got an injunction, but the administration busted up the camp the morning before a hearing on the matter in Judge Jay Zainey's courtroom. Zainey issued a temporary restraining order against the city, and by that night, Occupy was once again occupying the plaza across from City Hall. Judge Lance Africk rescinded the restraining order Dec. 13, and the city gave protesters until midnight to leave the park. Most did, but David D'Antonio and Mike Raso refused and were handcuffed and led from the park. They also were cited for minor city code violations.

35 Mary Landrieu
The Studied Moderate
  With the defection of many top Democrats to the GOP in early 2011, and some disastrous elections for the Dems, U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu became the most powerful Democrat in the state, even as she positioned herself as more centrist than leftist. She locked horns with both fellow U.S. Sen. David Vitter and Gov. Bobby Jindal this year — including a major condemnation of Jindal after his administration rejected an $80 million federal grant to bring broadband Internet to northern Louisiana. Landrieu finished 2011 by securing $566 million in federal Medicaid reimbursements for the 2013 fiscal year — and, at last, starting a Twitter account.

34. Dan Cameron
The Art Man
  The art curator who brought Prospect.1 and Prospect.1.5 to New Orleans didn't get his contract renewed by the Contemporary Arts Center in 2010, but he went on to curate Prospect.2 this fall. In October, Cameron announced he would take a curatorial position at California's Orange County Museum of Art; the next month, we learned Franklin Sirmans of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art would coordinate Prospect.3 in 2013. With his two-and-a-half biennials, Cameron helped established New Orleans as an American center of contemporary art.

33. Aaron Broussard
The Indicted
  The former Jefferson Parish president was indicted by the feds on payroll fraud charges Dec. 2. Also named: Broussard's former wife Karen Parker and former parish attorney Tom Wilkinson, who employed Parker as a "paralegal supervisor." The indictment alleged Parker "was not trained or certified as a paralegal, was hired and was paid a salary above and beyond the range authorized for civil service employees." The three are each charged in all 33 counts of the indictment and have pleaded not guilty.

32. Mr. Ghetto
The Viral Sensation
  Gambit's Alex Woodward wrote about Mr. Ghetto and his paean to the Tchoupitoulas Street Walmart on May 18. Forty-eight hours later, the song had become the subject of nearly 3 million Google searches, gossip blogger Perez Hilton had proclaimed it "the smash hit of summer 2011" and the world at large had tripped into New Orleans' bounce culture, learning terms like "twerking" and "p-popping." What created such a sensation? The sight of booty-shaking women making their way down the aisles of "Wally Wally Wally Wally Wally Wally Wally Wally Wally Wally Wally Wally World" while Mr. Ghetto rapped about how the discount chain store was a great place to pick up ladies — while dropping props to both the Louisiana Purchase card and feminine hygiene products along the way. (The video became so viral it showed up on Comedy Central's Tosh.0, even as local TV newsrooms struggled with how to cover it.) One group that wasn't so amused: African-American women, who condemned it on sites like Bossip with terms ranging from "tomfoolery" to "coonery." Mr. Ghetto quickly cut several other videos on topics from the New Orleans Saints to the joys of being in da club, but none took off with the velocity of his tribute to the Tchoupitoulas (and Harahan) Wally Wally Wally World.

31. John LaBruzzo
The Campaigner
  The ever-controversial state rep found himself in a tough fight against Nick Lorusso after the 2010 state redistricting changed the borders of his traditional district and kneecapped LaBruzzo's re-election chances. With both men being conservative Republicans, holding nearly identical positions on traditional issues, the race came down to personalities and some of LaBruzzo's more controversial ideas (supporting the drug-testing of public aid recipients; introducing legislation to declare a fertilized egg to be a person). LaBruzzo, a tireless door-knocker and dogged campaigner, got his signs all over Metairie and Lakeview, but Lorusso ended up the victor.

30. Buddy Roemer
The Attention-Seeker
  The former governor and congressman launched a presidential campaign vowing to take only small donations, then fought to be included in the GOP debates, to no avail. Later in the year, Roemer got some press when he allied himself with the Occupy Wall Street movement, put forward Sen. Joe Lieberman as a running mate (Lieberman demurred) and made several amusing appearances with Stephen Colbert on The Colbert Report.

29. Irvin Mayfield
The Impresario
  The jazz trumpeter and artistic director of the New Orleans Jazz Orchestra (NOJO) received an honorary doctorate from Dillard University in May. He also opened the I Club in the JW Marriott Hotel on Canal Street, making it his second jazz club in the city. In late December, Mayfield, NOJO and the New Orleans Hornets announced an Irving Mayfield's I Club Stage would host a band of local musicians to play throughout Hornets games, starting Dec. 21. In August, Mayfield and Kermit Ruffins raised tens of thousands of dollars for local nonprofits during their 11-night "Love Sessions" performances.

28. Marlon Defillo
The Vanishing Act
  The New Orleans Police Department's No. 2 man — a three-decade veteran of the force and a familiar face to New Orleanians — came under fire for his lack of responsiveness in the case of Henry Glover, who was found to have been shot and his body burned by NOPD officers. But in July, just before NOPD chief Ronal Serpas was to open an investigation into Defillo's role in the matter, the assistant superintendent abruptly and surprisingly retired from the force.

27. David Vitter
The Would-Be Kingmaker
  Louisiana's junior U.S. senator spent 2011 solidifying his position as The Anti-Obama and currying favor with the Tea Party back home with positions like capping funding for federal food stamps. Back in Louisiana, however, he was unable to deliver victories for Billy Nungesser and Jim Tucker, the candidates he endorsed for lieutenant governor and secretary of state, respectively. Vitter's "very serious sin" bubbled up again in June during Rep. Anthony Weiner's sex scandal, when the family-values group Family Policy Network issued a statement that Republicans would be hypocrites if they called for Weiner's resignation while Vitter remained in office. Vitter didn't go anywhere.

26. Mark St. Pierre
The Fallen
  At his May trial, the Imagine Software chief and former City Hall tech vendor was found guilty on all 53 felony counts against him. It took a federal jury less than a day to render its verdict. Despite emotional appeals from St. Pierre's family and friends, in September U.S. District Judge Eldon Fallon sentenced the erstwhile tech whiz to 17-and-a-half years in the pen.

25. Garland Robinette
The Mouth
  The WWL-AM radio host's reputation took a body blow in September when it was revealed he had received a $250,000 personal interest-free loan from River Birch landfill magnate Fred Heebe — a topic he had discussed on his radio show without disclosing their relationship. Robinette denied all wrongdoing, and WWL kept him on the air, but much of the public remained skeptical. In November, Robinette turned over possession of a vacant lot he owned on the Northshore to pay the debt to Heebe.

24. Darren Sproles
The New Favorite
  The running back was a fan favorite during his years with the San Diego Chargers, and he proved himself one of the most popular members of the 2011 Saints freshman class, dependably moving the ball down the field week after week and inadvertently coining a new adjective among fans: "Sprolesworthy."

23. Tara Hollis
The Challenger
  The Louisiana Democratic Party couldn't even muster the strength to put up a seasoned opponent against Gov. Bobby Jindal, so a young teacher from Haynesville stepped up. Jindal had millions in his re-election fund; Hollis only had a few thousand. Nevertheless, she got more than 180,000 votes, nearly 18 percent of the vote. Regardless of one's political position, people all over the state should be grateful Hollis provided voters with a choice.

22. Marlin Gusman
The Sheriff
  Unlike Mayor Mitch Landrieu and NOPD chief Ronal Serpas, Orleans Parish Sheriff Marlin Gusman isn't the sort of official who thrives in front of the public, and the ongoing debate over the rebuilt Orleans Parish Prison took place without much public scrutiny. At issue: the number of beds in the facility, which is still in question though rebuilding of the complex is underway, and the ongoing per-diem compensation law, which allows the sheriff's office to collect money for each prisoner held, a practice jail-reform advocates say introduces a profit motive into incarceration. The sheriff also had several high-profile embarrassments this year, including several deputies arrested on various charges. But he ended the year much as he began it: implacable as ever.

21. Grant Storms
The Hypocrite
  The tawdriest sex scandal of 2011 also echoed one of a generation ago: that of preacher Jimmy Swaggart and his "I have sinned" downfall in an Airline Highway motel. In February, Jefferson Parish deputies arrested a man in a van at Lafreniere Park in Metairie after two women claimed they saw him masturbating while looking into a playground area. The man turned out to be the Rev. Grant Storms, who had garnered national headlines a decade earlier during his annual Labor Day bullhorn tirades against the Southern Decadence celebration in the French Quarter. Storms told deputies he had been urinating in a bottle, not masturbating, but he was booked on obscenity charges.

  A day later, Storms held a bizarre press conference in the parking lot of a Metairie motel, where he said "I'm confessing to having my hand in my pants" and admitted he had been looking at pornography before going to the park — but did not admit to masturbating. "I'm familiar with sex addiction, being a pastor ... I'll just say: Do I have a problem? Yes," Storms said, but insisted he was not a pedophile or child molester. Storms characterized his condemnation of the Southern Decadence crowds as "hateful" and said he'd been "prideful and arrogant." Storms added, weeping, "I have deeply hurt my family, and I pray they can find it in their hearts to forgive me," before leaving the motel parking lot with a man he called his pastor.

20. Lil Wayne
The Free Man
  New Orleans' most successful hip-hop star spent 2011 (unlike 2010) out of Rikers Island Prison, but he's still on probation. In August, he released his long-delayed album Tha Carter IV, which most critics thought fell short of his acclaimed Tha Carter III. Nonetheless, IV hit double platinum, reaching No. 1 on Billboard's Hot 200, R&B and Rap charts.

19. Rafael Delgadillo
The Survivor
  Delgadillo, a community organizer with the Hispanic organization Puentes New Orleans, spends his life preaching peace — so it was sadly ironic when he was shot in an attempted robbery in Mid-City. Friends, politicos and supporters organized and attended a benefit for him in November. He continues to recover.

18. Telly Hankton
The Convicted
  Hankton went on trial in July for the 2008 second-degree murder of Darnell Stewart, but the jury was declared hung after just three hours of deliberation. Not so during his September retrial, when alibi witnesses did not show up and the jury found him guilty — an automatic life sentence for the man cops and prosecutors had portrayed as one of the most dangerous criminals in New Orleans.

17. Edwin & Trina Edwards
The Overexposed
  The former governor left prison for a halfway house in January, and everything he did from that point seemed to make news — especially his July marriage to Trina Scott at the Hotel Monteleone. The bride was 32; the groom 51 years her senior. Trina Edwards has spoken openly of wanting to get a part-time home in the French Quarter, and there was talk of the couple starring on a reality TV show, but neither development had come to pass by year's end. The thoroughly modern Edwin, however, has been active on Facebook, and he and Trina had a one-night shift as husband-and-wife bartenders at Molly's at the Market in the French Quarter. The bar was thronged.

16. Troy "Trombone Shorty" Andrews
The Jazzman
  Andrews followed up his critically acclaimed 2010 Backatown in September with For True, which topped Billboard's Contemporary Jazz Chart for weeks. He played the New Orleans House of Blues on Christmas Eve — then headlining at San Francisco's prestigious Fillmore Theater for a two-night stand, concluding on New Year's Eve.

15. David Simon
The Producer
  It was a clash of alpha males, one who prides himself on promoting New Orleans' cultural economy and the other who has become a major part of the cultural economy. In April, Treme impresario David Simon clashed with Mayor Mitch Landrieu over a misunderstanding regarding a preservation group and some blighted houses — a misunderstanding that blew up in the local media, much to the chagrin of both men. The mayor and the producer were polite two weeks later at Gambit's Big Easy Awards (Landrieu already had been scheduled to honor Simon), but at the Rising Tide bloggers' conference four months later, the TV producer made it clear he hadn't forgotten. After rehashing the incident in detail, he told the crowd, "When the cameras hit him, your new mayor would have thrown anyone under the bus." Wherever the tension stands right now, Simon began filming the third season of Treme in late 2011, providing another major injection of cash into the city's cultural economy and giving New Orleans musicians much-appreciated paychecks.

14. Ray Nagin
The Enigma
  The "author, public speaker, recovery expert, green advocate" (as he describes himself on his website) began to use Twitter this year (which he used to twit Mayor Mitch Landrieu's administration). But Nagin's big news was the June publication of Katrina's Secrets, his self-published memoir, which surprised many by its billing as "Volume 1" (Nagin said Volume 2 would likely follow in 2012). For those who've wondered how can we miss Nagin when he won't go away, you soon may find out: In November, the former mayor put his Park Island house up for sale for $729,000.

13. Chris Paul
The Trade
  After a rocky ride on a roller coaster of deals made and rejected, All-Star point guard Chris Paul finally moved to Los Angeles Dec. 15 to join the Clippers. It was a negotiation process that upset everyone involved (except perhaps the Clippers) and illustrated why the NBA shouldn't be a franchise owner. Paul made no secret he wanted to be traded to a better team — and definitely would leave the Hornets when he became a free agent after the current season, so the Hornets began working out the best deal they could. The first proposal would have sent Paul to the L.A. Lakers (where he wanted to go) and given the Hornets some good players on which to rebuild a flagging team. NBA commissioner David Stern nixed the deal, however, after owners of smaller teams complained it was unfair to them to amass too much star power in one team. Stern denied he was swayed by those owners, but he shot down a second trade proposal the same week. The third deal, which sent Paul to the L.A. Clippers and gave the Hornets a couple of solid players and a first-round draft pick next year, leaves New Orleans with a half-dozen returning players and several new ones, but no big standouts. As for Paul, he was a gentleman through it all, even spending more time talking about his six years in New Orleans and his love for the city than he did about his excitement to be in L.A. during a news conference the day he joined his new team. Paul also was a winner off the court, with his CP3 Foundation and CP3 Afterschool Zone benefiting the city's children and their families. Whether Paul's departure hurts or helps the Hornets, New Orleans has been blessed to have been home to CP3.

12. Jim Letten
The Untouchable
  The mustachioed U.S. Attorney for Louisiana's eastern district had a busy year of indictments and convictions. Among the most high-profile of them: obtaining a guilty verdict of racketeering against former City Councilwoman Renee Gill Pratt and indicting former Jefferson Parish President Aaron Broussard, his former wife Karen Parker and former parish attorney Tom Wilkinson. But the major accomplishment of Letten's office in 2011 was the August conviction of five former NOPD officers in the Danziger Bridge shooting case. The jury found the men guilty on all 25 counts brought against them.

11. Tyrann Mathieu
The Honey Badger
  The St. Aug grad and LSU football standout nicknamed the "Honey Badger" tended to take what he wanted all season — everything, that is, except the Heisman Trophy. But the cornerback with the dyed blond hair and a flair for off-field fashion became a favorite of LSU fans — and a national celebrity for his punishing play on the field.

10. Coco Robicheaux
The Spirit
  On Nov. 25, the blues musician and Frenchmen Street regular had a heart attack and died in one of his regular haunts — the Apple Barrel Bar. Two second lines were organized in his honor, as well as a tribute concert at the House of Blues in December.

9. Leon Cannizzaro
The D.A.
  The Orleans Parish District Attorney had a rough year, culminating in a pillorying of his office by the U.S. Supreme Court in November. For decades, the D.A.'s office has been bedeviled by a lack of adherence to "Brady rules," which require prosecutors to turn over any possibly exculpatory evidence to defense attorneys. The high court has yet to rule in the case of Juan Smith, who was convicted of murder in a 1995 home invasion but is now seeking a new trial on Brady grounds. Cannizzaro's job is to restore confidence in the office among both the public and jurists.

8. Kira Orange Jones
The Lightning Rod
  With no major races on the November ballot, most of the attention was on the contest for the District 2 seat on the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) — and the race became a stand-in for a referendum on the future of Louisiana education. Eight-year incumbent Louella Givens was challenged by Kira Orange Jones, a former Teach for America official and proponent of the charter schools movement. The race was quickly shorthanded in the press and in public perception — pro-charter versus anti-charter, traditional Democrat versus Republican big money, New Orleans natives versus outsiders — but the truth was more granular. Both women were African-American Democrats, though Jones had backing from some conservative groups and had received donations from, among others, Baton Rouge businessman Lane Grigsby and New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

  For her part, Givens insisted she wasn't a knee-jerk detractor of charter schools (indeed, she was the sole BESE vote for not revoking the charter of the troubled Abramson Science & Technology School in eastern New Orleans). Then there was the mud, flung early and often: At the start of the race, word surfaced of a drunk-driving arrest and an IRS tax lien against Givens. As Jones climbed in the polls, attorney Tracie Washington filed a lawsuit demanding Jones stop claiming she voted for President Barack Obama in her campaign ads ... and Jones' voting record was indeed confusing. Givens ducked the press in the early part of the campaign, but toward the end it was Jones who was canceling appearances and not going in front of groups like the Urban League of New Orleans.

  Jones swept to easy victory in November with 57 percent of the vote, reflecting the popularity of New Orleans charter schools — and Gov. Bobby Jindal, who was known to support Jones but had kept his distance during the campaign, sent his congratulations from Baton Rouge.

7. The Danziger defendants
The Disgrace
  On Aug. 5, Kenneth Bowen, Robert Faulcon, Robert Gisevius and Anthony Villavaso — four former NOPD officers — were found guilty in federal court of shooting and killing Ronald Madison and James Brissette on the Danziger bridge in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, and then covering up the crime. A fifth cop, Arthur Kaufman, was found complicit in the coverup. An attempt to try the officers on the same charges in 2008 under local jurisdiction produced memorable news footage of hundreds of NOPD officers lining the streets to show support for the men as they surrendered on state charges. This time, there was no such display.

6. Bobby Jindal
The Second-Termer
  The man who was America's youngest governor when he took office in 2007 cruised to easy re-election this year, thanks in part to a feckless and adrift Democratic Party. Jindal spent much of the year denying he had an eye on the 2012 GOP vice-presidential nomination, while simultaneously traveling around the country, raising millions and promoting his 2010 book Leadership and Crisis. One of his few missteps: When Jindal endorsed Texas Gov. Rick Perry for president, Perry flubbed his first major debate the same evening and kept flubbing until his poll numbers cratered. Bobby backed the wrong horse.

5. Ronal Serpas
The Chief
  It was a bumpy year for the head of the NOPD, starting last spring when the now-infamous traffic camera paid detail scheme came to light. But Serpas had the public backing of Mayor Mitch Landrieu, and New Orleans Inspector General Ed Quatrevaux announced his office found no wrongdoing by Serpas — even before the IG's office had completed its probe of the brouhaha. Quatrevaux also came to the chief's defense later in the year over a question about the paperwork signed on the chief's hiring date. Serpas has been one of the most approachable police superintendents in recent memory, and has chalked up some successes in knocking down various crime rates, but under his watch the New Orleans murder rate hasn't gone down or even held steady: It's gone up. So far, the public has shown less patience with him than it has with Landrieu.

4. Drew Brees
The QB
  Is Breesus the most popular guy in New Orleans? Probably — as much for his off-field reputation as his fearsome passing record. He began 2011 by being honored by his fellow NFL players with the Athletes in Action/Bart Starr Award for outstanding character and leadership, becoming the first New Orleans Saint to win the award. His Brees Dream Foundation has raised more than $7 million to date, but despite his prowess on the gridiron and his largesse off it, what endears Brees to the city is his relatability. How many other Super Bowl QBs were photographed this year dressed in a centurion outfit, taking his son trick-or-treating?

3. Archbishop Philip Hannan
The Dearly Departed
  When Philip Hannan died Sept. 29 at the age of 98, it was not just a long life but a life well-lived — from his time as a paratrooper during World War II to delivering the homily at the Requiem Mass for President John F. Kennedy. Hannan served as Archbishop of New Orleans for 23 years. He was buried beneath the floor of St. Louis Cathedral.

2. Steve Gleason
The Inspiration
  "The challenges that I face are real. This is no game. Physically, things have not gone my way, I've made mistakes in life and the experts tell me the clock is ticking. It's scary to walk out on the field in front of 75,000 people when you're half the man you used to be.

  "I wanted to unravel, drop my poise and close up the playbook.

  "But in the end, I think the formula is the same. I am staying close to the ones that I love, I am relying on support from my team and I am looking my fear in the eye and laying bare my chest.

  "I'm fortunate because I am loved by my wife and family; boys like Will Smith and Drew Brees are powerful support, and the 75,000 in the crowd are on my team.

  "I am not here to predict the outcome of my life, but deep within my soul, I have a calming sense of certainty." —Steve Gleason, Sept. 27, 2011

  Gleason is a retired New Orleans Saint whose acts on the off the field have made him a favorite among fans. In the fall he publicly acknowledged he has ALS, or Lou Gehrig's Disease, a terminal illness that damages nerves and destroys muscle control.

1. Mitch Landrieu
The Mayor
  Landrieu ended his first full year in office with some good news: An October poll showed his favorability ratings among New Orleans voters to be a whopping 88 percent, with little difference in his popularity between white and black citizens. (One major exception: the New Orleans NAACP and several other largely African-American organizations.) Ambitious and energetic — and, sometimes, pugnacious — Landrieu ran his office crisply in 2011: steady clip, tight ship. In the last third of the year alone, he launched a sprawling anti-crime initiative, Save Our Sons, at a September crime summit; reopened Armstrong Park; steered his second municipal budget through the City Council vetting process with a minimum of drama; and ran the 26.2-mile New York marathon. National press for the mayor was largely positive as well; a May profile of Landrieu on 60 Minutes was more a wet kiss than a grilling. Landrieu's big challenges for 2012: guiding the city through a flurry of high-profile tourism events and getting the murder rate down; there were more killings in New Orleans in 2011 than there were in 2010. If anything could end his extended honeymoon with voters, it would be the city's inability to turn around the stubborn homicide rate.


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