LOOKING AHEAD: Stories to Watch

Monday, April 17 — Sunday April 23
Candidates play hardball
The race for mayor winds toward the primary this week with several more televised candidate forums. Leading off will be a nationally televised event airing live on local NBC affiliate WDSU and MSNBC. Channel 6 anchor Norman Robinson and Chris Matthews, host of MSNBC’s “Hardball,” will serve as co-moderators. Seven candidates are expected to participate in the forum, airing at 7 to 8 p.m. Monday and also available on WDSU.com and MSNBC.com. ABC-26 (WGNO) and WWL-TV/Channel 4 will air the final pre-primary televised forums on Tuesday and Thursday, respectively.

FQF starts Friday; no RSVP needed
The annual French Quarter Festival begins this Friday, promising more than 150 musical shows on 15 stages in and around the quarter. And that doesn’t touch on the food, arts and shopping opportunities. It’s the Vieux Carre’s biggest yearly celebration, and so far the weather appears cooperative. Organizers hope the fest will help locals put their recovery worries on hold and attract visitors back to one of America’s favorite tourist haunts. The festival runs April 21-23.

Lawmakers squeeze government
In the growing hope that less is more, state legislators this week are likely to continue efforts to consolidate some offices of local government. Gov. Kathleen Blanco backs some of the proposals, which would merge New Orleans’ Civil and Criminal District courts, the civil and criminal court clerks’ offices, and the civil and criminal sheriffs’ offices. Lawmakers will also seek to abolish the offices of recorder of mortgages, register of conveyances and custodian of notarial archives, and fold those functions into the civil clerk’s office. Rep. Peppi Bruneau, R-New Orleans, is a key backer of the legislation.

Size-up of assessors may bring sizing down
Seven “good government” candidates for property assessor offices whose names appear on the April 22 ballot actually intend to resign their posts, if elected. But if the Legislature acts soon, their efforts could be unnecessary.
The seven, who initially planned to run under the nickname “I.Q.,” are running with the intention of quitting after elected, thereby forcing the consolidation of the seven offices. Meanwhile, the Legislature will be considering a bill by Sen. Ann Duplessis, D-New Orleans, that proposes a constitutional amendment to make the consolidation of seven offices into one official. Her amendment would also end the terms of the newest crop of assessors in 2007, rather than in 2010 as now scheduled.

No races on this track
Activity is turning feverish at the Fair Grounds Race Track as organizers gear up for the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival. The six-day schedule will mark the first staging of the popular annual event since Hurricane Katrina. Kicking off on April 28 and running through two weekends, the festival will feature big New Orleans names including Fats Domino, the Meters and Irma Thomas, along with top national acts, from Bruce Springsteen to Herbie Hancock to Paul Simon.

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