Blanco, Legislature target N.O. assessors
Gov. Kathleen Blanco will continue pressing this week to cut the number of property assessors in Orleans Parish from seven to one. With the measure facing opposition from some quarters, Blanco is expected to personally express her support Monday when the House Ways and Means Committee takes up the bill authored by Rep. Austin Badon, D-New Orleans.
The governor is leading the charge with a battalion of business, good government and civic groups behind her. But two committee members — Rep. Alex Heaton, D-New Orleans (brother of 7th District Assessor Henry Heaton) and Rep. Jeff Arnold, D-Algiers (son of Algiers Assessor Tom Arnold) — are working hard to kill the measure. Blanco has vowed to press for consolidation of the assessor offices for as long as it takes to get it done.
Courts could come together too
Lawmakers may square off this week over a plan to merge New Orleans’ civil and criminal courts, their clerks offices and some other court-related offices. Gov. Kathleen Blanco has made the court merger a priority in this session and has continued her push even as the merger bill has faced delays. Aides to the governor say a “showdown vote” on the bill could occur Monday. In preparation, they are scrambling to assuage concerns that some local officials have about the bill.
Commemorating ‘the Big One’ — WWII
Its name officially changed last Friday to the National World War II Museum, and this week the former D-Day museum will open a new exhibit commemorating the Normandy invasion. “Snapshots of D-Day” will feature photographs taken by sailors, soldiers and professional photographers during the landing in France. The exhibit is a preface to an international conference on World War II that will draw major historians, authors and journalists to the museum in November.
The museum’s new name should help in raising money for a $280 million expansion designed to explore all facets of the war. Officials have scheduled an early 2007 groundbreaking for a theater that will feature a film about the war produced and narrated by actor Tom Hanks.
Founded in 2000 under the direction of historian Stephen Ambrose, the museum reached an average daily attendance of 700 before Katrina. While the number fell sharply after the flood, attendance has rebounded to almost 400 daily.
Cops, Guard plan tactical maneuvers
The Louisiana National Guard and the New Orleans Police Department are teaming up in the “ war room” this week to coordinate emergency plans and strategies to secure the city in the event of another powerful hurricane.
During the four-day “tactical exercise without troops,” National Guard officers are joining with commanders of New Orleans’ eight police districts to identify sites that will require critical attention during a hurricane emergency, such as drainage pump stations, electric power stations and hospitals. They also will plan the deployment of search-and-rescue and engineering teams from their units across Louisiana, with a goal of bringing help into New Orleans within two to three hours of a storm’s passing.
Camp Beauregard in Alexandria will serve as a training site for National Guard units that may be called in from other states.
What’s next for Jefferson?
Beleaguered Louisiana Congressman William Jefferson may or may not face off this week with fellow Democrat Rep. Nancy Pelosi over his seat on the House Ways and Means Committee. Pelosi, the California lawmaker who chairs the committee, has said that Jefferson should give up his seat on Ways and Means in deference to the ethical standards of the Democratic Caucus. But Jefferson thus far has resisted, with support from some members of the Congressional Black Caucus.
Will Pelosi try to force him off? A Pelosi spokeswoman said last week the congresswoman is considering her options. Pelosi could push for a resolution to remove Jefferson from the panel.
For more than a year federal investigators have been looking into allegations that Jefferson received bribes related to a technology project in western Africa. While he has not been indicted, federal prosecutors say they hold videotaped evidence that he received a substantial sum of money connected with the matter.