5) Evolution Politics Scuttle Convention
A controversial state law signed last year by Gov. Bobby Jindal that impacts the teaching of evolution in public schools was cited by a national science group as the reason its leaders decided to move a planned convention from New Orleans to a city in another state. The Society of Integrative and Comparative Biology was slated to bring 2,300 visitors to the city in 2011, but changed its plans in response to the 2008 Louisiana Science Education Act, which allows schools to teach alternatives to evolution, a move popular with conservative Christian advocacy groups. The New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau said the move could cost New Orleans about $2.7 million in local spending from the missed convention.
4) Ministers Seek Cao Recall
A group of politically active ministers from New Orleans churches initiated a recall effort against Congressman Joseph Cao, the Republican who defeated the indicted incumbent, William Jefferson, late last year. The petition comes after Cao joined fellow Louisiana Congressional Republicans in voting against President Obama’s stimulus package. The petition begins a 180-day process for collecting more than 100,000 signatures, which would trigger a recall election. There is so question, however, on whether voters may recall members of Congress and Louisiana Secretary of State Jay Dardenne is seeking an opinion from the state attorney general on the matter.
3) Mayor’s Records Go Missing
In response to a public records request filed by WWL-TV, City Hall revealed that most of the email and calendar files for Mayor Ray Nagin for the past year and a half had been erased. City officials explained the records were deleted because the city lacks sufficient server storage space. Government agencies are required by law to preserve documents for three years, and WWL has filed a contempt of court complaint against the administration for violating the law.
2) Stimulus Package Becomes Law
The landmark $787 billion economic stimulus bill signed into law by President Obama contains $3.8 billion for Louisiana in infrastructure spending, education and tax cuts. The state’s congressional delegation adhered to party lines when voting on the bill, with Republicans uniformly against the package and Democrats voting for it. Democrats have estimated the bill will create or help retain approximately 50,000 jobs in the state over the next 27 months. Louisiana’s 2nd Congressional District, which includes New Orleans and parts of Jefferson Parish, will receive the lowest job employment benefit from among the 435 districts across the nation receiving such assistance. Population decline in the district since Katrina and a low level of unemployment compared to other districts drove the calculations of benefits, the government said.
1) Nagin Cans Contract Reviews
Mayor Nagin eliminated the panels that review and make recommendations on professional services contracts for City Hall. The Nagin administration had created the panels in 2005 as a measure to improve transparency when spending public funds, but last week the mayor explained he was getting rid of them so that they do not interfere with the pace of hurricane recovery. The manner in which the city doles out these contracts has become a controversial issue since several of them led to such expensive and troubled programs as the crime camera network. Earlier in the month, the City Council unanimously passed an ordinance requiring the city to apply the state’s Open Meetings Laws to the panels. Nagin vetoed that ordinance, calling it a threat to the city’s division of power. An attempted override of the veto by City Council members failed fell short by one vote. Council member Cynthia Hedge Morrell recused herself from voting and Council members James Carter and Cynthia Willard-Lewis were not in attendance for the vote.
Ian McNulty is a freelance journalist in New Orleans and contributing writer for New Orleans Magazine. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.