New Orleans Top Stories Last Week (Feb. 2-6)

5) Touro and Children's Hospital to Join 4) City Schools Chief Eyes Illinois Political Office 3) Sunshine Aimed to City Contract Process 2) Council Takes Aim at City Vehicle Fleet 1) Latest FEMA Flood Maps Released

5) Touro and Children’s Hospital to Join
The city’s post-Katrina healthcare landscaped continues to evolve, and the latest change, announced last week, will bring Touro Infirmary together with Children’s Hospital. Touro will become an affiliate of Children’s parent company, Louisiana Children’s Medical Center, which is expected to bring the Uptown infirmary $100 million in new investment over the next five years to expand new programs and purchase new equipment. Touro officials have said the closure of Charity Hospital has put more strain on their own resources as more uninsured patients come to them seeking care.

4) City Schools Chief Eyes Illinois Political Office
The future for Recovery School District superintendent Paul Vallas was in the spotlight after he revealed last week that he was considering running for election to the Cook County Board in Illinois next year. Vallas was CEO of Chicago Public Schools for six years and ran for governor of Illinois in 2001, losing to the Rod Blagojevich. He then served as CEO of the School District of Philadelphia before coming to New Orleans in 2007. Pursuing the Cook County Board seat would mean transitioning power over the Recovery School District to a new leader during 2009. Vallas has said his successor could be chosen by June.

3) Sunshine Aimed to City Contract Process
The New Orleans City Council unanimously approved a resolution to compel City Hall to follow state open meetings law when hiring professional services contractors. Council Vice President Arnie Fielkow championed the resolution as a way to improve transparency in spending public funds. The resolution would cover the previously-secret negotiations for contracts that brought the city such controversial programs as its crime camera network, which has been plagued by technical problems and escalating costs. The Nagin administration has sought to retain the private contract-awarding process, and City Hall attorneys have argued the resolution would violate separations of power proscribed in the City Charter.

2) Council Takes Aim at City Vehicle Fleet

A resolution passed by the New Orleans City Council calls on the Nagin administration to comply with a local law limiting the number of take-home cars for city employees to 60. The resolution is a response to the first report from the newly-created Inspector General’s office, which last month reported that the city had long-violated the law by keeping a fleet of hundreds of cars for employees at taxpayer expense. The resolution gives City Hall one month to come into compliance. The Nagin administration has argued that the law is outdated and contends that following the law would not generate as great a savings for taxpayers as the Inspector General’s findings reported.

1) Latest FEMA Flood Maps Released
FEMA released new maps designed to provide a detailed assessment of flood risks from hurricanes in the New Orleans area. The maps have been in the works for years, and have been highly-anticipated by local leaders because they are used to set flood insurance rates. Local governments are required to adopt building codes based on elevations specified on the maps in order for residents to access the federally-backed insurance program. Because of the ongoing repair and enhancement work of the region’s flood protection system, however, New Orleans area communities are not required to adopt any changes until 2011. The latest maps are based on the condition of the area’s flood protection system nearly a year and a half ago, in June 2007. FEMA is posting its maps online at www.lamappingproject.com.

Ian McNulty is a freelance writer in New Orleans and contributing writer for New Orleans Magazine. Reach him at imcnulty@cox.net.
 

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