New Orleans Top Stories Last Week (Feb. 23-27)

5) New Indictment Stems from Jefferson Case, 4) Cost for Major Corps Project Skyrockets, 3) New Managed Tapped for Road Home, 2) Jindal Addresses Nation, 1) City Enjoys Mardi Gras, Though Violence Persists

5) New Indictment Stems from Jefferson Case
A federal court indicted a former employee of the U.S. Export-Import Bank in a case related to the corruption charges against former Louisiana Congressman William Jefferson. The government has accused Jefferson of bribery and other counts for using his office to broker business deals for himself and his family. In the latest twist to the case, former bank employee Maureen Edu of Potomac, Md., is accused of accepted a $100,000 bride from a Nigerian television company, which Jefferson is accused of helping while he was in office. Jefferson lost his re-election bid last year and is awaiting trial.

4) Cost for Major Corps Project Skyrockets

The Army Corps of Engineers revealed this week that a cornerstone project in its plan to increase storm protection for the New Orleans area will cost nearly twice as much as originally expected. The news, which came out during a Congressional hearing last week, sparked concern among local leaders that the $14 billion appropriated by the federal government for levee improvements will not stretch far enough to do the job properly. The Corps’ barrier project plan calls for gates and concrete barricades to protect the Industrial Canal from storm surge. Corps officials told lawmakers the projected price has risen from $695 million to as high as $1.3 billion due to a design change to create a larger gate structure for vessel traffic.

3) New Managed Tapped for Road Home 
The Louisiana Recovery Authority announced that the Lutcher-based firm Hammerman & Gainer Inc. (HGI) would take over administration of its Road Home hurricane recovery program. The previous contractor, Virginia-based ICF International, was paid more than $900 million by the state to manage the program, and its contract expires in June. LRA executive director Paul Rainwater has promised the new contract with HGI and other firms working on the program will include clear performance goals from the beginning. Such goals were not included in ICF’s initial contract and the omission was blamed for causing many problems and much confusion as the $10.3 billion program progressed.
 
2) Jindal Addresses Nation

As Mardi Gras day continued across Louisiana communities, Gov. Bobby Jindal appeared before a national television audience s to offer the Republican response to President Obama’s first address to Congress. Leaders of the Republican party picked Jindal for this high-profile address, adding fuel to rampant speculation among political analysts that he is being eyed as a future Republican presidential candidate. The style and substance of his performance were widely criticized from both Democratic and Republican quarters, however.

1) City Enjoys Mardi Gras, Though Violence Persists  
Hundreds of thousands of people celebrated Mardi Gras in New Orleans on Feb. 24, marking the end of carnival season. Officials have estimated this year’s turnout for Mardi Gras was the largest in the city since Katrina. The violence that has plagued New Orleans did not take a break for the holiday however. Seven people were injured by a spray of gunfire along the St. Charles Avenue parade route early in the afternoon. Police arrested suspected shooters at the scene. Several other shootings were reported in neighborhoods across the city early on Mardi Gras morning or hours after the parades had finished. 

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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