5) NOPD Rookie Arrested for Home Invasions
A suspect in a series of home invasions in New Orleans that the police initially described as impersonating an officer turned out to be an actual officer on the force. Police Superintendent Warren Riley held a news conference explaining that police had arrested rookie officer Darrius Clipps for allegedly forcing his way into three homes and victimizing their residents. Riley said Clipps confessed to two of the three incidents when confronted by investigators, but explained he was conducting his own personal narcotics investigations. 

4) NORA Knocks Down First Road Home Properties
The state and the city reached a long-delayed milestone of hurricane recovery with the first demolition of homes purchased from residents by the government through the Road Home program. The state eventually expects to take possession of thousands of damaged properties across Louisiana and especially in New Orleans, where they will be turned over to the New Orleans Redevelopment Authority (NORA) and then demolished or repaired by nonprofits and developers. The ceremonial first properties to be demolished were in the Pontchartain Park area of Gentilly, where they will be replaced by new model homes from a private developer.

3) City Email Travails Continue
Twists and turns continued in the controversies around the reported disappearance of Mayor Nagin’s e-mail and official calendar records and a city official’s separate release of years worth of e-mail from some City Council members without any legal review. After reporting that most of Nagin’s e-mails and appointment calendar from 2008, requested by the news media, had been erased, City Hall said an inspection was beginning to turn-up some of the previously missing data this week, while a judge refused to overturn a prior ruling holding Nagin personally liable for ignoring public records requests. In the case of the City Council’s email, Nagin’s chief administrative officer told the City Council that a federal investigation is underway concerning the decision of Sanitation Director Veronica White to field a public records request for their data herself and release it to an attorney without the knowledge of the Council members involved or any normal legal review by city attorneys. Nagin said last week he had no plans to discipline White for her actions.

2) City’s Master Plan Unveiled
City planners and consultants this week released the first draft of a broad master plan intended to guide development in New Orleans for years to come. The plan runs to hundreds of pages and includes both general and specific ideas for the city, including ideas that sprang from the first round of redevelopment proposals to appear in New Orleans in the months after Katrina. Some of the ideas take inspiration for the city’s past, including reopening Canal Street theaters as nightlife and arts attractions and reviving the historic North Claiborne Avenue commercial corridor by removing the elevated portion of Interstate 10. Others look to the future, like the creation of landscaped canals and urban drainage areas to add parkland and reduce flooding risk in the city. Neighborhood meetings to present the plan are scheduled to begin April 15. The City Council will later review, adopt, reject or amend the plan. Last fall, voters approved a City Charter amendment that would give the master plan that council does adopt the force of law for the first time. The document is available online at www.nolamasterplan.org.

1) Census: City Population Tops 300,000

A report from the U.S. Census Bureau pegs the city’s population at more than 300,000, the highest count since the city was practically emptied of people after Hurricane Katrina.  The overall population of the seven-parish metro area grew slightly from 1.1 million people in 2007 to 1.13 million in 2008, although four parishes lost population during that time: Jefferson, St. Charles, St. John the Baptist and Plaquemines. The population of the metro area was 1.3 million before Katrina. The new Census report showed a growth rate of more than eight percent for the city itself between 2007 and 2008. Analysts said the news was a big positive for New Orleans, since it shows the flow of returning residents and newcomers since Katrina is continuing more than three years after the demographic upheaval.

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