5) Louisiana Leads Nation for Imprisonment
A report from the Pew Center for the States concluded that Louisiana has the nation’s highest incarceration rate, with one out of every 55 residents imprisoned. The Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit research group also found that one in 26 Louisiana adults is under some form of correctional control, including parole and probation. Louisiana’s incarceration rate has grown tremendously in the past two decades, rising 272 percent since 1982, the group’s research found.

4) Attorney General Rules Against Recall Effort
Louisiana Attorney General Buddy Caldwell’s office issued an opinion stating that U.S. elected officials can only be ousted from office by Congress, and not by a voter recall initiative. The ruling, which is in line with the opinion expressed earlier by Secretary of State Jay Dardenne’s office, comes after a group of politically active ministers from New Orleans churches began a recall effort against Congressman Joseph Cao. The new Republican Congressman joined fellow Louisiana Congressional Republicans in voting against President Obama’s stimulus package last month, sparking ire among some constituents. Members of the Recall Anh Cao Committee said they would continue the effort despite the legal opinions. No U.S. Senator or Congressman has ever been recalled.
3) Attorney Gets City Records, Media Cannot
It was revealed this week that when local attorney Tracie Washington filed a request at City Hall for the e-mail records of four City Council members and their staffers, the city’s sanitation director Veronica White bypassed the city attorney’s office to fulfill the request herself. She reportedly procured thousands of the officials’ emails over the past three years from the Mayor’s Office of Technology and handed them over to Washington without any city attorney review, as is standard in public records requests. Washington reportedly requested the correspondences of council members Jackie Clarkson, Arnie Fielkow, Stacy Head and Shelley Midura for a public records Web site she plans to build. A judge later issued a restraining order to keep Washington from distributing the information until it can be reviewed. The Nagin administration was unable to supply the mayor’s e-mail records to fulfill a similar public records request made recently by local news media, explaining those records were deleted because of computer storage restrictions. 

2) Investigation Traces Crime Camera Problems to the Start
A new report from the Inspector General’s office at New Orleans City Hall takes aim at the city’s troubled crime camera network, and turned up allegations of mismanagement that cost taxpayers millions of dollars and may result in criminal investigations. The report concluded that a lack of basic planning and budgeting by the Mayor’s Office of Technology, the awarding of no-bid contracts and a failure to hold contractors accountable led to spiraling cost overruns that nearly tripled the project’s initial cost even as many of the cameras in the network failed to perform as expected. The Inspector General’s office sent the report to the U.S. Attorney’s office to review for possible criminal acts.

1) Obama Cabinet Members Pledge Quick Funding for Recovery
The newly appointed heads of Homeland Security and HUD announced in New Orleans that they are committed to supplying hundreds of millions in federal funding for Louisiana’s long-term hurricane recovery. HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan said his agency has accepted the action plan drafted by the Louisiana Recovery Authority after hurricanes Gustav and Ike last year. The plan will provide some $438.2 million in federal grants for subsidized rental housing, commercial and agricultural business assistance and coastal restoration. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano supervises FEMA, and she said last week that the agency would provide funding to replace damaged public buildings in the city, including the 5th and 7th District police stations and a fire station, plus a water treatment plant in St. Bernard Parish. Both Obama cabinet members were in town for an inspection of the region and its pace of progress.

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