5) Agreement Fixes Voodoo Fest Dilemma
Organizers of the annual Voodoo Experience and officials at City Park found a resolution for a scheduling problem that threatened to derail the huge music festival, to the relief of music fans and also hospitality industry representatives who hail the event as a tourism boon to the city. The 2009 Voodoo music fest was scheduled for Oct. 23-25 in City Park, though in January its producers moved the date to Halloween weekend and began booking major acts, such as KISS. Through miscommunications, however, that change put the festival in conflict with private events scheduled that weekend at the park, which put its future in jeopardy. The resolution clears the way for the festival’s Halloween schedule, and park and festival officials also agreed to hold the 2010 Voodoo Experience on Halloween weekend.

4) Saints Staying Home for Camp
Local football fans will get their first glimpses of this season’s New Orleans Saints squad without having to trek very far from home. Saints officials announced the team will not hold its summer training camp at Millsaps College in Jackson, Miss., as they have for the past three years, but rather will work at their Metairie practice facility. Saints officials said one reason for the move was to help support the New Orleans area with the fan interest the camp typically generates. The Saints plan to open the camp at the end of July.

3) New Regional Recovery Chief Named
Tulane alumna Janet Woodka was named by the Obama administration as its pick for Federal Coordinator of Rebuilding in the Gulf Coast Region. U.S. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano made the announcement last week. Woodka has worked as legislative director for U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu and in the recovery office under its previous coordinators. Earlier this year, Obama extended the tenure of the Federal Coordinator’s office through the current fiscal year.

2) Audit Reveals Chaotic Bridge Finances
A report from the state Legislative Auditor’s office documents a $25 million budget deficit for the Crescent City Connection and a financial records system that lacked key contracts and other important details. The state auditor found the toll bridge agency whittled down a $61 million reserve fund to $36 million between 2004 and 2008, and concluded that agency administrators didn’t not monitor costs and contracts to ensure services were delivered. Surplus toll revenue paid by motorists using the bridge is supposed to pay for roadwork in West Bank communities, but only one of 11 such projects identified earlier have been completed. The head of the state Department of Transportation and Development, appointed in 2008 at the end of the period covered by the audit, said he agreed with the report’s findings. State Rep. Patrick Connick of Harvey, one of the legislators who requested the audit, said he plans to introduce a bill in the upcoming legislative session to replace the bridge’s board.

1) Federal Loans to Local Governments To Be Forgiven 
Following her recent visit to the region, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano directed FEMA to draft new rules allowing the federal government to forgive up to $1.2 billion in loans to the area for hurricane recovery, including close to $1 billion loaned to Louisiana. The move lifts an enormous financial burden from local school systems, hospitals, public safety departments and governments, including New Orleans, which received $240 million. Such recovery loans granted before hurricanes Katrina and Rita were forgivable if impacted communities have not sufficiently recovered after three years, but the Bush administration stipulated that money provided after the 2005 hurricanes could not be forgiven. Napolitano’s directive to FEMA reverses that decision.

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