5) New Orleans Makes Super Bowl Pitch
The Greater New Orleans Sports Foundation submitted the city’s official application to host the next available Super Bowl in 2013. The bid comes as the state and the New Orleans Saints are currently negotiating terms for the team’s next lease in the Superdome. The current lease is good through 2010. Since only cities with NFL teams host Super Bowls, league officials want the team to have a new lease in place before New Orleans can fully contend for another championship game. Hosting the Super Bowl brings a city a windfall of visitor and corporate spending and international publicity. The NFL meets in mid-May, when it will determine the location for the 2013 Super Bowl.

4) Money for City Playgrounds Sits Idle
A New Orleans City Council hearing concerning the slow pace of repairs and restoration for public playgrounds, gyms and pools found that while most of these properties fester City Hall is sitting on more than $13 million in uncommitted funds from FEMA intended to bring them back to public use. FEMA has directed some $16 million to rebuild youth and recreation facilities damaged by the levee failures in New Orleans, but the New Orleans Recreation Department (NORD) has spent less than $3 million thus far for actual work. NORD officials said they are in a dispute with FEMA over the true cost of rebuilding some 161 properties. They said at least eight public pools will not be ready for use again this summer.

3) City’s Mental Health Services on Jindal’s List of Cuts
Gov. Bobby Jindal’s administration this week presented a plan to close the New Orleans Adolescent Hospital, which serves people with mental illness, and transfer its services to a state hospital in Mandeville. The hospital in New Orleans has been serving adults as well as children since the closure of Charity Hospital and its mental health unit after the storm. Health professionals have decried the lack of services for the mentally ill in New Orleans since the storm, saying people in need of care often end up in jail or in dangerous confrontations as a result of their conditions. Jindal’s health policymakers say the move will save the state money as the Louisiana deals with a projected budget shortfall. The state’s plan is part of Jindal’s 2009-10 budget proposal, which Legislators will take up beginning April 27.

2) Symbolic Stones Tossed in MR-GO Closure
The manmade channel widely blamed for helping funnel hurricane storm surge into local communities and magnifying the devastation caused by hurricanes Katrina and Rita is being closed, and last week local residents had a symbolic chance to do their part in that effort. St. Bernard Parish officials, residents from the area and conservation leaders tossed stones into the spot along the Mississippi River-Gulf Outlet, or MR-GO, where a Corps of Engineers project to plug the channel is underway. The channel has been in operation since the 1960s and its full closure is expected by July.

1) Modest Local Job Gains Buck National Trend
The state reported that the New Orleans metro area gain 700 new jobs in February, a small gain compared to population but one that stands in stark contrast to job cuts and rising unemployment rates for the nation as a whole. The Louisiana Workforce Commission reported that the seven-parish New Orleans area had 525,600 non-farm jobs in February, up from 524,900 the month before and 524,800 a year prior. Manufacturing and construction sectors lost jobs during that period however, and most of the gains came in health care, education and financial services.
Ian McNulty is a freelance writer in New Orleans and contributing writer for New Orleans Magazine. Reach him at imcnulty@cox.net.