5) SUNO Woes for Gill Pratt
Just days after news broke that former New Orleans City Councilwoman Renee Gill Pratt was under indictment on racketeering charges, she was named as an advisor to Southern University at New Orleans chancellor Victor Ukpolo. Soon after her new position on the university’s Executive Cabinet was made public, however, the university announced that she had voluntarily taken a leave of absence from her salaried position as SUNO’s director of recruitment, admissions and recruiting. The university said the leave was due to personal matters, was without pay, was for an indefinite duration and was effective immediately.

4) Campus Gun Bill Killed in House Vote
State lawmakers in the House of Representatives shot down one of the more controversial bills filed this legislative session that would have allowed firearms on college campuses. The bill, sponsored by Rep. Ernest Wooton of Belle Chasse, would have allowed college faculty and students age 21 or older to carry concealed firearms on campuses, but legislators voted by a margin of 86 to 18 against it in the House. Education leaders, college administrators, college sports leaders and law enforcement officials came out strongly against the bill, calling it a threat to campus safety. Wooton said he might revise the measure and enter it again next year.

3) Jury Invokes Death Penalty
A jury in New Orleans federal court issued a death sentence in the case of John Wayne Johnson, who was convicted of killing an Orleans Parish sheriff’s deputy while attempting to rob a bank. The sentence is only the second time the death penalty has been invoked in New Orleans since capital punishment was restored for federal crimes in 1988. Johnson was convicted in May of killing Sidney Zaffuto in 2004 at an Algiers bank. His attorneys said they plan to file an appeal of the sentence based in part on their assertion that the death penalty is being used unconstitutionally in New Orleans.

2) City Park Approves Golf Course Plan
The City Park Board of Commissioners approved a plan to conduct a $24.5 million redevelopment of the golf complex on its grounds. This addition to the park’s master plan calls for a new 18-hole championship course, a new clubhouse and driving range, a renovation of the park’s North Course and maintenance facilities. The work would be centered in the area of the park between Interstate 610 and Filmore Avenue and the board expects it to be complete by 2012. A second phase of work proposed earlier was put on hold until more market research is completed. The golf plan has faced opposition from some City Park users who want more of the property open as green space.

1) Corps Signs Off on St. Bernard Levees
The Army Corps of Engineers approved plans to build floodwalls over existing levees around St. Bernard Parish. The project is expected to cost between $1 billion and $1.5 billion and improve the region’s protection against hurricanes and storm surge. The corps’ approval signals the start of a public comment period on the plan, which calls for about 22 miles of new floodwalls. Construction should begin latter this year.

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