5) Sentencing in Film Tax Credit Scheme
After an earlier delay, local film producer Malcolm Petal is due in court for sentencing on Thursday, April 23, for paying bribes to the then-state film commissioner in a scheme to exploit the film-industry tax-credit program. That program has been widely praised for increasing the amount of film and television business coming to Louisiana in the years since it was created. But a federal probe alleged a kickback scheme in which former commissioner Mark Smith received cash payments from Petal, former chief executive of the production company Louisiana Institute of Film Technology, who would then receive more marketable tax credits than normally allowed. Smith pleaded guilty to the government’s charges in September and Petal pleaded guilty in December.
4) Nagin to Testify on Crime Camera Deals
Mayor Ray Nagin is scheduled to give a court deposition on Wednesday, April 22, regarding the city’s controversial crime camera program. The program has been the source of an investigation by the city’s own Inspector General, which issued a report blaming large cost overruns and limited performance of the camera network on apparently poor City Hall oversight of vendors. The program has also led to a civil lawsuit in which a contractor and subcontractor have accused another vendor and city officials of "misappropriating" the camera system they developed.
3) Trial Brings Storm Surge Charges Against Government
A trial related to Hurricane Katrina storm surge damage is scheduled to begin today, April 20, and could have implications for many more pending lawsuits. A group of six New Orleans and St. Bernard Parish residents is seeking compensation from the U.S government for damages to homes and businesses caused by failed flood-control systems. The case has been pending for three years, and a judge earlier denied the U.S. Justice Department’s move to dismiss the lawsuit. Attorneys for the plaintiffs have said a ruling in their favor would pave the way for potential compensation for many more people who suffered losses in the disaster.
2) Jazz Fest Time
The New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival begins this Friday, April 24, with a weekend full of music, food, arts and other events, and continues the following weekend for a total of seven days of entertainment at the Fair Grounds Race Course. Headliners this year include Joe Cocker, James Taylor, Erykah Badu, the Dave Matthews Band, Earth Wind and Fire, Emmylou Harris, Solomon Burke, Bon Jovi, the O’Jays and Neil Young, while scores of local bands and performers will take the fest’s 12 stages. Complete information is available at www.nojazzfest.com.
1) New Orleans Master Plan Meetings Continue
A series of planning meetings continues this week, giving residents in various neighborhoods a chance to learn how the city’s newly proposed Master Plan will affect their area and giving them a forum to provide their own feedback. Last month, city planners and consultants released the first draft of a broad master plan intended to guide development in New Orleans for years to come. The plan includes both general and specific ideas for the city. On Monday, April 20, the meeting for Planning District 6 will he held at the Southern University’s cafeteria (6400 Press Dr.) and the meeting for Planning Districts 9, 10 and 11 will be held at St. Mary’s Academy (6905 Chef Menteur Hwy.). On Tuesday, April 21, the meeting for Planning District 7 will be held at the Mount Kingdom Missionary Baptist Church (3756 Louisa St.) and the meeting for Planning District 8 will be held at MLK Charter School (1617 Caffin Ave.). On Wednesday, April 22, the meeting for Planning District 2 will be held at the Dryades YMCA/Singelton Charter School (2220 OC Haley Blvd.) and the meeting for Planning District 4 will be held at Jesuit High School (4133 Banks St.). All meetings are scheduled from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. 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 the council does adopt the force of law for the first time. Details on meetings, maps of planning districts and a draft of the plan are available online at www.nolamasterplan.org.
Ian McNulty is a freelance writer in New Orleans and contributing writer for New Orleans Magazine. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.