5) Hurricane Season Begins
This week marks the official start of tropical storm season along the Gulf coast. After remarkably quiet seasons in 2006 and 2007, the region suffered heavy damage last year from hurricanes Gustav and Ike. Gustav prompted a major evacuation of New Orleans, though the storm caused relatively minor damage in the city itself. Forecasters are predicting a less active season this year, with approximately six hurricanes and 12 named tropical storms in the Atlantic. Officials from the National Hurricane Center say now is the time for residents to update their personal and business hurricane plans if they haven’t already.
4) Update Expected on City Hall/Chevron Deal
City Hall may get a response this week to its latest letter of intent to buy the Chevron building. Mayor Nagin surprised many when he said during his recent state of the city address that his administration had signed what he called a "firm letter of intent" to buy the 21-story downtown office building from Chevron as the new site for City Hall. Chevron officials later said they had received a letter from the city but had signed no deal. The city’s first letter of intent expired last month, and a Nagin spokesman said that after discussions with the oil company a revised letter of intent to buy the building was sent with a June 5 deadline for response.
3) Congressional Visit to Charity Site
New Orleans Congressman Anh "Joseph" Cao plans to bring the top-ranking Republican on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee to Charity Hospital this week to tour the damaged and shuttered facility. Florida Congressman John Mica will visit the shuttered hospital as part of a review of hurricane recovery in Cao’s congressional district. The visit comes after Louisiana Recovery Authority director Paul Rainwater traveled to Washington to tell lawmakers that the state must know by the fourth anniversary of Katrina how much funding it can expect for damage to Charity hospital.
2) City’s Recovery Director Departing
New Orleans Recovery Director Edward Blakely is scheduled to end his tenure at City Hall this week. His departure coincides with the reorganization of the Office of Recovery and Development Administration he has overseen into a new city agency called the Community Development Department. Blakely came to New Orleans from Australia in January 2007 with high praise for his work in recovery and disaster management around the world. Blakely has remained upbeat about the city’s own recovery even as many residents and community groups have expressed frustration with the slow pace of visible progress and the difficulty of dealing with City Hall.
1) Gill Pratt, Jefferson Siblings Due in Court
An arraignment is scheduled on Friday, June 5, for former New Orleans Councilwoman Renee Gill Pratt, her companion Mose Jefferson, New Orleans tax assessor Betty Jefferson and her daughter Angela Coleman, who all face federal racketeering charges. The two Jeffersons are brother and sister to former U.S. Congressman William Jefferson, who is due in court later this month for the start of a separate trial on allegations of corruption while in office. Gill Pratt, Mose and Betty Jefferson and Coleman were all indicted on charges that they skimmed taxpayer money from nonprofit groups purportedly serving low-income New Orleans residents.