NOPD: Do Not Disturb
Criminals, cops and reporters all work odd hours -- usually. Last week, the chief spokesperson for NOPD admonished a reporter for waking her up "after normal business hours" -- with an email. While reporting on recent violent crimes in Bywater and Faubourg Marigny last Wednesday night, freelance journalist Allen Johnson Jr. received a call about a rumored barroom hold-up in Bywater shortly before 11 p.m. Johnson emailed Gambit Weekly editor Clancy DuBos at home around midnight to report the tip, and DuBos emailed Johnson shortly after 1 a.m. Thursday asking Johnson to confirm the report ASAP. Johnson then emailed Bambi Hall, director of public relations for NOPD, seeking confirmation of the reported hold-up. Hall responded by email at 8:37 a.m. Thursday with the following message: "While I don't mind fielding inquiries during normal business hours, your after-hours emails are quite intrusive while I am sleeping. If you could be mindful of that in the future, it would be greatly appreciated if you sent your requests between the hours of 7 a.m. and 9 p.m." DuBos said Gambit Weekly will try to encourage local drug dealers, burglars, thieves, murderers, rapists and armed robbers to confine their activities to "normal business hours" so that Ms. Hall is not disturbed by intrusive emails from reporters trying to do their jobs while she sleeps.
Call for Commissioners
There's arguably little that's historic about conducting the city's second election since Hurricane Katrina. But the upcoming Sept. 30 primary will be the first for new Clerk of Criminal Court Arthur Morrell as the city's chief elections officer -- and he already faces a challenge. Morrell is calling on interested registered voters to serve as polling commissioners because there's a shortage of qualified local poll workers. "We're having a special two-hour class to train new commissioners and for recertification (of veteran commissioners)," says Joe Broussard, a top elections aide in Morrell's office. The class will run from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. Saturday (Sept. 23) at the University of New Orleans Business Building, Room 1350. Commissioners earn $100 and must be at work by 5:30 a.m. on the morning of the election. Polls open at 6 a.m. and close at 8 p.m. For more information, call the Clerk's Elections Division at (504) 658-9172. -- Johnson
Melancon Pulls Ad, Race Grows Nasty
Incumbent Congressman Charlie Melancon, a Democrat, yanked one of his television advertisements off the air last week fearing it was in violation of House rules because it shows him speaking from the House floor. It's not a widely known rule, but it is pretty clear: Live coverage of House proceedings is prohibited from being used for political or commercial purposes. Bradley Beychok, Melancon's campaign manager, says the oversight was addressed as soon as the campaign became aware of the problem. "It mistakenly appeared and we have already requested a change with the television stations," he says. "It was only about a second and a half of footage." Beychok adds that the spot was not yet in heavy rotation and hadn't even reached all of its intended market. The campaign of state Sen. Craig Romero of New Iberia, the main Republican challenger to Melancon in the Third Congressional District, didn't miss a beat. After a complaint was filed with the U.S. House Committee on Rules, Brent Littlefield, Romero's campaign manager, issued a news release linking Melancon with a fellow Louisiana Democrat who violated House rules -- and is consequently under federal investigation. "Charlie Melancon now has something else in common with (Congressman William) Jefferson, aside from their liberal voting records," says Littlefield. It's unclear how a violation of House rules is investigated, and a call seeking comment from the Rules Committee was not returned. "No one has contacted our office," Beychok says. Pundits and pontificators predicted the Third District race, which will be waged from Iberia to St. Bernard parishes, would be the hottest and muddiest this election cycle. Melancon's return volley only strengthens that forecast. Beychok released a four-page report entitled, "The Romero Record on Ethics." It details a laundry list of activities involving Romero that have been reported by the mainstream media in recent years, such as a 1995 decision by the Louisiana Ethics Board forcing four of Romero's siblings to pay a $10,000 fine after doing business with Iberia Parish while Romero was parish president. -- Alford
The campaign spot is as Capraesque as a television commercial can be. State Sen. Jay Dardenne, a Republican from Baton Rouge, walks along the marbled halls of the Upper Chamber with his head bowed like a humble servant. All of it is in black and white with a delicate narration. When Dardenne used it a few years ago for his Senate re-election, it won an award from the American Association of Political Consultants. So it's no wonder Dardenne has decided to recycle the ad statewide for his secretary of state campaign. But Pat Bergeron, a Baton Rouge political operative who publishes The Louisiana Political News Service online, says a phrase referring to Dardenne's support for "less taxes" was taken out of the most recent version. The reason: Dardenne has voted for several tax measures over the years and the statement could have left him open for attack on the state level. Dardenne says the script was altered in its entirety and expanded to fit a larger market. "That is a typical move by the Web site to criticize my every move," Dardenne says. Dardenne also pointed out what's already well known in many political circles -- that Bergeron is on the payroll of Mike Francis, the former chairman of the Louisiana Republican Party who is now facing off against Dardenne and a group of others in the secretary of state contest. "He's been paid $4,000 and there's no disclaimer at all," Dardenne says. Bergeron contends his blog is his "personal" outlet and has nothing to do with his professional life. "I don't write anything on the blog that is untrue to the best of my knowledge," Bergeron says. "It appears to me that Mr. Dardenne is just shooting the messenger." -- Alford
What Exactly is 'Hurricane Protection?'
Proposed Constitutional Amendment No. 4 on the Sept. 30 ballot will ask you if state and local government should be allowed to take private land for hurricane protection projects and pay the owner only "fair market value." The ballot language, however, does not define "hurricane protection," nor does the enacting legislation. Paul Hurd, a Monroe attorney who has published works on the Louisiana Constitution, says the goal of government is to pay landowners as "little as possible" because the proposed amendment would prohibit future value from being considered. More important, he adds, there is no definition, aside from public good, for a hurricane protection project. "This concept can be painted so broadly," he says, "and the transfer of land could go from one entity to another to another." State Sen. Reggie Dupre, a Democrat from Bourg, told the Louisiana League of Women Voters last week that the intent of the measure is to keep projects and landowners out of the courtroom and to convert Louisiana's system into what is being used nationwide. But Dupre couldn't shake off the lack of a good definition. -- Alford