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Gambit Weekly Honors LRA Chairman for New Orleans Recovery Efforts

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Georgianne Nienaber
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New Orleans, Louisiana-based alternative newspaper, Gambit Weekly, named Louisiana Recovery Authority Chairman (LRA) and Xavier University President Dr. Norman C. Francis its 2007 New Orleanian of the year. The award for New Orleanian of the year is made on the basis of honoring an individual who has made a positive difference for New Orleans. Two years and five months post Hurricane Katrina, the award takes on a special significance.

"Norman Francis' commitment to New Orleans and to education has been palpable in the wake of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita as chairman of the Louisiana Recovery Authority,” Gambit said, citing the "long-delayed" Road Home Program. “He guided the city's request for hundreds of millions of dollars through bureaucratic channels at both the state and federal levels.”

This is a prestigious honor, coming from Gambit, a publication that has won numerous awards in the course of investigative journalism and focus on social justice issues. The paper won the Hunter College's James Aronson Award for Social Justice Journalism in 2002 for a series on the mistreatment of the homeless.

As a journalist working for the independent press, we are accustomed to sometimes being shut out of the media offices of local government. This was evident in the City of New Orleans, but the Office of the Louisiana Recovery Authority went out of its way to accommodate our press inquiries, especially regarding the Road Home Program. It is not surprising that the person at the helm of LRA should be singled out for what amounts to a social justice award. The style and tone of a leader filters through the ranks of its employees and will make or break an organization.

LRA press officer Melissa Landry made our job incredibly easy while we were in the NOLA area for six weeks in October and November 2007. Landry obtained the contacts we needed in Governor Blanco’s office, and returned every email and every phone call with what can only be called extreme efficiency and mutual professional respect. She was available to vet every question and answer we threw at her.

We did not feel like second-class citizens as members of the progressive media. One gets the impression that Landry knows what it is like to be out on the streets in an unfamiliar area, trying to get a story that may just turn out to be one of the most significant of our lifetime—a story which the national mainstream press has ignored in recent months, except for Brangelina sightings and bowl games.

Kudos should certainly go to the Press office of LRA, also.

Hurricanes Katrina and Rita devastated South Louisiana, destroying more than 200,000 homes and 18,000 businesses. 200,000 individuals have still not returned to New Orleans.

The Louisiana Recovery Authority (LRA) is the planning and coordinating body that was created in the aftermath of these storms by Governor Kathleen Blanco. The LRA is a 33-member body taht is coordinating across jurisdictions, supporting community recovery and resurgence, ensuring integrity and effectiveness, and planning for the recovery and rebuilding of Louisiana.

LRA announced Tuesday, November 6, 2007 that Congressional negotiators agreed to provide an additional $3 billion for Louisiana's Road Home program in a pending defense bill.

Gambit Weekly currently publishes 40,000 papers each week, which are distributed to 375 locations in the New Orleans metro area. On October 1, 2007, Gambit Weekly launched www.blogofneworleans.com to supplement their website www.bestofneworleans.com with daily news coverage.

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Georgianne Nienaber is an investigative environmental and political writer. She lives in rural northern Minnesota and South Florida. Her articles have appeared in The Society of Professional Journalists' Online Quill Magazine, the Huffington (more...)

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