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Friends of New Orleans Make Pledge to Advocate on Behalf of South Louisiana

Loyola press release - July 28, 2006

Friends of New Orleans:

A Pledge to Standby the City and Surrounding Parishes

New Orleans, LA – Friends of New Orleans (FONO) announced today that it is ready to stand with the communities of South Louisiana. Friends of New Orleans is a private, nonprofit, nonpartisan, membership organization for people in the U.S. and abroad who care about New Orleans and the surrounding region. Its purpose is to build legislative and national support for the rebuilding and restoration efforts of areas devastated by Hurricane Katrina by explaining the issues. FONO will also create long term support by linking individuals directly to communities in the devastated areas, thus motivating them to take part in the rebuilding effort. New Orleans needs equity, not charity, and FONO intends get equity for this region.

“We want to let the nation know that the need is present and urgent and are doing all we can to keep this issue front and center in the minds of all Americans,” said Denise Byrne, FONO Volunteer Executive Director. “We want to show the residents of South Louisiana that we are aware of the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead, and we are prepared to get involved and lend a helping hand. Most importantly, we want to let Louisianans know that people care about the restoration of their communities, and they haven’t been forgotten. “

FONO was formed by a group of nationally recognized individuals, including President Clinton Political Advisor James Carville and former HHS Secretary and Gov. Tommy Thompson (R-WI), along with media, government and business leaders, such as Phoenix Pictures Chairman Mike Medavoy, Aspen Institute President Walter Isaacson and Dittus Communications CEO Gloria Dittus.

FONO board member and former Catholic University President, Rev. William J. Byron said, “We are not a relief organization, but one that seeks to advocate, inform and motivate to action.” Much of FONO’s advocacy is based on a Time magazine article published in March co-authored by former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich (R-GA) and FONO board member, John M. Barry, author of Rising Tide and The Great Influenza. The goals are: 1) A long term plan for major hurricane protection for the region that includes the restoration of coastal wetlands, and improved levees and storm surge barriers; 2) Private and government sector assistance to rebuild Louisiana’s devastated communities; and 3) A fair share of gas and oil revenues of Louisiana’s continental shelf for use by the State as needed.

The organizations that FONO is collaborating with have been faithfully serving residents of the city and its surrounding parishes for many, many years like the Preservation Resource Center’s Operation Comeback, the New Orleans Video Access Center (NOVAC) and the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts (NOCCA). Other important FONO partners include Loyola University, Women of the Storm, and America’s Wetland. As FONO Chairman, Gloria Dittus, explains, “We have a big job ahead of us, and we are going to collaborate with everyone who wants to bring back our beloved city and its surrounding parishes in the right way.”

FONO knows that its biggest challenge will be to inform and convince the nation that a major federal government investment is needed to restore the wetlands of South Louisiana. Without the restoration of the wetlands, even the most sophisticated levee system is doomed to fail in the face of “the big one.” FONO’s board includes wetland advocates Mike Tidwell, author of Bayou Farewell, and C. C. Lockwood, natural history photographer and author of several books on Louisiana’s wetlands.

FONO will be organizing a series of high profile media events this summer starting with a benefit dinner and special film screening of “All the Kings Men,” starring Sean Penn and Jude Law, which will take place at the Aspen Institute at its Aspen, CO campus on August 14. Additionally, Gloria Dittus will host a Katrina Anniversary Fundraiser on September 7 at her home in Washington, D.C. along with several FONO board members.

For more information on Friends of New Orleans and how you can get involved, please visit www.friendsofneworleans.org or write to Friends of New Orleans, Inc., c/o the Baton Rouge Area Foundation, 402 North Fourth Street, Baton Rouge, LA 70802.