From the CEO

Only seven months after one of the worst natural disasters in U.S. history, and five months before our convention, it looks like New Orleans will be able to host an outstanding meeting for APA. As you may remember from an earlier column, I, along with members of the APA Board of Directors, the Board of Convention Affairs and staff, made a site visit to New Orleans in late October. It was clear at that time that those neighborhoods that sustained flooding following the hurricane were in bad shape. Those areas that did not-like the Convention Center and French Quarter areas-were well on their way to full recovery.

Since the fall, a number of APA staff have made return visits to the city to check on the recovery process. All have remarked on the increased level of activity in the city since our first site visit.

Signs of the rebirth

Many signs of what locals are calling the "New Orleans Rebirth" are everywhere in the convention and tourist areas. Our first concern in making the decision to proceed with our New Orleans meeting was the health and safety of our members. For this reason we have been continually monitoring the results of environmental safety-testing in the city. All of these tests-for participle pollution for air quality and for water quality show levels in the normal or good range. Mold has not been an issue in the convention areas since flooding there was minimal. In addition, a massive clean-up effort following the hurricane has been completed in the French Quarter, central business district, arts and entertainment district and along Magazine Street and St. Charles Avenue.

A second question you may have is whether you will be able to get to New Orleans with a reasonable amount of convenience. As of this month, 10 of the 13 pre-Katrina airlines have resumed service to New Orleans' Louis Armstrong International Airport. Passenger capacity, now at 50 percent of what it was before the hurricane, is increasing daily.

Obviously, the Convention Center is another critical part of our meeting. The Convention Center is well on its way to a total refurbishing. It will be ready to host all of our convention program sessions when we arrive (and will host a number of other large society meetings before we get there). Additionally, as of this month, 95 percent of the city's hotel rooms are ready for guests, and we have been assured that all of APA's contracted room blocks will be available to us in August.

Eating is a big part of the New Orleans experience, and over 1,000 restaurants have reopened in the tourist areas, with more reopening every day. The largest taxi company in town is already up to 50 percent capacity. The main streetcars are up and running seven days a week, 15 hours a day. Emergency and inpatient hospital services are available at Tulane University Hospital and Clinic, just a few blocks from the Convention Center, and at Touro Infirmary, about two miles away. Before APA even gets to town, the city will have hosted many large events, including the just completed Mardi Gras, the French Quarter Festival, the Jazz and Heritage Festival, and the Satchmo SummerFest. In addition, the city will be hosting the 22,000-attendee American Library Association meeting in June and a 25,000-attendee Baptist convention in July.

Help with the rebirth

Despite this progress, we nevertheless remain sensitive to the fact that there is still much work to be done to help with the recovery of New Orleans. Your very participation in this year's convention will lend a hand in that effort. There are also a number of programs we have put in place to allow you to make additional contributions to the recovery.

On Wednesday, Aug. 9, APA will hold a volunteer project day in conjunction with Habitat for Humanity. Habitat is in the process of building homes in and around the planned Musicians' Village and the Upper Ninth Ward. APA volunteers will be working in that area. No construction experience will be needed. Just bring a "can do!" attitude and some sunscreen. APA will supply lunch and transportation to and from the building site.

We will also be conducting a school supplies donation drive throughout convention. Please bring some new school supplies (paper, pencils, notebooks, calculators) with you when you travel to New Orleans and place them in the collection boxes around the Convention Center. All supplies will be donated to the New Orleans Public Schools.

Also enjoy an evening with Bill Cosby or with the Preservation Hall Jazz band. All proceeds from both of these events will be donated: the Cosby event proceeds to the New Orleans Public Schools and the Jazz concert proceeds to Habitat for Humanity.

I hope to see you in New Orleans.