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Celebrating the indomitable spirit of public works

The editors of Public Works are writing today from New Orleans, where the American Public Works Association is holding its 114th annual convention.

After Hurricane Katrina hit here in 2005, the association scrapped the plans it made to gather here in 2006. Now it's making good on its vow to show the rest of the world that nothing keeps an infrastructure professional down.

The show is expected to contribute $5.3 million to the city's coffers, but the 6,000 attendees-from public works departments and 500 product and service providers-are opening up more than their wallets. New Orleans is not the place to be in August if you don't like humidity, but 200 volunteers spent two days plumbing and insulating homes in the infamous Ninth Ward, where some residents are still living in trailers.

"It was eye-opening, I'll tell you that," says Jay Sheehan, PE, vice president of consulting firm Woodard & Curran. As for the perception that the ward's slow recovery is due to racism, the home he worked on was for a white couple with a young child.

APWA has 30,000 members and Public Works has 66,000 readers, so chances are you're reading at the office, where you're busy doing everything you can to improve the quality of life for residents of your city, county, or state.

We can't bring you gumbo or jazz or any of the other treats for which New Orleans is famous, but we can gather and share the lessons your colleagues have learned about everything from managing organizational dynamics to filling sandbags in an emergency (see below).

Since we were at last year's convention, look at our coverage from then:

And visit www.pwmag.com daily for infrastructure news from around the world.