The Natchitoches Parish Journal received this submission from Dennis Coleman. The views and opinions expressed are those of Mr. Coleman and not necessarily those of the Natchitoches Parish Journal. If you have an article for publishing consideration by the NPJ, please send it to NPJNatLa@gmail.com.
In the history of the United States, the key transportation infrastructure projects include an era of canal building in the early 1800s, transcontinental railroads in the late 1800s and the national highway system in the 1900s. Every move reduced the cost and time for shipping goods and people around the country, from horse-drawn vehicles to inland waterways, then railroads and finally trucks and cars. While no single project can be responsible for America’s success, each new technology stimulated growth that cumulatively turned a nearly 10 million-square-kilometer rural expanse into the world’s dominant economy. In modern-day areas of the world marked by unpaved roads, no electrical grid, limited sewage and an unsafe water supply, an improvement in any of those areas holds the potential to boost economic growth and begin to create an environment that attracts business investment and supports local firms.
The above is from the referenced article provided by the U.S. Department of State. The article is somewhat lengthy, but definitely factual. (read more: CLICK HERE ) Those of us who grew up in Natchitoches Parish heard, from time to time, “If the shoe fits, wear it.” Well the above article contrasts the economic development of the United States with the rest of the world. A stark contrast it is. As for the ‘unpaved roads,’ well that’s directed right at Natchitoches Parish and many would say, “That shoe fits.”
For well over 100 years the population has remained flat. Other parishes have grown, the state has grown and the United States’ population has tripled. Some point to the fact that there are only two public high schools in the parish, but most cases that I have seen, the schools tend to follow the population, which follows the roads. Think about it, anywhere there has been a new school erected, the population was already there. And, conversely, the population will not develop where there is no
In the not too distant past, the police jury resorted to operating on what I call a “Daylight Savings Budget” that consisted of cutting a large slice off next year’s budget and utilizing it on the end of this year’s expenditures. Some call that “Robbing Peter to Pay Paul.” If not illegal, it certainly was a violation of the state’s rules for public entities. Oh they were ‘cited’ in the annual audit, but they never completely stopped the creative bookkeeping. In fact they failed to balance their budget in 18 of the last 22 years of their existence. Still, there seem to be those who remember fondly a little fast and loose ‘management’ back in the days of the police jury.
Since January, 2013, operating within the parish budget has had its challenges. But, professional management met the challenges and when they were out of money, they were out of money. Just like you and me. The road fund has been grossly underfunded (some say neglected) for 30 years. It has nothing to do with what may have occurred in the past by the jurors or anyone else. It is time to start finding additional revenue somewhere. It is time to restore the roads and pick up that century that has been lost. It is time the Council had the intestinal fortitude to stand up for the citizens of Natchitoches Parish. Will good roads increase property values? Yes, but the pressing issue is one of safety. One person who does not get to the hospital in time, is a price most are unwilling to pay. Most would agree, the roads are on ‘life support.’ The time has come for those in a position of leadership to accept the challenge and move forward. This ‘tin can’ has been kicked down the road far enough; the citizens of Natchitoches Parish deserve better.
Some say nothing much will happen until after the election. This is nothing new and, sadly, it wreaks of politics, as usual. There are some ‘players’ who began their campaign before the Home Rule Charter (HRC) ever became law, and while interested in self promotion, they seem reluctant to advance the cause of better roads in Natchitoches Parish. The HRC has a three term limit for its Council, but seeing the inactivity of this Council this term, perhaps it is time the citizens impose their own limits.
Do the roads matter to the people of Natchitoches Parish? Apparently, only to some.