By Ida B. Torn
I must admit, I struggled over how best to convey this final message on the tax initiatives that will be voted on this coming Tuesday. As with the national election, I suspect that those who are undecided regarding the tax election are few and far between. Chances are, those folks will just skip over the tax options, if they even turn out to vote.
There was a town hall meeting held this past week in Marthaville that, at times, felt like a B.Y.O.B. (bring your own bat) piñata party. Person after person stepped up to the microphone to express their displeasure with the management of the Parish Public Works Department. To their credit, Mr. Nowlin and Mr. Verret took the criticisms in stride and addressed the questions regarding the tax initiatives.
The common theme of the complaints was that the Parish should be doing a better job with the resources it already has available. Some said that they wanted the Parish to gain their trust before they approve a tax. While this is not an apocalyptic point of view, there is a clear and present danger in this “wait and see” attitude.
The tax initiatives were put on the ballot by a 3 to 2 vote of the Council. Councilman Chris Paige voted against the propositions and has said on the record that he will never support this administration or this form of government. Patsy Ward Hoover also voted against putting the propositions on the ballot and regularly uses the Council meetings to express her desire for the Parish to return to a police jury. Councilmen de Graffenried and Rachal voted for the initiatives because they understand the dire financial situation the Parish faces without a new source of revenue for road maintenance. That leaves Councilman Bedgood, who voted to put the initiatives on the ballot on the basis that his constituents were telling him that they wanted the right to decide for themselves.
If neither of the tax initiatives passes, we are sending a clear message to the governing authority that we don’t want to pay for the things that we are demanding be provided to us. We have another three years under the current Council and Parish President. Tax propositions have to be authorized by them first and then by the State Bond Commission. If we vote these taxes down, what are the chances that they would vote to put another tax initiative on the ballot? Our next opportunity would probably be when we hit rock bottom; when the Public Works Department can no longer provide even nominal road maintenance, its funds are depleted and it shuts down completely. The Parish cannot end its fiscal year with any fund in a deficit and the general fund, which is running on a shoe-string budget as well, is the only fund that can transfer money into the Public Works Department.
The election on November 8th is not about our Parish government. It is about you and me and what we want the future of our Parish, our home, to look like. Changing elected officials or even forms of government will not put more money in the coffers. We can choose a path that we know will put a solid foundation in place and then hold the Parish government accountable or we can roll the dice, vote no, and sink further into the quagmire of bad roads and the misery they bring with them. The choice is ours.