By Nicholas Wright/Opinion
Government is the problem. The words of the late Ronald Reagan should resound loudly with Natchitoches Parish Government. It is in political science and not administration that this argument resides. A better form of home rule charter should exist for Natchitoches Parish. The parish, a tourist hotspot,should not have a deteriorating transportation infrastructure that affects revenue projections. Several reasons exist that support a parish-city consolidation:
The National League of Cities lists several of them. Consolidations produce cost savings (in the long-term), increase efficiency (overlapping or duplicated city and county services can be eliminated), improve resource base (increased legal powers, revenue sources, and jurisdiction), and enhance planning capacity (greater cooperation with the private sector may be fostered).
One can think of it as a President Trump solution.
Most importantly the National League of Cities says consolidations improve accountability. They say a consolidated entities responsibility for services can no longer be in dispute as it may have been between separate governments. This can be expanded on the political science track. A consolidated entity eliminates bureaucratic politicians. No longer will city districts dictate for parish decisions and vice versa. Therefore, a significant improvement is that the composition of taxes is evolving in the right direction.
Over the years, the argument for consolidation has shifted from one based on public administration (that is, seeking efficiency and effectiveness, productivity) to one based on political science (that is, seeking accountability). Consolidated metropolitan servicesare more accountable than fragmented services. Citizens can access consolidated services without trying to figure out whether X is a county service or a city service. The largest effects would most likely be seen in economic development, planning, and fire protection; three areas that the parish and city are mutual. In fact, the first consolidated government in America was New Orleans and Orleans Parish in 1805.
It should be noted that a consolidated government does not have to eliminate executive leadership for the parish. Two distinct service districts may also be created, with one to provide services for the urban population and another for the rural population. The current council-president model allows legislative participation, which has its political underpinnings. A consolidated parish-city will act like a council-manager model. It is not necessary for government to be synonymous with gridlock.
Generally, a consolidated parish-city government willsave a total of $30,000 to $110,000 that would otherwise pay for politician’s salaries. That is enough money to pave a two-lane road a mile. A mile of pavement is certainly enough to eliminate the pothole problem. This is a plan for Rural Access.
The $80,000 Parish President salary is exactly for the purpose of bringing in such a talented individual (as is the $6,000 per district council member). In fact, an early version of the HRCrequired for the Parish President to be “a graduate of an accredited university with a four year degree”.This is not unusual but for the lack of talent that the politicians are being paid for.That is because the current Parish President is an engineer, not a professional administrator. The disposition is known as Putt’s Law. It states that technocracy is dominated by two types of people: those who understand what they do not manage and those who manage what they do not understand. Therefore, every technocratic hierarchy, in time, develops a competence inversion.
Sundry may think that Natchitoches Parish is too small for a parish-city consolidation. However, there are many small consolidations, specifically the capitals of Nevada and Alaska. Being Louisiana’s oldest city, Natchitoches is very applicable to these scenarios. A consolidation would create greater citizen buy-in of public programs, saving fire districts and insurance. A consolidation would make programs more efficiently administered to make the tax dollar go further, saving Robeline-Marthaville a water system.
It is unusual that Natchitoches’s public officials are paid so much for such little talent. Two dollars from every resident to the Parish President. Compare this to the POTUS salary of $400,000 for a population over 300 million. New Mexican legislatures receive no salary. On balance, many of these positions are unnecessary and duplicative of other jurisdictions.
Finally, there is a unique form of government used in the State of Georgia. It is known as a sole commissioner model.This model eliminates the politics of a legislative council. The Parish President would then be the executive and legislature in governance. In theory, this model could be enacted with a two council member vote to amend the home rule charter. The Parish Council could ask to eliminate the Parish Council itself.
Otherwise, there is no Vox Populi and no one benefits.
Nicholas Wright holds a Bachelor’s degree in Political Science and is currently attending graduate school for Public Administration.
The Natchitoches Parish Journal received this letter. The views and opinions expressed are not necessarily those of the Natchitoches Parish Journal. If you have an article or story of interest for publishing consideration by the NPJ, please send it to NPJNatLa@gmail.com.