Ponderings with Doug – June 2, 2017; A Dysfunctional Parish Government

DougFUMCI was praying this morning when the secretary buzzed in, there was a phone call for me. It was not a church member, but a mad resident of Natchitoches Parish. He was calling about……wait for it….the roads. I shook my head. He does not live in my district, but asked if I could please write an article because it might help the people of the Parish get something done about the roads. It was the first time someone has pleaded for me to write an article to help the people.

Let me tell you how bad the roads are in the Parish. I have church members who have been driving in the ditch to avoid their road. They drove in the ditch until it developed potholes. Then they drove in the corn field to avoid the potholes in the ditch. Now the cornfield has potholes. This story is basically the same all over this Parish. Folks are giving up on the Parish and are taking matters in to their own hands. I have church members who have bought and spread their own gravel to repair their road.

Parish Government suffers from systemic organizational dysfunction. That is known as, “we can’t find our tails with both hands and a roadmap.” Some Monday nights I think the Parish Council will drive me to drink. For all these months I feel like I have been in the same meeting listening to the same complaints followed by the same excuses. Maybe they are filming a sequel to Groundhog Day and calling it Parish Council Meetings.

The roads in Natchitoches Parish and all the complaints about them are draining my soul. What drains your soul? A better question is what energizes your soul? I think writing this article I’m at least going to get some relief from my nagging pavement problem. I am doing one thing that I can actually do.

The late, great, country comedian, Jerry Clower, spun some funny yarns in his day. My favorite was his coon huntin story. Long story short, Jerry and his buddy went on a night coon hunt with a neighbor, Mr. Barron, and his hired hand, John Eubanks. John was known far and wide for his ability to climb trees. John believed in giving the coons a sporting chance. When pack of hounds treed a coon, John didn’t believe in shooting it out of the tree. Instead, he’d climb the tree and poke the coon with a sharp stick and knock him down amongst the dogs. The coon at least had the option of whooping all the dogs and getting away. The outcome was entirely up to the coon.

This dark night, things were going according to script until John, high up in a huge tree, poked the treed coon with his sharp stick, and the coon turned out to be a lynx, what they called a souped-up wild cat around those parts. Instead of falling, the lynx stood his ground, so to speak, and started making minced meat out of poor old John.

John yelled down to Mr. Barron, who had a pistol, “Shoot this thang, shoot this thang—it’s killing me.

Mr. Barron yelled back, “I can’t shoot it, I might hit you.”

“Shoot this thang.”

“Can’t, might hit you.”

Finally, in desperation, John yelled down, “Well, just shoot up in here amongst us. One of us got to have some relief.”

Here it is folks, either the Parish receives more tax revenue for the roads or we keep heading in the direction we are headed. We need something to give us some relief. No one is coming to our financial rescue. Truth is often hard to swallow.

The roads declined during the last 40 years of the Police Jury form of government. What one could have fixed easily was a pothole. The roads we have are a result of patching potholes and not repairing the base of the roads. My muse reminded me that patchwork is only appropriate for quilts. The frustration my caller was voicing is that we can’t seem to get even potholes fixed under the Parish Council form of government. Actually, he lives on a dirt road. He was not asking for pavement. He wanted his dirt smoothed out. I don’t know whether to cuss or cry.

The fault lies not with the form of government but with those who lead and work in this form of government. (I am pointing at myself.) The challenge is never about form, it is always about content. Jesus warned it is not the form of your words that cause problems; rather it is the content of your heart.

He also taught us to keep our word…even to one frustrated resident of our Parish.
I did.

5 thoughts on “Ponderings with Doug – June 2, 2017; A Dysfunctional Parish Government

  1. I thought your suggestion several weeks ago regarding quartering the parish and allowing the residents living in each quarter to either vote for a road tax to be used only in that quarter or vote against. It’s certainly a fair way. That way people control whether they have decent roads. Even if a quarter passed a tax It would take time because every road cannot be fixed first. Also, most of us don’t understand that the parish is basically generating the same percentage of revenue or about the same percentage as in the last 40 years or more and with the cost of repairing roads there’s just no elastic in the dollars to stretch it as far as it needs to stretch.

  2. Doug–I understand your frustration. I’ve heard the broken record too. You cannot have better roads without spending more money, period. It can be very hard for someone who wants to do the right thing to serve in any government capacity today. Hang in there. I, for one, have watched the goings-on closely and will be making a different choice when I cast my next vote for parish councilmember. My current representative is not working to change the situation as you are.

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