Parish Council: There’s no vote about it

ParishMeeting 05-21-18


Home Rule Charter vs. Police Jury was the hot button topic at the Parish Council meeting Monday night, May 21.

Residents in support of a Coalition called “We The People 2018” attended the meeting to ask the Council members to approve an agenda item allowing voters to make their own decision on whether they want to remain with the current form of government (Home Rule Charter) or change it back to the Police Jury form of government during the Nov. 6 election.

The item wasn’t passed as Councilmen Doug de Graffenried and Russell Rachal voted against it.

While this caused some outrage among the audience, it’s important to try and understand why they voted against it.

Parish President Rick Nowlin said he appreciates the work the coalition did to get 1,888 signatures. However, he said the petition may be a bit misguided, as he doesn’t think changing the form of government will address what problems there may be in the Home Rule Charter.

The Coalition didn’t get the requisite number of signatures on their petition, so it failed, according to state law.

“It’s not supposed to be easy, otherwise we’d be having petitions and elections every six months to change things,” said Nowlin. “We have elections to elect members to represent their districts and a president to represent the entire parish, and if they don’t do so they have to stand for re-election.”

Nowlin said that part of the parish’s problem is the people (members of the government) who are in open opposition to the Home Rule Charter form of government.

“I’ve reviewed the last 25 years of legislative audits for the Police Jury,” said Nowlin. “I don’t think I could find but two years where there weren’t significant findings in the audit. Findings where the Police Jury violated the public bid law, transferred monies between funds that wasn’t allows, deficits running into the hundreds of thousands of dollars, and mismanagement of funds. So the good old days weren’t really that good when you look at it.”

Scott Stetson, a Parish resident who commutes down rural roads on a daily basis, said changing an entire form of government because we’re not satisfied with the way it’s running is like trying to reinvent the wheel to regress. A good course of action would be to switch out members of the government that may still be in position from former sessions of the Police Jury (Patsy Ward Hoover, Rodney Bedgood, and Chris Paige). Changing the government itself would have a significant impact on slowing down the infrastructure that residents are already so unhappy with.

“The issue is unfortunately getting good collaboration here (Parish Council) for the common good of the parish,” said Stetson. “I’m averse to changing the form of government because I don’t think it’s gonna help me or my fellow parishioners at all. This is a personality driven issue and we need to get over the issues to address the greater good of the parish.”

What’s interesting is that if the Council were truly following its 3-minute time limit, Bedgood wouldn’t have abruptly cut off Stetson with his gavel before his time had elapsed. Anyone who spoke in favor of putting the form of government to a vote was allowed to speak well over the time limit.

However, Roger Williams was also given the cold shoulder when he questioned the Council members who voted against the Road District 40 tax (Hoover, Bedgood and Paige) in July 2017. The tax was geared toward fixing the deplorable road system in the parish.

Williams was part of a committee formed to study the road conditions. Its conclusion was that the only way the roads could be made better was to have more money. The only way to do this would have been through an ad valorem tax increase, a sales tax, or a combination of both. If the citizens would have been allowed to vote on it, and if they would have approved it, the parish would now be a year down the road towards fixing its roads.

“But the Council in their wisdom would not give the citizens the right to vote on it,” he said. “Consistently, when there’s a proposal made to offer to the citizens of Natchitoches a chance to increase taxes, we have three Councilmen that will not let it get out to a public vote. You don’t get to vote on your roads. The condition of the roads is the responsibility of those three Council members. They have prevented you from making that choice. My question to them is WHY?”

But the three Council members in question had nothing to say to answer Williams’ question and the meeting quickly moved on. Later in the meeting Bedgood said he votes the way the people in his district ask him to vote, which is why he voted no on the proposed Road District 40 tax.

There’s an obvious rift among the Council members that seems to be preventing any progress that could actually help the parish move in the right direction. While Rachal said he wishes the Coalition would spend as much effort as they’re putting into the petition, on helping the Council make the Home Rule Charter work, Paige said he considers it “the worst thing that’s ever happened.”

Other agenda items included:

Reappoint Clint Perot III and Edward Colbert to the Natchitoches Parish Waterworks District No. 1 Board

Reappoint Meryland Robinson to the Natchitoches Parish Planning and Zoning Commission

Reappoint Ernest Self and Winfred Lonadier to the Northwest Louisiana Game and Fish Preserve Commission

Introduce ordinance to reduce speed limit of the Clark Loop Road to 15mph

Adopt ordinance relative to the removal of appointees to board and commissions to require 75% attendance

Adopt the adjusted millage rate or rates

Hold an election in Fire District No. 3 on Nov. 6 to authorize the renewal of a special tax


7 thoughts on “Parish Council: There’s no vote about it

  1. The three want the change so they can stay in office, term limits about to kick in and their gone. If the change is made they start over. They vote together almost 100% of the time against the others even when it’s something good for the entire parish. They want the Home Rule system to fail so they can go back to where it was so there is know one looking over the shoulder and watching everything their doing. The Home Rule system works everywhere but here probably because they work together and make it work.The roads were just as bad under the PJ system and that’s where the problems started so why go back?

  2. Nearly 100% of those who travel our parish want better, smoother & safer roads. CAN’T BE DONE thanks to three stooges who show their true nature by being rude, loud, disruptive and dictatorial. They act like spoiled brats that rely on tantrums to get their way. Meanwhile our roads continue to deteriorate and our vehicles continue to suffer while the 3 stooges continue to pontificate.

  3. It still baffles me why people post regarding Parish Government but are afraid to put their name. If someone feels something is worth commenting on, have the courage to put your name with your comment. As I have stated before, the council system is not perfect, but it’s certainly better than the old Police Jury form of government. I’ll cut to the chase, I’d rather have just 5 people arguing and not getting along rather than paying 11 to do the same. Think of the benefits that 11 would require. As far as roads are concerned, I drive parish roads too and I don’t like their condition and everyone deserves better. But, without money, it’s not going to happen. I truly believe that most on the Parish Council want to see good roads. One of the Council even proposed a solution which was voted down. If you want to upgrade your home or property you can’t do it without money. It works the same in government. Like my Daddy used to tell us kids, “Money don’t grow on trees.” If some of you have a money tree, call the parish council, maybe they can get their buskers together and go pick some dollars. For those that want to change the form of government, you better be careful for what you ask for. Many who have jumped on the bandwagon and especially some from the city aren’t in it for the roads, they have an axe to grind with the president and maybe some of the members. If you don’t like the job they’re doing, use your constitutional right and VOTE him or them out!!! Otherwise, either prepare to pay more taxes if you expect to get your road fixed and don’t look for it to happen overnight.

  4. Kudos to the people who started petition,something has to be done around here and if it takes pushing buttons so be it ! I believe we nee to get rid of the good ole boys club and get new blood in office,with fresh ideas not people
    looking for monetary benefits or feed their ego.

  5. Thank goodness the council took the time out of their busy schedule , to introduce lowering the speed limit on Clark Loop. I have been driving 10 mph down the road for years. If you drive much faster , probably.lose an axle or transmission. But thanks for your insight and. recommendation on a moot point.

  6. Trying to understand the mindset of our parish presidents and our council memebers – is tantamount to nail jello to a tree…It’s not going to happen ! Why Mr. Rachal or Mr. DeGraffenried voted against, who knows – why Ms. Hoover, Mr. Bedgood and Mr. Paige voted for, again , who knows. What I do know, WHY in the world would anyone want to go back to a system [ the Police Jury System] the was expontentially broken ! Granted, HRCC ” Ain’t” any better by any stretch of the imagination! Bottom line, changing the structure of the Parish Government is NOT going to change a thing ! What WILL change OUR Parrish Government – Stop whining, moaning, and crying…and when it comes election time…carry your happy little behinds to the polls !!! Vote them ALL out of office if you TRULY want a change!!! If you do not vote, DO NOT camplain !! Not casting a vote EQUALS consent and agreement ! Let’s stop the APATHY ( if you don;t know what this means- look it up !) and VOTE come election time ….YOUR VOTE DOES COUNT !!!!

    • I agree. The Police Jury system was even more broke than this one. If things were so great under the PJ the residents of Natchitoches wouldn’t have voted to change it. Duh! People recognized just how broke the PJ system was. Now, the Home Rule system has had it’s own share of issues getting things done. But a lot of that stems from the former members of the PJ who just block everything President Nowlin tries to get done. They are obstructionists and need to be removed from office in the next election. Let’s try the Home Rule system with a cooperative counsel and see what happens.

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