by J. R. “Randy” Stelly
As someone who campaigned heavily for the Home Rule Charter, I have been reading with much dismay the discussions being posted on social media about the lawsuit that was recently filed against the Parish President for declaring emergencies that, apparently, simply did not exist. Even the Director of Public Works, Mr. John Richmond, admitted in an open and public meeting that there were no emergencies.
Some are claiming that the lawsuit is purely political since the plaintiff is also running for a Council seat. My response to that is “SO WHAT?” It makes sense to me that someone who wants to serve the Parish as a Council member should understand how the Home Rule Charter is supposed to operate. The Home Rule Charter is a “checks and balances” system that grants specific powers to each branch of the government. Both the legislative and executive branches have responsibilities where the budget is concerned.
Others are saying that the Parish President should be given a pass because, after all, “they were just trying to help people.” When is the Parish government not supposed to help people? The Parish has an obligation under the Home Rule Charter to administer a road maintenance program. If the emergency declarations had been used to help someone who lived on a public road that only they regularly used or accessed, would you still think that it’s okay? What if the road materials that were purchased were being put on roads where a candidate would be campaigning? Would you be okay with the emergency declarations if Mr. Nowlin, himself, were running for Parish President again? My recollection of the last election is that everything that was done by the Public Works Department was allegedly for political gain.
A lot of the people that have been trash talking the plaintiff in the lawsuit are also proponents of going back to a police jury form of government. I can’t quite wrap my head around this one. Under the police jury, getting roads repaired was like the wild, wild west. Those who lived in districts represented by those with the biggest guns always won.
The Home Rule Charter provides the structure under which all road maintenance in the Parish is supposed to be scheduled. Not surprisingly, no one involved with road maintenance, whether it be the Parish President, the Council, or the Director of Public Works have ever adhered to these rules. Road maintenance continues to be politically driven and the HRC has suffered because of it.
For all of those that are running for a seat at the horseshoe, I implore you to study the Home Rule Charter. Perhaps the residents of this Parish will finally get the form of government that they voted for almost 8 years ago. As the old adage says, “third times a charm.”