"We The People" of Avoyelles Parish

HRC Commission Update

The Home Rule Charter (HRC) Commissioners have been actively writing the charter for Avoyelles in its monthly public meetings. Discussions on areas such as, salaries, balance of power, term limits, and the general make-up of the new government have yielded rich information and direction on how we are proceeding with the charter. The challenge of the commission is to steer the verbiage to reflect today’s issues while simultaneously anticipating solutions to tomorrow’s obstacles. In the end we hope to have a comprehensive charter that benefits the public from a long-term perspective.
​During the monthly meetings commissioners go into working sessions and discuss topics from within the proposed charter itself. These discussions have routinely highlighted views to which the members can take notes, research, and come back with more detailed information. We are not voting on controversial issues at this time, yet we are trying to understand how our articulation can best benefit the public before taking a vote. In other words, by intelligently discussing variables around an issue we can change our views when presented with new information. This format has been working well and the commissioners are pleased with it. Once the working meeting concludes, the public can comment or question the commission on what was discussed.
​Your HRC commissioners were chosen by the current police jurors and represent the demography of Avoyelles Parish. The mission of the commission is to produce a comprehensive charter for consideration by the voters of the parish at a later date. Commissioners are not paid, and the commission has no budget. It is simply a think tank designed to build a better government for Avoyelles. It has been found that when communities can design governmental systems that benefit everyone, future quality of life in areas such as education, economics, healthcare, criminal justice, and much more can be elevated. For these reasons the commissions goals are more people focused and less politically focused.
​In closing, a friend and large landowner asked me the other day how the charter will benefit him personally. He wanted to know how it would allow him to get his ditches dug faster, or to get his drainage improved. I replied that a Home Rule Charter would probably not benefit him personally, but that it would benefit everyone more equally. When we examine successful communities we do not see more personal favoritism in government, we see more equality for all.
For more information go to homerulecharteravoyelles.com or go to the Facebook page Avoyelles Parish Home Rule Charter Commission. You will have to ask to join the Facebook page. Our Facebook page has meeting dates, articles, podcasts, and more on the HRC process.

Avoyelles Home Rule Charter Commission Meeting Press Release

The Avoyelles Parish Home Rule Charter Commission met in regular session at the LSU Ag Center, located at 8592 Highway 1, in Mansura, Louisiana, on Wednesday, April 10, 2024.
The meeting was called to order at 5:30 p.m., by Commission Chairman Dr. Jay Callegari, and opened with a prayer delivered by Commissioner Chris Augustine, Sr., followed by the Pledge of Allegiance led by Commissioner Craig Foster.
Commissioners present were Chairman Dr. Jay Callegari, Wayne Coco, Clint Daigrepont, Brock Descant, Craig Foster, Jessie Lachney, Reverend Darrell Sampson, Sr. (arrived at 5:35 p.m.), Blake Tassin, and Karen Wiley.
Commissioner absent was Co-Chairman Daryl Deshotel.
On motion of Commissioner Clint Daigrepont, seconded by Commissioner Chris Augustine, Sr., the Commission approved rules for working meetings.
On motion of Chairman Dr. Jay Callegari, seconded by Commissioner Blake Tassin, the Commission voted to go into a working meeting.
On motion of Chairman Dr. Jay Callegari, seconded by Commissioner Clint Daigrepont, a resolution was adopted by the Commission approving all previous decisions made by the Avoyelles Parish Home Rule Charter Commission.
Led by Chairman Dr. Jay Callegari, a discussion was held concerning the wording of the Charter and key points within the document. Areas of discussion included Parish President’s salary; Parish council members’ salary; method of approval and/or appointment of committees, commissions, and boards; district lines; tax collection; financial and public works division details; and election dates.
On motion of Chairman Dr. Jay Callegari, seconded by Commissioner Clint Daigrepont, the Commission voted to exit the working meeting.
Public comments and questions were entertained by the Commission.
With no further business to come before the Commission, on motion by Commissioner Wayne Coco, and seconded by Commissioner Karen Wiley, the meeting was adjourned at 6:55 p.m.
 
Dr. Jay Callegari, Commission Chairman
Mr. Craig Foster, Commission Secretary
The Avoyelles Parish Home Rule Charter Commission met in regular session at the LSU Ag Center, located at 8592 Highway 1, in Mansura, Louisiana, on Wednesday, March 13, 2024.
The meeting was called to order at 5:30 p.m., by Commission Chairman Dr. Jay Callegari, and opened with a prayer delivered by Commissioner Darell Sampson, Sr., followed by the Pledge of Allegiance led by Commissioner Karen Wiley.
​Commissioners present were Chairman Dr. Jay Callegari, Co-Chairman Daryl Deshotel, Wayne Coco, Clint Daigrepont, Brock Descant, Craig Foster, Jessie Lachney, Reverend Darrell Sampson, Sr., Blake Tassin, and Karen Wiley.
​Commissioner absent was Reverend Chris Augustine.
​An informative discussion with Point Coupee Parish President Major Thibaut and other delegates from Point Coupee Parish was held.
​An explanation of the advantages a parish president can give local governments was presented by Co-Chairman Daryl Deshotel.
​Commissioner Darrell Sampson, Sr., excused himself from the meeting at 6:40 p.m., due to another engagement.
​Commission Chairman Dr. Jay Callegari discussed upcoming decision points.​
​With no further business to come before the Commission, on motion by Commissioner Craig Foster, and seconded by Commissioner Clint Daigrepont, the meeting was adjourned at 7:09 p.m.
Dr. Jay Callegari, Commission Chairman
Mr. Craig Foster, Commission Secretary

Upcoming Meetings

To be announced.

Current Status

Here’s where we are on Home Rule Charter in Avoyelles.
 
The petition was certified by the Registrar.
 
This action sets into motion a series of events that the Louisiana Constitution says must occur. Following a successful petition, the Constitution forces the police jury to call for an election of commissioners to write a home rule charter.
 
Our police jury voted to ignore the Louisiana constitution and the will of the people by voting 5-4 to not allow the people to vote on commissioners to write a Home Rule Charter. It should be mentioned that this is only to write or draft a charter, not implement it. The voters will have to read the charter and vote for or against it in another election.
 
“We the People” then filed a writ of mandamus with the court forcing the Police Jury to comply with the law. The Police Jury discarded the advice of the District Attorney and held a special meeting to try and get permission from the Attorney General to hire (using public money) an out of parish lawyer. At the time of this writing, we are awaiting the trial where the judge will decide on the matter.
It should be noted that 4 police jurors have voted to follow state law and the Louisiana Constitution and 5 have not. The 4 jurors complying with the law are Bobby Bordelon, Darrel Wiley, Jacob Coco and mark Borrell.
 
It should also be noted that the Police Jury has spent public money to fight the will of the people and does not want to allow the voters to decide if they want to change government styles by a majority vote. This did not have to cost the taxpayer a penny if done correctly. Our Police Jury does not want to allow a charter to simply be written. Our Police jury does not even want to give the voters a chance at looking at a charter to see if we like it. They are using your taxes to fight against you being able to choose. Can you imagine why no other police jury would even consider this as an option?
 
I have been quiet on the issue for the last couple of months because the petition was successful it set into motion a series of events that must take place by law.
 
The voters tell the politicians how they want their government to be ran, and the elected officials must adhere to the will of the voters. The very idea of a public petition is so that elected officials cannot refute the results, the voters are the only ones allowed to decide.
26 parishes have successfully changed their local governments to a Home Rule Charter without the Police Jury fighting the will of the people. Avoyelles Parish’s Police Jury (5-4) has made history by ignoring current law and defying the Louisiana Constitution. They have forgotten that in a democracy, the people are the catalyst for change and that the people tell the government what to do.
We will see what the courts say next week and move forward from there with more information and updates on the effort.
 
J. Callegari

ALL YOU NEED TO KNOW

Police Jury 6-3 against HRC option.
 
It is not possible to be against HRC in Avoyelles because the charter has not been written. Our Police jury has come out publicly 6-3 against the effort to write a charter. Think about that. They are against allowing the voters to decide if they think a different system is better for the parish. There is a reason that all other 26 parishes that have switched to a HRC have done so with the police juries allowing the public to decide. What public official would come out publicly against the democratic process of allowing citizens to make changes in their government by voting? If you have not been following the effort and are not up on the details all you need to know is that the current police jury is against allowing the people to vote on an issue. Can you imagine?

Parish President instead of Police Jury

There are several reasons why having a Parish President would be better than having an elected police jury in Avoyelles Parish, Louisiana:
Efficiency: A Parish President would be able to act quickly and efficiently in responding to emergencies, making decisions, and implementing policies. In contrast, a police jury can be slow and cumbersome in decision-making and implementation, as it involves multiple members with varying opinions.
Accountability: A Parish President would be directly accountable to the people of Avoyelles Parish, as they would be elected by the citizens. This would increase transparency and reduce the likelihood of corruption. On the other hand, a police jury may not have the same level of accountability, as the members are elected by districts, not the entire parish.
Expertise: A Parish President would bring a higher level of expertise and experience to the role, as they would have a broader range of responsibilities and duties than a police jury member. This would ensure that the parish is managed efficiently and effectively.
Cost-effectiveness: Having a Parish President would lead to cost savings, as they would be responsible for managing the entire parish budget. This would lead to a reduction in duplication of efforts and wasteful spending, which could result from having multiple police jury members responsible for managing different aspects of the budget.
Better Representation: A Parish President would be able to represent the entire parish, rather than just their individual district. This would ensure that the interests of the entire parish are taken into account when making decisions, rather than just the interests of specific districts.
In summary, having a Parish President would provide Avoyelles Parish with several benefits, including increased efficiency, accountability, expertise, cost-effectiveness, and better representation. These benefits could result in improved governance and better outcomes for the citizens of Avoyelles Parish.

Letter to the Avoyelles Journal

The scare tactics used on the people of Avoyelles by the Police Jury will not work anymore. This letter should further clear up some misunderstandings on the petition to create a Home Rule Charter.
By signing the petition, you are ONLY saying you would like a charter to be written by a committee. Once written, the voters will be able to read it and then debate it on its merits. The voters will be able to decide if it is right for Avoyelles.
The committee that will write the charter will NOT BE PAID as described by the Police Jury. They will be either elected or appointed from a diverse group of voters residing in the parish. Examples of possible commissioners to draw up the charter are farmers, community leaders, business owners, engineers, professionals, consultants, researchers, and other intelligent people in Avoyelles. The people in the committee to write the charter cannot initially run for the offices they are creating. The members of the committee to write the Home Rule Charter are not paid and cannot initially run for the offices created by the charter.
There will be NO change in the district lines. The lines for the 9 districts we have now are designed with the minority population in mind and create 3 majority minority districts. This is important for proper representation of our diverse community. To attempt to change these would create a litigious situation.
The Home Rule Charter will not replace the individuals in the Police Jury. If passed the charter will take effect in the next election cycle (November, 2027). The current officials will complete their term and if desired run again in their current prospective districts. They could also run for parish president. The power of the individual police jurors will be diminished and their salaries will most probably be reduced.
The timeline for this process is as follows.
1. The petition is signed by 2500 voters and the initiative to form a committee to write a Home Rule Charter is put on the ballot. The police jury can also initiate this process without costing the taxpayer anything, if they wish.
2. If passed, a committee will be selected or elected to write the charter. The charter will take 9-18 months to be written. No changes take place with the current government during this time.
3. Once written the Home Rule Charter of Avoyelles will be published online and in print for all to read and debate. Once sufficient time has passed the charter will be placed on the ballot on the next election cycle to either be voted yes or no on.
4. If the charter is passed by the voters it will take effect on the next election cycle once the current police jurors have finished their term. They can run for their district seats as parish councilmen or run for parish president if desired.
The many details regarding salary, positions, budgets, and other details cannot be debated at this point because they have not been written yet. That debate will take place at the ballot box once the charter is written. This is not a light undertaking and will take some time and effort on the part of all of us. The assumptions made by the some of the police jury members on these issues are misleading and create confusion on what the petition does.
Many elected officials have already signed the petition. I would urge you to call them and ask them their feelings on the Home Rule Charter. Join the Facebook group “We the People of Avoyelles Parish” and educate yourself on the merits of this system. Get with one of our core members and find a location near you where you can sign the petition. This group is completely transparent and anyone can help. This is not an “us against them” situation. This is an “all of us” helping “them and us” to make a better community. The only people that stand to lose in this are the police jurors themselves (salary reduction). We have four jurors that are in favor of letting the people vote on a charter at this time. If one more police juror can be convinced to let the people decide we can move forward. In the meantime we will continue to get signatures on the petition.
This is not about the 9 Police Jurors; this is about the future of Avoyelles Parish. If the majority of the 40 thousand people in Avoyelles think that the police jury system is working and do not think any change is needed, they can decide that by voting against Home Rule Charter. The petition is only asking for the people to be able to decide for themselves which route is better.
We the People of Avoyelles Parish think that when the community comes together to effect change we can make our little part of the world a better place. No one is being paid to get the petition signed. We are a group of concerned citizens that have researched Home Rule Charter and want to leave a better parish for our children and grandchildren. We believe our current police jury system needs an upgrade. Join us in this effort, and help bring Avoyelles into the future by signing the petition.
Jay Callegari

Letter to Avoyelles Publishing

TO: AVOYELLES PUBLISHING
FROM: “WE THE PEOPLE” OF AVOYELLES
Re: rebuttal to the police juries letter regarding the petition for home rule charter in Avoyelles
Typical Avoyelles Parish. The Police Juries report regarding the formation of a Home Rule Charter has many misleading statements and partial truths within it. This letter will try and clear up some of the misunderstandings. Much of information released in the paper last week was derived from the Police Jury Association. This association lobbies for the Police Jury system and is made up of a group of Police Jury parishes, such as ours. This association would not want to lose another parish to Home Rule Charter and therefore may have omitted some information. “We the People” of Avoyelles think there is a better way.
The Petition
The petition that you may see going around is merely saying that we want the right to consider changing our parish government to a Home Rule Charter. As of now, the current Police Jury will not allow the people to vote on the possibility of changing our current Police Jury to a Parish President/Council style government. In most cases the Police Jury creates a non-paid commission to write up a charter. Then the people can look over and vote if they want to pass the charter. This is not usually an adversarial process and most Police Juries have allowed their people to have the freedom to decide if they want this type of local government. This is not a new thing; Louisiana has had this option for 50 years and 26 parishes have decided to make the switch, including our neighbors, Pointe Coupee and St. Landry. If the Police Jury will not allow this, the people must get 10% of voters (2500 in Avoyelles) to sign a petition to force the police jury to begin the process. The petition does not guarantee that we will accept the new form of government, only that a commission will draw up a charter for the people to vote on. While some of the Police Jurors want to allow this process to take place, and several have either signed or have vowed to sign the petition, the majority of jurors are against it. The petition is only asking for the people of Avoyelles to be allowed to choose if there is a better way to govern in our parish. By signing the petition you are forcing the police jury to let the people debate and decide if there is a better way to govern locally.
FAQ’s and Clarifications
Q. Will the police jury president make $150,000?
A. No. The commission that will be writing up the charter sets the salary for the Parish President. This could be a low salary or a high salary (currently St. Landry’s Parish President makes $65,000 per year). The statement from the jury regarding the parish President saying that he or she “could make up to $150,000 plus benefits” is highly misleading. The parish will be able to vote on the charters selection of salary for the president. If it is too high, they may not vote for it.
Q. Is a home rule charter unfair for minority citizens?
A. Absolutely not. In fact, the system of checks and balances created by the president/council style of government gives more power to minorities in a parish with our demographics. An example is, if there is controversial vote and 6 of the majority jurors vote one way and the 3 minority jurors vote another, the president can veto the measure. The president is voted on by the entire parish, including the 35% minority population. If the president wants to be re-elected, they will need at least some of the minority voters support and therefore will highly consider a veto. Police jury members only need the votes of the people in their district and do not consider the entire parish’s votes when making decisions. The power of the parish president virtually ensures that they must consider the power of the minority vote when deciding to veto or pass controversial measures. Our neighbors (Pointe Coupee and St. Landry) have a higher minority population than Avoyelles and have successfully implemented Home Rule Charter without a reduction of minority influence. The notion that having a parish president will diminish the voice of minority citizens is fundamentally incorrect.
Q. Will there still be 9 districts in Avoyelles parish?
A. Yes, there will still be the same 9 districts for police jurors. They may be called the parish council, but the district lines will remain the same. We will still have the same majority minority districts. If there are changes in the number of council members, that will not be determined until a later time.
Q. Will the president have too much power?
A. The powers of the president and council will be determined by the committee that writes up the charter. To say that “Home Rule Charters give plenty of power to the president” is a misleading statement, as this remains to be seen until the charter is written. If the voters feel the power balance is not right for the parish, then they will vote against it.
Q. Will this type of local government change our permit system, road conditions, garbage contract, revenues,, OEP, courthouse/court system?
A. Let’s look at this separately.
If we have a parish president, he or she will be a full time employee. This would allow them, as an elected official to spend time at the permit offices solving problems which should create policy and a streamlining of the office.
Road conditions are always a big issue. Parish Presidents are commonly seen in Baton Rouge lobbying for their parish to the legislature for funding. This can be done because the parish president represents the entire parish of voters and not just a small 1/9th of the parish district. Parish Presidents can lobby for funding, grants, road and drainage projects, federal dollars etc. Garbage contracts will be scrutinized by a parish president and the entire parish can vote for a more competent candidate if the elected president does not perform properly and in the best interests of the parish.
Revenues for the parish, courthouse, and other projects will be affected by the ability of the Parish President to lobby for funding and grants.
The Facebook group “We the People” of Avoyelles Parish was started 2 weeks ago and has over 1000 members so far. We have a core group that is getting the petition signed. If anyone wants to sign the petition or has any questions they can contact me or join the group. We are ready to begin the process of upgrading our local system of government in Avoyelles.
Jay Callegari
“We the people of Avoyelles Parish” were successful in our quest to have a commission elected to write a charter for a new form of parish government. Shown L to R; Glenn Goudeau, Jay Callagari and Jessie Lachney.
Thank you 97.7 “The Cajun” and Todd Laborde for helping us get the word out. I’ll be giving an HRC update the second Thursday of each month at 6:30 am. Tune in to hear the latest.
At the Mayors forum to discuss Home Rule Charter in Avoyelles with community leaders.
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