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 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.
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.