Recommendations to amend Home Rule Charter in 2018 due next week

On May 30 the Ascension Home Rule Charter Revision Committee must recommend changes to the 25-year old document in order for such amendments to appear on the ballot for voter approval on December 8. The Council imposed a deadline of May 31, which seemed arbitrary at the time until committee member (and Council Chair) Bill Dawson “let the elephant out of the room” on April 23.  From the beginning Dawson maneuvered to have A Better Ascension’s (ABA) proposal to replace the parish presidency with a manager without mentioning, masking that intention in a resolution which omitted any mention of ABA.

According to Dawson any recommended charter revision must be made by May 31 so that the Council has time to enact an ordinance in time for inclusion on the December 8 ballot in 2018.

“Let (ABA) elephant out of the room” as Charter Revision Committee ruse exposed

At the close of Monday’s 3:23:19 meeting committee members were instructed to forward any items deemed appropriate for inclusion on the May 30 agenda, so a vote to recommend same to the parish council might be had.   For what it’s worth, as of 11:30 this morning the only items submitted for inclusion were:

Section 4-18 Planning Commission  (add language in green pending legal review)

The parish governing authority shall make and adopt and shall be authorized to amend, extend and add to an official plan for the physical development of the unincorporated areas of the parish, and shall  may create by ordinance a planning commission with the powers and duties set forth in state law, and shall appropriate funds for the commission as it deems necessary and fiscally prudent. Should the governing authority create such planning commission, all actions by the commission shall be advisory in nature, recommendations to the parish governing authority which shall, by vote of at least a majority of the governing authority, accept or reject recommendations by the planning commission.

Section 9-02 Procedure by Petition

 If the proposed amendment or repeal is proposed by petition the following procedure shall be followed:

2.    The signature of at least thirty-three (33)  fifteen (15) percent of the qualified electors as of the date of submission as of the last parish-wide election shall be obtained. After each signature the address or district and precinct of the signer and the date of signing shall be noted. Each person circulating the petition shall attach an affidavit stating the number of signers and verifying that each signature was made in the presence of the circulator.

The Council, by a 2/3 super-majority, is the only body with authority to call an election to amend the charter.  While the deadline was extended by the Council on May 3, recommendations made after May 31 would delay a vote of the people until 2019 when parish elections (including council and presidency) are scheduled for October.  At that meeting multiple Council members expressed an unwillingness to support ABA unless, and until, its proposal has been “thoroughly vetted.”

ABA on December 2018 ballot seems unlikely after Council meeting

Dawson miscalculated or, more likely, lost control of the committee proceedings even with the pliable former State Representative, Roy Quezaire, in the chair.

Beginning with a March 15 organizational meeting, the Revision Committee decided to “vet” the existing charter’s ten articles, section be section.  How to do that in nine meetings, two of which were limited to 50 minutes by scheduling conflicts, was never made clear.  The two most recent meetings were set aside for ABA to present four pro-parish manager “experts” which took just under eight hours of committee time.

Oddly enough, only one of ABA’s experts could address the particulars of its proposal with anything approaching mastery.