It was an ambush…plain and simple. As Councilman Daniel “Doc” Satterlee prepared to consider revamping the fatally-flawed Traffic Impact Studies required of every new subdivision development at Thursday’s Strategic Planning meeting, his colleagues plotted to remove the item from the Satterlee-chaired committee to Transportation, chaired by Councilman Aaron Lawler, who orchestrated the subterfuge.
Lawler would insist that he notified Satterlee of the intention to “move the item to Transportation” after March’s Strategic Planning meeting which doesn’t explain why an outside traffic engineer would be scheduled to appear at all. Lawler’s immediate motion to recommend transfer of the item to his committee was immediately seconded by Councilman John Cagnolatti. The full Council could ignore the recommendation but the likelihood of that is nil.
Satterlee claimed no recollection of the Lawler communication and was clearly caught off guard by Thursday’s machinations. His colleagues took great pleasure in outfoxing “the ole Chicken Doctor.”
As of 3:30 pm Satterlee was unsure whether or not Strategic Planning could muster a quorum as Cagnolotti, Oliver Joseph, and Benny Johnson claimed to have more pressing engagements. Johnson was the only member who stayed away from the meeting which included a single agenda item:
(5) Discussion of reworking and increasing specificity of the ULDC Appendix IV Subdivision Regulations, Section 17-405-I relative to improving Traffic Impact Studies required of new developments in Ascension Parish (Chairman Daniel Satterlee, Laurence Lambert, Vectura, Traffic Engineer).
Un-ratified Planning Director Jerome Fournier has been barred from attending Strategic Planning by President Kenny Matassa but Fournier assured Satterlee that Traffic Engineer Laurence Lambert would attend and give a power point presentation. That was 4:00 pm, less than three hours before the meeting began.
“Mr. Fournier confirmed the engineer would attend and I should have known something was afoot when Laurence Lambert failed to appear,” Satterlee would recount after “the bushwhacking. We’ve had our differences in the past but I had no idea my colleagues were capable of such disgraceful, dishonorable conduct.”
Even more disturbing, the scheme had to have included un-ratified CAO Ken Dawson who meekly pleaded ignorance when Satterlee asked him about the traffic engineer’s absence. Dawson’s fingers manipulate every conceivable matter involving Ascension Parish and his staged performance on Thursday came moments after the self-professed man of Christian virtue invoked divine assistance for “wisdom…to serve the people of Ascension Parish.”
In four years Dawson’s maneuvering was the worst case of hypocrisy your writer has witnessed; and that’s saying something.
“This conduct is petty and unbecoming of elected officials who claim to represent the interests of Ascension citizens. I was the only individual in the chamber who was left out of the scheme to deprive Strategic Planning of this important piece of business,” Satterlee said. “The committee has been considering these traffic studies and, I believe, made significant progress as the administration has attempted to derail the process.”
Satterlee’s colleagues conspired with the Matassa administration to prevent, at least delay, reworking the ordinance to require traffic studies which accurately reflect impact of new subdivisions. For six months in 2015 the committee, then chaired by former councilman, Kent Schexnaydre, considered how to remedy “traffic studies not worth the paper they are written on.” Former parish engineer Bob Horner was tasked with fixing the problem under, then president, Tommy Martinez.
Former Planning Director Ricky Compton produced a draft ordinance as a product of those proceedings and 2016’s Strategic Planning efforts after Satterlee had assumed the chair. When Matassa took over his first order of business was to fire Horner; which happened in Matassa’s first week in office. Ricky Compton was terminated two months later.
Why transfer the item at all?
According to Aaron Lawler it would save money because the traffic engineer’s power point presentation could be viewed by ten of 11 council members at his Transportation meeting. It is held immediately after the ten-member EA Drainage Board’s monthly session.
Doc Satterlee insisted the matter is better handled in Strategic Planning.
“Compare Strategic Planning’s production to Transportation,” Satterlee urged. “I was a committee member when this problem was identified and have worked for two years now at finding a solution. It makes no sense to bring this item to Transportation at this juncture and I urge the full Council to ignore the recommendation to move it.”
Satterlee’s Strategic Planning leadership, combined with Aaron Lawler’s (and the rest of the committee membership’s) best efforts resulted in Traffic Impact Fees being adopted after the Finance Committee bumbled around them for three years. It took Strategic Planning mere weeks to enact the fees which were adopted by the Council in April of 2016. Coincidentally, Finance’s chair, Teri Casso is Vice Chair of Transportation at present.
Already in 2017 Strategic Planning efforts have resulted in the abolition of the Planning Commission Appeals Board and eliminated an unfair employee appeals process.
What has Lawler’s Transportation Committee accomplished?
On Monday it considered adjusting those Transportation Impact fees from last April; in March it considered a new GPS policy without taking action; it approved a $42,000 change order to build a road for seven soccer fields at Lamar Dixon Expo Center; in January it recommended solicitation of bids to build the St. Landry/Edenborne connector road.
Lawler and Casso are joined on Transportation by Randy Clouatre, Cagnolatti and Todd Lambert. Lambert’s past chairmanship of the committee resulted in little of value that we can discern. No plausible argument can be made that Ascension’s transportation infrastructure has kept pace with demand.
Todd Lambert sure seemed to be enjoying himself on Wednesday. Maybe he can devote the same attentiveness to his duties on the Transportation Committee.