North Ascension voters lead way to passage of Animal Shelter tax

From left to right at top: Districts 4 (blue)/ 7 (yellow)/ 5 (blue); District 11 (pink)

The voting precincts corresponding to Ascension’s northernmost Parish Council districts led the way in approval of Saturday’s 1-mill property tax assessment to fund an Animal Shelter.  Districts 4, 5, 7, and 11 are home to a higher percentage of newly-arrived residents, less familiar to Ascension-style politics than we old-timers.  Voters in those districts accounted for a 411-vote lead on Election Day when the overall vote total was 6398 “Yes” versus 6045 “No.”

The proposal garnered its greatest support in those precincts corresponding to District 7 (57%), followed in succession by District 4 (56.5%), District 11 (56.1%) and District 5 (54.7%).  Early voting resulted in a flat-footed tie with both sides receiving 1562 votes.

In the rest of the parish “Nays” outnumbered the “Yeas” by 59 votes.

Ascension’s animal rights advocates should thank those responsible for the new early voting station at Oak Grove Community Center too.  Until the 2018 election cycle voters who wanted to exercise their franchise before Election Day had two options, the courthouses in two of Ascension’s three municipalities; Donaldsonville and Gonzales.  Early voting was uniformly higher among the electorate in those cities

Which would have spelled doom for supporters since a clear majority of voters in those cities rejected the tax.  But, no more.

As a general rule, the densely populated areas of unincorporated Ascension favored the tax while those still rural areas did not.

The tax’s dedicated purpose is:

“…acquiring, constructing, improving, maintaining and operating an animal shelter for the Parish, including necessary equipment and facilities therefore.”

The ballot initiative says nothing about Animal Control or Companion Animal Rescue of Ascension (CARA), the non-profit organization which has operated the parish’s outdated shelter in Sorrento pursuant to a cooperative endeavor agreement since late 2015.  Curiously, unidentified “backers” of the tax told The Advocate that anticipated yearly revenues ($1.32 million) “would be split into thirds, with roughly equal shares for shelter operations, animal control operations and construction of a new $2.5 million building.”

A new appointive board will be created by the Parish Council to administer funds and oversee expenditures according to unidentified “parish officials” who broached the possibility that CARA could take over the entire operation, including Animal Control.  Animal Control handles dangerous animals in a facility apart from the shelter on Airline Hwy in Sorrento at present.

Photo of Shelter as of August 2015

It all sounds pretty good.  We hope it all plays out the way it’s being presented.

At the outset, if those “backers” have it right, three annual $440,000 allocations would go to Animal Control, the existing shelter, and toward a new facility.  That’s more than either existing entity is receiving now.  We hope this new money is not utilized to dispense political patronage like just about every other fund operated by the current administration.

To ensure all is above board, it is imperative to appoint individuals to this new board who are not political hacks (like the majority of Ascension’s Planning and Zoning Commission for instance).  Since a majority of the current council evinced no, or lukewarm, support for the new tax, we have little faith the process.