Profile: Councilman Aaron Lawler

District 7 Councilman Aaron Lawler

Aaron Lawler first came to our attention as a private citizen who was one of Better Recreation NOW!’s most ardent proponents in 2014.  Voters handily rejected a 5-mill property tax in support of the bold initiative, but Lawler carried that pro-recreation ardor and propensity for big ideas into his first term as District 7’s council representative.  Among the council’s most recent Ascension transplants, he epitomizes those traits so off-putting to nostalgic old-timers who remember why they called it Prairieville.

He has an air of aggressive progressiveness that tends to leave those of us who’ve lived a whole lot more local history feeling slightly insulted, sometimes worse.  His support of A Better Ascension’s proposal to rid Ascension of its parish presidency comes to mind.

Aaron Lawler is a reflection of his district, one of Ascension’s most affluent where land to develop subdivisions is almost exhausted…almost.  His constituents have been here long enough to feel the frustration wrought by traffic congestion and drainage compromised by later arrivals.  The collective frustration was captured in Lawler’s campaign literature in 2015 when he articulated a bold, and very specific, vision.

Aaron Lawler 2015 campaign literature

Did he deliver on those promises?

While efficiency is impossible to assess for any council member hamstrung by the disaster occupying the Governmental Complex’s corner office, Aaron Lawler’s 3.5 years has been anything but transparent.  A typical example can be found in the unsolicited email below.  He attempts to justify appropriating taxpayer dollars to pay lawyers seeking reimbursement of criminal legal fees incurred by President Kenny Matassa.

You do realize the Kim Christy’s paragraphs today make zero sense and totally misses the reason for the lawsuit. Can you imagine what you would write when Kenny gets enough votes on the council to approve paying his fees after the next election, even over my no vote, but we have tell the public that the insurance refused coverage, we knew they would and didn’t do anything to prevent taxpayer money from being used to pay the bill.  That would be malfeasance. I am sure you see this.  Do you really think that if a couple of people lose their re-election bid that they will vote no?  We have one person that already decided not to run.  All Kenny needs is 6.  There are 4 definite “no” votes, inclusive of myself. I am sure you see all of this.

And this comes after…

Lawler spearheads effort to reimburse Matassa legal fees: $230,000

Improving Traffic and Safety of Our Roads is a monumental undertaking.  Aaron Lawler was appointed to chair the council’s Transportation Committee beginning in 2017, a post which he’s occupied ever since.  In his own words:

I am proud of the Move Ascension Program.  We are about to experience an unprecedented amount of road construction in Ascension Parish.  When I first decided to run for Council, I made Henry Rd., Daigle Rd. (930) and Causey Rd. priorities.  True to my vision, Henry Rd and 930 are being safety widened and Causey will have a round-a-bout.

NOTE:  See Lawler’s full response:

Lawler assesses council tenure, the future

The MoveAscension initiative took precedence over the an $800,000 Master Transportation Plan tasked to HNTB engineers in 2017.  It was made possible by the retirement, then reissue of a $25 million bond.  

Lawler’s campaign pitch to Rezone Highway 42 to “attract office space development and prevent high density commercial development” seems laughable four years later.  Considered in combination with Impose Impact Fees & Temporary Moratorium on New Subdivisions it seems a cruel joke.

He writes:

There are many achievements that I am proud of, the first chronologically was implementing Traffic Impact Fees, which had been studied for years without action.  I drafted a moratorium on new subdivisions which was tied to the passage of the Traffic Impact Fee ordinance.  The fact that the moratorium made it to the full council agenda was a first for Ascension and the fact that it led to the Traffic Impact fees, which have contributed over 6 million dollars toward traffic improvements, was a good start.

We find little fault with the self-assessment, as far as it goes.  There are glaring omissions, though.

When the opportunity arose to impose a permanent moratorium on Oak Grove Townhouses in his District 7, already denied by the Planning Commission, it was Lawler who engineered its ultimate approval…

One year ago today: Revisiting Oak Grove Townhouses debacle

in the strangest Planning Commission proceeding we’ve ever witnessed.  Lawler orchestrated this disgrace.  While his reply to our email omitted any reference to Oak Grove Townhouses, he did address another matter for which we have roundly (and rightly we believe) criticized Councilman Aaron Lawler.

He writes:

My misplacing of the study on traffic studies is an obvious regret.  Others, including the Post, have tried to create a crazy conspiracy, but I know in my heart and before God, that there was no malicious intent, just a simple losing track of the document.  In the end I was proud it passed, along with more stringent requirements for drainage detention ponds, both of which were great for Ascension.

Implementation of stringent Traffic Impact Analyses has had a chilling effect on residential subdivision approval since it became law in June 2018.  A relatively paltry three subdivision preliminary plats have been approved, at least one that is unlikely to be constructed, since updated TIA.  The only one approved since last October is Evelyn Estates, a 43-lot preliminary plat which was approved but will probably never be built.

It should have happened much earlier, initially delayed by…

Satterlee ambushed by Lawler, Cagnolatti, and Joseph

Lawler’s arch-nemesis, Councilman Daniel “Doc” Satterlee put the issue before Strategic Planning for three successive meetings in early 2017.  Traffic Impact Analyses was removed to the Lawler-chaired Transportation committee in April 2017 where nothing happened until February 2018 when Urban Systems, Inc. was hired to assess the issue.  Problem was, the company had already delivered its work product.

Was Lawler’s “misplacing of the study” merely negligence?

Holding developers to account seems to be a situational decision for Councilman Lawler.

Prairieville Needs a Park.  It still does although millions of dollars have been spent on recreation since Aaron Lawler’s tenure began, coinciding with his membership on the Council Recreation Committee.  Most of those dollars are targeted for Lamar Dixon Expo Center where soccer fields were completed, and a new $3 million gym expansion is on the way.

Master Plan for Prairieville.  Not,yet anyway, so the Master Land Use Plan adopted by Ascension’s Planning Commission on May 29 will have to suffice.