We told you so! (Again)
Don’t blame Judge Jessie LeBlanc for temporarily enjoining Ascension Parish from enforcing a resolution to ban fill material in flood zones A/AE. The Temporary Restraining Order expires, by law, in ten days meaning the Parish must show cause “why a Preliminary Injunction” should not be granted until a trial can be held to determine whether a permanent injunction should issue. Given that the temporary ban is tied to a Fill Ordinance promised for September 5, why bother?
We’ve noted many comments critical of Judge LeBlanc since the news broke. That criticism is misplaced.
The fault, all of it, lies with President Kenny Matassa and the Parish Council which does not seem to know the difference between laws and statements of policy. On July 18 the legislative authority adopted the latter.
The resolution had already watered down Councilman Travis Turner’s original proposal. EA Drainage Board convened on June 10, four days after the Council failed to override Matassa’s veto of an ordinance to cap fill at three feet for all development. Turner proposed, and the Board’s ten members recommended, a six month moratorium “on all subdivisions” to its alter ego, the Parish Council (which also includes west bank councilman, Oliver Joseph).
July 18’s temporary fill ban resolution tracked closely with an ORDINANCE rejected by the Council on February 7:
Proposed Ordinance – to impose temporary restriction on the placement of fill for major and minor subdivisions in all unincorporated areas of the Ascension Parish not designated as Zone X by the most recent FEMA Flood Maps for Ascension Parish (Councilman Aaron Lawler)
Councilman Aaron Lawler seemed to understand the need to adopt an ordinance as opposed to a resolution six months ago.
On July 19 Pelican Post wrote:
Can the administration even enforce the “temporary ban on fill” resolution? Section 6-07 of Ascension’s Home Rule Charter reads:
An act of the governing authority which is not to have the force of law may be enacted by resolution. Acts which may be adopted by resolution shall include but shall not be limited to one which;
4. declares a statement of public policy of the governing authority.
Statements of public policy are not laws. It was not so difficult to see this one coming. Even Councilman Randy Clouatre sniffed it out, wondering how “this moratorium” was going to be enforced.
“I’ve been fighting this fight since 2015,” Clouatre claimed on July 18. “How are you going to enforce the laws that we’re voting on tonight?”
He directed the query, implying administration incompetence (without comprehending that no law was up for vote), to President Matassa who replied:
“If you pass this ordinance, or, uh, not an…a resolution, I will get with legal and, whatever legal tells me we can do, will we do,” the parish president proclaimed.
Matassa’s proclamation does “not have the force of law” either.
A moribund parish administration with a president who’s been a lame-duck for over three years now; a council desperately groping for something, anything, to dupe the People of Ascension Parish into believing they care as Election Day approaches, it is not so hard to foresee the next gaffe, heaped upon the last bone-headed blunder. Where was Legal Counsel O’Neil Parenton on July 18?
Councilman Aaron Lawler was not present either, though still managed to take the credit (see above). Chairwoman Teri Casso read her colleague’s comment into that night’s record. It included:
“I do not intend to interfere with commerce or the rights of landowners. That being said, failing to approve this temporary ban and subsequent fill ordinance will send a clear message to some homeowners that their right not to be flooded by future development is secondary to those that wish to allow development without regard for their neighbors.”
Sounded pretty good. Casso would add:
“Between now and September 5, if this resolution passes tonight, we will enforce a moratorium on fill in those areas affected, to protect our fragile floodplain.”
Apparently, Ascension’s legislative branch has been subsumed by the executive, neither of which seems to have a firm grasp on the process. Desperate times call for desperate measures. Where has this sense of urgency been?
Is “our fragile floodplain” suddenly more delicate than it was in August 2016? It has been three years since the floodwaters overtook thousands of homes and now, with Election Day two months, plus eight days away, they gotta’ appear to be doing something.