Kim Christy is the true fiscal conservative on the ballot for District 7, Ascension Parish Council despite what the incumbent would have you believe. Aaron Lawler has, from time to time, mouthed perfunctory platitudes advocating parsimony, all while failing to protect the public purse on any pet project he promoted. Christy, for her part, prefers “fiscal responsibility.”
“Taxpayer dollars should always be spent in the most efficient, effective manner possible,” she concluded. “That has not always been the case as, all too often, the will of ordinary citizens has been ignored.”
There is no better example of that than…
Christy’s opponent, whatever his reasoning, took the council lead in hiring outside legal counsel to pursue reimbursement of Parish President Kenny Matassa’s fees to defend felony bribery charges in 2017-18.
$100,000 authorized for Roedel Parsons to represent Matassa in March, another $85,000 in July, as Aaron Lawler continues to profess his opposition to reimbursement.
Another example, and one the District 7 challenger has seized upon, is the $450,000 allocated to Center for Planning Excellence (CPEX) in 2017 to produce a new Master Land Use Plan. A dozen or so Open House meetings generated hundreds of public comments which can be summarized…
and withering criticism of CPEX for recommending higher residential density than currently allowed, three lots per acre. In response, CPEX simply omitted specific reference to increased density in its early drafts while maintaining the essence. It was subterfuge intended to dupe the taxpaying public funding the process; and CPEX did what CPEX was going to do, regardless of public sentiment.
None other than former Planning Director had this to say on August 18, 2018, one day after the Parish Council resolved to fund a new Master Plan:
“Staff should utilize their expertise…and propose changes to the UDC to close the gap between the Master plan and the regulations…We shouldn’t have to spend a half a million dollars that would be better spent on roads….or sewer…or parks…..to get closer to those principles.”
Going back to 2016 the council has appropriated approximately $275,000 for SSA Consultants to produce a compensation study, an Efficiency/Effectiveness analysis and, most recently, Job Descriptions with a methodology to gauge employee performance. The only items actually implemented have been new titles with corresponding pay grades.
Kim Christy questions some of the big ticket items authorized by her opponent and his colleagues.
- $5.9 million to purchase (September 2016), many more millions to repair Peoples Water Company on the parish’s west bank; and
- $3 million to expand a gym at Lamar Dixon Expo Center within a few years of earlier major upgrades to existing facility.
“The bigger issue, for me, is the lack of planning and foresight that went into these decisions,” she said. “The Peoples Water deal was done without disclosing a report by Hartman Engineering that concluded upwards of $15 million needed to upgrade that system. More recent estimates, two years after acquisition, put the figure at $25-30 million.”
The gym expansion was approved within weeks of news that the City of Gonzales was building a gym within a few miles of Lamar Dixon.
“The tax burden is a substantial investment which should result in more projects to protect our health, safety and welfare; enhance our quality of life,” Christy asserted.
Numerous smaller appropriations with dubious benefit to the taxpaying public include:
- $75,000 to Quality Engineering for construction management of soccer fields at LDEC (August 25, 2016);
- $35,000 to Duncan & Associates to update Transportation Impact Fees which are only being collected at 70% of recommended rate (August 25, 2016);
- Undetermined monthly amount paid to Acadian Ambulance for GPS monitoring of parish vehicles without a policy in place (deferred after motion by Aaron Lawler on October 20, 2016 and never taken up thereafter);
- $45,000 to CSRS Engineering to write an RFQ for design of a new courthouse in Gonzales (September 7, 2017);
- $25,000 to Urban Systems, Inc. to update Traffic Impact Analysis policy after the company had already provided the policy (February 15, 2018);
- $48,000 to Owens & White to monitor operation of Parish Utilities of Ascension (formerly Peoples Water Company);
- $306,200 to upgrade privately-owned sewer system operated by Ascension Wastewater Treatment (June 7, 2018);
- $15,000 to Skip Phillips as legal expert for Home Rule Charter Revision Committee during sham proceedings to promote A Better Ascension’s attempt to abolish the parish presidency (June 21, 2018);
- Undetermined cost to conduct 13 meetings of that Home Rule Charter Revision Committee (March -June 2018);
- $32,000 to Quality Engineering to conduct after-the-fact Hydraulics and Hydrological study for new courthouse (September 20, 2018).
NOTE: Aaron Lawler pushed hard for $190,000 toward Public Outreach to sell MoveAscension to the public but this expenditure was deferred after public criticism on February 15, 2018.
Honorable mention goes to…