In a break with tradition newly-inaugurated Ascension Parish President Clint Cointment began his administration with a swearing in ceremony at Lamar Dixon Expo Center’s Banquet Room on Monday; and not at Donaldsonville’s historic west bank courthouse. That is in keeping with his campaign promise of change in the form of governmental transparency and accountability to ordinary citizens as opposed to the political establishment.
“Accountability starts with me and my administration, the responsibility to never forget who elected me to do this job, to put citizens first, not only in major decisions but in every day decisions. The path to success starts tomorrow — first day of work, by the way — but I cannot do it alone. These 11 elected leaders are critical to our success to ensure that Ascension Parish moves forward in a positive direction.”
That “first day of work” officially begins this morning with substantial changes anticipated in many top level administration positions. We cannot envision a scenario in which William Daniel, the parish’s highest paid employee as Infrastructure Division Director and the self-proclaimed architect of the proposed sewer agreement dominating headlines for two months, will be retained. His ouster is a good start.
Cointment, it can be argued, has been on the job for a few months as he led the resistance against Bernhard Capital Partners’ attempt ramrod a deeply flawed regional sewer agreement through a feckless, complicit parish council. His predecessor, the disgrace that is Kenny Matassa, did nothing to prevent the parish’s ultimate bankruptcy.
Matassa’s administration seemed more like Ascension Sewer’s agent than representatives of the people, many of whom suspected Matassa and his henchman were set to receive the agent’s cut of the action. Much the same can be said of the former council, six of whom were not inaugurated on Monday (with only Bill Dawson in attendance). Also conspicuously absent on Monday were all those participants in Ascension Sewer’s four-company consortium, none to be seen among the obligatory contingent of engineering interests lining up to do parish business.
Whether or not a sewer deal gets done, it was not one of the issues mentioned in the new parish president’s address, will depend on Bernhard’s willingness to make concessions Cointment’s predecessor never demanded. When Cointment and newly-inaugurated Councilman Chase Melancon attempted to negotiate better terms (from the parish’s perspective) it was Chairwoman Teri Casso who pulled the plug.
2020’s chair will be decided by the new council on Thursday (January 9), the next meeting. Should Casso retain the chair there will be an awful lot of tension between the legislative and executive branches of local government; all due to a lame-duck administration/council’s inability to deliver the goods to Bernhard Capital Partners.
That would be unfortunate because regional sewer is well down the list of issues important to Ascension’s citizenry. Those would be traffic congestion/road safety and drainage/flooding.