Thursday marks the first meeting of Ascension’s recently reconfigured parish council, six newbies comprising a slim majority of the 11-member body, the same number required to elect its next chairperson. Multiple attempts at canvassing having been conducted by several of those concerned and…we cannot predict with any degree of confidence who will wield the gavel in 2020. One obvious candidate (who actually wants the position) is the current occupant, District 8’s representative Teri Casso.
Coming down to the wire, just like it did the previous two years, the 2020 vote is fraught with uncertainty unlike years past. Last year, as in 2018, the vote was split right down the middle with the same member breaking the tie both years. Casso and Councilman Benny Johnson battled it out with four ardent supporters apiece, and Councilman Daniel “Doc” Satterlee was the tiebreaker.
Casso would be the only nominee forwarded at January 3, 2019’s council meeting, which belied the months long machinations vying for the Ole’ Chicken Doctor’s vote.
Due to Casso’s affiliation with his arch-nemesis Aaron Lawler, Satterlee was initially a lean to Johnson. He swung toward Casso when reminded of shabby treatment at the hands of Johnson’s supporters, only to be reminded that Casso supported A Better Ascension’s push to abolish the parish presidency; and Johnson began to look better. Finally, the pendulum stopped on Casso when she assured Satterlee his expertise would be put to great use in bringing about regional sanitary sewer as the Utilities Committee chair.
It was a sequel to 2018 when Bill Dawson was reelected to the chair, not without great uncertainty. An island unto himself (before regional sewer became a viable possibility), Satterlee found himself in the breach between two five-vote factions. He went for Dawson who committed to re-appointing Satterlee as Strategic Planning’s committee chair.
Certain members conditioned their votes on the assurance that Satterlee would be removed in a plan that backfired.
That is how the sausage is made, and how these votes are decided. Forget about the annual costume drama played out for Channel 21’s cameras at the first meeting every year, intended to present a united front.
Since 2017 the competing factions coalesced around, or against, former president Kenny Matassa. Arrested for bribery in August 2016, a week before the Great Flood descended, the pro-Kenny forces dug in against their ambivalent colleagues who sought only to avoid affiliation with the most corrupt, by far the most inept, president in Ascension’s quarter century of Home Rule.
In the end even Satterlee found common cause with Matassa who was acquitted in the softest excuse for a prosecution in the annals of local criminal justice. Politics (and regional sanitary sewer) makes strange bedfellows as six fresh-faced, unsullied council members are about to find out.
There is a new parish president in town whose pre-inauguration attempts at negotiating a better sewer deal were derailed by Chairwoman Casso. Casso’s support of the agreement is a mystery because she has never uttered a critical word about Ascension Sewer’s proposal, pro or con. Awe-stricken and enamored by Bernhard Capital Partners, the power behind Ascension Sewer, Casso rolled over and played dead, leaving the fight to Cointment.
We do not see that relationship getting better anytime soon. A vote for Casso as chair would be one against cooperation with Cointment’s administration.
Even so, Aaron Lawler’s support can be counted upon by the current chair. His ridiculous motion to have a the new council decide Ascension Sewer’s fate on January 23 is in keeping with his whimsical way of governing. How many of his new colleagues will have firmly grasped the 82-page agreement’s particulars in time to cast that vote?
And then there’s Lawler’s public reprimand of Cointment during the December 20 Special Meeting called to approve the deal.
Anybody here that has any evidence of somebody doing something unethical, and I’m calling out our president-elect also because he accused people of being unethical and I did not appreciate it, that. Because, if you have evidence of somebody up here being unethical, or somebody involved in these negotiations being unethical, bring it to the FBI,” Lawler said, but only after telling the public…”I’m not that happy with all of y’all.”
Retaining Casso, and Lawler by extrapolation, in a position of power would be a continuation of the council culture which got a majority of them voted out of office. It would also revive the fortune’s of Ascension Sewer, LLC which is a recipe for disaster…not to mention parish bankruptcy. Lest we forget, both of them supported A Better Ascension’s irresponsible and ill-conceived attempt to abolish the parish presidency.
Without Parish President-Elect Clint Cointment around there would have been nothing to stop Ascension Sewer.
The alternative appears to be one of the new members. None of the three remaining veteran members wants the chairmanship. We’ve heard St. Amant’s new representative, Chase Melancon is in the running.
Melancon, Alvin “Coach” Thomas, Joel Robert, Corey Orgeron, Dal Waguespack, or Michael Mason…you have our unequivocal support as Ascension’s next Council Chairman.