“Let’s let the elephant out of the room,” citizen/committee member Bill Dawson ended a torturous eight-and-a-half minutes of Home Rule Charter Revision obfuscation on Monday; divulging the worst kept secret in recent local political history. “The changes that we’re talking about today, almost all of them are influenced by whether there’s going to be a parish manager or an elected parish president.”
Was that so hard?
Newly-anointed Council Chairman, it was the same Bill Dawson who introduced the same elephant in the room to your writer in January…2017. It would be three weeks later that A Better Ascension, the Political Action Committee masquerading as Non-Profit Corporation, was formed by filing incorporation paperwork with Louisiana’s Secretary of State. The elephant in sheep’s clothing seized upon an opportunity never before presented…
an indicted Ascension parish president.
Dawson’s dilemma, how to get ABA’s parish manager initiative on the ballot, has persisted. As with any constitution worth its weight, Ascension’s Home Rule Charter provides procedures for amendment. They are found in Article IX. Section 9-01 Origination states:
“An amendment to or the repeal of this charter may be proposed by at least two-thirds of the members of the governing authority or by a petition.”
Section 9-02 Procedure by Petition allows “Any qualified elector (to) submit the proposal to the governing authority…The petition shall contain the full text of the proposed amendment or repeal.” Seems pretty straightforward, but there’s a catch. “The signature of at least (33%) of the qualified electors as of the date of submission shall be obtained.”
Proceeding by petition would require approximately 25,000 signatures. Altering the Plan of Government, the constitution if you will, is not supposed to be easy. If it were every crackpot with access to a laser jet printer could throw parish government into disarray on a yearly basis.
Proceeding via established methodology is cost contraindicated, especially when the governing authority (at least its chair) is in the bag.
Two ABA Board of Directors have privately disavowed their membership, a dozen more have never attended a Parish Council/standing committee meeting where ABA-related items were not on the agenda. As we’ve learned from the governing authority, i.e. the Parish Council, truancy is no fatal flaw. Neither is abrogation of one’s sworn duties.
On August 3, 2017 Chairman Dawson proclaimed:
“I hereby appoint a Committee of the Whole with the specific task of publicly vetting the charter amendment proposed by A Better Ascension. The process shall include at least three public meetings with one public meeting conducted on the west bank of Ascension. After completing the public vetting process the committee shall make a recommendation to the governing authority as to whether this shall be moved forward to the agenda of the Council to decide whether to call for placement on a parish-wide ballot.
It fell apart when seven Council members could not find their way to Donaldsonville’s historic courthouse for the second (and final as it turned out) of three Committee of the Whole meetings on October 26, 2017. What to do?
Bill Dawson is nothing if not persistent. Curiously omitted from the Resolution to Establish a Home Rule Charter Revision Committee was any mention of ABA’s proposal. Those who hide things are those with something to hide.
Is it mere coincidence that Dawson pushed consideration of the Parish Council reconfiguration?
At the Charter Revision Committee’s April 9 meeting he proposed ten council districts with a single at-large seat elected parish-wide. It’s the model charter, recommended by some expert organization or another, whereby that single at-large Council seat would be designated the council’s chair for an entire four-year term in office. Wonder if he has anyone in mind for the spot?
Since his endorsement of an indicted parish president hasn’t worked out so well…
might as well give it a try.
“There’s a possibility that a pathway would be that one proposal would go to the voters in 2018 and, based on what the results of that is, then additional changes would be made to the charter based on what the results of that first election is,” Bill Dawson exerted great effort to avoid saying “A Better Ascension” on Monday.
Pressed by your writer, who happens to sit two seats to Dawson’s left on the Home Rule Charter Revision Committee, the Council Chairman let the cat out of the bag.
“Let’s let the elephant out of the room. The changes we’re talking about today, almost all of them are influenced by whether there’s going to be a parish manager or an elected parish president.”
Said another way, the first four meetings of the Charter Revision Committee were a waste of time, a ruse orchestrated to give ABA’s proposal another bite at the apple. Translation…
Let the games begin.