Petitt versus Lawler (and Dawson) II: The ABA “subterfuge”

Barking citizen watchdog, Jeff Pettit

After a brief dormancy it was nice to see Councilman Aaron Lawler reengage in an important discourse when it became apparent that a committee to consider mere revisions to Ascension’s charter was something altogether different.  Created by Council resolution on February 15, the Home Rule Charter Revision Committee is a ruse to backdoor A Better Ascension’s proposed abolition of the parish presidency onto December 8’s off-cycle ballot where minimal voter turnout affords the best chance for enactment.  Lawler is playing his part in the Machiavellian subterfuge hatched by the devious brain of Chairman Bill Dawson; and playing it to perfection.

It was Dawson who, by the Chairman’s prerogative, convened a Committee of the Whole (it simply means the entire council sitting as a different panel) by proclamation on August 3, 2017:

“I hereby appoint a Committee of the Whole with the specific task of publicly vetting the charter amendment proposed by A Better Ascension.”

It went out with a whisper when seven council members were absent to the second of three promised meetings.  That is unfortunate since ABA’s proposed amendment has never been vetted.  NEVER.

In a recent back and forth Councilman Lawler endorsed, at least that’s what I understood him to mean, vetting ABA’s proposed amendments, drastic changes to the current charter which have never been discussed at any meeting of the council or its committees.  Sure, there have been those who’ve expressed support, more citizens offering disdain.  But the actual terms of ABA’s plan have NEVER been subject to one syllable of debate.

It is obvious that the Council, ten of its membership anyway, intend to place ABA’s initiative on the ballot without debate and/or deliberation of any kind.  Did you know that ABA’s charter envisions hiring a parish manager only after he/she is nominated by a Chamber of Commerce-dominated committee?  ABA proposes to vest an unelected parish manager with powers vastly greater than any elected president has ever enjoyed.

With Bill Dawson’s hand on the tiller, none of these elements will even be discussed by the Revision Committee.  A committee which, by the way, is ignoring procedures it had voted upon…twice, to accommodate ABA in time for the December ballot.

Lacking the courage to do the dirty work, i.e. that Committee of the Whole punted in favor of the 12-member Revision Committee where Dawson ramrods his agenda past a befuddled Chairman Roy Quezaire with Lawler’s stalking horse running roughshod over a well-meaning but feckless committee.

Lawler’s faux outrage at a lazy electorate on April 23 was quite the performance.  He knows, just like Bill Dawson, that ABA’s best chance of success is throwing a couple of hundred thousand dollars at a December 2018 election when turnout will be in the low single digits.  Aaron Lawler has learned his politics well.

Openly critical of the Library Board’s “excessive” funding, around $8 million annually in two ad valorem assessments, he decries its targeting of off-cycle elections when the relatively few library supporters en masse voting wins out over paltry overall turnout.  Lawler plans to do something about it, pushing for a ballot initiative to rescind one of two library property taxes on the same date as the Parish Council’s next election (October 2019).  The theory, and it’s a sound one, is that greater voter turnout spells doom for the library tax.

Whether Lawler has the juice to convince his Council colleagues remains to be seen.  Regardless, his willingness to employ the library’s electoral playbook is hypocrisy of the highest order.

Dawson and Lawler (a third Council member, Teri Casso, also sits on the Revision Committee) engineered this Charter Revision Committee charade from the outset.  They’re both in bed with ABA and have been since January of 2017.  According to Lawler:

“Bill Dawson, John Scanlan and I met in either January or February (of 2017). To the best of my recollection, we discussed a move from a parish president to a parish manager.”

A Better Ascension did not exist until February 16, 2017.