District 5’s Dempsey Lambert has enjoyed his seat on Ascension’s Parish Council since Inauguration Day in January of 2004, a 17-and-a-half year tenure which tracks with that of former EA Drainage chief Bill Roux. Lambert has chaired East Ascension Drainage District since 2014, a vantage point affording an unobstructed view to everything that Roux got accomplished (or not) to improve drainage. District 10’s John Cagnolatti’s tenure goes back to January of 2016, a 5.5 year stretch coinciding with the worst flooding in Ascension’s history.
Both have been targeted for recall.
On June 17 they joined four other east bank recall targets (Teri Casso, Aaron Lawler, Corey Orgeron and Dal Waguespack) and the west bank’s Alvin “Coach” Thomas, infuriating citizens who begged that President Clint Cointment’s 12-month moratorium on subdivision of property be enacted. Subdivision development, according to public consensus, is to blame for drainage (and other infrastructure) woes.
These council members ignored the clearly expressed will of their constituents, and did so again on June 28 at a Special Meeting of East Ascension Drainage District. Sitting as EA Drainage Commissioners (all but Thomas), they voted to strip Parish President Clint Cointment of his role as Drainage Director.
Alone among current council membership, Dempsey Lambert was around the only other time it was tried.
It didn’t work then but Lambert seems not to care.
As EA Drainage’s chairman, he helped orchestrate the power grab along with Council Chairwoman Casso and chief architect, Councilman Lawler. Cagnolatti, as is customary, said nothing until adding his votes to four agenda items, hastily concocted and never publicly discussed. June 28’s votes are as momentous as any they will ever cast, and a collective middle finger to the people they pretend to represent.
John Cagnolatti’s district includes approximately half of the City of Gonzales (where, as it happens, your writer resides). Since President Cointment took office parts of the city, and areas just south and west of Gonzales’ city limits, have witnessed significant drainage improvements…
with more on the drawing board. No thanks to Cagnolatti.
Among your writer’s major gripes with Cagnolatti’s council tenure is the heel-dragging over a New River Dredging Project, kowtowing to then Drainage Chief Bill Roux’s 2017 lobbying for a $20 million version, insisting that the City of Gonzales pony up half the amount. City residents are subject to the same 5-mill property/.5% sales taxes as every other east bank Ascension citizen, and nearly $4 million of EA Drainage’s annual $21 million funding emanates from inside the City of Gonzales.
The anticipated benefits from the New River project will be felt throughout areas of the parish drained by Bayou Goudine. Roux’s attempts to cast the City of Gonzales as the culprit holding up the project, while ludicrous, delayed relief to quite a lot of residents outside of the city limits. John Cagnolatti has done nothing but delay the New River project and numerous others, content to revert to Bill Roux’s inertial leadership style.
It was President Cointment who surged ahead, when EA Drainage got out of the way. Cointment has made more progress toward drainage improvements than Bill Roux produced in 18 years. For John Cagnolatti (and the rest) to bring Roux back is a slap in the face of every east bank Ascension resident (and the chief reason this writer will sign Cagnolatti’s recall petition. His refusal to answer the simplest questions-off the record or on-only adds to this voter’s opposition to Cagnolatti’s continued council service).
His deafening silence on construction of the new courthouse is another example of Cagnolatti’s fecklessness. Located next door to Ascension Governmental Complex on E Worthey Road, its adverse effect on localized drainage have yet to be assessed.
Powerful, and monied, interests were aligned to ensure the courthouse’s construction in the heart of Gonzales where citizens did not want it. It should’ve been constructed nearer the Parish Jail in Donaldsonville where elected officials clamored for it. Considering that Judge Jason Verdigets, representing the local judiciary, premised his courthouse argument on the need for heightened security due to the presence of prisoners on a near daily basis…why not build it closer to the jail?
The courthouse construction was politicized from beginning to end. EA Drainage Chairman Dempsey Lambert went so far as to delay legislation to improve the Land Development Code because the courthouse’s fill material would have violated the new ordinance. Lambert has always placed political patronage before what is best for the collective citizenry, including access to sand denied his neighbors during a flood (see image at top of page). The return of Bill Roux will include reinstatement of any number of Lambert cronies used to sponging off Ascension’s taxpayers for years.
The local spoils system has also benefited subdivision developers.
After August 2016’s horrific flood, even Bill Roux had to concede that placing fill in Ascension’s floodplains is a bad idea. But that would have forced Dempsey Lambert’s developer cronies to build pier and beam homes which, for whatever reason, they are loathe to do. Lambert (and you could say the same for recall targets Casso and Orgeron) is particularly beholden to the development community, so nothing came of Roux’s declaration.
The development community has returned Dempsey Lambert’s affections; and targeted his District 5 for thousands of new rooftops since Lambert assumed office. That was January of 2004 after the first of five Lambert elections in a November 2003 runoff. Twice unopposed, Lambert squeaked by on October 12, 2019 with a 39-vote margin over Cheryl Malbrough whose last minute decision to run nearly ended in success.
That would have been disastrous for Lambert’s builder pals…
who have plied their trade to great effect in the councilman’s backyard. On April 24, the last time Ascension went to the polls, District 5 had 9,144 voters compared to less than 6,000 when Lambert was first elected in 2003, reflecting an unsustainable 50.2% spike in population.
If the proliferation of subdivision development is to blame for drainage/traffic/general infrastructure deficiencies, EA Drainage Chairman Dempsey Lambert has to shoulder a fair amount of responsibility. Is it enough to secure his recall?