The Louisiana electorate sent a strong, yet simple message to the Louisiana government on April 2.
It is time for change.
They said that concrete plans for the resurrection of a crumbling town are paramount and grudges shouldn’t be part of the picture.
In the past 18 months many people have told me they wish the council and Mayor Tom Wallace would stop bickering between themselves on purely political matters and tend to business. Some said they were down right embarrassed by it all.
They told me a city that is slowly losing its historic downtown, businesses, flair and youths can not afford personal vendettas to get in the way of progress.
I can’t help but feel that former council member Robbyn Morris feels at least somewhat vindicated by the election of Bart Niedner, Kathy Smith and Sal Pollice, all of whom she backed for office.
Morris questioned the council’s lax attitude toward transparent government and adherence to the state Sunshine Law, which demands open meetings and records in most cases. She was vilified by city officials for speaking her mind and having the gall to question them.
Morris turned her cheek often, but then dug in for the fight. Her tactics were sometimes over the top, but she drew attention to city problems.
She eventually played right into her detractors’ hands by taping a closed council session — ironically a Sunshine Law violation — and got impeached for it.
Some viewed her impeachment as righteous and some saw it as tragic. Whatever the take, what it did was wake up the electorate to begin looking at the issues and the council’s role as a whole, not just the individuals.
While the voters sought change, the possibility of stalemate exists in the immediate future if the council lines up for votes like many think they will.
It would be easy to think the three newly elected members will join with councilman Chuck Hoffman in a voting block. It appears on the surface that Mayor Wallace could often break tie votes over issues backed by board members Jim Wood, Larry White, Russell Stephens and Monroe Elliott, all of whom voted to impeach Morris.
But that assumes the new board members and Hoffman will be in lockstep and the four other members don’t have minds of their own.
The near future will answer those assumptions but it could also produce some surprising outcomes and shatter expectations.
What is important is that council members vote with their conscience on each and every issue and not feel implored to go along with other members for any reason. That is what the city needs and the voters expect.
I don’t expect the council to sing “Kumbaya” together and agree on everything. Indeed, government boards who don’t have differences can be just as dangerous to progress as those who are split.
What Louisiana needs is informed board members who question each others ideas and intentions while civilly agreeing to disagree with one constant in mind, the people and future of the town that put them in office.
If that big picture is not embraced, the board could bog down again at the expense of all.