Mark Pope: Political Football (OPINION)
Football season began Saturday – how ‘bout those Cajuns? The political season begins on Labor Day. That’s what the pundits tell us. Yes, people are allegedly supposed to start paying attention – on Labor Day – to the upcoming “mid-term elections” which are set for the first Tuesday in November. That first Tuesday in November is always when the general public votes for elections in which candidates are running for federal office. Ahh, but there is so much more to the mid-term elections. Read on.
First, let’s establish something. As the politicians love to say, “let’s be transparent.” This column you are reading is an opinion piece. It is not a news article. I’m not going to lay out all the races and issues before voters throughout Acadiana. Each city, town, and parish will vote on various candidates and issues, in addition to voting for their U.S. Representative, and the Louisiana Secretary of State. I will cite Lafayette as an example of what decisions lie before its voters, and how political decisions can confuse, disenchant, and even anger the general public.
Our Lafayette City-Parish Council has lost its bearings. They forget that Lafayette is still a conservative community, and the majority of its citizens want to see limited government, with an emphasis on providing basic services. So what do they do? They proceed to lay out multiple issues before the public, all at one time, and all involving raising property taxes, changing the management of our 122-year old publicly owned utility system, and changing the way Lafayette city and parish governments are structured. On top of all of that, “leadership” at Lafayette Consolidated Government (LCG) is forging ahead with trying to turn Lafayette into a “smart city.” What that means is going to the federal government to try to secure millions of dollars to execute wasteful, unnecessary programs, all to “save the world.”
I was recently told by an employee at LCG, in a high-level management position, that requests for public information are at an all-time high. This employee said that requests are so excessive that his/her department cannot get their regular work done. Excessive requests for public information scream of a lack of trust of the inner workings at LCG. And yet, the politicians just don’t seem to get it. I wonder if they know that the distrust they have created is due to their overly-ambitious agenda, and their “less than transparent proposals” to change the structure of government, change the management of Lafayette Utilities System (LUS), and burden the public with more property taxes.
Take the issue of management of LUS. Why does Mayor-President Robideaux want to do this? There are more questions than answers. The standard, somewhat cynical response, is “follow the money.” Not really sure what that means with the LUS issue, other than LCG would secure hundreds of millions of dollars from contracting out electrical services to Bernhard Capital Partners. And don’t forget that Mr. Robideaux commissioned a study from the engineering firm of record for LUS about the LUS/Bernhard issue. The results are in, and the report states if management of LUS services is contracted out (a) utility rates would increase; (b) response time and reliability of LUS services could decline; and (c) long-time, loyal employees would lose their jobs. The issue should have died on the vine with the study results.
Lafayette voters will not vote on the LUS issue in November or December, but I hear Bernhard Capital Partners will make a public presentation before the Council at their September 18 meeting. What I hear from family, neighbors, and friends about LCG in general is an unprecedented level of distrust for what our elected officials are doing. What does that portend for the future of the ballot issues LCG has presented to its constituency in November and December, and what does the level of distrust portend for the future of Lafayette?