It is 9:46 p.m. on a Monday night. I have just returned from a Home Rule Meeting in the Natchitoches Parish Court Room. I had a poster saying it was about, Going Back to the Police Jur, because the Home Rule was not working. I made notes about what to say, but I sat and listened instead. The first thing that happened was one of the Council members wanted to go against a “3 minute rule” that had been voted in at a previous meeting. The attorney said, “Giving more than 3 minutes to any person to speak will be a violation of the law.” This Council member used his argument to get people riled up about only having 3 minutes to speak. Again and again this Council member kept on about the 3 minute rule. The people began to raise their voices as they became angry about the rule.
Throughout the meeting, it was plain to see the Council Members were divided, three against two; three saying that they would vote to go back to the Police Jury System. I have read minutes from many other Home Rule Meetings where these three always disagree with the other two members and Mr. Nowlin. No wonder nothing ever gets done. I don’t think public officials should conduct themselves in this manner. Maybe they need to resign or at least apologize. The Chairman said in the beginning he would not allow people to get out of order, but they did get out of order. People would have 3 minutes to state their business and most talked 5 minutes and more. Each Council member was supposed to have 5 minutes to respond without interruption. Council members were constantly interrupted during their 5 minutes by other Council members or rude remarks from the people.
The Chairman never called anyone down and he himself interrupted and interfered with other Council member’s time to respond. There was no order at all in the meetings. The people began one by one to speak. Some were nice, some were nasty. Yes, these people have a right to be upset about their roads, but not to take it out on others. It looks to me like the one Council member was enjoying upsetting the people, trying to impress them. One thing for sure, he tried his best. Later, it became a word battle between the Council members and the people. I hope all the people remember what they said, because there was so much turmoil, nobody else remembers your point except that most of you were mad about something. Most of the people in attendance were for the old form of the Police Jury. I am not. Let’s fix what we have or get a better plan. But, we cannot go back to the Old Police Jury. It was broken, is why we are trying this New Home Rule. Not enough money and misunderstanding about how it works is a real problem, preventing road repairs. These things going on at these Council Meetings must stop.
The chairman needs to apologize or resign for letting this meeting get out of hand.I think the meeting would have been better if the Chairman had stayed home. That’s what a Chairman is for: to shut down a circus that is getting out of order. People got way too hot under the collar. Also, I’m glad not many young people were there to see this. It would not have been good for them to see a councilman insist on breaking a written law that was already in place, because he wanted to and get mad at other council members because they would not go along with him. I think he also needs to apologize or resign. Mr. DeGraffenried tried to explain about the budget deficits, but no one wanted to hear him. Mr. Rachal tried to explain about why we are at this point in time. He was yelled at, by Mr. Bedgood, that he didn’t know what he was talking about. Next thing I knew we were adjourned. I read in Mr. Dollar’s article in the Saturday, March 16 paper about the extras that come with going back to the Police Jury that was replaced because it was not working. Adding 11 more job opinions, 11 more job salaries, and 11 more insurance plans is not the answer. While on the subject of wasting money, Mr. Nowlin’s pay is always a subject to talk about. He draws way too much money, right? After all, doing these things should be done for free, right? It’s a lot more jobs than we know. It’s the Home Rule System, Head Start, and much more that “us Road People” are not able to comprehend. He is Parish President over many, many things. Yes, it is his job. Along with a job comes pay. I would not do all he does for such a small pay. Going back to the Police Jury System would only make it look like progress is happening. The real problem is our hard heads. Common sense tells us if you try to buy a $100 gift for 10 cents that that is not going to happen. Our present road funds are like 10 cents verses $100.
We must have additional income to do the same work we did 30 years ago. If we keep stalling, it will become 10 cents verses $200, then10 cents verses $300. Folks, unless Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny brings us money, we must provide it ourselves, and it has to be more than 10 cents. I also agree with Mr. Nowlin’s article in the same paper. Pass the right tax that can be spent only for roads to help fill in gaps in road money. Mr. Nowlin speaks of a Federal Transportation Infrastructure Bill that will match some of our money, but we must have our money to get theirs. Why is the new system not working? I believe it is because, #1. Not enough information, #2. Too many wrong opinions, and #3. Trying to buy a $100 gift with 10 cents. It is a wrong opinion that little money can fix all our roads, much less pave them. I must say the new system did little for my road; that is until they hired Earl Townsend again. If I remember right, the last time Earl was there, that was when you would look up and see a patch truck sometimes once a month without having to call for it. Earl is doing work with less money, that others could not do. There is another reason I believe the new system is not working. On our Council are five members, two new council members and three members from the Police Jury.
These members disagree on 75 percent of all things brought before them. It’s always 3 against or 2 for when it comes to the vote. We don’t really have a new system; it’s a mixture of “The Old Blocking The New.” Could that be why the circus comes to Natchitoches once a month? I think we should reallocate existing money for better use on our roads. Pass a new tax to fill gap differences of this present day and 30 years ago. We need to do some serious thinking about going back to a replaced system. Why not fix or replace the new system with a better one. Mark 3:25—And if a house be divided against itself, that house cannot stand. I say a council divided, cannot fix roads either. Is it really that the Home Rule is not working or is it; the old Police Jury is preventing it from working?
Rev. Mark Megason