Gov't

Mayor Vetoes Bigger Government- Supports Districts, Divisions or At Large, Encourages Compromise

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Mayor Mac Watts issued a letter Thursday formally vetoing the City Council’s 3-2 vote to increase the size of Central’s City Council.  Reached for a statement, the Mayor shared, “I can support a decision of the Council to change to Districts or Divisions, but I cannot approve an ordinance increasing the size and cost of government on such a split vote of the Council.  If the Council will reach a compromise or put this to a vote of the people, I will support that decision.” The entire text of the Mayor’s letter follows:

Since the incorporation of the City of Central in July of 2005, the appointed and elected Council members have worked tirelessly to establish an efficient government for the City of Central. Together, we have created a streamlined government through the utilization of public private partnerships and partnerships with other governmental entities for services such as animal control, fire protection, garbage collection, public safety and public sewer. 

Through public private partnerships and partnerships with other governmental entities, Central has been able to increase services to its residents without many of the revenue sources available to other municipalities. Unlike many other municipalities, Central does not levy ad valorem taxes, receive franchise fees from the gas or water utility companies operating within the city limits or any revenue producing utility. 

During a period when many other municipalities have experienced decreasing fund balances and reductions in services, we have grown our fund balance and increased services. Through the collaborative efforts of the Council, my administration, the City-Parish, state officials and citizens who have volunteered their time and expertise, additional funds have been made available for road improvements, drainage improvements and acquisition of equipment to enhance public safety. I believe these collaborative efforts to improve and to maintain our infrastructure are vital to the future economic growth necessary to sustain the operations of the City of Central and the Central Community School System. 

While other municipalities are often cited as comparisons, there is no true comparison in the state of Louisiana to the City of Central. Central is the only municipality which provides the majority of its services through a public private partnership thereby, simplifying government.  Our simplified budget, insulated from the impact of fluctuations in costs of retirement, health care, labor, fuel and other goods, has enabled Central to continue to operate with a very small administrative staff and a council of five members. 

The members of the Central Council have been hard-working, ambitious and set a record which we can all be proud of; however, I fear that the decision to fundamentally change the organization of our city government by increasing the size of the Council would erode the trust which our citizens have placed in us. 

I want to personally thank all of the citizens who participated in the hearings concerning the council districts and Councilman Messina who chaired the committee; however, the process has made it clear to me that there are varying opinions on the appropriate composition and election system for the Council. I believe that a decision as important as increasing the size of the Council should be decided by the citizens or a super majority of the Council. 

For these reasons, I have vetoed the Proposed Ordinance increasing the Council from five to seven members and hereby return it to you. It is my hope that we can all move forward together on other matters which will enable the Central to grow and prosper.

Sincerely,
Mayor Shelton “Mac” Watts

5 Comments

  1. Denise

    October 6, 2011 at 11:45 pm

    Thank you, Mayor Watts!

  2. Another Central resident

    October 7, 2011 at 7:34 am

    Booooo!!!! Why even go through the dog and pony show of having committees and wasting everyone’s time if this is what you were going to do with the committees recommendation.

    • dave

      October 7, 2011 at 8:34 am

      ACR,
      A few things to consider.
      1) The committee was not charged with making a recommendation, only to study Districts, Divisions and Term Limits. In much the same way, a committee was formed to do the groundwork for the selection of our City Service Contractor. They did the research, pulled together the data, and laid the groundwork for the ultimate decision to be made by the Mayor, or in that case, a committee that the Mayor empaneled specifically for the purpose of recommending a contractor. Note that if the initial committee of 25 had come back and said “Here is the data for the contract and evaluation process, and by the way, we picked Chenevert Songi and gave them the contract.” That is essentially what happened here. While I appreciate what work the committee did, we did not elect that seven to make this decision. We elected five Council members and one Mayor to make these decisions. The fact that the primary and almost sole reason given by the three Council Members favoring 5 plus 2 was the 4-3 vote of the committee, which was not charged with making this decision.

      2) Why do I object to the concept that three Council Members voted for 5 plus 2 on the basis of a 4-3 vote of a research committee? Simple. If any reasonable person were empaneling a committee to determine HOW MAY council seats Central should have, (and that was nowhere in their charge), or even how they should be elected, they would not have placed people on the committee who had a conflict of interest. A conflict of interest DOES NOT call the integrity of the committee members into question, and I believe they are all good people. Conflicts of interest can build in an automatic and even suconscious bias, which is why most judicial and legislative bodies in the country have some sort of check by which conflicts of interest are identified and avoided. The City Services Committee went through the process of identifying any cnflicts of interest before doing anything else. On this Districts Research committee were one Council Member who is presumed to be running for re-election, three Council candidates who lost in the last election, two of whom have already expressed interest in running in 2014, and one Moyoral candidate who lost in the last election and is running in 2014. I would reasonably submit that these committee members, only because the issue was put to a vote, have a conflict of interest in this matter. Had the task of the committee been limited to research, having persons who were and will be involved in elections might actually be a benefit.

      3) The fact that 4 of the 7 citizens favored 5 plus 2 is based primarily on their individual preferences. 5 plus 2 is a legitimate form of government, as is 5 distircts, 5 at large, and 5 divisions. This has never been about even a majority of any evidence or research pointing to one over the other. In this case, it is pure opinion. We elected 5 Council Members and a Mayor to determine what Ordinances are passed. It takes four of the six of them to pass ANYTHING. All 3-2 votes are either approved by the Mayor, making it 4-2, or vetoed.

      4) The biggest problem with the whole process is either the unwillingness of three Council Members to let the people decide, or our Council’s inability to find compromise. Perhaps this will encourage the all five of them to find an acceptable middle ground.

      Dave

  3. Linda May

    October 8, 2011 at 8:22 am

    I sick of the bickering. Central citizens have enjoyed a family/extended family style atmosphere for many years. I see egos and power seekers acting like high school clicks. Disputes are expected but officials and other involved persons should assess their motives. Central has a wealth of educated, successful, experienced citizens. Perhaps some could be consulted to assist our elected officials with their school yard fights. In this particular issue, I support the Mayor

  4. Jason Ellis

    October 10, 2011 at 5:00 pm

    I believe that the Mayor was justified in his Veto. The mayor has earned earned my respect for this action which clearly was neither justified nor overwhelmingly popular in the opinion of most of the residents I talked to or those that showed up for the last council meeting. I think we have also learned a valuable lesson here. I think that the next time we form a committee there needs to be a written charge as to what exactly is the duty of those involved. I have found one of several hundred examples of this type of document online at: http://www.ci.oswego.or.us/parksrec/center/download/SteeringCommitteeCharge.pdf It is important for us to detail out the requirements for what a committee should present as a final document or presentation as well. Personally I would like to see a committee report stating the “facts” of why or why we shouldn’t do something. It doesn’t have to be something fancy a couple of typed pages would suffice. Then I would like to see that posted online or in the local paper so everyone can become educated on the committee’s findings and contact their councilman and the Mayor if they do not agree. This will give the other side time to prepare it’s own rebuttal. A typed set of meeting minutes would have been nice to have from the committee also. Thanks to Central Speaks I was able to view exactly what transpired in these meetings which proved invaluable. Thank You Dave for doing that. We need to learn form this and get better Central. These committee’s need to work hand in hand with the current administration no matter if they like them or not. If anyone is not willing to let grudges go then please do not volunteer to sit on a committee in this city again. Let’s come together now Central and do great things.

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