Last month, the Council, at the urging of Sheriff NewellNormand, asked the legislature to allow that the Parish’s two publicly-owned and paid for hospitals be allowed to be privatized and leased to a private partnership without a vote of the people.Wednesday, Councilmen Elton Lagasse and Chris Roberts authored legislation to ask the legislature to nullify a judge’s order that mandated a revote on May 4th of the Crescent City Connection toll extension.
The revote was ordered after toll opponents provided information that over 1,000 voters in Jefferson, Orleans and Plaquemines Parishes were given provisional ballots that did not allow them to cast votes on the CCC toll extension.The Council unanimously passed the legislation without discussion.
It is expected that State Representative Bryan Adams (R-Terrytown), a political ally of Roberts, will possibly file the legislation.Earlier Wednesday morning, State Representative Pat Connick(R-Marrero) was on WWL radio and speake about the Council’s motivation and the Regional Planning Commission’s (RPC) statements regarding turning off the lights on the bridge and discontinuing maintenance.
“There’s an element of politics in this thing,” Connick said. “The folks that are on there (the RPC) are loaded-up with people who are pro-tolls. We saw that push yesterday: ‘Let’s turn off the lights; let’s stop sweeping; let’s stop picking up trash.’ Basically, to punish folks for trying to have a voice on whether the tolls stay or not.”“It’s almost like political extortion,” Connick continued. “If you don’t do this, we’re going to hold back money. DOTD has $32 Million of our toll dollars left over since December 31st. That money should be put back to pay for the services we need. But, for some reason, there are certain people who don’t want that to happen. They want things to get bad; they want things to get worse and try to create a situation that’s horrible. It’s uncalled for. It’s almost malfeasance in office.”
“The money is there. $32 Million is available plus, between January and March, DOTD reported they collected $5.8 Million in (additional) toll dollars. So, we have almost $40 Million for these services that can last for years.”“The better referendum from the Jefferson Parish Council would be to say, ‘DOTD spend the money where it was intended to be spent and stop playing these games.”
Patrick Hand, an Attorney and a leader in the Anti-Toll campaign, was also outspoken about the decision by the Council.Calling it “a calculated, sickening campaign tactic designed to disenfranchise voters”, Hand also questioned the legality of the Council’s proposal.
“They (the Council) don’t want the people to vote. It’s un-American. They are going to do everything humanly possible, including disenfranchising their own constituents, so they can keep their cash cow.”“They are clearly not looking out for their constituents. They are using the same ‘scare tactics’. Where does it end?”
“What gives these two men (Lagasse and Roberts), and the State in general, the right to forcibly take money from West Bankers and then decide on their own terms how much of that money they are going to give back to West Bankers, if any, and when they are going to give it back, if ever?”
“The answer is nothing. Nothing gives them this right.”
Both Connick and Hand believe that any legislation brought forward to stop the May 4th vote will be "Dead on arrival".
“I don’t think they (the Council) can legally do this," Attorney Hand said. "I think the law prohibits overriding the Judge’s ruling. If the Legislature can do this, it is a serious breach of the doctrine of separation of powers.”In a statement released after the Council’s vote, Connick said:
"From a practical and legal standpoint, the Legislature cannot change this date - nor should it. People have the right to vote on this important issue and the attempt to eliminate the May 4 CCCD election reeks of Louisiana politics as usual. To me, withholding funds, turning off lights and changing election dates are all desperate measures by those who are coming to the realization that a bloated government bureaucracy which for years has served politicians rather than the toll paying public is finally coming to an end."For now, and at least through May 4th, there are no tolls on the CCC.