Martinez survey: Roads biggest issue in Ascension

Aaron Looney

DONALDSONVILLE – Results of a recent poll commissioned by Parish President Tommy Martinez show that road conditions are at the forefront of public concern in Ascension Parish, and that those polled would support a half-cent sales tax if dedicated to road improvements.

In a presentation made to the Parish Council during its meeting Thursday in the Parish Courthouse, John Diez with Gonzales-based Campaign Opinion and Research broke down the poll’s results, showing the council how different demographics responded to questions asking those polled to rank problems in the parish and if they would favor a tax to fund rectifying the situations.

“I can sum this survey up in three words: Traffic, traffic and traffic,” Diez told the council.

Of those polled, nearly half – 48.6 percent – said they felt that improving traffic congestion and poor road conditions ranked as the most important problem facing Ascension Parish. Coming in second, at 21.4 percent, was better management of growth and development.

Other issues ranked as highest by those polled included implementing a parishwide sewer treatment facility (9.2 percent), controlling flooding and improving drainage (8.4 percent), other unlisted issues (4.9 percent), improving recreational facilities (4.7 percent) and improving fire protection and emergency management services (2.8 percent). Many polled who did not list traffic as their top priority listed it as their second highest concern.

When asked “Would you support or oppose a half-cent sales tax if the money was dedicated to reducing traffic congestion and improving road conditions?”, 66.8 percent of those polled said they would support the tax, while 31 percent said they would oppose the tax if it were dedicated to traffic improvement.

In a related question, 69 percent of those polled also said they would favor building an interstate loop around Baton Rouge to relieve traffic congestion, while 24.8 percent opposed the idea.

The poll also asked if voters would support the half-cent sales tax proposal if dedicated to other specific needs such as drainage, parishwide sewer, recreation or fire protection. Responses show that most would favor the tax if dedicated to drainage improvements, parishwide sewer, but not if it were earmarked for recreation improvements.

In answer to the question of if they would support a half-cent sales tax dedicated to “solving problems in Ascension Parish,” 51.7 percent of those polled said they would back the measure.

However, when asked if they felt parish government currently receives enough tax revenue to solve parish problems, 65 percent said they felt the parish receives enough tax revenue.

Martinez said that such a tax proposal would not be placed on a ballot this year.

“We may need to combine some of this,”?Martinez said.?“We also need to keep looking at other possible sources of revenue.

Another question asked voters if they would support a proposed 3-mill property tax to fund the purchase and upgrade of the Lamar-Dixon Expo Center in Gonzales. The decision was nearly split, as 49.1 percent of those polled said they would support a tax to purchase and upgrade the center, while 47.3 said they would not support such a proposal.

The proposed tax would cost the average owner of a home valued at $165,000 an additional $27 per year.

On another topic, when asked what direction they felt the parish was heading, 69.5 percent said the felt the parish was “going in the right direction.”

A total of 509 people were polled as part of the survey over two nights July 24 and 26, Diez said.

The margin of error on the pool was 4.3 percent.

Of those polled, 295 identified themselves as registered Democrats, 140 as registered Republicans and 52 as independents.

The racial makeup of the poll shows that 406 subjects were white, 86 were black, one was Hispanic and two were listed as “other” nationalities. Diez said the numbers were proportionate to the voting base in Ascension Parish of 78 percent white and 19 percent black registered voters.

Martinez called the poll’s results “enlightening,” but said that he was not surprised by much of the results.

“This verifies what we thought, but some of the numbers are stunning,”?said Martinez, referring to low interest in issues such as parishwide sewer and recreation improvements.

“The people have spoken,” Martinez told the council. “What they told you are the problems.

“We can’t wait any longer for the state to bail us out,” Martinez said. “We have a problem in Ascension Parish, and it will take a contribution from all of us, not just one source, to fix it.”

Martinez asked the council for a “full commitment for the good of the parish.” He said he felt the council should “get away from the district-by-district” mentality and focus on issues that affect the parish as a whole.

“We need to have a unitary attitude,”?Martinez said.