What stemmed the Dec. 6 recall election?
SaveGonzales, a citizens group formed to oust then-councilman Gary Lacombe and councilman Tim Vessel, have been rallying since April to bring its city back to the way it was. Since 2012, Lacombe and Vessel have had their “own” agenda when it comes to the progression of the City of Gonzales and business leaders, and other elected officials were not happy with it.
Vessel and Lacombe teamed with Mayor Pro Tempore Terance Irvin to create what was dubbed to the “bloc vote trio” by some and “the three stooges” by others. However, no matter what the case was the three stuck together.
Chairman of SaveGonzales Chuck LeBlanc said there’s no alternate reason for targeting Gary Lacombe and Timothy Vessel in the recall other than these two are new incompetent elected officials that seem to have absolutely no clue of how good government should be run.
“These two first term guys have done nothing but caused chaos and turmoil for the City of Gonzales for the past two years,” LeBlanc said.
Some key 3-2 votes, according to SaveGonzales volunteers, as issues that led to the recall effort are:
A vote against a request for rezoning from retail commercial to light industrial for a storage facility business sought on La. 44 by the Thomas C. Keating family. A suit has been filed in the matter against the three councilmen and the city of Gonzales.
Also Crawford Electric, which is a Fortune 500 company that was turned down in the city limits. LeBlanc said that would’ve given the city probably $225,000 a year in sales tax.
A vote to reduce 50 percent the city’s funding to the Ascension Economic Development Corporation (AEDC) from $100,000 to $50,000. The cut led to two vetoes of the city’s general fund budget by Mayor Barney Arceneaux before he allowed the budget to stand.
A vote to reduce the capital outlay budget for the Gonzales Police Department to approximately $327,000. That reduction to police department funding for police cars and equipment led to three mayoral vetoes before the budget was finally accepted.
A vote for an $800,000 study of a service road along I-10, between La. 30 and La. 44. The road would have run through property owned in part by Councilman Irvin’s family. Lacombe, who proposed the road study project, later dropped it after the mayor’s first veto of the city’s general fund budget.
A vote last year that slowed city funding to build a Gonzales Kidz Kove Discovery Park for children of all abilities. The three councilmen later reversed their vote and the park had an official opening on Nov. 15.
All the while the three councilmen wanted to “level spending off across the board for all departments.”
Back in July, in an interview with the Gonzales Weekly Citizen, Irvin and Lacombe said they knew the city would soon face growing issues. But they wanted the people to understand the budget reductions are to keep moving forward.
When Irvin first was first elected in 2000, Gonzales had about $16 million in its fund balance and over the years it grew to approximately $30 million. However during the last five years, the city spent about $20 million of the $30 million, this calling for some adjustments.
At the end of 2013, the council, led by Lacombe asked the auditor to affirm if “tightening” back the budget was the right thing, and the auditor said yes it was the right thing.
“That was an affirmation from what we’re trying to do from a Fiscal standpoint,” Lacombe said in a July interview.
This past year, Lacombe and Irvin made similar requests to all of the departments to try and tighten things up to turn the fund balance around because it positions us to invest in infrastructure and the growing pains, Lacombe said in a July interview
“This past council meeting (July 7) we approved, unanimously, bonding $17 million over the next 20 years to do some identified work in our wastewater system across the city,” Lacombe said, in a July interview. “We’re able to do that because that note is going to be between $700,000 to $900,000 a year. Because of tightening the belt we’re able to do that and keep moving forward.”
However, as of Nov. 25 Lacombe resigned his seat as City Councilman – a surprise to SaveGonzales, Mayor Barney Arceneaux, who supports the recall efforts, and even Tim Vessel, who said he didn’t know until the last minute.
“The city really lost a giant and champion for the people,” Vessel said about Lacombe resigning. “He’s a good and honest man and was fighting for the people and the growth of this city.”
Now Vessel stands up to fight for himself in the Dec. 6 recall election of his seat.
“We’re just going to wait and see what the people do on Saturday,” Vessel said.
They think retail is more important than Commercial 1 or Commercial 2.
LeBlanc added: “It’s time to vote for the recall to remove them and put people in there that understand good business and good government.”
“Please save Gonzales and vote for this recall,” he said.