OUR OPINION: Commission needs to stand up on charter

Staff Writer
Gonzales Weekly Citizen

During his re-election campaign last year, Parish President Tommy Martinez stated that he planned to reconvene the Home Rule Charter Commission to review the parish’s form of government and make it a more precise operation.

Upon his election, he did just that, creating a board of volunteer members tasked with reviewing the parish’s official government structure and making recommended changes. The commission will meet and present a list of proposed changes to the Parish Council no later than April, with the council then deciding which changes, if any, will go before parish voters for ratification.

Since its inception earlier this year, the commission has met numerous times. While its early meetings were more fomulative and to find a sense of direction, the group has recently begun taking apart the charter line by line to review and make recommendation to change aspects of the rule.

While it has made some recommendations to change provisions of the charter so far, it seems that the group has not addressed issues that stick out like a sore thumb.

Not once since the commission was formed has the entire group met in full. Members have also come and gone frequently, with one vacancy currently still unfilled. How can such a body function if it can’t even get everyone gathered into one room at one time? We know that the commissioners were appointed by the Parish Council and Martinez and some have resigned for various reasons, but such instability serves as a hindrance to the commission’s mission.

Commissioner Terri Casso made an passionate plea during the last commission meeting Wednesday that the group work to make the charter balance powers between the executive and legislative branches of government, calling the current government structure “a police jury on steroids.”

We agree that if this parish is to ever truly advance and keep up with its growth and development, changes must be made to correct double standards and imbalances of power that were found on the police jury systems of the past. To do this, the commission must be united in its goal and every commissioner must put forth the effort to attend meetings and review the charter in depth.

We hope that the commission will recommend changes that are both relevant and necessary to move Ascension Parish forward and not wind up being a waste of everyone’s time and efforts.