Ascension Chamber of Commerce writes letter to Mayor Arceneaux

Staff Writer
Gonzales Weekly Citizen

March 10, 2014

The Honorable Barney Arceneaux

Mayor – City of Gonzales

120 South Irma Boulevard

Gonzales, Louisiana 70737

Dear Mayor Arceneaux,

On behalf of the Ascension Chamber of Commerce, its over 500 local businesses and the Board of Directors, we write with regret to express our dismay over the recent actions of City Government.

The City Council has turned its back on economic prosperity and independence, to the detriment of the businesses and citizens who call Gonzales their home.

We read recently where Crawford Electric, who was looking to make a multi-million dollar investment in the City, has moved forward with plans to make this investment in the rural areas of Ascension Parish. This came on the heels of City’s outright rejection of a proposal which would have landed Crawford Electric in an undeveloped part of the City, bringing with it hundreds of thousands of tax dollars, and good jobs. While we are relieved and glad that Crawford has decided to stay in Ascension Parish, we mourn for the petty politics, and arbitrary and abusive actions of the City Council, that drove Crawford out of Gonzales.

Despite the fact that every elected official within the City, including yourself, former Mayor and Gonzales’ current State Representative Johnny Berthelot, Gonzales’ State Senator, Jody Amedee, Gonzales’ Police Chief Sherman Jackson, and parish officials such as Sheriff Jeff Wiley and Assessor Mert Smiley supported the proposition, despite the fact that the Ascension Economic Development Corporation (AEDC), the Ascension Chamber of Commerce, and many other private citizens voiced their support of the proposition, Council, without any credible opposition said “NO” to Crawford, in loud and unmistakable words.

One Council member who criticized the proposition, called the Crawford bid “spot zoning.” Spot zoning is a legal term, defined by our courts. The City’s attorney, many other local attorneys and zoning experts were adamant, that the Crawford proposal was not spot zoning. This fell on deaf ears.

That same Councilman implored the City to wait to get an opinion from the Louisiana Center from Planning Excellence (CPEX), wanting to delay the Crawford project 60 to 90 days. When CPEX came to town prior to the vote, and opined that the site for the Crawford proposal was perfect, this Councilman still stood in opposition.

We heard repeatedly from those Council members who opposed the Crawford proposal that they were for business. Their actions however belie their words.

We hope that the Council members who so callously opposed the Crawford proposal recognize the far reaching affects of their obstinance and obstruction. Last year, there was great discussion concerning the City’s budget. Will those who stood in opposition to the Crawford proposal, and the tax revenue it generated, now ask our police, fire and EMS services to cut their budgets? Will those who stood in opposition to the Crawford proposal now seek to have the City renege on the obligations it has made in previous years? If so, it will be a dark day for the City of Gonzales.

The effects reach far beyond the services which government is obliged to provide. The actions of the City Council tell any other business seeking to come to Gonzales, “no thanks, we don’t want you.” No city should have that stigma, particularly a city like Gonzales, which is uniquely positioned to be the benefactor of such economic investments and prosperity.

The most devastating short term effect has already been seen. Crawford is coming to Ascension Parish. The Parish wins, because there is tax revenue and economic investment on its way. AEDC has successfully brought another economic development opportunity to Ascension Parish. The Chamber fought hard for its members and will not lose this opportunity. The citizens of Ascension Parish, except those citizens of Gonzales, will reap the benefits of the services provided through this investment. The only loser is the City of Gonzales, and its over 9,000 citizens.

We know that you, Councilmen Kirk Boudreaux and Kenny Matassa supported the Crawford proposition. On behalf of the business community (both City and Parish wide) we thank you and appreciate your effort. We applaud your leadership and vision for a better Gonzales. To those Council members who stood in opposition, or who did not even perform their sworn duty by staying unexplainably silent, we hope that they will put politics aside, and start acting in the interest of the community they serve, and the community we love.


Matthew Pryor, Chairman of the Board

Sherrie Despino, President/CEO