Jefferson Parish Councilman-At-Large John Young was a convincing winner in the October 2nd election to fill the unexpired term of former Jefferson Parish President Aaron Broussard and while I’m sure the Councilman is eager to take the reins as Jefferson Parish President and has mentioned that he will take his new office on October 13th, I believe the Councilman would better serve the people of Jefferson Parish if he waited 10 days to take office.
Why 10 days?
The Jefferson Parish Charter states that if a Councilmember has less than 1 year remaining on his unexpired term, there is no need for a Special Election to fill his seat. The next regularly scheduled Council election is October 22 2011. If Councilman Young would take the office of Jefferson Parish President on October 23rd instead of October 13th, it would save the taxpayers money and would level the playing field in next year’s elections.
While it is true that a special election to fill Councilman Young’s term could happen on the April special election for Jefferson Parish Assessor, this has not been verified by the Secretary of State.
If the special election does occur in April, that person would serve the remainder of the term and have to run again for a full-term in October, filling the seat for a mere 6 months. However, that person would be the incumbent going into the October election, a powerful asset in Jefferson Parish politics. As an “Incumbent”, even a 6-month Incumbent, the winner would have significant resources available to him/her and the ability to raise considerable campaign dollars to defeat any and all possible challengers.
Since the Council is already charged with naming an Interim At-Large Councilmember to serve from October 13th (Councilman Young’s designated day) or October 23rd (our proposed day) until April at the earliest, and since the Interim At-Large Councilmember is precluded by Parish law to seek the full-term, it makes sense that person be allowed to continue to fill the At-Large seat until the next regularly elected At-Large Councilman is sworn in.
Since the Interim Councilmember cannot seek election, he/she has no reason to raise campaign funds or become corrupted by the system. This person could serve the people of Jefferson Parish without any political obligations due.
If the voters approve of the job he is doing, Councilman Young could conceivably be Jefferson Parish President for the next 9 years. Clearly, waiting 10 days will not diminish his impact on Jefferson Parish and his ability to reform Jefferson Parish Government.
Councilman Young campaigned on a pledge to increase transparency, end back-room deals that have plagued Jefferson Parish Government and restore the public’s trust in Jefferson Parish Government. Waiting 10 days to become Parish President and not holding a Special Election to “anoint” a 6-month Incumbent could be an important first step to beginning his stated goal of reforming Jefferson Parish.
If Councilman Young is sincere about his desire to reform Jefferson Parish Government, and I believe he is, than waiting 10 days to ascend to the Parish President’s Office and allowing an unbiased Interim Councilman the opportunity to serve the people of Jefferson Parish for the remainder of Young’s council term seems like a prudent move and a good first step.
Walt Bennetti is the publisher of ClickJefferson.com, where this piece originally appeared.