SARGE: Fish Or Cut Bait

(I’d like to attribute this information as being developed from resources found in WIKIPEDIA 2013 and by actually reading the Lawrason Act of 1898. I’m not an attorney. I’m a concerned citizen seeking to understand a law being referenced in an on-going debate in local government. I stand ready, as always, for legal correction as it concerns my impressions.)

The Lawrason Act of 1898 permits municipalities in the state to incorporate into towns or cities without specific clearance from the legislature.

The “mayor–council government system” is one of the two most common forms of local government for municipalities in the United States. It is most frequently adopted in large cities. The other form; “council-manager government, is the typical local government form of more municipalities.

Municipalities are cities, towns, or villages. Those having 5,000 inhabitants or more are cities; those having less than 5,000 but more than 1,000 are towns; and those having 1,000 or fewer inhabitants are villages as defined by legislative act.

The mayorcouncil program may be broken down into two main variations depending on the relationship between the council and mayoral branches. These two contradictory forms of government define the mayor’s authority as either a weak mayor or a strong mayor based upon the powers of the office. These forms are used in modern representative municipal governments in the United States.

In a “weak” mayor-council system, the mayor has no formal authority outside of the council; he/she cannot appoint and/or remove officials, and lacks veto power over council votes.  The mayor’s influence is solely based on his/her personality in order to accomplish desired goals. In a “weak” mayor-council system, the mayor has no formal authority outside of the council; he/she cannot appoint and/or remove officials, and lacks veto power over council votes. As such, the mayor’s influence is solely based on his/her personality and ability to engender compromise in order to accomplish desired goals.

The “strong-mayor form” consists of an elected mayor, and a unicameral (only one chamber of government) council as the legislative branch. In the “strong-mayor” form the elected mayor is given almost total administrative authority and a wide range of political independence. The “strong mayor” has the power to appoint and dismiss department heads without council approval or public input. In this system, the strong-mayor prepares and administers the city budget, although that budget often must be approved by the council. Recognized abuses led to the development of the “council–manager” form of local government and its adoption widely throughout the United States.

In “strong-mayor” governments, the mayor can appoint a chief administrative officer who supervises department heads, prepare the budget, and coordinate departments. This officer is sometimes called a city manager or may be called a Chief of Staff; the manager/chief of staff is responsible ONLY to the mayor in this variant.

Most major and large American cities use the strong-mayor form of the mayor–council system, whereas middle-sized and small American cities tend to use the council-manager system. (Wikipedia 2013- paraphrased)

The Port Allen political scene is a body torn by racial contention and political divisiveness. The contest appears local but its effects are wide-ranging in that the entire parish’s appearance and reputation before business interests and the rest of the nation is affected. Nobody wants to invest in an area can’t work together to improve a region’s economic standing. Outside commercial forces are what grow cities and regions economically.

Port Allen’s reputation is best graded by the shading politics has washed over the canvas of our political landscape. This muted and sullied reputation is being painted by both neophytes and experienced politicians alike. Because of this everybody in the parish will suffer.

Port Allen chose to work for decades as a hybrid form of government most notably through cooperation and debate. We now have a mayor wanting to work according to the above mentioned “strong mayor” format concentrating power in one and only one politically elected person. She wants to appoint her brother-in-law to the never before utilized or approved position of Chief of Staff.

The mayor’s drive to be a positive force in local politics is admirable though based on perceived slights she sees as racially motivated. She sees past government as being prejudiced toward one racial group over another. She seeks parity as only she can define it. As is the stance of a recently re-elected president, it looks like she wants to “fundamentally change” the face of politics in Port Allen.

The past mayor selecting a friend for a position over the possibility of a superior resume’ holding employee already working for city government. One is white, the other African-American. The new mayor feels her constituency was abused and insulted as a matter of cultural prejudice. The new mayor was elected as a result of a powerful political bloc being energized in her favor. But that bloc is not represented on the city’s council by a majority; hence the struggle.

This mayor is trying to wrest control of city functions by the power of her personality and her belief the only way to win is to call people racists. This is her statement and those of her supporters. Nobody brought up racism until they did. Ignoring the possibility is wrong; outright acceptance of one party’s hurt feelings IS NOT the reason for de facto acceptance as truth.

The clarion cry of “Racist” diverts attention from the original charges brought against another person in power. Racism is a green, glowing neon sign blinding many trying to watch what’s going on and diverting their attention with the glare of the word’s ugliness.

Racism did and does exist. But does it exist in EVERY CASE just because people of color’s feelings are hurt? It sounds more a matter of immaturity seeking validation because nobody on the playground wants to play with you and go by the rules you want to play by. You’re the new kid on the block and have to learn to get along with people just like everybody else before you. You must also play the game governed by laws in force before you got there. And that’s where the problems started: with the alleged unethical acts of the mayor and the possibility of their felonious illegality. Follow the money. It either points to illegality or it doesn’t. If it does; put her before the bar of justice. If it doesn’t shut-up and work together.

Whether or not this will scar Port Allen for all time is questionable. The mayor attempting to define small city politics such as Port Allen’s by the definitions and a boundary ascribed to large cities is where this train is coming off of the rails. The mayor looks like she’s trying to become Baton Rouge without the political pull or extensive voter bloc necessary to enjoy the facile motions and maneuvers of Kip Holden.

And we must ask: do we want to be a poor imitation of Baton Rouge or a strong, dynamic, vitally independently, active and upwardly mobile city poised to lead the parish and the region?

It’s time to fish or cut bait folks.

Thanks for listening

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