Plan to restructure Pointe Coupee Parish government on November ballot

Plan to restructure Pointe Coupee Parish government on November ballot

POINTE COUPEE PARISH, LA (WAFB) - On Election Day, voters in Pointe Coupee Parish will have the chance to vote on a plan restructuring their parish government.

Currently, Pointe Coupee has a police jury system consisting of 12 leaders representing 12 separate districts.

The system lacks a central, at-large leader. That has inspired criticism from several parish residents and leaders.

"I think there's a lot of needless division in a very small area," said Livonia resident Renee Major.

"You really don't have a CEO, so to speak, that runs the parish that has a parish-wide incentive to get things accomplished and tackle projects," said parish juror Stephen Smith.

The ballot for November 8 includes a plan to exchange the current system with a home rule charter. That plan includes eight council members representing separate districts as well as an at-large parish president.

At a meeting Wednesday night put on the by the parish's Chamber of Commerce, business leaders praised the plan, saying that if it were adopted, it would allow them to compete with other local parishes that have a president in charge.

"When corporations come in, they need one point of contact, they don't want to sit down with 12 jury members," said Myron Lambert, the general manager of Pointe Coupee Electric.

Still, not everyone is onboard with the proposal. Pointe Coupee has struggled over the years with concerns about equal representation for minority community members.

As a result, some in the African American community worry this plan could quiet their voice at the parish level. Gail Hurst, who is a member of that community, helped write the new charter and said that is simply not the case.

The boundaries of the eight council districts in the charter fall along the same lines of the school board member districts. Those boundaries have been approved by the U.S. Department of Justice.

"We did not lose black power," Hurst said of the plan. "You can elect four black council members and elect four black school board members. We've had four black school board members."

There is also some concern amongst certain community members that the council member districts will be larger under the proposal, meaning they have less focused attention.

"I think people in individual districts feel that they have someone clearly defined that they go to, talk to, appeal to," Major said.

Still, Major believes the benefits of the plan outweigh any possible costs.

"I think there's hope we can do more to develop our cultural resources parish more under this system of government," Major said. "So I'm excited about that, I'm going to vote for it."

The measure is the last item on the physical ballot in Pointe Coupee.

If the plan succeeds at the ballot box and is adopted, the council and parish president would be elected in the fall of 2018. They would then take office in January 2019.

Copyright 2016 WAFB. All rights reserved.