AMITE — The Tangipahoa Parish Council on Tuesday began a three-step process that will determine what proposed changes to the parish charter voters will decide in the Nov. 4 election.
After a lengthy discussion, the council decided to eliminate one of the eight proposed changes recommended by the Charter Review Commission, which has worked for the past year on alterations to the president-council form of government approved by the voters in 1985. The charter has not been changed since.
The council combined two other recommendations during the preliminary round of discussions Tuesday.
The council voted on which charter changes to pass on to the parish’s bonding attorney and council attorney so the proposals can be written in ordinance form for the council’s approval.
At its next meeting, the council will introduce and set for public hearing the final drafts of the six proposed changes. Three public hearings on revisions to the parish charter have been held over the past month and Council President David Vial noted when the discussion began that the hearings had been very poorly attended.
The council decided to reject a recommendation from the Charter Review Commission to reduce the number of council districts from 10 to nine. In presenting the proposed charter changes to the council last month, Commission Chairman Tony Licciardi said that reducing the number of council members from 10 to nine would eliminate the possibility of tie votes.
Councilman Carlo Bruno, who has been on the council from more than 20 years, said in all those years a tie vote had very rarely occurred. Councilman Louis “Nick” Joseph said he worried that one fewer council district would dilute the minority vote. Councilman Trent Forrest, who represents a rural district in the northern part of the parish observed that the districts are already too big and reducing them by one would result in even larger districts.
On the suggestion of Councilman Nicky Muscarello, the council decided to combine two of the proposals, which set term limits for the parish president and council members into one measure. If voters approve the change, the president and council members could serve three consecutive terms and then would have to sit out one term before running again.
Gordon Burgess has been parish president since adoption of the charter.
The council voted to move forward with a number of other proposals. One removes line-item budget veto power from the parish president.
Another proposal would require the parish president to appoint a chief administrative officer. Under the present charter the parish president may appoint an assistant if he so chooses. If the measure passes, the parish president “must” name someone to the position. Burgess has never named an administrative assistant.
A companion proposal states that the administrative assistant will serve as acting parish president if the office becomes vacant or in the temporary absence of the president.
Yet another change that passed council muster was the requirement that only 10 percent of the number of registered voters have to put their signatures on a call for a referendum or initiative.
The final change would allow the parish to publish public notices in a form of media other than the official journal.
Vial reminded council members that they can still vote on the proposals when they are brought back to the council as ordinances in two weeks.