NEW ROADS — Members of a group pushing to change the way Pointe Coupee government operates told the Police Jury on Tuesday they’ve collected about half of the signatures needed to force a vote on switching to a new form of government.
State Sen. Rob Marionneaux, D-Grosse Tete, and a group called Progress for Pointe Coupee, have been campaigning to move the parish from a Police Jury form of government to a setup with a parish president and a parish council.
Through his work in the state Legislature, Marionneaux said, he’s seen parishes with clearly defined executive and legislative branches progress rapidly while parishes governed by police juries stay stagnated.
Marionneaux appeared at the Police Jury’s regular meeting to repeat his request that jurors vote to form a home rule charter commission.
The commission, he said, would borrow ideas from other parishes in drafting a charter for Pointe Coupee, essentially a new parish constitution.
Once the commission drafts a charter, it could be placed before the public to enable parish residents to decide whether to install a parish president and parish council or retain the Police Jury, he said.
If jurors vote to form the commission, they would have the power to appoint its members, he said.
The alternative, Marionneaux said, is for Progress for Pointe Coupee to collect the 1,600 signatures — about 10 percent of the parish’s registered voters — needed to put the proposed home rule charter issue on an election ballot.
“Our signature drive is ongoing,” Marionneaux said. “We’ve got 800” signatures.
Marionneaux also brought along to the meeting St. Martin Parish President Guy Cormier, who told jurors that he’s seen first-hand the possibilities a home rule charter can open to a parish.
St. Martin Parish voters replaced their Police Jury with a parish president and parish council by 56 percent of the vote in 1999, Cormier said.
Since then, “we’ve seen how a business style of government has transformed how we do business,” Cormier said.
St. Martin Parish, operating under a home rule charter, Cormier said, has completed $40 million in infrastructure projects and has undertaken an $11 million courthouse renovation even as it has been able to roll back property taxes.
Those things, “would not have happened under a police jury,” Cormier said.
Pointe Coupee Police Jury members previously considered the home rule charter issue in March when they opted to hold a series of public meetings to inform the public on the pros and cons of each form of government in lieu of immediately forming a home rule charter commission.
Nothing has happened since then.
That inaction prompted Marionneaux, Cormier and Steve Boudreaux, a member of Progress, to petition the Police Jury again to vote to form the commission.
“The issue won’t go away,” Marionneaux said. “We’ll be here every three months or until we get the signatures.”
In the end, Police Jury President Melanie Bueche told the group that jurors are still considering scheduling a vote on forming a commission, but they need more time.
“We have not closed the door on this,” she said.