Although the gubernatorial runoff is getting the most attention, the Nov. 21 election also includes a number of local issues facing New Orleans area voters, including two taxes for flood protection and nine proposed amendments to the St. Tammany Parish charter. Here are The Advocate’s positions on these issues.
West Jefferson Levee District property tax – Yes.
Algiers Levee District Property Tax Renewal – Yes.
Last month’s heavy rains brought a timely reminder that flood control is vitally important across south Louisiana. The region’s susceptibility to hurricanes, made all too clear by the devastation left after Katrina in 2005, underscores the urgency of maintaining a strong system of levees throughout the New Orleans area. Federal funding helped build dramatically improve levees after that disaster. Now, it’s up to local taxpayers to shoulder the responsibility to keep those upgraded levees maintained. As our troubled history has surely taught us, this might literally be a matter of life and death.
Voters on the west bank of Jefferson will decide whether to approve a new 5.5-mill, 30-year property tax to maintain post-Hurricane Katrina levee improvements. Meanwhile, in Algiers, voters will decide whether to renew a 6.35-mill, 30-year property tax to support the Algiers Levee District.
The defeat of these tax proposals will compromise public safety and could lead to increased flood insurance rates. We urge a yes vote for both taxes.
St. Tammany Proposition 1: Cooperative Endeavors- Yes.
This is a bit of housekeeping, clarifying how parish government can form agreements with other governments, and aligning the procedure with state law. We recommend a yes vote.
St. Tammany Proposition 2: Charter review. No.
This would require an automatic review of the home rule charter every 15 years. This is an unnecessary requirement; future voters are free to lobby for changes without this provision.
St. Tammany Proposition 3: Rules for council meetings. No.
The provision limits residents from speaking at council meetings unless their topic is already on the agenda. We believe residents should be given wide latitude to be heard.
St. Tammany Proposition 4: Emergency ordinances. Yes.
This would allow emergency ordinances to remain in effect until the next council meetings, rather than just 30 days. That seems reasonable.
St. Tammany Proposition 5: Change in legal representation. Yes.
This proposal allows the parish government to use legal counsel other than the district attorney. It would help prevent potential conflicts of interest, which is a good thing for the parish.
St. Tammany Proposition 6: Terminating employees. No.
This proposal removes the language in the parish charter that says a parish president can remove employees “for just cause.” Employees presently are unprotected by civil service, and the present language seems like a prudent provision to give workers at least some protection from arbitrary dismissal.
St. Tammany Proposition 7: Chief administrative officer. Yes.
This is another housekeeping provision that simplifies language detailing duties of the chief administrative officer.
St. Tammany Proposition 8: Personnel policies. No.
This change would scrap a five-member personnel board and other protections against a spoils system. That would move the parish in the wrong direction.
St. Tammany Proposition 9: Parish budget. Yes.
This technical change would require that the parish budget be submitted to the council at its October meeting, eliminating the need for a special meeting in September. It’s a good idea.