The Advocate’s voter guide

As a handy guide for voting in the Dec. 6 election, here’s a recap of The Advocate’s positions on various proposals on the ballot in the Baton Rouge area.

Casting your vote

The Louisiana secretary of state’s election division offers the following guidance on casting a ballot:

When you go to the polls to cast your vote in an election, be sure to take one of the following:

driver’s license

a Louisiana Special ID

some other generally recognized picture ID that contains your name and signature

If you do not have any of these items, you may still cast your vote by signature on a voter affidavit.

You can get a free Louisiana Special ID at the Office of Motor Vehicles by showing your voter information card.

If you have misplaced your voter information card, contact your registrar of voters for a new one or print your own by logging into the “Louisiana Voter Portal” as a voter. Click the “Voter Registration” tab at the top then click the “Print Voter Information” link located on the ribbon on the left-hand side.

Election Day

Should any problems or questions arise, the principal office of the registrar of voters in each parish will be open from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. on all Tuesday elections. Election Day voting hours are from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. on all Saturday elections. Don’t forget to bring your picture ID to the polls.

EAST BATON ROUGE PARISH DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC WORKS REORGANIZATION: YES

Pity the poor voters of East Baton Rouge Parish who have to plow through the legalese of the proposition on the Dec. 6 ballot relating to the city-parish Plan of Government. It’s almost unreadable, but having looked behind the opaque language, we believe parish voters ought to agree to the proposal.

The reorganization of the Department of Public Works involves a great deal more than can be gleaned from the ballot language.

DPW is by far the largest city-parish department and one that has for a long time defied anything that can be called management. DPW directors, including current Chief Administrative Officer William Daniel, have found themselves besieged with decisions and paperwork for a wide variety of functions, from building inspections to transportation and drainage to fleet maintenance for vehicles.

But what has provoked Daniel and Mayor-President Kip Holden to undertake an extensive DPW reorganization is the challenge of the $1.5 billion sewer program mandated by the U.S. government. When complete, this massive project will require operation and maintenance of a computerized system of pipes and pumps — a higher level of sophistication than DPW is used to.

Further, as Daniel and legions of complaining citizens have testified, accountability for performance or lack thereof is difficult in such a sprawling DPW operation.

The fruit of meetings over two years, the DPW organization plan will separate the six functions into their own offices. Managers of each function will be able to make decisions more quickly and more closely monitor responses to problems and complaints, under the general direction of the Mayor-President’s Office.

The Baton Rouge Area Chamber has endorsed the plan, calling it an overdue streamlining of the bureaucracy that can stand in the way of construction and transportation projects vital to the area’s economic competitiveness.

We believe Daniel, in particular, has earned some credibility by pushing DPW out of the pencil-and-paper bureaucracy of the past. This new plan is going to require, though, a great deal of oversight by not only the Metro Council but the public going forward. But it needs the approval of voters, and we recommend they give it.

LAFAYETTE AIRPORT TAX: YES

Writer Robert Heinlein quipped that there is nothing so permanent as a temporary government emergency. Yet, in Lafayette this year, there is the very rarest of birds — a temporary tax that is actually temporary.

It is a novel idea, although not unique: A 1-cent sales tax would be levied in the parish for eight months, from April 1 to Nov. 30 of next year. The money would be used to put in place about a third of the cost of a significant and much-needed expansion of the airport.

That $37 million, combined with state and federal grants and other airport revenues, would jump-start a project to add gates and parking to the 1950s-era airport.

The idea of a temporary tax is not entirely new. The people of Lake Charles used it some years ago to fund renovation of their old Central School into an arts complex. It is unusual, but we think that’s a selling point. It is for a dedicated purpose and a relatively short time.

Lafayette is a national center for oil and gas exploration, and other businesses and new growth expand the demand for air travel all the time. The tax is a novel idea, but the need for the airport project has been there for a long time.

We urge Lafayette citizens to approve the tax on the Dec. 6 ballot.