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 to 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. Early voting begins Saturday.