St. Tammany Parish voters will decide this fall who will represent them on the Parish Council, but they won’t get to decide how long council members can serve.
The Parish Council killed a proposition to put term limits on the ballot on an 11-3 vote Thursday, defending their position with arguments that term limits are undemocratic and, in this case, would be aimed at the wrong group of elected officials. The measure needed at least 10 votes to be adopted.
Councilman Gene Bellisario, who is running for his third term, noted that he supports term limits in theory — citing lively debates at home with his wife, six-term School Board member Mary K. Bellisario. But he said the drive to put limits on the Parish Council is misdirected because it is parishwide offices that have seen problems with corruption.
He pointed out that former Coroner Peter Galvan is in jail, former District Attorney Walter Reed has been indicted and a probe of former Assessor Patricia Schwarz Core is still ongoing.
Councilman Steve Stefancik, who is among the longest-tenured members of the Parish Council, said he thinks term limits deny voters the opportunity to vote for anyone they want, while Councilman Jerry Binder argued that there has been extensive turnover on the Parish Council without setting a three-term limit.
Term limits were the most contentious issue debated by a committee that spent six months reviewing possible changes to the parish’s home rule charter and ultimately could not come to agreement on a recommendation for term limits.
But advocates of term limits aren’t ready to give up. Rick Franzo, president of Concerned Citizens of St. Tammany, said that group is meeting Monday and will discuss whether to launch a drive to put term limits on the ballot by referendum.
If so, the group will likely seek a two-term limit rather than the three terms the Parish Council nixed, he said.
While he agreed most corruption has come from other agencies, the council “could set a nice example for the parish by doing something,’’ Franzo said.
Mandeville councilman gets an opponent
Ernest Burguières, the Mandeville councilman who has made a habit of sparring with Mayor Donald Villere, will face a challenge of his own in next spring’s election.
Jeff Lyons, the son of former Mandeville Mayor Bubby Lyons, has announced he will run against Burguières for the District 3 seat.
The district includes much of the area known as Old Mandeville, east of the Causeway and close to Lake Pontchartrain.
The combative Burguières, who is in his first term, has fiercely defended what he has called Old Mandeville’s unique character, pointing to its pedestrian-friendly, diverse community. Other parts of Mandeville, he wrote in March, are “typical modern subdivisions that are isolated islands in the forest.”
Burguières’ sharp words have consistently brought him into conflict with Villere, who once called the councilman an expert in “character assassination.” At other times, Burguières has clashed with his colleagues.
In announcing his candidacy, however, Lyons made no mention of Burguières’ penchant for vigorous debate.
Instead, he said he is running to “restore strong leadership” to District 3 and that his platform is “inclusivity between homeowners and business.” He said Burguières lacks “vision” for the district and the city.
The election is March 5.
Rep. Bishop to seek Murray’s Senate seat
State Rep. Wesley Bishop has formally announced he hopes to succeed state Sen. Edwin Murray, who will be unable to run in this fall’s election due to term limits.
Bishop’s interest in the District 4 seat has been no secret: He held a fundraiser for the race months ago, and signs have begun cropping up in the district to support his candidacy.
The district covers a large portion of New Orleans from the lakefront near the Jefferson Parish line to New Orleans East and parts of the French Quarter, 7th Ward, Gentilly, Marigny and St. Roch.
Both Bishop and Murray — a senator since 2005 — are Democrats.
“I wish to continue to serve the citizens of New Orleans and work with my fellow legislators to raise the quality of life and meet the many needs of those in New Orleans,” Bishop said in a news release announcing his candidacy. “My experience with the Louisiana House has prepared me for further work in the Senate, and I hope my community continues to stand with me as I continue to stand up for them as their state senator. ”
Bishop, the associate vice chancellor for academic affairs at Southern University at New Orleans, is finishing out his first full term in the state House this year.
Compiled by Sara Pagones, Faimon A. Roberts III and Jeff Adelson