Congratulations, good wishes & some advice

In Lafourche Parish voters have yet to decide who will serve as Parish President, with a Nov. 21 general election to be the proving ground.

In Terrebonne Parish the decision has already been made. Gordon Dove, currently a state legislator, bested Councilman Daniel Babin.

Mr. Babin has been a dedicated member of the Parish Council. He is also a respected member of the commercial seafood community, and in all ways we wish him well in his future pursuits.

Mr. Dove, the parish president-elect, has a long record of service to the community. He has cast key votes and worked hard to aid the parish in attaining greater levels of hurricane protection. His role as a promoter of coastal preservation and rehabilitation is well-documented.

Now that voters have made their choice, we foresee the potential of a lot of good that can come from Dove’s administration.

In examining the history of Terrebonne Parish government, patterns emerge that are worthy of examination now that a new administration is coming in.

Michel Claudet, the outgoing parish president, was responsible for transforming local government from an age when someone with that title was a “boss” of sorts. Claudet, a product of industries that include banking, built needed bridges between local government and business.

He was not the business outsider but the insider. He attempted to use principles of industry to run government.

Sometimes this worked, and sometimes it didn’t.

The biggest problem with that type of marriage is that industry can get by without a lot of public scrutiny.

In government – particularly in Louisiana – there is enshrined in tradition and law the matter of transparency. Mr. Claudet’s parish government has to a good degree been responsive to this process, although he himself needed a bit of schooling.

Key staff members such as Al Levron have done a good job of communicating and, when appropriate, supplying requested documents and information. The current parish attorney, Courtney Alcock, has left us uncomfortable with her willingness to conceal rather than reveal, giving advice to government that, while perhaps appropriate, runs counter to the presumption contained in Louisiana’s constitution that records and information are open unless clearly proven not to be so by legal exception.

The parish government is not an adversary of the people or the press, it is meant to partner with them in transparency.

This is where Mr. Dove’s new administration can break new ground.

He is well-acquainted at this point with Terrebonne’s business community and its members with him.

But he has also, for years, served in the legislature. Dove does not appear to be thin-skinned.

Even when challenged and criticized for his positions on matters like creation of a minority sub-district for judicial elections, Dove has stood by his position and not been shy about discussing it.

We sense in Mr. Dove an ability to run Terrebonne Parish’s executive branch of government in an open manner, exceeding the performance in that regard of any predecessors. The legislative body he currently belongs to is colloquially refered to as “the peoples’ house,” an institution whose mission has been as much to keep debate, discussion and information in the hands of the public it serves.

It is our hope that Mr. Dove’s stated “open door” policy will be proven in practice. Advisors should be chosen on the basis of their ability to be open, not how well they keep information and deliberation concealed.

It is not too much for the people footing the bill to ask that those decisions be made openly, even if that’s not always politically or operationally expedient.

We challenge Parish President-elect Dove to develop a framework for openness and free conduits for information, and are certain he is up to it.

That being said, we welcome him to his term of service. •