Yet again, the Lafourche Parish Council and Parish President Jimmy Cantrelle are in conflict, this time over budget items that were approved by the Council, which Cantrelle vetoed. The Council over-rode Cantrelle’s veto.
Cantrelle has yet to indicate which of the items approved he will sign checks for, and this has done nothing to ease tensions between himself and the Council.
The items include a leadership academy for girls at Nicholls State University, a new building to house the operations of Coroner John King, and membership dues to South Central Planning and Development.
The leadership academy is designed to provide educational empowerment for 50 girls from across the state, with 10 percent of them being from Lafourche. The Governor, various corporate executives and celebrities attend. The goal is empowering young women, and the reviews over the years of its operation have been exemplary. The cost is $25,000.
The price tag is higher for King’s request, which is $190,000 for a planned building purchase and an estimated $70,000 for renovations.
The current 1,700 square foot building is fully inadequate, a case that King has well made. His operation is one of the best in the region, as various situations time and again have indicated. Problems with coolers and cooler space, rotten wood, mold and mildew make one wonder how quality has been maintained. King’s contributions to the community are too important for pettiness to impede a move forward.
Another logjam from the same refusal is payment of dues to the South Central Planning and Development Commission, a body on whose board Cantrelle has a seat.
SCPD has taken it on the chin a good bit lately, with Terrebonne Parish President Gordon Dove’s insistence — and the Terrebonne Parish Council’s acceptance — of elimination of the entity’s services for code inspections.
But even Terrebonne is retaining its membership, or so it appears.
South Central Planning performs a variety of services for its member governments, which include long range planning; acting as a state and federal liaison and doing advocacy work, preparation of economic develop strategies and creation of land use and capital improvement plans.
Cantrelle maintains that before he moves ahead with these expenditures he will have to check on budget matters. But at the meeting it was quite clear that the requests — with the exception of the coroner’s office — are recurring requests that are normally budgeted in without difficult.
The building for the coroner certainly represents a major expense, but assurances of the expense having a place in current budgetary items were clearly given.
Proof that the current unwillingness to commit to a signature lies in how the matters were handled by Cantrelle to begin with.
The items were vetoed, meaning that without a Council over-ride — which he had to know was coming — they would have stopped dead.
The Council did over-ride the veto, however, and for better or worse that should provide a clear indication, through this action by their elected representatives, that the public will is for these items to be funded.
Cantrelle’s lack of cooperation — and his publicly-dispayed doggedness about the matters at hand, give strong indications of why Council members last year gave him a no-confidence vote.
A certain degree of political or even creative tension between a multi-member, legislative body and the executive branch of government is to be expected. Indeed, it is because there is and can be tension between them that we can be assured of our forms of government being true to the intent of the people. Vetoes and veto over-rides are all part of the check and balance system that makes our form over government work properly.
Executive branch fiat is another matter. Even as it appears that the executive branch in Washington D.C., in the nation’s federal government is showing some greater degree of reason, Cantrelle’s example is one of an executive branch totally exercising the power of fiat.
And fiat has no place in government.
If Mr. Cantrelle wants to prove that he is cooperating with the will of his electorate, his failure to assure action on these items thus far don’t do much to sway us. Jimmy CAN make these expenses go ahead. And he should.