Sunday, May 08, 2005
Real Reservoir News 5/08/05
Good morning Washington Parish! God bless the USA.
My name is Jalon Beech and I would like to talk too you about the “Land that I Love”, and about the freedom that we all cherish and hold so dear in this country.
For the benefit of our new listeners, I would like to tell you a little about where I grew up and about my heritage. In the early 1800’s, my great-great grand parents Thomas and Eliza Moore came to a wilderness on the Bogalusa Creek now known as the Oak Grove community. They carved out a life for their children as most did in that time period.
As time passed, this beautiful tract of land was handed down to Bouey and Louisiana Moore. They raised 14 children in a small log home. My grandmother, Lavada Pittman, the baby daughter of Bouey and Louisiana Moore inherited the old log home and 70 acres of the original home place.
Now, time has passed this lovely place to my sweet elderly parents, Pete and Betty Pittman. My family cherishes the rich heritage and beauty that has been passed down to us.
I tell you this story to let you know that the Reservoir Commission of Washington Parish believes that it would benefit the parish by seizing my parent’s and their neighbor’s land and turning it into a pleasure resort for the rich.
As Lee Greenwood so beautifully sang at the beginning of this program, I have always considered myself and my family as being free Americans, “With the constitutional right as citizens of America, the right to life and the pursuit of happiness”.
I’m here this morning to share with you some facts about the proposed reservoir in Washington Parish, and to inform you of some local events that have happened regarding the reservoir issue that may be of interest to you.
You may not be aware, due to the evident black out of the media, that there was a court hearing this past week on May 3rd and 4th regarding the alleged violation of the open meeting law or what is otherwise known as the Sunshine Law by the Washington Parish Reservoir Commission.
On May 3rd, the court was convened around 9:30 a.m. at the parish courthouse in Franklinton for the purpose of hearing several small cases as well as the case brought by two parish residents, Nevels Pittman and Marvin Moore against the Washington Parish Reservoir District.
The courtroom was overflowing with supporters of the Oak Grove residents to see justice served. There was not adequate seating at the courtroom that was selected for the reservoir case. It was in the basement. Many of the elderly as well as other attendees had to stand for long periods of time, but they were diehards. The judge finally told us to come back and she would hear the case for 1:00 p.m.
After coming back from lunch, I was pleased and grateful to see so many had returned to observe the proceedings. We still had to wait until about 3:40 p.m. Two witnesses provided testimony on behalf of the plaintiff’s, my dad and Marvin). One of the witnesses for the plaintiff’s was a former Bogalusa Daily News reporter who interviewed Mr. Huey Pierce on January 3rd regarding the site selection meeting on January 5th, and reported it in the January 4th issue of the Bogalusa Daily News.
This same reporter was also present at the January 5th meeting. She testified under oath that the public was not allowed to ask questions or make comments. The other testimony that was heard this same day was from another well-respected member of our community. His testimony correlated with the daily news reporter’s testimony that the public was instructed not to make comments or ask questions by Mr. Pierce. The judge then said that the case would be continued at 1:00 p.m. the next day.
At approximately 1:00 p.m. on May 4th the court convened again and testimonies were given. We were all relieved to be moved to the larger courtroom, which still was barely large enough to contain the number of people in attendance.
There were approximately 13 witnesses for the plaintiffs for both days of testimony. All of these witnesses’ testimony was about the fact that the public was not allowed to make comment or ask questions at the public meeting that was called by the Washington Parish Reservoir Commission for the purpose of site selection for the proposed reservoir on January 5th 2005.
All of these witnesses reported and testified, under oath, that they were not allowed to make comments or ask questions at this public meeting. And, I will let you, the listener know, that all of the people who testified on behalf of the plaintiffs are all upstanding, honest, hardworking citizens of this parish. They were neither hysterical nor too emotional to know what they heard at the January 5th meeting or in court as portrayed by the judge. They all experienced the same thing. In my opinion it’s called intimidation.
Among the materials allowed into evidence, was a copy of the Bogalusa Daily News January 4th issue that stated that the public was invited to attend the Washington Parish Reservoir Commission meeting, but would not be allowed to make comments or ask questions.
There were approximately 3 witnesses for the defense. Mr. Huey Pierce, the chairman of the Washington Parish Reservoir District was the most prominent witness. I will add that Mr. Pierce even admitted that the quotes in the January 4th newspaper were accurate, but that they "were taken out of context".
After hearing the testimonies and examining the evidence, the judge addressed the public and said, I wish this many of you would show up for jury selection and we could try some criminal cases. She also said (I’m paraphrasing) I can’t believe that you people believe everything you read in the newspaper. There’ so many misquotes and typo’s that it’s unreliable. She also stated that it was her opinion that the people at the meeting of January 5th were very emotional and probably heard what they wanted to hear, and then she ruled in favor of the defendant.
Folks, people heard what they heard. In my opinion, the newspaper article reporting quotes from Mr. Pierce was very intimidating to the public. However, people came to the meeting anyway to find out their fate and the fate of their family, friends, and neighbors. I was present at that meeting, and I know what I heard, and it is contrary to the testimony provided by the defense.
These people who were in attendance at the site selection meeting of January 5th are all respected members of the rural communities of this parish. Many of these residents showed up in court on May 3rd and 4th to testify to what they saw and heard at the meeting, and to testify to the fact that they were not allowed to make comments or ask questions as instructed by Mr. Pierce at the beginning of the meeting and at the end of the meeting.
The case has not yet been appealed. Once a Judgment has been submitted, an appeal will be filed. Don’t worry. I will keep you informed.
There’s also something that I would like to clear up for the people who were not in attendance at the last parish council meeting on April 25th. Mr. Bill Fowler, a freelance writer, whose articles appear in the Era Leader had a story that made the front page Wednesday, May 4th, entitled Residents Voice Concerns About Canal, Reservoir. I called the Era Leader to let them know that the way this article was written, it did not shed a favorable light on me and other people who were with me. Mrs. Moggie referred me to Mr. Fowler. I did call him, and we discussed the happenings at that meeting since we were both present, and we have recordings of it.
I will read an excerpt from this article, and let you, the listener, decide how it reflects on me, my family, and others who oppose the reservoir in Washington Parish. I quote, “The majority of the people attending the council meeting were there to continue their protest against the proposed mid-parish reservoir. Those parish residents pressing for the defeat of the proposal were Richard Wade, Jalon Pittman Beech, Nevels Pittman, Glen Rester, Liz Stokes, and Glenn Galloway. Comments have now become accusations with strong invective against the council members and threats of recall petitions or efforts to see that the councilmen are voted out of office.” End quote.
Mr. Fowler’s reporting of the council was mostly accurate. However, it tends to shed an unfavorable light on the people who are opposed to the reservoir. My daddy, Nevels Pittman, humbly asked for the support of the council. He didn’t demand it. I never asked for a recall. I read my speech to the council and reported what I said to you on last week’s broadcast. We are honest, hardworking people trying to save our community.
Mr. Fowler did not report all of the happenings at that particular council meeting. He left out that the council did not call to order members of the audience that were using profanity and exclaiming loudly toward the representatives of the Army Corps of Engineers. Did he say that the Pool’s Bluff residents that wanted to keep their lock open protested and made accusations? No, he did not. He wrote, “Quite a bit of dismay at the closing was expressed by those attending the sessions as well as members of the parish council and Parish President Toye Taylor.” They expressed strong concerns.
Let me tell you folks. The people who go to speak out against the reservoir also express strong concerns. There were no threats or accusations . I can’t speak for others, but those who were with me were speaking the truth, and yes, we are opposed to the reservoir that will disrupt cemeteries, elderly residents, and the heart of our parish, and it will also burden us with taxes that we can’t afford. We want to know where our public officials stand on this issue, and yes it will determine whether or not we may or may not support them in any upcoming election process.
Now, as I prepare to close out this broadcast, I have a few questions for the people who say they support the proposed reservoir or say that they haven’t made up their minds yet. It’s my understanding that there is a right and a wrong way of conducting our selves, an inborn code of ethics that most of us are brought up by. Here they are:
1. Do you believe in your heart of hearts that it is appropriate to expropriate for eminent domain someone’s private property for the sake of “possible” economic development and recreation? Please remember that the word expropriate means to take without asking.
2. Putting yourself in the place of someone whose property will be seized for the construction of this reservoir, would you just submit to it, or would you try to stop it from happening?
3. If your grandparents, mother, father, sister, brother, wife or child were going to be removed from their place of burial so someone could water ski, fish, or play golf, does that seem right to you?
4. If you have a high school diploma or G.E.D., do you think you or members of your family could get a high paying job because of this reservoir? If yes, please list some of the job opportunities that you believe a high school graduate would be qualified for, and what the salary would be.
My personal feeling is that the concept of this reservoir was fueled by the greed of those who will stand to profit from the construction of the reservoir and the real estate deals that will subsequently be made.
Senator Nevers referred to the Pearl River locks on March 17th as a failed project. He said that people sacrificed (in other words, had their land expropriated or taken) for those locks to be constructed. The real deal folks is that our elected officials who negotiated with the federal government way back when didn't have the foresight to make an agreement to revert the land and locks back to the parish residents in the event the project was not a success. Now, we are at the mercy of an Act of Congress to keep these locks open. I hope they will find a way to give access back to the people who it belongs to.
Personally, I don't understand how people are so willing to sacrifice an entire community for the sake of so-called progress? It is my opinion that our officials do not have a good track record for procuring and retaining business here.
At the festival in the park, I learned that the people of Bogalusa were not informed at all about the real facts regarding the reservoir. People of Bogalusa and the surrounding area didn't realize that the creek that flows through Cassidy Park is the Bogue Lusa Creek. It will be dammed to create the proposed reservoir. This approximately 100 ft high by 1 1/2 mile wide dam would also put the people of Plainview, Ben's Ford, and Bogalusa at risk of a major dam failure.
These people also didn't realize that the entire parish would be required to pay for this reservoir. You see, the Washington Parish Reservoir Commission will levy taxes on us (from Mt. Hermon to Bogalusa and from Franklinton to Isabel), and they also have the authority to expropriate or take property anywhere in this parish. If you live in this parish, you will feel a negative impact.
Educate yourselves! Washington Parish is a Reservoir District and an agency of the state of Louisiana. Read Senate Bill 475, Act 71 for yourselves. We passed out copies of it at the festival in the park. We also provide copies at our meetings. You can also view it either on the legislative web site or visit http://gundamreservoir.angelfire.com/. It's a scary law.
This law is not something to be proud of. As a matter of fact, I am ashamed of how it was passed through the legislature on the last day of the legislative session of 2003 without any of us being aware of it. Do you know one reason we weren't aware of it? It's because it was tacked underneath another bill that was passed through our legislature at the same time. It would be interesting to have Senator Nevers explain the particular circumstances regarding how SB 475, Act 71 was passed like this through the legislature.
If you read and listen to the real facts regarding the reservoir, you will likely become emotional and distrusting as many of the NO RESERVOIR supporters have become. The good news is...is that we can make a positive impact in our parish.
The appointed Reservoir Commission of Washington Parish intends to forcibly take homes and desecrate the cemeteries of the Oak Grove Community with absolutely no regard for the welfare of its residents, or even the endangered wildlife species that are present , and intend to put a 100 feet high by mile and a half wide earthen dam that will strain to hold back the billions of gallons of water in an approximately 3310 acre reservoir.
I would like to encourage all of you to come and participate in our parish and city council meetings. I firmly believe that it makes a difference. I also know the consequences of not attending these meetings first hand. This is why I’m doing a NO RESERVOIR broadcast today.
I would like to let you know that we, in Washington Parish are not alone in the fight against the reservoir plague that has befallen our parish. This plague has spread across our state. The following parishes are under the same threat that we in Washington Parish are under, and we are forming an alliance to fight against what we consider the Abuse of Eminent Domain that is plaguing the rural areas of our state.
Allen Parish, Lincoln Parish, Ouachita Parish, Morehouse Parish, Caldwell Parish
As with last week’s broadcast, I would like to refer you to the Reservoir Political Wrongdoing web site.http://gundamreservoir.angelfire.com/.
For those of you who are interested in attending the NO RESERVOIR meetings, meetings are held on the 1st and 3rd Friday evening of every month starting at 6:00 p.m. The next NO RESERVOIR meeting is scheduled May 20th. The location is the brick building located directly across the street from Country Super Store on Hwy. 60. We are forming what will be called the Washington Parish Community Preservation Alliance. The meetings are facilitated by the Ladies in Pink Shirts. Come join us.
For the real reservoir news, tune into WBOX FM 92.9 Sunday Mornings at 8:00 a.m.
This is Jalon Beech. God Bless.
[WBOX NO RESERVOIR BROADCAST 05082005-Jalon Beech]