Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Council says 'no' to SB 639

BY JOHN H. WALKER The Daily News

FRANKLINTON - By a 4-3 vote, Washington Parish Council members went against the wishes of the parish president and refused to pass a resolution of support for SB 639, which would create the Washington Parish Economic Development District.

In a roll call vote, council members Charles Nassauer, Rodney Brown and Darwin Sharp voted in favor of a resolution of support while Clinton Miley, Relton Sumrall, Marvin Thomas and Kenneth Wheat voted against it. Wheat cast the deciding vote.

Following the vote, council chairman Sharp said, "Senate Bill 639 is dead" and instructed president Toye Taylor to call the bill's author, State Sen. Ben Nevers (D-Bogalusa) and ask him to withdraw the bill.

"I will call the senator and ask him to withdraw the bill," Taylor said, adding, "and I will withhold my comments."

But Taylor didn't stay quiet long, taking the council to task for what he called "the worst vote I've seen this council take in my time" as he gave his president's report.

Taylor said despite support from both the Washington Economic Development Foundation and the Franklinton Area Economic Development Commission and despite support from mayors of all four incorporated areas in the parish, the council chose to take away a tool of economic development that he said could help the parish move forward.

The board's action, he said, allowed a few to come into council chambers and make fear of expropriation an issue.

"The masses have not come into this room (in opposition to SB 639)," he said. "We're stuck in the 20th century."

While Taylor said "the masses" did not show up in opposition to the bill, no one appeared before the council to speak on behalf of the bill at any of the meetings when the issue was discussed.

The issue that doomed SB 639 was wording giving powers of expropriation to the commission it would have created. Even though final say would have rested with the council, based on interpretation of the wording in the bill, the threat of expropriation was enough for the council majority.

Despite agreeing to call Nevers and requesting the bill be pulled, as directed by his council chairman, Taylor proceeded to ask the council to reconsider its action.

"I told you I'd be persistent," he said as the board set in silence and moved on to other comments.

Later, as the meeting was drawing to a close, Taylor made yet another pitch.

"I guess you're not going to reconsider?" he asked.

Silence. "Perhaps a special called meeting?"

More silence, this time followed by a motion to adjourn the meeting.

Also see: We Saw That council-says-no-to-sb-639

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