Wednesday, January 31, 2007
BOGALUSA - While it remains to be seen if a bill creating an economic development commission in Washington Parish will be filed prior to the legislature convening on Monday, April 30, Washington Parish President M.L. "Toye" Taylor has begun a lobbying effort in support of such a bill.
Last Thursday, following Washington Economic Development Foundation President Mickey Murphy's closing remarks, he asked if anyone had anything they wanted "to share with the group."
Taylor asked the group to support and push for another bill similar to SB 639 and to use whatever influence they may have to help get it passed. Taylor said the lack of such a commission "puts us behind our neighbors" in St, Tammany and Tangipahoa parishes.
Murphy agreed, saying it was important that the parish have such a tool to help facilitate economic development with WEDF and the Franklinton Area Economic Development Foundation.
Taylor told the gathering of about 75 persons that the lack of foresight by the Washington Parish Council when it cast a 4-3 vote of non-support for SB 639 last summer put the parish in a situation where it did not have the economic development tools to compete.
Last May 22, council members Clinton Miley, Relton Sumrall, Marvin Thomas and Kenneth Wheat voted against SB 639 with Wheat casting the deciding vote.
On Thursday, Taylor was again critical of that vote, prompting Sumrall, who was sitting two tables behind Taylor, to shake his head from side to side. Miley, who is now council chairman, was also seated behind Taylor but showed no visible reaction.
The problem the four had with SB 639 was that it established powers of expropriation for the commission, a point that was vehemently opposed by a number of residents of the parish who feared the tool would be used improperly.
Despite Taylor's best efforts to assure the citizen's group - and his council - that that would not be the case, he failed - and the bill was pulled.
At the time, Taylor took 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.
He 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.
At the board's next meeting, Winford Pittman, one of SB 639's more vocal opponents, gave Taylor and council members a copy of a draft of what he said was a "proposal for an economic development commission."
Pittman told council members he was not against economic development.
"I've talked to you before about this (economic development)," he said. "We need it, but we don't need it where folks' property can be taken."