The good news is that the leeches on the Bossier Parish Police Jury could have stuck it to taxpayers three years ago. The bad news is they’re going to stick it to them now anyway – continuing a long-time pattern of living the high life at taxpayer expense
A majority of jurors wasted little time after fall elections to help themselves to other people’s money that could be spent on genuine parish concerns, courtesy of a state law passed in 2008 that allowed an increase in members’ salary from the maximum $1,200 per month if salaried to $1,600. They followed the notice procedures in the law and then as one of their first acts of 2012 jacked up salaries to the maximum. The greediest voting affirmative were Wanda Bennett, Jimmy Cochran, Jerome Darby, Wayne Hammack, and Mac Plummer, as all will continue in office beginning their next terms this week, while the defeated Winfred Johnston, Barry Butler, and Brad Cummings perhaps decided to give citizens the middle-fingered salute for getting ousted by presenting their opponents with this gift.
Not that the minority, comprised of the departing Hank Meachum and Bill Altimus, and returning Glen Benton and Rick Avery, seemed that resistant to the idea. Avery didn’t seem to disagree that they should have the one-third increase, just that the time wasn’t right, while Altimus, who will stay parish administrator, thought it could have been handled during budgeting.
While Bossier Parish is not particularly badly run, especially when compared to the governments of its largest entity Bossier City and the tiny portion of Shreveport in it, it also has a track record of its elected officials and allies living it up on the citizens’ dime. In 2006, the Jury placed on the ballot a bond issue almost trebling taxes it would take in for roads construction, arguing that a negative citizen vote on it would intolerably delay certain important road projects such as extension of the Arthur Ray Teague Parkway, and then put its money where its mouth was by allowing illegal signs supporting the measure. This additional transfer of citizen wealth to put more people on the government and allied contractor payrolls would have been superfluous.
After your humble author complained to authorities long and loudly enough, at least one illegally-placed sign got moved, the measure got defeated, and, as a look off the Jimmie Davis Bridge in either direction on its Bossier approach today shows, there has been no noticeable delay in extending the Parkway for monetary reasons. But during this time and years after, several jurors and parish officials (including one apparently questionably employed) routinely would spend annually many tens of thousands of dollars partying down in Washington, DC at the state’s annual Carnival celebration hosted by its Congressional delegation, with lobbying given as an excuse, when the parish already had an overpaid lobbyist and the same could have been accomplished for far less (at least this job may be eliminated now that its holder has been nominated for a federal judgeship, and for now the Carnival junket may be a thing of the past).
The practice got curtailed substantially by the combination of negative publicity and declining revenues but continuing is the practice of setting aside money, started by Altimus, for each juror to dispense as a slush fund to organizations and other governments using parish employees in the process. Able to engage in this legal form of vote-buying, now comes something for themselves with this compensation hike, with the biggest hog at the trough surely being Bennett, who long has feasted from government as a member of the Bossier City Council before failing to achieve higher office, and then returning to elective office in 2008 with the jury seat.
Poor Bennett, she explained to the Jury, must have felt exploited at getting paid, in her estimation, $6 an hour for service and now at least would get $9 for every 60 minutes on the Jury. Which tells us several things undesirable in a politician about her, the most obvious being she can’t do math, as nine is 50 percent, not a third, higher than six.
Also, she must be a little slow and disorganized in other ways, because using her $9 an hour figure she claims to work well over 2,000 hours a year in a job legally defined as part-time according to the statute and Constitution. Compensation for these jobs precisely should be kept relatively low not only to prevent their holders from thinking they should live off the people, but also to reinforce the idea that they should have other occupations and avocations in the community to keep them connected to their constituents and not in attaching themselves more firmly to government. (And what does this say concerning Altimus, who drew both salaries for nearly a decade; did he work more than 4,000 hours a year?)
Finally, spending this much time injecting oneself into governing, as the saying goes, creates too much opportunity for idle politicians’ hands to become the devil’s workshop. If you’re spending this much time throwing yourself into parish business, you’re creating too much chance for mischief using the people’s money such supporting measures more to ensure your reelection than following the truism that government which governs the least governs the best. Public service exactly is that -- service, expecting to make sacrifices for the common good. Otherwise, it's just another form of self-enrichment, selfishness, and ego-tripping.
Posted by Jeff Sadow at 12:35