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BC posers avoiding voting against term limits

Careers are on the line as various Bossier City officials try to spin their way out making their opposition to term limits look anything but, with the clock working against them and a City Council meeting looming this week.

At its last meeting, the Council, led by graybeard councilors Republicans David Montgomery and Jeff Free, Democrat Bubba Williams, and no party Jeff Darby plus GOP rookie Vince Maggio, refused to tee up an ordinance to place a three-term limit, proactively and retroactively, on city elected officials on the next-available statewide ballot for charter amending. All but Maggio, if such a ballot item succeeded, could not serve ever again as a councilor.

Instead, they approved a resolution by City Attorney Charles Jacobs to seek outside counsel, using taxpayer dollars, to judge whether the procedure to amend the charter is valid. As part of the process, Republican Mayor Tommy Chandler indicated that he “recommended” the resolution, rather than marking “noted.”

The resolution said the job would go to Katie Bell of the Kean, Miller firm of Baton Rouge, which during discussion Jacobs indicated would have the benefit of somebody not connected to the area that presumably would not harbor political biases in making the determination. But Bell would seem to be an odd choice, given her background with experience and primary work in legal fields having nothing to do government …

… even as, according to Bossier Watch, Bell may have served over a decade ago as legal counsel for Montgomery when the developer firm U.L. Coleman sued Bossier City for reneging on a deal allowing curb cuts into a planned development near the arena. This means Jacobs either didn’t know about this assumed prior relationship that invalidates his assertion that Bell has no political connection to city matters, which strains credulity, or he misled the Council as a whole. Regardless, Bell has no demonstrated expertise in this field of law, leading to questions about whether she was picked in expectation of delivering a predetermined judgment.

Understand that this delaying tactic fits into a larger campaign for politicians to try to sabotage term limits without ever having to cast a vote on their merits, either by amending the city charter with immediate effect prior to Aug. 8 as the charter presents this an option for its amendment within 30 days of a successful petitioning process or, if after then, the Council is compelled to resolve putting the propositions on the next available, Nov. 18, ballot. By eliciting an unfavorable opinion, officials opposing limits could avoid a vote either way by falling back onto the negative response as a reason in claiming the process invalid and thereby removing the necessity of a vote

Proponents could seek a declaratory judgment from a 26th Judicial District judge affirming the charter language as valid, and if the Council didn’t act to resolve the propositions onto the ballot by Sep. 25 (as by the elections calendar to submit ballot items) then sue, but Council resistance leading may or may not force the city to do the right thing prior to that date. With Jacobs a former 26th JDC judge, his former colleagues may avoid as much and as long as possible to cross him up on this and, if finally doing so or being ordered by a higher court to do so, with ensuing litigation may end up scheduling the election at a low-stimulus date sometime in 2024 (Apr. 27 or a special) that providing the best chance of defeating the propositions – which appear to be wildly popular among voters – or into 2025, which buys another potential term for the graybeards.

But in the here and now, the decision by the Council, as well as Chandler’s decision to endorse Jacobs’ move rather than neutrally observe its making, apparently caused several participants some heartburn – starting immediately with Chandler, who had signed the petition to put limits into the charter by Council or citizens vote, when announced at the last meeting during the vote that he favored term limits. He then followed up over a week later by exercising his mayoral powers to put the enabling ordinance to the Council.

Except that he waited too long to put it on the Aug. 1 Council agenda, which begs the question yet again just how serious Chandler is about supporting term limits on himself and councilors. Why did he delay doing this over a week after his stirring Council remarks? Typically, a mayor’s item can be drafted and submitted the same day.

Practically speaking, the only way the item can be put on the Aug. 1 agenda – with the next regularly scheduled meeting Aug. 15, after the deadline and with non-emergency special meetings called only at the behest of four councilors – is for unanimous consent. This routinely is given for late items, but undoubtedly this won’t happen with the opposition coming up with some nonsensical reasoning that could have been applied to dozens of past affirmative decisions but selectively is brought forward just this one time.

Yet Chandler wasn’t the only one crawfishing in these days. Maggio must have felt the heat from constituents for him to have posted on social media a few days after the meeting a claim he supported term limits and hinting that he had voted for the stalling tactic out of legal doubts – again, despite the crystal clear nature of the constitutionality of the language.

Then this weekend, Bossier Watch turned up the heat on Darby by posting a reminder of remarks he had made during a special meeting in 2022 on reapportionment where he voiced support for a charter commission – potentially a mechanism for introducing term limits. However, as in the case of Maggio’s covering himself, a commission has its members appointed by the Council which could parse out term limits supporters so the item never makes it into the package for citizen approval, so it’s not an unqualified endorsement of term limits.

Thus, here’s how things stand going into the Tuesday meeting: unless councilors agree unanimously and they won’t, Chandler’s tardy submission won’t go anywhere, and they won’t schedule a special meeting within the week. Therefore, the Council won’t amend and puts itself on the hook for placing the items on the ballot for Nov. 18.

Jacobs likely will delay presentation of the outside opinion until mid-September to continue to give an excuse not to vote on placing the items on the ballot, then use an assuredly negative assessment to defeat any attempt, unless an agenda item threatens to place the items and then he'll release it. Court battles will ensue while Council graybeards and their ally Maggio ignore the legal imperative.

All so that everybody but GOP councilors Brian Hammons and Chris Smith, who unabashedly support limits, can avoid taking a vote on the issue where a vote against is toxic for their reelection chances regardless of whether they would be affected by limits. Even if Smith and Hammons team up to introduce and bring to a vote a resolution to put the matter on the Nov. 18 ballot, all others will vote against claiming not to oppose limits, but because of questions about legality. This gamesmanship so transparent will continue from a cowardly opposition as long as they legally can hold out.

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