I’ve made the mistake over the years of thinking politicians around here could be shamed into doing the right thing.

The problem, time and again, is that anyone who has to be shamed into doing the right thing probably is incapable of it.

The Lafourche Parish School Board has on multiple occasions had the chance to right a long-running wrong, save the public money, simplify the parish’s political system and rid us of unneeded public employees.

Try though many have done, the obstinate members who refuse to reduce the board’s size likewise refuse to be shamed into taking a responsible action in the service of the public.

Instead, clearly motivated by self-interest over public interest, these politicians protect their own offices at the expense of taxpayers and voters.

Again this week, the steadfast seven members of the board who favor reducing the membership from 15 to nine, pushed a modest request: Ask the people what they want.

Who could oppose such a measure? But oppose it they did.

Al Archer, Richmond Boyd, Julie Breaux, Calvin Duet, Clyde Duplantis, Gary Foret and Ann Sanamo all voted against “a resolution to send to our legislative delegation requesting a referendum be brought to the voters of Lafourche to allow the people to decide if the board should reduce to nine school board districts reflecting the parish councilmanic districts. Said resolution to be presented at the next regular session of the legislature.”

What did the people ever do to these seven members that they don’t even want us to have a say over how big our board is.

There was some spurious discussion about the vote being untimely because the representative for District 1 couldn’t vote as he waits on state approval of his interim service on the board.

Those concerns, mysteriously, were absent when the board considered a similar issue while another interim board member was prevented from voting for the same reasons. Of course, in that case, the interim member fully intended to support a reduction in the size of the board.

Breaux’s husband spoke at Wednesday’s meeting, defending the current size of the board. Surprisingly, he urged the board to settle the matter once and for all.

The seven who have persistently tried to shrink the board are seeking just that. A vote would deliver a certain verdict on what the public wants. Clearly, the seven opponents of reduction fear the results.

They should. There aren’t any scientifically conducted polls showing where Lafourche voters stand on the issue, but there is plenty of anecdotal evidence.

Thibodaux resident Al Carter told the board a poll on his Facebook page tabulated 97 percent approval for reduction. When state Sen. Norby Chabert, R-Houma, was contemplating legislation that would have shrunk the board, he said, only current board members and the spouse of one of them weighed in against it. And the Thibodaux Chamber of Commerce’s online petition seeking a reduction has garnered more than 1,700 signatures.

Unless you are one of seven board members or married to one of them, you stand a pretty good likelihood of favoring a smaller board. Even if you’re on the board, at last count, you have a 50 percent chance of standing with the public.

This board has cut teachers, administrators and librarians but has been unwilling to trim the fat from its own midst. That is a real shame.

Going from 15 members to nine would put the Lafourche board in line with boards around the state where only two others – both of them much larger districts – have such an absurdly large number of members.

It would save the taxpayers an estimated $100,000 a year – not enough to build a school, perhaps, but plenty to suggest that the board is behaving responsibly with the public’s money.

And it would give the School Board and Parish Council the same districts, so voters could more easily identify their representatives rather than trying to untangle the current spider web of overlapping districts.

It would do this without reducing anyone’s representation. For those who might have napped through math class: When political districts are broken down based on population, each person in each district has about the same political power as each person in every other district. That is true whether the board has three, nine, 15 or 47,001 members.

Arguments to the contrary are either purposeful attempts to mislead the public or evidence of shoddy math skills. Either way, they oppose sound public policy.

The board should ask the people who matter, the voters. But at least seven members are scared of what they’ll hear.

 

Editorial Page Editor Michael Gorman can be reached at 448-7612 or by e-mail at mike.gorman@dailycomet.com.