Catina Branch and Loria Hollins finally got their pay raise. The money will be in Jonesville mayor Milton Ceasar’s check, of course, but they are the two who, from day three of the new administration, were pushing hardest for it. Congratulations, ladies; mission accomplished.
We don’t really mind that a chief executive makes a good salary. To get good people sometimes you have to offer more money. Of course, the Town of Jonesville was only offering a little over $19,000 per year when the candidates qualified to run, the voters went to the polls, and the mayor-elect took the oath of office. The June 6, 2019 minutes of the town meeting report that the mayor’s pay is now $30,000.
However, all of that is a mere technicality thanks to another technicality called the Lawrason Act. First passed in the late 19th century and litigated almost every year since (or so it seems), this is the law that lays out how most of the incorporated communities (cities, towns, villages) in Louisiana are to be governed.
Lawyers and office holders have been anxious to insure that no one can cut their paycheck but apparently no one has given much thought to any potential difficulties with raising salaries. There have been at least two decisions to the effect that an elected official’s pay cannot be reduced (Avoyelles Parish Justice of the Peace v. Avoyelles Parish Police Jury and Hoag v. State).
The rationale behind the two decisions referenced above is to prevent a vindictive cut in pay by departing office holders. That makes sense, but where is the concern for the public finances when office holders are increasing the cost of government?
We realize that Barack Obama is probably a popular guy with a lot of people around Jonesville and Catahoula Parish, but this episode reminds us of the Nobel Prize committee’s decision to nominate him for its prestigious Peace Prize two weeks after he took office. Years later former Nobel committee member Geir Lundestad admitted the award “didn’t achieve what we intended”. No kidding. In the meanwhile they ignored people who had risked their lives in the cause of freedom and human rights.
We think even Obama was embarrassed by it. Should one blame the president for taking the cash? Would he want to insult the committee by refusing the honor? He probably should have. But what was the Nobel Prize committee thinking? From our perspective, we are wondering the same thing about Branch and Hollins.
Be all of that as it may, it seems to us worth remembering if you live in Jonesville and the next time you need a pot hole filled or you’re worried about your water and electric rates and somebody says, “Well, we can only do so much. We’re a small town.”
There’s an object lesson here for voters. One bad decision doesn’t make a bad representative. On the other hand, we can’t help but wonder what might have been accomplished if Branch and Hollins had worked the last five months with the same diligence and unwavering devotion to raising the level of economic activity in the Town that they have devoted to raising the mayor’s personal level of economic activity. One supposes we may never know, but what will they do in the next five months? We’ll be watching.