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DayeTime: Looking at some new ideas

For many years it seems the unofficial motto of Avoyelles Parish has been, “That’s the way we do it because that’s the way it has always been done.”

It doesn’t really matter that whatever “it” may be has never worked. That’s still the way we do it. The only change among our local political bodies is whatever can be found in the politician’s pocket.

That may be changing.

The Police Jury has undertaken several initiatives of late that are out-of-step with past practices.

The School Board -- full of fresh new faces -- is also not shy about possibly shaking things up to improve the public school district.

Another change I’ve noticed is that the Port Commission seems intent on actively pursuing tenants and customers.

In the southern end of the parish, the City of Bunkie (okay, technically it’s a town but we still call it a city) has taken a bold step in its economic development efforts by proposing to sell industrial park tracts to Cleco.

The utility company, which began in Bunkie in the early 20th Century, has more resources and is able to offer more incentives to lure businesses to the industrial park than the municipality has.

A more “traditional” approach to this situation would have been to say “That property is ours and we are going to keep it even if it only grows weeds.”

It is still too early to start counting unicorn horns and pots of gold at the ends of rainbows, but I am optimistic.

Maybe these efforts won’t yield the results we would like to see, but at least our elected officials are trying.

Even if they aren’t “thinking outside the box,” at least they’re exploring more than one corner of the box.

The Police Jury, I believe, has decided to stop complaining about how it doesn’t have the money to make significant improvements and is actively seeking grants from state, federal and private sources.

It is selling tracts of adjudicated properties -- land and buildings given to the Police Jury because they were abandoned by their owners and not sold at the sheriff’s tax sale.

Most properties are sold for little more than the fees independent contractor CivicSource charges to put the property up for sale in its online auctions. That’s okay because the property stops being a maintenance liability for the parish and is returned to the tax rolls.

Of course, with Avoyelles’ very low property tax rates, the program won’t do much to balance the budget.

However, the Police Jury earned $20,000 from one recent auction. That is $20,000 the parish would not have received in the “old days/old ways” of moaning about voters not approving taxes to support a bond issue to pay for a parishwide road improvement project.

While we’re on that subject ... nah, we’ll talk about that later.

I’m not sure a 4-day school week is good, bad or even-steven, but I like the fact that it was brought up for consideration and review.

At its Tuesday meeting the School Board chose to study that issue in more detail. It could have elected to set it aside and save implementing a major scheduling change for another day or jump readily onto the 4-day bandwagon that is rolling across the country.

Nationwide there are those who are adamantly opposed and claim it will increase juvenile delinquency, is unfair to low-economic and rural students and puts additional pressure on single-parent and two-income families who have to find childcare for the school-aged children on the fifth day.

There are also those who say it improves academic performance, reduces absenteeism of teachers and students, improves a district’s ability to recruit and retain certified teachers and reduces costs -- especially in utilities, transportation and substitutes’ pay.

In a 4-day week the school day would be longer to ensure the student gets the required instructional time.

That is my main concern with the proposal because children are already catching the bus before dawn and getting home just before sunset.

If the school day gets any longer, parents might as well send an Army cot to school and let their child sleep there.

That problem could be addressed by putting schools closer to the children attending them, but that would mean spending more money instead of saving money.

There’s a line from the play "Hamilton" in which Alexander throws his support to long-time political foe Thomas Jefferson instead of Aaron Burr in the presidential election of 1800.

Hamilton says he never agreed with a single position Jefferson had, “but at least he had a position.”

That’s how I feel about these recent efforts by our elected officials. It’s good to see them thinking and trying to find solutions.

Hamilton’s decision worked out very well for the country -- including Louisiana, which Jefferson bought from Napoleon in 1803.

It didn’t work out so well for Alexander, who was shot and killed by Vice President Burr in that famous duel in Weehawken, N.J., on July 11, 1804.

I suspect the results of this philosophy of change will fall somewhere between dramatically increasing the size of the parish and ending up bleeding in a field.

I look forward to seeing how these initiatives play out and what new ones may be on the horizon.


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