OPINION: The death of democracy is darkness

By Kyle Roberts

Tuesday night was certainly… something for the Lincoln Parish Police Jury, a publicly elected-entity that has already been cast into quite a negative light for some time now.

With eight “no” votes on renewing Doug Postel’s role as the LPPJ administrator for a one-year contract, a packed room of parish residents at the Library Event Center expressed the raw emotion and tension of what was clearly an unpopular vote result with the attending public.

A quick note: I want to be transparent (a word I’ll be using often here) that I have known Doug Postel for quite some time as a friend, and his son Chandler served faithfully for five years on our broadcast crew for Ruston High football.

Tuesday night’s LPPJ meeting saw numerous community members come to the microphone during the public comment section with the courage to address members of the jury. Every single person spoke in favor of Mr. Postel’s being renewed.

After the public comment time had finished, the jury had the chance to address the room prior to the vote. Four jurors spoke to the specific reasons as to why they were voting in favor of the reappointment of Mr. Postel.

Juror Logan Hunt followed with a very public appeal to the any members of the police jury to speak up and explain their rationale for their upcoming votes.

And in an incredibly impactful and weighty moment for the residents of Lincoln Parish, there was only a deafening silence from remaining members of its police jury.

That silence has plagued this elected body for months now. Be it the fire and ambulance/rescue issues or the back-biting politics, there has been a consistent lack of transparent communication from a majority of jury members in regards to these important matters.

I want to be clear here: jury members have the right to vote how they see fit, and I will not write an opinion piece that calls to rob them of that right.

A pillar of democracy is that elected officials vote in ways that represent their constituents regardless of the temperature or mood of the room in which the vote is happening. That is a serious weight, and every member of the Lincoln Parish Police Jury carries that weight on behalf of the residents. It’s not something that I or any of us should take lightly, and I applaud them for carrying that, regardless of how they vote on matters.

But an equally important pillar — nay, the cornerstone– of democracy is transparency from those same elected officials. And when they had the chance — numerous chances — to speak clearly on the reason and rationale for dismissing Mr. Postel, there was only the silence from the “no” voters in the time allotted.

We have nothing on record from the jury for understanding why Mr. Postel was not renewed. We have tried at the Lincoln Parish Journal to get concrete information on record many times, and we have been stone-walled by the jury leadership. Anything negative that we have is hearsay or secondhand, and we refuse to stoop to rumor for the sake of sensational reporting. If there was a “there” there, tonight was the time to shed the light.

And yet, silence and darkness.

What is on record comes from multiple sources publicly accounting their working relationship with Mr. Postel on behalf of the police jury. Citizens from businessmen to Parish workers. These people went on record and in the light to give their firsthand accounts.

But it was all to no avail: the roll call vote ended with four yes’s and eight no’s. Mr. Postel collected his belongings and walked away. And just like that, it was on to the next agenda item.

As the meeting went on, the frustrated crowd kept appealing to jury members to explain their votes on Mr. Postel. And as you can already guess: nothing.

For the proverbial icing on the cake, the meeting was adjourned without a motion, breaking process that we, the people, of Lincoln Parish depend on for this police jury to function. More silence on a night where clear answers could have been brought to the light.

Reader and resident, you deserve better from elected officials. Better communication and a clear rationale for such powerful votes.

Because without transparency in local government, the public is left angry and confused. I saw that firsthand in action last night.

We focus so much on national and even statewide politics in our general discourse, but at the end of the day, your city council, school board, and police jury will have a powerful impact on your day-to-day life. Far more than Washington or even Baton Rouge.

I promise you know what the Biden administration has done wrong this week or what Republican in the House of Representatives in D.C. did that made you angry. But do you know who represents you on the school board? How about what district your address is in for the sake of a police jury election? When amendments are up for vote, do you understand the consequences? I find myself guilty of this at times when I go to the polls to cast my vote.

For readers here, know this: your voice and vote in local elections is more critical than ever. An informed public is yet another pillar of a working democracy, and we have to be that to prevent another silent night from the police jury or any other elected body or official at the local level.

The death of democracy is done by politicians in the darkness away from public input and scrutiny. When it’s time to cast ballots in the future, remember that when you choose who will represent you and your community’s interests.

 


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