Itís gratifying to note that the imbalance of attention given western and eastern St. Mary by its government has penetrated the collective consciousness of those of us residing here on the short end of the stick.
Just in the last couple weeks there have been several mentions of it, both from private citizens and public officials. The overriding sentiment has been, "Itís our turn," and can I hear a loud Amen! to that, brothers and sisters?
We on this end have mostly new representation on the parish council and are expecting good things from all our reps, especially in terms of making sure there is equality. Though it most assuredly is "our turn" I think from here on out, it shouldnít be a matter of "turns" at all. Parish government should spend and build equally year after year.
Itís also pleasing that the realization that Franklin is comparable to Natchitoches some 25 years ago has been mentioned a few times recently. I believe that thereís something stirring in this town similar to what stirred there a quarter century ago, and Iím mighty glad to see it.
Franklin city council members and administration made what I think is the wise choice to hand over Christmas lighting responsibilities and $3,000 worth of annual funding to the Franklin Merchants group.
City government has enough to worry about right now. With $3,000 a year from city coffers and a little "passing of the cup" here and there, the association thinks it can have a first-class lighting display up in six or seven years, along Main Street and Martin Luther King Boulevard that people will get off that highway to come and see.
We tend to have blinders on when we hear claims like that. Or maybe itís just a bad case of what the Doors called "been down so long it looks like up to me." But when we finally shrug off our defeatist attitudes and quit paying attention to the naysayers, cynics and doomreapers, we realize that if even one quarter of those people who come to see the lights stop and grab a bite to eat, or fill up with gas before they leave town, or stay the night to see what else is around these partsÖthatís 25 percent of a quantity of economic input we didnít have and wouldnít have if we all just keep sitting around whining and complaining. Theyíll also go out and tell others about Franklin, and the ball keeps rolling.
Good job to both the merchants and city officials.
About that statement, "city government has enough to worry about." We also have a tendency to be impatient. After a long drought, it seems like the first drizzle makes us expect a downpour. We must force ourselves to be more realistic. Nothing moves slower than the wheels of government, and unfortunately that frustrates government, too.
But in the scant few years of this administrationís tenure, we have seen:
Ė The onset of a complete rehabilitation of water and sewer plants as mandated and long overdue by federal and state authorities. Many folks donít understand this: Franklin is being forced to spend this money and make these repairs. Not to suggest that the work isnít needed or that city government wouldnít want to do it anyway, but they are left with no choice in the matter. So itís not a matter of spending that money elsewhere. It has to be done.
Long as our water comes out the tap and the toilet flushes we really donít think about such things or acknowledge their importance when we hear about four or five million bucks going into them. But weíd sure realize it when theyíre gone.
Ė The city cleanup campaign. Hard to see the results? Two reasons: One, youíre not looking hard enough, and two, the miscreants and no-accounts keep throwing trash back. Itís hard not to get discouraged, but the cleanup organizers and participants keep battling it, and theyíll win, eventually.
Ė The building maintenance commission. It took some time for them to catch their stride, and a bit more for the property owners to realize they meant business. But do you realize that already about a dozen properties have been either rejuvenated or demolished? Thatís pretty impressive. Itís sometimes a hardship on good people who are doing the best they can and have to dig into savings or make a loan, but they are doing it. Whatís frustrating is seeing people who have the financial wherewithal to take care of their issues and they donít. This ordinance and the commission behind it has shown commendable impartiality. Every dog will get its day.
Thereís plenty more: Better equipment, more police cars, some street and drainage work. Mayor Harris has pledged a redo of Cynthia Street and Morris Street next year or so, and thatís a blessing. Much more on the list on the streets program, as they can snatch up funding.
Most recently, itís been racing to build a levee or floodwall system around the Franklin canal to prevent a repeat of what happened from Hurricanes Lily and Rita. The cityís got a tough row to plough on that one, dealing with so many people with so many varied interests and needs, but itíll work out, I strongly believe that.
Despite criticism, my proverbial hat is off to the city for taking the initiative to make an immediate effort to help an area of town that was probably hardest hit in those last two storms.
It might have been tempting to sit on our hands and wait for parish, state or federal intervention to solve our problems, and in the long run, the $640,000 spent to contain the canal might be overshadowed by some larger plan.
But the "bird in the hand and two in the bush" adage works very well here. Come July, August SeptemberÖthis year, or next year, or the year after thatÖif another surge pushes up the Franklin Canal and inundates homes again, city government will have done what it could with what it had available to protect those people.
And that is what government is supposed to do.