Iím sorry. I really intended to do some light-hearted thing or another today.

I donítí mean to harp on. Iíd rather be cheerleading and patting backs.

But is anyone still unconvinced that parish government is self-serving entity completely out of touch with the needs of the people it was elected by?

I donít know where they went wrong. Things were going along fairly good for a long time. We were proud when home rule was approved by parish voters back in the early 1980s. Despite a rocky start, parish government ran smoothly for a long time. I know. I was there before and after parish government, which is more than 99 percent of those in it can say now.

Listen, to their credit, they get some things done. They fix a few roads, they do some drainage work and lots of other worthwhile projects. Donít get me wrong. Iím not saying they donít do anything good.

But it often seems they are severely lacking in good judgement and common sense, as well as tact.

Wednesdayís meeting of the council involved a proposition from the Keep America Beautiful people to create a parish chapter of the organization at a cost of $60,000 to be borne by parish government and the municipalities.

Now, read this and understand it clearly: I am not at all in support of that idea. I donít like the fact that $36,000 of it would go to a directorís salary, and I think that $60,000 a year is $5,000 a month and for five big ones a month you can pay one hell of a lot of people to pick up a lot of litter. Weíve got people already being paid that could do the same thing.

I also will not use the phrase Councilman Chuck Walters used:

Ď"This is retarded."

Besides being pretty insensitive in his choice of words, Walters did mention using parish people to do the same job. Councilman Albert Foulcard noted that the parish doesnít need to "pay somebody to ride up and down the highway to tell us to pick up the trash" and heís quite right. Youíd have to be riding around St. Mary Parish with a bucket over your head not to see this is one of the filthiest places in Acadiana.

Ultimately, the council tabled the move until the municipalities have a chance to weigh in on the matter.

A valid point was made that litter and unkempt properties are a deterrent to business, industry and tourism. Thatís one of the reasons the City of Franklin began both a clean up program and a building maintenance commission.

But letís go back to some issues Iíve had with parish government over the last few years.

I griped, complained and screamed bloody murder for months before parish government removed and replaced a dilapidated, rusty and mangled rusty fence from around the ramp on the side of the Blevinís Building smack dab in the middle of the downtown district of Franklin. Even then they said they only did it to get some equipment up there, and in my opinion only, they did it with no regard for or permission from the Franklin Historic District, which everybody else has to abide by.

A new roof was put over the parking garage of the same building, but the parish has shown no interest in replacing the many broken window panes throughout the structure. Some of the windows themselves are hanging askew, others precariously. The gutters are rotten and that beautiful old building stands there looking like somebody owns it that doesnít care.

The sign on the courthouse itself was missing letters for years and though parish officials go in and out of those doors all day long, apparently nobody thought, "Gee, thatís not a good way to be representing ourselves and the people who elected us."

Yet weíve built a huge golf course and a palace of a clubhouse that cannot ever pay for itself and will continue to be a drain on parish finances (read: our money) forever.

Do you have any idea how many roads could have been fixed, ditches closed in, litter picked up for that amount of money?

So a parish government representative thinks itís "retarded" to fund a parish chapter of the Keep America Beautiful organization, and another thinks they donít need people to point out litter to them.

Then the final question remains: What will parish government do about litter in St. Mary?

Youíve said you donít like the Keep America Beautiful idea. Okay, fine, I agree with you. But the litterís still there and the problems associated with it wonít just evaporate. What is parish government going to do about it?

Bet I can answer that right now: Ignore it, just like theyíve always done.

This new council, with a few new members who remain unproven, has a chance to do better.

People, we have got to be able to see the forest and the trees. How can they in any good conscience visit our neighboring parishes and come back here thinking theyíre doing whatís right for St. Mary Parish? Our roads are deplorable Ė though somewhat less across the Calumet Cut, to be sure Ė and litter-strewn. Our infrastructure is laughable and we canít even take the time to fix a few broken windows and gutters on a historic building in the city of Franklin. Parish government thumbs its nose at the people who elected it, or provides lip service when appropriate, and caters to those it believes are powerful enough to prevent re-elections.

If there is one flaw with the parish home rule charter, in my opinion itís the provision that allows members who are term-limited in single-member districts to jump to at-large districts and vice-versa. In effect, there are no term limits in parish government, and we canít get rid of some of the miscreants who have lodged themselves there.

Things have got to change. All this chatter and complaining and condemning other ideas as "retarded" arenít getting anything accomplished if you donít take up the line and pull the load yourself.