Look East, Young Man And Woman

Sept. 23, 2009

I have a request.
†† Would somebody please contact Gov. Bobby Jindal and tell him that the parish seat of St. Mary is Franklin?
†† The governor has not been to this part of the parish since he was on the campaign trail except for a hurricane, that I can recall. He has made two or three major appearances ďover there.Ē
†† He was here twice prior to the governorís election.
†† Look around. Itís getting more and more obvious.
†† A prominent civic group here no longer meets in Franklin, and has moved their gatherings to the Petroleum Club in Morgan City. The cable company moved to Patterson.
†† A cursory look at Chamber of Commerce events shows an almost even split between east and west. Not a bad ratio, a little heavy to the east, especially when you note that one event was held in 10 sessions, and the Rhythm on the River event continues. But not bad. Most of the major, most important events seem to swing east, too.
†† Unfortunately, the Chamber Of Commerce has, for the second year in a row, slated a luncheon in Franklin with the state agriculture commissionerÖat or near sugar cane grinding season, when farmers are most busy. Unfortunate.
†† The Cajun Coast Visitors and Convention Bureau has thankfully held numerous tourism development meetings in Franklin, and is taking an active lead in more to come.
†† Are we our own worst enemies? Sometimes. As the balance of power has shifted from neutrality over to the east, we have lifted nary a finger to halt it. We throw our hands in the air and say we canít do anything about it.
†† To this day, other than a green and white ordinary state sign on the highway and a couple of private business placards, nobody knows thereís a thing in Franklin to see or do or eat. The visitorís center coming from the west on U.S. 90 is the only indication there might be something interesting around here other than just another mile after mile after mile of concrete highway.
†† How damn hard is it to put up two signs? No, let me retract that: Two nice signs. Some chintzy little 4x4 piece of plywood with stenciled lettering might suddenly appear at the highway exitsÖ
†† So. Since 1968-69 weíve struggled over east-west power here, perhaps longer. That first battle ended with the demolition of the old courthouse to keep the parish seat from being moved to Morgan City. Other than a brief period of cooperation, perhaps five or six years, in the late 1980s, early 1990s, the scale has tipped eastward in all forms.
†† Iíll bet that if the governor holds a public meeting in Vermilion Parish, he goes to Abbeville, not Kaplan; if he holds one in Terrebonne Parish, he goes to Houma, and so forth.
†† Sadly, we donít seem to put any effort into changing things. Our fellow citizens on the east of the parish must surely be aware of the inequity, but donít stand up for our rights because that would be shooting themselves in the foot. Every election that comes along we hear promise after promise, and after that, deafening silence. I defy any parishwide public servant to describe one major, significant thing theyíve accomplished for this end of the parish that can compare with the humongous things theyíve done eastward.
†† But through it all, some of us are trying. It feels, sometimes, hopeless. Itís easy to squash enthusiasm with simple indifference. I did a lot of preaching for many months here about getting off your duffs and getting involved. In order to preach, I had to practice, and I have. Iím involved in a handful of projects Iím passionate about, probably too many, but for a time there I had a hard time saying ďno.Ē But I understand, believe me, itís hard to get up out of your chair and leave your house to go meet with others to do something about your community, after a long day at work, after covering meetings evenings in my job already. I know. Itís tough.
†† But itís even harder to see the indifference, the near-complete lack of support from the people who made the campaign promises. Yes, some of them have supported community efforts: The farmerís market, the community folklore seminar at the Teche Theater, and to them I take off my hat.
†† While here we struggle with petty jealousies, personality clashes and indifference, people to the east of us have been running successful tourism-boosting festivals for 75 years in one case, 20 in another. What makes them successful? They get involved and stay that way. They have the support of their governments, civic organizations and businesses. Certainly, weíre all human, and there is certainly squabbling and pettiness there, too.
†† But we canít even raise hell because the governor holds meetings announcing $24 million in grants away from the parish seat. When our schools get closed. When civic groups leave. In fact, we donít even really notice.