Itís comforting to know that political backstabbing, dealing and, yes, bigotry are alive and well in St. Mary Parish.
If you doubt it, just get a paper and read about Wednesdayís meeting of the St. Mary Parish Council.
The position left on the West St. Mary Port Commission after the death of longtime member Merlin Dupre was debated and acted upon Wednesday. Applications were submitted by Joel Authement, Clarence Kemper, John Lockett, Ralph Longman and Terry Martin.
It came down to Lockett and Martin, however, when Lockett got the nomination from Councilman Joe Davis of Four Corners with a second from Herbert Joseph of Baldwin.
Councilman Peter Soprano of Verdunville immediately amended to nominate Martin, and it was like someone threw a hornetís nest into the council room.
"Did the chief call for this Ďreaching outí?" Councilman Chuck Walters of Amelia asked but was not answered. Itís unclear what Mr. Walters was referring to, or who, but probably he meant Chitimacha Tribal Chairman Alton LeBlanc Jr., and it was probably in reference to the passage of a riverboat casino proposal for Amelia, which drew battle lines between the parish council and the tribe a couple months ago.
While LeBlanc has been out and about mending fences by spearheading the donation of land to the school board for the new elementary school in Baldwin (amounting to several hundred thousand dollars in donations) and being cordial to parish council members, even opening his door to them, it appears Walters is not yet done burying hatchets.
Soprano accurately pointed out that Martin is a powerhouse of information, contacts and experience that lends itself perfectly to the board of the port commission. He has been a respected and sought-after man-about-Washington, Baton Rouge and the business world in general. He is, of course, Chitimacha and Mr. Lockett is African-American. I do not know Mr. Lockett but I am told he is a fine man. Letís be clear about this: The issue is not about Mr. Lockett in any way, shape or form. In fact, this is not really about Mr. Martin, either.
Itís about why a person gets appointed to boards in St. Mary Parish.
And in the end, itís about why this parish is mired in muck and getting outpaced by our neighbors east and west.
Now, I said it was like throwing a hornetís nest in the room, because Councilman Mike Domingue of Franklin said "I thought we were going to defer this tonight, but apparently not" so that indicates to me that some backstabbing was going on. Now, none of us are foolish enough to believe deals arenít made backstage of political entitiesí public meetings. In fact, I encourage that to an extent to keep all the bickering and squabbling to a minimum at meetings.
Domingue pointed out that there isnít enough representation of Chitimacha residents on parish boards, but most importantly, he pointed out Martinís impressive credentials and appropriateness for a port commission appointment. Domingue has long been trying to get more Chitimacha representation on local boards and organizations.
That did little to sway Joseph, though, who said that "it amazes me when sometimes we forget where we have to go and where weíve come from."
While Joseph was careful never to say outright "I want a black man for that post" please see what you can infer from his statement:
"Sometimes if weíre not exposed to a situation, we never learn. I think being a minority, we lack exposure. And if you want to hear some sad stories, I can tell plenty sad stories.
"Thatís why I want to appoint someone who probably never had that exposure," Joseph said of Mr. Lockett.
Now, maybe Iím dense, but it seems to me that Mr. Joseph said in those two statements that he a) wanted a minority to sit on the port board, and b) it didnít matter if that man is experienced or not. Confusticate and be bothered the asset and advantage to the port and the parish.
Soprano protested that Martin is a Native American, which is a minority, but apparently being indigenous does not qualify as a minority in the eyes of some members of the parish council.
The vote? The nomination of Martin failed 5-6, with those voting against it being Davis, Joseph, Butch Middleton of Franklin, Kevin Voisin of Morgan City, Walters and Gary Duhon of Amelia.
Voisin, Walters and Duhon, of course, were huge proponents of the Amelia Belle riverboat casino issue that pitted the parish council against tribal officials. For the record, Mr. Martin is not a tribal official, he is a private businessman.
"Thereís no minority Indian representation on any of these boards," Soprano said.
"That amazes me," Joseph replied.
Really? It doesnít surprise me at all. Especially since, as Iíve related before, the last time a tribal member was asked to sit on a parish board the former parish president went out of his way to insult him in front of everyone in the room, so whenever someone finally volunteers to throw their name in the hat for participation they have to deal with this kind of racist nonsense.
The thing about it is, I canít see Domingue or Soprano or anyone else succeeding in getting more Chitimacha representation now. As reticent as tribal members were prior to this incident, itís pretty much a no-brainer that nobodyís going to want to put their heads out on the chopping block again.
So whatís the answer to that question I asked earlier? The one about why people get appointed to boards in this parish and why our neighbors are running circles around us and laughing at St. Mary Parish all the way to the bank?
You figure it out.