The Light, Dec. 15:Special Day for Special Ladies

Read The Light: Dec. 15, 2009

Alexandria Council, adminstraction back in room together

Mayor Jacques Roy and City Attorney Chuck Johnson sit at the table in the Council Chambers. The mayor and his staff returned to the chambers at the invitation of President Roosevelt Johnson. Photo by Sherri L. Jackson

By Sherri L. Jackson
The Light

In less than 30 minutes, the Alexandria City Council conducted all of the city’s business on its Dec. 15 agenda with little fanfare, with one noticeable exception: Mayor Jacques Roy and his staff were seated at their table inside the Council Chambers.

By all accounts, it appears Council President Roosevelt Johnson may be on his way to reach his goal of bringing a spirit of unity and cooperation among the Council and the Administration.

“It gives me great pleasure to invite the administration back to the council chambers…,” Johnson said.

Johnson gave Roy an opportunity to address the Council.

“Let’s move forward united together,” Roy said during his first Council meeting back in the council chamber since Councilman Myron Lawson, under his presidency, removed Roy,  and his staff away from the table to seats in the audience.

Meanwhile in the brief meeting, the Council after discussion of concerns gave the administration the approval to accept the Ducote Wrecking Inc. low bid of $86,200 to demolish the former Dominique-Miller stockyard.

Previously, District 2 Councilman Everett Hobbs, who owns a construction company, was concerned that the bid was much lower than the estimated $290,000.

However, at Tuesday’s meeting Hobbs said he spoke to Tom David with Pan American Engineers about the project and still came away with some concerns that Ducote could have the site “construction-ready” at such a low price.

Yet, Kay Michiels, Roy’s chief operating officer, explained the price was such because “the demolition contractor actually wants to use (salvaged) materials personally.”

District 1 Councilman Ed Larvadain III said he wanted assurances that there wouldn’t be any additional costs related to the demolition.

Demolition work should begin by the end of the year, Ken Juneau, mayoral assistant told District 3 Councilman Jonathan Goins.

In another matter, the Council accepted the administration’s recommendation to continue its relationship with Charlie Anderson, site coordinator, programming for the Area 4 Weed & Seed Initiative funded through the U.S. Department of Justice.

During the Public Safety Committee, Larvadain asked the administration whether the city was looking to expand the program to include District 1.

Roy said the administration was looking to expand the scope of the program’s services or to find similar program, such as Safe Streets, which the city previously had.

Larvadain asked that the discussion continue at a February council meeting.

Serving people is Roosevelt Johnson’s only desire

By Sherri L. Jackson
The Light

Roosevelt Johnson is not on the mayor’s side. Roosevelt Johnson is not on the Alexandria City  Council’s side.

Johnson, who will preside over his first Council meeting today as president, said he is on God’s side, which means his ultimate goal is to do what he can to help people.

“As president and councilman-at-large, I want a working relationship with churches, civic groups and the Council so that we can change the quality of life in Alexandria,” Johnson said in a one-on-one interview Monday night with The Light.

Despite negative talk surrounding his election to to lead the Council through the 2010 year, Johnson said his focus is to see the “Council and Administration put all differences aside because we are elected to serve. If we are not together, the people hurt.”

His first move toward that end is to bring Mayor Jacques Roy and his staff back into their Council Chambers’ seats during the Council meetings. They will be in place at today’s Alexandria City Council Agenda, 12-15-09, which begins at 5 p.m.

Under Councilman-at-large Myron Lawson’s  presidency, the mayor and his administration didn’t attend Council meetings preferring to watch from upstairs after Lawson moved their seats to the audience rather than the table next to the Council.

“Bringing the mayor and administration downstairs is for all of us to work together. It’s beyond politics. We have a job to do whether we like each other or not,” Johnson said.

In Roy’s recent State of the City address, he said he looks forward to working with Roosevelt.

Johnson, 50, said his life’s guiding principles are workmanship, responsibility, accountability and commitment.

Those guiding principles, Johnson said, are the result of a knee injury he suffered while in the ninth grade in 1968. While out of school several months, he had time to reflect on the life of Dr. Martin Luther King and how he wanted to move forward in life since his dreams of playing professional football had been shattered.

“Since the ninth grade, I’ve had dreams to finish Southern University, to work in television and to be a councilman,” Johnson said. “I graduated from Southern University. I worked in television for 26 years. Now, I’m working to bring the city together as a city councilman in Alexandria.

In the coming year, Johnson said, he wants to make sure all city projects, especially Special Planned Activity Redevelopment Corridors, commonly called SPARC, and drainage issues.

In Johnson’s first move as Council president, he made committee assignments, which caused a small rumble in the community. In particular, District 1 Councilman Edward Larvadain III is no longer chair or a member of the Legal Committee.

In recent past Legal Committees, Larvadain and District 3 Councilman Jonathan Goins, probed whether or not Mayor Jacques Roy had a conflict of interest relating to the Cleco case. At times, the meetings resembled a courtroom filled with interrogations.

However, Johnson said moving Larvadain off of the Legal Committee had less to do with Larvadain’s wanting an investigation of Roy and more to do with wanting  Larvadain to grow and develop as a councilman.

“Each councilman needs an opportunity to grow in all areas. My goal is for all to do the best for the city regardless of whether they serve as a chairman or not,” Johnson said.

“I would like to see Jonathan and Ed be the best they can be to develop and grow,” Johnson said. “When you’re newly elected, you have your future in front of you. You need to be versatile. I’ve been on the Council seven years and I’ve not sat on the Finance Committee. Allowing people to move around and serve on different committees leads all of us to the future.”

Regarding Larvadain’s and his fact-finding probe relating to the mayor and Cleco, Johnson said, “As president of the Council, I feel it’s time to move forward. As I’ve viewed what is taking place, we’ve been there before.”

However, Johnson said, if there are any ethics violations  against any officials, they will eventually surface.

Meanwhile, Johnson, who has been on the City Council seven years, said he is not sure what his next political move will be regarding the 2010 mayor’s race.

“As we all of my other campaigns, I must sit down with my family and supporters before I go public. I will do so after the holidays,” he said.

The Light, April 15: Cenla’s two newest doctors round out an all-female staff

Page 1 coverHere are the pages: Pages 1-4, Pages 5-8, Pages 9-12, Pages 13-16

The Light, April 1 issue

April 1 cover of The LightRead the Apri 1 issue of The Light: Pages 1-4, Pages 5-8, Pages-9-12, Pages 13-16

Leonard Ford: Some Alexandria City Councilmen just plain rude

With two new Alexandria City council members taking office on Dec. 1, I was hoping that this “new blood” would be the beginning of a fresh start to a better relationship between the city’s Executive Branch (Mayor) and its Legislative Branch (City Council). However, that hasn’t happened, and I’m totally disappointed.

Instead of trying to work together and move this city forward, Mayor Roy and several of the black council members have been at odds with one another about several issues that have led to some verbal exchanges or battles between them during the last few council meetings. In my opinion, it was not Roy who initiated these verbal exchanges, but rather it was the black council members who incited them. Again, I’m only speaking of several of the black council members, not all of them. And believe me, I’m not the only one who sees it that way.

Many individuals, from what they observed by either attending council meetings or by watching the meetings on the city’s government access Channel 4, have stated to me that these verbal exchanges by the council members gives the public a picture of men who are argumentative, disrespectful, and infuriated when they don’t get answers or explanations that suit their liking. It puts yet another black eye on the city and council.

Don’t get me wrong. If I felt that I was getting the run around from someone, I would be a little upset, but not to the point that I would let my emotions get the best of me that would cause me to talk over someone, interrupt them when they are speaking, talk to them loudly, or demand that they do this or that instead of putting it in a request. All of those things have happened at some of the meetings, and it was not on the administration’s part. I have watched the council meetings, and there have been times when Mayor Roy or City Attorney Chuck Johnson were at the podium to answer a question or give an explanation to something that was asked of them. However, while answering or explaining what they had to say, they were constantly interrupted and bombarded with yet more questions without having the opportunity to answer or explain what was first asked of them. That’s down right rude, and it shouldn’t be happening, especially from professional men.

It is understandable that there have been some difficulties in sorting out the boundaries of powers and responsibilities between the Mayor and some members of the City Council. This has led to many contentious disputes that has hampered Mayor Roy’s ability to deal with the problems that Alexandria is facing. My concern is whether these council members can let go of the animosity, avoid micromanaging, and focus on their jobs, which is providing policy direction for the city. The relationship between Mayor Roy and members of the City Council has gotten so bad that Roy’s administration has resorted to correspondence with the City Council through written correspondence (letters/memos). And it all came about, according to Kay Michiels, Alexandria’s chief operating officer, due to a perceived lack of respect, a lack of basic professional courtesy, and rancor and false accusations towards Roy and his administration by some members of the council.

It’s a shame for the city of Alexandria to be governed this way. In a smoothly functioning city government, the division of powers (Executive Branch/Legislative Branch) provides needed checks and balances that benefits all concerned. There must be communication between the two branches. Parties on both sides have much to gain by working together for the residents of their city and not against each other. Good government does not begin with petty grievances, legal disputes, and uncooperativeness. It begins with lively debate, mutual respect, and a spirit of cooperation.

I believe that it is high time for all of this political grandstanding that has and is occurring at city council meetings to end. The Mayor and his administration and the City Council needs to get their stuff together. Alexandria’s citizens deserve much better behavior from its government.

In closing, I call to mind the words of President Obama that was part of his inauguration speech. “On this day, we come to proclaim an end to the petty grievances and false promises, the recriminations and worn-out dogmas, that for far too long have strangled our politics. We remain a young nation, but in the words of scripture, the time has come to set aside childish things.”

And here in Alexandria, we definitely need to set aside the childish things that are taking place in our City Council meetings.

Private investigator logs of Von Jennings’ whereabouts

The city hired Private Investigator Mark Gravel to follow Von Jennings, Mayor Jacques Roy’ assitant in charge of developing and implementing a program designed to help minority-owned buinesses acquire city contracts. Also, the city used the Utilities Department’ executive secretary to keep tabs on Jennings’ comings and goings. Here are copies of what was submitted to the city’s administration: