The Gray Line Tour: Taking care of the parish’s business

Published 12:00 am Sunday, January 12, 2003


It was fascinating to watch Monday’s meeting of the St. Charles Parish Council with its 2003 chairman, District 6 Councilman Lance Marino.

For several years, successive chairmen have tried various strategies on how to handle disruptive audience members. Marino’s was different in not having been tried before this.

One speaker, a perennial gadfly and frequent accuser of “corruption and payoffs,” was met with silence. No anger, no confrontation, no ordering the sheriff’s deputy in attendance to remove him – simply silence.

It appeared to work. The audience member appeared to be confused for a few moments. No doubt, his own strategic response will be unveiled at the next meeting.

Another member made it a technique to declaim “Question!” and “Comment!” before each of his statements. Again, note was taken of the questions and the comments were politely, ever so politely, brushed aside.

Marino’s technique carried over to his handling of council members. One member he chided for not taking care of questions prior to the meeting. A stopwatch timed every single speaker.

Admittedly, it was a short agenda Monday night, but it ended in about 80 minutes, where it could have stretched to three hours, what with confrontation, speech-making and bickering.

The end result, at least at this meeting, is that the parish’s business was done, quickly and efficiently. Egos were bruised. Feelings were possibly hurt. However, politics is a necessarily thick-skinned business.

Doubtless, the chess game will continue between successive chairmen and those who would disrupt the business being carried on.

However, what is most important is that the business is handled, not only for those citizens affected by the council’s actions, but also to reduce the “entertainment value” of the council meetings.

This is business to be taken seriously, and it’s good to see a business-like approach to getting the work done, and everyone can get home at a reasonable hour.

As one who has seen St. Charles Parish Council meetings stretch to 1 a.m., this is a welcome change.

LEONARD GRAY is assistant managing editor of L’Observateur. He may be reached at 652-9545.