July 23, 2008

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, July 23, 2008

By Kevin Chiri

The votes are counted and at least for now, the question of whether the Town of Garyville will become incorporated, is settled. And the answer is “No.”

Just over 67 percent of the voters who turned out on Saturday turned thumbs down on the proposition that would have made Garyville the first municipality in St. John Parish history.

Oddly enough, our parish has no true municipality. For some who may not have passed their government class with flying colors, let me explain.

Even though we do have a town called Garyville, or LaPlace, or Reserve, we don’t have any form of organized government for those towns. For that to happen, the people in any of those towns has to do just what a small group in Garyville attempted to do, and that is to go through the legal steps of becoming a town—or municipality—as the official word goes.

Should the town incorporate, they suddenly become 100 percent responsible for running everything in their town, such as sewer, water, police protection, cutting the grass, making the decisions for the town, and on and on.

There’s plenty to do, that’s for sure. And I figure it’s one reason you haven’t seen anyone step up in LaPlace and offer to take over. For the vast majority of people in our little town here, we have become accustomed—and satisfied enough—with the parish running things. And it looks like that’s how it’s going to stay.

But out in Garyville, a small town that has been overlooked for many years, finally had enough and decided to take on the monumental task of trying to run their own show.

The only problem became the fact that there were some not so little industries all around them.

In the end, it was the industry factor that caused the Garyville vote to go down. No, it wasn’t just because industry got a court ruling that excluded them from the town for the purposes of the election. But it was also because industry was sending a lot of money to the parish government, and you can be sure the parish leaders didn’t want that to end.

Yes, parish leaders continued to say that they did not care if Garyville became incorporated or not. And I believe they really meant that.

But the truth of the matter is that there is no way a government is going to site idly by as a teeny, weeny town of 4,000 swipes tens of millions of dollars from their budget.

Personally I never believed the money was there for Garyville to have, even though Geri Baloney and I disagree on that. I just happen to believe that industry went through the proper steps many years ago to gain their state offered exemption from any future municipality. And just as a business can take advantage of tax breaks given to it by the state or the feds, an industry has every right to take advantage of any tax breaks offered by a local government.

Industry like Marathon and Cargill were simply following the laws of the land when they filed for “industry area” status decades ago, and I believe that would have ultimately been upheld in court should a full-fledged trial have been held on the matter.

As for our much-maligned Ms. Baloney, she may be the most controversial woman in St. John Parish, and at times I wonder if she doesn’t get a bit of a kick out of all the fuss that is made about her.

She has been called plenty of names during this Garyville incorporation process, and accused of so many things you could hardly keep track of it. But through it all, she never quit sticking to her story line to try and come out with a “W” in the end of the vote. And even though she didn’t get the win from the final vote totals, I could tell in our phone conversation on Monday that she was still smiling and ready to move on to her next project.

Take the day in court last week. The much-awaited day had come on Tuesday when Ad Hoc Judge Anne Simon was ready to listen to testimony and witnesses as the major decision was expected about whether industry would be included in the town or not.

The 10:30 start to the court hearing was all set as the bailiff told everyone in the courtroom to stand. But as Judge Simon entered the room and took her place at the bench, Ms. Baloney and her legal team was nowhere to be seen.

The judge, obviously not happy, finally called a 10 minute recess after being told by someone in the room that “Ms. Baloney and her team is ‘on the way.’”

When Baloney showed up and court began, she acted like nothing out of the ordinary had happened.

But do you think that was the end of it?


We took our lunch break and incredibly, Baloney and her group DID IT AGAIN. When Judge Simon took the bench to begin the afternoon session, Baloney and her team were missing….finally showing up a few minutes late again.

Did that hurt her case? No one will ever know. But at times you wonder if it’s all part of the act to remain the center of attention. Whether intentional or not, it certainly keeps people talking about her.

So now the Garyville situation is done. Personally I am glad since I am practically worn out trying to stay up on all the stories about it. So for myself, I’m glad to try and write about something else for a change.

And one thing I’ve learned, in this parish, there will always be something else just as interesting around the next corner.