Filed Under:  Local, OpEd

The bridge toll revote in May

11th March 2013   ·   0 Comments

Alright, we were wrong.

In the last edition, The Editorial Board of The Louisiana Weekly pleaded with attorney Patrick Hand III and his client Mike Teachworth of “Stop the Tolls” to drop their ongoing litigation demanding a revote over the Crescent City Connection toll extension.

This newspaper has long opposed the toll renewal on the grounds that stated promise was made. West Bank voters twice were promised that the tolls would expire as soon as the bonds for bridge construction and subsequent road work were paid. Yet, when the recount failed, we argued that the public had spoken.

Moreover, our editors feared that Hand’s and Teachworth’s ongoing litigation endangered efforts by State Rep. Patrick Connick to cut the toll amount in half — from its current dollar per return trip to 50 cents. That is the amount of ongoing bridge operations without the cost of bond repayment. To continue the legal effort when the recount revealed that the margin of victory increased from 18 votes to 36 votes seemed to our editors as counting the votes until one gained the result that one sought. Public be damned.

How wrong we were.

Baton Rouge Judge William Morvant found more than 1,000 voters that rightly deserved the right to vote, and were denied. They appeared at their proper precincts, and for the most part the poll workers attempted to get confirmation from parish Registrar’s offices, receiving no response. Instead of turning the eager voters away, the poll workers allowed them to cast provisional ballots–but, only for the Presidential race and other federal offices.

On every down-ballot contest, these contentious voters were denied a voice through no fault of their own (For those that argue the Department of Justice oversight under the Voting Rights Act no longer remains necessary, our editors suggest they—and the U.S. Supreme Court—take note).

In a contest as close as the CCC toll renewal, the 19th District Court Judge ruled that the outcome of the election was “impossible to determine.” He ordered a revote on May 4. As most of the three-parish area will have judicial contests on the ballot, the cost of the election should be nominal. And, hopefully, these voters will have their sacred right to cast a ballot.

Until then, by his court order, the tolls remain suspended on the Crescent City Connection. And, rightly so.

Given the temper of this result, our editorial board suggests that the DOTD and the legislators meeting in April, strongly consider that the tolls may not return, and fund our bridge as they do the dozen or more connections across the Mississippi River that line our state from North to South.

Pay to clean up the trash that falls, for the police that keeps traffic flowing, for the ferries that connect Algiers and Gretna, and for the bridge maintenance that needs to be done regularly. West Bankers have paid their fair share for the last three decades. It’s the state’s turn to spread the burden as the state budget does for all other trans-Mississippi bridges that have no toll, yet are funded.

This article originally published in the March 11, 2013 print edition of The Louisiana Weekly newspaper.

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