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Wednesday, July 30, 2014
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Lake Charles City Councilmen Stuart Weatherford. (American Press Archive)<br>

Lake Charles City Councilmen Stuart Weatherford. (American Press Archive)

Editorial: When it comes to public money, taxpayers expect and deserve full and prompt explanation

Last Modified: Thursday, January 10, 2013 6:13 PM

Lake Charles City Councilmen Stuart Weatherford would never be confused with a rabble-rouser.

So, it should raise some eyebrows when the normally restrained Weatherford complained that a resolution to allow voters to decide whether to activate a taxing district for the city was sprung on council members at the last minute Tuesday at their regular agenda meeting

For the record, the council unanimously approved the measure which, pending approval of the state Bond Commission, would place the taxing district proposition on the April 6 ballot.

The taxing district was originally approved by voters in 2007. It would allow a two-and-a-half cent sales tax that is already collected by the city to be dedicated to fund maintenance at the Civic Center, construction of a parking garage and other lakefront improvements.

Getting council approval so that the proposition could be placed on the Bond Commission’s agenda explains the haste. And we’re certainly not suggesting that there was anything clandestine in the quick turnaround.

But this is also no mere accounting shuffling. Moving $45 million in tax revenue begs the question of how this money will be replaced and whether it will require budget cuts, reductions of services, layoffs or a combination of all three.

Those questions and many more went unanswered Tuesday night, primarily because Mayor Randy Roach and City Administrator John Cardone did not attend the meeting.

There was nothing conspiratorial about their absence, which likely can be explained.

However, it was out of character. Roach’s administration has been a model of transparency and has built a stellar reputation for answering the questions of both the media and the public.

Councilmen and the public deserved more details Tuesday night from the administration.

We’re confident that information will be forthcoming. Quite frankly, this taxing district doesn’t have a prayer unless voters get those details and the Roach administration makes the case for the move.

We hope this was just an anomaly. When it comes to public money, taxpayers expect and deserve a full and prompt explanation of how and why it will be used.

• • •

This editorial was written by a member of the American Press Editorial Board. Its content reflects the collaborative opinion of the Board, whose members include Bobby Dower, Ken Stickney, Jim Beam, Crystal Stevenson and Donna Price.

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