(Michelle Higginbotham / Special to the American Press)
Last Modified: Monday, November 05, 2012 11:00 PM
WESTLAKE — Monday’s council meeting quickly turned into a shouting match over whether council members should be elected by designated seats or at large.
An introduction of an ordinance to change the way council members are elected died at last month’s meeting after council members were locked into a 2-2 tie.
If council members were elected at large, the five candidates with the most votes would be elected.
The introduction of the ordinance appeared on Monday’s agenda, but was unanimously disapproved by the council with the intention of introducing another ordinance in the December meeting to have the matter put to election for Westlake residents to decide. About 40 people attended Monday’s meeting.
Councilman and Mayor Pro Tem Wally Anderson, who led the meeting, said “I appreciate all concern” and questioned why the people were in a rush to get the ordinance appealed since the next council election isn’t for two years.
One audience member shouted, “Because y’all can’t make decisions.”
Ambra Reinking, who started a petition following last month’s meeting to return to the at-large system, said she had 113 signatures from residents in favor of the change.
Another person in the audience shouted that the petition “doesn’t represent everybody in Westlake.”
Anderson recommended putting the matter on a ballot to be voted on by residents.
He said he “appreciates (Reinking’s) effort” but asked why not “put it on a ballot and let everyone have a vote.”
Anderson said Westlake has about 3,200 registered voters.
Putting the matter before voters, he said, “would make sure we get a good reference from all across Westlake,” he added.
Reinking said the problem is that people in Westlake aren’t aware of what is going on. Anderson recommended “coming to meetings every month.”
“Nobody knows anything that goes on here,” she added.
Anderson said “there is nothing hidden” and residents can call City Hall to find out when meetings are held and what’s on the agenda.
Resident Sarah Blankmeyer said there are “pros and cons for both sides.”
“I think that when you go to an at-large election you get a good poll, but at the same time there is a need for accountability on this city council,” she said. “I think it’s a good idea to put it on a ballot. (Council members) aren’t all accountable for running for their seats and at the end of the day, the concern is that everyone should have some accountability whether someone is challenging them or not.”
Audience member Harland Duhon said, “Everyone in Westlake knows we have a split council.”
“Y’all can’t agree on much of anything and it doesn’t help Westlake,” he said. “I think if the majority of the people want something then our council members should listen. (The council) should take care of the business of these people; that’s what the council is here for.”
Duhon agreed with putting the issue on a ballot to be decided by residents.
“There may not be 3,000 signatures (on the petition) but if it’s put on a ballot and that’s what the people want, y’all have to listen to the people,” he told the council. “If you’re doing your job then you’ll be in the top five.”
Hillery Langley stepped to the microphone following Duhon and told the council he thinks they are “going a great job.”
“I just want to say, I think the city is being represented well,” he said. “You’re going to have problems where you’re going to have disagreements … but I think the issue at hand should be put on a ballot where (constituents) have a chance to choose.”
“I had to come up here when I heard (Duhon) talking about all that bull and how y’all were embarrassing everybody,” he added. “This is untrue. This is how politics is. Y’all are doing a great job for the city and you are going to have naysayers in every corner.”
The Louisiana Legislature designates days for elections, and Anderson said if the introduction of the ordinance as well as the ordinance passes then the issue could be placed on one of those ballots.
According to the Secretary of State’s website, the first election date in 2013 is scheduled for April 6.