When events occur, with or without advanced warning, that pose a threat to our citizenry, our primary concern as leaders of this Parish is to do everything in our power to remove citizens from harm’s way. This is why we are encouraging all residents to sign up for ALERT St. Tammany with their cellular and home phone numbers. ALERT St. Tammany is the way in which we can inform you, by phone, based on your geographical location in the Parish, when your safety or well-being is at risk. Evacuation orders, security issues and health threats are among some of the reasons we would feel it necessary to use the Alert St. Tammany system. Your information will be used only for this purpose.
You can access the self-registration page here, and enter multiple contact numbers for the same address. This allows us to reach you, whether you are home near a land line, or only reachable by mobile phone. When you sign up for ALERT St. Tammany you will receive what could be the most important call of your life! But, if we can’t reach you, we can’t alert you!
2012 Annual Report Released
As citizens of St. Tammany Parish, we have the basic right to know and understand the way the trustees of our taxpayer dollars, spend those dollars. Here at Parish Government, we want citizens to know the progress we’ve made in the previous year, as well as what goals we hope to reach within the next twelve months. It is for this reason, that every year, we compile this information into one succinct document and make it available for the public.
It has been, and will always be, my goal as Parish President to maintain transparency and openness within Parish Government. Likewise, every citizen of this Parish has the opportunity to educate themselves on the operations of their government and become an integral part of these operations through useful feedback, voicing their concerns, and offering meaningful input.
We hope that you will take this opportunity to review 2012 through this report. You can find the abbreviated print version at any local St. Tammany Parish Library branch. You can view the full report here or here for the non-Flash version. You can also visit only the departments you wish to view on the department pages at www.stpgov.org.
As always, feel free to direct any questions to email@example.com. Thank you for taking an active role in your Parish Government.
Show Your Pride—Not Your Litter
I am often asked questions concerning litter in our Parish, through the “Ask Pat” feature on the St. Tammany Parish website. Why so much? Who is responsible for cleanup? Have I seen the rampant problem? Your Parish government realizes the scope of the problem and we are working to address it.
Litter is a deterrent to tourism, economic growth and quality of life. Litter is unsanitary, it smells, it harbors bacteria and it attracts rodents and insects. Litter is harmful to our natural resources and wildlife that often become trapped or injured by discarded trash. We all pay the price for litter. According to Keep Louisiana Beautiful, it is estimated that litter removal costs state and local governments approximately $40 million a year in direct costs alone.
St. Tammany Parish is committed to public awareness of the problem, working closely with local beautification groups in abatement efforts, and asking you, the citizenry to play a part as well. If you see trash—pick it up. Report litterbugs to 985-898-2535, and finally—spread the word to your children, your neighbors and your friends—in St. Tammany Parish, we show our pride—not our litter.
As we move forward into my second year, we plan to put St. Tammany First, and concentrate on specific areas we feel are vital to the Parish. We remain focused on customer service, transparency, accountability and cooperation for the citizens of St. Tammany.
Economic Development is a top priority for me, and with the addition of Don Shea to our team, we continue to move forward in laying out a plan to bring this priority into focus.
It’s crucial that we maintain our roadways and drainage systems to attract and sustain both new and current businesses.
The Arts are an essential element of the fabric of our community, and it is our vision to bring an Arts District to St. Tammany Parish to elevate the arts in our area and to give every person— visitors and residents alike— the opportunity to enjoy this aspect of our community.
Learn more about our complete vision and 2nd Year Agenda: St. Tammany First (here).
On the heels of one of the most watched events worldwide, the Super Bowl—in which our region took center stage—we are now shifting full tilt into Mardi Gras. As we enjoy the festivities of the next seven days, it’s my hope that we’ll show visitors our hospitality and graciousness as we enjoy and share our time of revelry and tradition.
With Carnival we’ll recharge and be ready for our second year in office. I look back at my inaugural year as Parish President with a sense of gratitude for the opportunity to serve this parish which I love. We recently took some time to sit down and recap the last year, and recall the many successes we enjoyed and the various challenges we faced together (watch here).
In the coming weeks we will be communicating my vision for the future and what my second year agenda will be for 2013.
But for this week, enjoy Mardi Gras, and remember to stay safe.
January sixth marked the traditional King’s Day and Twelfth Night celebrations, and the kick-off of the Mardi Gras season. This year Mardi Gras shares the spotlight with the Super Bowl in which New Orleans will act as host city. With less than one month to go before the big event, and Mardi Gras day to follow just nine days later, there is no doubt that things will move at a rapid pace.
Where we live is so distinctive, in that we fully embrace our culture and its celebrations, while at the same time attending to the business at hand. As a sister Parish to Orleans, St. Tammany is preparing to do our part to act as co-hosts to any and all Super Bowl visitors who will find their way to the Superdome via our Parish. We ask that you, as members and residents of the Parish, become co-hosts as well, and affirm everything we already know about why St. Tammany is a great place to put down roots, raise our families, and partner in business.
Have a wonderful Carnival Season!
As we enter into 2013 and take time during the next weeks to spend it with family, friends and neighbors, there is a natural tendency to reflect on the last year. With any family there have been births, deaths, marriages, graduations, and many firsts to talk, laugh, cry or argue about. The stories of the last year have made today possible and we hope that those memories are mostly great ones for you and yours.
We will be considering my first year in office and looking at some things retrospectively. In the coming weeks we’ll be letting you know how things are progressing and talking about some of the great things we have accomplished this year. I remain incredibly optimistic about our continued economic recovery and am encouraged by some of the changes we have in store for our economic development efforts. We have made adjustments in the way we operate and communicate with citizens so that we are more customer focused, while cutting our budget and operating expenses. St. Tammany Parish’s quality of life remains the envy of the region and beyond.
The outlook for St. Tammany Parish in the New Year is bright, and I look forward to walking through the next twelve months with you to an even better 2013.
Happy New Year!
On behalf of all St. Tammany Parish employees, we want to wish you a Merry Christmas!
Please make safety a priority during the holidays. Keep cut Christmas trees hydrated and away from candles or other sources of fire. Remember to always have a designated driver if you are going out with friends or family to parties or holiday celebrations. It’s better to obey traffic laws and be five minutes late for a party, than not to arrive at all.
I encourage you to hold your family and friends close, hug your kids and grandkids, and give thanks for all the blessings we enjoy.
St. Tammany Parish has a new website.
We have redesigned our website to improve the way citizens interact with Parish Government. This project was undertaken to increase accessibility, transparency and accountability.
Some of new features include the ability to refine the results of our search engine. For example, enter “drainage” in the search box. You receive over 600 results and want to narrow these results to parish ordinances. Click “Refine Your Search”, check “Code of Ordinances,” and the results are narrowed to the 33 references in the code.
We’ve added Frequently Asked Questions on many pages and plan to add more in the future. We are also gathering all the forms that citizens need from parish government and putting them in one place that can be accessed from the FAQs on the homepage or from “Forms” on the Parish Departments page.
The redesign is a work in progress. You will continue to see changes through the next several months. If you can’t find what you need or have a suggestion, please write the firstname.lastname@example.org or send me an email at AskPat@stpgov.org.
Learn More About the Nov. 6th Ballot
Tuesday, November 6th is Election Day. In addition to casting your ballot for President of the United States, you will be asked to vote on a number of state and local issues.
To see what will be on your ballot, go to https://voterportal.sos.la.gov/address.aspx
Secretary of State Tom Schedler has made it easy to track election dates, find your voting location, and read your ballot before you vote. To find this information, all you need to do is enter your address.
Parish Government has one item at the very end of this ballot, the renewal of 1.84 mills for Public Health. To see the details on how this money is spent, click here or read the “Citizen’s Guide: Public Health Investment” under Topics of Interest on the parish’s homepage, www.stpgov.org .
If you have any questions, please email me at AskPat@stpgov.org or call my office at 985-898-5243.
Taking Care of Ourselves and Our Families
It is common for people to experience strong emotional or physical reactions after a traumatic event according to mental health professionals. Think of these reactions as ‘aftershocks.’ They can happen immediately after an event or perhaps not until weeks or months pass.
For a number of people in our community, Hurricane Isaac was a traumatic event. The timing of the storm, combined with damage well in excess of previous category one hurricanes, has brought ‘aftershocks’ to many residents. Children who remember seven years ago may be especially vulnerable.
If you, or someone you love, needs help during this vulnerable time please ask for it. Contact your doctor, or if you prefer, the Parish’s public health system is available to everyone in need.
For immediate crisis counseling, or referrals to agencies that provide social service assistance, call 2-1-1. The Volunteers of America, with support from the parish’s Public Health Millage, are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
The St. Tammany Health Center, located on Robert Blvd. in Slidell, provides medical and mental health services to both uninsured citizens on a sliding fee scale as well as to citizens with insurance. A second center in the Covington area will open in 2013. These centers are also partially supported by the Public Health Millage. Call 985-607-0400 to make an appointment.
If you see changes in someone’s behavior, or observe that they are feeling depressed or confused, please ask for help. It’s only a phone call away.
Text from Sept. 7, Hurricane Isaac Wrap Up Press Conference
It’s been a long two weeks since Southeast Louisiana was warned of a storm entering the Gulf.
St. Tammany Parish stood up its Emergency Operations Center on August 27th in preparation for Hurricane Isaac and continues today in recovery mode. Through last weekend, over 80 emergency responders, from law enforcement to utilities and public works crews, completed over 11 hundred tasks that were called in to our EOC.
On behalf of the citizens of St. Tammany, I want to thank everyone who worked such long hours during this storm.
In my opinion, the most tense time during the storm occurred Saturday when we received word from local citizens they had concerns about the failure of Lock 2 on the Pearl River Navigational Canal. We owe a great deal of thanks to those citizens and their vigilance. While it is not possible to mention each worker by name, I do want to give particular acknowledgement to four of our Public Works Department employees:
Roy Snyder and
These were the men, who along with their director, Shannon Davis were with me at the Lock and they are the ones who manually opened, closed and opened again the valves to lower the water level in the lock and stop the overtopping and the erosion of the land around the Lock. We were able to avert a potential breach that could have flooded over 1 thousand homes.
I also want to thank Sheriff Jack Strain for his instant mobilization of a command center in the area of the lock. We have worked as a team during this storm along with Trey Folse, Superintendent of Schools, Parish Council Members, Mayors of our municipalities and heads of other agencies. I would like to have my executive team here with me, but they are out working on recovery and felt that is where they are needed at this time. But I thank them also for their support.
Isaac brought a storm surge between 7 and 10 feet across the parish and 15 to 20 inches of rain. Our rivers and bayous could not drain into Lake Pontchartrain due to its high level. We experienced flood conditions on every river in St. Tammany from the Tchefuncte to the Pearl. Over 600 people were rescued by first responders. I know Sheriff Strain has more information on that issue.
Over 1,200 homes were inundated with flood water, including 515 in the City of Slidell.
Despite all of this, citizens have returned, our schools have reopened and the cleanup is underway. Unfortunately, some homes with major damage will take longer to fix.
I have assurances from the Federal Government through FEMA Administrator Fugate that our citizens will receive the help they need to get their lives back to normal.
Isaac overstayed his welcome and was a difficult guest. It was almost impossible for the National Weather Service and St. Tammany Parish to predict its movements very far in advance.
We need to use the knowledge and experience gained from Isaac to improve storm modeling and response.
Most importantly, we need to use the lessons of this storm to find a better way to protect the Lake Pontchartrain Basin and ALL Parishes in the Basin. We have had conversations with our federal delegation and most of the other Parish Presidents and everyone is committed to following that path.
Extended Hours for Fishing Pier
Beginning this Friday, August 24th, the St. Tammany Fishing Pier will be open on Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights until Midnight. Numerous citizens have requested night hours and the parish is very happy to fulfill their request.
In addition, on Mondays the pier will offer Senior Citizens, as well as active and retired military personnel, a discounted pier admission fee of $1.00.
There are more steps to take in bringing the St. Tammany Fishing Pier to its full potential and we are working on them daily.
August 20, 2012
U.S. Senator Mary Landrieu and I are hosting a free Small Business Summit this Wednesday at the Northshore Harbor Center, 100 Harbor Center Blvd., Slidell. Registration begins at 8:30AM and the opening session is at 9:00am.
Sessions include Trade and Exporting Opportunities, Federal/Local Contracting Opportunities, Small Business Development Centers, and Small Business Lending.
Participating banks and organizations include Fidelity Homestead Savings Bank, JP Morgan Chase, Gulf Coast Bank and Trust Company, Regional Bank, First NBC Bank, Iberia Bank, Home Bank, Experian, Louisiana Economic Development, ASI Federal Credit Union, Capital One Bank, New Orleans Postal Credit Union, Hope Federal Credit Union, Newcorp, Inc., ACCION TX/LA, and the Louisiana Small Business Administration.
If you have questions, email email@example.com.
Southeast Hospital Update
July 26, 2012
At a meeting last week, DHH Secretary Greenstein confirmed that the State will close Southeast Louisiana Hospital. The State’s decision remains firm despite the objections of Parish Government, the St. Tammany legislative delegation, and numerous health care providers in the region.
Southeast Hospital is important to St. Tammany on so many levels, from the hundreds of jobs it provides for our citizens to the provision of critical mental health services to our residents. In addition, the hospital provides space for numerous outpatient behavioral health programs.
At a minimum, we are committed to find a way to keep essential outpatient services for our citizens. These services are interrelated and must remain together in one campus.
We are also concerned about the impact that the loss of behavioral health services will have on public safety. There is already a shortage of mental health providers across southeastern Louisiana that has resulted in numerous tragedies, whether it is violence upon oneself or violence upon another person.
St. Tammany Parish is convening meetings among the various agencies involved in behavioral health, with our legislative delegation, and with representatives of the State. The Parish’s role is to facilitate a process that will keep as many services, and as many jobs, as possible in St. Tammany Parish.
It is essential that we find solutions now.
Tuesday, July 24, 2012
In most cases, people become infected with the West Nile Virus through a bite from an infected mosquito. Last Friday, July 20th, 20 of 70 samples from mosquito pools across St. Tammany Parish tested positive for the presence of the West Nile Virus according to Chuck Palmisano, the director of the St. Tammany Parish Mosquito Abatement District.
Four of five people who become infected will not have any symptoms. For some, however, the virus can be very serious. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), about 1 in 150 people who get infected will develop West Nile encephalitis. This is a serious illness. Among the symptoms are high fever, headache, stiff neck, confusion, tremors or convulsions. Less severe cases may have fever, body aches, headache, nausea, swollen glands or a rash. Citizens over the age of 50 are most at risk. For more information, visit the CDC West Nile webpage at http://www.cdc.gov/ncidod/dvbid/westnile
As of this morning, St. Tammany Parish has received over 10 inches of rain this month, providing excellent mosquito breeding grounds. The Mosquito Abatement District is now treating 350 miles of ditches each week. Ditches are the primary breeding grounds of the Southern House Mosquito, which is the overwhelming carrier of West Nile Virus in St. Tammany at this time.
The virus may also be carried by the Asian Tiger Mosquito that breeds in containers in our yards. It is very important that citizens empty or cover all the containers on their property that hold water in order to reduce their breeding. Everyone needs to do their part in reducing the mosquito population.
The best method of protection is to avoid mosquito bites. Use mosquito repellent that contains DEET and wear protective clothing. The parish has developed an educational flyer for West Nile Prevention. It can be downloaded at http://www.stpgov.org/docs/1343152417.pdf Please print the flyer, share it with your neighbors and post it on the window of your business.
The St. Tammany Mosquito Abatement District has current mosquito reports and other information on its website, www.stpmad.org. On the site, you can also request a speaker from the district for local clubs and organizations.
World Changers Working in Covington
July 3, 2012
A paraphrase from the movie Field of Dreams, “If you build it, they will come”, perfectly describes the response residents have shown to the St. Tammany Fishing Pier. We’ve welcomed almost 12,000 visitors in just six weeks.
During this holiday week, I’d like to share a story recently told to me by our “Pier Patrol”. A young girl and her grandparents came to the pier several weeks ago ready to fish and enjoy a nice day on the water. The girl, appropriately dressed in a princess costume, was excited for what she hoped was her first catch. And that first catch was a big one – so big her grandparents had to help reel it in. The catch was actually a crab trap baited with chicken legs. The little girl couldn’t believe her eyes and shouted “I CAUGHT A CHICKEN!” so all around her could hear. That was a fishing trip she won’t soon forget!
Family fishing outings are very common on the pier. It’s a great place to spend time together, talking and sharing stories with each other while waiting for the fish, or chicken, to bite. I hope you are all able to take some time during this holiday to visit with your family and friends and maybe enjoy a day at the pier.
On behalf of St. Tammany Parish, have a safe and fun Fourth of July!
Company Expansion Bringing New Jobs
June 20, 2012
I want to thank Governor Bobby Jindal; MECO Inc. President George Gsell; members of the Northshore Legislative Delegation including Representative Scott Simon, Representative Tim Burns, and Representative Paul Hollis; Brenda Reine Bertus of the St. Tammany Economic Development Foundation; and Mayors Mike Cooper, Donald Villere, and Louis Fitzmorris for joining us at the St. Tammany Parish Council Chambers to announce that MECO Inc. will build a new fabrication and office facility in St. Tammany, creating 127 new direct jobs, retaining 81 existing jobs and resulting in 168 new indirect jobs.
MECO, with existing facilities near Covington, will spend $11 million developing the new facility in the Alamosa Business Park. The new Mandeville location will allow the company to better meet the demands of its water treatment customers around the world. MECO designs and fabricates water treatment equipment for the pharmaceutical, marine oil and gas, and defense industries.
We began working together with the state and our St. Tammany Economic Development Foundation in 2010 to discuss possible expansion for MECO, Inc. Our Legislative team, the Governor’s office and other St. Tammany economic development entities have worked to create an environment beneficial to both MECO Inc. and our own community. The residents of St. Tammany Parish are anxious to work with MECO and appreciate the confidence the company has shown in our parish.
This is a great day for St. Tammany Parish, and a good introduction to our own Economic Development initiative. Keep watching for more job producing projects in St. Tammany. This is just a taste of what’s to come.
The press conference may be viewed on demand via the homepage of St. Tammany Parish or Click here to watch the video.
Complacency Shouldn't Replace Preparedness
We are asking our citizens to once again call on their memories of Katrina and other storms as a reminder of how important it is to prepare for this hurricane season.
During Hurricane Preparedness Week, I am asking all of the citizens of St. Tammany Parish to not let the experience of Katrina be forgotten. Do not let complacency replace preparedness. Our strength lies in being prepared for that which we hope will never happen.
St. Tammany Parish was able to respond in 2005 because the parish had a plan. In 2012, we have a more tested and revised plan because of what we learned from Katrina, Rita, Ike and Gustav.
Families and businesses, just like Parish administration, need emergency plans. The strongest reasons for emergency plans can be found at St. Tammany Parish's Katrina webpage, www.stpgov.org/katrina/
On this site, you can read transcripts of the actual calls for help that came into the Emergency Operations Center. From citizens trapped in their homes, to desperate calls from across the country searching for loved ones. These calls and the other storm stories were made available not only for researchers and students, but also to help keep all of us from rewriting events and becoming complacent.
Please make your family plan today.
While we all hope this year’s hurricane season is an uneventful one, I encourage all citizens to prepare now by making a family emergency plan. The St. Tammany Parish 2012 Hurricane & Flooding Safety Information Guide will help in developing your plan.
Sometimes, citizens may be asked or ordered to evacuate if a storm is headed our way. Advance planning is essential for an evacuation. Make sure that you know where you will evacuate and how the members of your family will contact each other.
If the Governor activates the Contra-Flow plan, it will probably start in St. Tammany Parish about 30 hours before the onset of gale-force winds. You should already have an evacuation destination planned. Unfortunately, waiting until Contra-Flow is enacted could require you to change your routes and plans. Please keep this in mind.
We will use every means at our disposal to reach you with information about potentially dangerous storms, evacuations, and other instructions. We will use www.stpgov.org, the St. Tammany Parish Facebook page,Access St. Tammany Channel 10, and all other resources to keep the citizens of St. Tammany Parish informed. Sign up at www.stpgov.org/register to receive president’s messages during a storm event. I will be updating my message regularly.
In addition, WWL 870 AM & 105.3FM, the state’s official emergency station, will be broadcasting from the parish’s emergency operations center in the event of a major storm.
First Call, the parish’s emergency phone service, only calls land-line telephones. If you only have cellular service, you must monitor the news even more closely.
Information and planning are your keys to safety in an emergency. Please sign up now for information alerts and make your family plan.
4-H: A Great Organization
I had the opportunity to serve as a guest judge in a regional 4-H competition in February of this year, and was truly impressed by the quality of education and commitment students from our surrounding parishes displayed. The 4-H organization is a youth development program which promotes hands-on learning activities in the areas of science, citizenship and healthy living.
4-H programs are alive and well in St. Tammany, Washington and Tangipahoa Parishes, and certainly throughout our state. I want to congratulate Kasey King, who raised the 2012 Grand Champion steer named Waylon.
Our schools are often recognized for academic excellence. However, our education excellence often extends beyond the traditional classroom. I would like to thank the many volunteers in our region’s 4-H program and many other programs available to our students. I was honored to be a part of the 4-H show this year and see the success you are creating both in and out of the classroom.
Public Notices Now Available Online
Wednesday, April 25
As part of my continuing effort to increase government transparency, St. Tammany Parish now offers all public notices available to view on the website. The page you are now viewing (the home page of www.stpgov.org
) has a button labeled Public Notices toward the bottom right of the page. All the information contained in the official journal of St. Tammany Parish, meeting notices, notices to bidders, cases to be brought before boards and commissions and other information are all available to the public.
Most of this information has been available in different forms and in different locations, but I wanted to consolidate it and make it easier for you to view at the same time.
As with many of our newsletters and other items of interest, you can sign up at the bottom of the same page to receive email notifications any time a new public notice has been added.
Thank you for being a part of making St. Tammany Parish government that works.
April 9, 2012
Over the past four months, I have been talking about the tenets of my administration: Customer Service, Transparency, Accountability and Cooperation. I want to share one of our first steps to foster ‘Cooperation’ among parish, city, town and village governments.
In the last week of March, I hosted what I hope will become a quarterly meeting of all of the mayors in St. Tammany Parish. This was, and will be, an informal meeting for us to get to know one another better and make communication easier among the parish and our eight cities, towns and villages.
We all know how much easier it is to talk over opportunities, issues and concerns with friends over a cup of coffee instead of negotiating across a large conference table.
It is natural, in a parish this big, that each community will have its own unique perspective on common issues. Sharing those perspectives will be educational to us all. It is also true that working cooperatively, we will all grow stronger and provide better service to citizens.
I was very encouraged after our first meeting that this will become a vehicle for us to discuss ideas and issues, from legislative agendas to job creation. It is also my hope that it will encourage mutual assistance when service or support is needed.
March 29, 2012
Last fall, after the election giving me the honor of serving as your Parish President, I asked a group of citizens to serve on my Transition Team. I asked the team members to look at these areas of Parish Government and report their findings: Administrative Policy, Boards & Commissions, Intergovernmental Relations, Customer Service/Communications, Funding Government, Economic Development, Contracting for Professional Services, and Personnel.
The report of my Transition Team has been posted on the parish website. You can view the report either by clicking here or via our homepage, www.stpgov.org. I hope you will take the time to review the report. I welcome your comments or suggestions about the topics covered in this report, or other suggestions to improve parish government. Please send your comments to PublicInfo@stpgov.org.
I also want to thank all the members of the Transition Team for their hard work and dedication. Each volunteered his or her time and the effort was supported with private funds.
I’d like to hear from you.
Flood Insurance Information
March 16, 2012
It seems a shame to talk about flooding at such a beautiful time of the year. However, we often have significant rainfall during May and June. We should not forget the lessons we learned during the spring floods of 1995.
It is very important that everyone have flood insurance: homeowners, renters and businesses alike. You can purchase flood insurance at any time, however, there is usually a thirty day waiting period before the policy is effective. It makes sense to investigate flood insurance today.
Since the National Flood Insurance program took effect in 1978, over $1.06 Billion has been paid in flood insurance claims in unincorporated St. Tammany Parish. Claims in the cities, towns and villages increase that amount by about $500 million.
In addition, the federal Hazard Mitigation Program cannot help with raising your structure or providing additional flood protection unless you participate in the National Flood Insurance Program.
Unfortunately, after Katrina we learned that a number of citizens who paid flood insurance through their mortgage companies let the policies lapse when they paid off their home and were no longer required to carry the insurance by the mortgage holder. Homeowner’s insurance generally does not cover flooding.
To learn more about flood insurance, visit http://www.fema.gov/business/nfip or call your local insurance agent.
Legislative Session Starts Monday
Thursday, March 08, 2012
The Louisiana Legislature begins its 2012 Regular Legislative Session this coming Monday, March 12, at Noon. The Parish Council and I have been meeting with members of our delegation regularly in preparation for this session.
Of particular concern is that the state not mandate that local governments take on the costs of any programs that the state cuts as it balances the budget. Shifting costs from one government agency to another saves nothing. We are also requesting that local government be allowed to choose whether or not to participate in tax exemptions granted by the state.
One bill introduced specifically for St. Tammany Parish may be of interest to you. Each year, the state remits a portion of the hotel/motel tax collected in the parish back to the parish. These funds have been invested in tourism, facilities, and economic development. We are proposing to increase the economic development percentage of the fund from 15% to 45%.
While this will mean a smaller budget for tourism at this time, it will be sufficient for them to continue their excellent work. This is also a partnership that makes sense and will increase everyone’s resources over time.
It is easy to recognize the direct benefits in jobs that new businesses bring to our parish. In addition, business has a significant impact on the travel industry. Each new business brings in business travelers. The U.S. Travel Association reports that $2.3 billion was spent on business travel in 2010. We want more of those travelers in St. Tammany Parish.
This is only one of the many bills we will follow this spring. Our legislative liaison is monitoring all the new legislation that is being filed. When a bill has a potential impact on parish government or our citizens, she lets us know immediately so that we can review the proposed bill and determine how it will effect St. Tammany Parish citizens.
You can follow the legislature on Access St. Tammany, Channel 10 on Charter Communications, Channel 99 on U-Verse or on your computer by clicking here or by visiting our homepage, stpgov.org.
I will keep you up to date at the session progresses. If you want to contact any of your state legislators, you can find their email addresses at http://legis.state.la.us..
Give Your Opinion - Without Leaving Home
March 1, 2012
When we come home after work, we want to sit down for a minute and take off our shoes. However, we need to prepare the dinner, clean the kitchen, and put the children to bed. When it’s finally time to relax, getting involved in local government is usually not at the top of the list for evening relaxation.
At parish government, we know that participation in local government needs to be as easy as possible. We are working toward that goal.
Some tools are already in place. Today, you can sit in your favorite chair, with your laptop in hand, and pull up the agenda for the Parish Council meeting on the parish’s website. In that agenda, you can see if any items coming before the Council are of interest to you. You may see a request for a zoning change in your neighborhood or you may want to know more about certain drainage projects.
To learn more or express your opinion, send an email to your Parish Council representative or to me, letting us know your concerns. If you want to watch the Parish Council meetings held the first Thursday of each month at 6:00PM, you can see them live on Charter Cable 10, U-Verse 99 or stream them over your computer by clicking the button that says View Access St. Tammany live.
Some meetings are also available with Video-On-Demand.
During the course of the coming year, we will be adding new tools for citizen access and improving those tools that are already in place.
I hope you will choose to participate.
Report on Washington D.C. Trip
Last week, several Parish Council members and I travelled to Washington D.C. with a group of business leaders to bring the concerns of St. Tammany Parish citizens to our nation’s capital. Our main goal for this trip was to address some of the rules and regulations that impact economic development in St. Tammany Parish.
We met with Louisiana’s delegation at the capital and they, in turn, assisted us in meeting with numerous federal agencies. Two significant areas of interest were regulations governing our wetlands and plans for the treatment of discharges into our waterways.
The US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) enforces regulations regarding Louisiana’s wetlands. When development is proposed in a wetlands area, the developer (local government or business) is required to pay a mitigation fee that is used to preserve other wetland areas.
All of us in Southeast Louisiana know the importance of wetlands to public safety and to our economy. At the same time, mitigation fees can be very steep. Last year, St. Tammany Parish paid over $2 million in mitigation fees for capital projects.
The proposal we brought to Washington is relatively simple. We want to work as a community, based on input received through public meetings and through the scientific community, to identify those wetlands in St. Tammany that are critical for flood relief, storm protection and natural habitat. Then, we want to take the identified critical areas to the USACE to gain consensus and jointly develop a plan to preserve and enhance these wetlands.
To fund the preservation of the wetlands critical to St. Tammany, we want to keep the mitigation funds we are already paying and use them as the funding source for the identified properties.
Our other area of significance is a plan to ensure that discharges that may enter our waterways are properly treated to both preserve public health and our economy that relies on our waterways. We were recently informed of changes in the regulation of discharges into waterways, resulting in new regulations having the potential to cost St. Tammany Parish many jobs.
We want to keep jobs here and keep our waterways clean at the same time. To that end, we have begun conversations about how we can adjust the Parish’s long term plan for the consolidated treatment of sewage to meet the new regulations and to develop a practical time frame for implementation.
I am happy to report that our ideas were taken positively and that discussions are beginning to find the best solutions for our economy and for our ecology.
I want to thank our Senators and Representatives for their support and assistance on these, and other, projects. We all know that budgets are tight everywhere and we must look for new ideas to both grow our economy and respect our environment. Should any of these ideas move forward, I assure you that the Parish Council and I will have meetings for public input and discussion.
Friday, February 13
President Brister has been in Washington D.C. all week meeting with federal officials. She will update this message on Monday, February 13.
Business & Government Working Together
Next week I will be joining a delegation of St. Tammany business and local government representatives in Washington, D.C. where we will meet with numerous elected and appointed officials. This is our opportunity to place our concerns directly in front of national decision makers.
I will be especially concerned with Economic Development and its related issues such as transportation, energy, and banking. Many decisions made in Washington have a direct effect on us, from interstate and railroad improvements to the availability of financing for small businesses.
We are Louisiana’s fifth most populated parish. When policy and funding issues are being discussed, it is imperative that St. Tammany’s concerns be considered. We will be there to represent your interests.
I will give you a report when I return.
Congratulations to the St. Tammany Legislative Delegation
Please join me in congratulating the St. Tammany Parish legislative delegation to the State of Louisiana for their diligence and hard work. In partnership with other north shore parishes that share our concerns, we have been making progress in making our voices heard in Baton Rouge.
When this year’s list of committee assignments was released, it demonstrated the hard work of our delegation. Some highlights include:
Senator A.G. Crowe, Chair, Labor & Industrial Relations Committee
Senator Jack Donahue, Chair, Senate Finance Committee
Senator Ben Nevers, Chair, Judiciary A Committee
Representative Tim Burns, Chair, House & Governmental Affairs Committee
Representative Greg Cromer, Chair, Insurance Committee
Representative Kevin Pearson, Chair, Retirement Committee
Representative Harold Ritchie, Vice-Chair, Insurance Committee
Representative John Schroder, member, Appropriations Committee
Representative Scott Simon, Chair, Health & Welfare Committee
The leadership roles entrusted to our Legislative Delegation are a source of pride for all of St. Tammany Parish.
Excellence in Financial Reporting
I want to congratulate the Parish Department of Finance for receiving their eighth Certificate of Achievement for Excellence in Financial Reporting from the Government Finance Officers Association of the United States and Canada (GOFA). This is the highest form of recognition in the area of governmental accounting and financial reporting.
The award is being presented based upon the Comprehensive Annual Financial Report for 2010 (CAFR) available on the parish website. This report is unique as it presents, in a single document, both the financial statements of parish government and the financial statements of the 35 independent special districts, such as fire and recreation.
The full report is then posted on the St. Tammany Parish website so that citizens interested in government finances can easily access the document.
The CAFR is a product of the entire finance team. However, the GFOA gave special recognition to Leslie Long, the Director of Finance and to Laura Reine, the Accounting Manager with Awards for Financial Reporting Achievement.
Several weeks ago I wrote that Customer Service, Transparency, Accountability and Cooperation were to be the four tenets of my administration. Products such as the CAFR support this effort.
The Comprehensive Annual Financial Report for 2011 will be available by June 30, 2012.
Keeping Up with Road Construction
January 10, 2012
The Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development is doing a lot of construction in St. Tammany right now with more planned in the immediate future. All numbered roads, for example Highway 190, are State of Louisiana roads.
From the complete closure of the Highway 11 Bridge for four months to interstate construction, it seems as if work is everywhere. In addition, daily lane closures are expected on the Twin Spans at least through January 14th.
To assist you in keeping up to date with the construction updates, we are posting LaDOTD notices on our website as news items as well as posting them on the St. Tammany Parish Facebook page. If you want to receive these notices via email, you can register at http://www.stpgov.org/register.php . Click on the ‘news’ button. To receive notices via Facebook, you must ‘like’ the St. Tammany Parish facebook page.
I also encourage you to share this construction information with your friends and neighbors.
While construction means temporary inconvenience for drivers, the results mean better traffic flow and increased vehicle safety for residents. Just this morning, the cables placed in the Interstate 12 median prevented another vehicle from crossing the interstate into on-coming traffic.
For all of these improvements, I want to thank LaDOTD for its investment in St. Tammany Parish and acknowledge the great relationship the Parish has with local DOTD officials. For a complete list of state projects in our parish, click http://www.dotd.la.gov/construction/hammond.asp#ST.-TAMMANY
Please keep the safety of road workers in mind as you drive through construction zones.
The Inaugural Ceremony for the Parish President and Parish Council will be held at noon, Monday, January 9th on the north steps of the St. Tammany Parish Justice Center. There we will take our Oaths of Office for the 2012-2016 term.
The oath I will take reads:
"I, Pat Brister, do solemnly swear that I will support the constitution and laws of the United States and the constitution, laws of this state and the charter of this Parish and that I will faithfully and impartially discharge and perform all the duties incumbent upon me as Parish President, according to the best of my ability and understanding, so help me God."
In addition to the oath, I want to give you the promise that I will administer an open and transparent government that is accountable to you, the citizens of St. Tammany Parish.
The Inaugural Ceremony is open to all. I hope you are able to join us.
As the New Year Begins...
As I was thinking about the coming year, my first thought was a prayer for an uneventful storm season in 2012. As that is out of our hands, I want to assure you that parish government continues to train and improve emergency response in the hopes that it will never be used.
I also want to combine high expectations with hard work to bring more jobs to St. Tammany, to progress swiftly on parish projects, and to make the workings of this government more transparent to citizens. We are here to serve you.
This cannot be done alone. I look forward to working with the Parish Council and every city, town and village to move St. Tammany forward. As the national economy turns upward, St. Tammany Parish is in a good position to bring economic development projects to our community and further expand our workforce. As a team, we are formidable.
Speaking of teams, I also believe that 2012 is a great year for the Saints to once again bring home the Lombardi Trophy. I’m sure you all agree.
Happy New Year,
I’d like to give you a short update on my first week in office. My first staff meeting with all the parish department heads was Monday morning. There I shared what the four tenets of this new administration will be: Customer Service, Transparency, Accountability and Cooperation.
Chief Administrative Officer Bill Oiler and I went to Washington D.C. to meet with Admiral Zukunft of the U.S. Coast Guard to discuss the BP oil spill response, long term monitoring and other items. Other Parish Presidents from the region were at the table and the discussions were lively.
The remainder of the week was spent meeting with members of the Parish Council and reviewing key projects with staff.
I am confident that we are up and running smoothly despite the shortened transition time.
If you have any questions or concerns, please press the “Ask Pat” button, and send me an email.
As we approach a new year, I want to thank the people of St. Tammany Parish for demonstrating their confidence in me. I look forward to serving you as Parish President. One of my goals is to continue to build on the transparent nature of our government and provide citizens with as much information as possible.
In this spirit, we have added some features to allow better communication between government and the public, including an "Ask Pat" button below this message. You can email me directly, and I will answer you. Each week, I will post one of the questions received as a 'question of the week' on the website, along with the answer.
One of my most important missions as Parish President will be to continue to promote the economic development of our parish. Given the current economic condition in much of our country, we need to keep quality jobs available in St. Tammany, and fill them with well qualified, local citizens. Every citizen who desires to work in St. Tammany should have the opportunity to do so.
As we move forward together into an exciting new era for St. Tammany, please join me in maintaining and building your government: St. Tammany Parish – Government that Works.