UPDATE: Taking a second look, the Recreation and Parks Commission currently includes six qualified voters appointed by the Metro Council as well as the Parish President, a member of the East Baton Rouge Parish School Board, and a member of the Planning and Zoning Commission. The proposition only seeks to change the “qualified voters” section as far as I can determine, so my calculations of the total Board composition were off as they only calculated for the “qualified voter” component of the Commission. In any event, my argument still stands even though the power grab is only slightly less egregious. I’ve adjusted those calculations below.
I’ve been away for a long time, but power grabs and parochialism will always draw me back. Interesting… according to The Advocate, two misguided parishwide propositions remain on the ballot for October 22nd. Both of them are designed to expand two important local commissions found in the East Baton Rouge Parish Plan of Government: the Library Board of Control and the Recreation and Park Commission. The purpose of this expansion, however, is to set aside appointments for each of the three small political subdivisions in the Parish: Baker, Central, & Zachary. I thought the BREC proposition had been killed at the State level (the legislature had to sign off on the change since they actually created the district), but there is apparently a legal dispute over what takes precedence, the State Constitution or Baton Rouge’s Plan of Government. I know what wins at the Federal level but not State. So here’s my argument, better safe than sorry I always say.
The propositions call for those small cities to receive a guaranteed voice on the two commissions. In the case of the Library Board of Control, the proposition would increase the size of the Board from seven members to ten members and requires three of those members be appointed based on recommendations from the cities of Baker, Central, and Zachary. In the case of the Recreation and Park Commission, the proposition would increase the size of the Commission from nine members to twelve members and requires three of those members be appointed based on recommendations from the cities of Baker, Central, and Zachary.
So why are these propositions misguided? It’s a matter of population and proportion; what I like to call the pie problem (mainly so I can use the below graphic).
So here’s the pie problem. These appointments have never formally been based on geographical location. Informally, BREC Board Chairman Bill Benedetto has stated:
“We’ve also always had at least two commissioners from the northern part of the parish, some years, we’ve had three or four.”
So there’s at least some attempt at accommodation from the BREC Board. Regardless and more importantly, all of the appointed members of either Board are supposed to be operating in an at-large capacity and doing what is best for the City-Parish as a whole. This helps minimize some of the ridiculous parochial bickering you see in other elected bodies in the City-Parish (‘sup, Metro Council?).
OK, let’s say for some reason we WANT to devolve into ridiculous parochialism at the Board/Commission level. Does anyone want to argue that it shouldn’t at least be done proportionately by population like nearly every other governing body appointed with a consideration for where one lives? Does anyone want to argue that these three small cities should receive preferential appointment authority over the single largest city in the Parish, which has no guaranteed appointee? That’s right folks, it’s time for the maths!
Using the 2010 Census, let’s see what a fair distribution of the population of East Baton Rouge Parish would look like.
So, the three cities that believe they each deserve individual seats on these two Boards based on their apparent support of the aforementioned propositions represent a grand combined total of 12.66% of the Parish’s population. Let’s think back to what these propositions will ultimately do. In the case of the Library Board of Control, these areas would gain control of 30% of the votes. In the case of the Recreation and Parks Commission, these areas would gain control of 25% of the votes.
12.66% = 30%?
12.66% = 25%?
Man, I know EBRP Schools aren’t the best, but I think the answers to the above questions are both no.
In fact, the only fair way to introduce an appointment system based on political subdivision is if you apportion seats based on all of the political subdivisions and unincorporated area of the Parish. If we were to go down that road, we would need to expand each Board to 32 (!) appointed members in order to accommodate the miniscule population shares represented by Baker and Zachary. Each appointee would represent 3% of the Parish population rounded down. The end result?
I think you can see my point here. A totally fair distribution of appointments across the Parish (as seen at left) would result in a completely unmanageable Board. Instead, the Parish wisely adopted an at-large model by which the Boards and Commissions operate. Unlike the fair distribution in the chart to the left, the proposed changes to the Plan of government do nothing more than unfairly transfer a disproportionate amount of power into the hands of a small number of people at the expense of our community. I don’t know about you, but I tend to vote against that kind of stuff.