Published: Saturday, October 3, 1992
Like the governor and the Legislature, the City Council is determined that the people of New Orleans will not have any opportunity at all to say whether they want a casino or not in their city.
Like the governor and the Legislature, most members of the council seem to have forgotten that they were elected to serve the people.
In their determined drive to establish casino gambling in New Orleans, they have displayed utter contempt for government of the people, by the people and for the people.
The odds of getting responsive democratic representation in the former Soviet Union are better these days.
The council's latest arrogant demonstration of we know what's best for you came Thursday when it rejected Councilwoman Jackie Clarkson's proposed referendum to allow the people of the city to vote on whether or not they want any casino gambling in the city. Had the council adopted Councilwoman Clarkson's proposal, the city would have been required to get the voters' approval before leasing the Rivergate for casino gambling.
Conveniently, the council had a ready way out. On standby was City Attorney Bill Aaron, who quickly concluded that the proposed referendum would be illegal.
While we do not question the city attorney's commitment to impartiality, his ruling must be reassuring to his boss, Mayor Barthelemy, an ardent supporter of casino gambling at any, or almost any, cost.
The city attorney argues that neither city government nor New Orleans voters can overturn state law. But that is his analysis; if tested in court, a judge might make a different one.
Voters are being permitted to vote today on a City Charter amendment its supporters promise would force the Legislature to limit casinos in New Orleans to "just one." The promise is questionable, and if the public can vote on having only one casino, why should they not be able to vote on having none?
Earlier this month, council members got their own dose of down-your-throat politics when an assistant to the mayor informed them that they can have no say in the provisions of a Rivergate casino lease the mayor will present to them in March. They were told, in effect, to take it or leave it - they can't change it.
It was that affront (and apparently not a democratic impulse to give the people a chance to vote on the issue), confessed Councilman Johnny Jackson, that caused him to support Councilwoman Clarkson's proposed no-casino amendment.
The council's blatant refusal to let the people of the city express themselves on casino gambling was the second time in recent weeks that it decided it was best not to permit the people to vote on an issue of critical importance to the entire city.
Last month, a council majority, again armed with a supporting opinion from City Attorney Aaron, declined to let the people vote on Council member Peggy Wilson's leave-Carnival-alone amendment despite the fact that she had obtained the requisite petition signatures.
Regardless of what one might think of such an amendment, the council majority displayed a disturbing aversion to giving the people a say.
From New Orleans to Baton Rouge, the guiding principle of our elected officials these days seems to be "We know what's best for you."
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