Story Summary

Crescent City Connection toll battle

CCC1On Nov 6, 2012, Voters in Jefferson & Orleans Parish voted on whether to extend the tolls on the Crescent City Connection (CCC) bridge for another 20 years.

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News with a Twist
05/06/13

CCC toll vote is a victory for citizens

Citizens 1, politicians zero.

It was a good day on Saturday as the righteous won out over the not-so-righteous.  Saturday’s overwhelming defeat of the Crescent City Connection toll renewal proposition was a major victory for us and a major blow to the status quo, the politicians and politics of the past.

Rarely, if ever, are we allowed a “do over” in an election, but that’s exactly what we got.  A Baton Rouge judge ruled the original election null and void and we got to do it all over again on Saturday.  And this time the vote went against the politicians and for the citizens.

The toll renewal part of the vote almost became an incidental.  What many area voters did on Saturday was indeed vote against the toll renewal, but maybe more importantly, voted against politics as usual.  The same dysfunctional so-called leaders, who have done anything but lead, desperately wanted the renewal.  It was a $20+ million a year patronage cow.  Now these dopey, politically connected, crooked contractors will have to go find their free money elsewhere.

The fear of the bridge now going into disrepair is exactly that, a fear.  And an unfounded one.  The bridge will be fine.  And so will the motorists of the city not having to pay that unnecessary toll.  A victory for the people.  Only the politicians don’t like this one.

CCC1

The Crescent City Connection tolls have been eliminated for good. Voters overwhelmingly rejected a 20 year toll extension.

News
03/26/13

Lights Return To CCC But For How Long?

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Tuesday night, the decorative lights were once again shining bright on the Crescent City Connection bridge.  Earlier in the day, the Regional Planning Commission approved a plan and memorandum of understanding allowing the YLC to pay to keep the lights on for three months.

After the three-month period is over, the RPC says left over money from tolls will be used to keep the decorative lights on for at least another year.

But the group wants to find a way to permanently fund the use of the lights, and its members voted unanimously Monday to get the legislature to help.

Here’s what the RPC wants to do:  Push lawmakers to pass a new law that will require the state to pay for the decorative lights.  They say that’s the only way to get past an old law that is currently the subject of much debate surrounding  responsibility for the lights.

“Repeal that act that happened in 1955 I believe and have the state maintain lighting on state rights of way throughout the state of Louisiana,” said commission member and Jefferson Parish President John Young.

But getting lawmakers from other parts of the state to agree to a new law might be difficult.  They may not care if the bridge looks pretty, but they do care about the state’s checkbook.

Many members of the RPC thinks the lawmakers can be swayed to support the plan if its expanded to cover all bridges and state overpasses in the state.

But while the commission voted unanimously to urge the legislature to take action, not everyone on the commission thinks the lawmakers will agree.

“I have lighting on [La Highway] 434 and 1088 and Oak Harbor and things like that that we feel it would be a great thing for the state to take over.  But they won’t,” said St Tammany Parish Councilman Steve Stefancik.

Here’s how the group may win over lawmakers on the fence.  Many are going to stop referring to the lights as “decorative” and instead will call them “essential”.  That way, any lawmaker who votes against the idea might be maligned as being against safety.

“Because it’s additional lighting that is neccessary especially to women crossing that bridge at night alone.  More so now than ever,” said New Orleans City Councilwoman Jackie Clarkson.

Whatever the legislature decides to do, the work will have to begin quickly.  Lawmakers are already pre-filing bills for a legislative session that begins in a couple of weeks.

The Young Leaders Council says they’ve unearthed a decades old document authenticating the state’s obligation to keep the Crescent City Connection decorative lights on.

Since the Department of Transportation and Development announced more than a week ago they are turning off the decorative lights, the search was on to locate an agreement signed four years before tolls were put in place.

According to YLC President Richard Pavlick the document outlines an agreement from 1989 that if the YLC pays for the decorative lights the DOTD will pay the electric bill, “It substantiates what our position has been all along that the state needs to pay the bill. Now I’m still looking at the particulars. We’re still reviewing them.”

“Up until today we have not been able to locate a copy. We received it from Representative Jeff Arnold today,” says Pavlick.

Pavlick says State Rep. Arnold told him an attorney involved with the original decorative lighting agreement back in 1989 gave it to Arnold.

The YLC is hoping this document signed twenty four years ago proves the DOTD is still responsible for paying the electric bill, tolls or no tolls.

The DOTD responded with the following statement via email, “Although void based on the exceptions listed in the agreement, there is a 1989 Act of Donation between DOTD and Bridge Lights, Inc. related to the decorative lighting on the bridge. The Act of Donation states that the obligation is effective for the useful life of the lighting system, which was destroyed by Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and completely replaced using toll funds in 2006. It further states that the agreement is only permissible under applicable state and local rules and regulations. Therefore, based on the state law, which prohibits DOTD funds from being used to pay for decorative lighting, the agreement is no longer applicable.”

For clarification, the DOTD spokeswoman provided the following link: http://www.reference.com/motif/business/state-of-louisiana-forms-act-of-donation

Pavlik says the 1989 agreement shows a positive example of how private business can partner with government.

Pavlik says he hopes the strong partnership will remain intact, “That (the agreement) changes the game in terms of what our options are moving forward since we now have a signed and executed copy.  We can show this to the state and make them live up to their obligation to keep these lights on.”

Jefferson Parish President John Young says the Regional Planning Commission has called an emergency meeting to hammer out a plan to get the lights back on, “I haven’t seen it so I don’t want to comment on a document I haven’t seen. Having said that I can tell you everyone, the YLC, local governments, the Regional Planning Commission are working with the DOTD to put those decorative lights on.”

The YLC says they have offered to pay the electric bill until the May 5th toll election.

Plaquemines Parish President Billy Nungesser told WGNO last week a cooperative endeavor agreement needs to be drafted first.

Pavlick says the YLC raised $500,000 to pay for the decorative lights back in the 80’s.

He says the electric bill to light the bridge costs roughly $40 to $50 a day.

News with a Twist
03/18/13

Battle over the CCC lights is typical Louisiana politics

What a joke!   Back on Friday night the lowest of the low political hacks turned the lights out on the Crescent City Connection.

Our “good ole boy network” of career politicians turned the decorative lights out on the bridges crossing the river in downtown New Orleans.  Not because there is no money but because they wanted to make a dramatic statement to influence your toll renewal vote come May 4th.  It’s typical Louisiana sleazy politics.   But what would you expect from a bunch of lightweights?

The resume-less Alarios and Heitmeiers of the world are up to their usual: playing politics.  It’s Louisiana politics at it worst and it’s what they do best.

It costs around $47 in electricity a night to power up the decorative lights on the Mississippi River bridge in downtown New Orleans, yet on Friday night those lights went dark.   The state said the money was there if only someone from the metro area would request it.  The Young Leadership Council, the folks most responsible for the light on the bridge in the first place, had the money as well, just in case the state didn’t.  But the lowlife politicians we keep electing, that work for themselves not us, didn’t make the request.

You see,  the effect of the light being turned off helps their case in that May election.  Besides having the money to keep the lights on and choosing to not use it, these worthless politicians are now playing games with us and our bridge!  The jokers that desperately don’t want to work and want us to bail them out with a 20 year toll renewal are responsible for this and no one else.

The money is more than there for the decorative light on the Crescent City Connection.   Call your elected officials and demand that they be turned back on today!

Wednesday Jefferson Parish council members Elton Lagasse and Chris Roberts plan to ask the rest of the council to request the state cancel the May 4 election on the CCC tolls.

They say that’s the only way to find out if the state will pay for bridge maintenance.

Parish President John Young says he’s against the tolls but supports the special election.

Young says a court order set the election date and the people have a right to vote.

He says he’s always been against the tolls because the state is obligated to pay for bridge maintenance except for the lights.

The Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development announced 31 people employed with the Crescent City Connection bridge will lose their jobs.

The announcement comes one day after a judge vacated November’s toll renewal election results and ordered a stop to toll collections.

According to the DOTD, the workers were hired as temporary employees pending the outcome of the election.

The workers’ last day will be Friday.  The DOTD says more personnel adjustments may be needed depending upon the budget and workload.

The judge who vacated the November election ordered another one for May 4th.

News with a Twist
03/06/13

CCC tolls decision is a major victory for Westbank residents

For the first time in nearly 20 years, Westbank motorists coming to the Eastbank didn’t have to pays toll to ride on the Crescent City Connection.  Yesterday, a Baton Rouge judge nullified November’s toll renewal election.  And by late yesterday afternoon, the tolls were gone.

For citizens of metro New Orleans, especially Westbankers, this was a major victory.  The entire toll renewal process was a joke.

For starters, no local politician had the courage or intestinal fortitude to author the bill, so the local hacks got a colleague from Pierre Part to sponsor it.  Pathetic!

Then the local politicians worked their magic and proceeded to make everyone scared that with no tolls the bridge would most certainly fall into major disrepair.  One politician even threatened that we could lose some lanes on the bridge if the renewal isn’t passed.  Another spouted off about how the lights would be turned off on the bridge.  Utter nonsense.

Now those same politicians are going to have to really scramble to try to convince you again to vote for the renewal in May’s election.   Fool me once, shame on you.   Fool me twice, shame on me.

After November’s narrow victory for the pro-CCC tolls crowd, opponents looked for traction anywhere they could find it.

After a recount doubled the victory to a mere 38 points.

Tuesday afternoon, a judge in Baton Rouge delivered the news desired by people who want the tolls to end.  He threw out the election saying voters who signed provisional ballots were disenfranchised and ordered a new election for May 4t.

A little after 4:30, workers on the Crescent City Connection’s toll plaza stopped collecting money and began waving drivers through fare free.

WGNO News told drivers at the end of the line to get to the bridge that the free ride was on the way.

“Oh, really?” said one.

“Wow! That’s great,” commented another.

Not everyone is glad to see the election’s result go.  Many elected leaders in the area say the tolls are needed for the cost of upkeep on the bridge.

Mayor Mitch Landrieu released a written statement.

“The tolls on the CCC are necessary to maintain this important infrastructure, which is critical to enabling our regional economy. We will continue to fight waste and abuse.  Our goal has been to ensure that there are available funds to maintain and light the bridge and ensure the overall safety of drivers,” Landrieu’s statement reads.

Drivers who spoke with WGNO News said they expected a different outcome during the May election because they expect more people to show up and vote “no”.

“I think this time, with all the fuss, it will raise the awareness.  I think more people will probably show up,” one driver said.

“Hopefully enough people will get out and vote.  Everybody’s aware of it now,” said another.

Louisiana State Police recently took over patrol duty for the CCC and plan to continue their work for the forseeable future regardless of the judge’s ruling.

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