10 Decisions That Changed Central

10 Decisions That Changed Central

As a result of the incorporation of the City of Central in July 2005 and the creation of the Central Community School System in January 2007, a great deal of governmental authority was transferred from Baton Rouge to the new governmental entities in Central and to the people of Central.  Here are 10 of the most important governmental decisions made in Central from 2005 to 2015:

1. Incorporation Vote.  On April 23, 2005, the voters of Central went to the polls and voted in favor of incorporating the City of Central.  The vote was 5,126 for and 3,064 against, or 63 percent to 37 percent.  That decision set in motion a whole series of events, including the appointment by the governor of an interim Mayor, City Council, and Police Chief, the transfer of tax revenues from the City-Parish to the City of Central, and the providing of city services by the City of Central.

2. Constitutional Amendment to Create Central School District. In 2006, the Louisiana Legislature approved and sent to the voters a Constitutional Amendment to permit the people of Central to create an independent school district.  In November 2006, that amendment was approved statewide by 55-45, in East Baton Rouge Parish by 69-31 and in Central by 92-8.  The popular vote in Central was 9,434 for and 855 against.  The new Central Community School Board came into existence on January 1, 2007, and took control of public schools in Central on July 1, 2007.

3. Supreme Court Decision Affirming City of Central. The incorporation of the City of Central was challenged by local attorney Bob Raborn.  It took nearly three years for the state Supreme Court to rule that the incorporation of Central was indeed proper.

4. Privatization. While the incorporation of the City of Central was being challenged in the courts, the City-Parish government provided all governmental services in Central and kept 90 percent of all tax revenues.  In this period, Central Mayor Mac Watts travelled to Sandy Springs, GA, and investigated having a private company provide all city services.  In early 2008, the Mayor and Council approved a privatization contract with CH2MHill, making Central the only city in Louisiana to be fully privatized.

5. Mike Faulk Chosen as Superintendent.  In early 2007, the new Central community school board voted to hire Mike Faulk as superintendent.  Faulk took the lead in creating the new school system, which is now No. 3 in the state.

6. Voters Approve Taxes for New School Complex. In July 2008, Central voters defeated a proposed $100 million tax increase to build four new schools.  But in May 2009, they approved a scaled down $55 million tax increase to build two new schools and renovate others.  The new state-of-the-art Central School Complex opened in August 2012.

7. Master Plan.  After years of study, the Central Planning & Zoning Commission, City Council, and Mayor approved a Master Plan for future development in the city.

8. City Council Ordered City Contractor to Release Public Records 

The limits of privatization were tested in 2010 when the city’s contractor, CH2MHill refused to provide access by the Central City News to public records in the company’s possession. The company claimed the records were its own corporate property. The newspaper filed suit to obtain the public records. In its editorial pages, the newspaper alleged that Central was becoming a “compnay town,” where a private company, rather than voters, had the real power.  In July 2010, a new City Council took office. Councilmen Ralph Washington, Dr. Tony LoBue, and Wayne Messina joined together and voted to order CH2MHill to produce the records.  The company refused, leading to a standoff.

9. Council Refused to Renew CH2MHill Contract.  Fueled by dissatisfaction with the company’s stand on access to public records and complaints of high costs, the City Council voted not to renew the CH2MHill’s contract and to put the contract out for public bid.

10. New City Contractor IBTS Hired.  A blue ribbon committee selected by the Mayor recommended the hiring of a nonprofit organization, IBTS, as the new city contractor, effectively ending the controversy.

In 2014, the Louisiana Supreme Court upheld a decision by the 1st Circuit Court of Appeal that a private contractor such as CH2MHill which provides governmental services is subject to the public records law.  CH2MHill subsequently provided most of the requested records to the Central City News.

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