Just Say Yes

There aren't any candidates to vote for in the upcoming special election on Saturday, July 15, but Lafayette voters who care about the city's libraries, roads, school system and environmental efforts should make an extra effort to cast their ballots this weekend.

Four important property-tax renewals dominate the ballot, along with two sales-tax bonds and a proposition to impose term limits on school board members. And thanks to the wording of each ballot item, The Independent Weekly's endorsements can be encapsulated in one simple mantra: Just Say Yes.

In the case of the tax propositions, there's one important thing to note: each proposal asks for a renewal of existing taxes and doesn't impose any new taxes. So Lafayette voters won't see any difference in their tax bills with the approval of these measures.

Here's the rundown for each ballot item, starting with the five parish-wide issues:

â?¢ Proposition No. 1 is the library tax renewal for 10 years, for maintenance and support of the Public Library of Lafayette Parish and its branches in Broussard, Youngsville, Carencro, Milton, Scott and Lafayette's Time Plaza. Libraries are one of the unifying institutions for any community, and this tax enables Lafayette Parish's libraries to continue purchasing books, supplies and computer equipment, as well as fund essential initiatives like the year-round Children's Reading Program.

â?¢ Proposition No. 2 is the 10-year Public Health Tax Renewal, "for the purpose of the construction, support, maintenance and operation of the public health units in Lafayette Parish." With the current tenuous state of Louisiana health care, this renewal is especially crucial for our residents who have no other health care options besides The Lafayette Parish Public Health Unit, which offers essential services such as immunizations and health care screenings for both adults and children.

â?¢ Proposition No. 3 is for constructing, improving and maintaining roads and bridges in Lafayette Parish. Lafayette's insufferable traffic and history of poor road planning remains one issue ' for better or worse ' that sparks disgust throughout the entire community, and solutions to those problems are desperately needed. This tax will fund a number of much-needed arterial roads on the south and north side of Lafayette, and since state and federal dollars can't be counted on for these projects in this post-hurricane environment, local support is essential.

The fourth proposition, and the one "new" item on the ballot asks if the Lafayette Parish School Board should adopt a resolution limiting school board members to three consecutive four-year terms. The only surprising thing about this proposal is that it's never been previously considered. There's something to be said for retaining good leaders with institutional knowledge, but 12 years is more than enough time for any school board members to make their mark on the system. And considering the Lafayette Parish School System's perennial budget woes, a number of underperforming schools and its constant struggles with class-size issues, it's amazing that current school board members currently have the ability to hold their positions for 16 consecutive years. It's hard to think of any scenario where new blood and fresh leadership wouldn't benefit the school system; in fact, the school board should consider a future referendum limiting school board members to two consecutive four-year terms.

Parish-wide proposition No. 5 calls for a worthy 10-year renewal of funds dedicated to Lafayette Parish's Bayou Vermilion District. These monies provide for continued efforts to reduce pollution in Bayou Vermilion, as well as study and implement increased flood controls. Protecting our local environment should always be a priority, and the increased threat from hurricanes gives the importance of flooding safeguards a renewed urgency.

Finally, Lafayette voters, not parish-wide residents, are being asked to grant two bond issues based on sales taxes that have been on the books since 1961 and 1985. In addition to providing another revenue stream for road and bridge improvements, the funds will also be used for the city's parks and recreation facilities. The declining condition of our parks alone make this renewal another priority ' especially for parents who want safe, vibrant playgrounds for our children.

On July 15, Just Say Yes.