The ‘Recall Gary Lacombe Committee’ met on Monday, May 20, to strategize on the best way to achieve its objective of obtaining the requisite number of signatures to force a recall election of the embattled Gonzales Councilman.
In order to achieve its objective, nearly 2,200 registered voters in the city must sign the recall petition by October 8, 2013, five months away.
Committee Chairman, James Marchand, described the efforts to date as slow and tedious, with roughly 100 signatures to date. He said the process is a difficult one, involving a lot of legwork, but worthy of his best efforts.
“I had no idea what Gary Lacombe stood for when he was running the council and I still don’t. The Emerson fiasco really opened a lot of people’s eyes, including mine. A lot of work had gone into luring Emerson here to the city and he could have undone it in one night when he engineered the vote to refuse rezoning on in the first vote.”
Marchand was referring to the initial city council vote on whether or not to rezone the Edenborne area to allow Emerson Process Management, a Fortune 500 firm, to build its facility which would provide numerous jobs and tax revenue to Gonzales according to proponents. Marchand was unconvinced with Lacombe’s reasoning after the March 18 vote. He was not placated when the dissenters to rezoning had a change of heart one week later when the council reversed course unanimously to put the Emerson project back on track.
“Why did Lacombe so suddenly change his mind?” Marchand wondered. “He never really explained his opposition in the initial meeting and changed his vote with even less explanation. The other two who always seem to vote with Lacombe are just as big a mystery to me,” he added.
The “other two” is a reference to Councilmen Terence Irvin and Timothy Vessel, Sr. who have consistently sided with Lacombe in numerous 3-2 council decisions.
“It’s as if there is a three-headed puppet with an unseen puppet master pulling the strings,” he said.
Committee Vice-Chairman Claston Bernard echoed many of Marchand’s sentiments but even more vehemently. Bernard, a relative newcomer to Gonzales made the move here four years ago.
“I decided to live in Gonzales because I loved what I saw of the community and its people and the opportunities for growth here. We must continue providing those opportunities for our young people so that they too may start and raise families here. Emerson is a perfect example of the type of company we need here,” said Bernard.
Bernard, who unsuccessfully ran for a seat on the Gonzales City Council against Irvin, was adamant that the recall petition is not about his political future but only what is best for Gonzales.
“There is nothing in this for me other than to see this wonderful city thrive and I must stand up for what I believe in. I will not be running for any political office.”
As to why Lacombe was targeted in the recall effort Bernard stated his disappointment in Lacombe.
“It seems to me that Mr. Lacombe does not respect the office or his constituency. He came in with an agenda and had made a pact to gain control of city government by undermining the process. Rather than build upon all the positive things achieved already it seems that he is intent on creating chaos in order to gain more control.”
Bernard specifically cited the budget amendment proposed by Lacombe at the May 13 Gonzales City Council meeting whereby the council reneged on an earlier commitment to Kidz Kove Discovery Park which is planned to accommodate special needs kids.
The council again voted 3-2 when Lacombe was joined by Irvin and Vessel, frustrating of the other councilmen, angering many citizens and drawing chastisement from Mayor Barney Arceneaux.
“I wonder if he ever even considered what his constituency wanted. Again, he gave no rational answer for the vote he cast even though, again, he made the initial motion” Bernard mused. “Kidz Kove only made us more determined in our effort.”
Bernard knows that the committee faces an uphill battle.
“It is not easy to gather the needed signatures. Many people are hesitant to join a recall petition and it is a challenge to inform them exactly why we’re doing this. Gonzales is a very tightly knit community and some people just don’t want to rock the boat. But we are coordinated and we have really stepped up our effort,” he said.
The committee will be distributing yard signs and push cards in the next few days, which they hope will foster a better understanding of their mission.
“I’ve lived in Gonzales all of my life,” Marchand added “and have never before thought to be involved in something like this. But now is the time for every citizen to stand up and be counted. I strongly urge everyone who cares about our city to get involved and become informed and take action.”
Councilman Lacombe was reached for a comment, and stated he was saddened by the need for such action to be taken.
“I am disappointed that such an extreme position has been taken by members of our community. I certainly respect their right to pursue this action as part of our system of government. I would hope that constructive dialogue might be a better way to address their concerns,” he said. “My focus has been and will continue to be on working hard to help move the city of Gonzales forward as we meet the demands for additional infrastructure improvements and economic development of our commercial potential within the city limits. I believe that our taxpayers deserve an efficient and effective city government that is willing to make the difficult decisions along the way to building a better city. I am committed to helping deliver solutions for our continued progress.”