Jul 22, 2015
For the past several weeks, State Treasurer John Kennedy, chairman of the state Bond Commission, has used his authority as commission chairman to block Vidalia’s Square on Carter project.
The Vidalia Town Council voted months ago to proceed with the project, which involves the purchase of 65 acres of land on the west side of town, including infrastructure work for future development. Eventually, the property would serve as the focal point for economic development purposes in Vidalia.
In order to borrow the $7 million needed for the Square on Carter project, the town must secure the Bond Commission’s blessing. There are 14 members of the Bond Commission, including several statewide elected officials and eight legislators.
Kennedy has opposed the Square on Carter project from the get-go. Only two other Bond Commission members have voiced opposition: Secretary of State Tom Schedler and Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne.
Kennedy also has made misleading statements as part of his efforts to thwart Vidalia’s plans. He released a confidential memo from the state Attorney General’s office, which said the Vidalia project did not have a “public purpose,” thereby creating a legal impediment for the town. Kennedy said the Attorney General would issue a legal opinion stating the same.
However, the Attorney General’s office says that’s not true, adding it had not even been asked for an opinion on the Square on Carter endeavor.
Kennedy said at the Bond Commission’s meeting in May that Vidalia residents were divided over the Square on Carter project. How would he know? We have yet to see him at a Vidalia Town Council meeting nor did he attend two public hearings held by the town at his request. In fact, Kennedy promised Mayor Hyram Copeland that if he held the public hearings on the Vidalia project that the proposal would be placed on the Bond Commission’s agenda for consideration at its meeting in June.
But Kennedy didn’t keep his word.
Kennedy also said at the Bond Commission’s May meeting that he had received numerous cards and letters opposing the project.
That’s not true either, according to the Bond Commission’s own files. There was one unsigned opposition letter on file by the time of the meeting in May. Afterward, five other documents designated as opposition letters were received – three from one individual.
On the other hand, more than 370 town residents have signed letters or petitions supporting the Square on Carter project, while 43 participants at a Concordia Chamber of Commerce meeting in March signed a petition of support.
Although there are many other projects similar to Vidalia’s all over the state, the town reapplied to the Bond Commission for approval to borrow the money for the Square on Carter project through the Carter Street Economic District No. 1. An Attorney General’s opinion regarding the legality of a similar project in the City of Monroe indicates Vidalia’s proposal qualifies as an economic development project and thereby, is legal.
For three months now, Kennedy has blocked Vidalia and bought time for the handful of opponents to the Square on Carter, many of whom are Copeland’s old political enemies. To paraphrase, the gamesmanship has gotten old.
It’s time for Kennedy to shut down his grandstanding and tactics of delay and put Vidalia’s proposal on the Bond Commission’s agenda in August. Let the commission members decide what Vidalia residents have already concluded: This is a good project.
Yet, next year when Kennedy is a candidate for the U.S. Senate you can rest assured he will make more than a few statements about State’s Rights. If he continues to block Vidalia’s efforts, we’ll know he doesn’t believe in what he says.