Military vote results in CCC tolls staying put - FOX 8 WVUE New Orleans News, Weather, Sports

Military vote results in CCC tolls staying put

Elections officials count military and overseas ballots at City Hall Tuesday. Elections officials count military and overseas ballots at City Hall Tuesday.

New Orleans, La. -- After Tuesday's count of military ballots in Orleans Parish, the vote tally is complete and the tolls will remain on the Crescent City Connection bridge.

The vote margin for keeping the tolls rose to 16 after the military and overseas ballots were opened.

In a cramped room inside City Hall, elections officials methodically opened the ballots and began counting as TV news cameras rolled.

"That's why you have more than one person checking that everything is correct," said New Orleans Clerk of Court Arthur Morrell, who oversees the city's election process.

In all, 32 ballots had come in but only 20 of them contained an actual vote on the toll proposition.

"It appears that the toll is going to be maintained for another 20 years," said Jay Batt of the Orleans Parish Board of Supervisors of Elections.

Getting to the final count was preceded by strong disagreement in the community. 

New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu and the City Council pushed to keep the tolls in place.  In Jefferson Parish, Sheriff Newell Normand and some parish council members favored keeping the tolls, as well.  But Parish President John Young joined those who urged voters to defeat the measure.

"The people have spoken. This is a democracy, that's what democracy is all about.  The vote's over with and we move on and we use this as a learning experience to make sure the abuse or misappropriation in the past doesn't occur in the future," Young said.

"Our position was don't throw the baby out with the bath water," said Mayor Landrieu.

The Regional Planning Commission will oversee spending of the revenues derived from the extension of the tolls.

"Ensuring that the funds are used correctly and the services all provided, I feel very good about for our community," said RPC member Lee Giorgio.

"It is critically important that that money be used to make that bridge safe and secure and so that traffic flows freely, so that economic development in the city of New Orleans and in the metropolitan area can continue to flourish," stated Landrieu.

Opponents are sticking by their complaints.  "I still think it's an unfair tax -- it's unfair because it's the only bridge over the Mississippi River that is tolled in the entire state of Louisiana," added Young.

Future maintenance of the bridge without any toll revenue was a huge concern expressed by supporters of the proposition.

"The icon of the bridge is so important to the city's image.  More importantly it's public safety," said New Orleans Councilwoman at-Large Jackie Clarkson.

"We probably have 25 miles of that roadway in Jefferson Parish and all of that has ground under it which has to be maintained, so our big concern was that," said Jefferson Parish Councilman Elton Lagasse.

The CCC is not the only bridge leading from the east bank to the west bank in this area, so the newly-widened, toll-free Huey P. Long Bridge could become more attractive to some motorists.

"They may, they may, you know, their taxes and gas money has paid for that bridge as well, so they're entitled to do that," said Young.

"The Huey P. Long Bridge is going to be a factor," said Lagasse.

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