During a series of Plaquemines Parish Council Meetings and media outreach processes, East Pointe-a la-hache citizens let their voices be heard in the fight to keep their ferry up and running.
Problems and Purpose:
Through attending several council meetings and reaching out to local media, residents of Plaquemines Parish sought to address the proposed shut down of their ferry throughout the summer of 2020. The Pointe-ala-hache Ferry, which many residents rely on for transportation to grocery stores, doctor’s visits, family gatherings and other important life events, was threatening a shut down, due to lack of funds to repair its decaying ramps. The Parish President,
Kirk Lepine, moved to reallocate funds that could be used for the ferry ramps that serve the entire parish to renovations of a government building on the Northern end of the Parish.
Background History and Context:
Pointe-ala-hache is a small town located within Plaquemines Parish, Louisiana. The Pointe-ala-hache ferry has been in operation since 1933 when the landing was built on the Mississippi River. Since then, residents have used the ferry to access important necessities in their everyday lives.
Organizing, Supporting, and Funding Entities:
Over the span of two months, the local government in Pointe-ala-hache, Louisiana held three council meetings taking place on June 11th, June 25th, and July 29th, 2021. It is at these council meetings where citizens came together to let their government officials hear their concerns. Important community entities that spread the word about council meetings and served as hubs for discussion include The Fishermen and Concerned Citizens Association, D.J.’s One Stop, and local churches.
Participant Recruitment and Selection:
Participation was open to all who reside in Plaquemines Parish because Parish Council meetings affect and represent all residents. For recruitment purposes however, those who wanted to raise awareness of the issue, sought out like minded individuals who wanted to see the continued operation of the ferry without interruption along with those who were in favor of repairing the ramps for the ferry instead of using surplus funds for the remodeling of government buildings. Recruitment techniques were mostly word of mouth and posting of flyers.
Methods and Tools Used:
Over the course of the many months during and after the decisions about the ferry ramps were made, platforms that citizens used to engage with each other and their local government included face-to- face meetings and discussions, Facebook groups, and emails. At the actual council meetings, residents were given the opportunity to speak to their representatives one at a time with a microphone.
What Went On: Process, Interaction, and Participation:
In the first council meeting of June, parish residents and council members learned that President Kirk Lepine was in favor of moving money that many were sure would be for ferry ramp repairs, to a different project that included maintenance of government buildings  Although many people spoke out against it, the president insisted that this was the plan that he would be pursuing. Mostly through word of mouth and posting flyers, stakeholders began to raise public interest and invite any and everyone to voice their opinions at the next council meeting, where this ordinance would be voted on. However on June 25th, 2020 when the vote was supposed to take place, Parish President Lepine, and 4 congressmen from the Northern end of the Parish did not show up to the meeting, making voting to change Lepine’s ordinance impossible [ 2]. Citizens were frustrated and began once again to organize and collectivize. The media was reached, and residents voiced their opinions loudly and strongly against the actions of their government. Immediately after the July council meetings, the Pointe-ala hache ferry was shut down for repairs to the ramp.
Influence, Outcomes, and Effects:
The influences, outcomes, and effects of this form of civic engagement are profound. Through organization, the residents of Pointe-ala-hache were able to change an action taken by their government swiftly through civic engagement practices.
Analysis and Lessons Learned:
Although many factors may have gone into changing Parish President Kirk Lepine’s plans to route money away from the ferry and shutting it down, it does seem as though it was done at least in part by citizens voicing their opinions and organizing to have their voices heard. By reaching out to local media and attending Parish Council meetings in large numbers, the citizens were able to directly impact policy decisions in their local government. Increased citizen participation, especially when it comes to the decision-making processes of local government, is vital to holding local government officials accountable for their actions.
July 9, 2020 Parish Council Meeting Agenda
 Plaquemines Parish Council [Plaquemines PArish Council]. (2020, June 11). June 11, 2020 Council Meeting [Video]. YouTube.
 Plaquemines Parish Council [Plaquemines Parish Council]. (2020, June 25). June 25, 2020 Council Meeting [Video]. YouTube.
 Plaquemines Parish Council [Plaquemines Parish Council]. (2020, July 9). July 9, 2020 Council Meeting [Video]. YouTube.
 Wilson, S. (2020, July 29). Residents voice frustrations over closure of a Plaquemines Parish ferry due to safety concerns. FOX 8.
The first version of this case entry was written by Chase Encalade, a Master of Public Service candidate at the University of Arkansas Clinton School of Public Service, and then edited. The views expressed in the entry are those of the authors, editors, or cited sources, and are not necessarily those of the University of Arkansas Clinton School of Public Service.