Council meeting turns tense when two members voice their opinion with a 'no' vote

The Picayune City Council became heated once again during last night’s session when a ‘no’ vote by two members appeared to outrage two councilmembers who had voted ‘yes’.

The ‘no’ votes were cast by councilmembers Wayne Gouguet and Tammy Valente on a request for the council to apply for a grant from the Lower Pearl River Valley Foundation for funding improvements at Leola Jordan and J.P Johnson Parks. Council members Larry Breland and Lynn Bogan Bumpers voted ‘yes’ along with Mayor Ed Pinero. Councilwoman Janice Stephens was absent from the meeting. Four votes are needed for passage..

After the vote, Councilman Larry Breland asked for an explanation on why the two council members would not vote for the request.

Councilman Gouguet gladly explained “I’ve stated many times that we have a central park system and if we are going to apply for a grant from Lower Pearl River Valley, my priority is to improve things down at Friendship Park. We need a bathroom down there for the small children and we need to do something with the kid’s kingdom (playground), it’s falling apart. That’s my rationale. Your priority is different from my priority. I think we should do something with the central park that we all use.”

Councilperson Valente agreed with Gouguet’s assessment.

“I agree with that. Our central park needs a lot of things.”

Councilman Breland (pictured), as he has done many times, accused Gouguet and Valente of not voting for an item because he claimed their vote was racially motivated.

“This sends a very negative message to us that our two votes don’t count. We are not going to do anything to help the minority parks,” Breland stated.

As Breland continued to express his comments, he added “It’s sad. No reason we shouldn’t do this. When you do this to councilwoman Bumpers and me, you are making our precincts have taxation without representation.”

Bumpers added, “Larry, do you think they want to shut the parks down? Maybe that’s the problem. It’s a slap in our face.”

Valente became somewhat miffed when Breland and Bumpers accused her of not reading her packet prior to the meeting while she was trying to make a point that usually someone will call the other members prior to the meeting when they place an item on the agenda.

Valente also tried unsuccessfully to explain to Breland and Bumpers that she would have hoped the council could have discussed how the city might approach this grant by trying to include money to address both Friendship Park and other parks.

“We could have made this something better,” Valente stated as Breland continued to state over and over his displeasure of not getting the votes needed on his request.

“It’s very sad and it’s no reason we shouldn’t do this,” Breland said with disgust in his voice.

“What you are doing is dividing this community” while he continued to paint a picture that he feels the council as a whole is not concerned about his wants and requests.

@WRJW