My days growing up in the suburbs of New Orleans were no different. I wasn't a particularly trusting youth, but I did have my moments of gullibility.
My mother, on the other hand, was about as naive as a seasoned jaguar on the African Plains. She trusted those who earned it, but looked sideways at the unfamiliar or fantastic. She could spot a pile of bull from a mile away.
She had a favorite saying whenever someone — especially me — would try to hand her a load of, well, garbage: "Yeah, and I've got a bridge I want to sell you."
That was my mother's way of saying, "I don't believe a word you're speaking."
But actually, it's too bad Mom didn't try to sell her bridge to Rep Jack Smith, D-Franklin. He might have taken her up on the offer.
Like a number of other Louisiana residents, Smith has paid to make a state resource his own — except the state wasn't looking to sell its possession and didn't receive any of the money when Smith purchased it.
During debate in the House Natural Resources Committee over HB 1525, which would have proclaimed as open to the public all waters deeper than 3 feet connected to navigable waterways, Smith revealed in no uncertain terms which side of the public-access debate he's on.
He's one of the privileged with access to "private" waters, and he's going to protect what's "his."
"A couple of years ago, I went down to the bank, and those crazy rascals loaned me a ton of money — they shouldn't have, but they did — and I built a house on a private canal, but it's connected to a public waterway," Smith said. "We paid a premium price to build that house there, to be on the water. We had it gated, but the gate stays open, but it's supposed to be for our use.
"Now under this bill, anyone could now come through there ... park behind my house, put out a fishing pole, and I'm going to wake up every morning to his smiling face ..., correct?"
When informed by Rep. Eddie Lambert, R-Gonzales, that that was indeed possible, Smith said he would be voting against the bill.
"There's a lot of developers going out there ... and they charge a premium price for these lots to build on, and you pay that premium price to have some privacy and to bring your kids or grandkids out there and maybe fish off your dock, and that's something worth a premium," Smith said. "But under this, anyone can just come right through there, right through your back yard, and you lose that (privacy)."
I have no doubt that Smith paid his developer, but what exactly was the developer selling? A tract of land that was adjacent to a canal. According to Smith, he "paid a premium" to live on that canal, so obviously the developer charged more for the lot than he would have if it had not been adjacent to the canal.
So, at least to some degree, the developer was selling the canal. But what is a canal? It is a depression in the earth that is filled with water. In this case, it's filled with water that belongs to the public.
In essence, Smith paid his developer for a state resource just as surely as if the developer had gone onto Sherburne WMA and cut down a few hundred cypress trees to build Smith a log cabin.
Since Smith paid so much for the public's water, I can see why he'd want to keep his constituents out. But that shouldn't be his call to make. The water belongs to those very constituents, regardless of whom Smith paid for it.