"I don't know who they conferred with that [said] this would be a good thing," Williams says. "I'm going through my mail, and I get it like everybody else."
Williams has been active in his own efforts to consolidate north side interest groups and sees the meeting ' organized by Planning Commissioner Fred Prejean ' as a politically motivated attempt to usurp his endeavors.
"Fred is running for state representative," Williams says. "So I guess he's trying to make a name for himself." Williams also claims politics played a part in Prejean's recent move to organize a group of ministers to appeal to the council to rename Willow Street after Martin Luther King Jr.
Prejean has already announced his intentions to run for state office in 2007, when north Lafayette state Rep. Wilfred Pierre is term-limited out of the office.
Another name frequently mentioned as a likely candidate in that race? Chris Williams. He is term-limited out of his city-parish council seat in 2007 and is expected to run to replace either Pierre or state Sen. Don Cravins in the state Legislature. Williams says he will announce a decision on his political future next month.
Let the maneuvering begin.
Prejean, a Lafayette native and veteran planning commissioner for more than a decade, says he came up with the idea of developing an official North Lafayette Plan after noticing the fragmentation of the north side community. "As planning commissioners," he says, "we knew of specific progressive things that were happening, but these projects in north Lafayette were all autonomously run. This effort is to pull all these groups under one umbrella and establish a committee of volunteers who want to work on addressing development of north Lafayette."
But Williams says that's exactly what he's already been working on for the past two months. He has been trying to resurrect the Committee to Rebuild Lafayette North under a new name and refocused mission and wants other established north side groups to join and set the agenda for the region's future. "[We're] trying to consolidate and move forward toward one voice so that our city and parish can work together," Williams says.
The Committee to Rebuild Lafayette North, first organized in 1997 by former City-Parish President Walter Comeaux, has been on hiatus since October after the city-parish council voted to pull $36,500 in funding for its consultant and manager, Phil Lank ("Had Their Phil," Oct. 19). Councilman Bruce Conque led the move to place Lank's salary in council reserves, questioning whether that money could be put to better use for north Lafayette.
Williams says Prejean and the Planning Commission scheduled their meeting five days earlier to preempt and undermine his appeal to the council. Williams' motion to restore Lank's contract was denied at the council's Dec. 20 meeting.
"I don't believe [the timing was] a coincidence," Williams says. He also suspects that Conque had a hand in planning the Dec. 15 meeting, but Conque denies the charge. "It was strategically timed to be right before the Rebuild Lafayette North vote to allow some council members an excuse not to fund Rebuild Lafayette North," Williams claims. "I think it's Fred Prejean's plan to make brownie points from an electoral standpoint since he's running for office."
Williams also contends that having a government-run committee taking charge of the north side's future will strip away the ground-level intensity that community organizations bring to the table. "It becomes a vanilla, governmental, non-passionate type of thing," he says.
Prejean, an accountant by trade, responds to Williams' accusations in a calm, calculated manner. He says Williams' charges are unfounded and insists he's not working against Rebuild Lafayette North, but rather hopes to help a variety of groups realize their goals.
"No one group is ever going to succeed in changing north Lafayette," he says, adding that it makes sense to utilize city-parish government resources. Down the road, the committee developing the Lafayette North Plan may request funding from the city-parish council for economic or planning studies. Lank's contract money could be up for grabs for Prejean's new initiative.
State law requires each parish to develop a comprehensive plan through its planning commission. Lafayette's plan, called Lafayette In A Century, maps out everything from commercial districts to parish school plans and street projects.
Prejean says his Lafayette North Plan will be folded into LINC. That could be the plan's only accomplishment, as LCG is not required by law to implement LINC or planning commission recommendations. "So that's the politics that are involved," Prejean says.
He adds that the planning commission has already begun work on plans for eight different neighborhood groups that came to the commission this year and asked how their subdivisions will grow in the area.
The reason Prejean is pushing the Lafayette North Plan is because he wanted to pull together people focused on their neighborhoods or pet issues such as the I-49 interchange, the development of I-10 frontage roads and the renaming of a major Lafayette street after Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. He watched Williams and others lead a charge for I-10 frontage roads at city-parish council meetings this past summer.
"The frontage road issue ended up to many people's dissatisfaction," he says. "I was not part of that, and I sat back and I watched it. I saw the frontage roads as a project that should be part of something bigger. There was no vision of, 'What is this whole area going to look like when these projects and others that are now on the drawing board are completed?'"
Williams isn't warming to Prejean's questions or increased profile. He takes it as a personal affront and another assault on north side progress.
"How many things can you throw at us in one year?" he asks. "We've gone through frontage roads; we've gone through the Martin Luther King name change; now we have the attack on Rebuild Lafayette North. I think that this council has just lost its mind."
Hopefully he’ll be better prepared today than he was in that Feb. 20 deposition.
They came by the hundreds, arriving from all regions of the state to gather on the steps of our Capitol in protest of the Legislature’s long tradition of giving industry the go-ahead to abuse our air, our water and our coastline, all in the name of good economics.
Gov. Bobby Jindal’s recent rhetoric against President Barack Obama has failed to boost his standing among the conservative base.
Louisiana's annual legislative session begins.
The state has hired marksmen to shoot feral hogs from helicopters at two wildlife management areas in south Louisiana.
The former star of Saturday Night Live throws in his 2 cents on the Big Oil lawsuit.
Here's your daily look at late-breaking national and international news, upcoming events and the stories that will be talked about Monday, March 10, 2014:
The Board of Elementary and Secondary Education has stalled action on a $3.5 billion annual school funding formula due to state lawmakers by March 15.
The New Orleans Saints have yet to make it official as of this writing, but popular wide receiver Lance Moore has reportedly been cut by the team to free up salary-cap space on the roster.
While two medical marijuana bills are slated for the upcoming legislative session, what some Louisianans might not know is that the plant was approved for therapeutic use by state lawmakers in 1991.
The agenda is shaping up to be lighter than in previous years. But Jindal is term-limited, with fewer than two years remaining in office, and he saw his last big initiative — a proposed rewrite of Louisiana tax law — collapse without getting a vote in 2013.
Sharper has been held without bail because of an arrest warrant issued by Louisiana authorities accusing him and another man of raping two women.
Two Lafayette men have been revealed by police as the infamous duo behind a caper that shook our fair city to its core.
The Lafayette Parish School Board has received a second letter of demand related to last year’s insurance debacle, this time from Key Benefit Administrators claiming it’s owed $93,000 from the school system.
The Louisiana coastline is vanishing faster than mappers can keep track.
A bill that would have overridden local ordinances prohibiting public and private employers from discriminating against lesbian, gay and transgender people has been pulled within less than a week of being filed.
The panel that selects nominees for a controversial New Orleans area flood control board — a board that is suing more than 90 oil, gas and pipeline companies — is set to discuss legislation affecting its independence.
State prison officials cannot keep secret the seller and manufacturer of the two drugs purchased for executions at the Louisiana State Penitentiary, a federal judge ruled Wednesday.
State lawmakers will not appeal a judge's ruling that it was improper to use $3.7 million from a probation and parole officers' retirement fund to balance the state's operating budget.
Conservatives have been losing their minds over this satirical bit on the Colbert Report.
The Lafayette Parish School Board leaves a lot to be desired, but is scrapping the election process in favor of an appointed board the answer?
The House approved legislation Tuesday night to roll back a recently enacted overhaul of the federal flood insurance program, after homeowners in flood-prone areas complained about sharp premium increases.
The NFL has formally designated New Orleans' Jimmy Graham as a tight end for the purposes of his franchise tag value, which is now set at $7.05 million next season unless Graham and the Saints subsequently agree on a long-term deal.
A federal appeals panel ruled Monday that businesses don't have to prove that they were directly harmed by BP's 2010 Gulf Of Mexico oil spill to collect settlement payments.
The Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development has closed Interstate 10 from I-49 in Lafayette to Seigen Lane in Baton Rouge.