"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."
Jindal describes the privatization as a cost-cutting move to save the state more than $100 million this year, while improving services and medical training.
A Baton Rouge judge is reconsidering his decision to throw out Gov. Bobby Jindal's revamp of teacher tenure and salary laws.
Ambassador François Delattre will also receive an honorary doctorate of francophone studies at the commencement at the Cajundome.
During the past seven games, the Saints have forced two turnovers — a league low during that span. Now they're trying to figure out what has changed since their first seven games, when they forced 15 turnovers.
Choice cuts from Acadiana’s news media for Friday, Dec. 20, 2013:
For many fans, it was their third consecutive year participating in French Quarter parade.
Here's your daily look at late-breaking national and international news, upcoming events and the stories that will be talked about Friday, December 20, 2013:
Lafayette Parish School Board member Greg Awbrey deserves an attaboy for his unexpected vote during Wednesday’s meeting approving a mediation session between the board and Superintendent Pat Cooper.
The cable television network's suspension of Duck Dynasty patriarch Phil Robertson from the hit reality show has drawn criticism from the governor of Robertson's home state.
The State Bond Commission gave preliminary approval to the borrowing plan Thursday without objection.
The Pediatric Clinic is housed in the same location previously closed by state budget cuts in June 2012.
Three-term Louisiana senator facing tough re-election battle is next in line for Energy Committee chairmanship.
In a letter distributed during Wednesday night's meeting, Lafayette Parish School Board member Shelton Cobb, in his final meeting as board president, called on his fellow board members to start focusing on the children and stop battling Superintendent Pat Cooper.
Joshua Dore of Breaux Bridge was sentenced Tuesday to 1.5 years in prison for counterfeiting, according to a press release issued by U.S. Attorney Stephanie Finley’s office on Wednesday.
School super Pat Cooper alleges Lafayette Parish School Board member Mark Allen Babineaux, an attorney, publicly disclosed the details of a closed-door executive session.
Sun Belt commissioner presents title and practice gets under way in preparation for Saturday
Kerry Bertrand’s charge was upgraded Tuesday by an Acadia Parish grand jury from manslaughter to second-degree murder for his alleged role in the drowning death of his stepdaughter, Skylar Credeur.
Sean Payton announced Wednesday that veteran Shayne Graham was New Orleans' new kicker, and that rookie Terron Armstead would get his first start at left tackle.
Should new parents be required by law to attend special classes before being permitted to raise their child? It’s an idea state Rep. Regina Barrow, D-Baton Rouge, is seriously considering.
The agenda for Wednesday’s meeting of the Lafayette Parish School Board tells it all: The board has lost sight of its elected purpose.
A public Mass will be held Thursday in New Orleans for artist George Rodrigue, who died Saturday of cancer at age 69.
Eight former employees of The Times-Picayune have sued the newspaper and parent Advance Publications Inc., alleging their layoffs violated a longstanding "job security pledge" and age discrimination laws.
Gov. Bobby Jindal's administration hasn't done an independent performance review of its $363 million privatization contract for mental health and addictive disorder treatment services.
"Whether it's the tackle position, whether it's a player on defense ... we're going to look closely at what our options are and what gives us the best chance."
Get to Cajun Field today and show your bowl-bound pride