"I think that it's very sad that our parish council members cannot come to an agreement to name Willow Street after Dr. King," Pierre says.
Beginning last September, north Lafayette Councilman Louis Benjamin has brought up the issue of renaming either Willow Street or the Evangeline Thruway after King four times without success. The votes have consistently fallen along racial lines, with the council's seven white councilmen voting against the issue. The opposing councilmen say they don't support the name change because residents and business owners along Willow Street don't want the burden of changing their addresses. The issue has drawn increasingly large crowds to council meetings and exacerbated existing racial tension among councilmen.
In an attempt to assuage the debate, Pierre has begun drafting a resolution to designate the Lafayette Parish stretch of I-49 as a memorial to King. "I've spoken to a couple of the parish council members," he says. "Since they were not successful [in renaming Willow Street], then we will make the attempt to do it on the state level."
When a stretch of interstate is designated as a memorial it does not require the change of any street addresses. The state typically marks these types of memorials with signs on each end of the designated stretch of roadway.
But Pierre's proposal isn't winning over any city-parish councilmen. Benjamin adamantly reiterates that he is committed to naming a major Lafayette street, such as Willow, after King. Further complicating the issue, the council unanimously passed a resolution at its Dec. 5 meeting last month requesting that the Lafayette Parish section of I-49 be designated as a memorial to military veterans.
A letter went out from the council in early December to all Lafayette Parish state representatives requesting they bring the effort before the state Legislature. Pierre doesn't believe the military veterans memorial will make it through the Legislature since a similar tribute already exists in New Orleans, with Veterans Memorial Boulevard.
"I don't think that's feasible here in Lafayette," Pierre says.
Councilman Bobby Badeaux, a Vietnam veteran, says he brought the resolution for a veteran's memorial along I-49 to the city-parish council because Lafayette does not have a memorial to veterans. He believes Pierre should give it a chance to pass through the Legislature before bringing an alternative proposal.
"Mr. Pierre can certainly do what he wishes," Badeaux says. "I think he should allow the [veterans memorial] to go through. He doesn't know what the Legislature's going to do."
Pierre also says he spoke with Benjamin about his intentions and that the two agreed to both pursue a tribute to King. "He says if I'm successful, go for it," Pierre says. "If not, that they are going to continue to try Willow Street."
Benjamin says Pierre is free to make that motion, but that when they spoke, he made it clear that the local effort to rename Willow Street in honor of King was "non-negotiable."
"Our effort remains the same," Benjamin says. "I don't know why Wilfred is just coming out with this now. I think he probably should have been at some of the earlier community meetings we've been having on this."
Pierre and Benjamin's split over the King issue is surprising given that the two have long been political allies ' Pierre walked door-to-door with Benjamin during his last re-election campaign.
Benjamin says he and other supporters are meeting at 6:30 p.m. Thursday evening at the Clifton Chenier Center to determine how they should proceed with the initiative. One option is to get 51 percent of the property owners along Willow Street to sign a petition to rename the street, in which case the issue will go straight to the Planning and Zoning Commission and not require council approval.
"The community will decide what the next step will be," Benjamin says.
Councilman Chris Williams, who along with Benjamin is the only African-American member of the council and supporter of renaming Willow Street, says he worries that proposals to designate a Martin Luther King and a veterans' memorial along I-49 in Lafayette Parish may both come up in the state Legislature. "[The council] passed [the resolution supporting a Veterans Memorial] already," he says. "And I don't want to pit the veterans against King. I don't think that's fair."
Pierre hopes to introduce the resolution at the upcoming legislative special session. However, because the governor largely controls the agenda for special sessions, Pierre says the measure may have to wait until the spring session, which begins in late March.
Pierre, a former Lafayette city councilman, is an influential veteran of the state Legislature who has held his current seat since 1992. He will be term-limited out of the seat next year and is planning a run for the state Senate in District 24. Sen. Don Cravins of Arnaudville, who is also term-limited out of office in 2007, is running for mayor of Opelousas this year.
Last week, Pierre began circulating notice of his resolution to other Acadiana delegation members. Once he finishes drafting the bill, he hopes other local state Reps. will sign on as co-sponsors. He has not heard any feedback from the delegation.
Pierre says if an I-49 memorial to King comes to fruition, it will only partially resolve issues the city-parish council is wrestling with. "I don't think it'll ever resolve the conflict between parish council members," he says. "But I think it will certainly assist in the parish having a major thoroughfare named after a very important leader. A lot of people are very disappointed. This is a very progressive city and to have that blight on us certainly does not speak well for Lafayette. Every major city has a major street named after Dr. King and certainly Lafayette is considered a major city."
Louisiana's Republican Party has filed a complaint against Democratic U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu with the Senate's ethics committee about her use of private chartered planes.
The Ragin’ Cajuns got off to a superb start Saturday night, and the Human Jukebox made the soaked season opener even sweeter for the third-largest crowd in Cajun Field history.
The Louisiana health department will follow a federal judge's order and refrain from immediately penalizing doctors who are trying to comply with a new abortion law that requires them to obtain admitting privileges at a local hospital, a spokeswoman said Monday.
While bogged down with qualifying candidates last month, Secretary of State Tom Schedler didn’t lose sight of the true endgame coming in November and December.
Tuesday's Blogs from the Bog!
Stoned driving a concern when pot is legal; Detroit's bankruptcy trial; speed trap scandal in Florida and more national and international news for Tuesday, September 02, 2014.
A federal jury found attorney Daniel Stanford guilty Friday afternoon on eight of 13 counts for his role in the Curious Goods conspiracy.
Lafayette City-Court Judge Francie Bouillion has served on the bench for two decades since winning a special election to replace Judge Kaliste Saloom when he retired in 1994.
The magazine's senior football writer also predicts a break-out year for Saints fourth-year running back Mark Ingram.
Gulf Coast ceremonies marking the ninth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina have begun.
The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries says there is little known about the effects of tiger prawns on indigenous Louisiana shrimp. But, officials say the reports they're seeking will help state biologists monitor the distribution of the prawns and determine the possible presence of spawning populations.
Baltimore Ravens coach John Harbaugh rested his regulars and watched with delight as Ray Rice's backups ground out 214 yards rushing in a 22-13 victory over the New Orleans Saints on Thursday night.
High-profile criminal defense attorney Daniel Stanford awaits his fate in the Curious Goods conspiracy trial.
The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries is set to put the kibosh on the legal ownership of monkeys trained to help the disabled, and the agency wants to know what you think.
A federal judge on Thursday asked lawyers battling over Louisiana's new, restrictive abortion law for an agreement that apparently could let clinics stay open — at least for a while — after the law takes effect Sept. 1.
An abortion rights organization wants a federal judge to block enforcement of Louisiana's new abortion law while its lawsuit to overturn the law makes its way through court.
Republican presidential prospects Ted Cruz and Bobby Jindal are planning to speak at an Iowa Christian conservative event in September.
The attention surrounding Victor White III has spiked with the release of last week’s autopsy report, which has raised a number of serious questions about the night of his death and has put the Iberia Parish Sheriff’s Office under an increased wave of scrutiny as more national media outlets are jumping on the story, most recently seen on MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show.
A group supporting taxpayer-funded private school tuition vouchers is appealing a federal judge's order that Louisiana must provide regular reports to federal officials on the state's voucher program.
The Discovery Channel has canceled reality TV star Will Hayden's popular "Sons of Guns" show after his arrest on an aggravated rape charge.
The LPSB will finally hear from the attorney it hired to investigate the superintendent at a special meeting Thursday at 4 p.m.
Authorities are investigating a report that a student there warned the principal of impending violence similar to that depicted in the movie "The Purge."
Saints cornerback Champ Bailey has played for more than a handful of playoff teams during a career that has seen him selected to 12 Pro Bowls.
Police say a 56-year-old Lafayette man walking behind a dump truck died when the truck hit him as it was backing up.
New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees is a proud papa of new baby girl.