The City-ParishCouncil on Tuesday will discuss the possibility of reconvening a commission to examine the constitution that governs Lafayette Consolidated Government — the Home Rule Charter. Because it is a discussion item no action will be taken, although for many who worry about the city of Lafayette’s lack of autonomy, it’s a good start.
The discussion item was placed on the agenda by District 8 Councilman Keith Patin, who says a pair of his constituents asked that the council address the matter. Patin is unwilling to disclose who those constituents are although a source tells The Ind it came from at least one member of the Greater Lafayette Chamber of Commerce administration.
A charter commission was convened last year and after months of deliberations recommended that a parishwide proposition be put on the October 2011 ballot asking voters whether to scrap consolidated government and return to the separate city and parish governments that existed before 1996. Deconsolidation, as it was widely called, was shot down on a 63 to 37 percent vote.
But even many opponents of scrapping the charter and deconsolidating have acknowledged that the charter needs to be amended to give the city of Lafayette more autonomy. Recently, former charter commissioner Don Bacque, who opposed deconsolidation, argued in a letter to this newspaper that the issue needs to be addressed. Patin says he’s simply getting the discussion going.
“It’s water under the bridge,” he says of the results of last year’s deconsolidation vote. “The voters voted to keep [consolidation] and I’m not proposing to try to split it again; I’m proposing at this point that, OK, we’re keeping what we have but we have real issues and let’s see what we can do to modify these things now.”
The chief issue among proponents of amending the charter is Lafayette Utilities System, the city-owned public utility. Although technically LUS is governed by the Lafayette Public Utilities Authority — the five members of the council whose districts are majority city — the full council has also long voted along with the LPUA on matters pertaining to LUS, giving non-stakeholders a voice via council members who represent few city residents.
“I’m not here to make the list [of changes to the charter],” Patin adds. “I’m just opening up the venue for people to start talking about it again because it’s not Keith Patin’s list — it’s a list that the constituents want. I got two people that called, and if they don’t show and nobody else wants to talk, then I kind of sit there with egg on my face.”
Click here to read Bacque’s full statement on the need for a new charter commission.
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