By a 7-2 vote the Lafayette City-Parish Council Tuesday approved an introductory ordinance granting Lafayette Utilities System a rate increase. If approved for final adoption at the Feb. 2 council meeting, the 7.5 percent increase over two years would go into effect the same month.
Earlier, as anticipated, the Lafayette Public Utilities Authority, which comprises the five council members whose districts are majority city, voted 3-2 in favor of the rate hike. In both cases, councilmen Brandon Shelvin (District 3) and Kenneth Boudreaux (District 4) voted against the rate increase. LPUA chair Sam Dore, who switched his vote from an ordinance-killing nay in December to a yeah Tuesday, has said he wants to amend the ordinance to possibly spread the rate increase out over a longer period of time to make it more feasible for low-income residents.
Several Lafayette residents addressed the council on the proposal. Opposition to it was 6-1 by members of the community. During the council discussion phase leading up to the vote by the full council, Boudreaux managed to get LUS Director Terry Huval to agree to consider adjustments to the rate increase based on possible cuts to LUS’ current budget. Huval, however, refused to hedge on reducing the number of employees at power plants or forgoing equipping the LUS fleet with GPS tracking.
“Even a minor savings is a great savings, and that’s where I’ve been trying to get to,” Boudreaux said after prodding Huval on possible budget savings ahead of a final adoption of the rate increase. The rate hike is designed to generate an additional $26 million in LUS revenue, $22 million of which is earmarked for LUS’ mandated contribution to an upgrade of the power grid the public utility shares with SLEMCO and other area providers.
Tuesday's vote should not, however, been seen as a bellwether for the final-adoption vote next month; council members who voted in favor of the increase on Tuesday could still change their minds, and Shelvin and Boudreaux are unlikely to cede their position.
In other council business, an amendment to the ordinance governing revenue generated from the red-light and speed van camera program was shot down by a 6-3 vote. The ordinance by Boudreaux would have expanded the council’s discretion in spending the revenue to include other traffic- and public-safety programs. Since the speed calming program’s inception in November 2007, roughly $3.3 million has been generated. Boudreaux was joined by Shelvin and Castille in voting for the measure.
The council also approved ordinances declaring three bridge replacement projects — Chemin Metairie, Industrial Parkway and Vincent Road — public necessities and clearing the way for acquiring or even expropriating adjacent land if necessary.
MAY 20 This post by blogger CB Forgotston draws parallels between Gov. Bobby Jindal and two individuals he probably doesn't want to be aligned with: President Obama and former governor Edwin Edwards. CB says Jindal's trying to jack up the debt ceiling (an Obama play, according to CB) and buy votes from GOP leges who normally wouldn't go for that (an Edwards play, CB says).
MAY 20 Here's a post in the Baptist Message from an alumnus of Louisiana College. The author, Larry Burgess, calls on the leadership of the private school to take care of some pressing problems. Physical plant issues are critical and unaddressed, some faculty make so little they need government health care, and there is an atmosphere that does not encourage honest discussion, he writes. It's time to get things back in order, he says.
MAY 20 This post in Gambit tells of a benefit concert scheduled to raise money for the 19 people shot during a Mother's Day second line on Frenchmen Street in NOLA. Among them was Gambit blogger Deb Cotton, who spoke frequently about violence in the city and reported on the city's second line culture. Gambit's foundation, along with other NOLA non-profits, also is selling t-shirts to raise money for the victims.
MAY 20 Blogger Robert Mann is critical of the personal interest some legislators take in their work here, sharing the comments one NOLA solon made in explaining his decision to vote against a bill that would require people to stop discriminating against female workers. His wife might lose some salary, so he was going to have to vote against the equal pay bill, Conrad Appel said. Appel and everyone who heard him should have been ashamed, but they weren't, and that's what is wrong in that building, Mann argues.
MAY 20 American Press columnist Jim Beam writes about the budget again here, urging kudos for the House and its efforts to try to fix the budget as opposed to passing on a flawed and messy rubber-stamped document as it usually does. The Senate already is poo-pooing the effort, but instead Senators should be trying to find a way to improve it as well, Beam argues. He also has some predictions in here from LABI and CABL.
MAY 20 Here's a link to the photo gallery from Tulane's graduation this past weekend. Dr. John and Allen Toussaint played together and received honorary degrees. The Dalai Lama was so entranced by their performance he got up from his seat and walked across the stage to stand next to them. He even participated in a second line with his own personal, saffron-colored umbrella. To the graduates, he urged them to think about creating a peaceful, hopeful life and society.
MAY 20 This Picayune story questions the rhetoric of NOLA officials who say the city, aside from having a "murder problem," is safe. The talking points generally are that the criminals are killing each other, but everything else is OK. The police chief there says that even Lafayette is more dangerous than NOLA. But crime experts interviewed here say that NOLA's numbers indicate one of two things: either people are so used to violence they don't report it, or somebody's "fudging the numbers."
MAY 20 The Advocate's Mark Ballard writes about some of the background maneuvering that took place during the development of budget alternatives in the Legislature. From Rep. Joel Robideaux being called a "tax and spend liberal" to robo-call influence, Ballard lets us in on some of the work that happens behind the scenes but usually doesn't make it into the Advocate's daily coverage of the session.
David Calhoun and Elizabeth “EB” Brooks are the first two employees of Lafayette Central Park Inc., the nonprofit charged with turning Lafayette Consolidated Government’s 100-acre Johnston Street Horse Farm property into a passive public park. Calhoun was named executive director, and Brooks is director of planning and design.
There will soon be a whole lot of shakin’ going on at Benny’s Sportshack Supplement Depot, a new concept by Opelousas native Benny Nele. Located at 2002 Johnston St., the supplement shop, smoothie bar and café, featuring hot off the press paninis and wraps, plans to open in late May.