Lafayette City-Parish Council Chair Jay Castille has directed the legal department of Lafayette Consolidated Government to draft an ordinance that would clear the way for creation of an official charter commission tasked with making improvements to the existing City-Parish Home Rule Charter. While Castille’s creation of a charter committee in January — a committee that on Feb. 2 voted to advance an ordinance that would put a charter repeal to a parishwide vote — got talk of deconsolidation going in earnest in Lafayette Parish, the District 2 representative remains committed to maintaining consolidated government. “I think what we have is something that can be corrected and worked on,” he says. “We can’t just say, ‘Look, we’re just going to throw it to the voters and get rid of it.’ That doesn’t make much sense. I think it can be corrected, I really do.”
Last Tuesday the council deferred an ordinance that would have put a parishwide proposition on the ballot in November asking voters whether the current charter should be repealed. The deferral tables the ordinance for 90 days. Supporters of deconsolidation admit there weren’t the six votes necessary on the council to advance the ordinance anyway; deferring it was a means of putting the ordinance on life support rather than have it killed by a vote of the council. Some on the council who favor putting deconsolidation to a parishwide vote also had reservations about the ordinance as written: If approved, it would have returned Lafayette Parish to dual governments operating under their separate, pre-1996 charters — constitutions that many believe are outdated and wouldn’t be a suitable or better alternative to the existing consolidated charter. “Going back to the old charters is not solving our problems.,” Castille adds.
As council chair, Castille is in a position to steer the conversation on deconsolidation. And while his second district in north Lafayette is 48 percent city — he is no doubt hearing both sides of the debate from constituents — he remains intent on guiding the process toward improving the existing charter rather than repealing it.
“At this point,” says Pat Ottinger, city-parish attorney, “my scope is to create a charter commission that would study the current, existing charter for LCG and to make recommendations as to how it might be amended, approved, etc. I have not been asked to look beyond the current LCG charter to address potential charters for the city or the parish standing alone.” Ottinger says he expects a draft ordinance for the formation of a charter commission to be completed “maybe this week.”
Any changes to the charter will have to be approved by voters. As it stands, the only thing on a ballot in November of this year will be a proposition that would amend the existing charter to remove a requirement that council districts be redrawn at least six months before an election following the receipt of census numbers. Those census figures aren’t expected back from the feds until March of 2011 — seven months before the October council elections, meaning redistricting would have to be squeezed into a single month.
Ottinger says he anticipates the soonest the public could vote on broader changes to the existing charter recommended by a charter commission would be April of 2011. “I’m not saying that’s the objective,” Ottinger cautions. “My marching orders are not necessarily to see that happen by that date — to do it or not do it.”
Castille, meanwhile, awaits a draft ordinance clearing the way for the creation of a charter commission — a commission that would likely be a nine-member body with appointments made by the Durel administration, the council, and possibly another entity.
“We're going to do it right,” Castille says. “I’m trying to do this right.”
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.
Is it a crime for citizens to photograph, video, or take notes of a police officer in the line of duty, or a right protected by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution? Locally, such activity, as witnessed recently, will at the very least result in a night spent behind bars.
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.