Gentlemanly fireworks flew at Tuesday’s Lafayette City-Parish Council meeting as some members of the body representing majority city districts took aim at an introductory ordinance by council Chairman Jay Castille that would create an official charter commission to review and possibly amend the current Lafayette Home Rule Charter. The backdrop for the discussion is talk of repealing the charter and returning the parish to dual city and parish forms of government. And while the intro ordinance passed by a 5-3 vote (District 8 Councilman Keith Patin was absent), it did not advance without more than an hour of sometimes heated discussion. Typically introductory ordinances are passed without discussion as a matter of deference to the ordinance sponsor. Not Tuesday. Castille’s charter commission ordinance was pulled from the batch and pulled apart by the city men.
“I really do believe that creating a commission at this time would circumvent the purpose of the town hall meetings,” said District 4 Councilman Kenneth Boudreaux in an opening salvo, “and that is hearing from the people and truly finding out what they desire in the creation of a government and whether they want to remain in the current form of government or consider any alternative forms of government.”
Councilmen Don Bertrand (District 7) and Brandon Shelvin (District 3) also joined the fray, arguing against the formation of a charter commission until — at the very least — City-Parish President Joey Durel has completed his town hall meetings throughout the parish. Councilmen William Theriot (District 9) and Purvis Morrison (District 1), who represent Youngsville and Scott, respectively, reiterated their opposition to repealing the charter.
Morrison reminded the panel that there are not enough votes on the council to advance a deconsolidation ordinance to a parish-wide vote, precipitating a terse exchange with Bertrand, who recounted a recent experience at a town hall meeting outside the city of Lafayette: “There is one municipality in the parish of Lafayette that does not have autonomy, and that is the city of Lafayette,” Bertrand said.
“How many of you are in favor of keeping consolidation? All the hands go up,” he observed, referring to a question raised by Durel at that rural town hall. “Then you ask, ‘How many of you in the municipalities are willing to go whole hog on consolidation and join true consolidation and drop your local governments?’ And all the hands go down.”
“Is that not a clear message?” Morrison responded.
“It is a clear message,” Bertrand replied. “And that’s exactly what I’m trying to say that you’re not paying attention to. What you’re not paying attention to is there’s one municipality in the parish of Lafayette that does not have that autonomy, and that is the city of Lafayette, and that is what I’m also hearing at the town hall meetings.”
While maintaining his composure, Castille was clearly put off by the discussion. “I did make the comment when I became chair,” he said, “that this would be an exciting year. It’s right on track.”