The five Lafayette City-Parish Council members who represent majority city districts have, according to one of them, rallied around amending the ordinance creating a charter commission to give that commission wider discretion in what it recommends — a move that could open the door for a recommendation that Lafayette Parish deconsolidate.
Currently, the ordinance by council Chairman Jay Castille grants the commission the authority to review the charter and recommend changes to it. That ordinance passed April 6 as an introductory ordinance; it will be voted on Tuesday as a final ordinance.
“It’s going to give the commission full authority to look at the best-case scenario for the parish,” District 7 Councilman Don Bertrand says of the amendment, “whether that be Lafayette’s governed by itself, just like the other communities are, or consolidation for the entire parish. But it’s going to take the handcuffs off of them.” Bertrand enlisted Lafayette Consolidated Government’s legal department to write the amendment. It will take all five city-majority representatives voting in unison — a simple majority on the nine-member council — to force an amendment to Castille’s ordinance.
Last week Bertrand said he was confident that three of the four other city-majority councilmen — Keith Patin (District 8), Kenneth Boudreaux (District 4) and Brandon Shelvin (District 3) — were on board; Bertrand had yet to speak with the fifth city man, Sam Dore of District 6. But Dore today tells The INDsider he will vote to amend the ordinance, although he admits he still has misgivings about deconsolidating the parish. “Deep down, I think the best thing for us would be to fix consolidation,” Dore says. “If it ever came straight up to me in a question, ‘Do you think we should consolidate or deconsolidate?’ my first answer is I think the people of Lafayette should have the right to vote on that themselves. Absolutely, we should all have a vote on that. But personally I think probably it would be much less painful if we fixed what’s broken about consolidation, rather than try to deconsolidate and try to start a new government in the parish. I don’t think anybody would be happy with that.”
An ordinance that would send a parishwide referendum to the ballot on whether to repeal the consolidated charter and return to dual city and parish forms of government is in deferral right now. Dore says he expects the council to let that ordinance expire since the four parish-majority councilmen — Purvis Morrison (District 1), Castille (2), Jared Bellard (5) and William Theriot (9) — have indicated their unwillingness to scrap consolidation.
If the city-majority reps do unite on Tuesday and force an amendment to Castille’s ordinance, the charter commission created by the legislation would likely be city-centric: four appointments would be made by the city-majority reps, three appointments would be made by the parish-majority reps and two appointments would be made by City-Parish President Joey Durel; that's six of the nine commission members appointed by city officials.
But as Bertrand notes, that’s no guarantee that the commission would recommend deconsolidation. “When you take responsible people and you put them in a position to make decisions like this, that are big decisions, they’re going to vote their conscience,” he says. “And whoever [is appointed], I will certainly make sure the charter commission gets information that I think is relevant, but I’m not going to stand there and hound my representative as to what recommendations to make. I think what you do is give them access to information and to people.”