The Lafayette Charter Commission on Monday engaged in an often lively discussion of possible changes to consolidated government in Lafayette Parish, reviewing one-by-one six options for governance complied by Chairman George Lewis. Most of the conversation centered on creating a separate council for the city of Lafayette, and the means by which a separate parish government would provide services to residents living in unincorporated Lafayette Parish.
If it can be said that any consensus emerged at Monday’s meeting, it is that the city of Lafayette does indeed need separate governance by a council — preferably a seven- or nine-member panel, and that a separate parish government could exist with little bureacracy. Commissioner Bruce Conque, who directed the conversation among commissioners toward Lafayette’s sovereignty with a presentation at last week’s meeting, recommended allowing a newly created parish council to decide how it would undertake providing services in the unincorporated areas, but that a new charter should not enumerate departments and duties — only services provided. This, he argued, would allow a parish council flexibility in deciding how it would provide those services, including through intergovernmental agreements with the parish’s six municipalities.
The idea resonated with others on the commission. “I like Bruce’s idea that we don’t put those things in the charter,” said commissioner Steve Oats. “We let the people elected to make those decisions have that authority without having to go and change the charter again. Give them the authority as elected officials to do what’s necessary.”
But Commissioner Don Bacque, a city resident, said he still isn’t sold on creating separate councils for the parish and the city, arguing that the cost would be prohibitive for the parish and that, ultimately, it would be tough sell for residents outside the city. “The problem we face,” Bacque said, “is that the easiest vote that anyone makes is a no vote. The hardest vote is a yes vote — you’ve got to give them a reason to vote yes. And if you can find negatives in the proposal, they’re going to tend to vote no. So, my feeling is, as we look at these different models, when we’re looking at something that’s going to parishwide, we ought to be looking at how does it affect the parish. Everything we’re discussing is, how does it affect the city? What are we going to do to make the city of Lafayette more viable. And I suggest that most people sitting out there tonight don’t really care about trying to make the city of Lafayette better. What they want to do is make their lives better. And how does someone that lives in Broussard, how do we convince them that what we suggest is better for them?”
Conque, who on Oct. 11 suggested a consolidation model based on services districts — another way of saying municipal boundaries — acknowledged Lewis’ concern that such a model would be difficult to promote as a parishwide referendum because of its terminology.
“I’m not going to fall on the sword in favor of what I first suggested,” Conque said. “My intent was that the city of Lafayette have its own council. The city of Lafayette have its own mayor. It is only fair that we as a community be treated equally ... as the other municipalities. Every other municipality has its own mayor, its own council. Why should the city of Lafayette carry the burden for providing for the parish? That’s my whole point. We do not have our own governing body; we’ve lost sovereignty. We don’t determine our own destiny.”
The commission is scheduled to begin deliberations on Nov. 1, which could last until early next spring when the panel must, by law, make a recommendation on the current charter. It seems evident at this point that the process will focus on how to grant the city of Lafayette the same self-determination that the other municipalities in the parish enjoy, likely through the elections of a separate Lafayette City Council and mayor.
MAY 23 Here's a story in the Picayune about some statistics that must come as a blow to folks who believe that any private school can do a better job of educating kids than any public school: Danielle Dreilinger reports that only 30 percent of the voucher kids are passing. That's less than half of the state wide average, she says. It's an interesting statistic because most of the schools (if not all) taking voucher kids have never had their students' standardized test scores released to the public before.
MAY 23 Stephen Sabludowsky blogs on Bayou Buzz about auditor requests here. Recently the state GOP started crowing about a request from the Legislative Auditor, claiming they were being targeted because of their anti-tax stance. (Uh, your what?) Denial and hyperbole aside, the state Democratic party blew holes in that theory with an email announcing they'd received the same request, Sabludowsky writes here.
MAY 23 Jim Brown blogs about the senate race in this post. He says that, given Bobby Jindal's "lack of traction" on the national stage, it might make more sense for the governor to consider running against Mary Landrieu for the senate seat. Since Tim Teeple left the Cassidy team, it makes sense he might land on a Jindal for Senate team, Brown opines.
MAY 23 In this Louisiana Voice post, blogger Tom Aswell writes of rumors that his nemesis, state Superintendent of Education John White, may be soon departing Louisiana for a federal post. It's hard to believe, given his performance, Aswell says, but stranger things have happened. An anti-White BESE member says that, if true, White is quitting before he can be fired.
MAY 23 In this post on American Zombie, blogger Jason Berry writes about the Mother's Day shooting. Mayor Landrieu said that "this is not who we are," but the fact is, this is New Orleans, Berry writes. The violence infused in the city is the result of a culture created by "sins of omission or sins of commission," Berry writes. It's not a problem that can be solved by legislating, policing, praying or publicizing, he says: Someone's got to understand what's happening first.
MAY 23 This post in the Westside Journal tells us what Port Allen Mayor Deedy has been up to lately: vetoing ordinances, apparently. This story is most interesting, however, when it delves into a petition that has been circulating around the city lately. It accuses the former mayor of a lot of nasty things; the former mayor says it is full of lies and "broken syntax" which may be a larger offense in his eyes.
MAY 23 This editorial posted in The Advocate is a bit confusing. The writing is poor - definitely not up to the usual editorial writing standard there - and the point is hard to grasp. Apparently, the writer is saying that privatization of state efforts is OK, as long as there is oversight and transparency, but Jindal's not good at that, and the legislature shouldn't over-react. Okey Dokey. Can't they get one of them Pulitzer-winning people to write an editorial?
MAY 23 This post on The Lens gives you links to a new Google Earth tool that allows you to see any spot on earth transform over the past 30 years. Bob Marshall, who covers the coast for the paper, says that in the case of Louisiana's coastline, it's possibly something you don't want to see, because it's not a pretty picture. There are several clips here, showing critical areas erode away. For Marshall, it was vindication for all those times he was met with eye-rolling when he talked about erosion.
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.