The Lafayette Charter Commission will decide Monday evening whether to forward drafts of separate city and parish charters to Lafayette Consolidated Government’s legal department as well as to the New Orleans attorney who advises LCG on bonding issues. The nine-member commission has been meeting since last August and must make a recommendation for changes to governance in Lafayette Parish by April 20. Since the fall the commission has gravitated toward the creation of a separate council and mayor for the city of Lafayette, although LCG attorney Pat Ottinger says separate charters for the city and the parish may not be the end result of the commission’s work.
“They’re at the point of wanting to put the packages together and send it to the legal department for a review,” Ottinger says. “It’s been kind of a patchwork quilt, if you will, so they’re asking us to finesse the language and make it a clean document. As far as I know it is a separate charter for the parish and for the city, which does not necessarily mean that’s where [the process] will end up. But they’re at the point where they’re needing to have it looked at from a legal perspective of language and uniformity and formatting and continuity and things of that type.”
Also on Monday’s commission agenda is discussion of a “tweaked” Lafayette Home Rule Charter. Commissioners last week were given a presentation from demographer Mike Hefner, who told The Independent
that working with the 2000 census he was able to redistrict Lafayette Parish
in such a way that five CPC/school board districts entirely within the city and four districts entirely outside the city could be created. Hefner added that he’s confident the same can be done when the parish redistricts following the receipt of 2010 census figures next month.
If Hefner is correct, many of the concerns about the city of Lafayette’s sovereignty and self-determination that led to the creation of the charter commission last year could likely be addressed without creating a separate city of Lafayette council. However, some commission members have expressed reservations about such a plan, noting that the current charter allows the city-parish president to be elected from anywhere in the parish and that a city-parish president who isn’t from the city may not have the city’s best interests at heart.