What a long, strange trip it’s been. The Lafayette Charter Commission did another one-80 Monday evening, voting to place a multiple-choice ballot before voters next fall that could give the city of Lafayette its greatest possible autonomy short of deconsolidation. The shift comes just a few weeks after the commission abandoned talk of creating separate charters for the city and parish — and separate councils and chief executives to go along with those charters — and instead adopted a course toward redistricting Lafayette Parish so that five districts are entirely within the city and those council members could have sole decision-making power for the city-owned Lafayette Utilities System, the so-called “Hefner plan” named for demographer Mike Hefner.

The shift toward merely amending the consolidated charter to give the city control over LUS hasn’t sat well with four of the five commissioners who are city residents. Because Lafayette Consolidated Government isn’t truly consolidated — the city and parish keep separate books — a majority of the city commissioners have felt the city should have control over all matters, financial and otherwise, pertaining only to the city of Lafayette.

At Monday’s meeting, Commissioner Bruce Conque, who has been the most vocal proponent of city autonomy, offered an amendment to the Hefner plan that would shift control over all city issues to the “city council” within the City-Parish Council. That motion failed on a 5-4 vote. But a second motion to place a second proposition on the ballot creating full city autonomy was approved 6-3.

Oddly, depending on one’s reading of the vote, Conque’s fellow city-centric commissioners — George Lewis, Steve Oats and Aaron Walker — voted against the motion. Strange bedfellows indeed.

As it stands, voters will be faced with two options this fall: tweak the charter to give the five-member “city” council within the City-Parish Council control over LUS, or amend the charter more heavily to give that five-member panel control over all city-related matters.

One caveat hangs over this latest development: It’s unclear whether a multiple-choice ballot is even sanctioned by state law. The commission sought an opinion from state Attorney General Buddy Caldwell’s office weeks ago and have yet to hear back.

Read more on Monday’s meeting in an article published today in The Daily Advertiser.

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