In yet another dramatic — albeit anticipated at the 11th hour — turn, the Lafayette Charter Commission voted Monday to put before voters a single proposition asking whether the city and parish should return to separate charters. The 6-3 vote clears the way for a final vote on the matter next Monday, the scheduled final meeting of the commission, which convened last summer. However, the City-Parish Council will vote on an introductory ordinance Tuesday night that would grant the commission an additional nine months. At this point it appears the nine-member commission will not need that extra time, and some council members have already expressed reservations about granting it.
The commission had been on a path toward letting voters decide whether the parish’s 15-year experiment in consolidation was working, but early this year back off that course in favor of merely amending the home rule charter to give the city of Lafayette greater control over finances and ordinances that apply only to the city, most notably city-owned Lafayette Utilities System. Until Monday’s meeting the commission was hedging closer to putting a multiple-choice ballot before voters, allowing them to decide whether to amend the charter or create separate charters. The commission had sought advice from state Attorney General Buddy Caldwell about whether a multiple-choice ballot is even legal under Louisiana law.
But early on Monday, Commissioner Karen Carson, who lives outside the city and who had led the charge for amending the existing charter, notified her fellow commissioners via email that she had decided that a single-proposition ballot asking voters whether to return to separate charters was the best choice.
While a few Louisiana parishes are consolidated, most notably Orleans, which adopted total consolidation — every municipality in Orleans Parish save for New Orleans was abolished — in the mid 19th century, no Louisiana parish has ever attempted to undo consolidation.