Voting in favor of the motion by Commissioner Bruce Conque to make a final decision and send it to the council were Karen Carson, Conque, George Lewis, Keith Miller, Steve Oats and Aaron Walker. Commissioners Don Bacque, Dale Bourgeois and Greg Manuel voted against.
The vote clears the way for the City-Parish Council to set a date for an election on the proposition. The council cannot amend the proposition; it can only advance it to a parishwide vote. That step is expected to happen hastily: Council Chairman Kenneth Boudreaux, who will determine when the council addresses the matter, is an outspoken proponent of repealing the current charter and returning to the separate governments that existed before 1996.
The commission beat back a substitute motion by Oats, an attorney by vocation, stipulating that the final vote be contingent on whether the council votes Tuesday to extend the commission's term in office; the CPC approved an introductory ordinance last week doing just that. Oats wanted more time to clean up language in the proposed city- and parish charters.
“Every time I look at [the proposed city- and parish charters] I find more stuff that needs to be corrected,” Oats told his fellow panelists. The commission moments before had approved corrections and clarifications to a number of typographical and language errors in the proposed charters flagged by Oats.
With Oats’ substitute motion failing on a 5-4 vote and Conque’s motion for final approval passing, the Lafayette Charter Commission has completed its nine-month task.
Following the vote, commission Chairman Lewis offered his fellow panelists the opportunity to offer closing comments. Bacque, who voted in the minority, had none. However, Bourgeois, who also opposed repealing the charter and voted with Bacque, said, “The only comment I have is, watch the money.”
Bourgeois, Bacque and Manual — the commissioners who voted against the separate-governments proposition — expressed concerns at various points during the commission’s tenure about the cost of returning to separate governments. In an attempt to ameliorate those concerns, the proposed charters for the city and the parish slash the salaries for council members: For both the seven-member city council and seven-member parish council, salaries would begin at $14,000 annually; chairmen and vice-chairmen would make 10 percent more, or $15,400 per year. The proposed city charter, however, hikes the chief executive’s pay; the mayor would pull down $128,000 per year while the parish president would make 85 percent of that, or $108,800.
Commissioner Carson, a non-city resident who proved to be a pivotal figure in the process when, just over a week ago, she reversed course and joined four city commissioners in agreeing to let the parish decide if it wants to repeal the current charter and return to separate governments, closed by saying, “I’m trusting the people of Lafayette have the brain power to figure out what they want.”