Although Lafayette Consolidated Government including members of the City-Parish Council have yet to receive official notification via a letter, The Ind has learned that the redistricting plan submitted to the U.S. Department of Justice has received preclearance. It’s the first and the major hurdle the plan must clear in order to become the official delineation of council districts in Lafayette Parish for the next decade. With DOJ’s blessing, the plan will now go the Lafayette Registrar of Voters and to the Louisiana Secretary of State.
Following up on a tip, we contacted DOJ Tuesday morning and were emailed the letter from T. Christian Herren Jr., the chief of the Voting Section in DOJ’s Civil Rights Division, to Nancy Jensen, the Baton Rouge demographer hired to help the council redraw its districts.
“The Attorney General does not interpose an objection to the specified changes,” Herren writes, referring to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, andadding a caveat: “However, we note that Section 5 expressly provides that the failure of the Attorney General to object does not bar subsequent litigation to enjoin the enforcement of the changes.” Translation: The plan is fine. Implement it.
CPC Chairman Kenneth Boudreaux, who presided over the at-times contentious redistricting process, says while he’s only received verbal notification that the plan was accepted, he’s pleased with the outcome. “I think the process worked,” he says. “Council districts are in place now for the next 10 years.”
Lafayette’s CPC districts, like virtually all political subdivisions in Southern states, must get clearance from DOJ because Louisiana remains subject to the federal Voting Rights Act. Lafayette was required to maintain two black-majority districts as part of its post-2010 census redistricting plan. Obviously the plan approved by the council managed to do that, but not without some migration of council district lines and the transfer of precincts among council members. Councilman William Theriot of District 9 was outspoken during the process in his opposition to losing some precincts in the Milton area where he enjoys strong support, but he did ultimately lose those precincts to District 8’s Keith Patin.
“It had gotten drawn out just a little bit,” Boudreaux says of the process this past spring. “As you know, there were a number of proposals that came forward and I think that Department of Justice standards as well as secretary of state standards kind of forced us to do what we would consider to be the right thing and avoid the gerrymandering and things of that nature.”
Once the plan is formalized, voters in precincts that have moved from one district to another will be notified of the changes via the registrar. The Lafayette Parish School Board must now decide whether it will use the CPC districts — the two bodies have had common district lines for the last decade — or devise its own plan.
Boudreaux is likely to announce DOJ's preclearance at Tuesday's City-Parish Council meeting.
A pdf of the plan approved by the council, known formally as Plan 5b1, can be viewed here.
MAY 24 Blogger Robert Mann posts this entry about the Baton Rouge Chamber's recent report on Louisiana's higher education system. It's critical to economic development, and yet our system is facing a "funding crisis" with no way to resolve it, the report says. The Chamber says control of tuition and fees must be returned to the higher ed governing boards.
MAY 24 Here's a NBC33 story about Tyrann Mathieu. He has signed with the Arizona Cardinals, inking a $3 million, four-year deal. He gets a signing bonus of $265K, but gets another, larger bonus if he doesn't get cut from the team for doing drugs. The deal reportedly includes mandatory tests and meetings for the player.
MAY 24 Jarvis DeBerry posts here about the redonkulus rhetoric that would have us believe NOLA is a safe city with a murder problem. Maybe the city's crime stats don't compare with its murder stats because you can't manipulate a murder, he says: a dead body's a dead body. It just doesn't make sense, he says, and his readers agree: a poll asks if they believe the city is safe, and more than 90 percent say no.
MAY 24 Jindal administration officials announced Thursday that the privatization of public health care is going to cost a lot more than they budgeted for, the Advocate reports here. "I'm so surprised," said no one. Anywhere. The cost they're projecting now is more than $1 billion - a lot more than the $626 million budgeted for it. And, it's more than it cost the state to operate those hospitals. So why are we doing this again?
MAY 24 Blogger CB Forgotston ridicules the recent PR campaign by the state GOP in the wake of a legislative auditor's request to both major parties. The GOP (apparently unaware that the Dems got the same request) started yammering about being targeted because it had "killed" a tax increase. CB finds that laughable, but it's also pretty funny that the GOP was comparing this episode to the IRS scandal (Because the President has so much to do with our state auditor. Right?).
MAY 24 Politico details some recent fund-raising efforts by Sen. David Vitter, which have raised the question of his future political plans. This time, it is a $5,000 per head "bayou weekend" that includes "Cajun cooking" and an all-caps "alligator hunt," the story reports. Funds raised go to a super PAC that can spend money to support Vitter in federal or state races, the story points out.
MAY 24 The pink building on Royal in the quarter was sold at a sheriff's sale Thursday, this Picayune story reports. An injunction that would have halted the sale wasn't enforced because the family failed to post a $150,000 bond, the story reports. So the owner of the mortgages on the building bought it, for nearly $7 million. Now the feuding family will have to negotiate with that company to get a lease on the building that has housed their business for close to 60 years.
MAY 23 This post in Louisiana Voice tells us about a bill by a Winnsboro lege that would require all public high school students to take at least one Course Choice online class in order to graduate. (What?) Blogger Tom Aswell says it's a monument to "waste and corruption," especially in light of the problems he's exposed with the program in recent weeks. Idaho had a similar program, but voters removed it by a 2-1 margin, Aswell says.
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.
Philip deMahy Sr., a once respected New Iberia ad exec, was sentenced May 2 to spend the next two years (he faced up to 100 years) in a state penitentiary after state and federal investigators found dozens of images depicting children engaged in lewd sexual acts on his personal computer.