After an overwhelming rejection of deconsolidation at the ballot box Saturday, the general consensus among both supporters and opponents that something needs to be done to ensure the city of Lafayette controls its own affairs is gaining new footing. Even former charter commission member Don Bacque, who led the charge to oppose Saturday’s parishwide proposition, acknowledged throughout the process that autonomy for the city of Lafayette is important, although he believed that repealing the charter and returning to separate governments for the city and the parish was too extreme a measure. Clearly voters agreed Saturday, shooting down deconsolidation by a 63-37 percent margin. As The Daily Advertiser observed in a headline Monday, “Deconsolidation is off the table.”
One of those supporters of repealing the charter, City-Parish Council Chairman Kenneth Boudreaux, says he’s ready to move quickly toward a process for amending the current charter to ensure the city’s autonomy in the future.
“I plan on reaching out to the administration and I want to see some movement on this,” Boudreaux says. “We have seven [incumbents] in place and the same administration in place. The municipalities have recently gone through their elections. We just have to bring [District 1 winner Kevin Naquin and the winner of the District 6 runoff] up to speed, and I think they can catch on fairly quickly. But we need to move on this.”
The most likely option at this point would be to adopt some version of what has widely been called the “Hefner Plan,” after demographer and former school board member Mike Hefner, who believes Lafayette’s City-Parish Council districts can be redrawn in such a way that five districts are wholly within the city limits of Lafayette and the remaining four districts comprise the unincorporated parish and five smaller municipalities. But how far that Hefner Plan would go remains to be seen. Would a de facto “city council” within the larger council have authority over all aspects of the city budget and services, or only over Lafayette Utilities System, the city-owned public utility?
Right now that doesn’t seem to be a fine-grain concern of Boudreaux, who simply wants to get the process moving along, who adds he wants Bacque and other opponents of deconsolidation who nonetheless acknowledge Lafayette’s need to increased autonomy to put their money where their mouth is.
“We’re going to go through another census in nine and half years, and we need to strike while the iron’s hot,” Boudreaux says, adding with a chuckle, “I’m hoping that the [political action committee] that was created and raised all that money to oppose this, I hope they put their money behind it to fix it.”