Questions about the questionnaire for the 2010 census are settled; the Senate last week blocked Sen. David Vitter’s bid to include a citizenship question. It could mean the loss of a U.S. House seat for Louisiana and a bizarre redrawing of the remaining six districts in the state. Much closer to home, next year’s census poses some serious questions about how Lafayette Parish will be reflected in the composition of the City-Parish Council, and it could have a profound effect on the balance of power in our parish.
The Greater Lafayette Chamber of Commerce has begun studying the distribution of souls in the parish and how that might affect the redrawing of district lines. Bruce Conque, now a vice president at the chamber and a former city-parish councilman, has been assigned the task of crunching these numbers. Bruce and I have met for coffee a couple of times recently, and while he and the chamber haven’t taken a position on what the parish numbers may mean for our consolidated government, I’ve been drawing some unsettling conclusions. Chief among them: The city of Lafayette, which comprises a majority of the parish population, could have minority representation on the council within a few years.
Based on a 2008 estimate by LCG’s Planning Department, which used information from utility providers, Lafayette will have a population of approximately 215,000 when the U.S. Census Bureau hits the streets next year for its decennial head count — 56 percent in the city, 28 percent in unincorporated areas and 16 percent in the smaller municipalities like Broussard, Carencro and Youngsville. But since the 2000 census, as anyone who drives around Lafayette knows, growth in the parish has overwhelmingly been toward the south and the southeast — in the areas of Broussard, Youngsville and Milton.
The city-parish charter requires that all nine districts, which are the same for the parish council and the school board, have roughly equal numbers. Consequently, working with a total parish population of 215,000, each district should contain about 24,000 people. Right now districts 7,8 and 9 — the southern “growth” districts — have more than 24,000. District 7’s population is 3,000+ higher, District 8 is 1,500+ and District 9 is a whopping 7,000+. At the same time, the inner city Districts 3, 4 and 6 are a combined 14,000+ below what they will need to be when districts are reapportioned following the census.
The trend is clear: People are moving out of the heart of the city and into the suburbs and smaller towns. The conclusion is virtually inescapable, too: The number of districts in south Lafayette Parish outside the city limits will have to increase — at the same time they’ll shrink geographically to account for population density — while the inner city districts will expand geographically to pull in more people to get to that magic number of 24,000. How we maintain two majority black districts at the same time will no doubt impress the most limber contortionist.
Ultimately, the possibility that the current council make-up of five city districts and four rural districts becoming four city districts and five rural districts takes on the shape of certainty. And if you subscribe to the view that council members outside the city tend to be less favorable if not downright hostile to the idea of government funding for the arts, and generally anything that benefits the city of Lafayette, what becomes of Festival International de Louisiane or Festivals Acadiens et Creoles or a comprehensive master plan?
MAY 17 Here's a column from James Gill, this time in the Advocate. Gill, who has jumped ship from the Picayune, writes about the absurdity of dueling polls in this post. The numbers are so wildly different, it is obvious that both sides are "cooking the books," he writes. In particular, he looks at Sen. Mary Landrieu, and how her recent actions in DC have been received by those polled. Gill's acerbic, amusing prose is a welcome addition to a paper so conservative as to be occasionally lacking in personality.
MAY 17 Blogger Tom Aswell continues delivering bombshells about the state education department and Gov. Jindal's education "reform" efforts. In this post, he reports that students in the Shreveport area have been signed up for a charter school without their knowledge or consent. Most interesting to Aswell is how this Texas-based charter (with ties to GOP types) got the personal student information it has, if the students didn't give it.
MAY 17 This post by JR Ball in the Baton Rouge Business Report is an interesting tongue-in-cheek look at recent Baton Rouge economic development efforts. Among the items he examines is the idea that gaining a Costco makes BR a "world-class city." (Really? All you need is a different brand of Sam's? MK!) This effort, and other recent ones, are all built on the taxpayer's back, with tax zones, tax incentives and tax rebates, Ball writes.
MAY 17 Blogger CB Forgotston is critical of the legislature's reliance on a revenue-estimating committee's decision to include projected tax amnesty income in this year's forecast. That's a problem, CB posts, because the deadline for these people to pay their taxes is June 30, 2014. So when do you think these people who haven't paid taxes in years are going to pay their taxes? Surely not before June 30, and that means the money won't be there for this year's budget, he argues.
MAY 17 Here's an interesting blog out of California by a Hollywood writer, attorney and academic named Brian Alan Lane. He blogs about higher ed, and was a whistle-blower in a scandal over false credentials. In this post, he takes aim at LSU's new top dog, King Alexander. It's convoluted and a little confusing, but it sure makes Alexander a lot more interesting than he was yesterday.
MAY 17 Blogger Robert Mann writes about the LSU Board's refusal to allow Dr. Fred Cerise to testify before the legislature about Gov. Jindal's plan to close down all the state's charity hospitals and dump the poor on the private system. It's hard to imagine anyone more qualified than Cerise to testify about that, so why would anyone try to prevent him doing so? Mann thinks it is because the powers that be aren't interested in hearing any truth about the plan.
MAY 17 This post on the Louisiana Sinkhole Bugle, a blog that notes developments in the Bayou Corne and Jefferson Island salt domes, talks about a proposed expansion of the salt dome storage under Lake Peigneur in Iberia Parish. Residents are working against it for several reasons, including two biggies: the sinkhole disaster in Bayou Corne and the continuing, unexplained bubbling on the surface of the Lake.
MAY 17 NOLA police arrested more people Thursday accused of either being involved in the Mother's Day shooting or hiding the suspect afterward, this Gambit story reports. The NOLA police chief said he suspects the whole thing was gang-related and throws out a challenge to the gangs: he's got informants now, he says, and he knows a lot more than the gangs want him to know. The people who live in the neighborhoods terrorized by gangs are ready to talk, he says.
Is it a crime for citizens to photograph, video, or take notes of a police officer in the line of duty, or a right protected by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution? Locally, such activity, as witnessed recently, will at the very least result in a night spent behind bars.
David Calhoun and Elizabeth “EB” Brooks are the first two employees of Lafayette Central Park Inc., the nonprofit charged with turning Lafayette Consolidated Government’s 100-acre Johnston Street Horse Farm property into a passive public park. Calhoun was named executive director, and Brooks is director of planning and design.
Episcopal School of Acadiana’s Dr. Joshua Caffery, chair of the school’s English Department, is headed to Washington, D.C., and the Library of Congress as the latest winner of the Alan Lomax Fellowship in Folklife Studies.