Quietly, as other stories dominated the news over the last month, something possibly monumental and definitely overdue for the city of Lafayette was brewing behind the scenes.
A group comprising former Charter Commission members Don Bacque, Bruce Conque and Greg Manuel, along with adman George Graham and attorney Kevin Blanchard, began making the case to influential stakeholders in the parish’s business and political classes that the charter for Lafayette Consolidated Government needs fixing to give the city of Lafayette autonomy in its financial and civic affairs — just like every other municipality in the parish. The end game, they hope, is to place before voters next spring — no one wants to see the measure on the fall 2014 ballot jumbled in with federal, state and local elections — a referendum on redrawing districts in the parish so the city of Lafayette has five districts wholly within the city limits. The proposal would create through those five districts a “city council” within the City-Parish Council that would have sole discretion on ordinances that affect only the city of Lafayette — the budget and Lafayette Utilities System foremost. This isn’t a new idea; it was formerly known as “The Hefner Plan,” after demographer and former school board rep Mike Hefner. Now they’re calling it the Fair and Focused Plan. And it is fair. Currently, city-parish districts are drawn in such a way that most council members represent residents who live in the city, the unincorporated parish and even, in some cases, other towns within the parish. And some of these council members are not residents of the city; they pay no city property taxes and have no skin in the game, yet they vote on things that apply only to the city of Lafayette. That isn’t fair.
Group members I’ve spoken with indicate a general acceptance of the plan by the parties that have heard the pitch — Acadian Home Builders, Realtor Association of Acadiana, among others. Four of the five small-town mayors embrace the concept. (Broussard’s mayor has yet, as of this writing, to meet with the group.) Even the Tea Party folks, I’m told, recognize the basic democratic-with-a-small-d ideal in the city having control of its financial and civic destiny.
The Fair and Focused Plan group grew out of inaction by the council in 2012 to do anything about the charter and Lafayette autonomy, following deconsolidation’s electoral defeat the previous fall. Not coincidentally, the council was chaired and vice chaired that year by Jared Bellard and William Theriot, respectively, parish guys who seem happy to keep the city of Lafayette under a rural thumb.
“We think this thing needs to be moved forward,” says Conque, who championed deconsolidation two years ago.
Group members have been stressing that the plan wouldn’t affect consolidation or the already-separate budgets of the city and the parish. We would still have a city-parish president. It wouldn’t cost anything to do this, as in no new taxes. Nothing about LCG would be affected. The only change is that on ordinances or resolutions that involve only the city of Lafayette — whether to use city funds to purchase the Horse Farm or grant LUS a rate hike, for example — only those “city council” members would vote. The other four council members would sit out such votes.
But here’s the rub: In order to fast-track the creation of a charter commission — the first step in creating a ballot initiative for spring 2014, which must be vetted by the Department of Justice, secretary of state and others — it has to clear the City-Parish Council, and that’s far from a given. Four council members, all representing mainly outside-of-the-city constituencies, probably won’t vote in favor of creating a commission: Bellard, Jay Castille, Kevin Naquin and Theriot. Four of the five “city” council members — Don Bertrand, Kenneth Boudreaux, Keith Patin and Brandon Shelvin — are on board. That’s 4-4. The swing vote is Andy Naquin, whose 6th District is the only on the council that is completely within the city of Lafayette. But, alack, he has pretty much toed the Bellard-Theriot line since coming into office.
The former Charter Commission members who have been making the presentations hope their fellow former commissioners will agree to serve on a new Charter Commission to avoid the steep learning curve the 2011 commission faced. The thinking is, the work of a reconstituted commission will be faster and more fluid, accommodating the tight timeline for getting a measure before voters next spring.
For Greg Manuel, a prominent home builder and former Charter Commission member who embraced the Hefner Plan early, it’s time to move on this. “Get it in front of the people,” he says. “Let’s explain to them what it’s about and let’s give them another chance. They only had one choice last time: no change or radical change.”
The Fair and Focused Plan is modest change that rights a listing LCG, benefitting the city of Lafayette without jeopardizing the “benefits” of consolidation. What’s not to like?
Law firm unveils newly renovated 200-year-old building.
UL grad named web developer at BBR Creative
Lafayette-based emergency department staffing and management company raises $120 million in senior credit facilities through GE Capital, Healthcare Financial Services.
High-rise apartment building, parking garage, hotel and retail part of new development.
A common thread runs through many of those we oppose: Enshrining in the Constitution protections on programs and their funding sources has had a disastrous effect on Louisiana’s most important economic development engine.
"I am extremely disheartened by the political machines that are attempting to hijack my efforts along with others that advocate for children."
Landrieu, who is fighting to keep her seat for a fourth term, said that Ebola is serious and precautions should be taken, but she accused Republicans of using the virus outbreak in West Africa to "create fear" here at home.
The number of Louisianans with jobs continued to set records in September, but the state's unemployment rate kept rising as new job seekers keep entering the market.
Three bedroom cottage or three bedroom ranch
Sheer lace perfection
Acadiana's nightlife guide.
Louisiana is drowning, quickly.
Law enforcement agencies are participating in a "Louisiana Heroin Summit," designed to address the recent rise in heroin use and drug-related deaths around the state.
State education officials are preparing to release performance scores for public schools and public school districts.
Saints coach Sean Payton is starting a new week by emphasizing, repeatedly, the many good things he noticed during New Orleans' latest loss.
Tuesday's Blogs from the Bog!
Oscar de la Renta dies; Pistorius sentenced; World Series begins and more national and international news for Tuesday, October 21, 2014.
We will be offering our recommendations on the constitutional amendments tomorrow.
Three bedroom in Lawtell or two bedroom in Rayne
Fall's new darling
The justices did not comment in leaving in place lower court rulings that dismissed the lawsuits against BP and other companies involved in the worst U.S. offshore oil spill.
White registration is down by 7,700 voters while black registration has shot up by 7,100 voters.
Even though it had been rumored for months, U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu finally pulled the trigger recently on a major campaign shakeup that moved control over to a few Big Easy insiders.
Acadiana's nightlife guide.
Louisiana's health department says it will seek law changes to stop billing sexual assault victims for exams and tests.
An investment group led by Macquarie Infrastructure and Real Assets will buy the Louisiana power company Cleco for $3.4 billion.
It wasn’t the historic slashes to higher ed funding or the ensuing tuition spikes that recently had LSU’s student body and faculty riled up in collective outrage.
"I feel it is appropriate to speak up when there are topics that are being bandied about with little or no factual data to back them."
Will $400 be enough for the re-election campaign of LPSB's Hunter Beasley to overcome two years of holding our school system hostage and hurting the education of our children all because of a personal dislike of the superintendent?
Saints tight end Jimmy Graham said Friday he expects his playing status in Detroit to be decided by coach Sean Payton on Sunday, shortly before the game.