Supporters of a failed ordinance that would have reconvened the 2011 charter commission and ultimately let Lafayette voters decide whether to redraw council districts in Lafayette Parish are licking their wounds and weighing their next move today. The ordinance, sponsored by four of the five council members who represent majority-city of Lafayette districts, was strangled in the nest — the ordinance didn’t even get out of its introductory stage and move on to final consideration in two weeks — thanks in large part to a nay vote by District 6 Councilman Andy Naquin, the only councilman whose district is entirely within the city limits of Lafayette.

We spoke Wednesday morning with some of the proponents of the ordinance who say they’ll get together in the next few days and devise a game plan moving forward. The ordinance will come back before the council sooner than later, perhaps with the caveat that a new charter commission comprise all new members. (The ordinance that failed last night stipulated that members who served on the 2011 charter commission would, if they wanted to, be reappointed to the new commission, and according to comments at last night’s meeting all nine former commissioners indicated they would be willing to serve on a new commission.)

Regardless of the individual council members’ motives for blocking Tuesday’s ordinance, supporters of the Fair and Focused Plan know the clock is ticking, and a so-called “nuclear option” may come to pass.

Supporters also hold out hope that one of the five who voted against the ordinance Tuesday night can be swayed in the interim, convinced that allowing the charter commission process to move forward isn’t an endorsement of whatever the commission recommends but rather simply an acknowledgement that voters in Lafayette can be trusted to make their own collective decision on how we operate politically in Lafayette Parish. But that one vote will likely have to come from one of the four councilmen who represent rural-small town Lafayette Parish: Jared Bellard, Jay Castille, Kevin Naquin or William Theriot. The pro charter commission element isn’t counting on Andy Naquin changing his mind anytime soon. For many of them, Andy Naquin’s stubbornness on this issue is nothing short of vexing.

Here’s what we do know about the District 6 councilman’s intransigence: It is impregnable. Andy Naquin is a long-time employee of Doug Ashy Building Materials. The Acadian Home Builders Association, whose members have been major customers of the company since forever, were instrumental in helping Naquin win election to the council in 2011. In the weeks leading up to Tuesday night’s vote, major players in the AHBA lobbied Naquin to vote in the favor of the ordinance, more or less telling him the home builders’ group was ready to see some dividends on its investment. The home builders didn’t get that payoff, and we’re told they along with others who pushed Naquin to support the ordinance are gearing up to find a credible candidate to challenge and hopefully unseat him in 2015. Naquin takes his marching orders from the radicals in the tea party, and so far he is passing the purity test with flying colors.

Another consideration: Chatter in political circles has District 5 Councilman Jared Bellard, at the urging of that rightwing, tea party element in the parish, seeking state Rep. Joel Robideaux’s seat in the Legislature in 2015. (Robideaux is term limited and likely to seek the city-parish president post against current Chief Administrative Officer Dee Stanley in ’15.) But although Bellard represents a mostly rural southwest Lafayette Parish district, he lives within the city limits of Lafayette, and if he decides he wants to remain on the council, redrawing the council districts to comport with the Fair and Focused Plan — that is, five districts entirely within the city and four covering unincorporated Lafayette Parish and the smaller towns — would likely pit Bellard against Andy Naquin in a 2015 election. The two have become part of a far right voting bloc on the council — allies — and clearly wouldn’t relish a head-to-head campaign.

Regardless of the individual council members’ motives for blocking Tuesday’s ordinance, supporters of the Fair and Focused Plan know the clock is ticking, and a so-called “nuclear option” may come to pass. The nuclear option involves sending members of the Lafayette legislative delegation to Baton Rouge next March for the spring session with marching orders — get the city of Lafayette permission to hold a city-only referendum on breaking up Lafayette Consolidated Government, essentially seceding from LCG. Voters in unincorporated Lafayette Parish and the small towns wouldn’t get to vote on this referendum, unlike the 2011 parishwide deconsolidation vote, which was shot down thanks mainly to voters outside the city.

Here’s what the city of Lafayette is looking at long-term if it cannot ensure its autonomy in fiscal matters: being perpetually under the thumb of non city elements, of the rural mindset.



If Lafayette Parish’s council districts are to be redrawn to comport with the plan before the 2015 election, that city-only referendum would need to be held in the fall of next year or spring of 2015 at the latest. And with population projections suggesting the city of Lafayette will represent a minority of the parish population — it’s currently about 52 percent — in the not-so-distant future, the urgency is palpable to either get a charter commission in place or arm a nuke in the Legislature.

But even proponents of Fair and Focused acknowledge that the average voter in the city of Lafayette is either unaware of or unconcerned with budget inequities that exist in our current form of “consolidation” — a happy word that has no basis in reality; the only entities that are consolidated in Lafayette Consolidated Government are the city of Lafayette and the unincorporated parish. The smaller towns of Broussard, Carencro, Duson, Scott and Youngsville are entirely autonomous with their own elected councils and mayors and no interference from outsiders, unlike the city of Lafayette, which has non city residents voting on matters that pertain only to the city.

Here’s what the city of Lafayette is looking at long-term if it cannot ensure its autonomy in fiscal matters: being perpetually under the thumb of non city elements, of the rural mindset. Lafayette city population growth has been stagnant for several years now, but the rest of the parish, especially Youngsville and Broussard, continue to grow. It’s likely that by the time the 2020 census takes place, after which council districts will have to be redrawn to reflect population distribution, the city of Lafayette will represent a minority of residents in the parish — somewhere around, say, 48 percent. This will probably result in the council balance of power shifting rural, with five seats representing unincorporated Lafayette Parish and the small towns and four seats for the city of Lafayette.

Now imagine how a vote on something like the Horse Farm or funding Festival International or the Comprehensive Master Plan would go over. If the five rural reps on this new, post-2020 census council decided they didn’t want to let city of Lafayette voters decide on, for example, increasing an existing sales tax to pay for an infrastructure project or approve a new property tax to build a convention center, they could shut it down purely out of ideological spite — as, we would remind you, they’ve tried to do on numerous occasions over the last several years —  even if every member of the “city” council was in favor of it.

That is a grim prospect.

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