Wednesday, May 12, 2010
Written by Walter Pierce
A critical step toward addressing Lafayette’s political issues is about to commence.
We’ll have a pretty good idea before the next issue of The Independent Weekly drops who will comprise the charter commission. Tuesday, May 18, is the deadline to submit résumés. Nine registered voters in Lafayette Parish — five from the city and four from the unincorporated parish (but none from the five small towns) — will be selected from that pool of candidates, their appointments divvied up among the city-majority and parish-majority council members and City-Parish Prez Joey Durel.
The commission will have nine months to dig through our 58-page constitution, figure out what works, what doesn’t, or if the whole thing should be scrapped and Lafayette should return to a city government and a parish government.
The huge “if” dangling over the charter commission’s work — and it would be the most dramatic modifier of our means of governance — is total consolidation, that is, abolishing the small town governments and having one truly consolidated government for the parish. Language in the ordinance creating the commission is vague on whether that’s an option. But even if the commission recommends it, it’s not likely to happen. In the 14 years since LCG’s creation, the smaller municipalities in the parish have grown toward the money — Carencro has grabbed hold of Interstate 49, Scott and Duson have developed around I-10, Broussard has turned U.S. Highway 90 into a cash conduit.
The only municipality in the parish that stands to benefit in any way by blending into LCG is Youngsville. The town is overwhelmingly residential, and its sales tax base has long strained to generate enough revenue to provide services to its suburban sprawl. But with Youngsville’s recent annexation on the Ambassador Caffery extension, along with the opening of Chemin Metairie Road, the town is looking ahead to a considerable expansion of commercial development.
And there’s also the question of identity. Lafayette Parish’s small towns have their separate characters, and the residents in the unincorporated parts of the parish are more likely to identify with the closest small town than they are with urban Lafayette. I would suggest that as these towns attach their siphons to the corporate sources of revenue along interstates they risk losing that identity, but at the same time, those revenues increasingly make the small towns financially independent.
The legalities of total consolidation remain shifty, but unquestionably each town must make the decision, should it come to that, internally. As with the consolidation vote in 1992 in which the city of Lafayette had to vote in favor in order for consolidation to be approved — we’ve chewed long enough now on the irony that not only did the city of Lafayette approve consolidation, but it was also on the basis of that majority vote within the city that consolidation won parishwide — so it is with the towns. If the parish as a whole were to vote for total consolidation, that approval would have to be reflected within the towns. We can’t make Broussard or Carencro give up their mayor and council unless the residents there vote to do so. They are sovereign municipalities.
Total consolidation appears to be the least likely recommendation that could come from the commission. It’s probably safe to assume that improving the existing charter will be the preferred course, with deconsolidation a distant second.
Unlike virtually every other appointed commission in the state of Louisiana, Lafayette’s charter commission members will not be required to disclose their finances. There’s little doubt this will make serving on the commission more attractive and should widen the field of candidates. But it should also raise concerns. For example, what if a city resident appointed to the commission also owns land in the unincorporated parish? Would such competing interests affect the votes of that commission member?
At just beyond the halfway point in collecting candidate résumés, let’s cross our collective fingers and hope they’re engaged, conscientious, knowledgeable candidates, and that the council and parish president apply those same adjectives to the selection process.
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Irish style is smiling
Here's your daily look at late-breaking national and international news, upcoming events and the stories that will be talked about Wednesday, March 12, 2014:
Abshire has rejoined the Lafayette Bar Association, where she previously served as marketing coordinator under longtime Executive Director Susan Holliday
Home-grown Baton Rouge market/deli heads to Lafayette.
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Acadiana's nightlife guide.
Gov. Bobby Jindal offered a budget proposal that suggests new education and health care spending, pay raises for state workers and an incentive fund to encourage colleges to enhance their science, engineering and technology training.
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Low heels, high style
The board hopes to recover all fees paid, plus one-half, along with what could amount to hundreds of thousands in additional penalties.
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Acadiana's nightlife guide.
Hopefully he’ll be better prepared today than he was in that Feb. 20 deposition.
They came by the hundreds, arriving from all regions of the state to gather on the steps of our Capitol in protest of the Legislature’s long tradition of giving industry the go-ahead to abuse our air, our water and our coastline, all in the name of good economics.