Wednesday, August 11, 2010
Written by Walter Pierce

Lafayette voters could be asked to extend the current terms of some of
our elected officials.

If you like your representative on the City-Parish Council, or if you like City-Parish President Joey Durel — double the pleasure if you like both — you’ll be pleased by what the Lafayette Charter Commission has asked LCG’s legal department for an opinion on: Can the current terms of the CPC and Durel be extended by one year?

Some of you are howling in protest already. Put a sock in it. We the voters would make that decision, not the charter commission.

All of them, Durel and the council, face re-election in October of 2011, assuming each chooses to seek another term (Durel is already stoking the campaign fundraising fires), and the timing of those elections is problematic. If the commission takes the full nine months to make its recommendation on what to do about the charter, voters won’t learn what the parishwide proposition will be until sometime late in March or early in April of next year. And if the recommendation is that late-breaking, the proposition won’t go before voters until probably February of 2012 at the earliest. By that time a new term for the council and city-parish president will have begun — elected in October 2011 or in a November runoff and sworn into office in January of 2012. State law prohibits an elected official’s term in office being shortened by a change in government structure. So, if the commission recommends repeal of the charter or a significant change to the charter that affects the council or C-P president, and voters approve it, that change couldn’t go into effect until 2016, after the council and C-P prez complete the four-year term that commences in January 2012.

You’re probably feeling an urge to take an aspirin and lie down for a spell. I sympathize, but bear with me.
If we were to extend the term of those officials by one year, we would have the opportunity to decide at the ballot box whether to accept the charter commission’s recommendation — remember, this is likely to occur in February 2012 — before an October 2012 election for council and C-P president. Consequently, if we vote in favor of the commission’s recommendation, whatever that may be, it can take effect in January of 2013 when the winners of the fall 2012 election are sworn in.

An added benefit of extending the current term of Durel et al by one year is that it would move elections for those offices to even-number years when we also elect federal officials, which would probably save us some money on elections and also increase voter turn-out for council and city-parish president elections.

If voters in Lafayette Parish are reflective of the anti-incumbent sentiment that seems to be the national mood right now, this term extension idea could be a tough sell. The commission will need to advertise it as a means of ensuring that we don’t have to endure an extra three years of a system of government that obviously needs improvement — I say obviously because we wouldn’t have created a charter commission if there weren’t fundamental flaws in our current form of consolidated government, chief among them the city of Lafayette’s increasingly compromised ability to make decisions on its own behalf without the input of people who wear overalls and watch Hee Haw.

I’m kidding of course. I don’t think Hee Haw comes on anymore.

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