Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Bad blood on the City-Parish Council is beginning to flow. By Walter Pierce

Journalists who cover the Lafayette City-Parish Council hope for it, but political intrigue is a capricious lady. We long for the bickering, graffiti-scribbling days of yore. Yet 2011 is already showing promise that the animus of the Chris Williams era could return with gusto. Such enmity may be counterproductive for political progress, but for a beat writer, baby, it’s gold.

I submit into evidence last week’s election of council leadership. The new CPC chairman is Kenneth Boudreaux, who takes over from Jay Castille. Jared Bellard replaced Keith Patin as vice chair. The election of Boudreaux and Bellard — ideological opposites if there ever were — was a surprise to many because theretofore that council, which came into office together in 2008 (with the exception of Sam Dore, who won a special election in spring 2009), had observed the gentlemanly tradition of elevating the previous year’s vice chair to the post of chairman. Outgoing 2010 Chairman Castille was vice chair in 2009, and so on.

I and many others, including one councilman I spoke with the afternoon of the vote, assumed Patin was a shoo in. But, I’ve been told by multiple sources, Bellard, nursing a grudge, wanted to stick it to Patin, so he cut a deal with his political foils, Boudreaux and Brandon Shelvin. It’s unclear if Bellard had lined up the votes to become vice chairman, but he agreed to vote for Boudreaux as chairman if Boudreaux were nominated, which Shelvin dutifully did.

This rancor between Bellard and Patin, I’m told, goes back to Nov. 24, 2009, when the council voted 5-4 against an appeal by residents straddling the districts of Bellard and Purvis Morrison. The residents  — more than 150 — were opposed to a high-density residential development off Tabb Road. But the council upheld Planning, Zoning & Codes’ approval of the project. The roll call — three Democrats and two Republicans voted for the subdivision; three Republicans and one Democrat voted against it — was, on the surface, intriguing enough to prompt me to write a column about it the next week (“Strange Bedfellows,” Dec. 2, 2009).

More germane to last week, Patin was among the five who voted to deny the appeal and let the development proceed. Bellard voted for the residents — half of them are his constituents — and against the development, and he neither forgot nor forgave Patin’s snub.

Patin showed himself the better man last week, however: Even after Bellard voted against him and for Boudreaux to be chairman, Patin voted for Bellard to be vice chair over the other nominee, Shelvin.

Other sources have told me that Bellard and William Theriot, the latter to a lesser extent, have become increasingly isolated on the council, even from their fellow Republicans. Moreover, their animosity toward City-Parish President Joey Durel, who retaliated against their nay votes on the horse farm, NGO funding and comprehensive master plan by blocking public works projects in their districts, is well known.

It’s fair to assume that voting for Boudreaux to be council chairman — Patin is seen as a Durel yes man — was also a way of poking Durel in the political eye.

One source who watches the council closely and had caught wind of the Boudreaux-Bellard coup ahead of the vote found the episode delightfully amusing: “I couldn’t wait to see Jared Bellard and William Theriot vote for the most liberal Democrat when they paint themselves as such ultra conservatives and tea party types,” the source says, pointing out that a delegation from the Tea Party of Lafayette was in the council auditorium for an unrelated matter. “I just can’t wait to see how they answer to that. I was wondering what was going to be harder for them to swallow, a turd or their pride.”

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