Wednesday, January 19, 2011A demographer and former school board member believes he can satisfy the concerns of the city without blowing up the charter. By Walter Pierce
A demographer by trade — these are tall cotton days for Hefner’s profession as cities, parishes and school boards gear up for redrawing districts based on the 2010 census, the results of which are expected as early as next month — the former school board member believes it’s possible to redraw Lafayette Parish’s districts so there are five city districts entirely within the city and four parish districts entirely outside the city while also satisfying the Justice Department caveat that Lafayette have two majority-black districts.
Hefner used 2000 census figures for his mock redistricting and says he managed to pull it off, although the city districts in this model are a few percentage points larger in population than the parish districts. It’s a given, however, that in the decade since the 2000 census the city’s share of the total parish population has fallen, and Hefner believes this population shift will help further balance the districts when they’re redrawn this spring.
He will brief the Lafayette Charter Commission on this issue tonight, Wednesday, Jan. 19. It could prove to be a turning point in the commission’s ongoing deliberations. Or maybe not.
The commission was created at the behest of city-minded members of the City-Parish Council — and those who have their ear — concerned that Lafayette Parish is growing to the detriment of the city, with population exploding in the south, outside the city. If the trend continues, they worry, eventually the City-Parish Council will have to become a five parish-four city board, and the city of Lafayette will be hostage to the prerogatives of non-city residents.
Hefner doesn’t see this trend holding fast, at least not in the short term.
“If it happens, this will take 30 or 40 years,” Hefner tells me. “I just don’t see the unincorporated area growing with the city of Lafayette remaining static. I think the city of Lafayette is going to continue to grow. I think you’re going to start seeing more of these neighborhoods go through the typical neighborhood life cycle where people are going to start moving back in, start having kids. We’re already seeing it in the schools, in the population of our schools.”
I see Hefner’s neighborhood life cycle thesis in my own neighborhood — Oaklawn, a leafy subdivision straddling Myrtle Boulevard between the Saint Streets and Four Corners. When my family moved there more than a decade ago, we had an abundance of elderly neighbors who had raised their own families in these cottage homes. Many have since moved on — literally and, uh-hum, figuratively — and young families are moving in. The population is being replenished and trending Nickelodeon and MTV.
The same neighborhood life cycle, Hefner says, is also happening in the Saint Streets and Greenbriar — neighborhoods in the core of the city.
Hefner believes his redistricting model could be the salve to sooth the city’s angst.
“I think it would address about 95 percent of the issues that are underlying a lot of discontent with the charter right now,” he says. “I’m going to be real curious to see how it works out with the 2010 numbers. What I’m going to show them is what may be possible. I just want to show that, hey, it is possible.”
Possible, yes. But where a plan like Hefner’s could still be a tough sell for city folk is that it doesn’t address the issue of executive leadership in city-parish government.
According to the current charter, the city-parish president can be elected from anywhere in the parish. Joey Durel is a city resident and, although he says all the right things about representing everyone in the parish, his administration has always been mindful of and responsive to city concerns.
That wasn’t the case during the eight years Walter Comeaux was in office. Comeaux was a Broussard resident and, I’ve often heard it said, his administration undermined the city. Annexations all but stopped, and to compound the matter LUS water was given away, which diminished the incentive for parish residents to agree to be annexed into the city for its sparkling, potable H2O. The small towns grew and developed while the city idled.
So while I like Hefner’s plan for the way it tidily addresses city of Lafayette autonomy, without a mayor all our own we’ll continue to be exposed to the possibility of having a chief executive who doesn’t have the city’s best interests at heart.
Thousands of people who bought health insurance through the marketplace created by the federal health care overhaul face price hikes next year that could top 10 percent.
Three bedroom traditional Lafayette home or three bedroom Breaux Bridge home
Style market slated for old Artesia
The city prosecutor has released the case file for Lafayette Parish School Board member Tehmi Chassion’s simple battery complaint against Superintendent Pat Cooper, and the seven witness statements given to police illustrate two very different scenarios.
Acadiana's nightlife guide.
Louisiana fell one spot in an annual national ranking of child well-being that looks at poverty, education and health access.
A federal judge has decided he doesn't need to hear more arguments in the case of a gay couple who want a Louisiana marriage license.
Saints again bring playoff aspirations into 2014 campaign.
New details in the case against the man arrested for last week’s bomb threat and bank robbery has surfaced, including a MidSouth Bank surveillance video showing the alleged suspect attempt an early-morning bank robbery.
Citing conflicting witness accounts, the city prosecutor will not pursue Tehmi Chassion’s allegation of simple battery against Superintendent Pat Cooper.
Wednesday's Blogs from the Bog!
Smoked meat, fresh sides and the best boudin around
Michael Sam focuses on making the team; Christians flee Mosul; Kerry at work in Middle East and more national and international news for Wednesdays, July 23, 2014.
Mellow Mushroom Pizza Bakers opens on Johnston.
Cirque du Soleil effortlessly combines circus art with beloved Michael Jackson hits.
Kelly Guidry Open House
Parents and teachers who support the Common Core education standards sued Gov. Bobby Jindal Tuesday over his actions against the multi-state standards, accusing him of illegally meddling in education policy.
Acadiana's nightlife guide.
An arrest was announced this morning in connection with last week’s bomb scare at UL Lafayette.
Attorneys, judges and others interviewed by LaPolitics expect 15 to 20 district judge races this year.
"I feel like I'm under siege," an attorney said recently over drinks at Galatoire's Bistro in Baton Rouge. "We all do. Every time I turn around somebody wants a check. District attorney races. The judges. They're killing us."
As a requirement for running for Congress in the 6th District, former Gov. Edwin Edwards has filed his financial disclosure statement with the U.S. House showing his income in 2013 totaling $242,787.
Unlike those swindled by Bernie Madoff, the victims of Texas businessman Robert Allen Stanford’s Ponzi scheme won’t be getting any relief from the Securities Investor Protection Corp.’s emergency fund after a recent appellate court ruling.
Acadiana's Top 50 Private Companies
It would be an understatement to say Schumacher Group had a challenging year in 2013.
Hampton Toyota has been serving Acadiana as the premier Toyota dealership for more than 10 years. And now, the glossy Johnston Street dealership is looking forward to a makeover.
Even when Floyd Degueyter is on “vacation” he’s hard at work.
As the second largest metal heat treating company in the country, Analytic Stress Relieving Inc. has grown by leaps and bounds since its inception in 1979.
When the Prohibition era came to an end in 1933, Joseph R. Streva saw an opportunity to make a little extra money to supplement his day job.
When a hurricane hits, Brent Mouton doesn’t run. The convenience store chain owner is proof that the challenges of mother nature can almost break a business, but Mouton learned to grow out of temporary closure from near devastation in 2002 and of lost potential revenue.