Wednesday, February 23, 2011
The GOP in Lafayette is being challenged from the far right. By Walter Pierce
A tempest is brewing in Republican politics in this very Republican parish, and this fall’s city-parish elections may well wind up being a referendum on the tea party movement and how much influence it wields.
Perhaps emboldened by the nationwide success of the movement, the Tea Party of Lafayette has become an on-again, off-again presence at council meetings and, we’re told by sources, in the grills of GOP council members in need of a little corrective persuasion. They appeared before the council in late December to speak against a 2 percent pay raise for Lafayette Consolidated Government employees. The pay raise passed.
But recently, at a private meeting involving about a dozen TPL members and District 8 Councilman Keith Patin, a moderate Republican, things got ugly. Patin has confirmed that a handful of the founding father fetishists got aggressive and intimidating — think August 2009 and the town hall meetings over health care reform — accusing Patin of being “too pragmatic” and vowing to field a TP candidate against him this fall if he votes in favor of the creation of two economic development districts at an upcoming council meeting. (Several tea party members, we’re told, later called Patin to apologize for the behavior of their colleagues.)
If approved, the EDDs will allow for the levying of additional sales/use and hotel occupancy taxes — 1 to 2 percent extra in taxes — at a private retail development called Parc Lafayette on Kaliste Saloom Road across from River Ranch.
City-Parish President Joey Durel and other GOP leaders in the city support the concept, arguing that these additional taxes are voluntary — if you don’t want to pay the taxes don’t patronize the businesses, including a planned four- or five-star hotel, that are built there — and that they help accelerate commercial development in the city and, in so doing, expand the tax base.
The additional taxes levied at Parc Lafayette would go into a trust fund designed to pay off bonds issued to do the development.
Some are torn on the EDD idea. Yes, the taxes are voluntary. But what if Parc Lafayette goes belly up? Who pays the bonds when they mature? The developer — and those willing the take the risk of buying the bonds. There is no liability for the taxpayer. But you’ll have to attend the council’s March 15 meeting to get the lowdown on precisely how this will work.
And, as we understand it, there’s wide latitude written into the ordinances creating these economic development districts, allowing the developer to use the bond money to not only cover the cost of infrastructure, but to pay for the brass fixtures and bidets in the fancy hotel.
Yes, the additional taxes expire when the bonds are paid off. But widening the scope of the bonds to cover anything related to the development rather than limiting their use to infrastructure makes us uneasy.
If there’s anything the tea party can hang a bag of Earl Grey on, it’s the Home Rule Charter. Part D of Section 2-17, “Power to Levy Taxes,” reads: “All proposals to renew, levy a new or increase an existing sales and use tax shall be submitted to the voters for approval in accordance with the election laws of the state.”
That sounds cut and dry, but it runs counter to a state law — “Chapter 27 of Title 33 of Louisiana Revised Statutes of 1950” — allowing for the creation of economic development districts. If the ordinances creating these EDDs pass, could that lead to a lawsuit challenging them?
Durel, also a moderate Republican, is not insensitive to the sentiments steeping within his party. It can even be said he delivered a shot across the bow last week when, during his state of the parish address, he defended the concept of EDDs along the “voluntary tax” lines, saying of such taxes, “you do get to vote — with your steering wheel.”
A challenge to the tea partiers could even be read into Durel’s comments about “shrinking government” — a popular refrain in the TP song book — when he pointed out that government services must keep pace with a growing community. The idea is right, just not right wing.
And Durel has not been immune to what observers perceive to be TP pressure: Last November he pulled an ordinance creating tax increment finance districts thanks, sources tell us, to tea party pressure weakening the knees of a few councilmen who were on the fence about the TIFs. Durel said at the time that we “need more open, public discussion” on the issue.
I’ve always thought of Lafayette as a politically moderate, progressive city. This year is likely to test that view.
School board members Mark Babineaux, Hunter Beasley and Tehmi Chassion can vote to fire Cooper — because we all know that’s exactly what they’ll do.
District 2 school board candidate Simon Mahan is hoping to unseat first-term incumbent and former Carencro Mayor Tommy Angelle in the Nov. 4 election.
District Attorney Mike Harson is showing his desperation by falsely attributing quotes to his opponent and blocking journalists from his social media.
Three bedroom Acadian or a two bedroom town home
Ready to geaux in purple and gold
The governor is traveling the country laying the groundwork for a possible 2016 presidential campaign, but his approval ratings at home hover well below 50 percent.
State District Judge Bob Downing extended the order and delayed a planned Wednesday hearing about a permanent injunction while negotiations continue between Attorney General Buddy Caldwell and the waste disposal site operator.
New Louisiana higher education commissioner Joseph Rallo will be paid more than his predecessor.
The recently established Downtown Lafayette Restaurant & Bar Association will host a special viewing of the upcoming New Orleans Saints taking on the Carolina Panthers in the open air of Parc Sans Souci on Thursday, Oct. 30.
Belief in a national outbreak of the Ebola zombie virus is becoming more of a threat every day, and The Hayride — Louisiana’s one true bastion for unrelentingly conservative political commentaries — thought it wise to share a certain special someone's “important message” with readers Tuesday on what to do when, not if, it comes.
Acadiana's nightlife guide.
Elijah McGuire and Alonzo Harris each had four rushing touchdowns, and Louisiana-Lafayette rolled to 419 yards on the ground in a 55-40 victory over Arkansas State on Tuesday night.
Bill and Hillary Clinton are the validators-in-chief for Democrats struggling through a bleak campaign season in states where President Barack Obama is deeply unpopular.
JPMorgan Chase is giving $1 million to Louisiana's community and technical colleges, to help with workforce training efforts to match students to available jobs.
President Barack Obama is turning to black radio listeners to plead for midterm votes, a targeted approach to drum up Democratic support at a time when many candidates don't want him around in person.
WaPo Watergate editor Ben Bradlee dies; Clintons stump for Dems; Liberians stranded and more national and international news for Wednesday, October 22, 2014.
Wednesday's Blogs from the Bog!
Law firm unveils newly renovated 200-year-old building.
UL grad named web developer at BBR Creative
Lafayette-based emergency department staffing and management company raises $120 million in senior credit facilities through GE Capital, Healthcare Financial Services.
High-rise apartment building, parking garage, hotel and retail part of new development.
A common thread runs through many of those we oppose: Enshrining in the Constitution protections on programs and their funding sources has had a disastrous effect on Louisiana’s most important economic development engine.
"I am extremely disheartened by the political machines that are attempting to hijack my efforts along with others that advocate for children."
Landrieu, who is fighting to keep her seat for a fourth term, said that Ebola is serious and precautions should be taken, but she accused Republicans of using the virus outbreak in West Africa to "create fear" here at home.
The number of Louisianans with jobs continued to set records in September, but the state's unemployment rate kept rising.
Three bedroom cottage or three bedroom ranch
Sheer lace perfection
Acadiana's nightlife guide.
Louisiana is drowning, quickly.
Law enforcement agencies are participating in a "Louisiana Heroin Summit," designed to address the recent rise in heroin use and drug-related deaths around the state.