LAFAYETTE — A dissenting member of the commission that proposed returning to separate city and parish governments in Lafayette is raising money for a publicity campaign against the move.
Voters are set to decide on Oct. 22 whether to undo Lafayette Consolidated Government, which formed when the once-separate governments for Lafayette Parish and the city of Lafayette merged in 1996.
The possible breakup was put on the ballot after a commission that was exploring changes to local government voted 6-3 in April to recommend that voters have their say on breaking up government.
Commission member Don Bacque opposed the move and was one of three members who were on the losing end of the 6-3 vote.
He has formed a political action committee to raise funds to defeat the proposal.
Bacque said this week his True PAC has raised more than $10,000 and he plans to continue seeking contributions to fund a media campaign.
“The goal is to educate the public,” he said.
Bacque said the shape and reach of the campaign will be determined by how much money True PAC raises in the coming weeks.
Bacque has also been making the rounds at civic clubs and government meetings to carry his message to “anyone who will listen.”
Bacque’s vocal counterpart in the effort has been Bruce Conque, a former commission member who supports breaking up government.
Conque said he has probably made his case at a few dozen meetings in recent months, but he is not aware of any organized campaign in favor of dissolving the consolidated government.
While Conque and Bacque are split on the issue, they agree that many voters are either unaware of the upcoming vote or have not given much thought to it.
“The general public does not appreciate how our existing government functions,” Conque said.
The driving force in pushing the issue to the ballot has come from within the city limits.
Among the main issues is the make-up of the nine member City-Parish Council.
Five of those members represent largely city-based districts and four represent rural-based districts.
Some of the city-based council members have complained that their rural counterparts have too much say over affairs within the city limits, including the budgets and oversight of the city police department, city fire department and the city-owned utility system.
That’s an issue because despite the consolidation of the parish council and city council in 1996, the city of Lafayette remains a separate legal entity with its own separate taxes to support fire, police and other city services.
“I’m looking for self-determination for the city of Lafayette,” Conque said.
Opponents of deconsolidation argue that the 1996 merger has brought a more regional focus to government that seems to be working.
Bacque said that undoing the merger would bring no real benefits but would add to the cost of running government because the proposal calls for creating two new councils where only one exists today.
“That’s money currently being spent on services,” he said.
Under the deconsolidation proposal, the nine-member City-Parish Council would be replaced with two separate councils — a seven-member council for the parish and a seven-member council for the city.
The city-parish president’s job would be replaced with a mayor for Lafayette and a parish president for Lafayette Parish.
If voters approve deconsolidation, the plan would not go into effect until 2016 because state law requires that the council members who are elected this fall be allowed to serve their full four-year terms.