The Lafayette city-parish government has stumbled once again in an effort to create a new agency to address blight.
On Monday, state Rep. Joel Robideaux, No-Party, Lafayette, pulled legislation that would have created the Lafayette Parish Redevelopment Authority.
The agency, proposed by City-Parish President Joey Durel, would have had the authority to buy and sell property, partner with private developers, levy taxes and borrow money for the sake of redeveloping blighted areas of the parish.
The goal of redeveloping blighted property seems laudable enough, but Robideaux killed the bill this session for what he characterized as divisions in Lafayette’s political scene over the legislation and over questions about the agency’s power to tax.
Robideaux vocalized his concerns about the agency’s taxing power after the Tea Party of Lafayette and others had made it an issue.
It seems the issue could have been addressed before the legislation moved forward this year, considering that Durel had asked Robideaux to handle an almost identical piece of legislation last year.
The prior legislation was pulled in 2010 at the request of Durel, who had said he needed more time to ease tensions about the proposed agency.
Robideaux said his questions about the agency’s taxing power arose after legislative staff attorneys reviewed the bill. He said he had initially thought any tax imposed by the new agency would require a parishwide vote.
As proposed, the new agency would have had the power to impose taxes under some circumstances without a vote of the people.
That taxing ability, which is held by redevelopment authorities in other areas of the state, would theoretically be limited to small undeveloped or underdeveloped areas.
Robideaux also cited divisions among local officials.
On the City-Parish Council, that opposition came from Council Chairman Kenneth Boudreaux and Councilman Brandon Shelvin, who together represent an area of north Lafayette most affected by blight.
Boudreaux and Shelvin said north Lafayette residents should have more control over an agency that might be shaping the future of their community.
One proposed solution was to give Shelvin and Boudreaux one appointment each to the board that would control the new agency.
The issue of who sits on the board should have been an easy compromise, considering everyone involved has had a year to work it out since the last time the legislation had been proposed in 2010.
Durel has defended the proposed redevelopment authority as a badly needed tool to address the problems of blight and abandoned property in Lafayette.
Few people dispute the problem, but it seems local officials are having a difficult time sitting down in the same room to talk about it.
Durel and Robideaux said they are open to continuing to pursue the redevelopment authority legislation in some form.
If everyone can’t get on the same page to craft a workable proposal, they probably shouldn’t bother.
Robideaux noted that his fellow legislators would rather not approve a bill affecting Lafayette if local political officials are divided on what they want.
He said that before the redevelopment authority legislation comes back up a third time, he will work to get everyone on the same page and to address the lingering questions.
“We are going to figure all this out ahead of time,” he said.
Richard Burgess covers Lafayette city-parish government for The Advocate.
His email is firstname.lastname@example.org.