A day after the Lafayette City-Parish Council voted 7-2 to send to the voters a proposed series of amendments that would drastically change the legislative branch of local government, both sides of the issue are already gearing up for the next four months of campaigning.
The amendments would keep the Mayor-President’s office consolidated. However, it would split the City-Parish Council into a council that would oversee matters for the City of Lafayette while the other would oversee matters of importance to the rural areas of the parish.
“The debates have taken place, the meetings have happened, all the legal measures have been met. This is the result. Let’s move forward, let’s build momentum, with the intent to one day get to what has been expressed by quite a few people here today. Never perfect, but let’s get to the best thing that we can,” Councilman Kenneth Boudreaux said before the final vote Tuesday night.
The Lafayette City-Parish Council on Friday released highly anticipated revisions to proposed charter amendments that would split the council …
The vote occurred after nearly six hours of debate, and Christie Maloyed, an associate professor of political science at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, said she expects a robust conversation over the subject of partial deconsolidation over the next few months.
“This is going to be fun to watch. There are, as I understand it, definite forces that are mounting that are in favor of this. I’d also expect groups from the opposing side to start to mount soon as well. I’d keep an eye on Lafayette Citizens Against Taxes as they have been active against local tax initiatives,” Maloyed said.
Supporters of deconsolidation have already begun mobilizing well in advance of the December 8 parishwide vote.
One of the forces that helped move the proposal along was the Facebook group Fix The Charter. The group, led by Kevin Blanchard, is moving to form a Political Action Committee.
“The biggest disappointment we’ve had over the past few years about debates over votes is the spreading of misinformation like what happened with the school board tax and library tax,” Blanchard said. “Knowing how important this issue is for Lafayette, both city and parish, we decided to start a positive information campaign for a 'Vote Yes' movement.
“We want to make sure that if we have a conversation about this over the next four months, we want it to be factual and contextual, not just the usual political mudslinging.”
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Meanwhile, Councilmen Jarred Bellard and William Theriot, the two who voted against placing the amendments on the ballot, said they will urge everyone who asks them aobut it to vote against deconsolidation this December.
Bellard said the growing money problem for the unincorporated areas of the parish that has driven much of the deconsolidation effort would be best fixed not by splitting the council, but by everyone working together to annex those unfunded regions.
“The financial solution for the unincorporated areas needs to be fixed by having everyone annexed into a municipality. The unincorporated area has no tax base and any time there’s anything of value it gets annexed,” Bellard said. “We’d need the state to step in and have everyone get annexed into a municipality to fix the financial burdens of the unincorporated areas.”
Councilman Bruce Conque said he plans to speak to the Kiwanis Club on Tuesday about this and other issues facing the parish in the coming months and said the most important thing for him is to inform the public and let voters decide what they want at the polls this winter.
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“I primarily want to first promote awareness, provide information and encourage people to vote,” Conque said. “It’s important that they cast the vote, and regardless of how they vote that they do so in an informed fashion.”
Maloyed said other players may soon surface in the debate. She pointed out One Acadiana supported previous attempts to deconsolidate the council.
The Acadiana Advocate reached out to One Acadiana but was not able to get a comment on its current position.
The proposed amendments were prompted by changes that have occurred since the city and parish governments consolidated in 1996, Conque said. He pointed to the shrinking population inside the Lafayette city limits while neighboring communities like Broussard and Youngsville are booming. Some additional amendments were proposed last week to address some of the major issues opponents had with the proposed split.
One issue that drew concerns from the public in the proposed charter changes was the issue of terms limits. It was addressed by adding that term-limited members of the previous council could not run for the new council. An amendment was introduced by Councilwomen Nanette Cook and Liz Herbert to have the terms of members of the current council roll over to the new councils if they win election to those new bodies.
A few other amendments were proposed by Theriot that had a mix of success. When he proposed for the parish council to have seven members instead of five, or creating a mayor, parish attorney’s gave reasons as to why they could not add them in due to planning or maps needing to be redrawn.
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