Aug. 6, 2013 05:11
Will the District 6 councilman supply the critical vote clearing the way for a new charter commission?
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Will he or won't he? According to several sources - we tried unsuccessfully to reach him and await response to an email - Councilman Andy Naquin remains on the fence whether to vote in favor of an ordinance that, if approved on a final vote in two weeks, would clear the way for convening another charter commission to make (a) recommendation(s) to put before Lafayette voters concerning amending the Home Rule Charter.

The ultimate aim of the ordinance is essentially to reconvene the previous charter commission that met in 2011 and recommended repeal of the charter and a return to separate governments for the city of Lafayette and the parish - a referendum that was solidly defeated in a parish-wide vote. But supporters of this new charter commission movement have coalesced around adopting what used to be called the "Hefner Plan," an idea coopted by the several active members of the Greater Lafayette Chamber of Commerce and now called the "Fair and Focused Plan," that is, redraw the council districts so that five districts - a simple majority on the nine-person council - are entirely within the city of Lafayette and thus allowing the city of Lafayette to enjoy the same autonomy as every other municipality in the parish. (Currently the whole council, including councilmen who don't live in the city and pay no city property taxes, vote on matters that pertain only to the city of Lafayette; that's like giving  Mississippi state representatives seats in the Louisiana Legislature!)

Four councilmen who represent mostly city residents - Chairman Brandon Shelvin, Kenneth Boudreaux, Don Bertrand and Keith Patin - are sponsors of the ordinance, which will be voted on late Tuesday in a special council meeting following the regular council meeting that begins at 5:30 p.m. Four other councilmen, we're told, oppose the idea of convening a "new" charter commission: Vice Chairman Kevin Naquin, Jared Bellard, Jay Castille and William Theriot, all of whom represent largely unincorporated Lafayette Parish and the smaller municipalities.

That makes Andy Naquin of District 6, the ONLY member of the council whose district is entirely within the city of Lafayette, the swing vote. It would be astonishing - yet, frankly, not surprising considering his voting record, which has been largely aligned with the most conservative, rural wing on the council - if the District 6 councilman voted against the interests of the city of Lafayette.

We would remind the councilman that a vote in favor of the ordinance convening a charter commission is in no way an endorsement of any proposals that come out of the commission. It is, instead (in our opinion), merely an endorsement of the idea that voters in Lafayette can decide for themselves whether to amend the charter. (Yet, proof of what an albatross consolidation has been around the city of Lafayette's neck, voters parishwide would get to decide whether to give the city of Lafayette that much-needed autonomy.)

We would also remind the councilman that the Acadian Home Builders Association, chamber of commerce and other prominent business and civic groups have endorsed the idea of convening a new charter commission and ultimately redrawing council districts to give the city of Lafayette greater say in its financial and civic affairs. Even former charter commission members - Don Bacque chief among them - who opposed deconsolidation are in favor of the Fair and Focused Plan.