May 11, 2015 10:56 AM

Bruce Conque

Yet another example of how the city-parish charter works against the interests of the City of Lafayette occurred during the May 5 meeting of the Lafayette Public Utilities Authority. The LPUA is the governing authority of our Lafayette Utilities System.

In January of this year, the Lafayette City-Parish Council set a precedent by rejecting a LPUA action; the first such action since the charter was implemented in 1996. It was a manifestation of concerns expressed by this author and others that the City of Lafayette is losing control of its own governance: our utilities system, LUS Fiber, police and fire, and other authority exclusive to the operations of City government.

The rejected issue was back on the LPUA agenda during the May meeting with hopes of a favorable second council vote. With only three of the five LPUA members in attendance, it failed on a 2-1 vote. Legal counsel has opined that all LPUA actions must be approved by both LPUA and the Council; thus the matter was not allowed to move forward for a council vote.

It was a no-win situation. The charter, parliamentary procedure and, for some LPUA members, an inconvenient meeting time all conspired against the interests of our utilities system.

LPUA membership is composed of five council members whose districts have 60 percent or more city constituency. It’s notable that only one council district is totally within the City of Lafayette; the result being that the other four LPUA members (who may or may not be city residents) have an equal vote even though a large percentage of the population which they represent does not reside in the city and does not have ownership of LUS.

What is even more alarming is that LPUA decisions are subject to approval of the entire Lafayette City-Parish Council which collectively represents over 100,000 people who do not live in the City of Lafayette. Simply stated, they determine our utility rates for services which they neither pay for nor receive.

Certainly, the meeting time can be adjusted to be more accommodating. However, the source of this inequity remains the charter which has mostly remained unchanged since 1996 despite a significant parish population shift which is eroding the ability of the City of Lafayette to govern itself. The new council that will serve beginning in January 2016 must be prepared to comprehensively address the inequity that is the Lafayette City-Parish Home Rule Charter.

Finally, this fall’s council election may have a more immediate and significant impact on the LPUA membership. As of this writing, there will be a new council member from district 8 (Keith Patin is not seeking reelection) and there are announced candidates to unseat incumbents in districts 6 (Andy Naquin) and 7 (Don Bertrand).

It’s going to be interesting!

A former member of the City-Parish Council and vice president at the Greater Lafayette Chamber of Commerce, Bruce Conque is currently chairman of the Lafayette Planning Commission and a candidate for his former District 6 seat on the council.

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