Jan. 15, 2014 08:59 PM

Who does Joey Durel think he is? A popular, term-limited pol with little to lose and a legacy to secure, that's who. But what does this mini fracas say about us?

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Has City-Parish President Joey Durel been sleeping in a travel trailer in the front yard of his River Ranch home? Is this why he's all, "don't be overriding my veto, mo-fo" with the council? Only Lynne knows. Hmmm...  

Much ado about not much, if you ask me, this little eruption of G-rated enmity between the City-Parish Council and City-Parish President Joey Durel. Local media have been all over it: The council voted in October in favor of an ordinance prohibiting the use of travel trailers as permanent residences for more than 180 days in a year in unincorporated Lafayette Parish. Durel vetoed the ordinance. The council voted in November to override the veto. Durel revealed this week that he instructed LCG staff to not enforce the ordinance. The Fruit of the Looms of some council members got a bit wedged.

Not a big deal, really. And it's a pity this story has stolen the thunder from Councilman Andy Naquin, who took a brave, spirited stand against free golf for elected officials at the municipal courses. A few times a year.

But this story is telling in other ways methinks. Here are six takeaways:

1. The Economy is Kicking Ass: Why all the travel trailers popping up in people's yards to house itinerant workers? Lafayette is bustling. Home construction is booming, especially in unincorporated Lafayette Parish. Those workers have to lay their weary heads somewhere.

2. We're Still Probably a Xenophobic Community: The ordinance, according to published reports, was drafted by the Planning, Zoning and Codes folks following complaints from some residents out in the backwater about so many "itinerant workers" living in these travel trailers. For those of you unfamiliar with the lexicon of racial politics, "itinerant" means Hispanic.

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We're pretty sure this is Durel's home.  

3. Local Politics Are Unique: Unlike state and national politics, which have tended toward polarization, local politics are often, as in the case of this ordinance, pretty ideology-free. The council Democrats were joined by a Republican in passing the ordinance in October. The three tea party Republicans were joined by a mainstream Republican in voting against. But after Durel vetoed that sucker? All of them joined together to vote unanimously to override the veto!

4. Easy Breezy: Many communities are embroiled in bitter partisan fights over culture war BS issues or constantly catching their elected officials with their hands in the cookie jar. Lafayette? Not so much. If a low-humidity, 72-degree "controversy" over a ban on travel trailers as permanent residences is the best we can muster, we're getting along just fine.

5. Joey Durel Definitely Grew a Pair: It's one thing to send a directive to staff through back channels instructing them to not enforce an ordinance. It's quite another to tell the media at a Monday morning coffee meeting, especially after the council voted unanimously to override your veto of same. Joey Durel ain't scared of nothin'!

6. Consolidated, Shmonsolidated: The city of Lafayette already has a prohibition on travel trailers as permanent residences. The unincorporated parish didn't (and, de facto, doesn't, if LCG staff follow Durel's orders). The city has separate accounting books from the parish. The other five municipalities in Lafayette Parish aren't part of "consolidated" government. Lafayette Consolidated Government is a joke that works pretty well in spite of itself.


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