Walter Pierce

Charter commish meets today

by Walter Pierce

A recently appointed seven-member commission tasked with tweaking the Lafayette City-Parish Charter will hold its first meeting at 1:30 p.m. today. Newly elected council chair Jay Castille (District 2) made appointing a commission his first order of business after being chosen for the post.

The commission — Castille and fellow council members Keith Patin (District 8) and Kenneth Bourdreaux (District 4); City-Parish President Joey Durel, Cajundome Director Greg Davis, plus two members of the commission that drafter the original charter — will look into, among other things, changing the wording in the charter to allow the council more time to redraw district boundaries after census figures are released. The charter requires redistricting six months before a council election, and census numbers aren't expected until March of 2011 — six months before the October elections, which would give the council virtually no time to redraw the districts. Castille also wants the charter to allow for more members on the Planning Commission — currently a five-member panel — and he wants Durel’s job title to be changed to Mayor-President.

The thorniest issue facing the commission is a revision to language governing how matters pertaining to Lafayette Utilities System are decided. LUS is a city-owned entity. Currently, ordinances like the LUS rate hike, which was approved as an introductory ordinance last week, are voted on by the Lafayette Public Utilities Authority — the five council members who districts are majority city — as well as the full council. If the LPUA votes down an ordinance, a vote by the full council is unnecessary.

But what happens if the LPUA approves an ordinance and the full council votes it down? The charter is vague on a mechanism to address such a parliamentary impasse. Durel told The Advocate he wants to change the charter to reflect the LPUA’s role as the sole governing authority for LUS. But here’s the rub: Even the four non-LPUA members of the council represent some city of Lafayette residents, and if they are prohibited from voting on LUS ordinances, those city residents — LUS stakeholders — have no voice in issues related to LUS, including rate hikes. Is this tantamount to taxation without representation?

The City-Parish Charter was adopted in 1996 when the city and parish consolidated. To read a pdf version of the charter, click here. Today’s meeting is informational only; no decisions about changes to the charter are expected. The meeting will be held in the council auditorium and is open to the public.