CPC defers decon ordinance

by Walter Pierce

An ordinance allowing parish voters to decide on repealing the charter and undoing consolidation is on hold for 90 days; a committee will be appointed to develop a feasible timeline. Lafayette Parish voters in November will decide whether to amend the existing City-Parish Home Rule Charter to give the City-Parish Council more time to redraw council districts according to census figures received next March. Parish voters will not, however, decide on whether to repeal the charter itself and revert Lafayette Parish back to dual city and parish forms of government.

Bowing to an increasingly common sentiment that the push toward deconsolidation is moving much too quickly, the council Tuesday voted 5-4 to defer the deconsolidation ordinance for 90 days and to allow the council to appoint a committee to come up with a feasible timeline for putting such an ordinance before voters. The motion to defer the ordinance was offered by District 7 Councilman Don Bertrand, who said he's uncomfortable with the alternative to repealing the charter. "The way [the ordinance] is written today," Bertrand said, "it gives voters the opportunity to go back to the old charters for the city and the parish. I have some problems with the old charters." Bertrand referred the former Lafayette city charter as "antiquated."

Because the deconsolidation ordinance was deferred, by rule further discussion by the council or comments by the public were prohibited.

Instead, the council voted unanimously in favor of a fall-back ordinance that will place before voters in November an amendment to a section of the existing charter. It removes a requirement that council redistricting be completed at least six months before a council election. Because a council election is scheduled for October 2011 and the council isn't expected to receive census numbers needed for the redistricting until March 2011 - and public hearings and approval by the state Bond Commission and U.S. Department of Justice would also be required - the council runs the risk of being in violation of the charter. The fall-back ordinance remedies that prospect by removing the "six months before" language from the charter.