LUS on commish agenda

by Walter Pierce

LUS is probably the biggest bone of contention regarding the Lafayette Home Rule Charter. The Lafayette Charter Commission will get the 101 on operations of Lafayette Utilities System from Director Terry Huval during its Monday meeting.

LUS is probably the biggest bone of contention regarding the Lafayette Home Rule Charter. The charter designates the Lafayette Public Utilities Authority - the five city-majority council members - as the governing body for the public utility. But while the LPUA votes on matters related to LUS, the full, nine-member council has routinely voted as well, setting up a scenario in which non city-majority council members' votes override the will of the LPUA. It hasn't happened yet, but it's a very real possibility.

Some city-majority council members have questioned why their votes should carry the same weight as the votes of council members who represent very few city residents. (Each of the four "parish" council members represent some city residents served by LUS; preventing them from voting on LUS issues would effectively disenfranchise the city residents they represent, hence the dual votes by the LPUA and the full council.)

Next spring, when the parish gets the results from this year's census and redraws district boundaries, there's a possibility that representation on the council could shift from five city-four parish reps to four city-five parish reps, in which case the LPUA, as delineated in the charter, would by law become a four-person panel. That in turn poses the risk that the LPUA could become deadlocked by 2-2 ties.

The charter commission will likely look at ways to rectify these issues by considering, among other things, removing LUS authority from the council and giving it to an appointed board comprising city residents. A weighted vote - that is, each council member's vote is in direct proportion to the number of city residents he represents - may also come under consideration.

Commissioners will receive briefings on the various boards and commissions under the Lafayette Consolidated Government umbrella, as well as hear from the mayors of the other municipalities, in the coming weeks. The commission is scheduled to begin deliberations on Nov. 1.

The charter commission meets at 5:30 p.m. in the City-Parish Council auditorium. The meeting is open to the public.