Charter commish: Final meeting before deliberations begin

by Walter Pierce

The Lafayette Charter Commission holds its final meeting Monday before the scheduled commencement of deliberations on Nov. 1.

The Lafayette Charter Commission holds its final meeting Monday before the scheduled commencement of deliberations on Nov. 1.

For the last two weeks, commissioners have discussed various models of governance for Lafayette Parish, most of which involve the creation of separate city and parish councils with a mayor or president similar to the forms of government that prevailed in the parish pre-consolidation, with one common caveat: Lafayette Parish government would have a council but no bureaucracy of departments and would instead use intergovernmental agreements with the six municipalities - Broussard, Carencro, Duson, Lafayette, Scott and Youngsville - to provide services to residents living in unincorporated parts of the parish.

However, Commissioner Don Bacque, a city resident, has remain steadfastly opposed to adding layers of governance, arguing the cost of creating new positions - specifically a city council and mayor for Lafayette - would be prohibitive.

In a letter last Tuesday, Bacque wrote to fellow commissioners:

It is my belief that the parish citizens are looking for the simplest, most cost efficient manner of addressing the current charter's shortcomings. This is not based on any empirical data, just a feeling that citizens do not understand or trust government, so the complex and expensive is very easy to dismiss. With that in mind, I proposed what is, in my opinion, the simplest revision to the governance structure that allows Lafayette City to regain its autonomy, with no added governmental expenditure. My suggestion would replicate the current LPUA.

I propose that the current 9 council districts be retained, concurrent with school board districts. This alleviates the expense of separate re-zoning and justice department clearance. Of the nine city parish council members, those 5, with the largest percentage concentration of city residents, would become the Lafayette City Council, and vote on issues that pertain only to the city of Lafayette. The entire 9 members would vote on parish issues. Although 4 current council members would have no vote on city issues, they would be allowed to be involved in the pre-vote discussion of the issues, and could make the wishes of their city constituents, if any, known.

What Bacque's proposed model fails to address is the disenfranchisement of city residents who live in the four predominately rural, non-city of Lafayette districts; it is the reason the full nine-member council has long voted on matters expressly reserved for the LPUA in the Home Rule Charter. In an email exchange with The Independent in response to his proposal, Bacque said he believes also electing a single at-large council member to represent only city of Lafayette residents would address the enfranchisement issue, although a 10-member city-parish council would present a considerable challenge, namely the likelihood of 5-5 stalemates.