Charter commish to hear 'demographic solutions'

by Walter Pierce

Using 2000 census numbers, demographer Mike Hefner believes the parish districts can be redrawn to address city of Lafayette autonomy.

The Lafayette Charter Commission will get a presentation Wednesday from demographer and former District 5 Lafayette Parish School Board member Mike Hefner on the likelihood of being able to redraw the parish's nine districts to create city districts wholly within the and four non-city districts with no overlap while still maintaining two majority-black districts that would satisfy the federal Voting Rights Act.

The owner of Geographic Planning & Demographic Solutions, a company that is working with school boards and city and parish governments around the state as they prepare to redraw districts based on the upcoming 2010 census results, Hefner has provided pro bono demographic research and consulting to Lafayette Consolidated Government.

"One of the things that struck me was, the incentive for looking at the charter was stemming from the fact that there are some issues that come before the council that are either LUS issues or issues that really just pertain to the city of Lafayette," Hefner says. "And we have parish representatives having a voice on some things that really are just the city of Lafayette or the utilities, and that it takes away from the city of Lafayette's autonomy or self-determination."

Hefner used the 2000 census results for a mock redistricting plan and says he was able to create five city districts and four parish districts with two of the city districts being majority-black. He acknowledges that the 2000 census numbers require the city districts to be slightly larger than the parish districts, but says he believes intervening growth outside the city over the last decade will help narrow that disparity.

"I think it would address about 95 percent of the issues that are underlying a lot of discontent with the charter right now," Hefner adds. "I'm going to be real curious to see how it works out with the 2010 numbers. What I'm going to show them is what may be possible. I just want to show that, hey, it is possible."

The charter commission will meet at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday in the City-Parish Council auditorium. The meeting was moved from Monday due to the federal Martin Luther King holiday.