CPC to vote on crumpets and cucumber sandwiches

by Walter Pierce

Many political observers in Lafayette Parish see the ordinance as little more than an election-year play to TEA party voters.

The Lafayette City-Parish Council will vote Tuesday on an ordinance for final adoption that, if approved - it won't be -  will serve as a vitamin-deficient treat at TEA parties in our center-right parish. The ordinance, co-sponsored by ultra-conservative standard bearers William Theriot, R-District 9, and Jared Bellard, R-District 5, would establish a policy prohibiting the council from considering future ordinances that levy taxes without a public vote.

Drafted in March, approved as an introductory ordinance with a batch of other ordinances on April 6 and then pulled by Theriot before a final vote later in April, the ordinance arose from the fracas over the proposed tax increment finance district that would have helped developer Glenn Stewart bankroll his Parc Lafayette development anchored by a luxury hotel. The Parc Lafayette TIF ordinance had the support of City-Parish President Joey Durel and the Lafayette Economic Development Authority, but the administration later pulled it from consideration amid a public outcry led by the Tea Party of Lafayette.

TPL, meanwhile, has been lobbying for the Theriot/Bellard "no tax ordinance," going so far as to run public service announcements on local radio stations.

State law, however, countenances the establishment of TIF districts to spur economic development because these tightly defined districts levy sales- and other taxes in areas where there are no residents. Consumers who shop at the retail developments that grow out of TIF districts pay the extra tax, which is dedicated to paying off bonds sold to finance the development.

While Stewart's Parc Lafayette proposal was inarguably a controversial use of TIF districts - the "spirit" of the state TIF law is to help spur growth in blighted or under-developed areas - few would argue that the TIF district established at Louisiana Avenue and Interstate 10 wasn't a positive use of state law; the once vacant acreage at the site is now home to a bustling commercial corridor anchored by national big-box retailers, with an Academy Sports & Outdoors in the pipeline. North Lafayette would not have enjoyed such robust development, at least not this quickly, without such a public-private partnership.

Many political observers in Lafayette Parish, this one included, see the Theriot/Bellard ordinance as little more than an election-year play to TEA party voters whom, as we'll likely discover this fall in at least a few CPC elections, are not as formidable an electoral force as they fancy themselves. Sources on the council say the ordinance will probably only garner two votes in favor - from its co-sponsors.

Keep an eye on District 7 Councilman Don Bertrand and District 8's Keith Patin, two GOP council members who have off and on been painted as RINO - Republican In Name Only - by the hardline conservatives in the parish. Each is likely to face an opponent from the right this fall, and their votes Tuesday on the Theriot/Bellard "no tax ordinance" should serve as a bellwether for TEA party influence in Lafayette Parish politics.