NGOs get first test of 2012

by Walter Pierce

Up for final adoption, Ordinance 009 would lead to the execution of a public service agreement between Lafayette Consolidated Government and Lafayette Mardi Gras Festival Inc. - and $7,500 in taxpayer money for the group.

[Update: Councilman Kenneth Boudreaux, the ordinance's sponsor, pulled the item from the council agenda Tuesday. It will be reconsidered on Feb. 7.]

Aside from the appeals by six downtown bars of one-year liquor license suspensions - appeals that are likely to be denied by the council, leading to legal action in state district court - another point of interest at Tuesday's City-Parish Council meeting will be whether the council votes in favor of Ordinance 009.

Up for final adoption after being unanimously approved in a batch of introductory ordinances two weeks ago, 009 would lead to the execution of a public service agreement between Lafayette Consolidated Government and Lafayette Mardi Gras Festival Inc., the major black Mardi Gras association in Lafayette that each year crowns King Toussaint L'Ouverture and Queen Suzanne Simonné - along with other dignitaries - holds a ball/pageant and hosts a Mardi Gras parade. The ordinance, if approved, will allow LCG to give $7,500 to LMGF. Although the ordinance and associated documents don't spell it out, a source close to the council says the money would be used to pay bands that march in the parade, which rolls on Fat Tuesday between the King's Parade and the Independent Parade. The ordinance is sponsored by District 4 Councilman Kenneth Boudreaux, many of whose constituents comprise the LMGF.

More important, the ordinance will test the continuing willingness by the council, now sporting two new members, to underwrite non-governmental organizations. The issue has been a source of controversy over the last four years, with far right council members representing non-city districts consistently voting against funding NGOs such as social service agencies and arts/cultural organizations like Festival International and the Acadiana Center for the Arts. That consistent opposition during the previous council's term came from Councilman Jared Bellard of District 5 and District 9's William Theriot, who two weeks ago were voted chairman and vice chairman, respectively, of the council. The pair was backed by the Tea Party of Lafayette during successful re-election bids last fall, and they've been joined on the council by fellow TPL-endorsed Andy Naquin of District 6.

Naquin is a wild card in this respect. Although he didn't shy away from Tea Party backing, he has told this newspaper he supports LCG funding of the horse farm and Festival International. If he does vote against 009, as Theriot and Bellard are expected to do if their voting trends remain consistent, then District 8 Councilman Keith Patin's vote will be one to watch. While Patin has voted in favor of the horse farm and other NGO funding, he's been pretty consistent in opposing LCG funding for social service NGOs. LMGF is classified as a social welfare organization.

Read the ordinance here.

To see what else is on the council's agenda, click here.