Lafayette

Jun 4, 2013 8:52 AM by AP

Chamber pitches change in control of business

LAFAYETTE, La. (AP) - The Greater Lafayette Chamber of Commerce is pushing a plan that would reshape local government to give City-Parish Council members from districts within the city of Lafayette complete control of city affairs.

The Advocate reports the proposal, dubbed the "Fair and Focused Plan" by the chamber, would create a separate five-member city council within the larger nine-member City-Parish Council.

Only the five members from city districts would have authority over city-specific matters, such as anything involving the city's Police and Fire departments or the city-owned Lafayette Utilities System.

Chamber Vice President Bruce Conque said Monday that the plan "allows the city council to focus on city of Lafayette issues."

Conque said chamber representatives have been meeting with community leaders to build support for the proposal, which would require the City-Parish Council to convene a special commission that would have the authority to propose changes to city-parish government's home rule charter.

Any changes ultimately would need voter approval, and Conque said chamber officials are hoping to get the proposal on the ballot in spring 2014.

Lafayette's once-separate city and parish governments merged in 1996, a marriage that was touted as way to improve efficiency and bring a more regional perspective to local government.

Under the consolidated system, the entire nine-member City-Parish Council votes on all issues, even though the city of Lafayette has remained a district entity with its own taxes, a city police department, a city fire department and a city-owned utility system.

Opponents of that scenario have argued for years that council members with large rural constituencies should not have a vote on issues peculiar to the city of Lafayette.

The plan proposed by the chamber would address that issue by redrawing city-parish council districts so that five of the districts are made up only of city residents and the four others are made up only of residents living outside the city limits.

The new plan, which would need the votes of at least five City-Parish Council members to move forward, received a mixed reaction from council members on Monday.

"I like what I've heard," said Council Chairman Brandon Shelvin, who represents a largely city-based district and backed deconsolidation in 2011.

Shelvin said he still has some questions about the details of the chamber proposal but supports the overall idea.

"I'm definitely going to welcome the discussion," he said.

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