Shift in Lafayette Parish population could bring changes to consolidated council

Posted at 10:50 PM, May 30, 2018
and last updated 2018-05-30 23:50:33-04

A shift in population across Lafayette Parish is raising questions about the future of the city-parish council.

According to the US Census Bureau estimates, from 2016-2017, Youngsville is up 479 residents, Broussard is up 502 and Lafayette is down from 581.

And that could bring changes to the Lafayette City-Parish Council.

At Lafayette City Hall, officials disagree and say Lafayette has grown in population, not shrunk.

"I think that we have some figures, we work annually with the treasurer’s office and do annual updates so our estimates with the treasurer’s office say that Lafayette is actually in the 130-132 thousand range," said Carlee Alm-LaBar, the director of development and planning for LCG.

Council district lines will be re-drawn regardless of the census results.

If the census bureau’s estimates are right, control of the council could shift from the City of Lafayette to the rest of the parish.

"Well, we’ll be creating 9 districts because there’s 9 seats on it. And what they might find [if city population decreased] is that instead of 5 districts largely consisting of the majority-city population, it may only be 4. And you may actually have 5 seats that have more non-city of Lafayette residents than you do the others. We may only be able to create 4 districts that have 60% or more city population," said Mike Hefner, a demographer who has worked with LCG and the school board for years.

That possible shift raises another issue, minority representation.

Because of the Voting Rights Act, that will be a priority for LCG when redrawing district lines.

"First order of the business is to make sure we, to the extent we can, keep the two majority-minority African-American districts viable. We’ve historically had 2 districts so if we can’t create 2 districts, then we have to be able to justify why we can’t," said Hefner.

Officials believe that they won’t be seeing any major changes just yet.

"I’m real skeptical about census estimates. I really feel like we’re not going to vary a whole lot when it actually comes down to the counts between City of Lafayette population versus the rest of the parish," said Hefner.

"The way our government is currently organized, the council will re-district according to a lot of different factors. And we project the city, at least in the short term, will still have the majority population so I imagine you’ll see that in the council districts as well," said Alm-LaBar.

Youngsville and Broussard are also among the 5 fastest growing cities in the state.

Officials from those cities say their rising numbers come as no surprise to them.

Youngsville mayor, Ken Ritter tells KATC these estimates show that city-parish consolidation needs to be reviewed.

But again these estimates are just estimates until the census is done in 2020.