Plan to split Lafayette City-Parish Council advances

Posted at 11:23 PM, Jul 10, 2018
and last updated 2018-07-11 00:23:22-04

The plan to split the Lafayette City-Parish council into two separate councils is advancing.

The introductory ordinance to amend the Home Rule Charter passed, which would give the city and parish its own 5 person council.

Under the proposed changes, the city and parish councils would deconsolidate but the Mayor-President position and other aspects of LCG would remain consolidated.

Current term limits would get a clean slate and council members would have the ability to run under new term limits of 3 consecutive terms.

The introductory ordinance passed in a 5-3 vote, but not before an hour and a half of discussion and contention. 

Councilman William Theriot attempted to have the ordinance deferred for two months, arguing that council is rushing this ordinance while not giving the public enough of a chance to voice their opinions.

"So what we’re being told as the citizens of this community is that it’s okay to draw new district maps behind closed doors and give two weeks to the general public, in the middle of the summer, two weeks to comment," said Theriot.

Councilmen Patrick Lewis and Jay Bellard echoed those concerns.

"Why can’t we wait until the 2020 Census to give us a clearer picture of our problem targets by district? I need more to explain to my constituents exactly what this means. And that is the reason I cannot support it, because I cannot answer questions that my constituents want to know," said Lewis, who’s district could be most affected by the re-drawing of district lines.

This new plan means changes to the district map, and potentially instead of two "majority-minority" districts there could be only one.

Heated debates among council members took a toll on much of Tuesday night’s meeting.

"Mr. Theriot, I don’t know if you got any accusations you want to make again and attach a name to it but I’d be very careful for what you are accusing people of on that end," said Councilman Jay Castille, who has been vocal for the separation of councils. "This is an introduction. This is not final. These maps you’re talking about, that can change about ten times. That can change tonight. Inclusion? You want to talk about inclusion Mr. Theriot? I wouldn’t include you on anything because of your negative attitude."

Supporters of the ordinance argue that it will allow the parish to focus on its own issues… while allowing the city to regain its autonomy.

"It does not I repeat it does not impact Lafayette Consolidated Government under the administration of the Mayor-President," said Councilman Bruce Conque, who was one of the members who has been working on the amendments.

 Meanwhile, members of the audience, including a former parish council member, urged the council to fix what they say are problems with consolidation.

"I’ve been involved in local government for over 30 years and throughout that time there’s only one vote that I regret, and that was the vote on consolidation. We’ve had this experiment for 20 years and as was pointed out, it’s hard to serve two masters," said Conrad Comeaux.

Now this ordinance will go for a final vote on July 24, and if approved it will go to the voters on December 8.