LAFAYETTE, La. — The Lafayette City Council will consider a resolution at its next meeting on Jan. 19 that would establish a committee to gather input from citizens on the benefits of City-Parish consolidation.
Proposed by District 1 Councilman Pat Lewis, the committee would ask for input from a "diverse range of citizens" on how consolidation benefits the City of Lafayette.
According to a release, Lewis says it would provide "an open, public, transparent forum for the discussion of the city's continuing problems with consolidation."
The committee would consist of seven members - each of the five districts would directly appoint a single committee member, and two additional members would be appointed by the city council as a whole.
Members would be selected from resume submissions by registered Lafayette Parish voters residing in the city of Lafayette.
Lewis explains in the release that the committee would examine topics ranging from the council's best approach at protecting city tax dollars, to protection of the ratepayer-owned Lafayette Utilities System, to the expenditure of city tax dollars outside of city limits, to whether consolidation or deconsolidation benefits the city, and more.
Committee members would then provide a final report to the city council so that decisions could be made on next steps to pursue.
Lewis added the following reasoning for bringing forth the resolution:
"From 2011 through 2018, measures brought to the voters for deconsolidation and amendments to the Lafayette City-Parish Home Rule Charter have been unsuccessful and have proven to be punitive to the City of Lafayette. The level of autonomy that the majority of voters throughout Lafayette Parish desired for the City of Lafayette in 2018 has not been realized after the first year of separate City and Parish Councils, particularly involving joint City-Parish matters that require input from both Councils. Unfairly, the associated expenditures are oftentimes funded almost entirely by City of Lafayette tax dollars, over which the City Council has not been allowed control. Even the City Council's attempt to retain its own legal counsel for its independent interpretation of the Home Rule Charter has been stifled by the administration."
The city council's special legal counsel resigned last November after a lawsuit filed against her by the City-Parish administration was amended to seek damages.
The counsel, Lea Anne Batson, was hired in part to provide the city council with a second opinion and to represent the interest of city taxpayers, Lewis said in a release when Batson resigned.
"The voters approved the charter amendments with the intent of giving the City of Lafayette more autonomy," Lewis states. "The administration is twisting the words of the charter to do just the opposite. This is now another example (of) how consolidation is not fair to the City of Lafayette."
Councilmember Nanette Cook stated, "I think it is obvious that our long experiment with consolidation has failed and that it is time to look at total de-consolidation of city and parish governments."
The proposed resolution will be considered for adoption at the Lafayette City Council meeting scheduled for Tuesday, January 19, 2021, at 6:00 p.m. in the Council Auditorium at Lafayette City-Parish Hall.
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