Lafayette City-Parish Council Chair Jay Castille has directed the legal department of Lafayette Consolidated Government to draft an ordinance that would clear the way for creation of an official charter commission tasked with making improvements to the existing City-Parish Home Rule Charter. While Castille’s creation of a charter committee in January — a committee that on Feb. 2 voted to advance an ordinance that would put a charter repeal to a parishwide vote — got talk of deconsolidation going in earnest in Lafayette Parish, the District 2 representative remains committed to maintaining consolidated government. “I think what we have is something that can be corrected and worked on,” he says. “We can’t just say, ‘Look, we’re just going to throw it to the voters and get rid of it.’ That doesn’t make much sense. I think it can be corrected, I really do.”
Last Tuesday the council deferred an ordinance that would have put a parishwide proposition on the ballot in November asking voters whether the current charter should be repealed. The deferral tables the ordinance for 90 days. Supporters of deconsolidation admit there weren’t the six votes necessary on the council to advance the ordinance anyway; deferring it was a means of putting the ordinance on life support rather than have it killed by a vote of the council. Some on the council who favor putting deconsolidation to a parishwide vote also had reservations about the ordinance as written: If approved, it would have returned Lafayette Parish to dual governments operating under their separate, pre-1996 charters — constitutions that many believe are outdated and wouldn’t be a suitable or better alternative to the existing consolidated charter. “Going back to the old charters is not solving our problems.,” Castille adds.
As council chair, Castille is in a position to steer the conversation on deconsolidation. And while his second district in north Lafayette is 48 percent city — he is no doubt hearing both sides of the debate from constituents — he remains intent on guiding the process toward improving the existing charter rather than repealing it.
“At this point,” says Pat Ottinger, city-parish attorney, “my scope is to create a charter commission that would study the current, existing charter for LCG and to make recommendations as to how it might be amended, approved, etc. I have not been asked to look beyond the current LCG charter to address potential charters for the city or the parish standing alone.” Ottinger says he expects a draft ordinance for the formation of a charter commission to be completed “maybe this week.”
Any changes to the charter will have to be approved by voters. As it stands, the only thing on a ballot in November of this year will be a proposition that would amend the existing charter to remove a requirement that council districts be redrawn at least six months before an election following the receipt of census numbers. Those census figures aren’t expected back from the feds until March of 2011 — seven months before the October council elections, meaning redistricting would have to be squeezed into a single month.
Ottinger says he anticipates the soonest the public could vote on broader changes to the existing charter recommended by a charter commission would be April of 2011. “I’m not saying that’s the objective,” Ottinger cautions. “My marching orders are not necessarily to see that happen by that date — to do it or not do it.”
Castille, meanwhile, awaits a draft ordinance clearing the way for the creation of a charter commission — a commission that would likely be a nine-member body with appointments made by the Durel administration, the council, and possibly another entity.
“We're going to do it right,” Castille says. “I’m trying to do this right.”
MAY 22 This post was written the day after the second line shooting in NOLA, by Brentin Mock. Mock is a friend of Deb "Big Red" Cotton, a blogger who was shot in the back and was seriously injured. It is a raw, emotional piece of writing, something the writer obviously felt he needed to get off his chest. But it raises questions that can't be easily dismissed, and might give some insight into where the source of these events truly is.
MAY 22 In this Baton Rouge Business Report post, Rolfe McCollister considers the privatization of bus service in Baton Rouge. After decades of under-funding, it is a mess, and although a tax (partially) passed last year, improvement hasn't happened yet. McCollister apparently feels it is time to let private business get in on the transit business.
MAY 22 This post on Bayou Buzz by Jeff Crouere urges the defeat of a bill that would grant modest pay increases over the next several years to the state's judges and clerks of court. The state is in no position to fund pay hikes, Crouere argues, with the pay increases costing a total of $9 million over several years. It sends the wrong message to the (proverbial) hard-working people of Louisiana, he says.
MAY 22 The Advocate reports here that State Treasurer John Kennedy is complaining about a meeting of the corporation that oversees the state's tobacco settlement. The Governor wanted it restructured, and he has some support, but not a lot. The corporation agreed with his plan, but Kennedy didn't, and it appears that the meeting was noticed in a manner completely different than that of all previous meetings. Kennedy's given to hyperbole, but in this case the fish don't smell too fresh.
MAY 22 In this Advocate story, Carencro Police Chief Carlos Stout says the recent federal indictment of a strip club owner is all wrong. The indictment alleges that drugs and prostitution went on with impunity because club staff made arrangements with "local" police. Stout says it never happened, and while his cops do work security in the parking lot, they're not allowed inside.
MAY 22 This amusing post in DIG Baton Rouge recounts an ad that ran on Craig's List recently; the advertiser was seeking tenants for a Beauregard Town house. He knew his market, and wrote an ad that the most ironical hipster couldn't resist. Apparently, he really did know his market, because the ad worked like a charm.
MAY 22 In this post in The Lens, Mark Moseley comments on the rhetoric Gov. Jindal employed in trying to save his tax "reform" package. One interesting point concerns Jindal's use of his brother, Nikesh, in a little story. Nikesh left Louisiana because of his inability to get a decent job, the story goes, but the story won't hold water: Nikesh lives in DC, which has an income tax level comparable to Louisiana, Moseley says. If income taxes caused the dismal situation, it should exist in DC too. Right?
MAY 22 This post by columnist John Maginnis traces the trajectory of the bill that would fund construction at community and technical colleges -- and bypass the Board of Regents and traditional higher ed funding mechanisms. Sure, it will bust the legislature's self-imposed debt limit, but some leges feel that there's more need (because there is more growth) in the community and technical college area than in the university area, he says.
David Calhoun and Elizabeth “EB” Brooks are the first two employees of Lafayette Central Park Inc., the nonprofit charged with turning Lafayette Consolidated Government’s 100-acre Johnston Street Horse Farm property into a passive public park. Calhoun was named executive director, and Brooks is director of planning and design.
There will soon be a whole lot of shakin’ going on at Benny’s Sportshack Supplement Depot, a new concept by Opelousas native Benny Nele. Located at 2002 Johnston St., the supplement shop, smoothie bar and café, featuring hot off the press paninis and wraps, plans to open in late May.