In addition to U.S. senator, lieutenant governor and 10 constitutional amendments, voters in Lafayette Parish will decide Tuesday on a proposition that, if approved, would amend the Lafayette Home Rule Charter to give officials more time to redraw council and school board districts ahead of the October 2011 council election. As it stands, the charter requires the districts, which are the same for both the council and the school board, to be redrawn six months before an election for either body. However, parish officials don’t anticipate receiving results from this year’s census until March, meaning those districts would have to be redrawn, codified in an ordinance and put to a vote of the council within about a month’s time; city-parish attorney Pat Ottinger has warned that will be an impossibly small window to pull it off.
The proposition, although complicated in its wording — especially in its references to separate city and parish councils — effectively erases the six-month requirement in the charter. If the parishwide proposition is voted down and officials are unable to meet the six-month requirement for redrawing the districts, there is a possibility that federal officials could postpone the October 2011 council election.
Lafayette Parish is subject to the federal Voting Rights Act, which requires, among other things, that the parish have two majority-black districts. But since the 2000 census, the parish’s population has migrated south and out of the inner city where those majority-black districts — 3 and 4 — are located, creating an imbalance, with the southern districts overpopulated and the inner city districts underpopulated. A 2009 population estimate of roughly 215,000 parish residents shows districts 3 and 4 with about 17,000 residents apiece; District 9 in south Lafayette Parish is tipping the scale at more than 31,000. The redistricting process is meant to balance the populations in the nine districts, giving each approximately 24,000 residents.
Meanwhile, the Lafayette Charter Commission, which meets Monday evening, is on a trajectory toward recommending the creation — through a parishwide referendum — of a separate council and mayor for the city of Lafayette. The charter commission will wrap up its work at about the same time as the council and school board districts are being redrawn, so any recommendation made by the commission that goes to a parishwide vote couldn’t go into effect, assuming voters approve it, until 2016, or after the council and city-parish president elected in October 2011 finishes their four-year terms.
The proposition on the ballot Tuesday in Lafayette reads as follows:
Parishwide Proposition (Home Rule Charter Amendment) Summary: Amend Section 2-02 of the Lafayette City-Parish Consolidated Government Home Rule Charter to require redistricting to be accomplished in the manner, and within the time period, specified or prescribed by applicable law, and to require that the redistricting pertain and apply to districts for the election of members of the City Council of the City of Lafayette and of the Parish Council of the Parish of Lafayette if the next succeeding election after publication of federal census data is for such officials.
Shall the Parish of Lafayette, State of Louisiana, amend Section 2-02 of the Home Rule Charter and its title so as to read, as follows: “Section 2-02. Redistricting. Following official publication of the federal census by the United States Bureau of the Census, the council by ordinance shall, if necessary, alter, change or rearrange council district boundaries so as to provide for population equality among the districts as near as reasonably practicable. To the extent possible council districts shall be compact and be composed of contiguous territory. The redistricting shall be accomplished in the manner, and within the time period, specified or prescribed by applicable law. If, at any time, the next succeeding election for members of a governing authority following the official publication of the federal census by the United States Bureau of the Census shall pertain to the election of members of the City Council of the City of Lafayette and/or of the Parish Council of the Parish of Lafayette, the procedure described above shall pertain and apply to the district boundaries for the City Council of the City of Lafayette and/or the Parish Council of the Parish of Lafayette, respectively.”?
MAY 24 Blogger Robert Mann posts this entry about the Baton Rouge Chamber's recent report on Louisiana's higher education system. It's critical to economic development, and yet our system is facing a "funding crisis" with no way to resolve it, the report says. The Chamber says control of tuition and fees must be returned to the higher ed governing boards.
MAY 24 Here's a NBC33 story about Tyrann Mathieu. He has signed with the Arizona Cardinals, inking a $3 million, four-year deal. He gets a signing bonus of $265K, but gets another, larger bonus if he doesn't get cut from the team for doing drugs. The deal reportedly includes mandatory tests and meetings for the player.
MAY 24 Jarvis DeBerry posts here about the redonkulus rhetoric that would have us believe NOLA is a safe city with a murder problem. Maybe the city's crime stats don't compare with its murder stats because you can't manipulate a murder, he says: a dead body's a dead body. It just doesn't make sense, he says, and his readers agree: a poll asks if they believe the city is safe, and more than 90 percent say no.
MAY 24 Jindal administration officials announced Thursday that the privatization of public health care is going to cost a lot more than they budgeted for, the Advocate reports here. "I'm so surprised," said no one. Anywhere. The cost they're projecting now is more than $1 billion - a lot more than the $626 million budgeted for it. And, it's more than it cost the state to operate those hospitals. So why are we doing this again?
MAY 24 Blogger CB Forgotston ridicules the recent PR campaign by the state GOP in the wake of a legislative auditor's request to both major parties. The GOP (apparently unaware that the Dems got the same request) started yammering about being targeted because it had "killed" a tax increase. CB finds that laughable, but it's also pretty funny that the GOP was comparing this episode to the IRS scandal (Because the President has so much to do with our state auditor. Right?).
MAY 24 Politico details some recent fund-raising efforts by Sen. David Vitter, which have raised the question of his future political plans. This time, it is a $5,000 per head "bayou weekend" that includes "Cajun cooking" and an all-caps "alligator hunt," the story reports. Funds raised go to a super PAC that can spend money to support Vitter in federal or state races, the story points out.
MAY 24 The pink building on Royal in the quarter was sold at a sheriff's sale Thursday, this Picayune story reports. An injunction that would have halted the sale wasn't enforced because the family failed to post a $150,000 bond, the story reports. So the owner of the mortgages on the building bought it, for nearly $7 million. Now the feuding family will have to negotiate with that company to get a lease on the building that has housed their business for close to 60 years.
MAY 23 This post in Louisiana Voice tells us about a bill by a Winnsboro lege that would require all public high school students to take at least one Course Choice online class in order to graduate. (What?) Blogger Tom Aswell says it's a monument to "waste and corruption," especially in light of the problems he's exposed with the program in recent weeks. Idaho had a similar program, but voters removed it by a 2-1 margin, Aswell says.
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.
Philip deMahy Sr., a once respected New Iberia ad exec, was sentenced May 2 to spend the next two years (he faced up to 100 years) in a state penitentiary after state and federal investigators found dozens of images depicting children engaged in lewd sexual acts on his personal computer.