Lafayette Parish Council Creates Council to Review Consolidation
The Lafayette Parish Council will form its own committee to address questions surrounding the possible deconsolidation of the Lafayette City-Parish Government.
The council voted 4-0 to create the City-Parish Alignment Commission. District 5 councilman Abraham Rubin was absent from the meeting.
Prior to the final vote, the council voted to strike a bullet point in the resolution tasking the commission with reviewing ways the parish council could "best protect LUS ratepayers and ensured the success of LUS and LUS Fiber." The council also approved an amendment offered by District 2 councilman Kevin Naquin reducing the commission's time limit from two years to six months with no chance for renewing the commission's term. The resolution recommends the the CPAC and the city council's Protect the City Committee meet at the end of the six-month term to find a solution of the consolidation question.
"I want to do what's right by the taxpayers," Naquin said.
Protect the City Committee member Mark Pope urged the parish council to keep the original two-year timetable. He said the entire the current problems stem from a rushed effort to put the deconsolidation effort on the 2018 ballot. Pope urged the council not to make the same mistake and rush its fact-finding process.
Earlier in the meeting, Naquin said he does not necessarily support forming a new commission because he's seen other commissions formed by the previous consolidated council send recommendations upon which the council never acted. Naquin says he wants city and parish council members to stop pointing fingers at each other. he also said parish council members--both on the current council and the previous consolidated council--have worked to advance city causes. Naquin cited the Moncus Park project and the current parish council's efforts to help the other municipalities in the parish take over parks not in the city of Lafayette as examples of the parish helping the city.
Council chairman John Guilbeau, who co-sponsored the resolution with District 3 councilman Josh Carlson, said the intent of this commission is not to interfere with the business of the Lafayette City Government. he says he truly believes that the city and parish councils can "get to the heart of the matter" of consolidation through open discussion and negotiations.
According to the resolution, the commission will "inform by means of an ongoing performance and process review, to improve the overall delivery of services, identify strengths and weaknesses (in consolidation), and advise the Lafayette Parish Council on recommendations to strengthen the working relationship between the City of Lafayette and the Parish of Lafayette."
Lafayette resident Andrew Duhon was one of many city residents to speak against the resolution. He said the parish council has no business getting involved in any effort by city residents or city councilmembers to seek full deconsolidation.
"The parish council and the parish government provide statutorily-required purposes, such as the courthouse and drainage," Duhon said. "I don't need nor do I want my parish councilman getting involved in city affairs.
André Comeaux lives in Guilbeau's district. He said he asked Guilbeau to withdraw the resolution because he feels it's "contentious." Comeaux added that he believes deconsolidation is inevitable and that the parish council should begin planning for when deconsolidation happens.
Protect the City Committee member Jan Swift closed the public discussion by asking the parish council to keep an open mind with regards to convening a charter commission to further study deconsolidation. Swift warned the council that if they refuse to do so, residents could start a petition to force the council to convene that commission.
Carlson closed the discussion by saying this commission is the parish council's way of having equal representation in the deconsolidation talks. Carlson said a city council member told him the deconsolidation issue is the city's and that the parish council was along for the ride. Carlson called the Protect the City Committee's draft report as a "solution in search of a problem." He added that the report presented a preconceived view of the consolidation issue and included inaccurate information, including claims that city funds are being used by the parish government.