Lafayette City Council voted 4-1 on Tuesday to convene a self-government charter commission to propose changes to consolidated local government, but that doesn’t mean it will happen.
Council volunteer Protect the City Committee worked for months to review the structure of Lafayette’s consolidated government.
After a long series of public meetings, this committee produced a report recommending that Lafayette city and parish councils call a charter commission to offer some level of deconsolidation to voters in an election.
The city council welcomed the suggestion on Tuesday.
“You may or may not agree with questions about this, but we are here to make continuous efforts to improve our city of Lafayette,” Councilwoman Liz Hebert said. “Whether you agree with everything in this (report) or completely disagree with it, you can completely agree with it.”
A Home Rule Charter Commission would have a maximum of 18 months to develop a proposal to change Lafayette’s form of government. It would then be presented to voters in a parish-wide election.
Councilman Andy Naquin voted alone against convening a charter commission on Tuesday, calling the measure “premature.” He attempted to postpone the vote but failed to gain the necessary support from the rest of the council to do so.
Naquin sought to delay the vote until the Lafayette Parish Council’s city-parish alignment commission, which was recently created in response to the city’s protection committee, completes its six-month study on consolidated government.
Councilor Glenn Lazard said he felt a delay was unjustified and would not change council’s support for the move.
“If we proceed tonight or wait a month, two months, three months, I don’t think the outcome will be any different,” Lazard said.
“That’s why I don’t see the point of delaying the inevitable.”
The city council vote calls for an 11-member commission, with one nomination each for five city council members and five parish council members, as well as one for mayor-president Josh Guillory.
But the city council’s supermajority support for calling a commission, which has been spurred by calls for greater autonomy and the city’s desire to elect its own mayor, alone won’t be enough to convene. a charter commission.
Instead, the Lafayette Parish Council must sign off on the city vote to accomplish anything. Members of the city council acknowledged that this was unlikely to happen.
The parish’s nine-member CPA commission, which is advisory only and not a charter commission, has not yet set a date for its first meeting.
The members of the committee are:
- Parish Councilor Bryan Tabor (Whole Parish Council)
- Councilor Nanette Cook (Wide Council)
- Charles “Buddy” Schilling II (Parish Councilor Bryan Tabor)
- Councilman Kevin Naquin (self-appointed)
- Pastor and Business Owner Joseph Richard (Parish Councilor Josh Carlson)
- Director of Publicity Paul Eason (Parish Councilor John Guilbeau)
- Accountant Will Thiele (A.B. Rubin Parish Councilor)
- Tim Breaux, Chairman of the Lafayette Republican Party (Mayor-Chairman Josh Guillory)
- Former mayor of Scott Purvis Morrison (area mayors)
The composition of the CPA Commission includes the most frequent negotiators on the current councils, but lacks a strong political bent, aside from Guillory’s appointment of Breaux. This suggests that anti-deconsolidation members of the parish council may not be trying to block a possible charter commission, but rather delaying current calls to convene one.
The commission’s six-month schedule will likely slow the convening of any charter commission long enough to avoid local ballot changes in 2023, when Guillory and the two councils are re-elected.
But that doesn’t mean the end of the road for efforts to convene a short-term charter commission.
Two potential leads remain.
The first is outlined in state law, which provides residents of a local government with the ability to convene a self-government charter commission through a petition, which in Lafayette Parish must collect signatures from 10,000 registered voters.
This would require members of a charter commission to be elected by voters before starting work on proposing changes.
The second option would likely be an uphill battle in court that city council members said they hoped to avoid.
Councilwoman Nanette Cook, a supporter of the charter commission and the only city council member appointed to the parish council commission, said she hopes to make progress in finding a solution that serves the interests of the city and of the parish.
“I believe we can work with the parish on this. I appreciate that we now have an alignment committee, and the word ‘functional consolidation’, to me, has some merit that I think we need to look at as well,” Cook said.
“I look forward to working with them to see what we can do together to see what works best for both entities because, again, Lafayette is in the parish.”