On January 15, 2021 the Lafayette Consolidated Government informed the public that changes were being made to the parking meter rates in Downtown Lafayette. According to the post, the rates will be increased 100%, going from 50¢ to $1.00 per hour. Monitoring will be increased nearly 400%, going from 9 hrs a day Monday-Friday to 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
We looked into how and why an unelected public servant can make such changes without public discussion. That answer begins, most recently, in 2017 when the previous City-Parish Council established a fee table for meter rates with ordinance O-116-2017:
Lafayette’s Code of Ordinances addresses parking
Sec. 86-146. – Establishment of parking meter fees.
The director has the authority to establish fees in accordance with the following schedule. The director is authorized to vary parking fees and duration based on parking demand by area and time of day; provided, however that the director shall not exceed the maximum amounts set forth in the table below.
Meter Space Duration
Range of Authorized Fee 15 minutes $0.10—$1.00 30 minutes $0.25—$2.00 1 hour $0.40—$4.00 2 hours $0.60—$8.00 4 hours $1.50—$10.00 8 to 12 hours $2.00—$12.00
Under that ordinance, the council set a minimum and maximum rate and delegated to the director the authority to adjust fees inside that range without their further involvement or public discussion. This ordinance replaced a previous resolution from 2012, R-049-2012, wherein the 1 hr max was $2.00. Why this table was changed when the hourly maximum was never actually imposed is unknown.
The 2017 ordinance also established that the director provide the council with quarterly reports:
Sec. 86-161.1. – Report to city-parish council.
The director shall provide quarterly written reports to the city-parish council regarding the assessment and collection of parking fees, which report shall include, without limitation, a breakdown of all variations in fees assessed by the director for meters and parking facilities during the quarter for which the report is provided.
Where are the reports?
I reached out to the director seeking these quarterly reports. However, the reply from the Mayor-President’s assistant was surprising. “Lafayette Consolidated Government does not have any quarterly reports as requested pursuant to…Chapter 86, section 86-161.1.” We then asked for any reports pertaining to the assessment and collection of parking fees but have yet to receive an answer.
Judging from the LCG press release, Downtown Development Authority (DDA) appears to have been in favor of increasing the rate changes. In fact, we found out that DDA helped produce the 5 year Downtown Lafayette Action Plan in 2014 which says to modernize our city we need to look at parking as a utility and use fees for parking as financing called “patient capitol”.
“1. Parking Infrastructure. We need to facilitate the establishment of pathways to the construction of structured parking in targeted redevelopment areas. This will require patient capital— the investment of money with a 20 to 30 year payback horizon— in the same way that a power plant is financed with patient capital. And like a power plant, the initial investment will be recouped through payments by the users of the utility— in this case fees for parking.” (from page 49 of the Downtown Lafayette Action Plan – emphasis mine.)
Surprised DDA Board called a special meeting
After the parking meter announcement happened late Friday afternoon, the DDA Board of Directors called a special meeting on Tuesday 01/19/2021 to discuss the issue. At that meeting, board members expressed surprise at the parking meter rate increase and round-the-clock monitoring. Members spoke of complaints from residents and business owners because these changes may greatly affect their employees and patrons.
One member suggested that parking has been a part of DDA’s mission, another that he believes there should have been better communication from the administration regarding the changes. It was pointed out that someone from the administration had recently attended DDA meetings, but never raised the subject. It could have been Traffic, Roads, and Bridges Director, Warren Abadie. However, reviewing a few years of board meeting minutes shows he was never recorded as being in attendance.
Anita Begnaud, the DDA chief executive officer, was asked directly by Board member, Miles Matt, if she had any advance warning about these changes. Begnaud answered that in times past there had been discussions. However, this particular rate and hours of enforcement change was a surprise to her. She had only been contacted for a statement after the decision had already been made.
Guillory blocks the increase
Just this evening we heard directly from Josh Guillory that he’s changing course. In part, he said, there will be “no increase and no 24/7 enforcement…no change at all.” He added, “While it was recommended by a few departments, and I do appreciate their advice, it is not necessary at this time. The feedback and further look at the actual impact was helpful. ”
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