It’s true that there are some serious problems with the charter presented by the council and approved by voters during the low-turnout December election. Many local voters agreed that local government is broken, which is something made quite evident by all the tax increase proposals that have been pouring out of this council for the last three years. Perhaps voters thought this change would “fix” all that – but we knew better. As it turns out, the whole exercise is just an expensive divorce.
One of our earliest concerns was the haste with which certain elected officials (who happen to be the ones who vote for all the taxes) sped through the process. When pressed about this, the answer was, “What do you mean? We’ve been working on this for years!”
What’s the problem? It turns out that in the rush to throw together the precincts included in each new district, eleven have been divided between two (or more) districts and several of those divisions are ambiguous or just wrong. The list of precincts associated with each council district appears in the now approved home rule charter starting on page 58. The overlapping eleven precincts we’ve identified are: 121 (Dist 3 & 4), 92 (4 & 5), 90 (4 & 5), 74 (2 & 3), 72 (4 & 5), 51 (1 & 5), 47 (1 & 2), 40 (1 & 2), 39 (1 & 2), 34 (2 & 3), 23 (1 & 5). Of those, precinct 74 has a portions in districts 2 & 3 and orphaned – meaning it does not reside in any district. Then precinct 34 is supposed to be entirely listed inside of district 2, but portions are also included in the description for district 3. District 1 is supposed to include all of precinct 23, but District 5 also lays claim to part of it. District 1 also lays claim to precinct 50 – which no longer exists and was merged into precinct 51, claimed by District 5. Another major issues is precinct 35 is included as part of the City of Lafayette, but it is not. There are numerous other “minor” issues with the descriptions as well, but those are the major ones.
The Secretary of State’s office has confirmed they are still waiting on Lafayette Consolidated Government to provide the documents necessary to set up the October elections for City and Parish councilmen. The lack of reporting can be verified at this link on the Secretary of State’s website by choosing the election date, October 12, 2019, “races in a Parish” and then Lafayette Parish. You’ll notice that the October election doesn’t include the Lafayette City or Parish councils.
Other problems that exist in the “fixed” charter will continue to materialize in the months ahead, but this one could derail the whole process if it’s not addressed immediately.
What we know
- In a meeting, the council has to approve putting a charter amendment on their next meeting’s agenda by a 5-4 vote.
- The council has to approve the charter amendment at that next meeting with at least a 6-3 majority vote.
- The deadline for all of this to be complete is March 11th.
- The next council meeting is on March 12th (thanks to Mardi Gras).
- If it does have to go to the bond commission, the bond commission will need to call a special meeting on March 10th for the purpose.
What we don’t know
- What are the public notification requirements to call a special meeting? Tomorrow? Next week?
- Once the special meeting is called and they vote to approve putting the amendment on the next meeting by a 5-4 vote, how long must they wait to hold that second meeting? Two weeks?
From our perspective, it sure looks like the haphazardly thrown-together charter is a dead duck.