Lafayette Parish Voters Say No To Taxes, Yes To Split
Dec 09, 2018 05:52PM
● By Dwayne Fatherree
Saturday’s election didn’t have the cachet of a presidential contest or even a mid-term election to draw Lafayette Parish voters, but the 20-odd percent who did make it to the polls were clear: they did not want any new taxes.
They were more measured, however, on the move to split the Lafayette Consolidated Government council into two five-member bodies, one to represent the city and the other to handle parish business.
The two tax issues on the ballot -- a 10-mill property tax on residents in the parish’s unincorporated areas for a new fire protection district and a ½-cent sales tax for the Lafayette Parish Sheriff’s office -- both failed. The millage vote was closer, dropping by a 52 to 48 percent margin, while the sales tax Sheriff Mark Garber proposed was resoundingly defeated, 66 percent to 34 percent.
The law enforcement tax failed in all but three precincts. Only voters in the area roughly bounded by Pinhook Road and Louisiana Avenue, from Garfield Street to Carmel Drive, approved the measure.
The solid rejection of the tax was fueled in the days before the election when Lafayette City Police Chief Topy Aguillard released a letter to his employees saying he was against the tax because it disproportionately favored the LPSO. In his letter, Aguillard said the tax should have been distributed based on the population served, with the LPD getting a larger share.
The passage of the charter amendment to create a city council for Lafayette will have far-reaching consequences. In addition to giving the city its own council for the first time since 1996, it will now give city residents two municipal representatives, one on the city council and one on the parish council.
It will also change the workload for those councilmen. The change calls for the creation of two five-member councils. Each city representative will represent approximately 20,000 to 25,000 constituents. Their parish counterparts will represent between 40,000 to 45,000 apiece.
It will also eliminate the need for the Lafayette Public Utility Authority, a board created when the original consolidation plan was implemented to oversee the Lafayette Utilities System. Now the city council will take on those responsibilities.
The charter change also requires that any attempt to outsource management of the utility system to a third party, like NexGEN Energy or the Bernhardt Capital Partners, would have to be put before the city residents for a vote.
The amendment leaves the mayor-president’s role intact as the chief executive for both the city and parish.
Not surprisingly, the vote on the split in the City-Parish Council was divided primarily along the Lafayette city limits. Those precincts outside the city voted overwhelmingly against the change. But unlike the 2011 election, when parts of Lafayette’s south side, specifically River Ranch and its adjoining subdivisions, voted against the measure, voters in those areas threw their support behind the creation of a new city council for Lafayette.
One exception is the City of Carencro, where voters approved the move. Carencro also saw a higher voter turnout, at 30 percent, due to a run-off for the mayor's seat in which Mayor Glenn Brasseaux won his bid for re-election.
The charter victory is a feather in the cap for the Fix the Charter PAC, a group two former Lafayette City Government directors, Carlee Alm, and Kevin Blanchard organized earlier this year. Alm and Blanchard, along with other former LCG managers currently working with Robert Daigle’s Southern Lifestyle Development, were omnipresent at town halls, socials and other meetings during the run up to the election.
The new councils will be seated in January 2020.
By Dwayne Fatherree - Freelance Journalist
Dwayne is an award-winning journalist and multimedia editor who has spent more than three decades producing multimedia content.