Over the last 14 months, The Current has been an experiment in building a new kind of media. We were a new kind of animal. Digital first. Member supported. And now we’re pursuing a new moniker: Lafayette’s first nonprofit news organization. Let me tell you why.
You’re lounging in a hidden, green outdoor oasis with cold tequila cocktails and a breeze in the air. Are you at Guero’s in Austin? No, you’re in Downtown Lafayette!
Everyone knows Lafayette’s roads are bad. But some roads are so bad they’re a public safety hazard. Unfortunately there’s just not enough money to fix them, and the problem is getting worse every year.
The gist: Oil and gas may still be down, but Lafayette’s healthcare economy has realized a series of wins over the last few weeks with good news from companies like VieMed, NeuroRescue and ThinkGenetic.
The gist: Trustees on the Lafayette Public Innovation Alliance authorized Mayor-President Joel Robideaux to begin talks with investors interested in leveraging federal Opportunity Zone tax benefits to attract money to tech startups. It’s not yet clear what role LPIA would play in this.
The gist: Despite the conclusions of an internal monitoring review that found numerous deficiencies in a taxpayer-funded federal loan to mayoral aide Marcus Bruno — findings that prompted Bruno to repay the loan seven years early — an assistant city-parish attorney is trying to make the case that the verdict is still out on any wrongdoing.
The gist: In a whiplash decision, the Third Circuit Court of Appeal affirmed on Friday a district court ruling that upheld a fix to errors in the charter amendments passed to create separate city and parish councils. The three-judge panel, which heard oral arguments Wednesday, ruled against a legal challenge brought by a council candidate and the secretary of state.
The case is likely headed to the Louisiana Supreme Court. The supreme court can choose not to hear the case, which would bring the legal challenge to a halt. Given a dissenting opinion on the appeals court panel, the supreme court will probably take up the matter, says Gary McGoffin, an attorney representing private citizens who joined the case in support of challenged fix.
Get caught up, quickly: Last year, voters said yes to creating separate city and parish councils. The proposition included some typos that, left in error, would leave some voters without representation. The City-Parish Council fixed those discrepancies by ordinance, drawing a legal challenge. Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin joined that suit, which was ultimately dismissed at district court. Friday's decision moves the matter on to the supreme court.
Brian Pope, the first-term Lafayette city marshal who was suspended from office in October after being convicted by a Lafayette Parish jury on four felonies, was sentenced Wednesday to three years in the parish jail for each of three malfeasance convictions with all but one year suspended. It’s unclear whether Pope will serve that one year in Sheriff Mark Garber’s jail or under home confinement.
Encouraging more girls to get into computer science and robotics can help fill a growing employment gap. This summer camp is part of that effort.
The gist: State law now makes electric scooters from companies like Bird legal in Louisiana, clearing up a limbo that paused their use in Lafayette. But the City-Parish Council voted Tuesday night to keep the scooters off Lafayette’s streets until new local rules and regulations are approved.
Getting Lafayette to formally recognize Pride month would have been a win for the local queer community. Supporters say the loss stings but wasn’t quite unexpected.
The gist: Spurred by a spike in flooded homes in his district, Councilman Pat Lewis has moved to put a quarter cent sales tax, assessed parishwide, before voters this fall. Public notice of the new tax will be offered at Tuesday’s City-Parish Council meeting. The council would vote in July on calling a fall election.
The sales tax would generate roughly $13 million annually. Lewis tells me he’d like to pursue a federal match to increase the buying power of the funds. Dollars generated from the tax would accelerate the current deferred maintenance program initiated by the Robideaux administration, he says, and go to new projects not included on that list. The tax would sunset after five years.
“There’s a lot of work to be done,” Lewis says. “In the last flood there’s areas that never flooded before in 30 or 40 years.” Lewis represents Downtown and a large chunk of the northern limits of the city and the parish, portions of which saw increased flood activity in this month’s squall, the third 100-year rain event in the last three years.
Drainage currently receives $10 million each year after a 2017 rededication of the combined public health and mosquito control property tax shifted $2.5 million in new money over to an existing millage. That proposition, a brainchild of Mayor-President Joel Robideaux, also produced a one-time $9 million transfer to kick-start the first 27 of 77 deferred maintenance projects.
Another one-time transfer of $8 million, out of the parish library system’s fund balance, is before voters this fall. There is roughly $32 million in projects on the maintenance program’s full work list of projects. LCG’s public works department has estimated an overhaul of the parishwide stormwater management system could cost between $500 million and $875 million.
At least one council member won’t support the sales tax, saying it’s not a long-term solution to an ongoing problem. Councilman Jay Castille says the parish’s massive drainage issues would be best addressed through a millage. “The millage we have in place needs to be increased,” Castille maintains. “In five years when you’re out of money, what do you do, ask voters for another tax?”
What to watch for: Whether a recently tax-averse electorate will pay more for better drainage. Lewis’ proposition faces an uphill battle given the political climate around government spending. Many voters and candidates advocate that enough drainage funding can be obtained by shifting money out of services like the public library system. Others believe only more revenue can accomplish a comprehensive fix. How to pay for better drainage, coming hot on the heels of another big rain this year, will figure prominently in parish elections across the board.
The gist: Louisiana Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin may be in conflict with a recent court decision by refusing to release voter lists on new City Council districts until Aug. 1.