Council Preview: Taxing districts go to executive session, applying for grants, more board splits

Looking under LCG's hood

The gist: City Council members and the administration will go into executive session Tuesday to discuss the administration’s “legal strategy” for backing away from a lawsuit filed to stop several special taxing districts. The mayor-president and some council members are at odds over the issue. Less controversial decisions will be made on applying for millions in grants and continuing the process of splitting control of boards between the city and parish councils.

The public cannot attend council meetings yet. With coronavirus social distancing measures still in place, public comment is available by phone at (337) 291-8428 and email at [email protected]. Calls must be made before the relevant agenda item is up (find the agenda here). Emails must be received by 5 p.m. Council meetings are broadcast on AOC, Cox and LUS Fiber and can be streamed here. 

Dispute over special taxing districts goes into executive session. Lafayette Consolidated Government withdrew a motion to dismiss a lawsuit against the several special taxing districts — which apparently cites the wrong statute in making its case — passed by the previous council and administration. That means the case may be headed to trial. That decision has set up a conflict between the mayor-president, who has vocally opposed the districts, and the council members who support the districts. At the last council meeting in April, city council members pressed the administration about the withdrawal, openly questioning whether their interests and policies were being represented by the legal department, which serves as general counsel to all of consolidated government, including the two councils. City-Parish Attorney Greg Logan defended the decision to withdraw as part of a “legal strategy,” but declined to discuss the strategy in an open meeting, saying the privileged conversation should move to an executive session. That executive session is set for Tuesday’s council meetings. City council members and the administration will go behind closed doors to talk. 

This issue is about more than taxing districts. The dispute raises questions not easily answered in Lafayette’s Home Rule Charter — essentially the parish constitution. What happens when the mayor-president and one or both councils disagree on what legal actions to take? That question was at the heart of tense discussion between city council members and attorney Logan at the last council meeting in April. The administration has openly stated it will not defend the five economic development districts passed by the previous council and supported by some of the members on the current city council. Lafayette’s elected officials are set to navigate some turbulent, contentious waters ahead, especially as we enter budget season. How this issue is resolved will be telling. 

LCG is gearing up to apply for millions in grants. Lafayette Transit System is applying for $2.5 million in federal grants, something it does every year. The Community Development Department is seeking authorization to apply for whatever grants become available to aid in coronavirus recovery efforts.

The process to split control over various boards continues. This is more housekeeping work stemming from the charter amendments that created separate city and parish councils. Up for final adoption were all the changes introduced at the last meeting. Plus there’s another 18 up for joint introduction at this meeting:

  • Lafayette Parish Waterworks District North
  • Transportation Policy Committee of the Acadiana Planning Metropolitan Planning Organization
  • Lafayette Parish Waterworks District South
  • Teche-Vermilion Freshwater District
  • Cajundome Commission
  • Industrial Development Board of the Parish of Lafayette Louisiana Inc.
  • Lafayette Animal Care Center Advisory Board
  • Municipal Service Board
  • Downtown Development Authority
  • Board of Zoning Adjustment
  • Emergency Medical Service Advisory Board
  • North Lafayette Redevelopment Authority
  • Keep Lafayette Beautiful Board
  • Board of Trustees of the Lafayette Public Trust Financing Authority
  • Board of Trustees of the Lafayette Public Innovation Alliance
  • Lafayette Airport Commission
  • City Planning and Zoning Commission
  • Parish Planning and Zoning Commission

These changes come as a result of the splitting of the councils. Some of these boards will now be controlled by the city or parish council, some will be by both. And some of these aren’t really even changes, as they’re just reaffirming the existing authorities.