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.
The gist: A district court judge denied the secretary of state’s request for a suspensive appeal, a procedure that would have paused the effect of his decision upholding City-Parish Council’s ordinance to fix errors in the amended charter.
Get caught up, quickly: Last year, voters said yes to creating separate city and parish councils. The proposition included some typos in the text describing the new city council districts that, left in error, would leave some voters without representation. The City-Parish Council fixed those discrepancies by ordinance, in March, a move that drew a legal challenge from a council candidate. Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin joined that suit, which was ultimately dismissed May 8 by Judge John Trahan.
Ardoin had filed a suspensive appeal. If granted, the district court’s ruling would have been shelved until appeals were exhausted. Lawyers with the attorney general’s office, representing the secretary of state, argued that allowing the ruling to take effect would have “disastrous consequences,” should the constitutionality of the corrective ordinance be overturned during or after the election.
Attorneys for some Lafayette residents argued suspending the ruling would have risked leaving 300 disenfranchised. Again, that’s if the appeal would linger into or beyond this fall’s elections. Legal descriptions defining voter precincts would remain broken if the ruling were paused, they argue, leaving them unable to vote.
An appeal will nevertheless work its way through the courts. Attorneys for Keith Kishbaugh, the candidate who filed the original legal challenge to stop the fix by ordinance, filed a separate appeal. Both parties were granted “devolutive” appeals, meaning the judgment remains in effect during the appeals process. You can see the notice of appeal here.
Ardoin appears bound to qualify the election, should the appeal drag on. In a separately filed motion to stay the judgment pending an appeal, Ardoin contended that allowing the judgment to stand with appeals in the air was, in effect, a legal order on the office to hold the election according to the amended charter. There are fewer than 70 days until qualifying.
Why this matters: Qualifying begins Aug. 6 for the Oct. 12 election.
Following an appeal all the way up to the Louisiana Supreme Court could take as much as 60 days from here, I’m told, although the appellate courts will likely work to move things along. Should the appeals linger into August, this effectively means candidates for separate city and parish councils will be qualified.
The gist: In its first year, the public-private partnership program Adopt-A-Stop has accelerated the pace of covering Lafayette’s 618 bus stops. A Lafayette’s McDonald’s franchisee cut the ribbon on the second of its three pledged stops Tuesday.
“The generosity has been overwhelming,” Councilwoman Liz Hebert tells me. Hebert launched the program a little over a year ago. LCG’s budget has paced new shelters at 11 each year. Funding 30 in a single year takes a big chunk out of a still massive problem, tripling the number LCG can fund on its own. Only 10 percent of the city’s shelters are covered, leaving many of its riders, who make about 5,000 trips each day, without shelter in the summer’s sweltering heat and/or pouring rain.
“It’s great for the community, it’s great for our employees and we’re glad to be a part of it,” McLaff Inc. CEO EJ Krampe said at a ribbon cutting on the site of Lafayette’s very first McDonald’s, originally constructed in 1972 at the corner of Willow Street and the Evangeline Thruway. Around 15 of the store’s employees use the shelter each day, he said. McDonald’s has joined a growing list of community partners on the program, including UL Lafayette, CGI and the Islamic Center of Lafayette and more.
Hebert says she’s pursuing grants through LCG for more funding. Finding public dollars for the program is tricky, she says, a fact echoed by Councilman Kenneth Boudreaux who remarked at the ceremony that he’s struggled for nine years to get more funding for bus shelters.
Boudreaux recalled his family’s front porch once served as an improvised shelter. The Northside councilman praised Hebert’s program, applauding the work for the dignity it provides citizens who rely on the bus system to get around. “Until you experience it, you don’t know,” he said.
Why this matters: Transportation access remains a challenge for many who live in economically distressed neighborhoods northeast of the Evangeline Thruway. More and more businesses are vacating those areas, putting additional strain on residents who don’t own cars but need to travel farther for work.
The gist: Lafayette City Marshal Mike Hill has winnowed down the number of his office’s reserve deputies — which had swelled to about 60 under his predecessor — to but a handful. Hill has called in the commissions of nearly 50 reserves who appear to have been deputized for no other reason than political patronage.
The gist: LUS will contract Burns & McDonnell to run its integrated resource plan, the process the utility uses to determine its future energy needs and how it will power them. The choice of consultant met immediate criticism among local green energy advocates. The contract is worth $500,000 and was approved Tuesday by the professional services committee.
Burns & Mac guided LUS on two controversial decisions. In 2011, the company recommended LUS continue burning coal in central Louisiana, instead of switching to natural gas, a decision critics maintain was a costly mistake in hindsight. And in 2016, LUS developed a $100 million plan to build new natural gas generators, at the consultant’s suggestion, even raising electric rates to finance the plan. That decision triggered a backlash that ultimately shelved the plan and in part led to last year’s privatization controversy.
“Half a million dollars is a lot of money,” renewable energy advocate Simon Mahan tells me. Mahan developed a lengthy document criticizing the 2016 plan but has since departed Lafayette. “To use the same firm that got it wrong twice before is eyebrow raising.”
Interim Director Jeff Stewart says this contract is different. The 2011 and 2016 plans did not involve robust public engagement, and Stewart says that engagement is baked into this upcoming process.
“That’s why we shelved [the 2016 plan],” Stewart tells me. “I want as many people who want to get involved to get involved.” He expects to time the public facing process to PlanLafayette activities, with outreach beginning in September.
LUS’s open approach seems to be working. Mahan tells me he believes that Burns & Mac is capable of delivering. And he gives a lot of credit to Stewart’s leadership style.
“Frankly, I’ve been really impressed with what he’s been saying and the actions he’s taken. There’s a new wind at LUS to listen to the public a little bit more,” Mahan says. “That makes me feel good.”
Fighting climate change takes a global effort — one that we are simply choosing not to participate in.
Swamp pop took over the airwaves of 1970s London where it was loved and celebrated by English hitmakers like Nick Lowe, who performs in Lafayette this week.
Eason says he has long had a passion for service and feels like the timing is right for him and his family now. The 60-year-old Republican businessman owns and operates Eason Advertising in the Oil Center.
Ad exec-turned-Realtor Nancy Marcotte is joining the race for mayor-president of Lafayette.
In a motion for a new trial filed late last week, attorneys for Chris Russo say there is ample evidence his former employer’s parent company, oilfield services giant Superior Energy, knew about Russo’s side business interests and therefore has no right to recover damages and profits.
The new location will put a roof over Jamie Vickery and Kelsey Leger’s thoughtful but unpreachy approach to sustainable eating.