Define the election. Write the talking points.

Community Agenda 2019

National report highlights unaffordability of housing for many in Lafayette

The gist: A new study out this year highlights housing challenges in Lafayette for low-income families. A big concern: It would take the equivalent of more than two full-time, minimum-wage jobs to afford a two-bedroom apartment in Lafayette Parish at fair market value. The study, called Out of Reach 2019, was produced by the National Low Income Housing Coalition.

Continue 2 min read
0 Comment(s)

Louisiana Supreme Court ends charter amendment legal challenge

The gist: Just a week after receiving writ applications, the Louisiana Supreme Court declined to take up a suit that put the creation of separate city and parish councils in doubt. The decision, communicated Wednesday, effectively shuts down the legal challenge by a council candidate and the secretary of state. 

Continue 4 min read

“From the very beginning we were confident that this would be the outcome,” Fix the Charter organizer Kevin Blanchard tells me. Blanchard says he was informed of the writ denial by his attorneys, who inquired with the Louisiana Supreme Court. “The idea that a typo would throw out the result of an entire election is a little bit ridiculous. The important thing is that people remember what this election was about back in December. It’s about fair representation, it’s about protecting LUS, and what we really all need to focus on now is the transition work. The work is not over.” 

Get caught up, quickly: Last year, voters said yes to creating separate city and parish councils. The proposition included some typos that, if not corrected, would have left some voters without representation. The City-Parish Council fixed those discrepancies by ordinance, drawing a legal challenge by a local businessman, who is also running for a parish council seat. Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin joined that suit, which was ultimately dismissed at district court and affirmed by an appeals court.  

The supreme court’s denial ends a months long legal dispute that was prosecuted confidently in the media by Attorney General Jeff Landry. He chastised LCG attorneys and dismissed a memo they produced making a legal case that supported the change ordinance. A contradictory legal opinion issued by his office formed the basis of the suit against Lafayette Consolidated Government. 

“Everyone is entitled to his or her own opinion, but that does not mean that all opinions are entitled to equal weight,” Landry wrote in a March press release. “Unlike the City Attorney’s memo, our Opinion carries Constitutional weight. Historically, the courts have sided with Attorney General’s opinions in disputes (save very rare exceptions).” 

This is lightening fast in legal terms. The legal challenge began with a complaint filed at the beginning of April. Three months to exhaust appeals is crazy quick. The Louisiana Supreme Court has yet to release a written notice but informed the parties by phone in the interest of speed, given qualifying for the October elections is just over a month away. The challenge was heard on an expedited track. The appeals court turned around an opinion just days after oral arguments. Writ applications were filed just last week.

“I am disappointed that the court system has failed to provide the clarity we requested, and hope none of the longterm concerns we expressed ever come to fruition,” Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin said in a statement. “Nonetheless, we have a final decision, and my office is ready to hold qualifying next month for the appropriate offices.”

Now what? The bottom line is the result of last year’s election stands, barring an unlikely move into federal courts, and Lafayette will now have separate city and parish councils. The legal dispute halted transition work, as Blanchard notes. The currently consolidated council is charged with producing a budget that will be managed by separate councils, with LCG’s budget process beginning this summer. Last month, Mayor-President Joel Robideaux, who opposed the split and is not seeking re-election, announced movement on creating a  transition team to tackle what is likely to be a politically sticky process. Communications Director Cydra Wingerter hopes to have a finalized list of appointees released shortly.

1 Comment(s)

Waitr trims workforce in thorny transition from startup to corporate player

The gist: Since going public, Waitr has faced legal attacks from disgruntled drivers. This week, citing efficiencies, the food delivery app company terminated several dozen employees in a move that took its workforce by surprise. 

Continue 2 min read

Approximately 80 employees are said to have been let go. Waitr has not confirmed that number officially, but the figure has circulated among current and former Waitr employees. A staff segment that worked to onboard new restaurants took the brunt of the reduction. In a statement, Waitr said the layoffs were a “difficult decision” and asserted that no jobs would be outsourced as a result. The company will focus workforce development on technology, customer success, sales and accounting, which remain “areas of growth.”

Growing pains. A blog post written by one former employee based in Florida laments Waitr’s transition from scrappy startup to corporate monolith. His wife, who worked remotely, was among those fired Thursday. His post portrays a callous and sudden dismissal:

They had a mandatory “integration meeting” in which they summarily terminated 80 people. They gave them 5 minutes to collect their things. They had police on site to escort them from the building. … It didn’t matter what these people did for the company. Some of them having been there since day one.

Asked to respond to the blog account, Waitr referred to its general statement. 

Lake Charles, Lafayette and Bite Squad employees were impacted. Lake Charles’ NBC affiliate KPLC is reporting 25 let go. Employees at both Lafayette offices were also terminated, but the number and distribution are unclear. Earlier this year, Waitr struck a development deal with the state, receiving $1.5 million to outfit its new Downtown Lafayette HQ, along with a performance-based retention grant that caps at $1 million over five years. Waitr is expected to deliver 200 direct jobs to the Lafayette market. 

Waitr says the layoffs were a necessary result of its Bite Squad acquisition. Waitr bought the Minneapolis-based competitor last year for $321 million and has since been in the process of integrating the two workforces. Waitr has reiterated the company’s pledge to grow in the state of Louisiana.

0 Comment(s)

Pope and recall organizer settle civil rights suit

The gist: An organizer of the effort to recall City Marshal Brian Pope has settled the federal lawsuit he filed against Pope late last year for retaliating against him just hours after the recall effort failed.

Continue 5 min read
1 Comment(s)

‘Cain and Abel and Oil’: New York Magazine tells the Knight story

There is so much we didn’t know outside of the narrative investigators painted: In a fit of desperation to keep control of the lucrative family business, a filthy rich oilfield CEO allegedly hires a bumbling fool and two dirty cops to set his younger brother up in a June 2014 drug bust. 

Continue 11 min read
0 Comment(s)

To taste paradise, head to this taco spot

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!

Continue 3 min read
0 Comment(s)

Lafayette can’t afford the way it’s growing

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.

Continue 7 min read
5 Comment(s)

Robideaux gets OK to court tech investors via parish innovation trust

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.

Continue 4 min read
0 Comment(s)

LCG lawyer, councilman at odds over Bruno loan

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.

Continue 7 min read
0 Comment(s)

Appeals court OKs ordinance to fix charter amendment errors

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.

Continue 2 min read

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.

You can read the decision here.

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.

0 Comment(s)

Suspended marshal gets one year in jail, home confinement eligibility unknown

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.

Continue 4 min read
0 Comment(s)

The future of work can still be human, if coding camps like this can make it more female

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.

Continue 5 min read
1 Comment(s)