Lafayette citizens have effectively lost control of our utilities system if a recent vote of the Lafayette City Council is unchallenged. Without any discussion, 6 of the 9 council members rejected a decision of the Lafayette Public Utilities Authority last week.
The matter at hand is not the issue under consideration; it was the process that spoke volumes about the inequities of our current home rule charter and how it is, or isn’t applied.
The Home Rule Charter for the Lafayette City-Parish Consolidated Government, in effect since 1996, clearly states that “the governing authority of the utilities department shall be the Lafayette Public Utilities Authority.”
The sole responsibility of the Authority is to direct activities “which are necessary or incidental to the operation of the utility system.”
There is nothing in the charter that requires approval of LPUA actions by the council as a whole. However, since 1996, all LPUA agenda items which were supported by the majority of the authority have subsequently been subjected to a vote of the Council majority rules; or in the instance of the recent vote, over-ruled a LPUA action.
Forty-six percent of the constituents represented by members of the City-Parish Council do not reside in the of Lafayette, yet those non-city residents have a significant voice in the operations of our municipally-owned utility system.
They influence, but aren’t subject to, such council actions as to how much we pay for our utilities.
It should be of concern to Lafayette citizens that our constitutional right of self-government (utilities, police, fire, etc.) is slowly eroding unless we address the shortcomings of our home rule charter.
— Bruce M. Conque