The city of Lafayette should have its own mayor to go with its own city council, respondents to The Acadiana Advocate’s monthly Power Poll indicated.
A clear majority – 82% -- indicated if a vote was held today on the matter they would vote for the city to have its own mayor and council and return to city government before it was consolidated with parish government when voters approved the charter in 1992.
Other results in the five-question poll indicated support for the consolidated government setup is eroding.
“Lafayette is the smallest parish in the state, but a true consolidated government was never offered to voters,” respondent Larry Sides wrote. “The growth of cities and shrinking rural areas led to today’s dilemma. I would guess political views today will make any potential fix as much of a problem to get past voters as the perceived obstacles of the half-in half-out system we have.
“Going back to what we once had can work for Lafayette city residents. As long as we also figure out how to deal with parish wide issues like the courthouse and address the needs of those who live in unincorporated areas.”
The remaining two answers garnered little support from respondents. Just under 10% indicated the city and parish should go back to one council with a mayor-president, and 8% favored the current format with a city council and a parish council with a mayor-president.
“The original consolidation was not consolidation at all since it gave towns in the parish the option to retain their own governmental structures,” respondent Barry Ancelet wrote. “True consolidation would incorporate all of the parish under one government body, with one mayor and one council covering the entire parish. Failing that, we should completely undo the partial and flawed consolidation that we now have. Citizens of the parish's towns should not be voting for the person who serves as Lafayette's mayor unless they are willing to give up their own mayors.”
The matter has come up in public debate with the city council forming the seven-person Protect The City committee, which will determine how the City Council can best protect city of Lafayette tax dollars and protect the city-owned Lafayette Utilities System.
Mayor-President Josh Guillory issued a 17-page report to the committee earlier this month that indicated consolidation has been a financial win for the city of Lafayette and deconsolidation would be detrimental to residents and businesses. City tax dollars, he wrote, have not been spent on something to benefit anything other than the city of Lafayette.
Poll respondents, however, disagreed that the city has benefitted from consolidation with 84.3% indicating Lafayette Parish has benefitted the most from consolidation. The remaining 15.7% agreed thought the city has benefited the most.
“I think it’s worth everyone’s time to concentrate on the City of Lafayette before jumping to deconsolidation,” respondent Kevin Blanchard wrote. “No other city’s taxpayers are being asked to carry the burden of consolidated government. The testimony at the Protect the City Committee has made it clear that the best laid plans of consolidation haven’t worked for anyone. The parish is still broke and the City of Lafayette can’t govern itself. The only winners in consolidation are the smaller municipalities, precisely because they were wise enough not to participate in it in the first place.”
Other poll results indicated the growing disapproval of consolidated government. Asked if how they voted on the Fix the Charter amendment in 2019 to create the city council and if they still feel that way, 76% said they voted in favor of the amendment and still feel that way.
On a question in which respondents were asked to grade LCG’s response to their communities prior to the creation of the city council, over 70% voted either “poor” or “satisfactory,” 25% indicated it was good and just 2% graded it as very efficient.
Another question asked how should parish government be funded if the deconsolidation were to happen. Just over 42% indicated the best way would be through a parishwide property tax, 27% favored a sales tax in the unincorporated areas, 23% supported a parishwide sales tax and nearly 8% favored no new taxes were needed.
Conducted online Monday through Thursday, The Acadiana Advocate Power Poll survey is not a scientific inquiry. But because it asks questions of leaders from various sectors throughout Acadiana, it does afford nonpartisan insight into the thoughts and opinions of the community. Of 236 Power Poll members surveyed, 52 voted for a participation rate of 22%.