LAFAYETTE, La. (KPEL) -- The Greater Lafayette Chamber of Commerce is proposing a change to the city-parish charter in a move to give the city of Lafayette more autonomy in city-related issues.

Chamber Vice-President Bruce Conque joined "Your Afternoon Drive Home" to discuss the plan, which is being called the "Fair and Focused Plan."

Bruce Conque
Bruce Conque, Greater Lafayette Chamber of Commerce

Under the current charter, nine council members are elected from throughout the parish, including already incorporated municipalities like Broussard and Youngsville, both of which have their own mayors and councils. But of the nine Lafayette Parish council districts, only one is completely inside the city of Lafayette.

Lafayette's unique set of circumstances prove that that the city needs to have more autonomy, Conque said.

"We have one of the largest municipally owned utility systems in the country. We have one of the largest municipally operated fiber systems in the country," Conque said. "Those are city of Lafayette exclusive, and we think those specific areas of interest need to be addressed by folks who represent 100 percent the population and residents of Lafayette.

In respect to those two utilities, Conque said, in theory, the current charter gives the five Lafayette council members some authority through the Lafayette Public Utilities Authority. But the full nine-member council must approve the actions of the LPUA, Conque said.

Under the proposed plan, which utilizes a portion of a deconsolidation plan that was decidedly rejected by voters in 2011, the council would remain at nine members, but the five Lafayette council members would have exclusive control on matters relating to the city, a sort of council within a council.

The change would require a redrawing of council lines, Conque said, so that all five Lafayette council districts would fall within the city limits.

"We're looking at anywhere from 23,000 to 25,000 residents per district, which is about what it is today," Conque said. "So there wouldn't be that much of a difference in terms of the population of a district; just how they are apportioned throughout the parish."

Some critics of the proposal have argued it would violate the federal Voting Rights Act and the spirit behind "one man, one vote." Conque said Mike Heffner, a demographer familiar with the Voting Rights Act, has volunteered his services and has assured the chamber the redrawn lines would fall within an acceptable percentage deviation.

The next step for the plan is the formulation of a charter commission, which would make a recommendation to the Lafayette City-Parish Council, which would then place the recommendation on the public ballot, hopefully in the spring of 2014, Conque said.

"It's a very tight window of time," Conque said. "Upon passage of this proposal, that would allow for...redistricting, which would then determine the political ambitions or plans of folks who want to run for either re-election or run for election on the council because that election is not until 2015.

"2014 spring election. Coming out of that, we'd redistrict. And as people prepare for the 2015 election, they would know in which district they reside," Conque said.

To listen to the full interview, click on 'Play' below.

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