Joey Durel has been on an impressive campaign to make being available to the public as a part of his role as Mayor. I haven't seen a mayor expose himself to unmanaged public questioning as consistently as as he has and it is one of the more admirable aspects of his tenure. (If I wasn't such a fan of his courage on the fiber issue I'd be tempted to say it was the most admirable aspect.)
The newest venue is a monthly "Have a Cup of Coffee with the Mayor" program. The first was yesterday morning and was covered by the Advertiser. Inevitably, the first question was about fiber. A Carencro man and his son were clearly worried about what you might expect they'd be: the risk to the city and the (and in my opinion faux) "conflict" between public and private. If the question was unremarkable, the response was not. I'll reproduce the whole exchange (The Advertiser has decided to make its archive paid, a big step backward in public access. You'll see me reproducing more of their text if I can't rely on their archive to provide a context for curious readers who might run across this post next week or next year. 'Course that'll mean less page views for their advertisers next week and next year. Their choice.)
“If we don’t do it, we won’t get it,” Durel said. “I’ve begged the private sector to do it,” but they need a fast rate of return on their investment, while government does not.That is really amazingly clear for a politician and is revealing of the way that Durel is thinking about this problem. 1) We're not willing to wait for private industry to do this for us; if they won't do it on our schedule we'll do it ourselves. 2) Even more unabashed was the breathtakingly clear statement that LUS was created to compete with the private sector. This follows from the first assertion, that LUS exists because it is our arm to do for ourselves what private industry refuses to do. But I had not thought we'd ever hear the obvious, too not PC. I underestimated Durel. Bracing stuff.
If LUS doesn’t launch the program, won’t the private companies do so in 10 to 15 years at no risk to the city utility, Koenig asked.
“Ten to 15 years is not acceptable to me,” Durel said.
If the city had waited the 30 years it took private utilities to extend electricity to Lafayette, the university probably would not be in Lafayette, Durel said. Instead, the city created LUS and provided electricity to its own citizens.
Bob Koenig, an executive, said fiber technology is “absolutely critical” for the future, and asked Durel to address private versus public sector competition.
“LUS was created to compete with the private sector,” Durel said.
Even with the fiber project, if private companies — such as Eatel, which pulled out of Lafayette — are willing and able to pay sufficient wholesale rates to lease LUS’ fiber lines, they may do so, as long as LUS generates enough money to repay the bond debt, Durel said.
Of course I'd like to see the city fathers take one more step and simply assert that there are some things, like essential, natural monopoly infrastructure, that the people simply ought to control at as local a level as is possible. And that LUS is our arm for asserting that right of self-determination. Maybe at the next coffee?