"A petition drive to force a popular vote on the Lafayette Utilities System fiber optics project fell 45 signatures short of the 5 percent of city voters that organizers believe they need."The circumspect way that this is stated reflects (finally) an appropriate hesitation about what the petitioners claim, though Claire does not come right out and say it. The truth is that for these guys, even the easy way has turned out to be too hard.
They've been following the path described in a BellSouth/Cox lawsuit that finds a convoluted way to assert that they shouldn't have to follow the so-called "Municipal Fair Competition Act" procedures that BellSouth and Cox agreed to just last summer. That act, agreed to by all parties, uses the standard referendum rules set forth in the city's "constitution" -- the city charter. That was just too hard to think about. Fifteen percent was just too tough, said the fiber411 boys. So they found a way around it that involved invoking a part of the bond law that the city was explicitly not using that called for only 5%. (The part they were using is the part that enables the type of revenue bonds they will actually be issuing and contains no referendum procedure.) That law refers to the issuing agency--in this case the city-parish. But that, too, was tougher than the Fiber411/BellSouth crew could be bothered with.
So they decided (though they'd been acting like they were working for a city-parish number all along) that they'd turn in the petition when they might have had enough if (and only if) the city was the proper venue. Why do that? Laziness and a doubt that, with the petition pulled off the BellSouth trucks, getting the remaining signatures would possible for the boys probably had a lot to do with it.
But there might well be more. One has to wonder if BellSouth wasn't getting antsy. After all, they used the handing in of the petition as cover for their lawsuit. In went the petition. Out went the lawsuit, piously covered with a press release that said they were supporting the obvious desire of the people for a vote. BellSouth really, really, wanted to get their suit off in time to have a prayer of holding back the bond sale. And another couple of weeks might have been too late. So, conveniently for BellSouth, the lawsuit went in lacking the number of signatories that it needed under any reading of the law.
You do the math. The pattern is all too clear.
Update 2/5/05 10:00 I should have pointed to the updated Advertiser story this morning. But Mardi Gras happily got in the way. I highly recommend the Tee Mamou run. Fun and funny too.
The update is titled "Fiber 411 petition drive falls short" and carries a fuller story with more qoutes from various principals.