Wednesday, January 09, 2008

New Council, New Governance

A tip of the hat to the new City-Parish Council.

Both the Advertiser and the Advocate carry brief stories about the new council and its new rules. Emphasis was on the new five minute discussion rule for comments and the 45 second announcement rule for councilors--neither of which might not seem like a big deal to most people but which clearly impressed the reporters whose job requires them to sit through the interminable ramblings that sometimes devoured the council's time.

Followers of fiber news will be most interested in the rest of the news: that the utility governing body will no longer meet separately before regular council meetings and fiber partisans will be interested in, and heartened by the new leadership of the council.

The LPUA, the Lafayette Parish Utility Authority, is made up of the members of the City-parish council whose district is mostly in the city. They've always met separately an hour before the regular meeting twice a month to transact regular business. But big commitments have always been brought to the regular council as well since the full legal responsibility for things like bonded indebtedness is cloudy. (After all the city of Lafayette no longer really exists as a truly independent legal body as far as I can understand.--So who really owns LUS?) As a consequence there was a lot of overlap and double voting on issues. The new regime will make every meeting a joint LPUA-City-Parish meeting. This will probably be more efficient and it will also mean that LUS issues will be handled in a meeting that is better attended. The extra scrutiny is probably a good, if not entirely comfortable thing for LUS.

It also means new prominence for the head of the LPUA. At one time I thought Don Bertrand, newly elected from District 7, was up for the job. This would have been a happy moment for Lafayette's fiberistas since Don was one of the leaders of Lafayette Coming Together during the fiber fight and the man most responsible for bring the local Republican party on board in favor of the idea. You couldn't ask for a public official more committed to and thoughtful about the project. But Don didn't get the post--instead he has become the chair of the full council, a position from which he will have even more influence. I think that was the right choice for the community and the right choice for fiber.

Brandon Shelvin, the new LPUA head also appears to be a friend of fiber. In fact the new council seems to be pretty solid there--in contrast to the uniformed view that some of our representative candidates displayed during the LWV debate, the council candidates appeared to understand what is at stake in the new system they will oversee. (None of the candidates who had even mixed feelings about fiber made it past the primary in the council election. The present council will surely see that as a clear message.)

With eight of nine new members, a new organizational structures, and 'interesting' topics in the offing it should be an interesting year for council-watchers.

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