What’s next?

If you’re like us, you breathed a sigh of relief after last Saturday’s successful tax rededication. After a month of misinformation, common sense prevailed. That’s an encouraging, important step for our community.

But it’s just a step – and a small step – towards dealing with our drainage issues. So take a couple of days to enjoy the good result, then take a deep breath and let’s get to work.

None of the authors or supporters of the rededication said it was the drainage fix we need; the rededicated funding will help public works catch up on maintenance projects, sure, but maintenance only goes so far.

It’s time for Lafayette to think big. No ideas should be off the table.

We have a unique problem because we are a unique place. We are a growing city located not far from the Gulf of Mexico, in the path of occasional hurricanes. Our parish is flat and replete with waterways. The Vermilion River is a tidal river with such a flat slope that it flows backwards in large rain events.

And those large rain events are happening more and more frequently. We need to acknowledge what’s in front of our eyes – the climate is changing. We can close our eyes, but we will still feel the rain at our ankles; we can cling to political principles, but we will be clinging to the rescue boat at the same time.

So let’s just focus on the work.

We need to find ways to build large regional detention structures. Expensive concrete coulees just flood someone else faster – we need to instead figure out how to hold our water in one place so the entire system has time to catch up and drain.

We can be creative – public-private partnerships are a good way to leverage funding for big solutions like regional drainage. The detention areas can double as recreation areas during dry times. They can aid our overall quality of life.

These big ideas are not easy. Finding a solution like this will require a lot of different people to agree on a lot of changes to a system with a lot of moving parts. It won’t happen unless we all make a promise to each other now: that we will keep an open mind, that we will trust the data, that we will make decisions based on reason not emotion.

That would be a big step for Lafayette. But it’s just the step forward we need and deserve.

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