Some time in the next few years, more of Lafayette Parish could be hooked into the superfast LUS Fiber network, and Lafayette’s downtown could be a vibrant residential community with food markets and plenty of entertainment.
That was the scenario the two candidates for city-parish president painted at a forum Wednesday.
But candidates Dee Stanley and Joel Robideaux, both Republicans, differed on the finer details of how to achieve those and a few more proposals to make Lafayette Parish — which is expected to grow by 66,000 residents by 2030 — a better place to work, play and get around.
As in the previous 16 or so forums leading up to the Oct. 24 election, they mostly agreed on the big picture for Lafayette Parish, which by 2014 had 235,644 residents, according to U.S. census figures.
And each candidate had a little fun with jabs at the other at the event sponsored by the nine-parish regional economic development group One Acadiana and the Leadership Institute of Acadiana.
On expanding LUS fiber outside Lafayette city limits, Robideaux said the decision would be made for economic reasons: Will LUS make money if they roll out the service to the rest of the parish?
“LUS will have to do the analysis,” said Robideaux, a term-limited state legislator from Lafayette.
Stanley, the chief administrative officer for the city-parish for the past 12 years, said the key to expanding the fiber network is the people who live in the city of Lafayette, who are the “stockholders” of LUS, the electricity provider for the city that over a decade ago built a fiber-optic network. Residents outside Lafayette have other electricity providers and are not able to subscribe to the fiber network.
Stanley said that restriction could come to an end if municipalities such as Youngsville ask for the service and are willing to help finance the costs of rolling out the service outside Lafayette.
“Fiber is the next generation’s architecture,” he said.
In revitalizing downtown Lafayette, both candidates said getting residents in is vital. But they need places to live, markets where they can buy groceries and an environment that is safe for children.
Robideaux said the city should take the same approach as when creating an industrial park: Provide incentives for people and businesses to move there.
“If there’s demand, it’s going to happen,” Robideaux said. “Government needs to make sure they don’t get in the way of that happening.”
Stanley said Lafayette spends tens of millions of dollars on public safety, including downtown, each year. He said 54 percent of the government’s yearly operating budget is spent on public safety.
“We are a safe downtown. We need to be a safer downtown,” Stanley said.
Before the forum, One Acadiana released its Priorities for a Better Lafayette, which zeroes in on three priorities it wants from the next city-parish president and council: Revitalize the city of Lafayette’s urban core; come up with plan that in the next few years builds the infrastructure that will relieve traffic congestion; and fix the city-parish charter so it more equitably provides representation for those inside the city of Lafayette and those outside.
One Acadiana asked council and president candidates to sign a pledge agreeing to the priorities.
Stanley, holding up the pledge to One Acadiana that he signed, asked Robideaux if he had signed it.
“I don’t sign pledges,” Robideaux said.
One Acadiana would not identify which Lafayette City-Parish Council candidates signed the pledge to support all of its priorities, but said those who have agreed with some or all of One Acadiana’s priorities were: District 1 Councilman Kevin Naquin; District 2 Councilman Jay Castille; District 2 candidate Charlotte Clavier; District 3 Councilman Brandon Shelvin and candidates Ursula Anderson, Pat Lewis and John Petersen; District 4 Councilman Kenneth Boudreaux; District 5 candidate Monique Koll; District 6 candidates Alicia Chaisson and Bruce Conque; and District 8 candidates Liz Webb Hebert and Gerald Judice.
Editor’s note: This article was changed on Thursday, Oct. 8, to clarify that most council candidates either signed the pledge to support all of One Acadiana’s priorities or agreed to one or more of the economic development group’s priorities.