A field of 17 candidates are vying Oct. 24 for six open seats on Lafayette’s City-Parish Council.
Eight women are running, a major change from just four years ago, when only one female candidate entered the council race. No woman has been elected to the City-Parish Council since the once-separate governments for the city of Lafayette and Lafayette Parish consolidated in 1996.
Three incumbent council members have automatically been re-elected because no one signed up to run against them: District 1’s Kevin Naquin, District 4’s Kenneth Boudreaux and District 9’s William Theriot.
Two other seats are wide open because the incumbents chose not to seek re-election: District 7, currently represented by Don Bertrand, and District 8, represented by Keith Patin.
The Acadiana Advocate asked each candidate two questions: What are the most important issues facing your district and how do you plan to address them? What are the most important issues facing city-parish government as a whole and how do you plan to address them?
The answers are presented here, with minor editing for clarity and brevity, along with basic biographical information.
Council districts 6, 7 and 8 are presented today. Council districts 2, 3 and 5 ran in Friday’s newspaper.
32, no party, Lafayette
PROFESSION: theater teacher for Lafayette Parish School System
EDUCATION: bachelor’s degree in drama from New York University
EXPERIENCE: box office manager of The Public Theater in New York City, directed several plays with local theater groups, doula with MotherBirth, fertility instructor, and writer, director and performer with the New York Neo-Futurists.
PERSONAL: married, three children
District issues: “District 6 is the only one entirely within Lafayette city limits. As it stands, the Home Rule Charter allows all parish representatives to have equal say over city matters. Voters have made it clear they want to keep our government consolidated. However, there is room for improvement within the current structure. A commission should be formed to study the concerns over accurate representation.”
Parishwide issues: “Buses, sidewalks and bike lanes — accessibility is essential. A reliable and far-reaching public transit bus system would work toward a solution to several problems plaguing the city — traffic, ADA compliance, wealth disparity and drunk driving.
“Lafayette Consolidated Government needs money to tackle the immense problem of traffic and infrastructure. The council should explore opportunities from the sale of adjudicated property combined with modest temporary tax increase, which would reflect the citizens’ prioritization of road improvements.
“Lafayette has agreed to pay a tax to support the upgrade of the airport to attract business. If Lafayette were to agree to the same investment in our public schools, we would be supporting sustainable growth. Arts and culture equal economic development and investment in community. I will advocate for improved LCG funding of the arts.”
69, no party, Lafayette
EDUCATION: high school
EXPERIENCE: 20 years in broadcasting, owner of several media businesses, former vice-president of community development for the Greater Lafayette Chamber of Commerce, former City-Parish Council member, serves on the Lafayette Planning and Zoning Commission
PERSONAL: married, one child
District issues: “Crime: There needs to be a community awareness campaign as to how to discourage criminal activity. For example, don’t leave guns in vehicles and always lock vehicles. I will work closely with the Police Department to identify and focus on areas of concern. Traffic congestion: Improve intersections with construction of roundabouts. Work with the state to maintain and improve state roads (Johnston Street, University Avenue, Cameron Street, etc.) by seeking more return on the gasoline taxes which Lafayette Parish drivers pay to state.”
Parishwide issues: “There are 67,000 residents in the unincorporated parish who are underserved. They have inadequate fire protection, deteriorating bridges and drainage issues and very limited financial resources to address these challenges. The solution is to ask voters to approve additional property taxes for a dedicated purpose (i.e. drainage) and to consider an additional sales tax for road and bridge improvements. This is not a politically popular statement, but we can’t ignore the need. In the city of Lafayette, PlanLafayette must be fully implemented with particular emphasis on redevelopment of our urban core, improving our gateways and creating a Charter Commission to address self-governance for the city.”
ANDY NAQUIN (INCUMBENT)
61, Republican, Lafayette
PROFESSION: building material sales for Doug Ashy Co.
EDUCATION: bachelor’s degree in animal science from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette
EXPERIENCE: one term on City-Parish Council, 38 years in building material sales
PERSONAL: married, three children
District issues: “The most pressing issue is traffic and roads. I would like to see roads and traffic be a higher priority in our budget. I also want our Council to work closer with our legislators to help bring more of our tax dollars home from Baton Rouge.
“As always, I am committed to fiscal responsibility and transparency. That’s how we regain the trust of taxpayers when we need new funding for important projects.”
Parishwide issues: “Traffic and roads is a parishwide problem. The need for fiscal responsibility and transparency is also a parishwide issue. The Lafayette Regional Airport terminal project demonstrates the voters may be willing to support new funding if they have confidence the funds will be used as intended.”
32, Republican, Lafayette
PROFESSION: editor of 337 magazine and Covenant Spotlight magazine
EDUCATION: bachelor’s degree in public relations from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette
EXPERIENCE: more than a decade of writing, photography and editing experience, regularly collaborating with local businesses and government agencies.
PERSONAL: married, two children
District issues: “District 6 needs to address several infrastructure issues, such as road conditions and drainage, as well as traffic congestion issues. Several test projects have been or are going in place to see what the most effective and efficient solutions are. Improved traffic signalization using our state-of-the-art fiber-optic network, installation of roundabouts, a new bridge for South City Parkway or South College and improved thoroughfare design to allow multiple modes of transportation will all work in unison to relieve the traffic issues.
“City residents are also looking to address a few issues that we are seeing with the charter, and they don’t believe the answer is deconsolidation. We can address this problem through a few charter amendments and possibly redrawing the districts.
“I would be remiss if I didn’t also mention the current issues with public safety, the city-owned Lafayette Utilities System, utility lines, parks and recreation, and our compliance with the American Disabilities Act.”
Parishwide issues: “Infrastructure, again, is one of the biggest problems. We have to make a few tough decisions in order to generate funding to repair existing roads, bridges, drainage, sewer and water lines. We need to widen certain thoroughfares to reduce traffic congestion and help us be more prepared in case of an emergency.
“Our parish needs to be conscious of the decline in sales tax revenue and work diligently to diversify the economy by making it attractive for residents of surrounding parishes, new businesses and tourists to come to our area.
“For the sake of the youth in our community, we will need to coordinate with the School Board and resume the joint meetings. Parks and recreation throughout the parish need to be addressed.
“Finally, we have to address the Parish Courthouse. We have to divide the jailhouse and courthouse taxes so we have an accurate picture of the funding coming in and money being spent on each individual organization.”
56, Republican, Lafayette
PROFESSION: teacher at Cathedral Carmel
EDUCATION: bachelor’s degree in health and education from LSU and master’s degree in health and physical education from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette
EXPERIENCE: 33 years as an educator, teaching at every level from elementary school to college
PERSONAL: married, five children
District issues: “The most important issue, by far, is traffic management and roads. I will work closely with the next city-parish administration, my colleagues on the council and elected officials across the parish to ensure we are all on the same page when we work with our legislative delegation on bringing state and federal funding home for our critical projects. I will work to make traffic management and roads a higher priority in the $620 million LCG budget. I will work to establish traffic-reduction strategies that have worked so well in larger cities with serious traffic problems over the last 40 years. Carpooling, van pooling, corporate ride share, park ’n’ ride, bike ’n’ ride and related programs can have a 15 percent to 20 percent impact on peak commute loads and times.”
Parishwide issues: “Traffic and roads is still the biggest issue. Otherwise, the biggest issue is how best to ensure fair treatment for all the people and communities in our parish, no matter where we live. We are at our best and most productive when we include everyone, rather than pitting the city of Lafayette against our other communities.”
JOSEPH BOBBY RICHARD
47, Republican, southern Lafayette Parish
PROFESSION: lead pastor at Hope Alive Freedom Church
EDUCATION: bachelor’s degree in pastoral studies from Fill the Gap Bible School
EXPERIENCE: U.S. Marine Corps, Lafayette police officer, founder and director of Teen Challenge of Acadiana, chairman of Lafayette Parish School System’s Faith and Character Task Force
PERSONAL: married, five children
District issues: “With all the wonderful ‘best of’ accolades that have been showered on our community, traffic and infrastructure are not one of them. They cannot merely be another priority. They must be “THE” priority. A community cannot grow beyond its ability to provide sufficient and safe roadways.
My proposal: Immediately utilize roundabouts to relieve congested intersections such as Bonin Road and La Neuville Road, complete the widening of Verot School Road to four lanes and consider a more-affordable bypass loop to relieve Evangeline Thruway traffic.
We must prioritize the budget in order to ensure roads and public safety are the priority. I’m simply asking: ‘Why have we generated more tax revenue over the past decade and yet still continue to ask the taxpayer to pay more in new and higher taxes?’ ”
Parishwide issues: “Fix the LCG charter in order to address its inequity without deconstructing consolidation. As it stands now the Charter mandates that the city of Lafayette and unincorporated area of Lafayette Parish maintain two separate accounts. This places a wedge of separation between the two. Secondly, while I am adamantly opposed to the creative marketing of new and higher taxes, there is disparity between property tax paid within the city and the unincorporated area. It is unfair that we all share a growing community’s infrastructure and amenities but not be all willing to equally pay for its services. A blue-ribbon committee should be commissioned to put together a reformation proposal of the charter to address this inequity.”
ELIZABETH WEBB HEBERT
32, Republican, Lafayette
PROFESSION: sales manager at Cajundome Convention Center
EDUCATION: bachelor’s degree in hospitality management and tourism from Northwestern State University.
EXPERIENCE: chairs the Lafayette Junior Leadership Program, sits on the Board of Directors for the Leadership Institute of Acadiana and past president of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Acadiana.
PERSONAL: married, no children
District issues: “Traffic is by far the most important issue. The Acadiana Mall reports that 70 percent of the people who shop there live outside of Lafayette. If the council chooses not to make finding solutions to our traffic problem a priority, the congestion will only get worse as the population increases.
“I plan to work to find creative solutions to our traffic problems by helping to find resources to increase funding of new roads and roundabouts though state funding and or grants. Also, we should be making public transportation reliable and attractive enough for people to want to use on a regular basis. Finally, having adequate sidewalks and bike lanes so we can give the people of Lafayette other options for transportation rather than just by car.”
Parishwide issues: “Planning for traffic and infrastructure, planning for a more beautiful and safe community and planning for a more walkable and bikeable community are all important issues. We need to start being proactive rather than reactive with our budget and resources. Now is the time to make the PlanLafayette blueprint the road map for any decisions we make as a council. Before we make decisions we must ask ourselves, ‘Does this action item support the Plan and align with our vision for the future?’ ”
53, Republican, Lafayette
PROFESSION: co-owner of Judice Inn in Lafayette and co-owner of St. Landry Cinema in Opelousas
EDUCATION: bachelor’s degree in business administration from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette
EXPERIENCE: longtime small-business owner, active in the University of Louisiana at Lafayette alumni association, serves in leadership roles at Holy Cross Catholic Church
PERSONAL: married, three children
District issues: “District 8 encompasses many major retail areas, as well as several highly populated residential areas, and the need for better traffic management is important. As this area grows, our new council will need to prioritize our projects that will improve the movement of traffic throughout the business and residential corridors. We need to be proactive in the planning and design of future infrastructure.”
Parishwide issues: “Traffic, roads and bridges, our gateway areas, I-49, infrastructure issues, etc. But one item I think will need to be addressed is how the city of Lafayette is fairly represented. Each city in the parish has its own mayor and council, but Lafayette has councilmen making decisions for the city who are elected in districts whose voters are primarily outside the city. If we work together as a council we can come up with a solution that will be fair and appealing to all concerned.”
69, Republican, Lafayette
PROFESSION: president of Edge Communications, a marketing, advertising and public relations firm
EDUCATION: bachelor’s degree in English from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette
EXPERIENCE: board of directors for Acadian Homebuilders Association, Acadiana Republican Women, board of directors and past president of Friends of the Humanities
PERSONAL: married, four children
District issues: “It is imperative to ensure the police and fire departments are adequately funded and staffed and provided with the proper training and equipment. The fire rating affects everyone — if the rating goes down, insurance rates go up. But equally important is the infrastructure challenge — streets, roads and drainage.
“There are parts of District 8 which have been annexed into the city for decades and still have open drainage ditches and no sidewalks. The widening of Kaliste Saloom Road, which was supposed to be ‘fast tracked’ when it was turned over to local government, is taking far too long to finish. And I will continue to push for the widening of East Broussard Road, which is a major connector road.”
Parishwide issues: “The challenges we face now with public safety, infrastructure and economic development are symptoms of the underlying issues of trust in government and lack of accountability about how the taxpayers’ money is being spent. We vote bond issues for specific projects and they never get built, yet money somehow is found for projects the public never has a chance to vote on and would probably not consider a high priority. So a top priority for me will be rebuilding trust through accountability, fiscal responsibility and better communication.”
Editor’s note: This story was changed on Oct. 19 to include information on Alicia Chaisson’s experience that was inadvertently left out of the original story.