How will you provide better transparency, accountability and efficacy in consolidated government generally and manage the politics of government by two councils?
Providing transparency is ultimately the only way for an administration to secure the necessary buy-in from the public and the council in order to move forward on key initiatives. That is largely a function of communication. The same goes with the two new councils. In my time at LCG, I developed a reputation for being able to maneuver the politics of the council. There is no magic bullet to accomplish this task—it’s as simple as making sure that each council member has been provided with all of the information they need to make a decision, in plenty of time in advance for them to review the information and have their questions answered, so that they can make the most informed decision possible. I will continue to make myself and my administration available to the council on their time frame and on their availability. For the public, I will build a leadership team that is committed to responsiveness, communication, and transparency at all levels of government. I will provide an open data portal for LCG's budget (often called "Open Checkbook") and improve the public's access to government data and information across the board.
How will you increase patrols in neighborhoods that suffer high concentrations of violent crime and drug activity?
Increasing patrols is just one potential solution in a myriad of potential solutions for violent crime and drug activity. Neighborhoods often have the best read on the problems they face day after day. Having a competitively paid police force helps ensure that well-trained, experienced officers stay on the job, rather than leave for other opportunities. And we need to rely on data—testing out whether new techniques or approaches are working. In some cases, that may mean the best approach is increasing patrols. But in other cases, it may mean focusing on a physical design characteristic of the neighborhood—for example, making sure street lights work or that public spaces don’t have obstructed views in which crime can occur.
How will you provide access to more transportation options such as bike and pedestrian infrastructure and public transit?
The key to strong public transit is maximizing its usability. I will lead an effort to increase ridership on the transit system by improving routes and being more customer-focused. The easiest time to include bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure is at the onset of new infrastructure projects—not retrofitting. We adopted a complete streets at LCG that calls for the inclusion of these types of infrastructure when planning new projects. The best approach after the fact involves being targeted and strategic. The sidewalks downtown are a good example—we need to focus on those areas where demand is highest and where the necessary repairs are most feasible.
How will you address costly land use development patterns that have made our community more vulnerable to environmental and economic disaster?
In 2014, the community recognized in the comprehensive plan that development pressures were focusing where land was cheapest and most available—which is often where land is lowest and more prone to flooding. Many of these patterns bore out, unfortunately, in 2016. Recognizing these pressures, in the Unified Development Code (often called the UDC), the council provided additional subdivision and zoning rules to make it easier for developers to take on infill projects—where the infrastructure is already in place and adequate. The UDC also strengthened drainage requirements for new developments. This is a start.
As a former teacher, I recognize the importance of community leaders (and specifically the Mayor-President) who are willing to advocate for the school system. One of the first things I did when I began campaigning full time was to request a meeting with our interim superintendent, Irma Trosclair. In that meeting, I committed that as the Mayor-President, I would support her efforts to improve our school system. Our school system is building the next generation of our community’s workforce. While the Mayor-President does not have direct authority over our school system, the Mayor-President can work with the school system on shared community goals and priorities.
How will you improve the quality of life for our community’s most disadvantaged, provide good housing and address widespread blight, litter and vacancy on Lafayette’s Northside?
Throughout my career, I have worked on addressing many of these issues and will continue to do so as Mayor-President. Quality of life begins with feeling safe in our homes. Blight can be addressed through more integrated code enforcement across departments so that problem properties can be addressed in a more efficient manner. Vacancies will have to be addressed through both strategic and targeted efforts, including partnering with the Lafayette Economic Development Authority (LEDA). In the next few weeks, there will be a launch of a parishwide beautification effort, and we need to leverage that effort to make meaningful strides in the appearance of our parish. In addition to the overall marketing effort that will launch, we need to target key areas for improvement, including our gateway corridors, to ensure that those areas reflect the warm welcome we want to give as people come into our community.
What changes to the parish budget and tax structure will you consider to stabilize finances, meet state mandated expenses and invest in parish infrastructure?
The parish budget is not just broke—it’s broken. One of the reasons I pushed for the charter amendments and for separate parish and city councils is because consolidation has not worked out well for either the city or the parish because the underlying budget issues that led to consolidation in the first place—a dwindling tax base in the parish faced with growing demands—have never been addressed.
We have to be blunt with taxpayers. The parish is broke. Out of a $12.9 million parish general fund this year, the fund balance is budgeted at $99,000. That’s less than 1% fund balance. By comparison, the city’s general fund fund balance is almost $39 million—or about 37% of expenditures. In government accounting, a fund balance of 20% of expenditures is considered a baseline minimum. The parish is broke.
But we got here, in part, because for years the parish has been funding functions that are part of consolidation that are not core functions of a parish government. We have to address the underlying structural problems in the budget, and how we allocate the costs of consolidation. Only then can we get to the root of the issue and make the necessary cuts to restore the parish’s fund balance to a healthy level. The voters of the parish have made it loud and clear that they do not support new tax revenues. And so I will be very transparent about the cuts that will take place to get the parish budget back in line.
How will you diversify the local economy and bring prosperity both parishwide and into the city’s urban core?
We spend too much time in Lafayette Parish worried about which part of the parish is competing with another part of the parish. We will only be able to prosper when we understand that we are all competing with other areas our size across the country. Only by banding together as a team will we be able to build a world-class economy. Every part of the parish has a role to play. As mayor-president, it will be my job to help coordinate economic development throughout the parish, focusing on each area’s unique opportunities and assets.
How will you achieve economic and environmental sustainability in improving and maintaining our roads and our electric, water and wastewater utilities?
Infrastructure (of all types) needs to be built as efficiently as possible, with consideration of long-term maintenance obligations. Sustainability is a term that is used to describe the efficient use of resources over the long term. The way we achieve that is by understanding the life cycle and long-term maintenance obligations of infrastructure that we put in and ensures the most conservative use of our limited resources.
What will you do to invest in drainage infrastructure and develop policies and strategies for stormwater management in both the city and parish?
I will push forward on a comprehensive approach to mitigating our flood risk. There is not one single solution. We have to take a leadership role in the region to begin to manage risk at the regional watershed level. We have to take advantage of our natural floodways by utilizing them for large detention projects that lower the base flood elevation for an entire section of the parish. We have to maintain channels, coordinating with all municipalities and the parish in a parish-wide system of maintenance. We have to continue the work of the UDC, modernizing our approaches to detention associated with new development. And we have to work with our federal and state officials to tackle larger projects like dredging the Vermilion River.
We have rededicated several million dollars from other uses towards drainage in the last few years. That’s a start. We will also need to put together a cohesive team on a regional level to compete for the tens of millions in state and federal funding that has become available because of recent flood events. But funders at the national level will need to see that Lafayette has developed a comprehensive, well-thought-out, data-driven plan to mitigate flood risk if we hope to maximize that funding.
The Trump effect, the city/rural divide and Lafayette’s 2019 election postmortem
The Current, November 20, 2019
Closing Argument: Steven Hebert for Carlee Alm-LaBar
The Current, November 13, 2019
Closing Argument: Ken Stansbury for Josh Guillory
The Current, November 13, 2019
LUS becomes political football in waning days of M-P race
The Current, November 13, 2019
COLUMN: A post-primary postmortem
The Current, October 16, 2019
COLUMN: Where do the candidates agree?
The Current, October 9, 2019
Carlee Alm-LaBar, former planning director, announces bid for mayor-president
The Current, March 18, 2019
Courted on Facebook to run, Carlee Alm-LaBar could make a formidable challenger for Robideaux
The Current, March 7, 2019
Alm-LaBar says experience with LCG makes her best candidate for mayor-president
The Advocate, 09/30/2019
Alm-LaBar outpaces other mayor-president candidates in fundraising
The Advocate, 09/13/2019
Lafayette mayor-president candidate Carlee Alm-LaBar out-raises opponents
The Daily Advertiser, 09/12/2019
The Daily Advertiser, 10/03/2019