How will you provide better transparency, accountability and efficacy in consolidated government generally and manage the politics of government by two councils?
I am committed to increasing transparency, communication, and accountability. Some methods to achieve transparency and increase communication include appearing weekly on radio stations such as KPEL to field questions from our neighbors within the city/parish, having our Public Works department publish what was accomplished each working day, opening my office to the public at least once a month (whether that is at Lafayette Consolidated Government or a variety of locations within the parish), using technology (such as apps for smart devices) to more easily access services and check on the status of pending services, and implementing a culture within LCG that is inviting for residents and businesses to interact with.
Also, I am ready to lead both the City and Parish Councils into the future. It is not the government I voted for (two councils with one Mayor-President), but it is the government we have, and we will make it work. The best way for this transition to occur is by having absolute and complete transparency at all levels of our local government. “The left hand must know what the right hand is doing.” Under my administration, we will not have more questions than answers. The residents of Lafayette Parish will know what is going on in their government, and I would be honored to serve as the next Lafayette Mayor-President.
How will you increase patrols in neighborhoods that suffer high concentrations of violent crime and drug activity?
In conjunction with our Police Chief, we will increase patrols in high crime areas during high crime times. Crime cannot be adequately addressed by only increasing patrols. I invite everyone to visit my website at votejoshguillory.com and examine my four-point plan in combating crime. This plan was introduced early in my campaign after consulting with our Chiefs of Police within the parish, patrol officers, our local police association, and members of our community. This plan is not written in concrete, but it is a good start to proactively addressing crime in our community. Notice that the first point is increasing pay for our officers. We have the funding within our local budget to increase pay for our officers. The key is cutting spending and not raising taxes.
How will you provide access to more transportation options such as bike and pedestrian infrastructure and public transit?
I believe roads should be used for vehicles, and Lafayette has a severe traffic problem. I will focus heavily on increasing the efficiency of traffic for automobiles. Our infrastructure is not designed for additional bike lanes. The downtown area and within the campus of UL may be exceptions. Other than these two areas, I believe the private sector will dictate to developers in individual developments any need for such additional bike/pedestrian transportation options.
How will you address costly land use development patterns that have made our community more vulnerable to environmental and economic disaster?
In any development, we must take into consideration the short-term and long-term impact a project will have on drainage, roads, the environment, traffic, and other areas that can affect our community. My administration will strive to approve developments that meet the needs of our current residents without compromising the ability of future residents to meet their developmental needs.
While education may not be a direct function of the office I am seeking, I see the value of increasing the partnership across entities within our parish, such as the school board. Having a well-educated workforce and community will help sustain long-term economic growth and improve quality of life for our citizens. I will use my position as Mayor-President to advocate for more independent school boards within our parish. Zachary, LA is a great example of how an independent school district within a parish can maximize results for its students. I strongly believe that the more local a government body is, the more efficient, accountable, and productive that governmental body can be.
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?
As it relates to blighted property, I will partner with our District Attorney’s office and our judiciary to enforce our blighted property laws and ensure that we are addressing this issue in the most efficient way possible.
Litter as a whole, whether it’s in the north side or anywhere else in our city/parish, falls within my priorities because eradicating litter will help drive in commerce and help with drainage. My administration will work vigorously after festivals, downtown alive, and throughout the year to proactively clean litter throughout the city and parish. Some approaches include taking measures to catch the litter before it goes into storm drains, finding ways to collect litter at the end of coulees before it enters the Vermilion River, and working with the Sheriff and other municipalities to employ community-service based programs to pick up litter.
My approach to the disadvantaged in our city and parish is to work with faith-based organizations, to include Catholic Services, to find ways that we can best incentivize employment, address the homeless issue within the city, and create jobs so that every individual who wants to work can do so. I do not support additional programs at this time, and I do not support increasing taxes to address these issues. We can best address this issue with a partnership between government, the private sector, and faith-based organizations.
What changes to the parish budget and tax structure will you consider to stabilize finances, meet state mandated expenses and invest in parish infrastructure?
My administration will examine every department’s budget throughout each fiscal year. Any overages will be brought to the attention of the Councils, and I will lead in efforts to rededicate surplus money to priorities such as drainage, roads and traffic, and public safety. These initiatives are the pillars of government. If we can achieve these goals, everything else will fall into place.
One example of budget cuts will be to stop contracting out so much legal expenses. I would like dedicated staff attorneys that can handle a majority of (if not all) legal work for LCG. Dedicated staff attorneys that are accounted for in the budget is far more cost effective to taxpayers than contracted attorneys who can bill by the hour. Just from November 2018 through August 2019, we have spent over $2.5 million on outsourced legal fees. How much of this money could be used to give our brave law enforcement officers a much needed pay raise or add fire protection in our unincorporated areas? Another example is placing new hired employees in the PERS retirement system as opposed to MERS. Doing so would save our budget millions just in a few years. I want to emphasize that this change will be only for new hires only. These two examples coupled with reexamining each department’s budget throughout the fiscal year are just a few examples. The bottom line is that LCG’s budget is anywhere from $600 million to $700 million. We have the money to focus on our priorities. We do not need to raise taxes to meet our priorities. If we fall short financially on issues such as drainage or major road projects, we should expect help from our Legislators in Baton Rouge and our Louisiana Delegation in Washington.
How will you diversify the local economy and bring prosperity both parishwide and into the city’s urban core?
Diversifying our economy is paramount to our long-term economic sustainability. To achieve this goal, Lafayette must be attractive to new businesses. The UDC stunts business growth in Lafayette, it is overly strenuous to existing businesses, and it is not welcoming to prospective new businesses. The more I learn about the UDC, the more I am convinced that the problems encountered also derive from the implementation of the UDC. After discussing this issue intensely with business owners, developers, and the general public, I would support a complete repeal and replace of the UDC. My position is made with the recognition that there are certainly some provisions in the UDC that are helpful. I acknowledge that we need rules and regulations. However, a fresh start from a regulatory standpoint that makes Lafayette the most inviting to businesses that we can be would go a long way with diversifying our economy.
Further, while diversifying our economy is important, we must not forget the importance of our oil and gas industry. There are plenty of policies coming out of Baton Rouge that hurt this vital industry that are outside of our control, but we cannot let that serve as an excuse to not pursue our oil and gas industry. As Mayor-President, I will diversity our economy, and I will also use this platform to partner with our Legislators in Baton Rouge to help return our oil and gas industry. Two areas of focus that I will advocate for is reforming our legal climate and reducing the standard severance tax rate on oil production so that we are competitive with states such as Texas. Again, our oil and gas industry has left due to the failed policies in Baton Rouge. I simply do not want to sit back and just accept that failure, and the Mayor of the 4th largest city in the state should be able to have a loud enough voice to make a difference in advocating policies that can better our city, parish, and state.
How will you achieve economic and environmental sustainability in improving and maintaining our roads and our electric, water and wastewater utilities?
In regards to roads, I will work in conjunction with our city and parish councils to develop an objective “worst to first” list for the city and the unincorporated areas of the parish that balances the condition of the roads and the amount of traffic on each respective road. After the lists are compiled, we will begin on the roads at the top of the list and work our way down.
Our electric, water, and wastewater utilities should always be under constant scrutiny to be delivered to our residents in the most efficient manner – both from a cost and services perspective. My administration will strive to find ways that we can obtain energy at the lowest cost, and then transfer this savings to the consumer. By doing so, businesses can reinvest in our community and homeowners can have more discretional income.
What will you do to invest in drainage infrastructure and develop policies and strategies for stormwater management in both the city and parish?
My administration will start by getting our priorities in order within local government. I learned as an officer in the Army that if everything is a priority, nothing is a priority. All departments will be consistently reexamined throughout the budget year for any actual or forecasted surpluses. Any excess money should be considered for drainage, and I will lead the charge in making sure that we spend taxpayer money responsibly on priorities, with drainage being at the top.
Drainage must be addressed with a comprehensive plan. Within our parish, my administration will continue to clean out coulees, ditches, laterals, address litter, and adequately employ detention ponds. However, those efforts are not enough to effectively combat drainage. As Mayor-President, I will work with our neighboring Parish Presidents along with the Army Corps of Engineers to address drainage from a watershed standpoint. Dredging the Vermilion River along with proactively turning off the pumps at the Teche-Vermilion freshwater pumping station in anticipation of heavy storms are also very important initiatives in addressing drainage. Working with our neighboring parishes and municipalities within our parish will be key in accomplishing these efforts.
COLUMN: A post-primary postmortem
The Current, October 16, 2019
COLUMN: Where do the candidates agree?
The Current, October 9, 2019
Attorney Josh Guillory, a former congressional candidate, enters the race for mayor-president
The Current, April 17, 2019
Trump and LAGOP formally back Higgins’ re-election, spurred by Rudy Giuliani’s earlier endorsement of challenger Josh Guillory
The Current, June 27, 2018
Josh Guillory says he can provide leadership, decision-making as Lafayette mayor-president
The Advocate, 10/02/2019