Methods to improve our population's access to green spaces and parks would obviously be to construct more parks and allocate more lots to green spaces, but funding these initiatives becomes the problem. In lieu of taxpayer-funded parks and green or open spaces, I will work with private and third sector parties through partnerships, trusts or sponsorships to fund land acquisition for parks or green spaces and the corresponding land development that comes with building such facilities. I would create public fundraising events and initiatives for things such as naming rights to different facility aspects, which is another proven method of park funding, and these are all similar methods to what Moncus Park is currently doing to fund its construction and development. A powerful disincentive keeping people from enjoying some of the parks and green spaces Lafayette already has and deriving health benefits from them is the presence of anti-social behavior, which I will ensure be curbed, or more ideally, eliminated by investing in additional staffing when necessary to ensure that our parks and spaces are properly maintained. One of the biggest challenges is identifying the socioeconomic groups within Lafayette Parish who are less likely to have access to such facilities, which is a challenge that I am more than willing to take head on, and bring these facilities to them. Identifying such disadvantaged groups requires detailed knowledge of local needs, cultural contexts, and attitudes, which are things a local candidate such as myself fully understands. Access to green and open spaces are critical for populations as research consistently shows a positive correlation between access to green or open spaces and personal mental and physical health, and improved personal health translates to less health problems and less taxpayer money that has to be allocated to address such health problems.
Regarding access to quality of life programming, as a member of the Parish Council I will actively work to improve the lifestyles of our citizens, parishwide, by fostering and promoting balanced lifestyles. “Quality of Life” can be a broad concept but is essentially the measure of an individual’s satisfaction in the aspects that are most valuable to that person. While this concept can be subjective as we all value things differently, we all have the same basic needs when it comes right down to it. Societal aspects such as access to transportation, safety, health, income, access to jobs, access to activities to maintain a healthy work-life balance, education, access to housing, quality of the environment in terms of pollution, access to equal opportunities, and community and civic engagement all factor into our overall quality of life as citizens. Improving our drainage situation will entice more citizens and businesses to move into our area since the threat of flooding will be no more, which in turn will improve our economy by means of our primary and secondary business sectors. An improved economy will lure in tertiary businesses that will provide a range of work-life balance offerings to enhance our citizens' participation in cultural and entertainment activities. As a member of the Parish Council and utilizing my research into renewable energies technologies and the patents that I am generating as a result, I am here to diversify Louisiana’s manufacturing industries. I will do this by attracting renewable manufacturers that make up primary and secondary business sectors to construct their equipment such as wind turbines and solar cells in Louisiana, specifically Lafayette Parish. With I-10, the fourth longest and southernmost cross-country interstate highway, bisecting our state and crossing with I-12, I-20, I-49, I-55, and I-59 positions Louisiana as a prime staging area for transporting goods manufactured in Louisiana to the surrounding regions. Everything is connected, and if we want to provide good quality of life for our citizens, we must ensure that our foundation is one that promotes growth and opportunity for all.
While the Lafayette City and Parish Councils will not have direct authority over school regarding education and zoning, I believe that it would be my duty as a member of the Parish Council to improve our Parish’s educational opportunities. Our school quality and the level of success our children achieve affects all business and residents in our community, and this is a civic issue that I will actively pursue for excellence. Improving public education for our children starts with recruitment and retainement of quality teachers. Methods for accomplishing such a task could involve providing teachers with no-interest loans ranging from $20,000 - $30,000 to assist them in purchasing their first homes and should prove an effective method in helping school districts recruit teachers and enable them to become full members of their community where they teach, and this is something I would work personally with local financial institutions to make a reality. I would push for investments in preschool programs operated by the school districts, as quality childcare and early literacy are one of the most effective methods to improve academic success in school children by preparing them to learn before they even enter the school system, and I would further our utilization of Public Libraries to train child-care providers about reading development and the importance of early literacy, which would help to achieve this initiative. This next point should go without saying but keeping our schools safe is paramount, as are initiatives to reduce violence and mitigate potential risks via planning and preparation. I would accomplish this by partnering with our police and fire departments to drastically increase our schools' effectiveness at mitigating and managing violent or catastrophic events. For schools that maybe have had their share of problems but are making improvements, it’s important to recognize these improvements and encourage these schools to continue with their improvement initiatives, and this is what I plan to bring to our city in spades. Far too often a school's problems are highlighted while their accomplishments do not receive recognition, which can lower teacher moral. So by celebrating these schools that are making improvements helps to provide highly appreciated moral boosts for teachers, students, and families who are committed to becoming high-performing schools. Another very important aspect is encouraging parents to be active in their children’s education, as academic success in school children has been proven to be directly related to parental involvement, and I will actively seek out methods Lafayette can employ to encourage parents to get more involved in their children’s lives. I would strive to open and build strong relationships with our school district leaders help to create communication channels between city leaders and our school district leaders where ideas, insights, and innovations can be shared that help our children learn. Another, albeit more overlooked, method for improving public education for our children is for the city to support efforts to improve school facilities, and it is very easy to judge a community’s commitment to education by looking at the quality of its schools and school buildings. As a member of the Parish Council, I would champion school bond campaigns when investments in our facilities are needed due to things like leaking roofs, cracked walls, and air conditioners. As Parish Council Member for District 3, I would use my influence with civic leaders, my fellow elected officials, businesses, community organizers, and the media to ensure that education stays at the top of the public agenda to celebrate success and achieve results that benefit not only our students but our community as a whole.
How will you ensure that public resources are provided equitably and promote opportunity for minorities?
I am a firm believer that government has a responsibility to provide a range of basic services such as education, health, water supply, and sanitation that facilitate and promote human well-being and economic progress, and this is a belief I will bring into the Parish Council. However, ensuring effective and equitable public service delivery does not mean our city needs more resources; it simply requires our government to target its spending where money is needed most and ensure that the money spent is actually reaching the facilities where these public services are provided to the people. Otherwise we risk our money “getting lost in red tape” by being allocated to things such as administrative or other miscellaneous expenses that do not directly benefit the people. I will place increased accountability on our front-line service providers for responsiveness to the communities they serve and establish performance metrics to both monitor and motivate our public workers to ensure that our desired results are achieved.
Regarding improving opportunities for minorities, this begins with improving the quality of public education and our population's access to it in high-risk or socioeconomically disadvantaged areas such as the Northside. Improving the quality of and access to public education in these areas is a feat that will require resource investments by our local government into these areas to facilitate this desired development. While areas such as the Northside are not in my district, their performance directly affects my district, so this is a topic I will take head on as our entire region will benefit from our general population having more access to quality education. Northside’s current economic situation is the culmination of generations of poor resource allocations on behalf of LCG and LPSS, and these effects are far-reaching.
What will you do to fund the repair and improvement of roads and other infrastructure in our district and how will you prioritize them?
Regarding roads, the problem facing Lafayette Parish is the same for virtually all cities: Available funds will never be sufficient to service and maintain all roads simultaneously. As such, the solution is to maintain the “most important roads” first to ensure that public services continue to be delivered well. Determining the “most important roads” for Lafayette Parish to utilize its roadway budget optimally involves several aspects but will ultimately be the result of a prioritization methodology determined by a system similar to “Ranking by Multiple Measures” developed by the Washington State Department of Transportation. These multiple measures would consist of parameters such as a road’s Average Daily Traffic, the road’s Pavement Condition Index, Cost of Maintenance, Lafayette’s roadway budget, and cost-effectiveness of the maintenance project. An “optimal prioritization approach” focusing on cost-effectiveness to achieve maximum benefits per dollar utilized can be applied to Lafayette’s primary infrastructure systems, not just roads, and allow Lafayette to see parish-wide improvements using the current infrastructure budgets without having to raise taxes.
What will you do to invest in drainage infrastructure and develop policies and strategies for stormwater management in our district?
Lafayette Parish’s drainage problems will require a multi-level solution. Some of these solutions can be addressed in the short term as they were caused by lack of oversight by the city in two ways: First, Lafayette engineers approving developments without performing proper impact reports intended to accurately depict how proposed developments affect their surrounding areas, which causes underdevelopment of drainage infrastructure causing flooding in existing neighborhoods located near new developments. Second, Public Works having one crew dedicated to drainage who have filtered out their higher-paid and experienced workers in favor of hiring crew members with substantially less experience for less pay in an effort to save money. This practice results in subpar work quality, such as culverts not dug out to proper grades that results in non-ideal stormwater flow characteristics, ditches that are uneven and result in standing water, etc. As such, I strongly believe that overhauling the Lafayette Public Works Department will remedy our backlogged drainage maintenance problems because as it currently stands our Public Works Department has approximately two years’ worth of open tickets to address, and I cannot allow this situation to persist. The first thing I will do in office is enact more oversight policies to ensure Lafayette engineers and Public Works crews perform their due diligence in ensuring the job is done right the first time. As far as developing strategies are concerned, there are two primary strategies assuming that our Public Works Department is successfully keeping our drainage ditches clear: increasing the number of both detention and retention ponds Lafayette has parish-wide and dredging the Vermilion. Regarding detention and retention ponds, while canvassing around Broussard and Youngsville I saw first-hand empty lots in neighborhoods that have flooded that could and should be purchased by the city or parish utilizing federal funding and converted into either detention or retention ponds depending on the area, as this much-needed water storage capacity could have made the difference between a home flooding in 2016 and not flooding. Regarding dredging the Vermilion, this is something that Must. Be. Done. We do not need a study to confirm if the Vermilion should be dredged, as the number of times the Vermilion has reached flood-stage in the last year is proof enough. My vision for the Vermilion is as follows: I would like to vastly expand the capabilities of the Bayou Vermilion District and have it become the Bayou Vermilion River Authority by the Louisiana Legislature, giving a board complete control over the river that flows through St. Landry Parish, Lafayette Parish, and Vermilion Parish out into Vermilion Bay. Congress would grant Congressional Approval to the Army Corps of Engineers to dredge the Vermilion River, then this Bayou Vermilion River Authority would obtain a permit from the Army Corps of Engineers allowing the Bayou Vermilion River Authority to dredge the river themselves, effectively giving Lafayette control over its portion of the Vermilion River. This way, Lafayette can clean up the river using federal money, which would create jobs related to cleaning and maintaining the river, and allow for the Vermilion to become an economic force for the city of Lafayette by means of increased river traffic and even possibly a Lafayette River Walk.