2023 Candidate Questionnaire
City Council District 4
- Quality of Life
What changes, if any, would you pursue to Lafayette’s Development Code?
There’s no “one size fits all” answer. We need to meet with folks in each neighborhood, find out what they think the opportunities are, and draw from what’s working in other communities to seize those opportunities. In other words, we need a flexible approach that respects current residents while also providing opportunities for new development in line with the character of the neighborhood.Thomas Hooks
Balancing affordable housing needs with the preservation of neighborhood can be a challenge. This is why public input is essential in our comprehensive approach to zoning policies. The city council and our administration have historically done a good job at striking a balance that meets the needs of residents while respecting the unique character and identity of its neighborhoods. This includes multi-faceted approaches to how the city identifies mixed-use zones, commercial zones, and residential zones. Ultimately, as we grow and see more younger residents choose Lafayette as their home, we will need to revisit how we approach zoning policies, property and business regulations, taxes, public funding initiatives, and community involvement. When elected, I will work with fellow council members and administration and strive to make Lafayette more accessible and affordable for all residents.Julie Leblanc
Would you support using public funds for housing initiatives? Why or why not?
We need to do a better job with the funds we already have. We already receive federal housing funds, but we haven’t had a good conversation about how we’re using those funds and whether we’re getting results. I’d start there, and would also look at things like whether we need our own redevelopment authority that could help with abandoned properties and whether we should expand our first-time home buyer loan program, which seems to be working well.Thomas Hooks
As a fiscal conservative, my perspective on using public funds for housing initiatives is grounded in principles of limited government spending and fiscal responsibility. While I recognize the importance of addressing housing challenges, I tend to favor market-driven solutions and cautious use of public funds in this area, while reducing regulations for developers. That said, to also support community well-being, knowing we have lack of accessibility to affordable housing in many areas, I would use a balanced and pragmatic approach to finding solutions that address housing challenges while promoting both fiscal responsibility and community cohesion. There are many organizations in the parish and state that support housing initiatives like rental assistance, and as a councilwoman, I would review the list of organizations that receive external agency funding from LCG to determine if these types of organizations benefit from earmarked community organization funds.Julie LeBlanc
Quality of Life
What role should local government should play in economic development and the job market?
We have to get the basics right: We need safe neighborhoods, good schools, and well maintained infrastructure. We should also look at streamlining the process for businesses looking to start in or relocate to Lafayette. If we get those things right, we’ll start making headlines for the right reason, we’ll attract new investment, and we’ll have the skilled workforce we need to provide more jobs and better jobs for everyone in Lafayette. We’ve made progress, but we have more work to do.Thomas Hooks
Our local government plays a crucial role in promoting economic development and retaining residents in Lafayette. When elected, one of my priorities is to champion infrastructure upgrades, improve roads, and reduce traffic congestion. Infrastructure investments such as transportation and broadband attract businesses and support economic growth. Organizations like LEDA are positioned to expand entrepreneurship opportunities to young people like business mentorships, trainings, and grants.Julie LeBlanc
Should Lafayette spend public dollars to finance quality of life programs and to what extent?
Our business leaders have been making the case for years that a strong quality of life will help us build a strong economic base. If we get the other things I mentioned—safety, education, and infrastructure—right, then we will have gone a long way toward delivering on that need. That said, like it or not, we’re competing with other cities not only for new businesses, but also for talent. And when looking for locations, employers and their potential employees look for communities that have the cultural amenities like parks, museums, etc. We might need public investment to deliver some of these amenities—we have in the past, often to great success—but we should do it in partnership with local businesses and ensure we’ll get a good return on our investment.Thomas Hooks
Another priority of mine is investing more in parks and recreation to enhance the quality of life of our residents. The council is positioned to consider and vote on practical and purposeful projects that can support these initiatives. As a councilwoman, I will carefully evaluate the costs and benefits, engage the community, and explore innovative funding options to find the right balance that promotes both fiscal responsibility and an enhanced quality of life for Lafayette.Julie LeBlanc
Would you support stricter development standards to limit flood risk related to new construction?
Our homes are usually our biggest investment. When buying a home, especially in a newer neighborhood, you have every right to expect that the developer and the government have done their jobs to make sure it’s a safe investment. And a vast majority of developers and homebuilders are looking out for their customers.
But our standards are there for a reason. There are very few large tracts of land left in or near the city limits that are also high and dry. Good, scientifically sound drainage standards are what makes the difference for each family and their investment.
It also means we need to provide the sort of flexible regulatory environment that can support infill of single-family homes in neighborhoods in the core of our city that need and want additional housing. A one-size-fits-all code does not work.Thomas Hooks
Stricter development standards while potentially effective, should be implemented carefully, taking into consideration the potential economic impacts on the community. While higher development standards can enhance our resilience to flooding and reduce long-term impacts, we have to be cautious about imposing unnecessary regulatory burdens on businesses and residents. Stricter standards can increase construction costs, causing ripple effects on housing affordability and economic growth. Just as I do as a certified nurse anesthetist, reviewing medications and treatment options, I would advocate for a thorough cost-benefit analysis of any proposed changes to development standards.Julie LeBlanc
How would you prioritize spending on stormwater management and infrastructure in the future?
When it comes to drainage infrastructure, the science has to guide our decisions. We can’t let politics and jurisdictional boundaries dictate what we do. We need to support and accelerate the work that is being led by UL to develop a regional flood model. Any civil engineer in town will tell you that the more data they have to work with, the better and more effective their design will be. Many communities have developed large regional drainage models that are accessible to everyone who is building and designing infrastructure—both the private and public sector. That way, when a new development is being proposed, they can determine not only the impact of that development on its neighbors—they can see the impact on a much larger scale.
District 4 is the southernmost area of the City of Lafayette, with the most new development, and with the most available land for future development. We have to make smart decisions in the next few years so that all our drainage system can manage all of the growth that will happen in District 4.Thomas Hooks
Prioritizing spending on stormwater management and infrastructure in the future requires a thoughtful and strategic approach, especially when tax funds are limited. LCG and the councils have done a lot of great work and spent millions to address our flooding issues with several detention ponds. To continue these efforts, while including stormwater management and infrastructure investments, we need to assess the current infrastructure, identify other potential vulnerable areas, take into consideration impacts like stormwater runoffs and look at initiatives like improving water quality or reducing erosion, and always consider community input and economic impact.Julie LeBlanc