Both of the candidates in the Lafourche Parish Presidents Run off election of 2011 have completed the BISCO questionnaire whch consists of nine (9) questions. The answers provided by Charlotte Randolph and Jimmie Cantrelle are listed below. Mrs. Randolph's answers are listed first followed by Mr. Cantrelle's.
BISCO listens to local residents and works with them to address issues they feel are important to developing just, healthy and sustainable communities. As the number of people who live in poverty and the number of “working poor” increases, residents of Lafourche Parish are facing greater challenges. These are issues of importance to our members, and we ask for your responses to these serious questions. Your responses will then be distributed to our membership as well as local and social media outlets.
QUESTION 1: HOMELESS IN LAFOURCHE
Through our work with local communities, BISCO is aware of the serious and growing issue of homelessness in the Bayou Region. If elected, do you have plans to address issues related to homelessness, and what are those plans? Will these plans include the creation of a homeless shelter within the parish, including emergency housing services available 7 days a week?
Randolph: I recently met with representatives of Gulf Coast Social Services, an organization providing assistance to the homeless in Lafourche and Terrebonne parishes. The meeting was requested because this agency will be experiencing a budget shortfall in 2012 and, unless additional funding materializes, services will be cut. I am in the process of requesting that the Lafourche Parish Council amend the proposed 2012 budget to assist Gulf Coast Social Services with $25,000 in funding, allowing them to continue housing the homeless and providing support services.
Cantrelle: It is my understanding that currently there are no homeless shelters in the Lafourche area. Therefore, people who are experiencing homelessness are likely to live on the street or in a shelter in nearby parishes or are likely to live in a car or camper or with relatives in overcrowded or substandard housing. There are federal and state programs that can assist Lafourche in obtaining a shelter in Lafourche as well as transitional housing. I plan to look into those programs and to work with local and state and federal resources and organizations to help lift the homeless citizens out of their circumstances. As Parish President, I will try to find ways to better assist the individuals and families who find themselves homeless.
QUESTION 2: TRANSPORTATION
BISCO has advocated for years for the creation of a public transit system in the City of Thibodaux, and we are very happy that the City has begun service with its own public transit routes. Our leaders are now very interested in learning of your plans for bringing parish-wide public bus services to Lafourche Parish. What are your plans for this?
Randolph: The issue of parish-wide transportation has been discussed since the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, when many New Orleans area residents were temporarily relocated in various parts of Lafourche Parish. Our Community Action Agency conducted a survey of permanent residents and learned that there is some interest. In the meantime, however, the Council on Agency received a boost in its revenues and thus expanded transportation services. This accomplished part of the goal but a gap remains. Community Action personnel and our Grants & Economic Development department continue to work together on potential funding opportunities.
Cantrelle: The Thibodaux transit program seems to be working well. It is my understanding that Lafourche Community Action, the Nicholls State University Sociology Department and many dedicated organizations, BISCO included, did a parish-wide transportation study in Lafourche in 2009. I will look into that study, as well as the City of Thibodaux study, and see how these can assist my administration in better determining public transportation needs and implementation parish-wide.
QUESTION 3: INSURANCE
Neighboring Terrebonne Parish has been pro-active in participating in the Community Rating System of the National Flood Insurance Program, helping to bring down residents’ insurance rates by as much as 15 percent. If elected, what are your plans for participating in this Community Rating System? Why or why not?
Randolph: Lafourche was removed from the opportunity to participate in the CRS when Parish Councilmen granted variances from elevation requirements prior to 2004. This action cost residents with flood insurance their 5% discount and placed the parish on probation with the National Flood Insurance Program. Over the last 8 years, with the assistance of the parish District Attorney, we have successfully remedied this situation. Earlier this year, we received notice from FEMA that the parish is now in compliance and may apply to the CRS for discounts. But we must continue to strictly adhere to elevation requirements as well as building codes.
Cantrelle: I plan to participate immediately and I will do everything I possibly can to reduce Flood Insurance Rates for our citizens. Terrebonne Parish did it ... we can do it, too.
QUESTION 4: AFFORDABLE HOUSING
One of the major issues that BISCO Leaders are concerned about is the availability of decent affordable housing as well as home ownership programs. What are your plans for increasing the availability of affordable housing for local residents? And will you support the development of a “First Time Homebuyer’s Program” for Lafourche Parish?
Randolph: The damage from Hurricanes Gustav and Ike provided Lafourche Parish with $33 million for infrastructure projects and $3 million for affordable housing. Our plan for up 25 units is now being reviewed by the state for implementation. We are also advised that upon completion of the initial program, there may be additional funding available for additional homes. I support a “First Time Homebuyer’s Program” in addition to our affordable housing plan.
Cantrelle: I have been informed that a First Time Homebuyer’s Program already exists in Lafourche and is active through Lafourche Community Concerned Citizens and the Lafourche Community Action Individual Development Account (IDA). The programs are funded through Southern University in Baton Rouge.
I also understand that a Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) from the federal government of $36 million was given to Lafourche Parish to ensure decent affordable housing, a suitable living environment and opportunities to expand economic opportunities, principally for low and moderate income persons.
In 2009, Parish government held hearings for residents to have the opportunity to give their viewpoints on the housing, community and economic development needs within the parish. In 2011, it appears to be still in the planning stage. CDBG funds and other funding resources such as Louisiana Housing Finance Agency, Rural Development and others could be used to develop affordable housing. I will work to help secure affordable housing for all who need it.
QUESTION 5: JOBS AND INDUSTRY
BISCO has conducted a strong advocacy campaign for the creation of a “Restoration Economy” for coastal Louisiana. With the projected input of large amounts of monies from the BP Disaster as well as future GOMESA (Gulf of Mexico Energy Security Act) funds, what are your plans to assure voters that local residents and businesses will play a priority role in restoring and protecting our coast, including plans for set aside funding, jobs and contracts for local people and businesses?
Randolph: The potential for coastal restoration funding is greater with GOMESA than with the BP fines. While Louisiana has proposed a plan for early restoration to the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Task Force, we are cognizant of the primary focus of the task force: clean water. We anticipate that much of the money will be used to address the tributaries leading to the Gulf of Mexico to ensure their continued health. The public bid process disallows “set asides” to allow for the market to operate. We are attempting to be proactive, encouraging the area community college and technical schools to ramp up their efforts to train equipment operators for these potentially high-paying jobs. We are also in discussion with the Louisiana Economic Department to consider “coastal restoration” an industry, allowing for local innovators to play a role in its development.
Cantrelle: I assure our citizens that I will push for local residents and businesses to play a priority role in restoring and protecting our coast, including plans for set aside funding, jobs and contracts for local people and businesses.
QUESTION 6: JOBS AND INDUSTRY
Secretary Ray Mabus mentioned in his September 2010 plan for Gulf recovery that “…a central component of the economic vision for the Gulf Coast involves diversifying the economic drivers that create jobs and wealth in the region.”BISCO understands through our research that this area is overly dependent upon the single economic driver of the oil and gas industrial sector, which leaves our economy vulnerable to rapid decline in the event of future downturns in that sector, as well as limiting residents’ employment options. As parish president, what are your plans for diversifying the economy and tax base of Lafourche Parish with the inclusion and encouragement of multiple and varied industrial/commercial sectors?
Randolph: The oil and gas industry will be here for many years to come. Yes, we are dependent upon its continued success and are subject to its cyclical nature. But all industries suffer a downturn at one time and this one is no different. Terrebonne Parish is successful in its retail industry because of demographics and geography, yet this retail is heavily dependent on the service sector in St. Mary, Terrebonne, Lafourche and Assumption. The energy industry is the foundation for all of the other industries. I have always been an advocate of doing what we do best.
Cantrelle: I would like to meet as soon as possible after becoming Parish President with individuals like Dr. Loren Scott and others, who can give my administration the benefit of their wisdom to aid us in developing a diversified economy and plan for Lafourche Parish. We have world-class talent here in Louisiana, and we should be taking advantage of the expertise of such people here.
QUESTION 7: ENVIRONMENT
BISCO is one of Louisiana’s strongest nonprofit advocates for coastal restoration and protection, and our members are very interested in learning of your plans for restoring and protecting our ecosystem and the communities that depend upon it. Despite the seriousness of the destruction and the massive media coverage of this issue, we also find there are large numbers of residents who are unaware of their vulnerability because of this coastal land loss and other environmental harms. What are your plans to ensure that ALL Lafourche Parish residents are made aware of this problem?
Randolph: I am not convinced that that statement is accurate. Coastal issues may not be the topic of daily conversations, but residents of Lafourche are certainly aware. To educate more, we have enlisted Thibodaux Mayor Tommy Eschete to participate in our discussions and to be an advocate for the purchase of flood insurance. If there is a less-educated area, it would appear to be in the northern reaches of the parish.
Cantrelle: My plans for restoring and protecting our ecosystem and the communities that depend upon it are to work 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, if necessary, with any and all individuals, agencies, organizations, etc. to bring about meaningful results for these pressing problems. As far as making citizens aware of the coastal land loss and other environmental problems, my administration will develop a close working relationship with the media and agencies and organizations to disseminate any and all pertinent information to the people of Lafourche Parish concerning these problems.
QUESTION 8: COMMUNITY RESILIENCE
As governmental and engineering plans are being developed for how to restore and protect our coast, BISCO is learning that many officials feel that not every coastal community can or will be saved. If that is the case for communities in Lafourche Parish, BISCO has developed an “Honesty Campaign” where we encourage officials to speak openly and honestly about residents’ options for their futures and the possibility of them being “relocated.” What is your position on the premise that residents should be informed openly and directly of the chances of their communities being relocated because of environmental non-sustainability?
Randolph: I am a member of the state Framework Development Team charged with producing a Five Year Master Plan by 2012. I agree that each step of the way residents should be advised as to what is being discussed.
Cantrelle: I’m for openly, directly and honestly informing the citizens of Lafourche about anything that affects them.
QUESTION 9: EMERGENCY PREPAREDNESS
Working within these bayou communities, BISCO is well aware of the dangers facing our residents from multiple types and numbers of disasters. What are your plans for ensuring that Lafourche Parish’s emergency plans are the most pro-active and up-to-date as possible and that residents are kept informed of those plans on a regular basis?
Randolph: We have formed a highly trained team in emergency preparedness. Grants have afforded us the latest in technology. And we have added a Public Information Officer to our staffing in order to instantly and continuously inform residents through print and broadcast media, as well as social media. This worked extremely well in calming the fears of and educating residents about their situation during the Morganza flood threat.
Cantrelle: My plans for ensuring that Lafourche Parish’s emergency plans are the most pro-active and up-to-date as possible are to have the best people possible in place to handle the emergency preparation and implementation of those plans. My administration will also be pro-active in communicating with our citizens.