Council Q&A Part 5: LCG support for the arts, culture and social service agencies

by Independent Editors

In mid-September, The Independent sent a questionnaire to candidates seeking seats on the City-Parish Council — incumbents and challengers, 17 candidates total. Thirteen questions were asked of the candidates, ranging from general queries about big issues facing the parish to specific questions on topics such as tax increment financing districts and Downtown zoning.

We’ve gotten responses back from about half of them, and as we get more responses we’ll continue to compile them and alert readers when new responses have come in. New to the responses today is District 5 candidate Monique Koll, who is challenging two-term incumbent Jared Bellard. Koll’s responses have also been added to Parts 1-3, which can be found by searching “Council” at

We’ve grouped candidates by district to promote ready comparisons of their positions by the voters who will elect them (and alphabetically within districts). We’ve only lightly edited for clarity the candidates’ responses; some use bullet points while others stick to prose, some are lengthy as others are brief, etc., but otherwise the responses are as we received them. Because many of the responses are lengthy, we’re running the questionnaire in installments. Today’s query concerns LCG’s role in promoting quality of life through public financial support of the arts, culture and social service agencies.

What is your opinion on the role of a robust and unique local culture in economic development, and will you support a substantial increase in Lafayette Consolidated Government’s underwriting of Festival International, Festivals Acadiens and the Acadiana Center for the Arts? Should city-parish funding of leisure and recreation be confined primarily to sports and parks and not to culture?


LCG currently funds Festival International at $75,000 and Festival Acadiens at $50,000. We also fund the Arts and Culture segment of our community. In my opinion recreation is a separate issue from the festivals and the arts. LCG’s funding for these festivals are sufficient but if more funding is needed the request should be made with justifications.


We all enjoy these wonderful events and locations. We also enjoy the sports and parks in our community. The Consolidated Government supports a wide variety of Cultural and Arts programs through a partnership with AcA. The application process works well, we just need to work to find additional funding for that pool of money available. With shrinking revenues the next few years it may be difficult to increase the amount of money in the pool but as we work together we should make every attempt to do so.


Acadiana is defined by our homegrown culture and character. To thrive in the coming years we have to do a better job of protecting local resources. People naturally take pride in their local Cajun and Creole cultures, foods, places, history, landscape, festivals and businesses. City-parish funding should be made available to cultural, leisure and recreation the same as it is available to sports and parks.


We’re incredibly lucky to have a unique, marketable culture in Lafayette Parish; and leveraging it through public investment is a no-brainer to me. However, we have to be thoughtful in our decisions of how (and how extensively) to invest in cultural events. Investing in Festival International during its infancy was a fantastic investment for our community, and we should seriously consider any requests for increased support. At the same time, we should also be looking toward newer fledgling events that may turn into a similar successes.


Culture plays a larger role in economic development than might be readily understood. People and businesses are not going to move to a place that they don’t like. Funding always needs to be flexible and reevaluation should occur regularly, whether it includes just sports and parks, or if it is proven that encompassing culture will be beneficial too.


LCG must support the culture of Lafayette. Arts and culture equal economic development. I understand that a city must acknowledge and support its artists. A thriving artistic and cultural scene attracts the best talent in all areas. Artists better the community through creating bonds, altering perspective, and enjoying life. The City-Parish Council can ensure that Lafayette continues to flourish by recognizing the proven importance of arts and culture and reflecting that value through its actions. Lafayette is teeming with artists of all kinds. This talent is a powerful tool that can be used in collaboration with local government.


Be it a beer and boudin or a wine and cheese fest, it is the food and music of our Cajun and Creole culture that is the foundation for our quality of life and should be supported


Supporting our robust and unique culture is crucial in Lafayette’s economic development. It attracts visitors and improves our quality of life among many other things. It is important to encourage individuals and businesses to show their support so that these wonderful community events and organizations can continue to thrive.


I am a strong supporter of the cultural economy. Three of my children work in the arts – two in dance, and one in music.

Considering our needs for roads, drainage, bridges and infrastructure, I do not support a substantial increase in underwriting of cultural assets. I do support the discussion of dedicated funding for these assets that could be presented to the voters for approval, much like the temporary levy to fund expansion of the airport. It makes more sense to me that we increase dedicated funding to core priorities in the budget and give the voters the option to approve additional funding to important, yet not quite as high priority, programs. As important as the cultural economy is, it’s hard to argue that roads, drainage, fire and police protection are lower priorities. With all the data about the importance of cultural assets to the local economy, I believe a compelling case could be made to voters. I also support working with the new Administration and Council to fund one or two additional grant writers to leverage our local investments with the philanthropic community.


It is key for economic development and is what sets us apart from the rest of the world. It is why they want to live here and why people want to visit and why they want to start business, because they want to be a part of the culture. Our culture should be underwritten by the community as a whole and the government should not be asked to step up to the plate to make sure that festivals are successful but when roads and bridges need to be a priority. I couldn’t support increasing funding at this time.


First, I need to point out that my wife is an art teacher at Cathedral Carmel School, so I have a little bias.

The festivals and Art community are a part of our culture and uniqueness and they are also good for our economy as well as our quality of life. I am in the hospitality industry and I know that aid to these venues is a major boost to our local economy so I support a “helping hand” to the venues that provide a return on our investment. This does not mean an open checkbook of support.


I am a believer in the amazing strength and value of our indigenous Cajun/Creole culture -- it’s what brought me to Lafayette even before the French Renaissance initiated with the creation of CODOFIL. But right now, I believe the current level of funding for the major festivals is fair and produces tangible benefits, especially in terms of the return on the dollars spent. But I do believe this whole area of arts, culture and recreation should be explored in depth before I would support increased funding. Also we need to consider the immediate and long-term impact of the two major sports complexes in Broussard and Youngsville.

What are your thoughts on the current level of LCG support for social service NGOs?


The current level of funding for social services isn’t sufficient. We fund a number of agencies at small amounts. I would support increasing the amount of financial support for these services. These service touch a lot of people on a daily basis.


Lafayette Parish is a wonderful place to call home. One of the ways it is wonderful is that we are a naturally generous community who want the less fortunate to have the basic necessities of life. These agencies provide important services to the targeted populations. All of them need funds to continue their good work. We need to come up with a workable solution to fund some of those financial needs.

Currently there is a program where agencies can apply for the grant program and it comes out of a pool of money dedicated for that purpose. I don’t think we need to change the application process. With
shrinking revenues the next few years it may be difficult to increase the amount of money in the pool but as we work together we should make every attempt to do so.

LEWIS (3): I think that we can do more to support NGOs. For example, Louisiana ranks number 4 in the country for domestic violence murders. By providing more support for NGOs, we could assist in providing more resources and funding for domestic violence shelters and programs to protect victims of such crimes.

PETERSEN (3): I believe when NGOs do their job well, they ease the burden on the public sector in varied and inter-connected ways. For example, an organization which successfully provides long-term housing may ease the burden of law enforcement and create contributing taxpayers out of folks who weren’t before. Given the difficult state of our budget, I don’t know if I’d support immediate increases, but I’d see this type of support as an important part of government’s role to invest in its people and future.

KOLL (5): Funding of beneficial NGOs is a good move for a government that wants to help the people it serves. There always needs to be room for re-evaluation, growth, and adjustment for funding of anything.

CHAISSON (6): I believe that social service NGOs increase the quality of life for our most at-risk neighbors. I consider budgetary support for NGOs imperative. Organizations like Faith House, Family Tree, Lafayette Community Health Care Clinic, Autism Society of Acadiana, and Second Harvest are essential to community improvement. Any amount that LCG can pitch in saves the government from having to address major social services on its own.

CONQUE (6): The crafting of a policy is needed to assure that there is equitable distribution of the precious few dollars available.

ZELLER (6): We must open our hands and our hearts wide to those in need (Deuteronomy 15:11, Matthew 25:35-40, Philippians 2:4 and John 15:12 are just a few examples). While it’s easy to say we shouldn’t support these NGOs because they aren’t generating money, sometimes “profit” comes in a variety of forms. To be a healthy community we have an obligation to do everything within our power to help domestic abuse victims, the hungry, the homeless, the at-risk youth, those with mental health issues – in general, those in need. It’s yet another aspect of our culture that makes us great.

COOK (7): Please see discussion of priorities above. Likewise, we could present these to the voters for additional dedicated funding. Also, we could expand LCG support for grant writing in partnership with these organizations.

HEBERT (8): NGOs are a tough subject because the value they provide are often intangible and hard to quantify. For example we know that for every dollar spent in arts, culture and tourism, $6-$8 new dollars come into Lafayette. But, how do you measure the return on investment to provide a battered woman and her children a temporary safe haven? You then have to compare that against the city’s financial responsibility and ask in each case, “does this work?” Now would be the time to look at the current levels of LGC’s commitment to social service NGOs.

JUDICE (8): Would need more information.

ROSS (8): I think the reforms instituted several years ago to have the agencies submit budgets and prove they are fulfilling their missions was a good thing. And each agency should be evaluated based on the services they provide in a more cost-effective manner than government could.