Cover Story

2010: We've got issues

A diverse panel of 24 public and private sector individuals weighs in on the big issues facing Lafayette this year — and offers up personal goals for the New Year.

photo illustrations by Robin May and Kevin Pontiff

Everybody’s got an opinion. And we want to hear it.

In 2010 The Independent Weekly will encourage reader participation like never before, and this week’s cover story, which includes commentary from both public and private individuals across the community, is a launching pad for that effort (which you’ll be hearing more about in the weeks to come).

We asked respondents three questions: What is your personal goal/resolution for 2010? In your view, what is the biggest issue (or most important to you) facing Lafayette or Acadiana that can be resolved in 2010? What is your major disappointment for the Lafayette area of 2009? Participation outpaced our expectations, so you’ll have to read our respondents’ answer to the third question in an online-only story published as a sidebar to this week’s cover story at And please join in the discussion by commenting on what these individuals had to say, or by posting your own personal goals, what you see as the big issues facing us, and what you would like to have seen done differently in 2009.

Engage with us throughout the year. It’s the best way to have a voice in shaping this community for years and decades to come.

Here’s what our respondents had to say:

Lafayette schools Superintendent Burnell Lemoine
Personal Goal: I’d like this year to be one of the best of my career. I would like to see the outstanding work that is happening in our school system continue — the hard work of our families, students, employees and board members pay off in a big way. I would like to feel that this year ends with the system better off than it began, with a more vibrant educational opportunity for all children in this district.
Biggest Issue: The most critical issue I see for the coming year is the state of our school buildings. Our buildings continue to age, and because we pour the vast majority of our resources into the classroom, there aren’t sufficient funds to replace or renovate the buildings. Several years ago, we asked for volunteers from the community to look at the issue and tell us what to do. The Community Coalition, made up of volunteer community members, advised us to hire a facilities management firm to come up with a master plan. We did that, and the firm the community group selected, CSRS, is halfway through its work. The interesting aspect of the CSRS approach is the community dialogue process. This firm is literally asking the community what it wants to do with the buildings of our system, which the community as our taxpayers owns. We’re ready to follow the community’s advice on this, and I’m excited to see how this grassroots effort will conclude.

Jan Swift, executive director, Upper Lafayette Economic Development Foundation
Personal Goal: I am now (as of 2010) a person who arrives on time, if not a bit early, for my appointments. Doing this honors the physics of time and space which I previously have ignored.
Biggest Issue: In 2010, my fervent hope is that our community will become informed, and thereby motivated, to improve the educational system and the ensuing outcomes we experience in Lafayette Parish. The system and its dynamics cannot change overnight, but the political and civic climate can swing dramatically if the average citizen becomes awake and aware. Twenty percent of our children are educated in private schools, and I know that those private school students come from families with considerable incomes and clout, whose energies are poured into their children’s schools. The public school system affects each of us, whether or not we currently have children enrolled in it. The chamber, United Way, and other key stakeholders have committed to becoming more informed, and the information learned must be made available to all of us, through the media outlets, these organizations and, of course, the school board. People care, but time just keeps on passing. Kids are growing up and being shortchanged. Let’s get with it or otherwise settle for a middle-of-the-road ranking in a state ranking last nationwide.

State Rep. Rickey Hardy
Personal Goal: To prepare myself for the upcoming 2010 session because with the stringent streamlining of our state government, I need to be able to better serve the people of my district, my Acadiana region, and the state.
Biggest Issue: The biggest obstacles I foresee are the usual excuses, excuses, excuses, and the adherence to the good ole boy status quo. When I brought this bill before the Education Committee last session (a bill to raise the GPA for athletes from 1.5 to 2.0), it had the backing of the governor, the Department of Education, and the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education. The bill still failed in committee so you can see where the power lies. What is really disturbing is that a local newspaper article listed 20 area high school senior athletes and their plans/commitments to institutions of higher education in order to play football. The seven of the 20 who are white had made commitments. The remaining 13, who are black, were “undecided.”
My mama always said, “Your attitude will determine your altitude.” It is apparent that grades play a significant role here. We must not continue to exploit children and use their athletic talent at the expense of their academic progress. We must develop the political will to change, and change needs to start in the House Education Committee.

**City-Parish President Joey Durel
**Personal Goal: To continue to be as accessible as possible to the people of Lafayette Parish, while listening more, and to strive to be a better husband, father, grandfather and son.
Biggest Issue: There will be many issues that will come up at various times during the year. However, two issues come to mind for the immediate future. One is to settle the proper rate structure for LUS, so that it can continue to provide the excellent service it provides and remain the most reliable utility system in the state. The other issue is possible amendments to the charter that are forthcoming, specifically regarding reapportionment. The greatest obstacle we face on the charter issue is to get the message out to the people of Lafayette Parish, because any amendments to the charter will require a vote of the people.

**Susannah Malbreaux, owner, Elite Model & Photography Services; chair, Lafayette Parish Democratic Executive Committee
**Personal Goal: To ensure my business continues to thrive. Spend additional quality time with my grandchildren.
Biggest Issue: The issues concerning the LUS rate increase and concerns about higher fees impacting the elderly and working class. Fortunately, I think it is possible to resolve this concern in 2010.
City-Parish Council Chairman Jay Castille
Personal Goal: Besides losing a little weight, as council chair one of my goals is to look at the charter and make some positive changes so it can be a more workable document for this government and the people we represent. I have a number of goals for 2010, so stay tuned.
Biggest Issue: There are a number of important issues that face Lafayette in 2010 such as moving forward with the Comprehensive Master Plan for the future growth of Lafayette. Also there have been complaints for years concerning roads and drainage, and this year we will reconstruct and overlay $62 million of roads within the city and $16 million of parish roads. We will also reconstruct 17 bridges at a cost of $10 million. These are just a few issues that are very important to me for 2010. It’s hard to choose just one because we will have a very exciting year.

Gerd Wuestemann, executive director, Acadiana Center for the Arts
Personal Goal: My main personal goal is to develop better funding mechanisms based on the exciting developments we have at the AcA.
With the new building coming, new programs, new Web site and brand, one consolidated name (AcA), an incredible lineup of exhibits, etc., we are contributing more than ever to the cultural-economic fabric of Lafayette. We have seen ever-growing numbers coming through our building, and we are leading the way statewide in arts in education with our unique partnership between the school system, ULL and the Kennedy Center in DC. Louisiana Crossroads will finally have a permanent, broadcast ready room, and we’ve begun discussions with television producers.
Biggest Issue: We are at a critical junction (and there are some parallels here between the AcA and the city). Lafayette’s stage is set to become a remarkable city and urban oasis in Louisiana. If we can drive technology/creative-based developments further and create an urban platform by embracing diversity and recognizing that life models among the younger professionals are shifting, we can become a small Austin or San Francisco, or at least repeat the successes of cities like Chattanooga or Charlotte. The biggest obstacle is the current stalemate at the local government level and our inability to execute. There are hundreds of other small communities that have similar aspirations and will outgrow us if we don’t implement now.

Bruce Schultz, LSU AgCenter communications specialist, former Acadiana bureau chief for The Advocate
Personal Goal: My resolution is to finish a book I have been writing, and to waste less time.
Biggest Issue: People still don’t realize what a great area this is and how special it is. I know more than 20 people who have moved here from all over the U.S. just because of the music and culture, but many folks from here fail to recognize the uniqueness and won’t venture beyond their backyards. A tank of gasoline can transport us to a new world. It never ceases to amaze me how many people from Lafayette, or anywhere else around here, have never been to areas just a few miles away. Maybe our fiber optic connection becoming more available in Lafayette will broaden our horizons.

**David Welch, president and CEO, Stone Energy Corp., Greater Lafayette Chamber of Commerce 2010 chairman
**Personal Goal: To help the small business person understand and take advantage of fiber optic connectivity. We have world-class fiber resources throughout the community with little appreciation of what we can do with it. The chamber will also collaborate with ULL, LEDA and LITE to establish a Technology Accelerator.
Biggest Issue: Local government — a comprehensive plan for the parish. The chamber will champion the implementation of a plan and work with the City-Parish Council and administration to carry this out. In terms of state government, we have engaged the services of a professional, contract legislative lobbyist and anticipate a much more organized and influential public policy program going forward. On the education front, the chamber will seek some wins in the public school system this year, focusing on the high school academies through mentoring, shadowing, internships and serving on their advisory boards. The move is aimed at helping the academies excel.

**City-Parish Council Vice Chairman Keith Patin
**Personal Goal: My “twenty ten” resolution was to position myself personally and professionally so I might be free to play a more visibly active leadership role on the LCG Council. Having made the decision to join my wife in an active business development role at King Patin Staffing after 24 years of management consulting only at the family business, I look forward to facilitating open dialogue between parochial interests on the council during the next year. I have come to realize the people I represent deserve a committed group of men that are willing to lead even in the face of adversity, controversy, and criticism for a period of more than one term, and I for one plan to be one of those that leave the council due to term limits. I seek to find COMMON ground so that this council can affect meaningful policy for the people we represent.
Biggest Issue: Issues and/or obstacles are so synonymous in the whole scheme of things these days I would have to say! Declining revenue sources and the effect on the services LCG provides to the people is a major obstacle we face in Lafayette Parish. I believe issues will arise as a result of the 2010 census and the upcoming need for reapportionment of Lafayette Parish, which is to say redistricting of the parish. These issues will have a substantial impact on the workings of our “consolidated government.”

Cecil Doyle, music director, KRVS
Personal Goal: To apply more emotional turtle-wax over my soul to better deflect aggravation over things I haven’t the power to alter.
Biggest Issue: Curbing downtown crime in Lafayette. Times have changed and things are tough. While it may be unrealistic to think that we can bring criminal statistics down to a 1980s level, turning Jefferson Street into an Acadiana version of Bourbon Street only serves as a magnet for thugs, wanna-be gangstas and the downtrodden. Insufficient parking only makes matters worse, and the more time marches on, the less I find myself even wanting to venture there (which is a shame since so much of the arts community is focused downtown). Yeah, it’s a Catch-22 but whatcha gonna do? A larger police presence may help somewhat, but I feel the problem goes deeper than that. When we decided to revitalize the downtown area all those years ago, I don’t think we had envisioned a littered line of juke joints to be its salvation. Don’t get me wrong: I want to see live music venues flourish, but can we have culture without all the clutter?

Sam Dore, District 6 councilman and newly appointed chairman of the Lafayette Public Utilities Authority
Personal Goal: I want to see a bunch of overlays in District 6. The whole parish is terrible as far as the condition of the roads, but District 6 especially has some serious problems. There are some streets in my district that haven’t been redone at all since they’ve been built, and we need to try and get those streets back up in good condition.
Biggest Issue: We’re going to be revisiting the city-parish charter this year, and that will probably be the biggest issue we face. It’s the foundation of our local government and touches on a lot of issues that people are really passionate about.

Ed Bowie, executive director, Acadiana Open Channel
Personal Goal: I don’t generally do the New Year’s resolution thing; I try to be somewhat resolute all the time. That being said, I’d like to continue working on my master’s degree at UL as a personal goal. On the bigger picture, my goal for 2010 is to make Lafayette a better place. Better in the sense that everyone enjoys the awesome gifts our culture and environment provide for us. I’d like to see more harmony and less needless adversarial posturing by people.

Biggest Issue: The biggest issue is the educational system and the solution is easy to say and impossible to do. Without an educated and participatory population, Lafayette will never be able to attract and hold important economic engines. The solution is to start over. Lose everyone and everything, people, buildings, books, consultants, programs — the works — and start over. I know we’ll toss out some good people, but that’s the price we have to pay. The piecemeal, Band-Aid, consultant-driven efforts of the past 20 years are never gonna fix a thing. On a more trivial note I’d like to fix the traffic. People need to learn to drive.

Michele Ezell, owner, Tsunami Sushi
Personal Goal: To always look left-right-left.

Biggest Issue: Our government administration and consolidated council that don’t always agree on what is best for Lafayette as a whole. Take the Comprehensive Master Plan, crime in districts 4 and 6, roads in district 5 and 9, land use agreements in districts 5 and 1. This will never be resolved as long as we are a split CITY-PARISH entity. Divide and conquer is not the working mantra here. And I would also like the retail world to adopt the size “extra medium.” Why does small and large get to be modified?

LUS Director Terry Huval
Personal Goal: To secure Lafayette Public Utilities Authority and council approval of the utility rate increase needed to keep LUS a highly regarded utility system. To continue the increasingly successful rollout of LUS Fiber. To further develop a local network that provides support for customers who have a difficult time paying their utility bills and to help focus resources to improve the energy efficiency of the homes and domiciles of the truly needy in our community.

Biggest Issue: Beyond the needed LUS rate increase and the continued LUS Fiber rollout, I believe issues relating to the 2010 census and the LCG charter could have significant impacts on the future of the city and the parish of Lafayette. I think it’s important for community leaders to be engaged in these issues.

John St. Julien, retired educator and technology blogger
Personal Goal: To prioritize more clearly (for myself) and get more done (for others). I’m hoping those turn out to be related.

Biggest Issue: I doubt if there are many issues that can be fully resolved in 2010, but with the new reality of a community-owned telecommunications infrastructure we could begin to think creatively about how to move the community onto that advanced platform and go forward together. Done right that would move us beyond race and class issues, as important as that is as a starting point. The biggest obstacle in this realm (and in related ones) is the very frustrating tendency of the players to hold everything too close to the vest — open communications makes it possible for different projects to support each other. Secrecy, even silence that seems to be “protective” of either reputation or income, pays a huge price at the larger, community level. Lafayette is too small to afford that sort of pride.

Gary Haynes, Lafayette city prosecutor
Personal Goal: Improve time management and ride my bicycle more.

Biggest Issue: From my viewpoint as a prosecutor, the sale and use of illegal drugs are destroying our community, and the problem is growing exponentially. Locally, the most destructive are crack cocaine and crystal meth, both highly addictive drugs. It is the root of a large part of crime across the nation, including violent victim and sex crimes, and it’s destroying our local work force. As a community, we should not tolerate drug enterprisers and make every effort to reduce the accessibility wherever and whenever possible. The problem cannot be solved in 2010, but we can step up the war. The obstacles we face are unifying the goals of law enforcement, the court system, and the public. This can be overcome by investing more resources in strict enforcement, youth and parent education, public awareness, and regular summits, so that our community leaders, public officials, media, and law enforcement can regularly identify, share, and expose the problems and the solutions. We need to shine the bright lights on the problems, then methodically resolve them, one at a time.

**Danica Adams, community activist, Earth Share Gardens, Save the Horse Farm
**Personal goal: In 2010 I want to pick up more hitchhikers along the side of the road — people that are going somewhere, people that may have a good story to tell. I do have, however, a discerning eye for weird hitchhikers. I don’t pick them up. A journalist in Marfa, Texas, told me the other day that his goal is to be more helpful, because that’s a good way to find interesting situations. I want some good stories too!

Biggest Issue: The biggest and best that Lafayette could do in this upcoming year is to really, truly, once and for all SAVE THAT STINKIN’ HORSE FARM! I know, I know, we are so close already — we just need one last little bit done to seal the deal and finally let people go jogging and have picnics in, arguably, the largest, most beautiful potential park in Lafayette.

Ed Hebert, Lafayette market president, Chase Bank
Personal Goal: My focus will be to continue growing my leadership ability, both at the bank and in my roles with community support organizations. I am a very fortunate guy to succeed Barry Berthelot, who significantly helped me prepare for this opportunity. It is a privilege, and I am excited to lead Chase, which is committed to helping our local companies compete and grow to become regional, national and international players. Learning is a long-life process that I practice every day.

Biggest Issue: To restart our economic engine. The economic recovery will be slow but steady, which could cause some business leaders to sit on the sidelines longer than necessary and maybe miss key opportunities. Successful business leaders will need to accurately read the “tea leaves” and be able to decipher critical information as they work to maintain and enhance their competitive positions. Additionally, Acadiana is unique in that our economy is more proportionally affected by the global economy. With positive indicators out of Asia, Europe and Latin America, I’m hopeful our local economy is well on pace to stabilization and with potential to soon see positive gains.

Gary McGoffin, attorney
Personal Goal: Maintain momentum.

Biggest Issue: Our public education system is a key component to our continued growth and success. Every business needs well-educated employees, most of whom will receive a public education. All of us are concerned about student achievement and the poor condition and lack of maintenance of even our newest schools, yet there has been no community-wide effort to address these problems. Fortunately, the Lafayette Public Education Stakeholders Coalition formed in 2009 with a mission to improve overall academic achievement of Lafayette Parish public schools while eliminating the achievement gap at every grade level for children living in poverty, especially African-American students, and to ensure that all students graduate from high school on time. Qualifying for the school board election is July 7 - 9. That newly elected board will select our next superintendent. Our decisions in 2010 will determine the future direction and success of Lafayette Parish.

Mike Walker, pastor, East Bayou Baptist Church
Personal Goal: To raise the level of leadership in local leaders by teaching and modeling servant leadership principles. I believe organizations rise or fall based on their leadership. We are developing various opportunities to train and strengthen leaders in Acadiana.

Biggest Issue: Narcissism. People today worship the unholy trinity — me, myself and I. Self focus leads to delusion, disappointment and destruction. We need leaders and a populace who will buck the trend of “meism” and chart a counter culture course. Putting others before yourself takes maturity. Serving others is a lifestyle that crafts a high level of impact for good. True greatness is not measured by what we attain but by what we give away. The challenge in Acadiana is to practice this character quality of selflessness year round, not just the holidays.

Rob Guidry, president and CEO, Greater Lafayette Chamber of Commerce
Personal Goal: It is my belief that the chamber’s leadership in painting the picture of what a progressive community looks like is paramount. My goal, as chamber president, is to help craft that vision for Lafayette Parish and to communicate that vision as far and wide as possible.

Biggest Issue: Having all municipalities within Lafayette Parish adopt a “we’re all in this together” attitude, rather than operating from a philosophy of scarcity and a “let me protect mine” attitude.

Cajundome Director Greg Davis
Personal Goal: My personal goal is to change my lifestyle so that my body weight will be within the lower limits of my BMI index. I want to be more active in the outdoors like I use to be. I want to rediscover the energy level I was accustomed to when I was a Scoutmaster.

Biggest Issue: The biggest issue facing Lafayette that can be resolved in 2010 is the development of a coalition of citizens who share a common interest in changing the trend that is evident in the city of Lafayette that indicates our great city is headed down the path of Baton Rouge and Shreveport, where the middle class abandon the inner city and move to surrounding areas, leaving the city with mostly poor people who are debilitated and underserved by failing governmental institutions.

Peep Goat, The INDsider’s insider
Personal Goal: To ingest less garbage (including some of The Independent’s stories).

Biggest Issue: Crime and traffic. Our mayor should care less about bandwidth and more about road width — more about safely getting home than about our fiber camps.