LAFAYETTE, La. (KLFY) – Although Lafayette Mayor-President candidates showed decorum at Wednesday’s forum, there were still contrasting viewpoints that each candidate voiced throughout.
One Acadiana, in partnership with KLFY, hosted Monique Blanco Boulet, Josh Guillory and Jan Swift, the three candidates, in a forum at the Acadiana Center for the Arts.
The forum is moderated by KLFY’s Darla Montgomery.
The format of the event was “Jeopardy!”-style where the candidates pick from a board of mystery questions in the categories of budget, jobs and the economy, infrastructure investment, catalyst projects and potpourri. The candidates have been given the categories in advance, but not the questions. Each candidate had 90 seconds to answer the question and were given two opportunities for rebuttal.
There were two daily doubles on the board, where instead of one candidate answering the question, all of them would get the opportunity to respond. A fast-paced lightning round also followed the “Jeopardy!” portion of the forum.
The forum started off smoothly with each candidate choosing and answering the questions, but once the first daily double question was revealed, differing voices were heard. Swift picked and answered the daily double question first, then Boulet and Guillory got a chance to insert their perspectives on the temporary one-cent sales tax and other potential catalyst projects.
Swift said she was a supporter of the tax, and if the opportunity presented itself again, she would focus on road and corridor improvement.
“We have so many needs in this community that roads, education, our jail, all these different needs that we have have not been funded adequately,” Swift said. “We want to spend our money wisely. I want to see us first cut the waste, cut out the unnecessary litigation, and use our tax dollars wisely, so if we do pass the tax, whether it’s temporary or not, we know the money is going in the best place that it can be.”
Guillory mentioned the dissimilar viewpoints the candidates have with this topic, citing his upcoming plan for complete tax reform.
“I believe when you go to the voters to ask for more of their money, I believe that it should be the last resort,” Guillory said. “I think you need to exhaust all remedies before you go to the voters and increase taxes. We’re not at that point right now.”
Candidates used their first rebuttals after Boulet answered her question about economic growth for Lafayette and how to support it. She mentioned the existing industries in Lafayette that needed support including healthcare, energy and tourism, and then she brought up the new industries she believed needed attention including advanced manufacturing and IT services.
“The biggest thing is really understanding their supply chains, really understanding how do we build around them,” Boulet said. “With the First Solar project coming, supply chains will come and their suppliers will come and build their own factories. It will multiple the jobs and the impact.”
Guillory used his rebuttal by sharing some of the industries like technology that have grown in four years, the partnerships and meetings it took to get there and how Lafayette developed enough to be ready for manufacturing.
“This is a topic that comes up constantly,” Guillory said as a rebuttal. “It’s way more than drainage and roads and quality of life, it’s all about the economy, and our economy is very strong, very diverse, and will continue to grow.”
When discussing crime, candidates got the chance to share their responses in the daily double question. All three candidates also engaged in a differing rebuttal when the topic of drainage came up.
Boulet said she believed crime was the most pressing issue in the community, and she cited building a strong, healthy relationship with the police chief would be how she would address it.
“We have an uptick in violent crime,” Boulet said. “We have an uptick in teenage crime. We have an uptick in shootings.”
When asked about important investments to help improve drainage citywide and parish wide, Guillory said they’ve invested in more than $160 million in drainage. He also mentioned the plan to aggressively address drainage and the parish wide storm water management process that was established.
“Four years ago, there no meetings,” Guillory said. “It was everybody for themselves, you versus me mentality as if the water would stop at the municipality lines. We realized we couldn’t attack it like that.”
Boulet brought up, in her rebuttal, Guillory’s point on the investment into drainage being $160 million and how she knows $60 million or more is going to a single vendor for a project that’s, in her words, “incomplete” and resulted in a concern in the technical community for its effectiveness.
“What we will do first to improve drainage is have a true understanding of what’s actually been done, the money that’s been spent and the best path forward,” Boulet said.
Coming to a conclusion in the forum, candidates got to answer a lighter, more fun set of questions about gumbo preferences and their roux-making capabilities.