Mayoral candidates participating in Thursday night’s Candidates’ Forum, sponsored by the Acadia Parish Chamber of Commerce and hosted by The Grand Opera House, included, from left, Tiim Monceaux, Ezora Proctor, Bryan Borill, Emily Stoma and Elliot Doré.
Candidates for the office of Crowley Chief of Police taking part in the Candidates’ Forum Thursday night at the Grand Opera House were, from left, Don Alleman, Jimmy Broussard and Dexter Faulk. The event was sponsored by the Acadia Parish Chamber of Commerce Legislative Committee.
Candidates agree ‘unity’ is focus
Unity - coming together as a community.
That appeared to be the overall theme as candidates for local municipal offices addressed a full house during the Acadia Chamber of Commerce’s Candidates’ Forum Thursday night at the Grand Opera House.
Dealing with abandoned and blighted properties and littering also were common planks through many of the candidates’ platforms.
All five mayoral hopefuls — Bryan Borill, Elliot Doré, Tim Monceaux, Ezora Proctor and Emily Stoma — as well as the three candidates for police chief — Don Alleman, Jimmy Broussard and Dexter Faulk — were questioned by the forum moderator, Lafayette City-Parish Councilman Bruce Conques.
Candidates for city council — Robert “Coach” Helo and Kim Stringfellow in Ward 1, Division B; Brad Core, Theresa Richard and Judson Van Fosson in Ward 2, Division A; Walter Andrus and Byron K. Wilridge Sr. in Ward 3, Division B; and Kenny Lucero and Sammy Reggie III in Ward 4, Division B — were each allowed two-minute introductory addresses.
Steven Deville, candidate for the Ward 2, Division A seat was not present.
Also addressing the audience was Peter J. Joseph, candidate to fill the unexpired term of the late Danny Hebert as the Ward 1 representative on the Acadia Parish Police Jury. Gloria Hebert, who was appointed to the seat until the election is held and has qualified for the election, was not present.
But the races for mayor and police chief drew the most reaction from the otherwise quiet and respectful crowd Thursday night.
After opening remarks, each candidate was asked a different question and given two minutes to answer. The order was determined by draw.
In the first round, Borill was asked specifically about the abandoned and blighted houses in Crowley and what steps he would take in cleaning this up.
“As a council, we have been addressing this situation,” said Borill, noting that the city currently has about 22 residences targeted.
“We need to increase funding in this area because right now we can only afford to do about five per year,” he said, adding that he also would push for stricter enforcement of city ordinances dealing with blight.
Proctor was asked what she would do if given $1 million to spend any way she wanted.
“I’m of the opinion that you don’t just spend money because you have it,” said Proctor, who explained that she would first conduct a feasibility study to learn where the money was most needed.
“Spending it just because you have it can’t happen,” she concluded.
Stoma was asked what she considered to be the top three challenges to business growth in Crowley.
She said code enforcement and cleaning the city were first, followed by building a proven team to lead the city forward and investment in children “in a positive way.”
Doré was asked how he would address the problem of littering and debris.
He said he would start with educating the youth of the community. “Get them involved in preventing littering and in cleaning the city,” he said, noting that Crowley once staged community-wide “clean-up days.”
He added that he would like to see Crowley get back into the Garden Club Federation’s Cleanest City Contest and that he would try to find funding for more street department employees to assist with litter pick-up.
Asked about the outlook for Crowley and what he would do to entice new business and retain existing businesses, Monceaux pointed at Rice Capital Parkway, the “new” Interstate 10 service road.
“We need to find the funding to bring utilities to that area to entice businesses to the north side,” Monceaux said.
He added that the ongoing renovations and re-development of buildings along the North Parkerson “main street” corridor are evidence of growth.
In the second round of questions:
• Doré on handicap-accessible sidewalks: “We have looked at it but it’s a big expense for the city. I would furiously seek out grants to help” expand the Main Street project to other areas of the city.
• Stoma on bringing diverse areas of the city together: “I believe in north, south, east, west. I promote north, south, east, west. This is a major part of my plan as mayor. Unity. One Crowley.”
• Borill on improving quality of life: “We have to focus on developing things for our youth to do. We also have to clean up the city, and I have a multi-level plan to do that that involves education, consequences and enforcement.”
• Proctor on reinvigorating the youth department: “Under Mayor Isabella de la Houssaye I was the administrator of the Summer Youth Program and we had over 500 children at the Martin Luther King Center and the Rice Festival Building. I’m looking at bringing that program back along with expanding Audry Spencer’s tutoring program into the summer.”
• Monceaux on promoting Rice Capital Parkway: “I’ll say it again, we need to find funds to provide utility services to this area to entice growth. I know a lot of businesses that would love to locate near the interstate.”
During closing statements, Stoma said, “I’m concerned about the decline I see in this city. There is an urgent need for change and, with my strong leadership and management skills, I can do it.”
Noting that all four of her opponents currently hold seats on the city council, she added, “A lot of people think you should serve on the council before running for mayor, but that’s not the case,” she said. “All of my opponents are on the council. Look into their wards. Are you proud of what you see?”
Borill focused on “quality of life” improvements for the city and said he felt his “approachability” would help him to relate to the community.
“It’s not all about experience,” he said, adding that he would have “an open door policy” as mayor.
Proctor said no one on the stage had more passion for the city than she did.
“If you’re looking for a mayor who has passion, I’m your candidate,” she said. “This is the third time I run for mayor of Crowley. The average person would have stopped after the first time.”
She promised “positive change” if elected.
Doré pointed out that the city “is fortunate to have five viable candidates” for the office.
He reminded the audience of his business experience, including 22 years in the rice industry and another 22 years as a financial advisor.
Relying on experience, honesty, integrity and dedication, Doré said, “Keeping the community moving forward will be my goal.”
Monceaux said he is a “firm believer” in solidarity. “There is no ‘I’ in ‘team,’” he said.
He said everyone needs someone they can look up to — a role model.
“I’m from South Crowley. I come from a poor family. But I am proud of who I am,” Monceaux said.
Chief of Police
Candidate Dexter Faulk was first to use the term “community policing,” but all three candidates in the race embraced the concept.
“I’m extremely big on community policing,” Faulk said during his opening statement. “The police can’t do it all alone, we need the community to help.”
Don Alleman noted that all three candidates in the race were well qualified but added that he had been in law enforcement for 37 years, including many years as a former chief in Crowley.
Jimmy Broussard, who was elected two years ago to fill the unexpired term of K.P. Gibson when he was elected sheriff, pointed out that the violent crime rate in the city has dropped dramatically during those two years and that the department is back up to full force and “the turnover rate is almost nil.”
Broussard’s first question dealt with “the negative rapport” the department seems to have with the public.
“That negativity is mainly on Facebook and YouTube and social media,” Broussard said. “Realistically, we don’t differ that much from other communities.”
He added that officers generally have a good rapport with the public.
“The public is speaking to us and we are speaking to the public,” he said. “The only way to change (the negativity) is if we do it together as a community.”
Asked what role the police department plays in the local economy, Alleman said it is up to the police chief to operate within the budget set by the city.
“We have a budget of about a million dollars. We cannot raise money for the city, the council gives up money to operate,” he said. “If we run over we either have to adjust or cut back.”
Faulk was asked what he would do to curb the influx of illegal narcotics into the city.
“We have a Narcotics Department that does really well,” Faulk said. “I think we could expand a little on the aspect of the public letting us know what’s going on.”
He said more aggressive enforcement would help, “but the public will allow only so much aggression. With the public’s help and understanding, the perception of aggression changes.”
During the second round of questions:
• Broussard on what he would do if his budget suddenly doubled: “First, I would hire more officers and make sure we have more officers on the road,” he said, pointing out that, currently, the department operates four shifts with four officers on the road at any given time.
More patrol units, equipment upgrades and more training would be next on the list, in that order, according to Broussard.
• Faulk on retention of officers and staff: “We need to pay our officers better,” he said. “You can’t support a family on $2,500 a month, gross.”
He explained that, under civil service, the only opportunity for a pay raise is to move up in rank. While some of the older officers may be retiring in the coming years, “once the younger officers get into rank, there won’t be much movement.”
Addressing the mayoral candidates, he said, “I’m warning you, if I win I’ll be in your office asking for money. We have to keep our officers.”
• Alleman on building relationships in the community: “We have to get out of our units,” he said. “If you see someone sitting on their porch, stop, get down and talk to them. Cultivate relationships.
“The community has to get involved with us and we have to get involved with them. They will tell you what they want to be done.”
In closing statements, Alleman focused on experience, reminding the audience that he is a former police chief in Crowley, a National FBI Academy graduate and has worked in all aspects of law enforcement for nearly 40 years.
“We’re all friends up here, and we’ll remain friends after the election,” he said. “Let’s work to bring the community together.”
Faulk again stressed community policing and “getting things back to the way they used to be when officers knew who you were and you knew who the officers were.”
He said he also wanted to put officers in the middle school to interact with students on a positive level and that he would like to see all the city departments interact more.
Broussard, noting that he also serves as pastor of First Presbyterian Church, said he already oversees a mentoring program for the youth.
“It’s been a tumultuous two years — we had the flood of 2016, our K9 officer was killed,” Broussard said. “We’ve come a long way in two years but we still have a long way to go.
“It’s going to take not only the young people of Crowley, but everyone in their homes.”
The forum was sponsored by the Legislative Committee of the Acadia Chamber of Commerce, with Danny Nugier serving as chairman.
(A brief synopsis of statements by the city council and police jury candidates will be carries in the Monday edition.)