Candidates display grace under fire

All three pleased with their debate performance

October 11, 2007 at 10:18 am  | Mobile Reader | Pring this storyPrint 

Candidates display grace under fire
Photo by Jonathan Menard
The three candidates for parish president got their first chance to sway that elusive "undecided voter" during last week's debate, as the trio spoke on a wide-range of topics from hurricane protection to their favorite high school football team.

And long after the cheers had faded to the background, each candidate came away impressed with both their own performance and the questions they were asked, all of which were submitted by concerned citizens.

"I thought the debate was excellent," parish president hopeful Clayton "Snookie" Faucheux said. "I think I did very well. I was comfortable with it. Of course I was nervous, but I think it went well and brought out a lot of issues."

Fellow candidate Chris Tregre agreed.

“I think the debate was well-organized and professionally done,” he said. “Personally, I think I did quite well. The questions were right on line with the issues and it was easy for me because pretty much all of the questions asked are on my platform.”

V.J. St. Pierre, while not as happy with his own performance as the other two candidates, still felt he put up a good fight.

"I didn't do that great, but I think I held my own," St. Pierre said. "I thought they were all fair questions to all three candidates."

One of those first questions had to do with the biggest issue in the election, how each of the three candidates would deal with hurricane protection. Faucheux said that the strategy the parish has in place is already working.

"We divided the levee into four different strategies to address the different obstacles in each section," he said. "The strategy is working, it proved that it’s worked, and dividing into four different strategies allowed us to deal with the unique obstacles. We've been successful."

Faucheux also said that the parish is currently in negotiations with the corps to accept the most northern alignment.

Tregre agreed that the parish should stay with the northern alignment, but said more should be done by the government to help the parish pay for the levee.

"If we changed that alignment the cost would make it unfeasible for the residents of the parish to fund it," he said. "We need to convince the corps to accept this as a federal project."

While Faucheux and Tregre pledged cooperation with the national government, St. Pierre insisted that the parish must take care of themselves.

"I don't think the federal government is going to give us the money right now," he said. "80 percent of the storms have been category 1 or 2, so I think we ought to go ahead and use our own resources."

St. Pierre said that instead of building a $20 million pumping station (behind Willowridge), the parish should take that money and put it into the levees.

Another hot issue was the status of the recreation department and all three candidates agreed that something needs to be done so that the children of the parish have somewhere to play. The question was specifically addressed to Faucheux, but he said neither he nor any other councilman has control over the issue.

"I have an aggressive plan that outlines children who are no longer participating in recreation because they don't have the skill levels and have been pushed out early," Faucheux said. "Putting our heads in the sand and hoping the problem goes away is not the right answer."

Faucheux went on to say that the department is presently short of employees because of funding issues.

Tregre said there are other reasons for the department's downfall.

"One of the biggest disappointing things in the last eight years has been the condition of our present recreation department," he said. "I think it lacks leadership and support from the administration. Money should not be an issue."

St. Pierre also felt a new direction was needed for the department and said he would like to see the parish offer more sports such as golf, tennis, and volleyball.

Another debated issue was Faucheux's recent decision to introduce a resolution asking for a 10 percent raise for all civil service employees. St. Pierre said he would have never introduced a resolution like that before an election, while Tregre said it was interesting that Faucheux only came up with the idea after he saw it on Tregre's platform.

Faucheux defended his actions.

"I did it because I didn't want it to be election politics," he said. "What I mean by that is if I would have said to the employees ‘if you elect me as parish president I will give you a 10 percent raise' to me that is election year politics."

While most of the serious issues were dealt with during the first half of the debate, things really got interesting when the candidates were allowed to ask each other questions. Faucheux asked Tregre about his hurricane protection strategy, while Tregre responded with a question to Faucheux about the decline of the recreation department.

St. Pierre just wanted to know how Faucheux liked Hawaii, referring to a 2005 National Association Counties convention that parish employees attended.

However, the most interesting question came at the end of the debate when moderator Glynn Boyd asked the candidates who they were pulling for in that night's rivalry game between Hahnville and Destrehan. St. Pierre was the only candidate who was happy Saturday morning.

View other articles written Jonathan Menard

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