Council’s new faces say parish ready for change
Some say previous council should have listened to the people instead of select few
Residents of St. Charles Parish spoke loud and clear about the direction they want the area to head by electing several new faces to the council.
Paul Hogan, Carolyn Schexnaydre, Billy Raymond, Dennis Nuss and Shelley Tastet, who will all take over on the council in January, spoke with the Herald-Guide about how they plan to handle their upcoming terms.
What do you think the previous council did well during their term?
Hogan: I'm sure the previous council did what it felt it needed to do during its term. My opinion on whether or not what the council did was good or bad would be just my opinion. It all depends on whose eyes are looking at it as to whether it was good or bad. Their actions are for them to ponder in hind sight and was for the voters to contemplate during this election. I believe the election results gave a clear indication of the voter's opinion of the previous council.
Schexnaydre: No comment.
Raymond: I think the previous council worked hard and kept the parish moving in a positive direction.
Nuss: The current council seemed to get along well, splitting the group 5-4 in many instances and 6-3 in others. The meetings were kept to a reasonable length and a number of engineering contracts were awarded, although some questioned the merits. The West Bank levee project was also begun.
Tastet: I feel some of the main accomplishments of the previous council are that they began construction of the West Bank protection levee. They completed the first phase of Magnolia Ridge and they also made improvements on the East Bank’s existing levee.
In what areas do you think they should have acted/voted differently?
Hogan: In general, the council should have acted/voted differently on issues where their constituents were opposed but the council acted/voted in the best interest of others instead of the publics. The council should have acted/voted differently on items which they acted or voted on which were in opposition to our parish's rules and regulation. One specific issue they should have given more thought before adopting was the Advisory Base Flood Elevations. This needs revisiting as other parishes are doing.
Schexnaydre: No comment.
Nuss: I think taxes could have been reduced along with sewer fees and water distribution costs. East and West Bank levees should have been completed, followed by pump stations. It seems as though Hurricane Katrina became a convenient excuse for many shortcomings. Costs were out of control at times and the parish paid too much for some projects in comparison to other parishes. Also, little was done to prevent our fire district rating from going up, resulting in higher premiums for citizens in some areas. Construction of a new fire station should have been initiated when Willowridge expanded.
Tastet: More money should’ve been funded towards the improvements and maintenance of the recreation departments. They should’ve purchased and installed the pumping station on the Magnolia Ridge protection levee.
Do you really believe that there was a "machine" in place in St. Charles Parish that determined who won each election and what issues were favored or ignored?
Raymond: No. I always like to think that people are smart enough to vote as they feel they should.
Schexnaydre: "Machine," no. "People," yes.
Hogan: In the past, not so much a "machine," but an effort to try and have individuals placed in positions, whether elected or appointed, that may have a tendency toward supporting certain ways of thinking.
Nuss: It seems that some vested interests were promoting a select group of people whom they could control once elected. Unfortunately, it has happened before and it will likely happen again. However, the citizens of our parish were the only ones who determined the outcome of the election. I do not think there is any reason to believe otherwise. As for the issues, the incoming council will have plenty of opportunities to deal with these issues. We have to ensure that the citizens have proper input along the way.
Tastet: The results of this election do not reflect that there is a machine in place in St. Charles Parish.
What's your personal take on the northern levee alignment? Do you believe the parish should just move ahead and secure the permit, or should we take a closer look at the proposed routes?
Hogan: The time for more discussion on this issue is over. It's time for the levee to be built now! It's time to secure the permit with the Corps of Engineers’ suggested alignment and for work to begin immediately. I, as councilman, will do my part to ensure that this issue does not continue to drag on at the expense of leaving the West Bank vulnerable to flooding. In addition, the parish must put equal emphasis on constructing a floodwall along Bayou Des Allemands, where there is currently no levee or protection to speak of.
Schexnaydre: Since we are all new, except Mr. Authement, this is not a question I care to answer since I haven't seen all the paperwork on the alignment. No, I don't think we should jump ahead without giving us a chance to study the alignments that are proposed so we can make sure we do it right the first time.
Raymond: Take a closer look at the proposed routes and then move forward. I am not for delaying getting the levee protection in place.
Nuss: We must look closely at the proposed routes first. While I don’t wish to see the parish wait much longer to take some kind of action on protection, I feel that the southern alignment may be best because it would save a significant amount of money. We should look into a solution that allows for green space inside of the protected area – a guarantee that the wetlands will remain undeveloped in perpetuity. To proceed with this alignment we will need to get all parties (the COE, developers, landowners, residents) to agree on a solid plan.
Tastet: The parish has been trying to obtain these permits for a couple of years now. We have an opportunity to receive these two permits if we agree on a northern alignment. More studies would delay construction of the levee even more, leading me to feel that the parish should secure these two permits.
What about the video bingo issue? Do you agree with the council's decision to ban it from the parish? What's your personal view on gaming?
Raymond: I am not a proponent of gambling. However, I would like to see the system set up that ensures potential issues and public concerns can be voiced prior to granting permits.
Schexnaydre: I do believe the whole council and the parish president did know about the video bingo, but it being an election year and most were voted out, they did not care. At the end they tried to make it look like no one knew and tried to vote it out. If they would have cared about the voters they would have notified the people in advance and let the people speak on the issue.
Hogan: The council's decision to ban video bingo is questionable due to its timing with regards to other proposed related ventures which this banning could benefit. If the parish's regulations, which allow video bingo, were a concern to the council, the council should have pro-actively modified the regulations during its term instead of after someone follows the rules that were in place to open such a business. I intend to be proactive with issues that could concern the public. I have no opposition to gaming as long as it is a legal activity authorized by state or parish laws.
Nuss: I personally do not enjoy gambling, but I do believe that people should have the right to do so if they wish. That being said, the people of St. Charles have already voted against stand alone gambling establishments in their neighborhoods. I do believe that going forward the council should ban video bingo and other stand alone gambling establishments in residential neighborhoods. Recent events should have involved the council decision-making process from the start, and not a clerical decision as it happened to be in this instance. Transparency would have solved our current situation without a possible lawsuit.
Tastet: Considering the legal aspects of this issue, I feel it should’ve been tabled. I think gambling should be an individual’s decision.
How do you think the council should handle planning and zoning issues? Do you think residents should have more input regarding what is built around their homes?
Hogan: The public has the opportunity to have input relating to planning and zoning issues either at the commission or the council level. As councilman, I intend to make several modifications to our regulations which will strictly prohibit the development of certain things near homes, which homeowners repeatedly have to go out and fight against. If something is not good next to residences, then let's make our ordinances prohibit these types of developments or activities for the benefit of our residents.
Schexnaydre: Planning and zoning issues need to be brought before the council before permits are issued so the residents can be notified of the changes that might be coming in their communities, Yes, the residents need a say in what is being planned near their homes.
Raymond: I am always in favor of residents having a say so in what comes into their community.
Nuss: Residents must have a voice in planning and zoning issues. That is why my fellow council members and I were elected to serve them. When appropriate, residents should have the opportunity to speak out at council meetings and at town hall meetings. In addition, things like spot zoning should not be allowed - that way longtime residents can rest assured that their neighborhood will be kept up.
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