Council District A

Three questions were presented to each of the candidates. Here are their answers.

1. There are two issues that impact virtually everyone in St. Tammany Parish and especially Slidell – problems with household water quality and drainage.  Both of these are essential for a safe and healthy quality of life.  What are your plans to address these issues?  Please be specific.

Leslie Denham (I)

The City of Slidell currently has one water tower and 21 wells. Our water system is monitored by a computer system. Our staff is certified to read and maintain our water system and water samples are routinely taken to ensure our quality. The city consistently makes improvements and maintains a proactive stance so that household water quality is not an issue here inside the Slidell city limits and not a worry for our residents. Drainage improvements within Slidell is an ongoing project. The administration with the approval of the current council has done major improvements these past four years to our lift stations and pumping stations. Plans are on the books to improve our waterways so they can receive additional runoff to increase drainage capacity. Historically, when the rail system was developed, developers choose the area with the highest elevation and the elevation of the highway 11 bridge was developed to with a high elevation.  When Pontchartrain Dr was constructed, it connected directly with Highway 11 so its elevation is also high. This means that houses built within this area were constructed within a type of bowl with a lower elevation. Although the city continues drainage improvements, mitigation is the best solution for these homes. I propose to make mitigation funds more accessible for homeowners by continuing to be a part of the Parish/City caucus to openly discuss and communicate this issue with parish representatives, returning to quarterly District A meetings since the majority of Covid 19 restrictions have been lifted  and continuing being available to answer questions and assisting homeowners going through the mitigation process regardless of what stage they are in whether it’s the beginning, middle or end of the process.

Thomas “Tom” Abney

Drainage:  We’ve invested a tremendous amount of time and resources over the years since Hurricane Katrina investing in levee protection strategies and drainage improvements. While most of the infrastructure is in place, it will have to be maintained to make sure our citizens and their homes are safe from flooding. My top priority is to make sure we adequately fund expansion/improvements of future drainage projects and maintain the funding of our drainage infrastructure currently in place. Safe Water:  I support the Water Resources Passage of an expanded Safe Drinking Water Act in 1986 and the Clean Water Act of 1987 that ensures safe drinking water for all Americans. I agree with the League of Women Voters in that natural resources should be managed as interrelated parts of life-supporting ecosystems. Resources should be conserved and protected to assure their future availability. Pollution of these resources should be eliminated in order to preserve the physical, chemical, and biological integrity of ecosystems and to protect public health. I support water resource programs and policies that reflect the interrelationships of water quality, water quantity, ground-water, and surface water and that address the potential depletion or pollution of water supplies. I support measures to reduce water pollution from direct point-source discharges and from indirect nonpoint sources and policies to achieve water quality essential for maintaining species populations and diversity, including measures to protect lakes, estuaries, wetlands, and in-stream flows. I support stringent controls to protect the quality of current and potential drinking-water supplies, including protection of watersheds for surface supplies and of recharge areas for groundwater. And finally, my pledge is to fund any and all efforts to guarantee safe and healthy water provided by the city.

2. The trend nationwide favors on-line shopping over shopping in a “brick and mortar” mall. The closure of mall stores creates many problems. These stores are susceptible to vandalism; there is a loss of tax revenue; and the are is seen as a “ghost town” which drives other businesses away. This is an important issue that must be addressed. What are your plans to rehabilitate the closed malls in Slidell?

Leslie Denham (I)

Plans to rehabilitate the closed malls in Slidell is largely based on the receptiveness of the property owner to accept a business proposal. Several proposals have been made these past four years to have Northshore Mall placed back in commerce and some small advances have been made. Until the property owner agrees with proposals that are suggested the city has regulations and code enforcement has the task of making sure these areas do not become blighted.

Thomas “Tom” Abney

I’m already involved with the effort to encourage our citizens to shop local as opposed to online shopping.  I work with former Senator A.G. Crowe who founded Shop Local USA, LLC, a company organized solely for the purpose of getting people to shop local.  His website is www.shoplocalusa.com and over 1,000 local businesses are featured on digital interactive maps of various north shore cities that began in Slidell.  The message is if we do not support our local businesses, Main Street as we know it, will become a distant memory.  It’s the locals that create most of the jobs, pay property taxes, collect sales taxes, sponsor little league teams, support our civic organizations and raise funds for our local causes.  They are the ones occupying our commercial buildings that, if vacated, become blighted property that then becomes less valuable and produce less property taxes. Our major mall has been vacant with the exception of a few new tenants.  I will bring new and innovative strategies and ideas working with the Louisiana Economic Development department to market the remainder of the property to attract prospects such as medical institutions, higher education or a federal government facility.

3. The downside of economic development is that it results in localized traffic congestion.  How do you propose to be proactive to avoid traffic problems?

Leslie Denham (I)

There are several traffic areas of concern already existing within Slidell. The administration and council have looked at these areas done traffic studies and have started implementing solutions with the assistance of DOTD. A roundabout will be installed at Spartan Dr. at Pontchartrain Dr, to ease the traffic flow in that area. We also anticipate a traffic flow problem at the new site of the Amazon facility so a roundabout will be developed there as well. We can also support the parish president’s suggestion in developing legislation to slow growth of big neighborhood development until the city can catch up our infrastructure. I propose the installation of culverts to close the ditches, additional sidewalks created over the culverts will make pedestrian travel more accessible and safer. Pedestrian crosswalks additions in high traffic areas would enhance the safety of pedestrian travelers. Currently, Slidell has a bike path plan to connect with the trace and run through some neighborhoods to take citizens up to the fishing pier near highway 11 bridge. Our bike paths should be included along our major thoroughfares so that residents can make a choice to travel safely throughout the city on bicycles instead of using cars.

Thomas “Tom” Abney

I will support and encourage the expansion of roundabouts for our major intersections including both sides of our interstate exits.  This transition has been proven to be very effective for keeping traffic flowing as opposed to build ups at traffic lights. I will support the creation of a new division of the police force, a volunteer force designed to assist our city’s police department with traffic control during peak traffic times, special events and catastrophic events requiring evacuation. I will work with the Louisiana Department of Transportation to install exit and directional signs on all of the interstates going through Slidell to our historic Olde Towne. I have a plan to set up city determined routes for multi-seat golf carts for people to get around easier and quicker while shopping, dining or sight-seeing in Olde Towne reducing the number of cars and traffic as well as biking routes and rental stations for moving about in Olde Towne.