Three questions were presented to each of the candidates.
Mark “Choppy” Daeumer did not respond to the questions.
Here are the answers provided by the other candidates.
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.
Slidell will be connecting their 2 main water systems so this should be a big improvement for the citizens. Going forward my goal is to work with the Administration, Public Operations and Engineering to make sure the City Council is doing everything possible to support their mission of providing excellent services to the citizens of Slidell.
We are blessed to live in a coastal community, but living by the water comes with the unique challenges of drainage and flooding issues. That means building infrastructure to fit the problem. If we want to keep Slidell a thriving community, we need to talk about nothing short of levees. We are facing increased damage, increased flood insurance, and decreased business and property values due to the risk of flooding. My home flooded in Hurricane Ida so I know first-hand the impacts of living with water. Slidell has done a good job of building drainage pumps and systems throughout the city limits. But to tackle this ever-present danger, we need to think beyond city limits.That’s why I support the West Slidell Levee Project proposed and approved by the US Army Corps of Engineers. This project would build a levee system extending from the southern edge of Palm Lake out west through Lacombe. Such a levee system would protect the west side of Slidell, including Palm Lake, Carolyn Park, Hermadel, Bayou Cache, and Chamale. But there are those in the city who prefer a different project that leaves west Slidell unprotected. Most of my career has been spent working at the state level on coastal management issues, including flooding and large-scale government projects. With your vote, I will work with parish, state, and federal officials to make sure this project gets done to protect our community. As for household water quality, fortunately for us Slidellians, we do not have the same drinking water quality issues within city limits that our neighbors have across the street in the Parish. That’s due to the good work being done at the Slidell Water Department.
Arriolla “Bonnie” Vanney
Water quality in District D is not an issue. Slidell has artesian well water. Since 1970 I have not seen or heard of any issues in the water. Our water is monitored regularly, and we are notified in our water bill of the findings. Our District along with most of Slidell is gravity drained, drainage is not a big issue. We rely on three pump stations Front Street, Dellwood and Schneider. Just recently our infrastructure has got a $450,000, upgrade thanks to FEMA money from Hurricane Katrina.
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?
We need to provide creative strategies to attract businesses to these locations, including but not limited to tax credits and grants.
Slidell’s economy is undergoing change, not decay. As the economy evolves, we need to think beyond adding more retail. The best thing we can do is support small business in Slidell. When the mall closed, the area seemed on the decline, but things are coming back. Best Buy and Toys R Us give way to trampolines and groceries and the mall is getting new tenants. But the mall closure is a reminder that our economy is best when it’s diversified through small business. I can offer nearly a decade as a small business attorney, helping companies with everything from starting up, hiring their first employees, and managing funding. There is plenty of untapped potential in Slidell’s economy. We are literally at the cross-roads of three major interstate highways, connecting two large ports with three cities plus the Gulf Coast. We can be a center of logistics and tech; of transportation and tourism. Slidell already provides incentive programs for large companies and projects, like the Fremaux Town Center and Amazon. But small businesses still have the same hurdles and bureaucracy to stumble through. I propose building an incentive package to bring in startups and small businesses to the city. This could include tax incentives, permitting assistance, and support for an incubator program. Small business owners live in Slidell; they invest in Slidell; and ultimately they want to see Slidell succeed as a community. With your vote, we can build a healthy, diversified economy that keeps Slidell, Slidell.
Arriolla “Bonnie” Vanney
Large box stores are becoming the thing of the past. Converting them into useful space is not going to be easy since they are connected. Tax incentives is one options and indoor sports for children and adults is a possibility.
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?
We need to use discretion in our approach so that growth is beneficial to everyone in Slidell. We can see the adverse impact that unchecked growth has had throughout the area and this has led to moratoriums on high density developments. The first step is acknowledging that we have a problem, which we have done, the next step is to work closely with the Administration and the engineering department to lay out a clear and concise growth plan for the future, one that fully addresses and solves growth infrastructure issues proactively.
To keep Slidell a strong community, we need to be able to move around it. Let’s think about traffic as more than just cars, to include bike lanes and sidewalks. Improving other means of transportation, and making areas more walkable, will help with vehicular traffic. First, we need to work on bringing federal infrastructure dollars to Slidell to improve our roads and bridges. This is not easy. I am the only candidate to have spent nearly a decade in government working on infrastructure projects, and I know the system and how to work it. To ensure that roads actually improve our traffic, we also need to closely coordinate with the Parish, since traffic crosses in and out of city limits. Second, we need to improve bike and walking paths. I am always stunned that I cannot go the mile from Palm Lake or Dellwood to Heritage Park without getting into a car. There is no safe path to get there. Sidewalks across the city end in the middle of yards and bikes must cut across busy intersections. I propose creating a road network for bikes and pedestrians that allow us to move freely within the city without adding more cars to the traffic. Third, we need to address the trash along our roadways. We are constantly confronted with garbage, bandit signs, and dead animals blighting our streets. I propose putting together Clean Teams to help us keep our roads and city beautiful. If people see clean streets, they are more likely to help keep them clean. With safe, effective, beautiful roads, the people of Slidell can more freely move about their community. Ultimately, my goal is to make Slidell a place where my kids can stay when they grow up. A place they will have solid education, beautiful scenery, affordable living near the water, and great jobs. That is how I measure success. If you agree that we can help Slidell grow while keeping it feeling like a community, then I ask for your vote on March 26.
Arriolla “Bonnie” Vanney
Monitoring the development of multiple housing in certain areas will cause congestion. Planning and addressing the location where these projects are developed is one way to help with traffic.