As Ben Berthelot moves on to LCVC, Lafayette wonders: What’s next for LCG’s Community Development Department? By Walter Pierce
Wednesday, May 23, 2012
A typical day at the office last week for Ben Berthelot, soon-to-be former director of LCG’s Community Development Department, included back-to-back meetings to discuss on the one hand his department’s Court Services program with a City-Court judge, and on the other to talk about TicketMaster contracts — “opposite ends of the spectrum,” as Berthelot puts it. It’s all in a day’s labor for a sprawling department that oversees everything from federal housing programs for the poor to court-ordered drug rehabilitation to recreational/cultural components like the Acadiana Park Nature Station and the Lafayette Science Museum.
If there’s a department within Lafayette Consolidated Government that may be accurately characterized as schizophrenic, Community Development is it, at least in terms of the diversity of programs the department administers. But virtually everything CD does falls under a single rubric: helping Lafayette’s economically and socially disadvantaged populations get ahead.
“There’s not a person in America with a résumé that would fit everything we do here,” the lanky, fashion-forward Berthelot points out. “If there is I’d love to meet that person.”
Berthelot was chosen May 4 by a unanimous vote of the Lafayette Convention and Visitors Commission board to take over the LCVC executive director position from Gerald Breaux, who is retiring after more than three decades. Berthelot begins his new job June 11; Breaux will stay on a few weeks to help the new director get his sea legs.
The announcement of Berthelot’s selection reignited some quiet but emphatic conversations within Lafayette’s civically engaged circles about reorganizing Community Development, a sentiment Berthelot’s boss, City-Parish President Joey Durel, has heard and is willing to entertain.
“That’s definitely something that I have been thinking of for three years and is one of the opportunities here, so that’s why I’m not in a big rush [to replace Berthelot],” Durel says. “Some of what community development does looks similar to what Planning, Zoning & Codes does, but [CD’s] money is federal dollars — it’s a little different. I don’t know that combining them would necessarily make it more efficient, but it would make some sense. That’s why I’m not necessarily in a huge rush.”
LCG is awaiting Philadelphia planning firm Wallace, Roberts & Todd to synthesize the first round of community meetings for the Lafayette Comprehensive Plan and to report back, and Durel anticipates WRT offering some suggestions on streamlining operations and eliminating duplication among CD, PZC and Traffic & Transportation, all of which play a role in planning for and accommodating Lafayette’s future growth.
Durel isn’t revealing what his future plans for Community Development are, but he says they won’t interfere with suggestions that may be offered by WRT. And he says he might wait a few weeks or even months to name Berthelot’s replacement, although he admits he plans to appoint someone from Lafayette, possibly someone currently employed by LCG.
“I have people calling [about the position],” Durel says. “I have people internally who would do a fine job with it, so I’m not going to put a whole lot of effort into that.”
Whomever Durel names, the new director will work under a shadow: Department heads serve at the pleasure of the city-parish president, and Durel is serving the final three years of his time in office; a new C-P prez could replace all LCG directors, not that political patronage is prevalent in Louisiana politics or anything. “I think if you appoint good people and they’re doing good work that unless somebody pretty outrageous would get elected, their own work would be their job security,” counters Durel, who kept most of his predecessor’s department heads in place after he took the oath in 2004.
During his two-year tenure as director of Community Development, Berthelot revamped leadership in the department, replacing six managers who had more than 150 years combined experience. He believes whoever gets the job will be in good hands moving forward. “We’re fortunate to have a great leadership team, and I’m just really excited about the people we have in place. One of the sad things about me leaving is I would love to be around to watch them flourish, and I look forward to watching them from the outside.”
MAY 17 Here's a column from James Gill, this time in the Advocate. Gill, who has jumped ship from the Picayune, writes about the absurdity of dueling polls in this post. The numbers are so wildly different, it is obvious that both sides are "cooking the books," he writes. In particular, he looks at Sen. Mary Landrieu, and how her recent actions in DC have been received by those polled. Gill's acerbic, amusing prose is a welcome addition to a paper so conservative as to be occasionally lacking in personality.
MAY 17 Blogger Tom Aswell continues delivering bombshells about the state education department and Gov. Jindal's education "reform" efforts. In this post, he reports that students in the Shreveport area have been signed up for a charter school without their knowledge or consent. Most interesting to Aswell is how this Texas-based charter (with ties to GOP types) got the personal student information it has, if the students didn't give it.
MAY 17 This post by JR Ball in the Baton Rouge Business Report is an interesting tongue-in-cheek look at recent Baton Rouge economic development efforts. Among the items he examines is the idea that gaining a Costco makes BR a "world-class city." (Really? All you need is a different brand of Sam's? MK!) This effort, and other recent ones, are all built on the taxpayer's back, with tax zones, tax incentives and tax rebates, Ball writes.
MAY 17 Blogger CB Forgotston is critical of the legislature's reliance on a revenue-estimating committee's decision to include projected tax amnesty income in this year's forecast. That's a problem, CB posts, because the deadline for these people to pay their taxes is June 30, 2014. So when do you think these people who haven't paid taxes in years are going to pay their taxes? Surely not before June 30, and that means the money won't be there for this year's budget, he argues.
MAY 17 Here's an interesting blog out of California by a Hollywood writer, attorney and academic named Brian Alan Lane. He blogs about higher ed, and was a whistle-blower in a scandal over false credentials. In this post, he takes aim at LSU's new top dog, King Alexander. It's convoluted and a little confusing, but it sure makes Alexander a lot more interesting than he was yesterday.
MAY 17 Blogger Robert Mann writes about the LSU Board's refusal to allow Dr. Fred Cerise to testify before the legislature about Gov. Jindal's plan to close down all the state's charity hospitals and dump the poor on the private system. It's hard to imagine anyone more qualified than Cerise to testify about that, so why would anyone try to prevent him doing so? Mann thinks it is because the powers that be aren't interested in hearing any truth about the plan.
MAY 17 This post on the Louisiana Sinkhole Bugle, a blog that notes developments in the Bayou Corne and Jefferson Island salt domes, talks about a proposed expansion of the salt dome storage under Lake Peigneur in Iberia Parish. Residents are working against it for several reasons, including two biggies: the sinkhole disaster in Bayou Corne and the continuing, unexplained bubbling on the surface of the Lake.
MAY 17 NOLA police arrested more people Thursday accused of either being involved in the Mother's Day shooting or hiding the suspect afterward, this Gambit story reports. The NOLA police chief said he suspects the whole thing was gang-related and throws out a challenge to the gangs: he's got informants now, he says, and he knows a lot more than the gangs want him to know. The people who live in the neighborhoods terrorized by gangs are ready to talk, he says.
David Calhoun and Elizabeth “EB” Brooks are the first two employees of Lafayette Central Park Inc., the nonprofit charged with turning Lafayette Consolidated Government’s 100-acre Johnston Street Horse Farm property into a passive public park. Calhoun was named executive director, and Brooks is director of planning and design.
Is it a crime for citizens to photograph, video, or take notes of a police officer in the line of duty, or a right protected by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution? Locally, such activity, as witnessed recently, will at the very least result in a night spent behind bars.
Episcopal School of Acadiana’s Dr. Joshua Caffery, chair of the school’s English Department, is headed to Washington, D.C., and the Library of Congress as the latest winner of the Alan Lomax Fellowship in Folklife Studies.