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 23 Here's a story in the Picayune about some statistics that must come as a blow to folks who believe that any private school can do a better job of educating kids than any public school: Danielle Dreilinger reports that only 30 percent of the voucher kids are passing. That's less than half of the state wide average, she says. It's an interesting statistic because most of the schools (if not all) taking voucher kids have never had their students' standardized test scores released to the public before.
MAY 23 Stephen Sabludowsky blogs on Bayou Buzz about auditor requests here. Recently the state GOP started crowing about a request from the Legislative Auditor, claiming they were being targeted because of their anti-tax stance. (Uh, your what?) Denial and hyperbole aside, the state Democratic party blew holes in that theory with an email announcing they'd received the same request, Sabludowsky writes here.
MAY 23 Jim Brown blogs about the senate race in this post. He says that, given Bobby Jindal's "lack of traction" on the national stage, it might make more sense for the governor to consider running against Mary Landrieu for the senate seat. Since Tim Teeple left the Cassidy team, it makes sense he might land on a Jindal for Senate team, Brown opines.
MAY 23 In this Louisiana Voice post, blogger Tom Aswell writes of rumors that his nemesis, state Superintendent of Education John White, may be soon departing Louisiana for a federal post. It's hard to believe, given his performance, Aswell says, but stranger things have happened. An anti-White BESE member says that, if true, White is quitting before he can be fired.
MAY 23 In this post on American Zombie, blogger Jason Berry writes about the Mother's Day shooting. Mayor Landrieu said that "this is not who we are," but the fact is, this is New Orleans, Berry writes. The violence infused in the city is the result of a culture created by "sins of omission or sins of commission," Berry writes. It's not a problem that can be solved by legislating, policing, praying or publicizing, he says: Someone's got to understand what's happening first.
MAY 23 This post in the Westside Journal tells us what Port Allen Mayor Deedy has been up to lately: vetoing ordinances, apparently. This story is most interesting, however, when it delves into a petition that has been circulating around the city lately. It accuses the former mayor of a lot of nasty things; the former mayor says it is full of lies and "broken syntax" which may be a larger offense in his eyes.
MAY 23 This editorial posted in The Advocate is a bit confusing. The writing is poor - definitely not up to the usual editorial writing standard there - and the point is hard to grasp. Apparently, the writer is saying that privatization of state efforts is OK, as long as there is oversight and transparency, but Jindal's not good at that, and the legislature shouldn't over-react. Okey Dokey. Can't they get one of them Pulitzer-winning people to write an editorial?
MAY 23 This post on The Lens gives you links to a new Google Earth tool that allows you to see any spot on earth transform over the past 30 years. Bob Marshall, who covers the coast for the paper, says that in the case of Louisiana's coastline, it's possibly something you don't want to see, because it's not a pretty picture. There are several clips here, showing critical areas erode away. For Marshall, it was vindication for all those times he was met with eye-rolling when he talked about erosion.
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.
There will soon be a whole lot of shakin’ going on at Benny’s Sportshack Supplement Depot, a new concept by Opelousas native Benny Nele. Located at 2002 Johnston St., the supplement shop, smoothie bar and café, featuring hot off the press paninis and wraps, plans to open in late May.