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Third annual Robideaux Report in the books

Posted: 10:42 PM, Mar 14, 2019
Updated: 2019-03-14 23:42:14-04

The third annual Robideaux Report is in the books.

Lafayette Mayor-President Joel Robideaux updating residents on the state of the parish. His speech lasted about an hour. Robideaux covered everything from taxes to drainage, LUS and the no-kill animal shelter initiative.

“We’re going to keep using LUS Fiber as our calling card to continue attracting technology companies to come here,” Robideaux said. “With our University and fiber and all the other things we have going for us, we want to let everyone know that it takes all of us. Let’s be competitive and we can keep doing better.”

Robideaux also addressed the need for LUS to evolve to continue providing electricity to the city.

Christie Maloyed, Associate Professor of Political Science at UL said, “It’s certainly a lingering question for many people. What’s going to be the status of our system? Are we going to keep this coal plant? Are we going to invest in renewables? Most importantly, are we going to maintain ownership of our public utility system?”

Robideaux believes in order for the parish to keep moving forward, the community must unite.

“It’s important that we all get on the same page as often as possible,” Robideaux said. “When we do, success happens.”

Maloyed said, “The phrase lack of communication has come up over and over again. At Tuesday’s council meeting, we saw how that communication broke down, but also a little bit of trust building and both sides trying to come together.”

Overall, residents we spoke with were happy with Robideaux’s report and his commitment to a no-kill animal shelter.

“I’m most impressed with how the community comes together and how Lafayette seems to have it’s future laid out with positives instead of negatives,” said Lafayette resident Herman Potter.

Robideaux said, “The community is going to step up, the public, the council and we’re going to build this thing. It will be a proud day for a lot of folks.”

Here’s the text of Robideaux’s speech: 

A few days ago, we announced that Swiss
Helicopter manufacturer, Kopter, is making
Lafayette its North American production and
assembly hub.
Kopter is, at heart, a technology company. An
aerospace firm that has pioneered new and
innovative technologies to build quiet, powerful,
flexible, reliable and more affordable helicopters
– competing on the same playing field as the
older, established companies.
The 120 direct jobs they’ll bring are important.
The 200 or so indirect jobs are important. But
what’s most important is that we demonstrated
once again that we can compete.
When all of our local stakeholders work
together, LEDA, One Acadiana, LCVC, UL,
SLCC, LCG, and the Council, we can compete.
When we work with our Legislative Delegation,
the folks at Louisiana Economic Development
and the Governor’s office, we can compete.
When we’re all on the same page – we’re able
to compete for investment, talent and the top
technology businesses in the world.
Whether in aerospace, artificial intelligence or
agriculture. Big data or blockchain. We’re
ready compete.
I’m proud to have authored the legislation in
2015, that modified how aircraft manufacturing
and assembly was taxed making Lafayette a
more attractive tax environment and that is now
being utilized by Kopter.
Kopter looked at 38 different American cities.
And they chose us. Chris Meaux was told by
practically everyone that he had to relocate
Waitr to be successful and he chose us and
proved them wrong. CGI could have expanded
at any one of their 70+ US locations but they
chose Lafayette. LHC Group chose us over
Louisville. That should tell us something about
what we can achieve when we have vision,
drive, and when we work together.
And for every one of these wins, the next one
gets easier because that next Company looks
at who else is invested here.
Make no mistake, when Lafayette is being
considered as a possible location, the fact that
CGI, Waitr, LHC Group, Stuller, Acadian
Companies, PHI, Schumacher Group, and now
Kopter, chose to locate here plays a significant
role in telling our story.
ROBIDEAUX REPORT SLIDE
I’ve committed to a vision of innovative
initiatives that will leverage our local technology
assets and attract talent, investment and firms
across a range of industries… AI, Big Data,
Blockchain, Digital Assets, IoT, Machine
Learning and Open Data.
Tens of billions are being invested globally in
these technologies. The question is whether we
will shape our own destiny. Or will we be left
behind.
Governments have to evolve. Communities
have to evolve. And that’s a challenge when
you’re kinda satisfied with what you have. But
a failure to evolve ensures that you’ll be part of
the Digital Rust Belt.
Day in and day out, it’s easy to find comfort in
our own opinions. It’s easy to make things
political. Easy to question the motives of others.
Easy to put on the tin foil hat. It’s easy, and
lazy, to be a naysayer.
What’s difficult, is to have raw, honest
conversations. These conversations aren’t
easy. But they’re necessary. And the quality of
those conversations will determine how well we
succeed.
KPMG SLIDE
Throughout 2018 we’ve worked with teams
from Adoxio, KPMG, IBM, and Microsoft to
identify how we can develop into a more
transparent, accountable and efficient
government. Transparency, accountability, and
efficiency will lead to trust and allow LCG to
better meet the needs of our citizens today,
tomorrow, and into the next century.
Microsoft has a suite of Citizen Engagement
Applications and has provided us with over 40
recommended initiatives. I commit to work with
the Council to begin investing in these
initiatives.
What I ask of you tonight is simply to stand on
the shoulders of those that came before you
and engage in the process.
Become part of the solution by making your
voice heard and demanding that we don’t allow
our community to become part of the Digital
Rust Belt.
In my opinion, our failure would be worse than
that of other communities. Because we have
been given this incredible set of tools to work
with. Those before us have set the bar high,
but have also provided us with a platform for
success.
Figure out your role and join me in moving us
forward and establishing Lafayette as a hub of
entrepreneurial talent and innovation.
LUS SLIDE
LUS has to evolve to continue to be our source
of electricity or they’ll just become a customer
of larger electric providers. A municipally
owned utility system that doesn’t generate its
own electricity is not much more than a
maintenance and billing company.
As I asked at last year’s Robideaux Report…
How do we want to meet our future generation
needs? Will we generate our own electricity or
purchase it from someone else?
If we want to generate our own, are ratepayers
willing to pay for the new facility that will be
needed cause our existing coal plant won’t be
around for much longer.
What happens when one day soon CLECO
moves away from coal and into renewables?
They currently operate our coal plant for us, but
that’s only because they own part of it and it
makes financial sense for them to do it as an
owner/operator.
Our community needs to have this difficult
conversation so that the best possible solution
emerges.
One that doesn’t burden us with unmanageable
debt, but also continues the legacy of
ownership and generation.
Our current director, Jeff Stewart, has started to
change the culture within LUS by committing to
an open and public conversation regarding the
development of LUS’s integrated resource plan
(IRP)…which is just a fancy but incredibly
important way of saying that the public will be
invited to help determine LUS’s plans for the
future and where we plan to get our electricity
from.
In the spring of 2018, Louisiana’s Public
Service Commission learned that our Utility
System paid about $1.7 million dollars to our
Fiber System over a 7 year period for services
that were never connected by the Utility
System. The PSC is are now auditing us and
will provide the results of that audit soon. It
certainly was an unwanted challenge, but there
is a silver lining.
FIBER SLIDE
Because of that incident, we split Fiber into it’s
own department, separate from the Utilities
System. With that reorganization, LUS Fiber
got its own director, Teles Fremin, and is now
operating with the autonomy and independent
oversight that a $50 million dollar annual
enterprise should have.
Even LUS Fiber has to evolve because we
need them to continue being our area’s
technological calling card.
As new technologies continue to emerge and
mature, LUS Fiber will have to expand and
diversify its revenue stream to remain
competitive. I’m confident we’ll succeed,
because we addressed a real challenge headon and put people in place to anticipate what
those opportunities and challenges will be.
OPPORTUNITY ZONE SLIDE
President Trump’s Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of
2017 included unprecedented tax benefits for
investing in low income communities.
The specific provision was dubbed “Opportunity
Zones” and provides a 3 year window for
communities like Lafayette to recruit investment
and developers.
I’m proud that we were the first community to
reach out to LED and the Governor’s office
about Opportunity Zones. Our efforts
contributed to Lafayette Parish securing 7
Census Tracts as designated Opportunity
Zones.
The US Secretary of the Treasury estimates
that at least $100 billion will flow into these
zones over the next 3 years.
Community leaders, developers, financial
advisors, and others throughout Lafayette
Parish are currently leading Louisiana’s efforts
to ensure that we take full advantage of the
opportunity we’ve been afforded.
A special thank you is in order to Monique
Boulet with the Acadiana Planning Commission.
Her and her organization have done an
incredible job of making sure Lafayette leads
the way.
OLD FEDERAL COURTHOUSE SLIDE
Downtown Lafayette is one of our federally
designated Opportunity Zones and is already
seeing the benefits.
As most of you know, the Old Federal
Courthouse on Jefferson Street has sat
dormant and blighted for almost 20 years now.
Working with the Council we were able to sign a
contract in 2018 that will put this property back
into commerce and begin generating much
needed parish property taxes. Construction is
scheduled to begin this Summer and I’m
confident that this one project will serve as a
catalyst for much more investment Downtown.
More development Downtown means more
parish property taxes for our schools, sheriff,
LCG and other governmental agencies. All
without raising anyone’s taxes. And unlike new
development elsewhere, all without having to
build one new road or one new waterline.
We also saw the opening of Rock N Bowl and
Dat Dawg which signaled to others that
Downtown Lafayette was a good investment.
Both of those entrepreneurs took a risk and
invested millions of dollars. So thank you for
believing in Lafayette.
JOBS VIDEO
During the first Robideaux Report I joked that
when I decided to run for this office the price of
oil was around $110/barrel and when I got
sworn in about a year later it was $28/barrel.
The fortunate thing about having a CPA in
office at that time is that we didn’t panic…we
just dove into the budget process. We made
difficult budget cuts in response to the decline
in tax revenue. We renegotiated contracts and
rates to save millions of dollars annually.
We worked to stabilize the budget WITHOUT
raising taxes for each of the last three years.
And we worked to grow and diversify our
economy.
Our efforts have paid off.
SALES AND MOODY SLIDE
2018 produced the second largest sales year
ever at over $6 billion.
Moody’s classifies the City and Parish credit
profiles as strong with Aa2 ratings (which is
higher than the State’s rating). Moody’s report
mentions that our “ongoing efforts to diversify
our economy has established Lafayette as a
regional trade, retail, and entertainment hub,
and our strong local fiber network continues to
attract technology firms to the area.”
SALES TAX REVENUE SLIDE
And now there is reason for optimism in both
the City and Parish of Lafayette. Tax
collections are improving and trending upward.
For the first four months of this fiscal year both
City and Parish sales tax collections are up
when compared to last year.
As the video showed, our unemployment rate is
getting better and is now lower than the state
unemployment rate.
We’re not out of the woods, but we HAVE
weathered a difficult financial storm. Speaking
of storms, let’s discuss Drainage.
DRAINAGE VIDEO
$21.5 million towards drainage without raising
your taxes. But there is more work that needs
to be done and we need to acknowledge that.
For instance…our Drainage Division provides
maintenance and improvements to
approximately 1400 miles of City-Parish
roadside open ditches, 300 miles of subsurface
drains, 850 miles of unimproved coulees, and
about 40 miles of underground and/or concrete
lined coulees.
Let me put that into perspective. These folks
are maintaining drainage ditches and coulees
that would stretch from here to Chicago….AND
back….WITH a side trip to Houston AND back.
So a HUGE thank you to our Public Works
employees. Along with Police and Fire, your
work is our most important.
CREATE SLIDE
The CREATE initiative was established at the
same time as the Drainage initiative.
It has helped diversify our economy and
fostered Lafayette’s brand as a cultural hub to a
global audience.
As much as anything, CREATE ensures that
the quality of life demands of the new millennial
workforce are met. If we are not a place that
meets those demands we cannot compete.
SOLO MUSIC CITY COMMUNITY CALENDAR
SLIDE
In 2018 we partnered with the Buddy Holly
Educational Foundation on their first US
Songwriting workshop, we hosted a global
music convention, and built out a Community
Calendar with our tourism office.
Additionally, CREATE facilitated the relocation
to Lafayette of 3 film production companies that
will shoot over a dozen films in the Lafayette
area.
For 2019 CREATE will be focusing on the
“R”…Recreation.
We are currently looking into enhancements at
our Parks and Recreation facilities. Whether
that means new experiences that attract
national audiences or upgrades to existing
facilities the goal of CREATE is the same…
Invest these tax dollars in projects that are
impactful to our citizen’s quality of life and that
have an identifiable return on investment.
NO KILL SLIDE
Before we wrap up let’s talk about puppies and
kittens.
I made a campaign promise in 2015 that we
would work toward converting our Animal
Shelter to a No Kill Shelter sometime in 2020.
Acadiana Animal Aid, Spay Nation, and Friends
of the Lafayette Animal Shelter have worked
tirelessly with our staff to help us reach our
goal. Last year alone they rescued over 750
animals from our shelter and placed them in
homes. All three of these groups are
represented at the Showcase after my
presentation so please stop by their booth and
thank them.
ADOPTION SLIDE
We’ve made adoptions easier and have seen a
153% increase. And we broke 1000 adoptions
for the first time ever.
EUTHANASIA SLIDE
When I took office we were euthanizing over
2700 animals per year. We’ve been able to
reduce that number by 84%.
LIVE OUTCOME SLIDE
Our live outcomes for dogs and puppies have
increased from 47% to 86%. Live outcomes for
cats and kittens have increased from 9% to
89%.
All this to say that we’re well on our to a No Kill
shelter.
On a side note, Acadiana Animal Aid has a
plane ready to fly out of Lafayette this Saturday
to bring 232 animals to their forever homes –
but they need a little help funding this massive
transport operation. Any amount helps but
ideally, stop by their booth and purchase a
“boarding pass” for one animal at $50.
When I took office I put plans to build a new
shelter on hold because I wasn’t going to waste
taxpayer money on a new building to just kill
animals. I committed to revisiting those plans
once we were making progress toward a No Kill
shelter.
I’m happy to say tonight, that beginning
tomorrow we’re gonna dust off those plans, look
at best practices across the country, and begin
the process of building a world class facility. It’ll
take help from both the public and private
sectors, but I’m confident Lafayette will respond
and will be a shining example for all Shelters.
DISABILITY INFO GREEN SLIDE
Liam Doyle, our Disability Affairs Coordinator
asked that I promote an upcoming educational
event and since this is the most visible platform
I have, I decided to do it tonight.
Thank you Liam for serving as THE voice for
our entire Disabled population and thank you
for helping make Lafayette a more accessible
community.
DISABILITY PICTURE SLIDE
Under your leadership, Lafayette was well
represented at the Governor’s Annual Gold
Awards event with 4 of the 12 statewide
winners. I was especially proud to have won
Elected Official of the Year thanks to your
nomination of me.
ANNUAL REPORT SLIDE
And finally,
Cydra Wingerter put together this incredible
Annual Report and anything I missed tonight is
probably included in the Annual Report which
can be picked up in the lobby, at the Showcase,
or online at lafayettela.gov.
Thank everyone.