Gov't

Candidates Forum Tuesday

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This Tuesday, February 16, the Central Community Alliance is sponsoring a Candidates Forum in the Central High theater. The forum will begin at 7 and will involve the candidates running in the March 27 Central election. Questions will not be taken from the public during this forum. Instead, the public submitted questions ahead of time via email. Doors will open at 6:30 PM. The CHS Jazz Band will be playing, and the colors will be presented by the Central Eagle Scouts.

As with last week's MAYORAL FORUM, Central Speaks will be filming the Candidate Forum. The video can be found on CentralSpeaks.com the morning after the forum (Wednesday morning).

15 Comments

  1. Oldman

    March 15, 2010 at 1:53 pm

    I attended the forum and was very impressed with answers from both candidates. The responses also created some questions I think the public would be interested in getting.

    Question 1 is concerning the Permit Fees. I realize that the permit fees are more than any of our neighbors (East Baton rouge, Zachary etc) Evidently this is a point that the candidates for mayor disagree on.
    Has the higher permit fees kept any builder from building in Cental?
    Also, as everyone understands, the permit fee is passed on to the eventual buyer. Has the higher permit fees kept anyone from buying a house in Cental?

    Another area that was expressed at the forum is the City Services contract.
    My question is simple:
    How many citizen complaints were filed in February 2009?
    How many citizen complaints were filed in February 2010?

    This might be a means to separate the real issue from the politically motivated “citizen complaint”.

    I would appreciate an answer from both candidates, which will help me make a decision on who to vote for.

  2. jr. shelton

    March 16, 2010 at 11:09 pm

    Thank-you for attending the forum tonight and I am happy to answer your questions. The higher permit fees along with dissatisfaction of inconsistent inspections have made some builders decide to not build in Central or have built one house and won’t even bid another in Central. As for if they have kept anyone from actually buying a house in Central, I haven’t been told that as yet, but I do know that homebuyers feel it is unfair since we left Baton Rouge to be our own city to have something such as permit fees to be higher than what we left. Do I think the permits can be reduced? YES! How? I am proposing we as a city contract directly with the company subcontracted by Ch2 to do this job. Then, instead of us giving 90% of the permit fees to Ch2, we can keep all of it and make a better contract with SAFEbuilt, and save the city money and reduce the permit fees.

    As to the services of Ch2MHill, the report for complaints does not give a breakdown as to how many complaints taken in a particular month are actually resolved in that month. The report does show how many complaints are received, but the number of resolved complaints from that month may have been taken months before, thus not giving a true accounting of complaints for a month – to resolved complaints in a month. One councilman has asked for this but it is not being reported as yet. I will be the biggest cheerleader for Ch2 if I see these performance reports bear out that they are doing a good job. All I want is solid accountability over a company we spend $4 million dollars with.

    Again, thanks for attending tonight and if you would like to discuss these topics or anything else, please feel free to call me at 936-9687.

  3. Kelly

    March 17, 2010 at 7:53 am

    Mr. Shelton:
    From what I can see in Central, the building of new houses is now slowing down, so I don’t know what builders you are talking about. Perhaps they are some cheap builders who build cheap houses. We don’t need them anyway! My daughter and son-in-law recently built a new home in Central, moved in a few weeks ago, and they had no complaints. In fact, their builder told them they would actually be paying more fees if they were building in Baton Rouge. I had them ask the builder this after hearing all these discussions about permit fees. He explained to them that Baton Rouge has other fees tacked on to their building permits that the homebuilder or buyer ends up paying as part of Baton Rouge’s permitting process. The builder actually said it’s a more simple process in Central.

    Are you saying that if we contract directly with the safebuilt firm, we get to keep all of the 90% of the permit fees? That is what you said above. How is safebuilt going to work for only 10%?

    I would also like to know where you saw this so-called report complaint report. Is it a “complaint” report or a report that shows the number of public works calls that came in that month?

    All I know is, I am so glad that we are away from Baton Rouge. I for one, have seen good work being done in Central, and I’m proud of our city. I have had several council members currently in office call or talk to me over the past few weeks, and they have cleared the air on a lot of the issues and explained things to me and others. I’m really starting to see where some of the new people running for office do not have all of their information straight and are trying to confuse people.

  4. cd

    March 17, 2010 at 1:53 pm

    I attended the forum on Tuesday night, and I was pleased with a lot of the answers by most of the candidates. I do feel that some of the candidates are trying to create problems that are not there, or just not giving us the correct information, or the full story.

    We have been utilizing CH2 for quite some time. The public has had plenty of opportuniies to express their opinoins (good and bad). Maybe some of the citizens have voiced their opinions and have not gotten satisfactory answers, but that will come with any form of government. Some of the candidates expressed concerns over receiving some reports from CH2. Has anyoned asked their councilman or CH2 for these reports? Is CH2 supposed to send all of us a monthly report? The compliants that some of the candidates have had about CH2 have all of the sudden become a huge issue during this election process, and I am sure they will soon quite down once this election is over.

    The issue on permit fees. I have not heard one home owner or builder express their concerns for permit fees, specifically permit fees imposed in Central, everyone will have a general complaint on permit fees. I have not attended every meeting, but you would think througout this election procees that someone other than those running for office would complain.

    This notion about citizens of Central being left out of the desicion making process, or not being able to give input on some issues, I think is an overstatement. Our Council meetings are open to the public, our school board meetings are open to the public, the master plan process had meetings open to the public, the school construction process had meetings opent to the public, and I could continue to name other meetings, but our current elected officials have given us every opportunity to express our opinions. If you feel you are left out of the decision makeing process then you probably are, get off of your behind and attend a meeting and express your opinion. I do not want my elected officials spending their time knocking on your doors for input. The majority of our city meetings are open for input. We have a website that allows you to contact officials, so you can actually do this from your home! The websit also includes audited city budget information that you would think is not avaialbe after attending some of these forums, but it is actually there for your review.

    Most of our elected officials have been in place for five years. Overall I think they have done a good job for a group that started a city government form scratch with no experience. As with any government there is always room for improvement. I think this city is heading in the right direction under the guidance of our elected officials as well has input from the citizens of Central. There will always be room for improvement.

    Most of the incumbents have as much experience in running a city as our current officails did when they took office.

    Please get out and vote on substance, not just for the sake of change.

  5. Mike Mannino

    March 17, 2010 at 2:03 pm

    While campaigning, I have personally talked to many builders or contractors that refuse to work in Central because of the problems with permits and fees. Complaints range from inspectors not being quailfied and shutting jobs down, to the length of time required to get inspections.
    As far as the data on calls received, that is one of the issues I brought up in my speech, the fact that not enough of the proper type of performance indicators are being collected to answer questions with hard data. Its easy for the City to say Chm2hill is doing a fine job, its quite a different story to prove it with real data. Having managed these type contracts for years, I can tell you that trend data sometimes gives you an entirely different picture than what may seem to be the case. It also will show over time where they need to improve as I have never seen a company that couldnt make improvements. If things are going so well, it would greatly benefit Chm2hill to present reports that track this on a monthly basis. I know they are a quality company and are capable, we just need to set expectations. Though I am a ‘new person” running for office, my experience at Exxon has taught me well over the years to make sure I have my facts straight before I say a word about a subject and I think I have done that in this case. I have also learned that if you hear a complaint from 1 person, they may be disgruntled, if its as many as I have heard this from, its something that we need to address.

  6. Kyle

    March 17, 2010 at 4:01 pm

    cd: I don’t know who you are, but AMEN! I get so sick of people complaining about government and thinking that all government is bad, yet they never want to attend meetings or get involved. I would like for all of the new candidates…Mr. Mannino, Mr. Messina, Mr. Lobue, Mr. Hinton, and Mr. Shelton to tell each of us on here the following:

    1) How many council meetings did you attend since incorporation prior to qualifying for election?

    2) How many school board meetings have you attended?

    3) How many Master Plan meetings have you attended?

    4) How many Cooking for our Kids meetings have you attended in the past?

    5) We keep hearing comments saying that builders are not happy with the permit fees? Well then, why haven’t any contacted our current councilmembers and asked for an item to be placed on the council agenda? I think this is just an issue that is being blown out of proportion by one or two people.

    Seriously, is this all this city is about..permit fees and ch2mhill? Is that all these new candidates are worried about? I think there is a lot more to our city than these two issues. It’s obvious that these people aren’t concerned with everything else. Keep it up incumbents! You’re doing a great job!

  7. Mike Mannino

    March 17, 2010 at 9:58 pm

    Kyle,
    From your posts on this subject and others on this site, its obvious that you either work in the city services dept. or somehow are tied to this administration and have drank the Koolade.
    Let me ask you a question or two. Do you really believe that the candidates that are bringing this forward are making it up ? Can you really claim to be objective and tell me that there is absolutely not at least one challenger in this election for all the offices that is not a better candidate than at least one of the current office holders ? If Ch2mhill is not a big deal where does the effort by the administration to stop roadside vendors and force existing signs into a new ordinance rank ? Somewhere below that wouldnt you agree Kyle or whatever your real name is, yet there has been a BIG focus on those two issues for some reason. Lets be honest, some people have blind loyalty to this administration no matter what the facts are. Lets hope that they are a minority for the sake of Central. By the way, I will debate you or anyone else on real issues any time any place. The facts always win.

  8. Roy Hutchinson

    March 18, 2010 at 12:54 am

    Mr. Mannino-

    Understanding your frustration with comments within this forum, I think it’s important for you and all candidates to clearly understand our position. Although I’m sure you have seen some City Service Employees at recent candidate functions, we have a strict policy on voicing our opinions whether it be verbally or written. Now does that mean that we don’t have preferred candidates?…Of course not…Obviously, we have much at stake in this election.
    I will tell you that we believe it to be very beneficial to hear what’s being said by all candidates and we utilize this information to find ways to possibly better our services to the citizens of this great city. Have we been perfect?…No…But I don’t believe you will find anyone that has. As a former employee of East Baton Rouge Parish for 18yrs, I know how this city has been neglected thru the years and I firmly believe that we have produced a better service than what was previously here. Could it get better?…I’m sure it could…and it will. Trust me sir, we take great pride in our work. We do this because unlike some of the candidates in this election, this is our lively-hood; this is the sole source of how we support our families. Why would we ever jeopardize something so important?

    Understanding that my comments in this post could have me standing in front of my superiors, I believe the risk is warranted. I believe this, because I feel that the perception of our employees have been somewhat discredited thru this election. We have been attacked on all fronts including permitting, Public Works, Planning and Zoning, and Code Enforcement. I mention this because I think it’s important for both the citizens and Candidates’ to understand that the individuals that serve our city know all too well what’s important, they understand what the problems are, and they often have ways and opinions on how to correct these problems. They do this because it’s more than just a job and a paycheck, its home for many. Our employees’ are not from CH2M HILL located out of Denver, Colorado, we are citizens and neighbors who live in Central, Denham, Zachary, and Baton Rouge. We are here because we want to be not because we have to be…

    As far as Kyle goes, I’m not sure who he or she is but rest assure, this individual does not work for City Services. Although we respect and appreciate his or her opinion, we view it as nothing more than just one person’s opinion. The same way we view the negative opinions that we’ve received throughout this election. We will continue to listen to all opinions (positive or negative) in hopes of building a better service for our citizens.

    I hope this post somewhat improves how the Municipal Service Employees are viewed. We are here to serve and we enjoy every minute of it. I would add that if our citizens should have any questions pertaining to permitting, public works, planning and zoning and/or code enforcement to please call or come by and see us. We look forward to hearing from each and every one of you.

    Thank you!

    Roy Hutchinson
    Director of Public Works
    City of Central, La

  9. Mike Mannino

    March 18, 2010 at 7:37 am

    Thank you Roy for coming forward. I will defend your right to voice your opinion to anyone. I feel it is unfair for someone hearing things about their company or job and not being able to respond just because they are tied to a political position.

    To your points,

    – I have not heard one person suggest that we do away with Chm2hill. If I were to suggest such I would be a hypocrite because I have had to make the tough decision at work several times to replace company workers with contractors because it is much more cost effective. I have stated that Chm2hill is a quality company of a national caliber and it was absolutely the right decision to bring them into the Community, which by the way, has created jobs for our citizens. I will not be critical of that decision. What I have said and you seem to agree, there is always room for improvement, no company or no person I know that is alive today is perfect. To those individuals that are personally offended, the comments I have heard do not mention an individual, they are more system oriented which is a management issue on both the part of Chm2hill and Central because these type agreements depend on a partership to work properly. In my years of managing employees, I have seldom seen an employee that is not willing to give it his or her best. I have seen mangers fail to manage. Are we better off than we were under EBR ? In some ways, absolutely. Will we become even better ? I certainly hope that all of us are committed to always striving for the ultimate goal of perfection. To all of the Chm2hill employees, I want to personally apologize if you have taken comments as a personal attack. That is not my intent nor do I think it is the intent of the others. You did not negotiate this contract. You are just the people executing it. Rest assured, I feel Chm2hill has a long future in Central because it is the right way to handle City services. Feel free to contact me anytime. I would rather set the record straight than have rumors going around that I am for doing away with Chm2hill such as seem to be going around.

  10. Kyle

    March 18, 2010 at 7:44 am

    Mr. Mannino:

    No, I do not work for the city or have any ties to it. I am a citizen of this good city. Yes, I do know two council members and talk with them every now and then and always ask how things are going in the city. I am always informed by them. My family and I go to Cooking for our Kids every year and have a great time socializing with other citizens in our city at this great event that our city leaders put on each year. That is just the kind of event that makes our city a special place to live. Look at all the volunteer work that has been done in our city.

    My point is that I want an elected official who is going to do more than just talk about permit fees and ch2mhill. This is all I seem to read about. I want an elected official who is going to do great things for our city such as participating in events that bring this city together, like Cooking for Our Kids. I want an elected official who participates in charity events and promotes our city.

    It seems that whether it be a local, state, or national election for council, school board, or whatever, there are always those who want to run on a platform of complaining about what others are doing, yet they never seem to say what they can do better. There’s too much finger pointing in elections. Yes, I have my mind made up already that Mayor Watts is doing a great job and has my vote for mayor. Most of the council is doing good too and have my support. Actually, I am supporting one new person for council because I have known this person for a long time and he is a good, non-controversial person who has been involved in events in Central and volunteered his time in our community.

    These are the factors that I am basing my decision on. Thank you for your time.

  11. Mike Mannino

    March 18, 2010 at 8:31 am

    Kyle,
    Thank you for your comments. Sounds like you have made your decisions on a criteria you feel is important. I commend you for that as you sought out answers to things that concern you. I would like to say I am not single minded or single focused. I have 6 distint priorities that I have articulated since day one of this campaign that i feel are important and tie together.

    1- Single member districts
    2- Increased Police protection
    3- A true court system, not a mayors court.
    4- Improving te Chm2hill contract, not doing away with them.
    5- A master plan that is firm that takes into account infrastructure and school capacity. ( were you aware our brand new schools will be at capacity when opened ? We are going to have to be aware of this when approving new housing. )
    6- Reviewing our property taxes to explore options for Central to receive some of the existing tax being collected.

    I am proud to be a part of this community where people like you do get involved and voice your opinion. We dont have to agree but to be the type community we want, we need to walk away friends. I dont take any of this personal. I happen to like and respect all the current administration. They are a lively and passionate group and that is something I admire. I just think I can contribute to making Central a better place.

    Thanks Kyle and please get out and vote, even ifs its not for me. Its a right we all need to exercise at every election.

  12. Kyle

    March 18, 2010 at 6:19 pm

    Mr. Mannino:

    Thank you for your responses. I am not personally addressing those towards you, just all government in general. I hope you understand. I understand that our current city government has only been in place for 2 years. It’s still in its infancy, and I think Mayor Watts and most of the current council have done a good job trying to start a new city from scratch. This city needs to continue giving them another term in office. Most of the people I talk to and know tell me the same. You have made some good points, and I might actually consider voting for you! I am going to discuss some of the issues brought up on this page with the council members that I know and get an answer from them and hopefully be able to post it back on here. Thanks again for your time!

  13. Mike Mannino

    March 18, 2010 at 6:26 pm

    Thank you Kyle. I appreciate that very much. I’m only trying to do what I can to keep this a great place to live for our kids and grandkids. I have benefited living here and enjoyed every minute of it. I want the same for them. It would be selfish of us to not to. I moved here as a young man because I loved the country life, safe, friendly, and a tight knit community. I would hate to see that destroyed. Go vote buddy, no matter who its for !!! We cant lose no matter who wins.

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