Voter’s League opens forum for Gonzales council candidates

DERON TALLEY, EDITOR @DeRonTalley

In its short existence the Ascension Parish Voter’s League (APVL) has already brought differences to the table to enhance the community. Monday night at the St. Paul Baptist Church in Gonzales, the Voter’s League opened the floor to the Gonzales Council Division C seat candidates, who are Derrick Coco, Willie Robinson and Harold Stewart.

Roy Quezaire, Chairman of the APVL said the voter’s league came together for all interest of concern from the federal, state, parish and local governmental branches.

“They are all interests and concerns of all of us, whether we recognize them or not,” Quezaire said.  “We are not only active in election season, but we often times get individuals to come in and give us information from various aspects of governmental entities. Some of our goals and objectives are to bring people so we can become more educated and sensitized to the facts of what actually make the wheels turn.”

Currently on the Gonzales City Council there are two appointed members after Gary Lacombe resigned from the Division E seat in late November, and Timothy Vessel, Sr. was recalled in a December election. The appointed members are Barbara Duhe and David Guitreau who both will serve until special elections are held on March 28.

In the Division E seat race, Neal Bourque won unopposed after no one registered to qualify. Both seats will again be up for election in 2016.

So now all eyes are set on the Division C seat at Gonzales City Hall as Coco, Robinson and Stewart all plead their cases for why they each are the best man for the city.

COCO

“My resume is simple. It’s not about politics,” Coco said. “It’s about the people and they deserve someone with passion and persistence to be relentless and listen to their concerns and get their voices heard. The time is right now to make a difference, to bring unity to this community, to elect change.”

Coco said it’s about the concerns of the citizens and believes who ever is elected has to be fair both ways and “listen to the voices and it just doesn’t stop after you get elected.”

“You have to continue building relationships. I want to know the people’s concerns,” Coco said. “The ideas come from the community and we have to stay in touch. We can’t get in these positions and forget about the needs of the people. Everything is about working collectively. If you can’t communicate as one then you won’t do anything for the community.”

Coco said he supports economical growth and supports the Ascension Economic Development Corporation (AEDC), “which helps brings jobs in the parish.”

“I believe in bringing jobs here, but at the same time I believe in keeping the value of our city also. It’s about the community. Bringing jobs is a good thing, but where we put them is a different thing. We want to bring them in but we also want to keep the quality of our value areas.”

“To me Kennedy Heights is like a HBCU – it’s known as a historical black area,” Coco said. “Affordable housing is good, but it’s about talking to the people and letting them give input.”

Coco even said he was in favor of the recall effort that forced Lacombe to resign and voted out Vessel.

“I signed the petition. There comes a time where you want to stand up for what you think is right,” Coco said. “The majority have spoken on it but I wish things could’ve happened in a more professional manner. I just think this city is tired of politics right now. They just want someone to just serve the public.”

ROBINSON

Robinson told those at the forum serving people is nothing new to him and it certainly isn’t something he just started doing to get a council seat.

“For the last ten years, every home I sell that’s blessing a family – white, black, Vietnamese and it doesn’t matter what color you want to help people,” Robinson said. “Helping people isn’t just something I’m going to start when elected, it’s continuing what I’m already doing. A lot of people don’t believe in politics anymore. When I was going door-to-door knocking people actually said the government is going to do what they want to do. And when you have people saying that, it’s not good. We have to unite government and community and give people hope and belief. It’s not about me. I have peace in my life. I want to be a blessing to others, that’s leadership.”

Robinson said he hears politicians throw around the words of bringing jobs in, but added, “if our people aren’t getting the jobs it doesn’t matter.”

“You can ride down Highway 30 and you’ll see 20 or more companies with ‘Now Hiring’ signs,” Robinson said. “Are the adults in our community getting those jobs? You have to help the people, if you don’t educate our own it doesn’t matter many jobs come our people aren’t getting to get the jobs. The only people getting those industry jobs are the ones coming here relocating, causing more infrastructure problems. How many people are grassroots from Gonzales getting those jobs? Not many. I’m willing to be the voice and the listener for the people to try and get things done to truly help our community.”

Robinson said even after the recall the problem at City Hall isn’t taken care of completely.

“There is still a lot of work that needs to be done. It shouldn’t be a good ole boy system, it should be a people system, it should be a government system,” Robinson said. “Until we get leaders in there that will stand and do that, it will always revert back to the old. It shouldn’t be about which side you’re on, or which family you with, it should be about community. I’m for everybody’s family. I have love, if you don’t have love how can you help somebody.”

STEWART

Stewart said simply he’s been a lifelong resident of Gonzales and a longtime businessman in Gonzales. He said, “I paid my dues to this city.”

“I’m going to work with the mayor and the others on the council to move this city forward. We’re about two years behind right now. We need more job opportunity here,” Stewart said. “Retail makes us $16 million a year, but we need to pick that up in industrial. We need jobs, we need our kids to go to school, graduate and stay here. Now they have to leave to get a job. We need to turn those C-1 zoning into C-2 zonings to create industrial in the city.”

Stewart said Gonzales needs affordable housing as well.

“Our children are graduating and are making between $11,000 to $20,000 a year but the rent is high. We need a retirement to keep our seniors here. We need to educate our kids so they can get a good job and then come back and buy their parents’ house,” Stewart said. “We want to keep people working and keep them here. We have a lot of stuff coming to the city right now. We have Twin Peaks coming, we have IHOP coming. This is a growing city. This is not a poor city, we have the money but we have to keep city. I’m going to work with the mayor and council and I’m going to listen to the people and meet the needs.”

“We have to continue to bring in industrial and create jobs. We create jobs and it creates revenue and we won’t have to tax our own people. The plants are here; the jobs create money. Right now we’re getting it from retail.”

Stewart said he was a lead member in the SaveGonzales recall effort and said he stood once and “I’ll stand again.”

“We deserve the best in this city. We have good people in this city. I will stand again if I have to.”

ALSO:

Also at the forum, Ascension Parish President candidate Clint Cointment had a chance to speak briefly:

“I got a little frustrated with the amount of progress as far as roads, drainage, sewage, recreation and all the other facilities within the parish. I began taking a closer look at how people were being treated within the parish,” Cointment said. “What connectivity was there between the government and the people; and as we began to explore that they came along with the master plan and I ended up stepping up and I took a chance at taking a hit from local government because I had contracts with them, and so the master plan was huge in the parish. It was very destructive as far as CPEX, a Colorado firm, coming in here and instead of asking the citizens what they wanted for their parish they had the firm come in and tell us what they thought we wanted for our parish. That disturbed me. A planning commission decided to side with the people and local government got rid of the entire commission for agreeing with the people. That’s your Ascension Parish government that exists today. It’s about people, and that’s what politicians forget.”