Student voices are heard

Northshore Gubernatorial forum

“This was geared for students, the future voters of the state, they were asking the questions,” said forum moderator and Southeastern alumn Paul Rivera. “It’s little things like this, they see it in the community and it makes them want to get involved. We’re not going to make any change if we don’t actually go out there and make our voices heard.”

Of the four candidates for the next Louisiana Governor, only three were able to make an appearance at the Northshore Gubernatorial forum held last week at Columbia Theatre. Attending was republican Scott Angelle, a member of the Louisiana public service commission; fellow republican Jay Dardenne, incumbent Lieutenant Governor; and democrat John Bel Edwards, the minority leader of the Louisiana House of Representatives. All men who attended has served as the Louisiana Lieutenant Governor at least one term. Republican senator David Vitter was unable to attend the forum due to scheduling complications.

The forum lasted an hour, and during that time each candidate was given 90 seconds to respond to questions asked by a panel of students, one being Student Government Association president Alexis Quackenbush. There were also video clips of questions asked by students around the university’s campus, and a lightning round, where candidates had to respond to questons as quickly and shortly as possible. Topics of discussion included the plans for higher education, the future of the TOPS and Go Grant programs, coastal restoration progress and continuation, job opportunities within the state and retirement issues as well.

Angelle stated that he stood behind TOPS and he was for, “providing money to young men and women through higher education,” with continued funding for TOPS and Go Grant programs. Through reducing local farming programs Angelle would increase higher education funds, making sure there are merit based awards.

Despite Louisiana’s lock box system, money for certain things has been diverted and Angelle aims to stop that as well. He moves to set up a punishment on anyone who uses money for anything other than its intended fund, like money for coastal restoration as well as road and highway repair.

As for job opportunities, Angelle believes that jobs are created by people in the business industry. It is the job (of the government) to make Louisiana a place where Main and Wall Street will want to employ their interests. However, there is no great worth investing in Louisiana without a safe Louisiana.

Angelle is a supporter of law enforcement and attended the funeral of an officer killed in Saint Charles. According to Angelle it is a dangerous time to be a police officer and he believes one of the best ways to rid crime is by giving people jobs.

He also encouraged students to sign up and make a retirement plan. Personal responsibility also comes in to play when registering to vote and participating in it, according to Angelle.

“We don’t need a governor who knows everyone, but a governor who works with everyone,” said Angelle. “I am prepared to lead Louisiana, I value teamwork, [believe] life is worth protecting, sisters have as much right as brothers, and I love Louisiana.”

Angelle’s closing statement was a Cajun French translation of “For me it’s Louisiana, all the time, every time.”

Dardenne is also for TOPS. He believes they are an integral part of higher education and will still be available. Higher education is a priority because it is through education that one can get out of poverty. Louisiana is 49th in America for residents without education. Citizens need to be trained for a real job that will be waiting for them out of school, according to Dardenne.

There are many job opportunities and the government is not responsible for creating jobs. The government’s responsibility is making people want to invest and offer jobs, according to Dardenne.

He wants to make sure police are adequately funded, stating that it is in the constitution and thus it will happen.

Dardenne shares the belief with Angelle that poverty creates crime; he also wants to begin looking into mental health and was the candidate to acknowledge the topic.

For coastal restoration, he believes it will be accomplished with the help of the Restore Act from Congress as well as the BP fine. They will systematically look at the ecosystem and keep up with the science of the Master Plan to restore the coast.

According to Dardenne, the young demographic could change the world if they voted, and one way to get young people to vote is to be encouraged by others to do so. He created geauxvote.com and it has drawn in many voters.

Similarly to Angelle, Dardenne said that funds for highway repair and maintenance needed to be used for its intended purpose and nothing else.

He also wanted to change from a defined benefits to a defined contribution plan, stating that there needs to be change.

“Louisiana has squandered opportunity,” said Dardenne. “We need someone who brings people together.”

Edwards is the only candidate who has military experience and is from a family of sheriffs. He supports TOPS, believing that more people have been able to graduate with it. Edwards wants to stop the annual double digit tuition increase and to support merit, as well as need based awards, stating that they are each critically important.

According to Edwards, college is where people begin their lives.

He thinks strategically investing in Louisiana is important and can be done through education by preparing students for what they study for and training them adequately.

Edwards wants to equip law enforcement with the tools they need to make Louisiana safer, because crime affects tourism.

Everyone will pay for coastal restoration; revenue streamed will bring in billions of dollars because the Louisiana coast is a national priority, according to Edwards.

He wants to keep the defined benefit plan, because “people deserve dignity in retirement” and the constitution calls us to honor community members. Edwards had called for a reform that would ensure senior citizens were given a different amount than they were currently receiving and said it was “disgraceful for Jindal to veto it.”

“This election is about leadership; what we need is an honest leader. I know what’s broken and I know how to fix it,” said Edwards. “Louisiana is in the ditch because Jindal promoted himself at the state’s expense.”        

The forum was moderated by Southeastern alumn Paul Rivera. Rivera currently works in Texas and was excited to receive the call to be a part of the forum.

“It’s the first time I’ve been on live television and it’s an incredible honor,” said Rivera, “This was geared for students, the future voters of the state, they were asking the questions. It’s little things like this, they see it in the community and it makes them want to get involved. We’re not going to make any change if we don’t actually go out there and make our voices heard.”

Many students were in attendance that night, taking the opportunity to meet the candidates. One of the attendees was senior management major Brennan Borison.

“I think it was a great opportunity to come out and see what our candidates stand for and get real answers,” said Borison.