St. Bernard president and sheriff races hit forumsOct 19th, 2011 | By William Dilella | Category: Top Story, Uncategorized
The second of the three political forums hosted by the St. Bernard Chamber of Commerce showcased contenders from two of the more prominent local races: the offices of sheriff and parish president.
In this forum, again held in the Council Chambers on W. Judge Perez, the questions had been pre-ordained and the candidates themselves were not under any direct public scrutiny. They were, however, able to speak openly about their unique campaign platforms, without the fear or promise of an endorsement from the Chamber.
The sheriff’s panel saw all four contenders vying for the spot Jack Stephens is relinquishing this term. This is the first time in 27 years that the parish will be getting a new sheriff. And in a race of varying ideals, administration and real world experience were pitted against each other as the chief requisite for a qualified sheriff to run an office with over 300 employees and a $20 million budget, as well as being tasked with the parish’s safety.
Barry Benadas, who worked with the FBI for nearly two decades in various investigative and administrative capacities, said that his training with the CIA, and other accreditations that cover each aspect of the position. Part of his proposal to improve St. Bernard policing included a public database for criminal activity, because, Bernadas said, the FBI’s statistics show that the parish is underreported for law enforcement activity, which does effect the numbers. And Bernadas cited that data collection as one of the major improvements he would bring to the office.
“Community liaisons are big with me…[and] we’re going to create databases for every neighborhood. If there is a crime in your neighborhood, you’ll be emailed the next day, and you’ll know about it.” He continued, “The only way to fight crime with with the citizens, because no one knows the neighborhood like they do.”
“The top priority is ridding the community of drugs,” Clark said.
Clark, who headed up street crimes investigations division and has been in the Sheriffs office for 18-years, said that community involvement will come in the form of the “Direction 2012″ initiative. Direction 2012 will be a collaboration of citizens, business leaders and officials, with the focus of continually improving the parish’s drug trafficking situation.
Wayne Landry said he would rely on his business experience to eliminate excess in the sheriff’s office and operate a more efficient organization.
“Those people receiving a check, that no longer perform a function, will be gone,” Landry said. “That will allow us to put more patrolmen in the streets.” Landry said later, “If you think St. Bernard Parish is safe now, think how much safer it would be if we had another $800,000 to pay the hard-working men and women of the sheriffs office.”
Landry did not specify where the cuts would come from, nor the origin of his figures from that evening’s answers.
Jimmy Pohlman, who has been the Chief Deputy under Sheriff Stephens, said that though St. Bernard has it’s share of dangerous individuals, the parish is safe because of the tactics employed by the sheriffs office.
“You’ve had a test drive with me,” Pohlmann said, referencing his four years as Chief Deputy. “We’ve been successful in keeping a low crime rate in St. Bernard Parish…this is the first time in 27 years where we are going to have an opportunity to elect a new sheriff, and you will have a new sheriff.”
“When you make the decision for the next sheriff, remember this, you are making that decision based on your safety and your families safety,” Pohlmann said. “You are going to put that in the hands of the sheriff, which is 24 hours a day…and if you don’t get it right,” he continued, “you’re going to have to wait four years to fix that problem.”
The four contenders for Parish President—Paul Molinary, Dave Paralta, Craig Taffaro and Timothy Tobin—were all present for the open forum, which saw the three contenders attempting to unseat the incumbent Taffaro, seeking his second term of office.
One of the questions postulated during the forum was based on the assumption that St. Bernard’s own influx of FEMA funding—for nearly 500 projects— would decrease and that the current level of services is likely to dissipate over the next term. While other questions covered tax incentives for businesses to boost the local economy and surrounding infrastructure, the overall idea presented in each platform is how the candidates were going to take St. Bernard further with less possibly coming in.
Paul Molinary talked about some of the waste he sees in the system, and how he would find a way of getting all those displaced residents still waiting to return to St. Bernard back to the parish.
“It seems to me that half the number of people are living here, and more people working in the government,” Molinary said. Continuing later on, “There was $1 billion spent [in the parish], look around, do you see $1 billion?”
“We have to get out of crisis-mode,” said Dave Peralta. “We need to go back to the way were were before the storm.”
Peralta tossed a number of accusations about the current government
Incumbent Parish President Craig Taffaro had reiterated his message that funding and progress have all come over the last four years, and that his experience with the system warrants another term as Parish President.
“What I want you to focus on is where we are as a parish, exactly where we are as a parish,” Taffaro said. “And think back four years ago, where the previous administration failed us…where we almost lost everything,,,and we started on a road that is outstanding.”
While Timothy Tobin stayed on his message: “It’s time to put someone in office, who will be your voice.”
The decisions for those elected officials to serve over the next four years are crawling closer and closer to a close. As early voting wraps up, the next phase and final leg of the campaign hits, leaving the citizens of St. Bernard to decide their own fate from the qualified candidate pool.
The election takes place October 22.