Kenneth Garrison, Jr.September 19, 2023
LA 1 Expressway Nightly Lane Closures Scheduled 9/25-29September 19, 2023
Editor’s Note: The Times of Houma-Thibodaux sent each candidate the same list of questions for our readers to learn more about their platforms and what their plans are for the highest office in Terrebonne Parish. We will be publishing their responses this week.
Michael Paul LaRussa
Please, introduce yourself. Share your name, occupation, and a little about yourself and your family.
Michael Paul LaRussa: President, Coldwell Banker LaRussa Real Estate, real estate developer and entrepreneur
I was born and raised in Houma. I am a graduate from Vandebilt Catholic High. I am a proud father of 2 children, Joseph (13) and Olivia LaRussa (14). Throughout the years, I have been very active and served on numerous parish boards and taskforces. I spent the last 25 to 30 years volunteering my time trying to make our parish a better place for our children to call home!
Why are you running for Terrebonne Parish President?
We’re blessed to be from Terrebonne and to call it home. We have so much going for us, but we’re at a critical juncture. Without the right leadership, we face uncertain times. I’ve spent my life in this parish. I’m a father of two, a small business owner and community leader. I care about our parish and I want my children and yours to grow up right here and raise families of their own. I want all our children and grandchildren to know they can find a good job here. I want them to be the first generation to not have to worry about whether their houses are going to flood, their families are safe or how they’re going to pay for things like homeowners insurance. To do that, we need to tackle these issues right now. If we’re going to be serious about investing in our future and theirs, it requires listening, planning, honesty, and execution. From our shrimpers to the shipyards, I will unite this parish and use my experience to invest more in this generation and the next. We will make it better than when we found it.
As Parish President, what will your three top priorities be?
Fight for affordable wind/hail and flood insurance for all of Terrebonne
Quality of Place (improve our roads, better recreation for all, parish wide sewer and parish beautification)
Economic development: What are your plans to keep existing businesses located in Terrebonne Parish? What are your plans to grow and bring in new businesses?
If elected, I will work with TEDA and focus on meeting with every industry owner and executive the first year. In these meetings, we want to provide any assistance to these job creators that our government can provide. They chose to be in Terrebonne and we need to find ways to help them grow and expand.Our Airport and Port are major assets to our community. The Houma-Terrebonne airport is the 2nd largest people moving airport in Louisiana outside of New Orleans. We need to look at partnering with universities to expand programs such as the drone program. We also have rare port that is inside a hurricane protection system. We need to keep the HNC at the proper depths to continue to grow our port. We need to find ways to expand these assets to lure new companies into our parish.
Industry: With the current economic challenges our seafood industry is experiencing, what are your plans as Parish President to help sustain and support this particular industry?
For over 20 years we have been hearing that our seafood industry is dying. Well today they are on the last lifeline. When they have more imported shrimp in cold storages than the nation can consume in one year, we need help now. I will bring our local seafood industry leaders together and provide them every resources(legal representation, parish ordinances, lobbying and marketing) available to help our seafood industry on the local, state, and federal levels.
Quality of place: What do you plan to do to increase the quality of place in Terrebonne Parish?
Terrebonne is lucky to have such natural resources. We can hunt and fish only a few miles from our houses. We need to improve public access. There’s a financial barrier to having to own a boat and possibly a camp. We need to look at more opportunities for adults and children to enjoy all the parish has to offer. Nature is our strength here and we need to build out the infrastructure that allows all our citizens to engage with it.
Expanding parish wide sewage is another quality of place priority. Our children should be able to play outside without having raw sewage in the ditches and yards. This is a serious health issue around the parish.
Creating a Terrebonne Beatification program throughout our parish will give our citizens a sense of pride. Proper landscaping throughout our parish will enhance all areas of the parish.
Expanding our recreational programs to include more programs for all residents throughout the parish. This should include programs for our seniors also.
Levees: What are your plans to maintain and further develop our levee system and protection, beginning with Morganza to the Gulf?
We must get our Morganza Levees, which is an average of 12 feet above sea level now, to +15 feet with state and local funds. Then eventually to 22.5 feet with the help from the Corps of Engineers. After decades of requests, they presently have a budget authorized by Congress of $460 million dollars for 2 floodgates in Intracoastal
Canal in Terrebonne & Lafourche tied into Morganza and 1 new floodgate on Humble Canal. We also need to continue to fight for the state to rock our barrier islands. There is no reason the state should be rebuilding these islands with no rocks to fortify them. It’s working on Grand Isle so why shouldn’t they place them on our barrier islands?
Flooding: What are your plans to address and improve flood protection for our citizens, in particular our pumps/pump stations and street drainage systems?
TPCG has built 30 pump stations in the last 7 1/2 years bringing the total to 98 pump stations. We have 47 pump stations on telemetry and scada (remote monitoring and control). We must complete the other 51 pump stations to telemetry & scada. We also need to complete the other 7 pump stations under design & engineering located throughout the parish. Because we have most of our pump stations in place, we need to create a comprehensive drainage maintenance plan to clean all our ditches and culverts on a regular rotational basis.
Infrastructure/Roads: List and prioritize the parish’s infrastructure needs that you will address as parish president.
Flood protection is always a top priority and concern. However, our roads and bridges have gotten worse. I am going to do an inventory of all the bridges and roads in the parish, and we are going to aggressively pursue upgrading the ones that are deficient. The strength of Terrebonne Parish is our “five bayous” but it also presents unique challenges when it comes to road and bridge construction. I am aware of those challenges and I’m going to address them. I’ll engage with La DOTD and I’ll push our State delegation to pursue funding through Capital Outlay. Part of the issue is getting our people to show up at LA DOTD’s regional meetings and have them hear our voices. One of my main priorities is beefing up the Parish’s communications department and making sure we are all on the same page.
Capital outlay: Do you have any specific capital outlay project requests you would like to make to the state?
Our delegation has brought back the most capital outlay in Louisiana over the last eight years. Almost every project the parish has requested has been delivered. It’s a team effort. I’ve been lucky enough to have been involved in the process. I know it takes relationships. Of all the candidates, I’m the one who has the reputation for building relationships with all different kinds of people. I’ll continue pushing the state to build levees and pump stations, but I also want to look into pushing for more roads, bridges, and quality of life projects.
Homeowners/Business Insurance: What specific plans will you push for with our federal and state legislative delegations to keep insurance rates affordable for our residences and businesses?
The biggest thing the Parish President can do is be a voice for us. I’ll testify in Congress and Baton Rouge and push for policies on the State and Federal level that will bring more quality insurers into Louisiana and provide more affordable insurance. I’ve already contacted the new Commissioner on Insurance, Senate Chairman on Insurance, numerous legislators and various Governor candidates with opened dialogue on what we can do to lower our premium. They are planning a special session to address this issue in Baton Rouge. I’ll be there talking about what is happening in Terrebonne and pushing them to address our issues. I will remodel areas on the new flood maps that were not given credited for our flood improvements that were built since 2019. We will continue any and all legal avenues to stop FEMA 2.0.
Recreation: As Parish President, what are your plans to streamline the operation of the parish-supported recreation programs and facilities? How do you plan to attract outside recreational teams and tournaments to our area?
We need to continue to build the Bayou Country Sports Park into one of the top facilities in the State. There’s a lot of competition with towns like Youngsville and Broussard for facilities to attract tournaments, which are now significant to tourism. But we can’t forget about our bayou recreational facilities. Every kid in this parish deserves a first-class recreational experience whether they live in Dulac, Schriever, Gibson or off LA 311. I would like to look at redeveloping the Houma Airbase on the East Side and pursue partnerships with our rec districts to bring major tournaments and use multiple locations. Ideally we want families from the Gulf coast and up to Shreveport to stay at a local hotels and spend their dollars all over the parish. No reason they can’t play at more than one location.
Homelessness: As Parish President, what are your plans to address the homeless issues the parish is currently facing?
Homelessness is a problem that is affecting communities across the United States and we have seen a dramatic increase in Terrebonne after Ida. However, some cities have been effective in reducing homelessness. For example, Houston has decreased homelessness 63% since 2011. They have accomplished this through their Mayor’s office and an initiative called the “Way Home Program.” Only 50% of US Cities actually have a plan to address homelessness in their communities. On my first day in office, I will start implementing a plan on what’s been successful in other cities like Houston and modifying those initiatives to our own community. We will be one of the 50% of cities that have a plan. I’ll send a team to Houston and learn from them and bring those strategies back to Terrebonne.
Ida Issues: What are your plans to address the damages caused by Hurricane Ida to parish-owned and-operated properties, including Bayou Towers and Senator Circle?
As a result of the Catastrophic losses caused by Hurricane IDA, the Parish’s insurance carriers have not yet paid all the Insurance proceeds owed to the Parish. The Parish had to file a lawsuit to collect the disputed amounts still owed by the carriers to the Parish. Once the insurance amount owed to the Parish is paid, then I would proceed against FEMA to collect the remaining monies still owed to the Parish to fix, repair, replace and /or return the Parish facilities to its pre-Hurricane Ida status. We know that this FEMA process is going to take a long time but I PROMISE you, the citizens of Terrebonne Parish, that I will do everything within my power to make Terrebonne Parish whole.
Bayou Towers and Senator Circle are not under the control of Terrebonne Parish Government. They are operated by the Houma/Terrebonne Housing Authority, which is a state created board. TPCG does have opportunities in the future to apply for some CDBG funds to build other facilities to help fill the need for the residence of these facilities. We need to take advantage of all housing opportunities like these to insure that we find a place for all of our citizens that are currently living in FEMA trailers a permanent place to live.