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A Question and Answer Session With The Candidates for Alexandria City Councilman At-Large. 1. Tell us a little bit about your background. Where are you originally from? Where did you go to school? How long have you lived in Alexandria? Slatkin: I am originally from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, where I was born and grew up being part of multiracial and cultural society. After graduating from medical school (Federal University of Rio de Janeiro) I migrated to the United States in the early 1970’s. Since my very early teens I was a big admirer of the United States, its people, history and movies. I always had an intense desire to be part of this family. I can say, I was a true American at heart. My family, of middle class, like many Brazilians, were immigrants themselves. I completed my medical training in Internal Medicine and Pulmonary Diseases at the Universities of New York, Cincinnati, and Louisville. I moved to Alexandria in 1978 and began working for the Veterans Administration Medical Center where I spent one year as a full time medical officer. I then decided to engage in private practice. I am on the active medical staff of both Rapides Regional Medical Center and Christus St.Frances Cabrini Hospital in addition to running a pulmonary clinic at the VA Hospital on a weekly basis. I can speak English and Portuguese fluently. I also have a good comprehension and communication in Spanish. I have knowledge of written and spoken both Italian and French. I am a Ham Radio Operator, (KB5MEX), enjoy music and riding scooters. I currently am the managing physician of the Internal Medicine Associates and I have managed its finances for the last 25 years. In think I am a very honest, fair, broad minded and an outspoken person. I dislike very much dishonesty and sweet deals behind curtains and in secrecy.. I am one of those that, when assigned with a task, it will be done as correct as possible. When the answers are not readily known, I never hesitate to seek an expert opinion. I am very responsible and caring, striving every day to make sure that those trying to reach me are being promptly responded to, even if in a negative manner. Usually those that dislike me are the ones being pointed out for incompetence, negligence and dishonesty, thereby affecting the lives of others. Lawson: I was born and reared in Alexandria. I attended the following public schools: Silver City Elementary, Jones Street Jr High, Peabody High, and LSUA. I graduated from Southern University with a bachelors in business management. I have served as Chairman of the Board and am currently Vice Chairman. 2. What is the number one problem facing Alexandria? Slatkin: There are many important issues afflicting our city. However, I perceive that the number one problem, which is much related to what I frequently hear from Alexandrians, is the high cost of utilities. Lawson: The number one problem facing Alexandria is the lack of people stepping up and getting involved in the community. I am worried that the interest of the citizens is not where it needs to be. I feel that young adults getting involved in the community is drastically needed. Young adults in our community have expressed to me that they do not feel that they have had the opportunity to participate in various aspects of our community. 3. What is the single greatest accomplishment of the current City Council? Slatkin: I am sure several accomplishments could be considered but I believe that the approval of Ordinance No 44-2006 of February 7, 2006 relating to the prohibition of smoking in certain areas is the most important and productive one. Lawson: I think the single greatest accomplishment of the current City Council was being instrumental in bringing Union Tank Car Company to Alexandria. 4. What is the biggest failure of the current City Council? Lawson: I think the biggest failure of the current City Council is not making more opportunities available for our youth to get involved in the governmental process. Slatkin: Last year’s failure to secure a favorable natural gas contract prior to Hurricane Katrina, which once in place, would have prevented the enormous financial burden currently being experienced by thousands of our citizens. This is articularly true among our senior and low income citizens. 5. Recently, it was reported that Alexandria is suffering from a lack of skilled workers. What measures will you propose in order to solve this labor problem? Lawson: I have worked with our Governor to make sure that we receive more state funding to assist in this matter. I have also worked with our Federal Delegation as well. As a City Councilman I will continue to work on pushing for advanced training, as I did in the past budget hearings, for all of our skilled workers. Slatkin: I believe that we do have the skilled workers as well as the necessary tools for their formation. Our learning institutions appear to be comparable with others. What we actually lack are the opportunities and consequently the incentive for those workers. Therefore, leading to job-seeking elsewhere. I believe that the solution for the problem lies in economic growth and the migration of new businesses to our area. I would actively investigate, maximize and energize every aspect of feasible possibilities that would allow these ideas to come to fruition. Alexandria has wonderful young people who grow up, and are trained and educated, and have to move elsewhere for opportunities. If we can encourage growth and expansion of opportunity in Central Louisiana, we will have the best skilled worker resource possible, our own children. 6. How will you (do you) balance your professional career with a political career? Lawson: I have proven to balance my professional and political career. I have one of the highest attendance rates of any elected official in the parish. My business has continued to grow throughout my 17 years as a State Farm Agent and Real Estate Broker. I take great pride in being available to my church, family, customers and community. Slatkin: I have always been able to optimize my time effectively. I am a twenty four hour type person and frequently able to accommodate and add onto my time immediate needs and important issues that I may have to confront. When it comes to the ability to perform a job a busy person should be the one to ask. As a primary care physician, I have always recognized the necessity of getting things done NOW and not procrastinating. I am used to people depending on me for important decisions. 7. It is also well-known that Alexandria suffers from a lack of affordable housing. What measures will you propose in order to solve this housing problem? Lawson: I have already started working on our housing problem. Within a month, Lawson Heights will be open to the public. Fifty units will be available to the lower income community. Lawson Heights was established through my family's foundation. I am proud to say that I will not profit from this endeavor now or in the future. Several other developers have contacted me for similar projects to be done in the near future. I have also worked with Hibernia Bank on affordable housing. Slatkin: The construction of new homes and neighborhoods should not be a primary function of the city government but a function of the private sector. The city government however, may and should create a desirable economical environment in order for developers and builders to prosper. The city government on the other hand should be able, as much as possible, to create incentives for builders, investors, and families, to facilitate housing development and home ownership. As a Councilman I will favor such allocations and expeditiously, explore other funding sources such as the National House Trust Fund. I will favor every dignified measure to prevent and correct indigence. 8. What is your vision for Downtown Alexandria? Lawson: My vision for downtown Alexandria is to have high rise housing along with shopping and eating facilities. I am working with developers on condos that will overlook our river. I would like to see more green space and the Bentley Hotel fully operational again. I am very interested in promoting more festivals and family functions in the downtown area such as the Bar-B-Que Festival, which I promoted. I would also like to see an exquisite water fountain displayed in the center of our downtown area. Most importantly, I would like to preserve the nostalgia in the downtown area. I would hate to see new structures that don't conform to our downtown style. I have also teamed up with organizations such as the GAEDA Board, which I lobbied for the creation of, Downtown Development District and the Chamber of Commerce to foster public/private ventures in the downtown area and the city as a whole. Slatkin: The issues related to downtown area should be part of a comprehensive plan which involves the entire city. The prosperity and vitality of that part of town are immensely dependent on developers, merchants and recreation. I believe progress has been made and it is clearly noticeable. As they work and plan together I foresee continuing improvement in the future. 9.There are many people here in Alexandria who must make a choice between paying their utility bill and paying their rent. How do you plan on solving the utilities crisis in Alexandria? Lawson: First, I would get a professional organization to review how we operate from top to bottom. Second, I would use the advice of that organization. I have asked for this to be done and now it is in the process of happening. Third, I would continue to make motions, such as I did this past fiscal year, to make money available for the poor. I worked with the administration and the council to place $250,000 in an account at the Shepherd Center to assist the poor. I suggested the Shepherd Center because of its history and to take the politics out of who gets assisted.Hundreds of people took advantage of this initiative. Slatkin: The wrong decisions have been made and we cannot go back in time. We can, however, prepare ourselves for the future and trusting that our elected officials make decisions that are sensible, correct and for the right reasons. 10. Why are you running for office? Slatkin: I have interests in many things in life including politics. I actually am not much of a fan of that word as it frequently depicts a negative thought. When I think of a councilman, I think of someone appointed by the residents of a community to engage in decisions and vote, with honesty and impartiality, about the changes, budget approvals and allocations pertaining the collective interests of the community. I feel that, at this stage of my life, I can embrace such responsibility, and above all, I know I possess a true, genuine and sincere wisdom to help others. Many of my patients and friends have asked me in the past: Why don’t you run for office? Lawson: I am running simply because as the scripture states, "to whom much is given, much is required". I have been blessed at a young age and I see so many others that need to be assisted. That is why I offered myself for public service as soon as I finished college. I have used this office to assist thousands of people and pledge to continue to do so. I have dedicated my time as a charter member of the England Authority and later served on the Police Jury and currently the City Council. I believe that one should definitely put in more than he or she gets out of public service. That's why I have always put 100% of my salary received from the Police Jury and the City Council back into charities in the community. I have also refused to participate in retirement plans, health insurance plans and other perks offered by the city. 11. What will you do differently? Slatkin: I will diligently exercise caution, prudence and fairness involving any of my decisions. Whenever appropriate, I will obtain expert and non-bias quality consultations, carefully focusing on the common interests and the costs that might inflict upon our community. I will be very responsive, as I do on a one to one basis in the practice of medicine, to my constituents' requests and making sure that they never feel that "I have let them down." Lawson: I will use the knowledge I have obtained to work with more people in business to help them expand and hire local workers. I will also work more with the School Board on programs for at-risk youth. 12. What can our community do in order to ensure that Lower Third and South Alexandria are safe and clean? Slatkin: Promoting and improving infrastructure, increasing neighborhood education, pride and reinforcing security. We have to move forward together as a city, a community, and as people. Lawson:As finance chair, a budget has been passed to hire 5 more police officers to be placed on the streets of South Alexandria. I have also been working with the neighborhood leadership on clean-up efforts. I will continue to promote homeownership and commercial development in the Lower Third and South Alexandria areas. 13. If the city was suddenly awarded with $1 billion, how would you spend that money? Slatkin: I would try with prudence and in a very wise manner to utilize and properly allocate that huge sum of money. I would prioritize the needs of our city, for example, based upon their level of necessity and classifying them as a) Extremely Important b) Very Important c) Somewhat Important d) Not Important. After a careful consideration and identifying those needs, the funds should be appropriately distributed. I would make accountability and competence extremely important issues. Having said that, I would utilize the funds into areas such as the police department, intending to increase security, upgrading technology and salaries, number of mobile units and police personnel. I would also review and upgrade the fire department, sanitation, and utility Department. Basically, all city departments would be reviewed. I would improve the conditions of many of our streets, roads, sidewalks in addition to improving recreation and parks. I would improve/create programs for assistance to our senior citizens and handicapped. I also would allocate funds for a comprehensive youth activity program, arts, museums and other cultural activities. I would favor allocations of funds as inquired in question number 7, for the planning and construction of low income housing. In view of the current high costs of oil and with much pragmatism, knowing that the situation will tend to worsen in the future, I would favorably advocate the expansion of our city transportation system, thereby increasing the number of routes and making public transportation more accessible and convenient. I would undoubtedly, reserve a substantial amount of funds for the possible unforeseen emergencies that might occur in the future, such as natural disasters and terrorism. Lawson: I would spend $1 billion on making sure we have a safe, healthy community. Crime prevention and healthier communities such as a completely smoke free public environment would be at the top of the list. Every child would have proper health care along with good nutrition. The elderly would have more assistance in making sure their houses are well insulated and energy efficient thus providing a better quality of living. 14. Who is your favorite musical artist? Lawson:My favorite musical artist is Stevie Wonder. Slatkin: I basically enjoy all types of music including classical music. I enjoy listening, among many, to Celine Dion , Neil Diamond, Alicia Keys, Billy Joel and Madonna. I also enjoy watching American Idol. 15. Who is your political role model? Lawson: My political role model is Nelson Mandela. I have had the opportunity to meet him and admire what he stands for. Charlie Weems and I were Chairman of the Boards for LSU and Southern University when we presented Mr. Mandela with Honorary Doctorates. He is a living legend. Slatkin: There have been a few that I would describe as my political model and each of them with unique characteristics not shared by the others. Because of his leadership role, ability to make decisions in time of crisis and undisputable humility, I have had a special affinity toward the former president, Harry S Truman.