Lieutenant Governor Candidates Respond to Preservation, Culture, Tourism Development QuestionsBy
The October 22 election for Lieutenant Governor is of the utmost importance to the preservation community because the Division of Historic Preservation falls under the leadership of the Lt. Governor. Further, the Lt. Governor oversees tourism, museums, state parks, the arts and the Main Street program. We urge you to take a look at the candidate information below and to share this information through social media. LEARN MORE about the candidates and the role of the Lieutenant Governor HERE.
*Note: Responses are listed alphabetically by the candidate’s last name.*
Historic Preservation and the Cultural Economy
As the lieutenant governor, what steps would you take to better integrate cultural and historic preservation into Louisiana’s all important tourist-based economy? How can the Main Street Program be strengthened and woven into marketing and tourism efforts?
Dardenne: As the Lieutenant Governor for the past ten months, I have already taken steps to better integrate the arts, culture and historic preservation into our tourist-based economy. I am leading the effort by instituting an education-based cross-pollination of all of CRTs agencies so that the tourism message is enhanced to include all of Louisiana’s many assets. An example of this is Poverty Point, which is on the list to become a World Heritage Site. We see this as a tourism development and as a tourism destination of international renown. As we prepare to celebrate the 200th anniversary of statehood, the sesquicentennial of the Civil War, the anniversary of the Battle of New Orleans and the tricentennial of the founding of Natchitoches and New Orleans, we have coordinated our efforts to identify historic trails and destinations for visitors to follow.
I have been directly involved in economic development by leading the charge to extend the historic tax credit program as an incentive for new business relocation and expansion opportunities. I will include the marketing of our Audubon Golf Trail and my new strategy for promoting Louisiana’s retirement communities into economic development opportunities in rural areas. We have stabilized the funding for the Main Street Program, and believe it to be critical for economic development across the state. We are developing criteria to make entry into the program easier and, in particular, we are now working with Jefferson Parish who is willing to put up some of their own tax dollars to enter the program.
Nungesser: Simply stated, preservation is a great business investment. The importance of museums, preservation programs and the arts cannot be underestimated for they are at the core of the cultural economy. The economic importance of tourism to Louisiana’s economy is well-established. Cultural tourism is now the state’s second largest industry. Educating the public and elected officials on the value and benefit of historic preservation is essential to an effective state preservation program.
As the next lieutenant governor I want every mayor, parish council, state representative, senator and local media to be aware of the importance of preservation projects in their districts and towns. It is also important that preservationists work with local government to increase preservation awareness and the economic benefits derived from preservation verses demolition.
There are cities and towns throughout our state that need to be identified for private/public partnerships. My goal is to identify companies that will become good community partners throughout the state to invest in these projects. The challenge is to make our state companies realize the importance of historic preservation to our economy and corporate recruitment. I intend to be very aggressive in my approach and make this a top priority within my department.
The Main Street Program is one of the most successful initiatives encouraging the revitalization and development of aging and largely neglected commercial areas in small cities and town. Look at Crowley, where the Main Street Program has brought life back to the downtown and made the Grand Opera House of the South a major attraction. I want to support and communicate the importance of the Main Street Program and to extend the program to other towns and small cities.
This Federally-funded program’s success is directly tied to its community roots. The strength of the program lies in the assistance it provides to local leaders for obtaining project grants to help then determine their redevelopment and preservation objectives. The program can be strengthened by a solid marketing plan within the community. I believe that the lieutenant governor’s office can, and should, assist communities in this aspect of the Main Street Program.
Role of Lieutenant Governor in Historic Preservation
As the senior state official responsible for state-wide historic preservation, what are your preservation goals for the next four years? What challenges do you face in achieving these goals?
Dardenne: Our state historic preservation 0office has already reached out to stakeholders in a deep and meaningful way. As lieutenant governor, I also intend to facilitate a dialogue between developers and preservationists to minimize the adversarial relationship whenever advocates on both sides face challenges. My background in mediation allows me to recognize the importance of bringing diverse groups together in working out solutions. No state in America outside of the 13 colonies can boast of its historic significance more than Louisiana. Protection and celebration of these resources will be a top priority.
Nungesser: The lieutenant governor, acting through the State Historic Preservation Officer (SHPO) and our professional archeology and historic preservation staff, has ultimate responsibility for preservation activities throughout Louisiana.
My vision is for Louisiana to become recognized as an innovative leader in historic preservation and conservation of our cultural heritage. My objectives for the next four years are three-fold.
First, I will harness the expertise and talents of the various history and preservation societies. These individuals know their local preservation needs much better than someone in Baton Rouge or Washington, DC and they are absolutely passionate about our heritage.
Second, is to promote corporate sponsorship of restoration projects. There are many major and mid-sized companies working in Louisiana and some may be willing to support excavation of a threatened archaeological site or to sponsor the restoration of an historic building. Others may be interested in establishing a scholarship, fund a research grant, or underwrite an exhibition. Along these same lines I will encourage private/state partnerships creating stable desirable communities so important to our economy and corporate recruitment.
My third objective is to analyze and better organize the structure of our cultural and preservation activities. I want to make sure that this area of the department is pro-active, highly visible and actively engaged with community groups throughout Louisiana.
Museums, preservation programs and the arts are frequently the first programs to be cut during a budget crisis. How will you ensure that there is adequate funding and professional staff necessary to protect our fragile cultural and historic resources? How can the historic preservation community assist you in this effort?
Dardenne: Having served in the legislature for more than 16 years, and having eight as a member and chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, I am aware of the challenges that face legislators in these desperate budget times. As I mentioned in the previous answer, I will advocate and education the legislature on the value to our economy of restoring these cuts. I will encourage the historic preservation and arts communities and museum community to come together and assist our office during the budget process. I know as a former legislators that the voice of the people carries the most weight.
I feel historic preservation is a tool for economic development. We are presently researching ways to make our limited dollars more effective. My main goal for the next four years would be to try to restore those budget cuts that have affected the department. I will continue to education and challenge the legislature to restore funding to continue our economic progress.
Nungesser: In these times, everyone must be innovative and become more efficient. However, the Department of Culture, Recreation and Tourism budget has been severely cut to the point that historic preservation and archeology and other programs are operating with minimum staffing. Our history and heritage, our unique architecture, our food and music are the very reason visitors from around the world come to Louisiana. I intend to work closely with Governor Jindal and our state representatives and senators to better align the department budget with the responsibilities at hand. I will be a voice for cultural tourism and preservation throughout Louisiana, taking every opportunity to remind people of its importance and the benefits.
State review of Federal projects has increased ten-fold since Hurricane Katrina yet there has been no increase in the number of professional staff needed to review project reports. As your lieutenant governor, I’ll take a pro-active approach by lobbying Federal officials for an increase in the professional staff commensurate with the workload, establishing new guidelines mandating public input in the early stages of project planning and to explore ways to use the knowledge and expertise of local preservationists. We have too much to lose not to give this our full attention.
The budget shortfall will be with us for awhile and museums need to generate operating revenue by increasing visitor attendance. Studies have shown that visitors seek to combine leisure travel with learning, an area where Louisiana can excel. With the upcoming sesquicentennial of the Civil War, bicentennial of the Battle of New Orleans and tri-centennial of the founding of New Orleans we have a major opportunity to attract large numbers of visitors to Louisiana. At the same time we need to seek exhibition partnerships with other museums such as New Orleans Museum of Art, African American Museum, National Park Service, Historic New Orleans Collection, and other museums throughout the state. By working together with a common purpose we can provide a better education opportunity and a more rewarding visitor experience. The opportunities are there. We just need to recognize and act upon them.
The state and federal tax incentives are another way to encourage local preservation and redevelopment. Rehabilitation of just a single property can stimulate the recovery of an entire neighborhood. An abandoned property generates no tax revenue, while a viable neighborhood will support schools, playgrounds and city services. State and federal preservation tax credits encourage investment and I’d like to see more individuals take advantage of the tax incentives and my office will support community efforts to educate citizens, prospective buyers and Realtors on the program and how it can benefit their community.
As far as challenges go, funding is always an issue. But equally important is the education of our citizens and officials at all levels to the importance of sound preservation practices and policies. Education will help ensure long-term success.
Louisiana State Museum
Legislation passed in 2008 allows the Lieutenant Governor to hire and fire the director of the state museum system, who also serves at the lieutenant governor’s pleasure. Since 2008 we have had three directors and two interim museum directors. As our lieutenant governor, what measures would you implement to ensure professional leadership and continuity?
Dardenne: At the moment, an interim museum director is running our museum system very capably. With the consent of the board, I thought it prudent to wait until after the election to hire a permanent museum director. As lieutenant governor and with the advice and consent of the board of directors of the state museum board, I will conduct a national search for a qualified professional to fill the office of the assistant secretary of the museum system.
Nungesser: There is no doubt that the Louisiana State Museum system is one of the crown jewels of the state. To maintain American Association of Museums accreditation and reputation, we must have a professional director who is free to bring fresh and creative approaches to state museum programs. In 2008 the law was changed allowing the lieutenant governor to appoint the director who serves at the pleasure of the lieutenant governor. In the last three years we have had 2 directors and 2 interim directors. We need to progress rather than regress.
Upon assuming office I will ask the Museum Board to initiate a nation-wide search for the best qualified candidates and to seek the board’s direct involvement in the selection of the next director.
Tulane University offers a graduate degree in historic preservation and Southern University in New Orleans is one of the few universities in the nation to offer a graduate degree in museology. Yet our graduates in these and related fields have difficulty finding jobs in their areas of expertise and often have to leave the state to pursue careers. Considering that Louisiana’s culture, history and heritage have a huge driver’s role in one of the state’s economic engines, what measures would you take to keep young professionals in Louisiana?
Dardenne: Unfortunately, the last four hurricanes that have affected tourism in so many ways have provided an outlet for our citizens who have degrees in several of the fields you mention. FEMA and other federal agencies have hired individuals with particular areas of expertise that you mention. The recession has also taken its toll on our state in this area. However, as the state emerges from the recession, it is important for Louisiana and our office to promote jobs to be sure we maintain and grow the workforce. The motion picture tax credit bill, which I authored, is a good example of a path I believe we should follow to utilize those jobs that promote our cultural economy. The film industry has had an effect on small businesses all over our state. The movie industry is contributing to the diversification of Louisiana’s economy in the technical field as well. It has spurred successful programs such as digital interactive production, sound recordings and music and theatrical tax credits and film industry is the third most important destination for movie-making in America. Tourism has increased by five percent since I took office, resulting in more than 10,000 new jobs in the tourism industry.
Nungesser: The Louisiana State Museum system operates museums throughout the state. In addition, the Secretary of State oversees additional museums state-wide. Arguably our combined offices are one of the largest employers of museum professionals in Louisiana.
I firmly believe that our students and citizens must be given every opportunity to compete for professional positions. State job announcements are posted on the state web site but this is not enough. While I do not favor a state set-aside, I will ensure that copies of museum job announcements are sent to universities, preservation organizations, history and archaeological societies throughout the state and that every potential candidate has the opportunity to compete on an equal footing.
As Lieutenant Governor I would like to explore a creative way to improve the availability of entry level and internships for students and recent graduates to help them gain professional experience.
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