by Hannah Allen
As a relatively young man, Blaine LaFontaine has accomplished a substantial amount in the political world already. After winning positions as the city of Diamondhead City Council followed by a seat on the Hancock County Board of Supervisors. LaFontaine has a large hurdle in his upcoming bid for State Senate District 46 (W Pass Christian, DeLisle, Hancock) and The Gazebo Gazette reached out to here his concerns.
BP Settlement and Mississippi State Lottery
Lafontaine is not blind to the long-term detrimental effects that have occurred on the Gulf Coast as a result of the BP oil spill.
Due to these substantial monetary losses, Lafontaine advocates for an economy-centric approach when utilizing funds from the settlement and advises that “We [as a state] need to be very cognizant about how we approach these funds…and implement them in ways that grow jobs…and wages…and quality of life.”
The key, Lafontaine claims, is efficient leadership and representation. He argues that, “We need…leaders that are economically sound and understand our assets…and [are able to] leverage that the best [they] possibly can.”
The newly-instated Mississippi State lottery has been a source of contention between candidates. While some whole-heartedly back the lottery—which will be implemented in December 2019—others completely reject the competition.
Lafontaine agreed that there are “many misconceptions” when it comes to the lottery and the distribution of its funds.
Traditionally, the funds derived from a state lottery go towards improving state-wide public education. However, in the Mississippi lottery, proceeds will, instead, be utilized for bridge and road repairs.
During his interview, Lafontaine called this allotment a “short term bandage” rather than a long-term solution to these problems.
A staunch supporter of public education, Lafontaine called the allocation “a missed opportunity to leverage [lottery money] into potential college scholarships or teacher pay raises.” He cites the Tennessee state lottery as an example of what to strive toward and maintains that the state should reevaluate the ways in which they are issuing lottery money.
Bonnet Carrey Spillway
While some are hesitant to place the blame of recent coastal environmental struggles on the Bonnet Carre spillway, Lafontaine is adamant about the holding offenders accountable, stating “I think that the situation [we have on the Gulf Coast] is completely a result of the Bonnet Carre spillway.”
The Bonnet Carre Spillway, which prevents the flooding of southern Louisiana and the delta, has been opened a record number of times during the 2019 year. The intermixing of fresh and saltwater has been accused of causing an abundance of environmental issues including desalination and an increased morbidity in marine life.
Lafontaine claims that the state of Louisiana is at partially to blame, stating, “To me…we [have been] leveraging federal dollars for 80 years…to protect [Louisiana’s] economic assets. So they keep all of the revenue…at the expense of the Mississippi Gulf Coast.”
In the future, he maintains that the state should look to Louisiana officials and the Core of Engineers to compensate coastal citizens for their monetary losses.
“Protecting our assets and environment,” he says, “should be our first priority.”
In the upcoming political race, Lafontaine is passionate about bringing a positive change to Mississippi—emphasizing the importance of strong leadership, vision, and accountability.
Lafontaine explained that, “…The reason [he] chose to run is because too many times, we focus on our past and complacency that leads us down a troublesome path.”
One of the institutions he hopes to reform is Mississippi’s Child Protective Services, which is in danger of being federally overtaken due to massive inadequacies in child care.
Additionally, Lafontaine aims to reaffirm Mississippi’s commitment to educators and create a “unified front on education.”
When asked about the effects of his upcoming campaign, he notes that “We are in an important time [in the history of our state], and–if given the opportunity–[he] looks forward to shaping the next decade of Mississippi.”
A former tugboat and offshore supply captain turned defense attorney, Mike Thompson reveals his feelings about how he can help the Coast in Jackson.
BP Settlement and Mississippi State Lottery
Thompson believes that BP money will aid in the long term betterment of his districts,
Additionally, he complimented Governor Bryant on his creating a diverse committee to distribute funds, “The committee is a pretty good cross-section of the coast. There are people on the committee who are from Pass Christian and Long Beach and Gulfport, who can evaluate the projects.”
Following up, “[The lottery] is going to require…consistent oversight from the legislature to make certain that the lottery is being implemented in the way that it was intended.”
Bonnet Carret Spillway
As an experienced fisherman who lost work after Katrina, Mike Thompson is empathetic to the plight of Gulf Coast fishermen.
In the interview, he described the state of the fishing community nearly fifteen years ago, “We weren’t able to fish for months—some folks even longer… so I saw how environmental effects can hurt both commercial and recreational fishing”
However, Thompson does advocate for the distribution of reparations hastily without knowing the full extent of the damage caused by the Bonnet Carret spillway.
“We can’t be so short-sighted in looking at immediate compensation, because the long-term effects of [the opening are] still unknown.”
Instead, he encourages the pursuit of research by teams from USM and other marine agencies, stating, “I believe that we have one of the most invaluable resources in the Mississippi Sound, and I want to make sure the sound is protected…not just for tourism, but for our locals who make a living off of [it].”
He continues on to say that, “Certainly in the short-term, I would like to see the government do something to help our local fishermen buffer the impacts of the spillway.”
Thompson ultimately feels, “what I wanna see for the district and for the coast, is continued economic growth. The coast is a big economic driver for the state economy, and I want to make sure we have a conservative voice in Jackson that will fight for that piece of the pie.”
With regards to the local economy, Thompson said “I think if you’ve got money coming in and you’ve got good paying jobs—then you’ve got people working and spending money. The economy drives it all.”
Like Blaine Lafontaine and many of the representative running for election, education is on the forefront of Mike Thompson’s campaign. Though he acknowledges the future challenges that will likely arise as Mississippi strives for better education, Thompson is hopeful for the future–citing the rise in grades amongst elementary and high schoolers.
As he campaigns, he looks forward to working for teacher pay raises and to ensure that public education funds are being properly allocated.