Fact vs. Fiction: Setting the Record Straight

As a first-time candidate who is gaining support every day, there are traditional political forces at work to discredit Carlee’s candidacy and ultimately her reputation.

In particular, two groups in town—Citizens for a New Louisiana, which is funded by secret donors, and the Lafayette Parish Republican Executive Committee, a small group of elected officials who claim to speak for local Republicans—have already started a misinformation campaign on social media to mischaracterize her views. In some cases, they are engaging in outright fabrication.

As a matter of campaign policy, the campaign has stopped engaging directly with the two aforementioned groups on their social media sites because of their efforts to distort facts. The campaign asks all supporters to exercise care in online interactions with these groups and others, regardless of the group’s political persuasion. History has shown that online engagement, even that which seeks to be productive, often leads to heated, unproductive exchanges that only further divide our community.

Lafayette Parish deserves a candidate who is responsible and truthful. Here are her responses, in her own words, to some of those attempts to mislead voters.

FALSE STATEMENT:

Carlee is just a “secret” Democrat or liberal who only registered as a “no party” candidate to trick Republicans into supporting her.

THE TRUTH:

I am a proud No Party candidate. The challenges facing Lafayette are urgent, and the solutions are not Democrat or Republican. I believe that a non-partisan campaign is what Lafayette needs right now. Our economy has lost thousands of jobs. We are increasingly vulnerable to flooding. Our parish budget is broken. We need to be unified now more than ever. Whether you are a Republican, or a Democrat, or an independent, I want to work for you and I want your vote. I will win this election because of my ideas, my talents, and my vision for the future of Lafayette, not because of a label. And I will win this election because of my ability to get things done. I want to go to work for the people of Lafayette, not partisan political interests in Baton Rouge or D.C.

I’ve been registered as “no party” since 2006, the year I turned 30. Like many people, I was registered as a Democrat when I was younger. My decision to change my registration had nothing to do with anticipating a future in politics—I never intended to run for office. I did not even work for LCG at the time. It would be another four years before I would go to work for Mayor-President Joey Durel, who was a Republican. And over the next eight years, while working for Joey and then Mayor-President Joel Robideaux (another Republican) politics never interested me. I loved the work and being of service.

This February, after I began contemplating whether to run for Mayor-President, many people told me that I needed to pick a party or I would never win—and that persistent encouragement continued up until I officially qualified in early August.

I just don’t see myself as a member of either political party. I don’t begrudge people who choose to join a political party—I have close friends who are Republicans and Democrats, and I have both Republicans and Democrats on my campaign team—I’m just one of the growing number of Americans, and 28 percent of Lafayette Parish voters, who would rather remain independent from political parties.

I have a detailed platform that Republicans and Democrats should all review, and I will do what I have done my whole career—be results-oriented in my push to bring Lafayette Parish together towards solutions.

This message is already resonating with Lafayette Parish voters and donors. Our volunteer and donor base is made up of Republicans, Democrats, and independents like me. People are excited about putting Lafayette first. I hope you will join us.

FALSE STATEMENT:

Carlee is a government bureaucrat and the UDC (Unified Development Code), which she helped author, is hurting development in Lafayette.

THE TRUTH:

I am proud of my record as Chief Development Officer and Planning Director with LCG. One success was the implementation of the Unified Development Code, or UDC, which was passed by the City-Parish Council after months of engagement with, and broad support from, engineers, realtors, home builders, real estate developers and the public at large.

The UDC accomplished three important goals. First, it simplified our decades-old, outdated subdivision and zoning rules—consolidating all those rules into one place. Second, the UDC increased drainage standards for new development, which I continued to increase and refine over the following two years (and will continue to look at to ensure that they always reflect the gold standard). And finally, the UDC made it easier to develop in areas that already have adequate infrastructure in place—like drainage—by removing the red tape that ordinarily makes it difficult to complete “infill” developments.

I am even prouder of the fact that we continued to solicit input from all involved in the development process and refine the UDC after its passage, further streamlining our procedures and the development process generally, and doing what we could to make the UDC work for everybody.

No set of rules is perfect, but we have planning and zoning rules for important reasons: so that property owners are assured of their rights to develop their property, to prevent development that would negatively affect the surrounding area, and to ensure that developments meet standards necessary to maintain public health, safety and welfare.

There is always potential for conflict between established neighborhoods and new development, and I have seen that conflict from all sides in my career. I am proud of my record of mediating those conflicts and, when finding a rule that doesn’t work, of working with the council to get that rule changed.

FALSE STATEMENT:

Carlee is going to raise taxes.

THE TRUTH:

First, a point of clarification that often gets lost in social media arguments and accusations. The Mayor-President does not raise taxes. The council decides whether or not to propose a tax to the voters in the form of a resolution; something that the mayor-president can neither veto nor approve. Then it is the voters who ultimately decide whether or not to raise taxes. That’s the difference between local government taxes and state and federal taxes—only the politicians in Baton Rouge or D.C. can raise your taxes without your approval.

But the bottom line is that I do not support a tax increase, I have not proposed a tax increase, I have no plans to propose a tax increase, and I do not believe that a tax increase is necessary. My platform is built on fiscal responsibility. Our city-parish government has to live within its means. We will have to cut the parish budget to get it to balance. Please see the issues section of my platform for more detail.

The Lafayette Parish Republicans (managed by the Republican Parish Executive Committee, or RPEC) made a very specific false claim on their Facebook page that I have “long-signaled” my “support for higher taxes as the first option in addressing the challenges faced by our city and parish.” I have never supported a tax increase. Their “evidence” is the fact that the Durel administration hired a consultant to look at infrastructure and one of the many findings was that the accumulated maintenance and improvement needs amounted to more than $3,000 a person. The recommendation was intended to demonstrate the need for better development policy. It did not accompany a tax proposal. This “theory” surfaced in the 2015 elections, and it was debunked at that time as well.

FALSE STATEMENT:

Carlee is anti-oil and gas.

THE TRUTH:

This is a bizarre rumor that has surfaced, based on zero evidence. As I stated in my announcement speech, while we have to continue to adjust to the changing nature of the oil and gas industry in Acadiana, the industry will always continue to play a vital role in our economy. We have lost thousands of jobs. But the best aspects of Lafayette’s economy have been the drive to innovate and the willingness to take on big challenges. I have faith in the industry to continue to evolve and grow, and that oil and gas will continue to play a vital role in our local economy.  As mayor-president, it will be my job to ensure that the we create a business climate to help that happen. My campaign has strong support from businesses involved in energy, and I appreciate that support.

FALSE STATEMENT:

Carlee does not support President Trump.

THE TRUTH:

I support the president. As mayor-president, it will be my job to maximize positive relationships with all other levels and branches of government on Lafayette’s behalf. That starts with those inside our parish, extends outside of the parish to other parish leaders, and state and federal officials as well. So no matter who occupies the White House in D.C. or the Governor’s Mansion in Baton Rouge, regardless of their political affiliation, Lafayette benefits from strong relationships across the aisle.

STATEMENT:

Carlee is not from here. And her last name is weird.

Well . . . yes, that’s true. But it’s an odd thing to criticize, isn’t it?

I grew up in Knoxville, Tennessee, went to college in Illinois (where my parents were from and where I was born), and then moved to South Louisiana to teach math at Church Point High School. And so I have lived my entire adult life, and built my career, in Lafayette. My maiden name is Alm. My husband is Will LaBar—his family has a strong French-Canadian heritage. I began to use both of our names after we got married because I had already built a career as Carlee Alm and because, as an only child, I wanted to keep the Alm name around for another generation. “Alm-LaBar” can be a mouthful, sure, but it’s my name.

Again on social media, the Lafayette Parish Republicans have noted “speculation” about my “not having legally changed” my last name after marrying Will. Louisiana law allows a wife to use her husband’s name without taking formal action. So I’m officially a LaBar and proud to be one!

Given Lafayette’s history, isn’t it a little strange that folks would consider it a “weakness” not to be born here or not to have a Cajun last name? Some politicians think that way, but that just hasn’t been our experience. The Boustanys, Salooms, and Heymanns all came from somewhere else. So did Pennsylvania native Richard Zuschlag, Wisconsin native Paul Hilliard, Texas native Jim Moncus, and so many of the business and community leaders who are making a mark in Lafayette today. And in a community that is always attracting the next generation of companies, first with the oil field and now with the healthcare and technology sectors, that influx of talent will continue.

What’s important is not where you are born, it’s where you live your life, establish roots, and decide to make an impact. For Will and I, that’s Lafayette. This is our home.

There are other labels that politicians sometimes use to try to divide us. Rural residents and city residents. Northside and Southside. Millennials and Baby Boomers. We are all a little different—went to different schools, have different last names, different skin colors. But at a local level, there is much more that we have in common than what divides us. We all want to solve our drainage issues. We all want to build our economy to be grow stronger into the future. We all want our neighborhoods to be safe. I look forward to a campaign where I can talk about how my views on these topics will help move Lafayette into the future. Because, like you, this is my home.

FALSE STATEMENT:

Carlee’s logo is designed to look like the flag of Turkey.

THE TRUTH:

This accusation is just wacky. I asked a friend to design a logo for me. Here’s the thought process behind the design, in my friend’s own words:

Carlee’s style of leadership and work ethic is conversational, approachable, and friendly, so we wanted that to come through in her materials. With that in mind, we aimed to offer a “handshake” and introduce Carlee to Lafayette Parish by her first name.

The color palette and graphic elements were designed to stand out from the fleur de lis and red, white and blue elements that we thought might dominate the election season. The yellow star is a patriotic nod, but also represents the stars that appear on both the Acadian and Creole flags.

Yellow stands for freshness, happiness, positivity, clarity, energy, optimism. The upward “swirl” design within the C represents the forward motion and energy of the campaign. And bold typefaces represent a strong, steady candidate with a bold vision for Lafayette Parish.

I am very proud of the logo and branding of the campaign. Some people have too much time on their hands.

FALSE STATEMENT:

Carlee is pro-choice.

THE TRUTH:

I am pro-life. I have been telling that to individual voters who have asked, but I have always reiterated that the mayor-president cannot impact that topic, and therefore I have not made it a part of my campaign literature/platform. I decided to place this answer in this section because recently a “push poll” began telling people that I was a “pro-choice liberal.” This assertion isn’t based on facts or evidence, but the public allegation risks distracting us from the issues in this campaign and the areas I can impact as mayor-president.

As your next mayor-president, my responsibility will be to respect and represent everyone in the parish—regardless of whether they consider themselves pro-life or pro-choice. I take that responsibility very seriously.

FALSE STATEMENT:

Carlee is attempting to replace the Acadiana Flag.

THE TRUTH:

RPEC started this rumor by making a couple of tenuous connections. In 2018, a University of Louisiana at Lafayette professor suggested a new flag. The idea was generally not well received. That professor’s wife is one of my supporters. RPEC decided to infer that meant that I wanted a new flag. The lie took off—RPEC paid to sponsor Facebook ads to spread the lie further, thereby purposefully confusing voters. RPEC shares this sort of misinformation with its followers because it seeks to reinforce the lie that I do not care about Acadian culture. It’s ridiculous.

FALSE STATEMENT:

Carlee does not support the rights of gun owners.

THE TRUTH:

I support the second amendment. The right to bear arms is a fundamental right in the constitution. Responsible gun ownership is an important part of our way of life in South Louisiana. The idea that I would try to implement special gun restrictions at the local level is ridiculous.

FALSE STATEMENT:

Carlee has “scrubbed” her social media accounts.

THE TRUTH:

This is another false claim that has been posted by the Lafayette Parish Republicans. I haven’t deleted my social media history. No “proof” has been provided by the group to explain why they would claim this (other than that they are attempting to spin a new theory). My best guess is that they have spent a lot of time doing “opposition research” and noticed that I rarely post on social media. Rather than concluding that I don’t post much, they concluded something else.

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