Advisory board good start for new mayor

Lake Charles Mayor-elect Nic Hunter has set up an advisory board that will identity ways to end long-standing racial and socioeconomic division in the city.

If this step is any indicator of the rest of his term, the residents of Lake Charles are in good hands.

The Community Advisement and Assessment Board is made up of nine people from various backgrounds: Junaid Abbasi, Dr. Robert Arango, the Rev. Joseph Banks, Courtnee Brown, Sean Corcoran, Randy Fuerst, the Rev. Steve James, Catherine Riggins and Sylvia Stelly.

Hunter said the members represent a diverse cross section of the city, so that each community is represented. He plans to meet with the board either biannually or every quarter.

He told the board at a Monday news conference not to be afraid to bring up topics that may cause waves in the community.

“I want us to start talking about some things in Lake Charles that may be uncomfortable at times,” he said. “But we will not have progress if we don’t start to talk about some of these issues.”

Discomfort is often a sign of progress, he said, and the city will likely experience growing pains before it gets where it wants to be.

He said the tradition of referring to the city as either “north Lake Charles” or “south Lake Charles” must end. He wants people to think in terms of “one Lake Charles,” a task that, he said, is important to him.

Hunter is right to make this a key issue. As more people pour into the area in response to economic growth, diversity will only increase. For the city to succeed, it’s essential that local government serves all.

Even if the group isn’t able to break down the barriers it hopes, what’s there to lose? The taxpayers aren’t paying members for their service. At a minimum the board will be able to open a dialogue between residents and the city, a crucial component for change to occur.

Hunter also pledged Monday to have an “open-door policy.”

“If you want to meet with the mayor of Lake Charles, you’ll meet with the mayor of Lake Charles,” he said.

Hunter, 33, may be among the youngest mayors of Lake Charles, but so far he has proved wise beyond his years. Let’s hope he succeeds in unifying a city that has too long remained divided.

This editorial was written by a member of the American Press Editorial Board. Its content reflects the collaborative opinion of the board, whose members are Crystal Stevenson, John GuidrozEmily Fontenot, retired editor Jim Beam and retired staff writerMike Jones.

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