I’ve been mulling over the recent Metro Council meeting that focused on the East Baton Rouge Sewer System. When it comes to the voters, It seems that Mayor Kip Holden’s people must think like Jessup in A Few Good Men: “You can’t handle the truth!”
The fact is that on January 9, 2008, finance manager of DPW, Mark LeBlanc, told the Metro Council there was a $250 to $300 million shortfall in revenue to cover the upgrading of the EBR Parish sewer system. Walter Monsour, Holden’s Chief Administrative Officer, agreed and spoke to this fact. A $129 million budget supplement was allotted. Still, Holden’s administration could not promise taxes would not be raised to fund the sewer system due to a potential shortfall.
Holden’s administration used this argument to defend the continuation of the 4% sewer system annual increase. The defense came because Metro Council members Wayne Carter and David Boneno were questioning whether the annual increase was necessary if Holden’s plan would cost less, as promised by Holden. The lesser cost was due to Holden changing the deep tunnel approach to one with ‘newer technology’ with a lower cost.
As a result, Metro Council member David Boneno said he had yet to see a detailed financial report on the sewer system. Understand that this is a very important piece of information. The very council that is elected by the people to oversee the budget had requested a detailed report of the expenditures the previous week (January 1, 2008 Metro Council) because they had not yet been given an explanation of expenditures.
NOW, after 8 (EIGHT) months, we suddenly are presented with ‘new’ information – just in time for the Mayoral election. It would be funny if it weren’t so sad.
Fast forward to September 24, 2008 The Metro Council is now told by Holden’s administration that the sewer system is now ‘fully funded’. This is politics in its truest form.
Let’s remember this folks. Mayor Kip Holden, Chief Administrative Officer Walter Monsour, and CH2M Hill Deputy Program Director for the sewer system, Michael Ellis have now told us that the sewer system will be fully funded and there is no shortfall. LeBlanc, who formerly claimed a shortfall on January 9, 2008, now agrees no shortfall. They even brought Merrill Lynch in to support the argument, along with Mike Futrell, assistant chief administrative officer for Holden. They sure brought out the big guns. Just in time for the election! Got it yet?
Uh oh, hold on. There was a little clue given by Ellis in his presentation: “the proposed construction costs are all based on current-day prices, but noted that most of the projects are going to be bid in the next two or three years.” Do you believe that your current grocery budget will cover your grocery bills for the next two or three years? Enough said.
It took 266 days since the original request, but only 10 days before the Mayoral election, for Holden’s administration to given ‘new’ information that everything is okay financially with the sewer system.
Maybe you don’t find this strange, but I do. I don’t like being treated like a lamb being led to the slaughter. Boneno and Carter were right to ask for a report. Holden’s people were wrong to wait so long, and just in time for an election to given a report that all will be just fine.
One thing is for sure. We will mark our calendars for the future to see if this is a fact or just another empty mayoral election promise from Holden. He and his staff seem to be good at making it seem everything is okay. Meanwhile we continue to be plagued by an overflowing sewer system and traffic that is known as the worst in the entire nation.
Vote on October 4th. If you are happy with the sewer system, sitting in traffic for hours on end, continuing to view the blight around our parish, and crime that has everyone continually on edge, vote to re-elect Mayor Kip Holden. If you are not happy with these things, consider another candidate (Dan Kyle, Ron Johnson or Wayne Carter) that can bring much needed change in our parish. Don’t be fooled by reports that arrive just in time for the mayoral election.
Until next time,
Red Stick Republican