EBRP Metro Council Attacked Saturday, Sep 24 2011 

Here we go again. 

Baton Rouge Business Report owner, Rolfe McCollister, Jr., has shown his disdain for the East Baton Rouge Metro Council in his most recent editorial focusing on a lack of vision for the Red Stick.

McCollister’s claim is that the EBRP Metro Council members lack understanding as to how a ‘vibrant riverfront’ will attract young residents that are educated as well as companies that will create jobs.

The claim is made that individuals against downtown progress want to preserve their cluster of suburbs and rarely leave a five mile radius except to travel to their jobs.

I disagree.   

On any given day, you can find venues from Perkins Rowe to shopping venues across EBR parish packed with residents from far outside of their five mile radius.  Restaurants are brimming to the gills with families and individuals (even educated ones) every day of the week. 

The other side of the coin should be considered. 

We are living in continuously changing times.  Priorities can and will evolve.  Still, a great deal of focus and funding in EBR Parish has been dedicated to the growth of downtown Baton Rouge.  

According to the Downtown Development District, over $1.8 billion was dedicated to the redevelopment of downtown from 1987 to 2008 alone, and $300 million more is on tap.  

According to the 2010 Census, the EBRP Population is 440,171.  The only figure I can find for downtown Residents is in the 4,000 range.  That is 1% of the population of our parish.  If funding for projects was determined on population alone, downtown would not have been a priority. 

There are, as we know, other factors to consider.  The question is are those factors of the utmost importance to all of the citizens of East Baton Rouge Parish?

The City of Pittsburgh was cited by McCollister as a ‘best practice’ example for a successful growth of city.  Former Pittsburgh Mayor, Tom Murphy, recently spoke at the Growth Summit hosted in Baton Rouge.  It was there that we heard the challenge of the importance of not pandering to the “lowest common denominator”. 

Unfortunately, this phrase is now being used to refer to anyone disagreeing with a $1,000,000 expenditure to build a stage canopy and art design in downtown Baton Rouge.

Furthermore, such characteristics as small minds, visionless, blind to the future, myopic, parochial, and hypocritical were ascribed to our current Metro Council members who are reconsidering this lavish expenditure.  If you disagree with this expenditure, these characteristics penned by McCollister might describe you as well.

Or, perhaps not?

The truth about downtown Pittsburgh is that they had their own challenges.  The steel industry was broken and their downtown was nothing more than a red light district with 20+ massage parlors.  They currently have approximately 5,000 residents and they are thriving. 

If we want to talk about an example, let’s take a harder look at former Pittsburgh Mayor Tom Murphy. 

In only two terms, Tom Murphy reduced their city workforce by 1,000 individuals (21%), and turned a budget deficit into a budget surplus. 

Murphy renovated almost 169 playgrounds, built world-class facilities for both baseball and football teams, and refurbished neighborhoods by a landslide.  He also attracted companies that created so many jobs that they cannot be filled — companies like Alcoa.

Under Murphy’s watch, the city of Pittsburgh experienced their lowest levels of crime in over 30 years.

Yes, Murphy is an example of ‘best practices’.  Addressing the entire city’s best interests was Murphy’s claim to fame. 

Anyone who considers downtown as our only crown jewel, and fails to consider the entire parish is truly the one who lacks vision.

Until next time,

Red Stick Republican

Is the Mayor Pro-Tem the Real Problem? Sunday, Sep 18 2011 

J. R. Ball, Baton Rouge Business Report columnist, gave a dressing down to Mayor Pro-Tem Mike Walker of the Baton Rouge Metro Council for questioning an additional $1 million expenditure for a downtown stage covering and an artistic design.  

Who dares to question the expansion of downtown Baton Rouge, much less Mayor Kip Holden.  It almost seems Ball is channeling Holden in his scathing attack on Mike Walker!

Ball claims that Walker’s only reasoning for his change of mind is because of his political aspirations to become the next Mayor of EBR Parish.  

Ball’s scathing opinion of Walker was met with opponents and proponents of his assessment as noted by opinions expressed on the page of Ball’s opinion

Additionally, the Baton Rouge Business Report did a poll asking readers “Do you think the Metro Council should reconsider spending $900,000 for a state covering at the Galvez Plaza development downtown?”  51% voted no, while 41% voted yes. 

The fact is that the expenditure for Galvez Plaza was reassessed, and the amount was increased drastically earlier this Spring. This is a common concern with EBR City Parish spending, and should be noted by taxpayers – and J. R. Ball. 

A simple review of past Metro Council meetings indicate consistent excessive spending beyond the original bids accepted on projects.  The Mayor’s Office is always ‘going back to the till’  (aka “our pocketbooks”) !

Perhaps spending is the REAL problem? 

Then again, attacking Walker might be the path of least resistance with the current Mayor who seems to have no issue with overspending. 

Constituents of East Baton Rouge Parish (those who learned that an additional $1 million was approved for a project that was already previously bid on at a lower cost) got upset. 

Spend more money?  On Downtown?  On a sculpture and stage that admittedly will be used less than 10% of the time?

My bet is that if you did a poll of the citizens of EBRP as to whether they would approve an additional $1 million on a building project from their contractor,  their answer would be a definitive NO. 

Is an additional $1 million necessary for a stage cover and artistic design? 

The good news about J. R. Ball’s article is that he does state that Mayor Pro-Tem Mike Walker was formerly “the Mayor’s puppet”.  The bad news is that the article is a direct attack on an elected official that has found the courage to step out from being a ‘yes man’ to Mayor Kip Holden and doing what he was elected to do — serve the people who elected him and become a voice of the parish. 

Kudos should also be given to other Metro Council members who raised legitimate concerns:  Bones Addison, Smokey Bourgeois, Alison Gary, and Scott Wilson.

51% on the Baton Rouge Business Report poll said no to the expenditure.  Last time I checked, that was a majority. 

We elect the Metro Council to be wise in spending practices for the parish.  It is our hope that they will ‘take our place’ at meetings and make decisions that are in our best interest. 

My guess is that even if the Metro Council does approve the additional $1 million, that another change order will be forthcoming before the project is complete in 2012.  Hint:  The Mayor’s spokespersons said they can not guarantee that additional spending might not take place. 

So, what is the issue that concerns the voters?

The political aspirations of Mayor Pro-Tem Mike Walker, or the fact that we are continually being asked to open our pocketbooks with NO accountability or limits by Mayor Kip Holden?

Until next time,

Red Stick Republican