More Pieces to the Puzzle Saturday, Apr 17 2010 

Update:  SB611 appears to have two additional amendments.  The first amendment filed by Boudrear calls for no state taxes to be allotted to the proposed economic development district, nor will the state be responsible for any financial supportThe second amendment filed by Delaneys changes the appointment process for the proposed economic development district; rather than the Mayor solely making appointments, other individuals will make some of the appointments including the DDD director, and Legislative representatives from the House and Senate will each make one appointment

 

 

There is nothing worse than trying to put a puzzle together with missing pieces.  More piece to the puzzle of the proposed Downtown Red Stick Economic Development District are being revealed. 

Developer Pete Clements is planning a mixed-use development in downtown Baton Rouge along the batture.  Mayor Kip Holden endorses Clements project.  Senator Yvonne Dorsey introduced legislation to create an economic development district for the project allowing TIF funds to finance the project.

There are no voters in the proposed district, therefore no vote required to implement bond issues.  A Louisiana Senate committee recommended the bill with one caveat — the TIF could only be allowed with the approval of the EBR Metro Council.

The fact that there are no voters living in the proposed district seemed ‘off’, until The Advocate revealed that gaming revenues from Hollywood Casino would be used in the TIF arrangement.  TIF’s allow for bond issues to fund private projects when taxes collected are higher than the amount previously collected.

Pieces of the puzzle were missing last year when Hollywood Casino and developer Pete Clements announced a joint venture to build a $12.5 million underpass. 

  • *No mention was made that Clements was a convicted felon, and Louisiana Gaming Laws require that casino’s not have business dealings with felons. 
  • *Mayor Kip Holden said that tax revenues from the casino would net $10.3 million in proceeds over a 10 year period.  The facts indicate that figure may be higher.
  • *An agreement was made between Mayor Holden and the two Red Stick Casinos, the Belle and Hollywood, to increase boarding fees.  Instead of $2.50 per patron, Hollywood agreed to pay 3.5% on the first $100 million, 4.5% on revenue above that amount, and 2% on revenue below that amount. 
  • The Advocate indicates Holden said, *the increase in boarding percentages would provide an additional $2.7 million in annual revenue.  
  • Former Councilman Wayne “Spider” Carter requested a portion of those funds be allotted to Baker, Zachary and Central, but former *CAO Walter Monsour said the designation of additional funds should be determined based on the EBRP’s budget process.  (So much for that!)
  • *Abstaining from the vote was former Councilman Pat Culbertson and  Councilman Bones Addision.  Former Councilmans Wayne Carter and Byron Sharper voted against the increase based on no designation of how funds would be used.  Other 2009 Metro Council voted yea, and the increase in boarding fees passed.

Now, even more of the pieces of the puzzle are coming together.  Some questions to ask:

  • Was the timing of the refusal to designate additional casino boarding fees by design?
  • Does it matter that River Park Development, owned by Pete Clements, made the *3rd largest contribution ($15,000) to Holden’s failed tax plan?
  • Is it important that the developer, Pete Clements, *declared bankruptcy in 1987 for his business of real estate holdings?
  • How about past projects such as the *Riverfront Dock and the Old  Courthouse Renovation, handled by Clements, were all significantly over budget?
  • Is it important that Clements was the developer of former Clerk of Court Mike Cannon’s satellite office on Coursey that *received criticism by former BRAC leader Bill Little for awarding work without a formal bid process?
  • Does it matter that the *failed Place Vendome fiasco resulted in one of Clement’s convictions for averting funds from the Feds?
  • Has the Louisiana State Police taken a position on a convicted felon entering into a business agreement to mix funds for the development of an underpass to Hollywood Casino?
  • Will the half-acre of wetlands on the edge of the property affect this development?
  • Does the option to receive land by expropriation or (Note: An amendment is currently in legislation to remove the word expropriation) gift in SB611 matter?
  • Is it possible there is a plan to bring back the Alive project under this mixed-use development project under the guise of expropriation or a gift to avert voters?

So many questions, so few answers.

At this week’s Senate Legislative Committee, Senator Dan Claitor almost redeemed himself by questioning the project.  Instead he claimed he felt the river was never given its due.  It didn’t matter that Consultant Mark Drennan claimed to have ‘overlooked’ the fact that casino revenue would play a factor.   

What the?  This project is not about giving the Mississippi River its due, it’s about a plan to divert city-parish and state proceeds from gaming to underwrite a developer’s private project through a TIF fund.

This is about already *declining city-parish tax revenues for East Baton Rouge Parish taking another plunge, all for the sake of a private developer’s project and a Mayor who is dead set to further develop the Riverfront with total disregard for the voters who have already spoken.

I fear there are even more pieces to the puzzle yet to be revealed.

Until next time,

Red Stick Republican

*All of the above facts were verified in the archives of The Advocate

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A Tangled Mess? Wednesday, Apr 14 2010 

 

For a few minutes, I thought yesterday’s Baton Rouge Business Daily Report was sounding a bit like the Red Schtick.  I regrouped, and quickly came to my senses when I realized was I was reading was not a joke.  Nevertheless it was a shock to read what was happening. 

Normally, when you put together a tax increase in the form of a bond issue.  Law requires that the voters must decide if the plan and tax are acceptable.  Voters pull the lever, and the tax passes or fails. 

Or not? 

Last year the taxpayers of East Baton Rouge Parish defeated Mayor Kip Holden’s proposal to raise taxes in the form of a bond issue for riverfront development in downtown Red Stick.  The voter’s decided raising taxes was not acceptable in the current financial climate.  Also, another major downtown project was not pleasing to the voters.

There is another way.

By creating economic development districts with the ability to use TIF (tax increment financing) funds, a vote of the people is not required if there are no voters in that particular district.  

SB611 by Senator Yvonne Dorsey is proposing that an economic development district be created along the riverfront of downtown Baton Rouge.  The purpose is to build a river park multi-use development by Pete Clements for approximately $600 million.  It is located next to Hollywood Casino.  Clement’s  development would include a hotel, condominiums, retail and residential construction, office space, 6,000 parking spaces, and an amphitheatre.    

The Advocate also reports that developer Pete Clements declared bankruptcy in 1987, as well as committing tax evasion and lying to the FBI in 1994.  Clements withheld taxes, and purportedly hide money from the Feds.  As result, he was convicted and served over 3 years in a federal prison.  He was released in 1997. 

The Mayor stood by Clements as Holden announced the downtown project at Tuesday’s DDD meeting. 

The economic development district proposed by Dorsey, and endorsed by Holden, allows for the sale of bonds, and the collection of taxes from the district via TIF funds.  TIF funds are any taxes collected that are above and beyond taxes collected the previous year. 

Criticism of TIF funds come for many reasons.  Some feel that private developers reap the benefits of bonds sold along with the possibility that the developer is favored by politicians. 

The new district would create another Commission to make decisions over the economic development district.  A five-members board would be appointed by Mayor-President Kip Holden, and approved by the Metro Council of EBRP. 

Members will have full authority to enter into contracts, acquire land, oversee land development, hire employees, issue general obligation, revenue and special assessment bonds, certificates and notes and to levy taxes within and on behalf of the district.  These taxes will be voted on, but only by those within the district, disallowing other citizens of EBR Parish to vote.  Furthermore, if there are no voters in the economic development district, no election is required.

There is more to the story of developer Pete Clements and the land in question according to The Advocate archives.  In 1994 Clements was tied to Casino Rouge as a stockholder in Capitol Lake Properties, a company that leased land to the casino, now known as Hollywood Casino. 

Louisiana State Police demanded that the casino distance their self from Clements due to the fact that he was a convicted felon and it violated gaming regulations to do business with a felon.  Clements sold his stock, but Judge Frank Polozola reversed the sale and left the stock in Clements name while giving control of the corporation to the Internal Revenue to recover taxes not paid by Clements.

The Louisiana Secretary of State’s Corporate Database indicates that Capitol Lake Properties is owned by Astrid Clements, who resides at the same address as John “Pete” Clements.  The corporation indicates a report was filed by the corporation on February 27, 2010 which keeps it in good standing. 

This entire situation is way over my head; however, something doesn’t set right with me about this potential legislation.  There are too many questions based on the history revealed by The Advocate.  It seems a detailed investigation is called for regarding this plan. 

Is it good business for city-parish and state governments to create a way to raise funds via taxes without a vote of the people?  I find this a slippery slope.

There is no doubt this is a tangled mess.

Until next time,

Red Stick Republican

Top 10 Redstick Stories Monday, Dec 21 2009 

Update:  #8 indicates drops in sales tax revenue for East Baton Rouge Parish.  The Advocate released information that sales tax revenues for 2009 decreased by 6%, less than $2.7 million from the previous year.  Will Mayor-President Kip Holden adjust the city-parish budget now, or continue to be a spendthrift?

2009 is coming to a close, and it seems everyone is choosing their Top 10 Stories in East Baton Rouge Parish.  Unfortunately, at least from my perspective, it doesn’t seem that those stories are truly representative of what happened in the Red Stick.  So, I thought I would share my personal take on what impacted us as a community including the Good, the Bad and the Ugly.

  1. GOOD:  The swearing-in of new Metro Council members that are actively engaged and more representative of our community.  One example is Councilman Joel Boe’ who defied odds by leading the charge to include the entire parish in Mayor Holden’s proposed bond issue/tax increase.  This resulted in verbal attacks against Boe’ from the Mayor, but won the respect of voters and citizens in the Red Stick. 
  2. BAD:  An apparent escalation in violent crime in the Red Stick is definitely the tip of the iceberg in our community.  As 2009 approaches the same number of murders as 2010, it is painful at best to watch the daily news.  By August 1, murders were already 48% higher than the previous year.  UPDATE:  The Advocate reported a record high for murders in East Baton Rouge Parish of 86 murders (75 in the city limits and 11 outside the city limits) .  What happened to Mayor Holden’s no tolerance for crime in the Red Stick?
  3. UGLY:  Mayor Kip Holden is accused of having an affair, and turns on his alleged accusers by demanding a federal investigation.  After Holden claims he knows who is behind the expose’, he names numerous parties one at a time to no avail in a desperate attempt to put the focus on others.  The only thing Holden accomplishes is showing his character and consistent tendency to attack others.
  4. GOOD:  For the first time that I can remember, more citizens in East Baton Rouge Parish engaged in a proposed bond issue/tax increase.  With standing room only, EBRP Metro Council meetings took on hundreds of voters both for and against the bond issue.  Seeing our community become actively engaged in a critical issue that could have affected our parish over the next 30 years was refreshing and exciting!
  5. BAD:  Learning that Mayor Kip Holden and his entourage withheld critical information from the Metro Council and voters regarding his proposed tax increase/bond issue.  No doubt, it was the kiss of death to an untimely plan to build a “Holden Legacy” that our children would pay for over the next 30 years.  It was a huge blunder to build a campaign with dishonest intentions.
  6. UGLY:  The personal attack on Lee Domingue, candidate for Senate District 16’s beloved seat in the Red Stick.  Domingue laid his past failures open for all to read about in his book Pearls of the King.  His faith was attacked, and so was his church, Healing Place, and Pastor, Dino Rizzo.  To add insult to injury, the Pennington’s power and money reached down to the front page of The Advocate in an attempt to discredit Domingue about a seven-year old business disagreement.  It proved the point that Baton Rouge still has a small town mentality.
  7. GOOD:  Thousands of voters paid a visit to the Louisiana State Capitol to voice their disdain for the national stimulus package.  Made possible by the Red Stick Tea Party, citizens once again made the argument that wasteful government spending must end. 
  8. BAD:   Sales tax revenues continued to drop in the Red Stick resulting in a 4.64 decrease as of October, 2009.  Instead of paying attention to the Mayor and BRAC’s elusive reports of how the economy has not touched the Red Stick, the facts say otherwise.  Though Holden claims services will not be cut, it is inevitable that you cannot experience a reduction in income without a consideration in spending cuts.
  9. UGLY:  In a small downtown office in the Red Stick, a Ponzi scheme was birthed which took hundreds of trusting people to the cleaners.  Today, Stanford is a name that brings even the strongest of our citizens to their knees.  An estimated $8 billion scheme confiscated life savings and retirement funds from a large Baton Rouge contingency. Offshore banks, international funds and prospectus reports that were highly inflated devastated far too many of our Red Stick citizens.  Perhaps it is more proof that when it seems to good to be true, perhaps it is?
  10. GOOD:  LSU baseball Coach Paul Mainieri brought back the gold by clinching the 2009 College World Series title.  Mainieri also was honored as National Coach of the Year and Southeastern Coach of the Year for 2009.  Tiger fans retained the prestigious position of #1 in attendance in the nation, and enjoyed a luxurious new Tiger Box Stadium that rivals the best in the country.

Although life contains the good, the bad and the ugly, it is truly my hope that 2010 will bring more of the good and that we will learn from the bad and ugly of this year. 

Those things considered to be bad or ugly in the Red Stick surround the misuse of power in ethics, moral and criminal behavior.  Anytime someone takes the position that they can exercise power over others with no regard for their life or well-being, suffering is imminent.

The good things in our community were all made possible by the gathering together of citizens that care about our community and were willing to engage in what is important in the Red Stick. 

If we continue to invest in the greater good, surely we will have a fruitful year in 2010. 

Until next time,

Red Stick Republican

Silent Majority No More! Sunday, Nov 15 2009 

creepy batture

Once again, the voters of East Baton Rouge Parish took to the polls on Saturday to say no to Mayor-President Kip Holden’s proposed $901 million bond issue.  Voters rejected paying an half-cent sales tax increase and a 9.9 mill property tax to fund questionable projects in 2008, and repeated that message on Saturday.

The message is simple.  City Parish government needs to live within its’ means. 

Senate District 16 is known as the most influential voting district in East Baton Rouge Parish.  Out of 103 voting precincts in District 16, 100 precincts voted NO to Holden’s tax increase.  Quite telling.

Unfortunately, Mayor-President Kip Holden and his entourage refuse to listen to those who elected him and appear to be considering a third run at the tax increase.  During the 10:00 p.m. WAFB news report, Holden, while claiming the voters turned their backs on the Mississippi River, hinted at regrouping for a third push at raising taxes.

What is most amazing is that Holden convinced businesses and political allies to donate more than $600,000 on a tax-increase campaign to convince voters to say yes.  The people would have been better served if those funds would have been used in the development of public-private partnerships than a poorly planned and executed tax increase campaign.

Holden pulled out the stops by garnering support from an endless list of politically motivated individuals and groups such as the Baton Rouge Area Chamber (BRAC) who receives $500,000 annually from Holden for economic development.  Other key supporters included architects, contractors, attorneys and developers who stood to gain financially if the bond issue passed.  

On the other side of the issue, a very effective campaign was run by volunteers associated with the Baton Rouge Tea Party in their Beat the Bond message to voters.  The Tea Party spent less than 3% of the funds raised by their opponents, bringing home a victory with nearly a 3-to-1 vote against the tax increase with 64% voting no to higher taxes.

There is no doubt that this is not the final word on Holden’s plan to increase city-parish spending by passing it on to taxpayers.  Likewise, I believe the voters have gained strength by proving their vote can make a difference.

Voters are more savvy than in any time in history.  They have witnessed their federal tax dollars flowing into the coffers of financial institutions and car manufacturers, not to mention the dollars pumped into special interests. 

The seeds of deception Holden and his entourage sowed with the Metro Council and EBRP voters, no doubt, played a key role in the defeat of his tax proposal.  Once trust is violated, it’s a losing proposition.

Finally, Holden needs to learn that holding fast to a bullying mentality toward those who expressed concern or questioned his decision to increase taxes is no way to win over the public.  Voters have grown weary of political games, and expressed their disdain for this type of behavior.

The greatest event arising from the proposed tax increase was the involvement and feedback from voters who have been silent in the past.  As the Baton Rouge Tea Party says, Silent Majority No More!

Until next time,

Red Stick Republican

The Devil is in the Details Wednesday, Nov 4 2009 

Devil in the Details

 

When small things have larger consequences, we say “the devil is in the details” and this precisely describes Mayor-President Kip Holden’s $901 million tax increase which will cost an additional $814 million in interest.

Holden and his entourage have already proven to be less than trustworthy in being forthcoming with the voters.  Now, it is our job to spend a little more time looking at the facts.

It’s tough to fight city hall when they use diversion tactics to keep the voters away from the facts.  Better late than never, the media finally gave the voters critical information that Holden’s entourage chose to keep private.  They are to be complimented. 

I’m not sure which of the critical details are most important, so I’ll let you decide:

So much misinformation, so little time to check the facts.  Perhaps this is the plan by Holden and his entourage?  Will it work?  Or will the voters take a hard look at raising taxes in troubled financial times and say, enough is enough?

Will the voters be swayed by groups like the Baton Rouge Chamber of Commerce that receives $500,000 of OUR tax dollars annually from Mayor Holden to play a public relations role by touting economic development?  What about the mirage of financial supporters to Holden’s tax increase that includes a long list of companies and individuals that will benefit from the bond issue?

Why did Holden insist on not disclosing critical information to the voters, much less his own Metro Council?  Will his tactics of attacking those who question the bond issue work as a bait-and-switch agenda to divert voters from the real facts?

I have to totally disagree with insane claims that we can triple tourism because of Alive! being built, or that it will stop the exodus of our young and talented people.  Or, that we will drastically increase events at the River Center because of an expansion and new parking garage.  We expanded it before and saw virtually no increase in events.  

The carrot keeps moving folks!

Discrediting voters and cost-sensitive residents of EBR Parish has been the focus of the entire bond issue CAMPAIGN by Holden and his entourage. 

It won’t work this time. 

The greatest thing that Mayor Holden’s proposed tax increase has accomplished is a dialogue by more EBRP citizens than in the history of the Red Stick.

It would be funny if it weren’t so sad that the small list of individuals supporting this tax increase has told us in the past that tax increases are not the answer, but responsible government spending is the answer.  What happened to our leaders?  It is stinking thinking to push a tax increase on us and not examine the spending habits of our Mayor.  

Every time these tired leaders want to get our attention and sway us into excessive spending, they use scare tactics and outdated sayings! 

Stop the insanity! 

Years ago we were told the Shaw Center, the rebuilding of hotels, the Casinos, updating the Centroplex, building Catfish Town, and more would save our city and make us a tourist mecca.  Oh, let’s not forget the building of an EMPTY dock on the riverfront.  Pretty to look at, but virtually unused! 

Maybe someone should talk with Secretary of State Jay Dardenne who has done more with less money and increased visitors at the museums under his purvue! 

While you are reading this, Holden’s entourage is working on getting out the vote. 

The only way you can stop this 30-year-tax-and-spend-plan for the Red Stick is to go to the voting booth and pull the lever by sending another message that we will not be bullied into increasing city-parish spending through a NEW tax! 

We cannot tax our way to prosperity, nor become the next greatest city in America by committing to a 30-year tax. 

Revolution is brewing!  Silent majority no more!  Join the Tea Party!  Vote NO to higher taxes, and Beat the Bond!

Until next time,

Red Stick Republican

Deep Beneath the Batture Sunday, Oct 18 2009 

beneath the batture

“The people have spoken” used to mean something.  We entered the voting booth, pulled the lever, and our vote counted for something.  Unless you are Mayor Kip Holden or a member of his entourage.

I listened intently to last week’s special Metro Council meeting and heard some interesting comments from individuals for and against keeping Holden’s proposed tax in the form of a bond issue on the ballot in November.

It was Elizabeth Dent that succinctly explained that the people had already spoken in 2008 by voting NO to the tax increase/bond proposal.  Holden and his entourage continue to choose to live in denial over the voice of the people.

What part of NO don’t you understand, Mayor Holden?  

Perhaps the most creative comment for the tax increase was to “pull the lever for hope”,  although I don’t see Holden’s Alive! amusement park something that our children should ‘hope’ for when making their Christmas wish list.  At least not when statistics published in May, 2009 indicate we have 2,000 homeless children in our parish.    Or, the fact that Louisiana ranks #1 in children under the age of 5 as being on the brink of hunger! causing the Greater Baton Rouge Food Bank to call for more donations this Thanksgiving/Christmas.

Doing the Math

Previously, I published the 2005 – 2008 budgets showing Holden has increased city-government spending — an increase of $116 million in less than 4 years. 

Shouldn’t we be cutting spending?  Instead, we plan to spend 2.175 billion on a tax increase

You may ask:  Is that correct?  Well, let’s do the math. 

The proposition states that a tax of 1/2% is expected to yield 41.5 million annually and an ad valorem tax of 9.9 mills expected to yield $31 million annually. 

41.5 million+ 31 million = 72.5 million x 30 years = 2.175 billion

Perhaps these figures will help us see the bigger picture and understand that if the actual items in the bond issue cost us $901 million, the difference will be going to something else.  The difference is $1.274 billion.  Now, we’re doing the math!

That ‘something else’ ($1.27 billion) will be paid to a long list of individuals and companies who sorely want to see this bond issue pass. 

Now, I challenge the media and Metro Council to find the breakdown of who will make $1.274 billion while the voters will only enjoy $901 million for Alive!, a new prison, new JV facility, new public safety complex, new city hall, added light synchronization, some drainage improvements, expanding the River Center, and parking garages. 

In plain english, others will be making $373 million MORE than the taxpayers will be gaining.  Who will be making $1.274 billion on this bond issue?

Now, talk to me again about pulling the lever for hope?  Hope for whom?

Just in time for Halloween, Red Stick politics not only makes for strange bedfellows, but for deals that will make your head spin like Linda Blair in the Exorcist. 

Until next time,

Red Stick Republican

Red Stick on Need to Know Basis Saturday, Oct 10 2009 

 need to know basis

Whether you call Mayor-President Kip Holden’s Alive! bond issue Waterworld, KipWorld, KipLand, or what it really is — a tax increase — one thing is for sure:  Voters are on a “need to know basis”.

Government is famous for the “need to know basis” that is indicative of individuals who do not want unwelcome scrutiny of their work or project.  Yet voters are intelligent enough to know that anytime there is a lack of information there is a reason. 

Former shadow mayor Walter Monsour was awarded a new position with a compensation package of $365,000 as the head of the East Baton Rouge Parish Redevelopment Authority.  That’s quite a little compensation package given the fact that he has been totally free to spend the majority of his time as a consultant and advisor to Mayor Kip Holden on the Alive! project.  Then again, it’s tax dollars, so who cares.  Right?

Now, do you understand how Red Stick politics works?

JR Ball of the Baton Rouge Business Report is digging deeper into the Alive! controversy and painting it in a very accurate light.  Yesterday, Ball portrayed Holden’s bond issue as a campaign coming undone with Alive! barely hanging on life support.  His acknowledgement that anyone not agreeing blindly with Holden and his entourage are immediately attacked hit the nail on the head.  In fact, it’s just further proof of the “need to know basis” campaign that Holden and his entourage have been running.

It’s pretty simple folks, and I know you are smart enough (given the facts) to figure it out.  2 + 2 = 4  

Buyer beware!  There is not one investor worth his salt that would invest nearly a billion dollars without having every inch of the detail of the deal.  Ask the Donald.  Any acquisition requires an extensive Due Diligence in order to be assured you are making a wise decision.  It’s common sense!

Oh, I suppose if you are spending someone else’s money (like the taxpayers) you might not worry about doing a comprehensive checklist of crossing your t’s and dotting your i’s.  This is what our Mayor and his entourage have done.  It’s a sad commentary on city-parish government and what has been going on behind the scenes for years.

Alas!  We wanted NEW, fresh leaders on the EBR Parish City Council.  We got them.  Thank God!  They are like the new kids on the block and I feel like a proud parent cheering them on from the sidelines.  They are to be commended for their leadership and inquiring minds.  Joel Boe’ caught my eye as did Trae Welch, Chandler Loupe, Scott Wilson, Alison Cascio and Tara Wicker.  Go, Go, Go!  You do your jobs by representing the people:  VOX POPULI is your cry.  You are even converting and giving wings to potential leaders like Smokie Bourgeois.  There is strength in numbers!

Citizen Kane, also known as Lane Grigsby, has long been a huge supporter of electing fresh new leaders with a vision of the future and the ability to effect change.  Lane understands the principle that he will not be here forever and wants to leave a legacy of strong young leaders behind to carry on.  He has been highly criticized from time to time for his political antics, and I cannot always endorse his methods.  As they say, though, to know him is to love him if you understand his motivation to see new leadership rise to the top.   He was responsible for some of these new leaders.  Thank you Lane!

All of these things that I have screamed from my soap box for the last few years tie together.  The voters need to be informed, active and not dismissed.  Politicians need to be more open and honest.  We are adults here and we do not need to be coddled or treated on a “need to know basis”. 

As in my profile, I always say and believe that if the people are provided with the full picture they can make an informed decision.  All of our decisions may not be right, but at least we have the facts and will learn from our mistakes. 

Government spending is out of control.  No one will argue that fact.  At the same time, while we are excited about LSU, Pennington Biomedical, Perkins Rowe, and the widening of I-12, we still have a long way to go in properly funneling and controlling city-parish spending.  I will never give up my belief that the people of this parish need to be respected and treated like first class citizens and not sheep being led into the voting booth for slaughter.

Get out the black vote?  Give them info on a need to know basis?  Stand on polls that show a 93% favorable rating?  Promise no more downtown studies while we are studying away?  Tell them what we think they want to hear?  All of these things are based on political strategies that may have worked in the past, but no more.  Enough is enough! 

While Holden and his entourage may have the support of organizations that receive city-parish funding such as the Redevelopment Authority, Downtown Development District and Baton Rouge Area Chamber, there is a larger and more important constituency that is against the Alive! bond issue.

Never underestimate the power of the voters.  If you believe a woman scorned was difficult to deal with, welcome to the world of enlightened voters.

Until the next time,

Red Stick Republican

Secrets of the Red Stick Sunday, Sep 27 2009 

secrets

It’s easy to understand why some refer to the Red Stick as “Kip World” or “Kipland” if you simply check the Webster’s Dictionary.  The definition of despotism is an individual or tight knit group of individuals that rule with absolute political power. 

Now we are getting to where the rubber meets the road in East Baton Rouge Parish. 

For those who are unaware of the tremendous political power held by a handful of individuals in the Red Stick, you need only to keep your ear to the ground and read carefully between the lines.  

History was not my favorite subject in school, but now I completely understand the importance of the past in order to understand the present.

Mayor-President Kip Holden was marked as unfriendly to business, a tax and spend liberal and named as one of two “King of Legislative Junketeers” according to The Advocate in 1997.  By 2004, Ginger Sawyer from Louisiana Business & Industry proclaimed Holden as the candidate with one of the worst LABI ratings.

Time has changed little for Holden’s political ventures.  Last year, former Councilman David Bonneno proposed a tax decrease for businesses in regard to new equipment and machinery.  Monsour quickly put a halt to the proposal at the direction of Holden. 

Now, Holden wants us to pay more taxes and build a downtown Epcot.  Holden took exception to the term ‘Epcot’ though it was birthed by the Downtown Development District, one of the main drivers of the proposed Audubon Alive! project — not the media as Holden claimed.

Holden makes a lot of claims that have no substance.  Examples include claiming there is no ownership issue with the proposed site for Alive! when in fact there is an issue with the railroad that was never resolved — or that he plans to have the state fund the $40 million required to raise the batture out of the swamp when in fact there was no discussion or approval. 

It’s part of the Secrets of the Red Stick that those in power hope we won’t notice or discuss.  I refuse to aspire to that mandate.  Instead, I will continue to ask the tough questions of our leaders and hope the newfound questions by the media will continue on behalf of the community they are charged with representing. 

The fact that the EBR Parish Metro Council was not made privy to these issues is proof in itself that Mayor Kip Holden believes he is large and in charge with no regard for others.  In fact, just yesterday it was revealed that Clerk of Court Doug Welborn was not told by Holden that his office was to be moved until Welborn viewed a slide show presentation.  Amazing!

Our community, political and business leaders need to realize that to whom much is given, much is required.  Their legacies should not be rooted in higher taxes, building larger buildings and entertainment complexes, or funding organizations that duplicate services. 

We can no longer ignore the obvious.  The truth is that our leaders are allowing Mayor-President Kip Holden and his entourage to spend millions of dollars at taxpayer’s expense while our real needs go unmet in the Red Stick.

The truth is painful. 

We can never be the next greatest city as long as we have children that are hungry, women that are abused, men that are absentee fathers, teenagers that are committing more crimes than in the history of our parish.  So much so that District Attorney Hillar Moore is proposing a full blown truancy program.

As long as we spend $500,000 annually to fund the Baton Rouge Area Chamber for economic development and approve contracts in the amount of $49,999 so that these expenditures do not have to be made public at Metro Council meetings, we are allowing Mayor Holden and his entourage to fail us as leaders. 

I suppose I shouldn’t even mention the hours spent doing ‘security sweeps’ by the Mayor’s security team before he enters facilities?  All the while witnesses to crime cannot be protected and murderers are set free.  It’s a  slap in the face to victims and their families.

Meanwhile, our citizens are tracking in the sludge from a failing sewer system into their homes making their children sick.  Perhaps it is true this is one reason our staph infection is at an all time high in the Red Stick? 

What on earth are we doing here in the Red Stick?  When will this madness stop?  At what point will JUST ONE LEADER in our community stand up and demand that we stop the excessive spending and taxation? Where is Tax Busters and Fred Dent when you need them?

If we truly want to be America’s next greatest city, we will stop the insanity of city-parish spending, address a failing sewer system as promised, house our inmates in tents as promised, have a no-tolerance for crime stand as promised, stop raising taxes, stop duplicating services, stop creating contracts for campaign contributors, and stop attacking those who question these ungodly practices.  Questioning is our duty!  These are the Secrets of the Red Stick that are injustices to our citizens.  

Somehow we have lost our way.  As a mayoral candidate, Rolfe McCollister, Jr. said, “I don’t believe in taxing our way to prosperity”.    What changed?

Until next time,

Red Stick Republican

Alive! But Not Well Friday, Sep 25 2009 

swamp

Along the shores of the Mighty Mississippi River lies a swampy batture in the heart of the Red Stick.  What lurks there is a sign of things Alive! but not well.

Oh what tangled webs we weave when first we practice to deceive might apply to the entangled web of hidden information that Mayor Kip Holden and his entourage purposely kept from the EBR Parish Metro Council and citizens of the Red Stick.

Perhaps what is most offensive is that Mayor Holden and his inner circle continually operate in a covert manner.  When questioned, Holden sloughs off the media, Council members or voters with the direct intention of discrediting them.  It’s an age old practice to get the focus off of the question and on to another topic.  Holden has even gone so far as to vehemently attack anyone who questions or opposes him

At yesterday’s council meeting, Mayor Holden ran around saying ‘no comment’ when he realized the media was on to his tactics.  Evidently Holden needed to regroup, quickly schedule a meeting with his entourage to do damage control, and finally do what he should have done over a year ago – meet with the state to discuss land ownership and funding to build up the property. 

Holden says he wants to ask the Capitol Delegation of the Louisiana Legislature to earmark $40 million to his favored pork barrel project.  The Delegation says they only received $50 million for special projects which must take care of nine parishes including East Baton Rouge.  This would be a tough sell to legislators to agree to spend the majority of the funding on East Baton Rouge Parish.

This scenario begs the question:  Why was this particular property chosen with so many potential land sites in the Red Stick?  Especially given the overwhelming challenges to prepare and build up the swampy batture.

The goods news is that the media has finally caught on to some of Holden’s dreadful practices and are revealing them to the voters:

All I can hope is that the voters will be provided with the full details of Mayor Kip Holden’s proposed tax increase prior to the November vote.  If the media keeps up this flow of information, that will very likely happen.  Let’s hope that Holden doesn’t turn up the heat on the media and force them to back down. 

Recently, Holden’s entourage touted that there was no organized opposition.  Once again, they underestimated the power of the voters. 

Until next time,

Red Stick Republican

Putting Together the Pieces Thursday, Sep 24 2009 

For two days in a row, the media rocked my world by finally asking for details of Mayor Kip Holden’s proposed tax increase that will come in the form of a bond issue this fall.  How much better can life get?  Baton Rouge Business Report’s JR Ball is asking some questions that community and business leaders have failed to ask.  Kudos to JR!  Read more here.

puzzle_piece%20cropped

So many pieces, so little time to put them all together.  Some say this is exactly what Mayor-President Kip Holden and his entourage are banking on in regard to this fall’s proposed tax increase.

I subscribe to the old adage of judging someone by their questions rather than their answers.  Weak leaders attack those who ask questions — something we have witnessed from Holden and his administration repeatedly.  Enough said.

While secrecy appears to be the mother’s milk of the EBR Mayor-President Kip Holden’s strategy, there are so many unanswered questions remaining:

  1. Why haven’t taxpayers been provided with full and complete disclosure on each aspect of the bond proposal package vs a one paragraph overview?
  2. How much of our tax dollars are being spent for the public relations portion of the bond proposal?
  3. What studies have been done on each aspect of the bond proposal and where can taxpayers access these reports? 
  4. Are we expected to fund nearly $1 billion for a 30-year tax with simple power point presentations?
  5. Who is really behind Progress Is, an organization set us as a non-profit promoting the bond issue?  
  6. Why should taxpayers be forced to choose an all or nothing plan because of a hard-headed-spendthrift Mayor-President?
  7. Why are we being led to believe that local government cannot make the necessary cuts in order to fund the real needs of our parish vs increasing our taxes?
  8. Who made the decision to assume that Downtown Baton Rouge should be the location of the proposed Audubon Alive! facility?

With all due respect, improving Downtown Baton Rouge has absolutely nothing to do with the quality of life for Red Stick residents whether you hail from Baker, Zachary, Central, Shenandoah, Highland Road, Gardere or Brookstown.  

Perhaps this is where “trust me, I’m from the government, and I’m here to help” comes in?  If it is, I’m not buying what they are selling.

Since the days of Catfish Town, we have struggled to make downtown a thriving metropolis.  The visitor statistics for downtown already reveal a dismal report on a failed attempt at increasing tourism.  Building of The Shaw Center, two complete makeovers at the River Center, the USS Kidd, a complete makeover of the LASC, millions spent to upgrade the Old State Capitol, a barrage of bars and restaurants, and of course, our two major gaming facilities surrounded by an Atrium that remains empty are signs of more troubles to come for downtown Baton Rouge should we spend millions more on another ‘savior’ attraction.  

These facilities speak louder than any editorial publisher Rolfe McCollister, Jr. can write trying to convince us to spend more tax dollars downtown. 

There are more politics in this bond issue than you can shake a stick at — but the average taxpayer isn’t privy to this information.  The former shadow mayor, bond issue participants, public relations firms, and financial supporters of the Holden administration stand to make millions of dollars at our expense should this tax pass.  Hard facts, but true.

When will the business leaders of this community stand up, once and for all, and say ENOUGH IS ENOUGH?  When will you side with the hard-working citizens who are struggling to make their own neighborhoods safer? 

What happened to the former mayoral candidate Rolfe McCollister that said, “I don’t believe you tax your way to prosperity”?   I guess a lot changes in nine years, eh?

Though Mayor Kip Holden said last year that he planned to present this tax proposal, when he was first elected in 2000, he said, “Public Safety is the only thing for which I would ask the voters to raise taxes”!   

Sheriff Sid Gautreaux said he would put temporary housing at the EBR Parish Prison.  Was this a lie or is he willing to keep his campaign promise?  Right after the election, a study done by former sheriff Greg Phares indicated that temporary housing and adding beds could be done at no extra cost except for a slight increase in food, beds and staff.  This was nearly two years ago!  What happened?

Putting the pieces together is tough given a shroud of secrecy, but I am committed to continue to seek the truth and shout it from the rooftops, and demand that business leaders and politicians stop the madness.  Say NO to higher taxes, and YES to fiscal responsibility!

Until next time,

Red Stick Republican

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