EBRP Mayor Kip Holden: In His Own Words Sunday, Jun 17 2012 

As we prepare for the 2012 East Baton Rouge Parish Mayor-President’s race, I thought it might be interesting to take a look back to 2004 when Kip Holden ran against incumbent Bobby Simpson. 

I am a strong believer in reviewing the facts and quoting candidate’s own words.  It begs the question.

In 2004, according to The Advocate, mayoral candidate Kip Holden, made the following statements on October 25th while speaking at the Catholic Life Center about incumbent Bobby Simpson:

More than $119 million in this year’s budget has gone to professional service contracts, he said. “We are going to cut it out” and pay officers more.

When you can see the same conditions that existed four years ago,” then what has been accomplished, he asked.  (In reference to Crime, Traffic, Economic Development and Education.)

Fast forward 8 years.  If Holden felt Simpson should be replaced based on these 4 major failings, let’s ask the same question he asked:

“When you can see the same conditions that existed four years ago,” then what has been accomplished?”

  1. Crime is still a major issue. 
  2. Our Education problems are ever-increasing. 
  3. Traffic has improved in some areas; however, it is still a huge problem. 
  4. Economic Development is still not where it should be, and we are spending huge sums to underwrite BRAC’s initiatives that are questionable at best.

So, Mayor Holden, to use your own prolific words, why are we asking the same questions?

Two of the most disheartening issues I find of late (there are so many, but I will zero in on a few for now) include: 

Crime and Budget Issues

In 2004, Holden claimed that he would cut out $119 million in professional services contracts.  We have a long way to go to make that proposed cut a reality.

A side bar should be made here regarding the fact that not all professional services contracts are clearly spelled out in the budget.  Any accountant or CPA worth his salt will tell you how easy it is to hide expenditures in a budget the magnitude of our City-Parish — 513 pages to be precise. 

The truth is that spending for the Mayor’s Office in professional services contracts far exceeded what Simpson’s budget called for — this is strictly for the Mayor’s Office alone.  Take a look:

  • $200,000 – Patton Boggs – lobbying and consulting
  • $110,000 – Courson-Nickel – lobbying and consulting
  • $100,000 – Truancy (a pass is given on this one as it is sorely needed)
  • $100,000 – Red Stick Animation Festival

That is over $500,000 in Contractual Services for the Mayor’s Office only.  Contractual Services for the City-Parish make up 19.3% of the EBRP’s budget.  (See page 66 of the budget here.)

Finally, the budget for the Mayor’s Office has substantially increased since Holden was initially elected.  Let’s review the facts:

  • Mayor-President & Administrative Offices (page 78 of the budget):
    • 2005:  2,342,060
    • 2006:  2,785,780
    • 2007:  3,744,280
    • 2008:  4,748,700
    • 2009:  3,860,040
    • 2010:  3,825,570
    • 2011:  3,502,520

The numbers speak volumes. 

There are some changes on the horizon thanks to the Metro Council.  Their plans for 2012 included substantial changes in authorization privileges being moved from the Mayor-President to the Metro Council for certain expenditures.  These changes, of course, seriously affected the administration’s budget. 

According to the budget, those areas include:  Community Sponsored Programs, Economic Development Programs, and Community Centers (see page 76, item w. of the budget for verification.)

As I began, so shall I end. 

Mayor-President Kip Holden ran for office in 2004 under the auspices that former Mayor-President Bobby Simpson had not taken hold of Crime, Education, Economic Development and Traffic problems.

In 2012, we should do no less than ask the same very questions that Holden asked: 

“…what has been accomplished (to address these issues)…?”

Until next time,

Red Stick Republican

Mayor Kip Holden Horse Trades Wednesday, Oct 12 2011 

Mayor Kip Holden has taken on a new hobby – horse trading with your tax dollars by freeing up money to repair bridges in the parish in exchange for approval of one of his downtown projects.

In late July, 2011, East Baton Rouge Parish Mayor Kip Holden accused our Metro Council of “virtually playing Russian Roulette with the lives and safety of the people of Baton Rouge and East Baton Rouge Parish” for not approving his proposed $740 million tax increase/bond issue which would have included the repair of bridges in our parish.

The Metro Council was simply following the lead of their constituents who are sorely against the bond issue and another tax increase earlier this year.  Holden’s bond issue failed in 2008 and 2009 when voters refused to approve his tax increase.

Perhaps the most amazing revelation in this horse-trade is that money was ‘suddenly uncovered’ to fund the bridges requiring repair.  It is utterly amazing that the voters were told no funding was possible without a tax increase in 2008, 2009, and 2011, yet funds were ‘moved’ to meet the need.

It seems that Holden has no problem spending tax dollars on personal items such as:

  • $8,000 to ‘protect’ himself from the public by installing security cameras, a panic button, double glass doors, and a keypad. 
  • Nearly $1,000,000 to widen streets in downtown Baton Rouge,
  • Purchasing a helicopter for the Baton Rouge Police Department vs. putting more boots on the ground to address ever-increasing crime in our parish. (No doubt Holden flies around in the helicopter at will.)
  • Spending between $42,000 to $68,000 annually for personal body guards.  Over an 8 year period, this equates to between $336,000 and $544,000 of your tax dollars for his personal use. 
  • An annual expenditure, according to the city-parish budget, of $642 monthly to pay for a Lincoln Town Car to drive Holden around town.  This would be approximately $61,000 during an 8 year tenure for the rental of a vehicle or Holden’s use.

Mayor Kip Holden’s annual budget has increased over $138 million since taking office.  That is our tax dollars being spent.  Imagine having that kind of increase in your personal household spending?  It would never happen.  Spending someone else’s money is Holden’s specialty.

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 not changed Mayor Kip Holden’s spending habits.  In fact, as they say in politics, Holden has never seen a tax increase he doesn’t love.

Holden also spends his campaign contributions for personal expenditures such as:

  • LSU football tickets?  $1,520
  • LSU parking fees?  $5,050
  • Southern football tickets? $760
  • Southern parking fees?  $806
  • Camelot membership dues?  $201$201, $201, (apparently this is a monthly expense during Holden’s campaigns)
  • Car repairs?  $500, $3134, $800 
  • There are also expenditures for flowers on virtually every report for $800 – $1,300 in each instance.  That’s a lot of flowers!

I’ve addressed Holden’s tax-and-spend liberal modus operandi many times.  frivolous expenditures such as spending $1,000,000 of our tax dollars to lure Frontier Airlines, only to see Frontier flee Baton Rouge faster than a bank robber.

When does it stop?  Evidently, only when Mayor Kip Holden takes up a new hobby — horse trading with our tax dollars.

The bottom line here is that there IS already funding in our coffers to take care of the needs of our parish.  Otherwise, we couldn’t ‘move’ money from one frivilous project to take care of a much needed project like bridges requiring repair.

I’m not sure who to credit for this horse-trading-deal, but it appears that Mayor Pro-Tem Mike Walker cut the deal with Holden.  If that is correct, then kudos to Walker for making a bold move to find monies that already exist vs. allowing Holden to raise our taxes once again.

Follow the money.  It truly is a test of character.

Until next time,

Red Stick Republican

EBRP Metro Council Says NO to Tax Increase Sunday, Aug 14 2011 

Kudos to the East Baton Rouge Metro Council members that voted down Mayor Kip Holden’s $748 million bond issue that would have been funded by increased taxes to citizens of our parish.  This equates to the bond issue not finding a place on the October ballot.

The truth is that this tax proposal should have never been introduced by the Mayor; it was incomplete, did not include the appropriate parties, and was written in secrecy and withheld in its entirety from taxpayers.  The resulting action taken by the Metro Council was, therefore, absolutely correct.

Each Metro Council member was elected under the premise that they would represent the people of their respective districts fairly and honestly.  This can not be done if they do not have full information in a timely manner to make proper decisions that represent us.

In fact, Mayor Kip Holden did not even present the full details of his tax increase to the voters.  While other initiatives of the Mayor’s office are available online at http://www.brgov.com/, the largest expenditure for the taxpayers to date was not available for voters to view.  Once must ask why?

It’s one of the oldest tricks in the book in the political world to withhold information in hopes of getting an initiative to slide through with few questions.  Unfortunately, for Mayor Kip Holden, we have elected a Metro Council that was set on doing their due diligence.  Fortunately, this favors the voters vs the politicians, resulting in no current increase in taxes based on a somewhat ‘secret’ proposal.

No, the proposal wasn’t entirely secret; we did know some of the intiatives included, just not enough detail for a bond issue of that magnitude.  Some of the intitiatives were questionable.  For instance, $32 million to expand the River Center.  My personal feelings are that we can continue to build a larger venue; however, we can’t seem to fill the one we have with consistent events. 

$418 million was to be dedicated to infrastructure.  No one can argue that we have let our infrastructure degenerate through the years.  Then again, some would say there are more valid questions as to how dollars have been spent in the past in the City-Parish budget.  What about another ‘pay as you go’ intiative?  It certainly worked for the Green Light Program. 

Only $298 million of the proposed bond issue would have addressed public safety.  This is a major concern for law enforcement, the Metro Council and taxpayers.  Crime continues to be one of the most critical concerns for our parish. 

Awhile back I addressed the huge sums of monies made by those putting together bond proposals.  I believe it was Metro Councilman Ulysses Bones that inquired as to how much the tax plan fully costs.  Hopefully, he and other council members will also address the large amount of fees required to make a bond proposal work.

Even better, there is an initiative by Mayor Pro Tem Mike Walker, and other Metro Council members to work with various City-Parish leaders to put together a more efficient tax package that will address one of the major concerns we are facing in East Baton Rouge Parish:  CRIME.

It will be interesting to see what Walker and others come up with in a revised bond issue .  Until we view their proposal, we can’t speak as to whether it has merit.

Time will tell.

Until next time,

Red Stick Republican

Mayor Kip Holden Still “Off Limits” Friday, Jun 17 2011 

 

 

Evidently it doesn’t matter if you are on the East Baton Rouge Parish Metro Council, a concerned citizen, or a homeless man — the message is clear:  Mayor Kip Holden is “Off Limits” — and so is his office!  

According to The Advocate and Baton Rouge Business Report, the Mayor recently spent more than $8,000 to ‘protect’ himself from the public by installing security cameras, a panic button, double glassed in doors, and a keypad. 

Mayor Pro-Tem Mike Walker stated his displeasure at the expenditure (albeit a Homeland Security Grant) and declared it unnecessary due to the fact that the building has uniformed security and that Mayor Kip Holden has his own entourage of personal body guards and drivers.  Walker’s thinking is accurate in that he referred to these security measures as sending a message to the public that the Mayor’s Office is “Off Limits”.

Surely no one is surprised at this blatent move by the Mayor to continue his ‘closed door’ policy? 

Holden and his ‘former’ good buddy, Sheriff Sid Gautreaux, made the same move in his offices in an effort to line up with the same type of closed door policy.  Campaign promises to visit with each individual have gone by the wayside. 

Closed doors = closed minds?

Holden was first elected to the position of Mayor-President of East Baton Rouge Parish due to Baton Rouge Next’s campaign against former Mayor Bobby Simpson.  The campaign was known as “Anybody But Bobby” or “ABB”.  With a goal that was clear and concise — “ABB” pledged to put their money, time and effort behind getting anyone other than Bobby Simpson elected as Mayor of EBRP. 

The “ABB” train was on the move, and Kip Holden arrived at the station just in time!  From the onset of the campaign, Holden was on the attack — claiming, of course, that his ‘addressing the issues’ was not negative campaigning, but simply “pointing out problems with Simpson’s record“. 

One might remember that William Daniel also ran in the primary of 2004.  Daniel loaned his campaign enough to run the infamous traffic ads produced by BRNext showcasing frustrated citizens sitting in EBR Parish traffic.  The political action committee, BRNext, created numerous ads that pointed out all the problems in EBR Parish and targeting the Mayor’s Office (Bobby Simpson in particular) for the issues at hand.  Holden spent very little in his own campaign, yet he benefited greatly from both ABB’s and Daniel’s expenditures.

This must have been a golden moment for Kip Holden.  The irony of the 2004 campaign was that former Mayor Bobby Simpson was attacked for doing nothing to improve three major areas of concern to EBR Parish citizens:

        1. Crime ……………………………………… still an issue 7 years later
        2. Education ………………………………..  still an issue 7 years later
        3. Traffic ……………………………………..  still an issue 7 years later

 I digress.  Back to the issue at hand.

The bottom line on Mayor Kip Holden being “Off Limits” is not a new concept.  Building glass double doors, adding keypads and buzzers to allow individuals to enter, and security cameras are just external signs of a policy that has been in place for some time now. 

The only thing that makes me wonder is why it has taken so long for the media and public to recognize the dichotomy of Holden. 

On a social level, Holden is the cat’s meow…always in attendance of every community event (beer in hand), a smile on his face, kissing babies, dancing, sharing motivational tidbits, and making campaign promises under the auspice of his catch phrase that Baton Rouge will be “the next greatest city in America” – Amen, brother!

The political side of Holden, however, is the man with a huge ego that loves to be driven around like Miss Daisy, catered to by his entourage, protected by his body guards, and is unapproachable for sensible open discussions about how we can work TOGETHER lest we fall apart. 

The latter is a dangerous man who lacks understanding.  He closes himself off from those with fresh ideas who have nothing to gain except to see the greater good prevail in a community.  His intentions are less than honorable when he does not share openly and freely information that the public (and the Metro Council) deserve to receive, and rejects the wisdom of crowds.

Yes, Mayor Kip Holden is Still “Off Limits”.  The only difference is that now you have to be buzzed in — or will they hit the panic button?

Until next time,

Red Stick Republican

 

Living in the Land of Pinocchio Friday, Feb 18 2011 

 

I suppose it would not matter if I took a five month or a one year hiatus from blogging, because when I return I will still be reporting that Mayor Kip Holden’s antics of name calling and stretching the truth continues to escalate. 

I liken it to  living in the Land of Pinocchio

Surely everyone knows who that character Pinocchio was, right?  He was a cute sort of guy with a funny nose that was created by a Woodcarver named Geppetto.  He was jovial and outgoing and often appeared at every event in town.  In fact, Pinocchio and Holden have much in common.  The Mayor was “created” by a Rainmaker who wanted to oust former Mayor Bobby Simpson. (Holden was elected during the massive Anybody But Bobby campaign.)

So many similarities.  So little to be proud of in these troubled times.

The Daily Report, a publication of the Baton Rouge Business Report, indicates that our illustrious Mayor Kip Holden is,  once again, attempting to use threats of potential bridge collapses to push through a new proposed tax increase.  

Metro Councilman Chandler Loupe, however, is saying that the Mayor is stretching the truth and using scare tactics to force a new tax on to voters of East Baton Rouge Parish.  Loupe goes on to say that there is money dedicated, or in the budget, to repair all of the bridges with low ratings, and Holden is crying foul with no basis for doing so.

Pinocchio stretched the truth, and his nose grew.    Holden’s face does not offer any obvious tell-tale sign to voters. 

Of course, in his normal fashion, Mayor Holden fired back at yet another council member.  Each time Holden’s attacks get bolder.  This time, Holden specifically is quoted as saying, “Chandler Loupe is an absolute liar”.

Some might say, “those who live in glass houses should not throw stones”. 

Holden reminds me of Kanye West, a rapper known for his inability to engage his brain before opening his mouth.  Then again, West did perform a freestyle version of the Pinocchio Story while on tour, espousing that his own personal life lacked depth, and that he needed a simpler life than seeking that of fame and the spotlight.  West said, “I just want to be a real boy.”  A lesson Holden might consider.

Some might ask why I am often so harsh with Holden.  Easily explained.  Too whom much is given, much is required.  Our leaders, especially those elected to serve and protect the people who elected them, should be held to the highest of standards. 

The truth is that I long for the day when I can wake up from this Nightmare on Main Street, where we are pressed on every side by a growing city-parish budget, higher crime than most cities in America will ever experience, and leadership that is more interested in attacking anyone who disagrees or questions him. 

Bodyguards, limousines and verbal attacks have set the tone for Mayor Kip Holden’s reign over East Baton Rouge Parish.   

The Red Stick has begun to mirror its’ leader.    Jiminy Cricket!

Until next time,

Red Stick Republican

Lack of Leadership Saturday, Oct 9 2010 

 

 

Chief Leduff, Sheriff Gautreaux & Mayor Holden

I believe it is imperative to discuss this past week’s “crime-fighting” debacle.

It all began when Mayor Pro-Tem Mike Walker, who is rumored at taking a run for Mayor-President in the near future, began to address the ongoing increase in violent crime in East Baton Rouge Parish as an urgent matter.  Walker declared the increasing violent crime as an emergency that needed immediate attention.  

This action by Walker, of course, met resistance from current Mayor-President Kip Holden. 

 There is nothing new under the sun since this is Holden’s MO (modus operandi).  Anyone that dares to speak against Holden’s plans, or lack of plans in this case, is seen as the target du jour.  Holden always goes for the jugular vein by attacking his opponents vs. the issue at hand.

Let’s recap the chain of events.

  • Mayor Pro-Tem Mike Walker announced he had plans to move funding to address the apparent problem with violent crime in our parish. 
  • Mayor Kip Holden lashed back by accusing Walker of instilling fear in the community. 
  • Holden also accused Walker of micro-managing the police department (which falls under the purview of the Mayor).
  • Walker mentioned that he would like to divert $900,000 from widening streets in downtown to the police department and district attorney’s office to fund increased police patrols and prosecutions.
  • Holden cried foul by saying the Bowling Congress needed two-way streets to be a success. (Guess he forgot the last Bowling Congress was a success with one-way streets?)
  • Holden struck back again claiming that he was being attacked, going so far as to speak of himself in the third person.  “This is not a time for a counsel member to try to attack the Mayor,”  said Mayor Holden. 
  • Council members Alison Cascio and Chandler Loupe supported Walker by stating their constituents were fearful of the crime problem in our parish and it did need to be addressed, while Joel Boe’ said he feels the crime is as bad as it has been for the past two years. 
  • Holden continued his hyperbole by going so far as to suggest that those criticizing policing efforts don’t understand what is going on in the poor black areas of our community.

I suppose that would be funny, if it weren’t such a sad statement.  No doubt, this is a mentality shared by Holden’s spin doctors who are truly out of touch with our entire community.  First of all, Walker didn’t refer to the crime problem as a black/white issue.  Race was NEVER mentioned until the Mayor brought up the topic.    This truly was political suicide for Holden.

Let’s continue with the events that brought forth the greatest political debacle affecting Holden and Gautreaux:

  • Mayor Kip Holden quickly summons the Baton Rouge Police Chief, District Attorney, State Police Superintendent, and Sheriff of East Baton Rouge Parish to his office to ask them ‘are you with me’?
    • This is the ultimate insult to the intelligence of the citizens of Baton Rouge.  Are you telling me that it took Mike Walker to speak out publicly to cause the Mayor to call the four leading law enforcement entities to his office to “discuss’ the violent crime problem in our Parish?
  • The cover was blown when Sheriff Sid Gautreaux repeatedly stated, at the last-minute press conference, that he told the Mayor he was in when he called the day before to ask for his help. 
    • Huh?  Is Gautreaux the ‘chief law enforcement officer of the parish’ or not?  Does he only follow the lead of the Mayor?  Is he only reactionary?  Does it take a domino effect for the chief law enforcement officer to act?  Why did Mayor Holden wait until Walker said we had an emergency to call in the top law enforcement officers for a meeting to develop a plan of action?  What kind of Mickey Mouse operation are we running here? 
  • Police Chief Jeff Leduff, who is rumored to run for Sheriff with Holden’s backing, spoke next at the press conference by saying he never understood the victims of violent crime until now.  Well, that’s a hell of a note since he is retiring at the end of 2010. 
    • Why was this a mistake?  Because it showed that Leduff has not been engaged enough with past murders and family victims.  Broken, once again, in front of the television cameras, Leduff came closer to an emotional wreck than as leader of city police.
    • District Attorney Hillar Moore seemed to be the voice of reason while stating that we needed to understand how we got to where we are today.  Understanding the past always leads to a clearer path to the future.  Moore has made it no secret that education and truancy is not only his platform, but something he has put feet to since elected.
  • Superintendent Mike Edmonson of the Louisiana State Police, was present at Holden’s ‘come quickly to my rescue press conference’ and appeared to show the same leadership skills he normally displays as chief law enforcement officer of the State Police.  Nothing new here.

Unfortunately, the press conference proved to be full of errors:

  • Mayor Holden and Chief Leduff stated the Louisiana State Police Officers will ride in vehicles with Baton Rouge Police.
    • We learned the next day that this is NOT true, and as Gautreaux said, “this will never happen”.
  • Sheriff Sid Gautreaux said the parish prison is being modified to open up more beds for prisoners.
    • This promise was made when we elected Gautreaux; he promised to add modular housing once he became Sheriff.  This has NOT taken place.
  • State Police Superintendent Mike Edmonson said he was availing his office for various law enforcement agencies to work together to solve crimes.
    • This sounds good, but those on the inside know that the State Police has always opened up their campus to other law enforcement personnel.  Nevertheless, Edmonson backed up the Mayor in a show of support.
    • Additionally, Sheriff Gautreaux is already housed at the Emergency Preparedness Center near the airport where various agencies work in tandem with one another already. 
    • FINDING A PLACE TO WORK IS NOT THE PROBLEM FOLKS!

Boots on the Ground make more sense and do more good than any long list of false promises could ever make.  We have seen enough of those promises from politicians.  What we need is ACTION.

When Mayor Holden’s neighbor was murdered a year or two ago, he and Chief Leduff plainly stated that we would NOT allow this to continue.  Unfortunately, neither one of these men have kept their promise.  The criminals are running amuck in our parish and areas that rarely experienced violent crime are continuing (not just recently) to show increased activity by violent perpetrators.

Sheriff Gautreaux made a lot of promises when he was elected.  The main thing was to put more boots on the ground by drastically increasing patrols (not just in the unincorporated portions of our parish, but in the entire parish and city limits.  This has NOT happened.

Gautreaux also promised to build a coalition with ALL law enforcement agencies both INSIDE and OUTSIDE of our parish.  This has NOT happened.  Thus the press conference which resulted in a sad cover-up of what is a proven lack of leadership in the Mayor’s office, Police Department, and Sheriff’s Office.

Hey, if you are unemployed or want a better opportunity to make a REAL difference in our community, I have TWO GREAT JOB OPPORTUNITIES waiting for two individuals who are committed to making a difference:

OPENING #1

MAYOR-PRESIDENT of EAST BATON ROUGE PARISH

OPENING #2

SHERIFF of EAST BATON ROUGE PARISH

ONLY THOSE WHO ARE SERIOUS, CAN TAKE ACTION AND STOP SMOOTH-TALKING THE CITIZENS OF EAST BATON ROUGE PARISH NEED APPLY.

The only way WE can make a difference in OUR leadership is when we vote at the polls.  I have my binoculars on looking in the distance for leaders that will stand up for the citizens of East Baton Rouge Parish.

Who will be sworn in to protect and serve the people of our parish?  Who is willing to stand in the gap and really lead the charge?  Not for economic development, but for public safety? 

Until next time,

Red Stick Republican

EBRP TIF More Than Meets the Eye Sunday, Jul 11 2010 

Update:  Community Activist, John Berry, has written an excellent Letter to the Editor published by The Advocate that can be read at  here.  Berry documents the progress of the EBRP TIF that is discussed below.  

 

Senator Yvonne Dorsey said, “Every little part of it isn’t in the legislation” when speaking of SB611 

We shouldn’t be surprised. 

When Mayor Kip Holden joined hands with a convicted felon to create a TIF (Tax Increment Funding) plan for the downtown riverfront, red flags went up immediately. 

It was fairly obvious there was more than meets the eye to this legislation.  The legislation passed with Senate votes shown here and House votes here

Downtown Development Director, Davis Rhorer, says, “Clements criminal past should not be an issue.”  

I was not aware that it was common practice to do city business with convicted felons.  Something we learned was acceptable during this TIF project.

Pete Clements, the developer for this TIF project, has a past as revealed by The Advocate.  That past includes a felony conviction for tax invasion.  Felons are forbidden from having business dealings with gaming facilities, and during that debacle, Clements was not allowed to continue a business dealing with a casino. 

It is shocking that Louisiana State Police has not moved in to stop Clements from co-mingling funds with Hollywood Casino to build a proposed underpass.

Baton Rouge casinos are controversial at best.  They not only take away disposable dollars that could be spent elsewhere in our community for the greater good, but take non-disposable dollars from families who have gambling addictions.

This is disturbing at best. 

Now, our Mayor and other community leaders are using public dollars to not only help a convicted felon build a private enterprise, but to make one of our casinos more enticing.

Where does it end?

Senator Dan Claitor may have redeemed himself (with me) by opposing SB 611.  Claitor led the charge against SB611 to create the Economic Development District. 

Unfortunately, Claitor did not carry enough weight to defeat the bill, but did move himself up in the ranks of those who are willing to stand against the powers that be. 

This will cause Claitor grief in his future dealings with EBRP.  Kudos to him for representing the people and not the politics.

Claitor said people do make mistakes and can learn from them.  Perhaps his best quote was, “it is a big leap to ask the public to trust someone with millions of public dollars when a tax invasion conviction is involved.”

Well said!

Until next time,

Red Stick Republican

Budget Watch: EBR Parish Sunday, Apr 11 2010 

 

Interpreting the East Baton Rouge Parish city budget is challenging and time-consuming.  This 485 page read is no J. K. Rowling novel, and I think it is safe to say that few have read it in its entirety.

The most important part of the city parish budget is the organizational chart showing the citizens of East Baton Rouge Parish at the top.  As a resident and taxpayer, you are the one that the top three entities report to, which include:  the Mayor-President, the Metro Council and the Judicial Branch.  These are elected officials who are sworn in to office, and serve at your pleasure.

Next are the vision and mission statements, emphasis, goals, strategic initiatives, and budget process.  Then, we get into the real meat of the budget with detailed charts, graphs and financial reports indicating the sources of income and how dollars your tax dollars are spent. 

The general fund consists of 40% of the city parish budget.  This is signficant since 78.8% of that income depends upon taxes including sales and use tax, property taxes, gross receipts tax and other taxes including gaming proceeds.  The report indicates a $5 million reduction in business taxes, licenses and permits and interest rates.  This budget presentation comes from the same individuals who informed us the recession was not affecting the Red Stick.

Mayor-President Kip Holden joined hands with the Baton Rouge Area Chamber (BRAC) to the tune of $500,000 annually for economic development services for the Red Stick.  Each year the annual Canvas Trip is made by community leaders and politicians to cities that Holden and BRAC feel we should pattern ourselves after.  A puzzling addition to the budget is an additional $150,000 in business development support.  This is cause for concern since taxpayers were told that the contract with BRAC would replace any need for city-parish spending  or increase in services and manpower towards economic development.

When comparing the budget and planning process of the cities we have visited to the EBRP budget, some enlightening facts are revealed.  For instance, the city of Austin, hailed as the most desired city to pattern the Red Stick after indicates some progressive budgetary moves.

Austin indicates a major reduction in their annual budget for 2010 as well as a major change in 2009 indicating all city merit raises decreased from 4% to 2.5%.  There is a lesson to be learned here from a city we hold in high regard.

No salary increases for civil employees in 2010 and suspension of service incentive pay are also shown on Austin’s budget.  Additionally, cuts were made in their general fund including deferred contractual salary increases for police and EMS, eliminating vacant positions permanently, reducing overtime budgets, and adding gate fees for city-wide festivals.  Austin’s budget indicates a reserve of 11% compared to less than half of that reserve for the Red Stick.

More importantly is the involvement of Austin’s community in the budgetary process including transparency and collaboration.  Austin holds citizen focus groups, town halls, teen town halls, taxpayer surveys, a budget hotline and email program to make recommendations or question budgetary concerns. 

Additionally, Austin has implemented a Dollars & Sense employee input program including those who are not department heads or supervisors.  The EBRP budget indicates the only input that is allowed is the Mayor, the Chief Administrative Officer, Metro Council and department heads.  It begs the question.

Ultimately Austin’s goal is to be the “most livable city” in the country.  Nashville, seems to get it as well with beginning their entire process by referring to their metro city budget as The Citizens BudgetRefreshing.

Back at the ranch, EBRP’s budget has some major concerns for citizens to consider including the vast list of consultants which comprises 19.4% of expenditures.  It appears that consultant fees total $54 million.  Wow!

Mayor-President Kip Holden is also banking that our citizens will pay a visit to dump their hard-earned dollars at our two downtown casinos proven by the projected increase in revenue by an additional million dollars for the general fund.  I do not think you will find anyone who believes this will  improve our quality of life in the Red Stick.  Banking on the gaming addictions of our citizens is a bad move.

Increased spending is projected for a 10% increase in health care for city-parish employees, a $100,000 expenditure to ensure our local census is accurate, and a mirage of additional projects.  We have nearly $3 million allotted for EBRP vehicle purchases. 

We spend $340,000 on what is referred to as quality of life issues including fairs and festivals.  We also spend an additional $61,000 on hosting the bowling congress.  I wasn’t aware that improved our quality of life in EBRP.  In comparison, we give only $23,000 to the local Food Bank.

In 2009 we purchased a helicopter for the Baton Rouge Police Department vs. more boots on the ground.  I suppose that compares to Sheriff Sid Gautreaux, who criticized former Sheriff Greg Phares for the purchase of a boat, purchasing a second boat which rumor has it was named after Gautreaux’s wife.  I guess that indicates Gautreaux’s attack was nothing more than a political public relations campaign.

As I began, the 485-page budget is an interesting read, yet a handful of taxpayers will take the time to peruse it and understand the spending mentality of Mayor-President Kip Holden.  One recommendation is that every consultant contract be identified; some departments detail the companies involved, others provide no details.

Ultimately, we need to look hard at our spending.  Carl Redmond of The Advocate might be better served to study the budget and investigate the mirage of consultants and their ties to Mayor-President Kip Holden.

Until next time,

Red Stick Republican

Baton Rouge CityStats Reveals Inadequacies Wednesday, Apr 7 2010 

The Baton Rouge Area Foundation released their CityStats study for East Baton Rouge Parish earlier this week.  It’s an insightful look into the Red Stick’s Quality of Life, and worth reading.

CityStats provides information on facts such as:

  • Over a 5-year period, library readership has declined 14%, and library computer use declined 9.5% in a 2-year period.  Nevertheless, we are spending tens of millions to build new libraries.
  • Unemployment nearly doubled from 3.6% in 2007 to 6.1% in 2009, and is expected to increase.
  • Adjudicated properties increased by 54% in one year due for failure to pay property taxes.
  • Outward migration nearly doubled over the past five years, excluding Katrina which increased dramatically.
  • Patents dropped 14% over a 5-year period.
  • High school dropouts increased from 6.4% to 9.8% in four years.
  • High school graduates dropped 12.9% over a 4-year period.
  • Public and private school enrollment has experienced a steady decrease over a 4-year period.
  • A decline of 20% less qualified teachers over a 4-year period.
  • Toxic releases into the environment increased 32% over a 4-year period.
  • Our infant mortality rate is more than twice the national average.
  • Cases of sexually transmitted diseases remained the same or increased over a 5-year period.
  • An increase in commute time since 2004 was experienced while a decrease in airport use was experienced.
  • While bus ridership has increased, bus routes have decreased.
  • Violent crime has increased as compared to 4 years ago with the exception of Baker and Zachary. (See page 49 for full statistics.)
  • More than 1/4 of families in East Baton Rouge Parish experienced the inability to provide meals over the past year.
  • Child abuse has increased over the past year.

There are some positive factors, but frankly, they are outweighed by the tremendous volume of serious concerns over the quality of life issues for our parish.

Remind me again who the politicians and leaders are that kept telling us the Red Stick was not touched by the recession?

There is a huge difference between maintaining a healthy positive outlook and absolute denial.  Judgement begins in the actions of politicians and community leaders who have been handing out rose-colored glasses.

We need to get back to basics.  It begins in the Mayor-President’s office and in the seat of the Metro Council.  We have reached so deep into the pockets of taxpayers to create plans that are not improving the true Quality of Life for our citizens according to the Baton Rouge Area Foundation’s CityStats study.  

Our Mayor-President has had free rein to wrecklessly increase our city-parish budget during his 6-year tenure.  Take a look:

  • $563 million in 2005
  • $592 million in 2006
  • $621 million in 2007
  • $679 million in 2008
  • $694.9 million in 2009
  • $701.1 million in 2010

Do the math.  That’s a 40% increase to the tune of $138.1 million in City-Parish spending by Mayor-President Kip Holden in six years.

Enough said.

Until next time,

Red Stick Republican

Living the High Life Sunday, Apr 4 2010 

Nearly one year ago, I blogged about Mayor Kip Holden’s propensity to travel on the taxpayer’s dime.  This was based on the fact that in 1988 Holden ranked #2 as a Louisiana Legislator for one reason:  spending taxpayer monies on travel. 

Today, The Advocate has done an expose’ on Holden’s travel as Mayor-President of East Baton Rouge Parish revealing excessive trips during his tenure.  Are we to be surprised?

One of the methods of determining an individual’s character is to observe how they spend other people’s money.  The goal is to be a good steward of the money.  A quick study of the EBR City Parish Budget indicates Holden does not hold fast to that mentality.

Part of the rub uncovered by Greg Garland, journalist for The Advocate, was Holden’s first class plane tickets.  (The taxpayer’s are footing the bill for domestic travel while campaign contributors or consultants are paying for foreign travel.) 

Another small annoyance is the fact that Holden was in violation of the Louisiana Ethics Laws by not providing detailed information on campaign expenditures for his China trip. 

When Garland questioned the Mayor on this issue, Holden quickly cut him off by admitting the Ethics Commission did ask him to file an amended return, but that it was not the business of the newspaper. 

Really?  That’s an interesting position for a Mayor.  Having made this statement, Holden is espousing that it is not the business of the taxpayers since the newspaper is charged with providing the facts for taxpayers. 

C. B. Forgotston often refers to the Louisiana Ethics Commission’s tendency to fail to enact the laws.  Forgotston refers to it as the “gold standard,” which in reality is a double standard.  In this case, there are no apparent violations or fees imposed according to the Louisiana Ethics Commission for Mayor-President Melvin “Kip” Holden. 

The $10,000 reimbursable expense that Holden did not detail in his campaign finance report is not that unusual for our Mayor.  Nor are expenses that are questionable campaign expenditures.  Just a few to mention include:

  • LSU football tickets?  $1,520
  • LSU parking fees?  $5,050
  • Southern football tickets? $760
  • Southern parking fees?  $806
  • Camelot membership dues?  $201$201, $201, (apparently this is a monthly expense during Holden’s campaigns)
  • Car repairs?  $500, $3134, $800 
  • There are also expenditures for flowers on virtually every report for $800 – $1,300 in each instance.  That’s a lot of flowers. 

The point of this exercise is to take a look at how Holden spends campaign contributions.  It’s just more proof of his disregard for other people’s money.  Campaign contributors freely give their money for election results, not for luxury items for a candidate.  You can attend football games, and walk around the tailgaters without making your contributors pay for you to enjoy the game.  Sadly, few contributors even read campaign finance reports.

The campaign finance law requires explanations for each campaign expenditure.  To not do so would definitely be equal to violation of the law as it exists, regardless of Holden’s brush off to Garland upon questioning. 

Claiming that you were reimbursed $10,000 is not sufficient.  There should be a detailed explanation of how each dollar was allotted.

As Forgotston so eloquently states, there is a desperate need for our elected leaders to be forthright, and for the laws to be enforced.  Can you imagine using your employer’s money and then when questioned, tell them it’s not their business?  How long would you remain employed?

There is a huge chasm between the private and public sector.  Elected officials should understand that if we run city and state government like a business, we would spend less time living the high life and more time meeting the needs of the people they serve.

We have a way to go down this long and winding road we call politics in East Baton Rouge Parish, and it begins in the Mayor’s office.  If we are to be the greatest city in America, we have to do better.

Until next time,

Red Stick Republican

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