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

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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

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

Politics Wins Out Thursday, Sep 3 2009 

 1921-06-04-The-Country-Gentleman-Norman-Rockwell-cover-Bully-Before-no-logo-140-Digimarc

On days such as these, there is little that needs to be said other than to share the facts:

Councilman Rodney “Smokie” Bourgeois said he disagreed with Mayor Kip Holden’s approach for the impending bond issue claiming it was a MISTAKE BASED ON HIS CONSTITUENT’S FEEDBACK BUT WOULD GO ALONG WITH THE MAYOR ANY WAY.

Congratulations Smokie!  You have now graduated from Professor Kip’s School of Politics!

Welcome to Kip’ World folks! 

Who needs a new downtown project like Alive! when we have our own hurricane reinactment in the heart of the Metro Council Chambers? It may not be as exciting as a new Audubon project, but it is certainly as costly to the citizens of the Red Stick.

Until next time,

Red Stick Republican

P.S.  Kudos to the ONLY three council persons who voted according to their constituents:  Alison Cascio, Joel Boe’, and Scott Wilson  If they can survive the Holden administration, they will be leaders to keep an eye on . . .