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

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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

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

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

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

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.

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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

Are THEY right? Tuesday, Sep 15 2009 

 

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Political consultant, Roy Fletcher, said, “In politics, when you have to make a case that is not believed by the people, you better have a lot of money to make that case, because they don’t believe it in the first place.” 

Fletcher was referring to Mayor Kip Holden’s bond issue, and the fact that the people didn’t believe in it enough to pass it last fall.

Obviously money will continue to be spent on a public relations campaign targeting voters in hopes they will buy into accepting higher taxes.  Where does this money come from, and how can we find out how much is being spent?

George Kennedy, another consultant, tries to make the argument that the bond proposal pays for itself.  This is almost laughable.  If it paid for itself and was ‘free’ as Kennedy claims, we wouldn’t need a tax.  Maybe Holden should hire Kennedy to sell this wacko political spin?   

Who are the Redstick’s watchdogs?  

Not our newspaper.  The Advocate questions Jindal, but not Holden on transparency issues because they have an axe to grind with Jindal.  Everyone knows McCollister, publisher of the Baton Rouge Business Report, served as a finance chair to Jindal.  Cutting into The Advocate’s market share just adds insult to injury.  

The owners of the newspaper have made it clear that if Alive! happens, they will be pleased because it would raise the property value of their former headquarters downtown.  With newspaper sales down, they probably need to sell the building.

BRAC, the Baton Rouge Area Chamber, and BRAF, the Baton Rouge Area Foundation, are not our watchdogs either.  BRAC and BRAF work hand-in-hand and BRAC receives $500,000 annually from Mayor Kip Holden to be the economic development arm for the parish.  They are part of Holden’s entourage.

The same goes for the Downtown Development District.  The DDD receives far too much funding and support from Mayor-President Kip Holden to  speak out against his administration.  In fact, he and Davis Rhorer, executive director, are close allies.  Besides, they have far too much invested in this tax package.

Sometimes it is up to us, the voters, to be the watchdogs. 

We, the voters, have already spoken once on this issue, and our answer was no!  72% of East Baton Rouge Parish voters turned out last fall and voted against a tax increase.  Instead of taking voters at face value, they say that Holden and his entourage have decided to bank on lower turnout to pass the proposal.

Perhaps the coffee shop talk is accurate?  If they know their facts, then funding for the public relations campaign such as Progress Is comes from Holden’s entourage and his political contributors. 

Whether they are correct or not, city-parish government has NO business spending OUR tax dollars building a tourist attraction.  Who came up with this idea? 

Some say the financing of Audubon Alive! makes building a prison more palatable to the average voter.  One thing is for sure, the economic impact figures are highly inflated.  No big surprise, they usually are.

If Alive! is such a great potential moneymaker, let the Audubon Institute raise private funds and add it to their array of facilities. 

By the way, have you checked their financial records lately? 

All of the Audubon Institute facilities combined brought in $10.3 million last year in admissions with only three facilities operated in the black:  the Zoo, the Insectarium, and the Park.  All of these facilities lost money:  IMAX, Aquarium, Wolberg, Research Center, and Survival Centers. 

That includes an annual tax millage totaling $7.2 million.  It’s always good to do your homework.  Trust me, Holden’s public relations package won’t be sharing this kind of information with taxpayers! 

Until next time,

Red Stick Republican

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