Baton Rouge’s Democrat mayor is at it again, and another divisive bond issue will be on the ballot as a result. Holden says this time it’s different than the last attempt he made to tax and spend; city-parish voters crushed the mayor’s $900 million bond for a cornucopeia of new public edifices by a 65-35 count in November of 2009.
Holden is aiming lower this time around. Slightly.
WAFB has the story…
Just over a year after one bond was defeated, Mayor-Pres. Kip Holden announced Monday he’s full speed ahead with putting another on the ballot.
Holden said this new proposition will be much different than what came to be known as the “Alive” project bond, which was defeated in November 2009. Holden claimed the millage is necessary because of recent data. According to the 2010 Census, East Baton Rouge is now the most populated parish in the state.
EBR’s population is up 7 percent from 10 years ago, to 440,000 people. On the other hand, the population in the city of New Orleans dropped to 343,000, a 30 percent plunge.
“I don’t want to gloat about Baton Rouge to the demise of New Orleans, because we formed a partnership basically last year that we would support each other,” Holden said.
Holden added his bond proposal would be just under $700 million and not include the controversial “Alive” project on the river.
“If anybody sits down and says we don’t need it, then something is wrong. We have critical infrastructure needs that are 30 years behind when I took office. Now, the problems have gotten worse,” he explained.
Holden realized, after two ignominious bond-issue defeats in 2008 and 2009, that using taxpayer dollars to fund a riverfront theme park wouldn’t fly. But a $700 million bond will include all the same other stuff the voters haven’t been crazy about – a shiny new headquarters for the city-parish’s law enforcement agencies, a new prison, parking garages in the downtown area (which, strangely enough, property owners downtown have yet to decide to build) and a number of other projects.
No word from Holden on the severability of his bond, which was requested by several members of the metro council before the last debacle. Some of the items on his wish list might well be supportable. But given Holden’s previous all-or-nothing stance it would stand to reason he’ll continue banging on the table.
There is also no indication that Holden has done much to seek lower-cost solutions – like, for example, leasing space to serve as headquarters for the police in lieu of their current dilapidated digs. The city has lots of vacant space at present and landlords might well be generous on rents if long-term tenancy is on the table.
Holden’s projects might well constitute needs, rather than wants. He obviously hasn’t made an effective case for them.
Nor has he shown it necessary for the city-parish to raise sales taxes when in the 2010 budget East Baton Rouge had $54 million for consultants’ contracts. That kind of spending flies in the face of the obvious desire of the voting public for fiscal restraint.
But it’s clear Holden is serious about building a few monuments to himself, with our money. It will be up to the voters, once again, to tell him no.