Mayor Kip Holden may have just touted a new police academy that starts in August, but anyone paying attention knows that when it comes to fighting crime Kip Holden has been a dismal failure.
With Holden in the Mayor’s Office, funding for the Baton Rouge Police Department has been an afterthought instead of a priority. BRPD is currently short 70 officers — that’s 70 pairs of boots that could be on the ground patrolling our neighborhoods and keeping our streets safe.
Despite this shortage, next month’s police academy will be the first since 2009 because of no funding. Think about what this means — in late 2009 as Baton Rouge dealt with its highest murder rate in history and as Kip Holden prepared his budget for 2010, he failed to include funds for training additional police officers.
And the 2011 police academy was made possible only by what Holden called an “uptick” in sales tax revenue, i.e. some unexpected cash, not because he made it a priority, and he was quick to point out he was unsure there would be funding for another academy next year. On a side note, why is Kip asking voters to spend $102 million on a new police and training headquarters when we can’t scrape together enough money to train new officers with any regularity? But I digress.
So what does Kip Holden think is more important to fund than our police department and a full contingent of officers to keep our citizens safe? In 2010 and 2011, Holden budgeted a combined:
- $751,700 for the Arts Council of Baton Rouge
- $620,000 for lobbying
- $600,000 for the Bayou Country Superfest (the Metro Council later pulled $300,000 from the 2011 budget)
- $500,000 for a marketing plan for the Airport
- $467,000 to host the 2012 US Bowling Congress
- $459,830 to Netmethods for maintenance on crime cameras (you might remember this company as the one at the center of the recent New Orleans corruption scandal)
- $230,000 to the Baton Rouge Center for World Affairs to be the official ceremonial host for the City-Parish
- $200,000 for advertising and marketing of garbage and recycling services
- $191,000 to videotape his ribbon cuttings and groundbreakings
- $190,000 for the Baton Rouge Symphony
- $97,000 to purchase generators for a private company
- $75,000 for “service awards” for City-Parish employees
- $40,000 for travel and training for the Mayor’s Office
- $26,000 for the “Mayor’s Special Expense” fund
This is over $4 million in tax dollars and just barely scratches the surface of wasteful spending! So, how many police officers could we fund if we actually had our spending priorities in order? Sadly, with Kip Holden as Mayor, it’s doubtful we’ll ever find out.