Baton Rouge needs new leadership. As a young professional who bought into Kip Holden’s rhetoric, I voted for him in 2004 and again in 2008. But it has become painfully obvious that the only obstacle to Baton Rouge becoming “America’s next great city” is the buffoon who occupies the Mayor’s Office.
Defending his bond proposal before yesterday’s meeting of the Baton Rouge Press Club, Kip relied heavily on his primary selling point scare tactic — bridges in danger of imminent collapse:
“Now we’re talking about the lives of people, and I’ll tell you that it’s not about politics,” he said. “It’s about people willing to take charge, knowing full well that it’s in their ability to prevent harm from happening to citizens.”
Holden used this as an example of why the council should not delay the bond issue.
“Hopefully they’ll see the critical need,” he said. “Now some of them are saying let’s wait until next year, but I don’t think they have the watch or the wisdom or a member of the psychic hotline to tell us when a bridge may collapse.”
As covered by Scott in this post, this is nothing more than a fear tactic and politics at its absolute worst. Those bridges rated a 1 or 2 are already closed and being repaired, and overall about 19 percent of Baton Rouge bridges need some sort of repair, which is much lower than the national average of over 25 percent.
But think about it, if our bridges, as Holden would have you believe, are in danger of imminent collapse, why didn’t he do everything in his power to scrape together every spare cent from recent budgets to shore up these bridges? Why is he chancing these “much needed repairs” to a bond issue that has failed twice?
The other thing Kip did yesterday was call out DA Hillar Moore for having the audacity to seek more funding:
“I have a little heartburn when I look at what is asked for, when you are trying to go from a $4 million contribution from the city-parish—and you’ve been running on that amount for a lot of years — to now going to an additional $11 million to run your office”…. Holden says he would love to have more operation funds to provide to Moore’s office, but notes many departments including police and fire are underfunded and have had to trim expenses to meet budget. He suggests Moore do the same….
Of course, Kip has led by example to “trim expenses” in his “underfunded” department… I’m kidding, of course — funding in the Mayor and Administrative Offices has actually increased by over 86 percent between 2004 and 2010. Maybe if Kip could learn to live with a little less, those “underfunded” departments would get to live with a little more.
So what are we funding instead of repairing our “dangerous” bridges and hiring more prosecutors? As you read this list of combined budget items from 2010 and 2011, ask yourself two questions: (1) are funding these items more important than repairing a bridge the Mayor says might collapse at any moment? and (2) are funding these items more important than giving our criminal justice system the resources it needs to reduce crime?
- $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
- $330,000 for the Baton Rouge Film Commission
- $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 Kip’s ribbon cuttings and groundbreakings
- $190,000 for the Baton Rouge Symphony
- $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
Leading is all about having vision and the right priorities, and right now Baton Rouge is stuck with someone who has neither. Our parish has real needs — there’s no question about that. But the taxpayers can’t be expected to reach into our pockets to pay for Kip Holden’s misplaced priorities. Baton Rouge deserves better.