This might be the first and last time you’ll ever see anyone at The Hayride defend Kip Holden, Baton Rouge’s ridiculous three-term Nero of a mayor.
But with respect to the Alton Sterling case, Holden is taking an enormous amount of flak for being “absent” while daily protests have popped up around the city since Sterling, a career criminal who resisted arrest after a 911 complaint accused him of brandishing a weapon in public brought two Baton Rouge cops into his presence, was shot in the early morning hours of July 5.
Since that time Holden has made only two public appearances, the second one coming last night at a prayer service at St. Aloysius Catholic Church not far from the LSU campus. Social media has erupted with a lot of yelling and screaming about Holden’s supposed inactivity, and the local media is parroting some of the worst of it.
J.R. Ball in a Times-Picayune column today, for example…
Tensions continue to rise in Baton Rouge following the July 5 police shooting death of Alton Sterling. It’s been a painful, emotional week for a city and parish that prides itself on not airing its racial laundry in public. Stoic avoidance is the Baton Rouge way.
One of the few managing to keep with this town’s head-in-the-sand tradition is its leader — Mayor Kip Holden.
Seriously, Mr. Mayor, where are you?
Holden hasn’t said much — at least publicly — and has been seen even less since his city and East Baton Rouge Parish descended into turmoil.
He was, to be fair, part of a group of state and local leaders to request the FBI and Department of Justice investigate whether officers Blane Salamoni or Howie Lake II violated Sterling’s civil rights or broke federal criminal law in Sterling’s death.
The mayor also uttered a rambling statement during a group press conference last Wednesday (July 6) — pausing only to take a political shot at Rep. Cedric Richmond, who Holden is running against this fall in a congressional race — before disappearing from sight.
After protesters began calling for his resignation over the weekend, Holden surfaced long enough Monday (July 11) to tell Business Report he’s “a multidimensional mayor” well aware of what’s happening in the city he’s been elected to lead, but lacking the luxury of focusing solely on one event.
Maybe it’s true. Maybe the mayor has more on his plate than President Barack Obama, who carved time from his schedule to not only issue several statements relating to the shooting but to also call Sterling’s mother on the telephone.
And maybe Holden is juggling more balls than Gov. John Bel Edwards, who personally met with Sterling’s mother, attended a vigil, spoke out on the difficulties of being a police officer, begged protestors for calm and pretty much has served as Baton Rouge’s de facto public leader in Holden’s absence.
Let’s stop this train right here.
Barack Obama is not the example we want Kip Holden to follow. Barack Obama has done nothing but run his mouth with racially divisive and inflammatory rhetoric since he took office, and in the vast majority of the cases where he’s lectured Americans following racial incidents the facts have run counter to his narrative and he’s made an ass of himself. And after almost eight years of Barack Obama’s presidency race relations across the country are as bad as they’ve been since the late 1960’s.
As for John Bel Edwards, he’s done absolutely nothing of substance. Edwards wasn’t the first to call in the Department of Justice and in so doing rob the citizens of Baton Rouge of a seat at the table in investigating Sterling’s death, though he took credit for it – in fact, it was Richmond who did that. Edwards just glommed on to that effort and called a press conference to its effect – which is part of a pattern where he’s concerned, as anyone who remembers the dust-up over Edwards having taken credit for the efforts of others regarding the Washington Street exit on I-10 will remember.
That Holden wasn’t around to stand aside Edwards at a few press avails indicates what about Holden’s leadership, again? Edwards, after all, has mostly been on hand to defend the tactics of the police force countering some of the worst elements of the protesters in the past week, like for example the Black Lives Matter tourists attempting to block interstate highways. If Holden were to appear at Edwards’ side at those press events, what good would it do? Should he have called Sterling’s family? Maybe. Which ones? And do we know whether they even had interest in taking his calls? What’s he going to say? If the accusation is made that it was Kip Holden’s cops who killed Sterling, what then?
Holden said, with perhaps a stronger dose of self-interest and candor than would have been advisable, that he saw no use in putting his hand in a hornet’s nest by insinuating himself in the Sterling case. He’s correct. Particularly when it’s clear that the man’s family has embraced Richmond and C. Denise Marcelle and the more Hard Left faction within black Democrat politics in Baton Rouge – which is a faction calling for Holden’s head over the shooting.
In order to counter that, he should do what? Act even more militant than Marcelle and put on one of her bloody Alton Sterling t-shirts? Demand that the officers in question be indicted forthwith? Lead a lynch mob?
How is that going to bring the city together? Half of it, or perhaps more, is supportive of the policemen in this case. Certainly more than half wants to see the justice system work unimpeded by politicians, regardless of the result it brings.
How does Kip Holden holding forth and making speeches help that situation? Here’s a clue – it doesn’t. The more visible he is, the more unhinged the calls for his resignation get – and the more death threats, which he’s already received, will come in. And if he weighs in the way morons like Bill DeBlasio and Stephanie Rawlings-Blake did after the Eric Garner and Freddie Gray incidents happened in their cities, he’s likely going to be responsible for lighting a powderkeg and starting riots.
Should those happen, it’ll likely be black neighborhoods that burn, not white ones. And the evidence is in – the neighborhoods that burn turn into little economic Chernobyls for decades after the fact, because nobody in their right mind is going to open a business they think is going to get looted and burned the next time the cops shoot a suspect in town.
Holden, whether intentionally or by accident, has actually done Baton Rouge a good turn by keeping quiet. By doing so he’s created a space for the people of Baton Rouge to communicate. Stories of individual cross-racial interactions in the last week have percolated all across town, with white people and black people sharing impromptu hugs and more personal conversations than normal, if not more than ever before. That’s been the silver lining to this mess.
It’s also been a very good indication that people can get along fine when politics is taken out of the mix. And you can’t take politics out of the mix when politicians dominate.
There is an old saw attributed to New York’s former mayor Fiorello LaGuardia that “if a sparrow dies in Central Park I’m responsible,” and that has served as something of a rule for mayoral governance. But it’s a lie. Mayors who have to bloviate and lecture on every current event do more damage than good. Mayors have plenty to do that doesn’t involve mugging for TV cameras or trying to run the lives of their constituents.
He hasn’t been a good mayor, and most of his positioning as an economic development asset has been a fraud. But in this case, we’re fine with Holden having a low profile. Let’s have the citizens of Baton Rouge taking a leadership role in solving problems for once.