The answer seems to be yes, though not quite to the extent that anyone among the locals is willing to fire both barrels at the mayor. Sharon Weston Broome makes more pratfalls than Chevy Chase and yet she hasn’t rated more than a polite rebuke.
There was Broome’s transition team, made up of some of the lesser lights in the community like Reginald Pitcher, Arthur “Silky Slim” Reed, Cleve Dunn and Gary Chambers, which issued a report perhaps ranking as the most divisive document ever distributed by a public entity in Baton Rouge.
There was the mayor’s insistence on firing Baton Rouge Police Chief Carl Dabadie, though she doesn’t have the power to do so per civil service rules. Dabadie hasn’t gone anywhere, and at this point it seems he delights in persisting on the job out of spite to Broome. That may be changing, given that a Baton Rouge cop named Blaine Dupuy was caught sending a text message joking that Alton Sterling protesters are “chimping out” – a racially-tinged message which has landed Dupuy on suspension and given Broome new reason to push for Dabadie’s head. Everyone knows what’s coming – Broome is building a case that BRPD is a racist institution and it’s Dabadie’s fault, and that would be cause for his firing. Meanwhile good cops are leaving the force to take jobs with suburban police departments, and an undermanned force get more undermanned all the time.
There was Broome’s complete absence of leadership throughout the slow-motion train wreck that has been the East Baton Rouge Council On Aging’s multiple scandals. Broome put out a mealy-mouthed statement demanding that senior citizens get the help they need, but never bothered to offer any criticism of COA director Tasha Clark Amar for having blatantly violated campaign law last year to push for a tax increase to fund it, or for writing herself into a COA client’s will.
There was the Troy Bell disaster, in which Broome hired someone who had been fired in multiple previous public administration positions, including on as the deputy city manager in tiny Walla Walla, Washington, to be the chief administrative officer in Baton Rouge. Bell lasted less than a week on the job before it was revealed he’d egregiously padded his resume and had to resign; the fallout gave off a strong impression Sharon Weston Broome has not the first clue what she’s doing in her job as mayor.
And most recently there was Friday’s open letter to Baton Rouge decrying people who do and say “divisive” things on the internet – delivered on the same day Sharon Weston Broome was on hand to proclaim Friday as “Malcolm X Day” in Baton Rouge and officiate a rather festive event celebrating the life and teachings of one of the 20th century’s more divisive figures.
That last embarrassment seems to have been something of a straw that broke the camel’s back. Yesterday the Advocate’s Lanny Keller took a whack at Broome for the vagueness and vapidity of her message…
The discovery by Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome that people say intemperate or even hateful things on the internet may spark a useful conversation about how to disagree, particularly on the vexed subject of race relations.
Or not. It may just provoke voters to wonder if they have done the right thing, electing Broome not for uplifting sermonettes on society’s ills, but to fix potholes, improve police and fire protection and the myriad other concrete things that a mayor is called upon to do. Draining the swamp of the internet is secondary to draining our real swamps around here.
“My goal as mayor-president is to unite people around our collective goals of progress and equity,” Broome wrote. “While freedom of speech is one of the pillars that makes this country so beautiful, irresponsibility of such can be used as a tool to separate us as community.”
On the upside for the mayor, her frequent and harsh critics among the Hayride conservatives interpreted the statement as aimed at the divisive rhetoric of Gary Chambers, an occasional mayoral adviser who was carted from the Metro Council meeting because he wanted to sound off about the Alton Sterling decision by the U.S. Department of Justice.
So if the mayor’s letter sowed confusion in the enemy camp, it was a victory for strategic vagueness.
But if it represents an above-the-fray attitude of making nice instead of making progress, people might really want to see more action from city hall.
A word about Keller’s reference to us here at the Hayride, and one which might be illuminating to those of our readers who didn’t quite get the joke when we interpreted Broome’s letter as a rebuke to Chambers; we had no illusions she was talking about him. We just wanted to make it quite obvious that if Sharon Weston Broome wanted any credibility at all for her exhortations that we all be civil to each other she has lots of cleaning up to do in her own camp.
Which, given the Malcolm X Day business, probably needs to start with herself and then progress to Gary Chambers. At that point she might begin asking that the rest of the city be nice.
Otherwise, another mistake she’s been making will come home to haunt her sooner rather than later; namely, the incessant griping and denunciations of the St. George incorporation movement, which hasn’t even begun stirring yet but soon will thanks to her provocations.
Because as the kids would say to Sharon Weston Broome, do you want St. George? Because this is how you get St. George.