McCollister To Broome: Do You Want St. George? Because This Is How You Get St. George

There is a certain suspension of disbelief one has to engage in before taking in the column Baton Rouge Business Report publisher Rolfe McCollister wrote today blasting Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome for the job she’s done since inauguration, and predicting the likely effect of that performance…

We hear the mayor-president, members of the Metro Council and others in our community regularly—and passionately—say they are opposed to a new City of St. George (similar to Baker, Zachary or Central in our parish). Yet when many of those same people sit quietly—and sheepishly—as the Metro Council rewards the corrupt and incompetent East Baton Rouge Council on Aging with $8 million annually in new, dedicated tax dollars, aren’t they aware their inaction is fanning the very St. George flames they fervently hope to extinguish?

As for those wanting a new, independent suburban city, who can blame them for their freedom calls after the spectacle that was the Metro Council giving its blessing—and our property tax dollars—to a horribly mismanaged agency that doesn’t actually answer to the public.

The day after the Metro Council approved the full tax millage on June 14, The Advocate headline read, “Scandals, legal disputes not enough to stop Metro Council from approving collection of tax for Council on Aging.” Sad. That may have made the seniors—who were bused to city hall (by a “donor”) and wearing red T-shirts they got as “gifts” at a free COA crawfish boil—giddy, but it outrages many of those paying the property tax, and who want their dollars to really help seniors and be managed properly (though that is a big expectation for government, period). And for taxpayers living in the yet-to-be-proposed “St. George area” the petition to get out from under this Metro Council and mayor may look more appealing than ever.

McCollister notes that the Council on Aging’s outsized political influence comes from an especially troubling source…

While this sign was meant to demean opposition to the tax, I believe, ironically, it reveals the true motives of the COA. The political action before the election and after is evidence this is about the money and the power—and votes on election day. And pulling the COA power cords are people like COA Executive Director Tasha Clark-Amar, state Rep. Denise Marcelle (a board member), state Sen. Regina Barrow (a former board member whose daughter works at COA), state Rep. Pat Smith (whose daughter works at COA), and the real power behind the curtain—Judge Janice Clark (Clark-Amar’s mother).

Judges and attorneys privately will tell you Clark may have more power than any other member of the bench in Baton Rouge—and she’s not afraid to use it. African-American elected officials are afraid to cross her. She has a reputation for being vindictive and political. Blacks tell me they pay homage to her because she took on the judicial system to get blacks elected to the bench. I would bet, besides getting her daughter hired to head COA, she had influence in recruiting the attorney to head the PAC that ran the COA campaign and she gave the nod for the lawyer who became the new chairman of the COA board. Clark is not bashful about expressing her opinion or using her position. Is it shocking that politicians wield power and use their influence to help friends? No, but the difference here is Clark is a judge and operates under a special code of ethics.

It’s all very fine. Except we have a question.

Namely, where in the blue blazes has Rolfe McCollister been? Tasha Clark Amar has mismanaged the Council On Aging for at least six years, and everyone has known about it for most of that time. Certainly it was known last year, when Amar ran around Baton Rouge pressing panic buttons about its finances in advance of breaking every campaign finance law in the book to get that $8 million tax increase passed.

And everybody knew Amar’s mother was corrupt, vindictive and political on a scale utterly alarming in a judge.

And everybody knew the same political machine Janice Clark and Tasha Clark Amar belong to was working to elect Sharon Weston Broome as Baton Rouge’s mayor-president.

Everybody but Rolfe McCollister, that is. Because McCollister endorsed that machine, and Broome, last year.

Now he notices Broome has nothing much to say about the COA’s abuses, and that she lacks the will to stand up to the North Baton Rouge machine which is doing everything it can to steal everything it can while masking that corruption with constant racial agitation?

Thanks a lot, Rolfe.

Interestingly, McCollister’s distaste for the quality of the city-parish’s governance has triggered a sudden appreciation for why St. George is more likely to happen…

Many people I hear from love their hometown and support the greater good. But here’s the bottom line for the mayor and the Metro Council: When citizens and taxpayers can’t count on their government to provide safe streets and good schools, or to protect their tax dollars from waste, abuse and corruption, then they get angry and look for alternative solutions. Zachary wanted its own schools. Central was forced into forming a city to get its own schools. More importantly, they want to control their own destiny. If those who chant “One Baton Rouge” while fighting the creation of St. George didn’t step up and speak out to clean up the corruption at COA, then don’t be surprised when the petitions come out again and people start signing.

You don’t say.

Here’s how we reacted when McCollister endorsed Broome over Bodi White in last year’s runoff election. Ask yourself if you think it sounds prophetic…

The most obvious remaining answer has to be that McCollister has decided he wants to see the city of St. George become a reality.

Because that’s assuredly what will happen if Broome wins the mayor-president’s race. You will see a rush to incorporate St. George next June when the two-year timeout period from the previous effort has passed, and the collection of St. George signatures will proceed at a pace not seen during the 2015 incorporation effort. The organizers of that movement are simply biding their time until it’s legal to crank it up once again, and some of them are even hoping Broome wins for that very purpose.

The coming St. George incorporation is the 800-pound gorilla in the room, that nobody in Baton Rouge’s “in” crowd is even willing to address. Were these people honest with themselves and the citizenry of East Baton Rouge Parish, they’d understand that jumping from the frying pan of Kip Holden, who practiced crony capitalism and tax-and-spend liberal governance coupled with empty rhetoric on economic development, to the fire of Sharon Weston Broome whose entire career has been nothing more than a series of attacks on the business community and the productive sector, will serve to drive the unincorporated areas of the parish straight into municipal independence.

White has always been the candidate who offered hope to the anti-St. George crowd that he could address some of the issues which motivate people to want the new city. Rather than credit his efforts to hold the status quo together by promising the specific changes that would prompt the fissure they’re so concerned about, McCollister and the rest of the “in” crowd are now openly backing the candidate who will encourage it. And doing so in the name of “unity.”

He has to actually want St. George to take the position he’s taking. If he’s not a stupid man, which he is not, then this is the only explanation we can come up with.

No, we’re not going to claim to be psychics around here. You didn’t have to be one to see this coming. All you needed was to know more about Sharon Weston Broome than Rolfe McCollister apparently did when he threw the weight of his “business” publication behind one of the most business-unfriendly politicians in Baton Rouge.

We’re sure the St. George people are happy to have McCollister’s imprimatur for their coming re-try at incorporation. We’re less sure he’ll be welcome at the meetings, unless of course we were right all along and he’s a closet saboteur of the city’s status quo.

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