Welcome to NBRED Week In Baton Rouge!

Inbred, you say? No, not quite. Instead it’s NBRED – or North Baton Rouge Economic Development – Week. And you should care, since your tax dollars are paying for this slate of events which prove that the people in charge don’t actually know much about their charge…

Tuesday:”The Future of Education,” an open-to-the-public panel discussion of public vs. charter schools at the Louisiana Leadership Institute from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.

Wednesday: ”Transportation Drives Economic Development,” a luncheon at the Baton Rouge Airport in the Metrocomplex Conference Room from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. The Louisiana Secretary of Transportation and Development will serve on a panel to address the topic.

Thursday: “Defining Southern University Future Impact on North Baton Rouge,” an open forum at Hayden Hall Auditorium from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.

Friday: ”Rock the Block,” a block party at the corner of Scotland Avenue and Scenic Highway from 4 to 8 p.m., featuring a live band, DJ and local vendors.

Saturday: ”North Baton Rouge Zoo Appreciation Day,” a free day at the zoo for north Baton Rouge residents.

This is being put on by something called the Baton Rouge North Economic Development District, whose name indicates its members did recognize that NBRED is destined to generate much snickering (perhaps it’s better to be B(u)RNEDD than (i)NBRED). And yet for their signature event week, they fell right into that same trap – meaning they’re now both burned and inbred.

This thing has been around for three years with basically no results other than it put some people on a payroll to do essentially no work – but we’re being told they’re really stepping things up and getting aggressive about economic development in North Baton Rouge.

Three years after North Baton Rouge voters raised taxes to support an economic development agency focused on the needs of that community, it appears poised to tackle the work in earnest.

Jerry Jones, appointed executive director of the Baton Rouge North Economic Development District late last year, has hit the ground running, amending the district’s mission statement and goals and working on putting together a comprehensive plan for the district.

He’s partnering with organizations throughout the parish to spur small-business growth while working to build stronger relationships between the district and both Southern University and Baton Rouge Community College. The objective is to help existing businesses expand and create jobs for people in the community.

It’s been a slow process getting to this point, though.

There was a burst of energy in 2016 when activists mobilized to secure an emergency room to replace what was lost with the closing of Earl K. Long Medical Center that had served that part of town.

The momentum continued as the community later approved a 2 percent hotel tax to fund the economic district created to spearhead future growth, then seemed to stall.

“Seemed to stall?”

Meaning these guys hooked up a hosepipe into the wallets of the poor unsuspecting saps staying in hotels in Baton Rouge, and have been pretending to work ever since.

And three years later as a product of that siphoning, you get:

  • a public school/charter school food fight;
  • a DOTD-led pep rally for public busing;
  • a pep rally for Southern University;
  • a party with a band and a DJ; and
  • free trips to the zoo for people who live in North Baton Rouge.

That’s what three years of a hotel tax gets you.

Not a manufacturing plant selecting North Baton Rouge as an operating site. Not any new jobs. No spinning up volunteer efforts to clean trash off the streets and make North Baton Rouge at least look like a place somebody might have interest in engaging in legal economic activity in. Nothing, other than a few worthless panel discussions and a junket to the zoo.

But the Baton Rouge Redevelopment Authority is now “attacking blight” by picking up properties nobody wants along Plank Road – not that there is any real plan to put those back into commerce. The burned/inbred crowd may or (more probably) may not have anything whatsoever to do with that, though.

Enter Gary Chambers to pin the blame on The White Man And His Minstrel Mayor…

Fellow board member Gary Chambers said the community is suffering from two decades of white flight and disinvestment from the city-parish’s public and business sector.

Chambers and others on the board of the Baton Rouge North Economic Development District point out that the success of Baton Rouge’s Downtown Development District was boosted by the advocacy of former mayor Kip Holden.

They say Holden’s focus on downtown aided in the adoption of policies and incentives that made redevelopment for the city-parish’s central business district attractive, and profitable, to developers.

Tax-increment financing districts, which return sales tax revenues back to businesses to reduce construction debts, supported the entrance of new hotels downtown.

The Metro Council in 2016 created the North Baton Rouge Economic Opportunity Zone, a program aimed at boosting private investment in low-income areas through federal tax incentives.

Since its implementation, though, there have been only three applications for developments within the approved zone, according to annual reports from the city-parish Office of Planning Commission. The first was in December 2016 and two more were filed in December 2018.

And then…wait for it…

Chambers said current Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome needs to step up and be visible and vocal about bettering the landscape and quality of life in north Baton Rouge the way Holden was for downtown.

“I think it’s time for Broome to deliver,” Chambers said. “We’re coming up on an election year, and voters will be looking around to see what has changed since Kip left office.”

So Gary Chambers has been on this board for three years, which means he’s at least partially responsible for the fact it has done absolutely nothing but collect per diems and free lunches, and now he’s making demands that Sharon Weston Broome deliver.

Not to defend Broome, but she already delivered. She created the NBREDs, and got them a funding mechanism. And it took them two years just to hire a guy to “run” this effort.

Sure, that would be Broome’s fault for poor supervision, but Chambers being on the scene this whole time would make him a laughable pointer of blame, no?

Long story short here – none of the people involved in “economic development” in North Baton Rouge have any hope of generating it. And they know this. The entire enterprise is about drawing taxpayer dough into their own wallets while going through the motions of actual work.

And the really funny part about this is if and when there actually is a little economic development in North Baton Rouge, people like Gary Chambers will decry it as “gentrification” and open hostility toward those responsible will result.

But let’s not focus on that. We wouldn’t want to poo-pooh the big week of blockbuster events that is NBRED Week!

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