Two measures on the ballot to expand the boards that oversee East Baton Rouge Parish’s parks and library systems were defeated Saturday, according to complete but unofficial returns.
With all 315 precincts reporting, the proposed amendments to the Plan of Government to change the composition of the two boards failed by similar margins.
The proposals, if approved, would have added designated seats for representatives from Baker, Central and Zachary, as recommended by the mayors of those municipalities.
The vote on adding three members to the Library Board of Control was 40,937 against and 35,490 in favor.
The margin was 53.6 percent against to 46.4 percent in favor.
On the separate BREC issue, 40,533 voted against and 36,979 voted in favor. The margin was 52.3 percent against to 47.7 percent in favor.
Supporters of changing the composition of the boards said they wanted to ensure all parts of the parish are represented fairly; opponents said it risked injecting parochial politics into boards already functioning well in serving the parish as a whole.
Metro Councilman Scott Wilson, who represents the Central area, pushed to place the measures on the ballot.
“It’s tighter than I thought it was going to be,” Wilson said Saturday. “I’m not disappointed personally but I am disappointed for these municipalities.”
He said the proposals he wanted the voters to consider were intended to try to bring more balance to the membership serving on such boards.
The proposed changes were opposed by Mayor-President Kip Holden’s administration, the Baton Rouge Area Chamber and others.
They said it would give disproportionate voting strength to three cities with only 12 percent of the parish’s population.
Library Board President Kizzy Payton and BREC Chairman Bill Benedetto said they believe the “at-large structure” of their boards works well and did not need to be changed.
BREC has six members appointed by the Metro Council and one representative each from the Mayor’s Office, Planning and Zoning Commission and East Baton Rouge Parish School Board.
The Library Board of Control has seven members, all of whom are appointed by the Metro Council to at-large seats.
Payton said she was “very happy with the results” of the election.
“I’m happy that the voters in the parish understood the ramifications of the amendment that was being presented to them,” Payton said.
She said the vote indicates that a majority of voters understand the library board tries to look after the interests of the entire parish and doesn’t favor any one geographic section over another.
Benedetto also said he was pleased by the results of the election.
“It indicates the majority of the parish support what BREC is doing,” Benedetto said. “They have confidence in what we’re doing in our programs.”