Tensions spiked at a committee meeting of the Metro Council on Wednesday when the mayor-president’s administration opposed a councilman’s proposal to give Baker, Zachary and Central representation on the parish’s library and parks boards.
Councilman Scott Wilson, who represents a part of the parish that includes Central, authored two resolutions that would allow voters to decide whether to add three new members — who would represent the northern incorporated cities — to both the Library Board of Control and the Board of Commissioners of the Recreation and Park Commission.
The measure was recommended for approval by the council’s Finance and Executive Committee. Next week, it will be up for final approval by the full council.
If approved, the change would be placed on the Oct. 22 ballot for voters.
John Carpenter, chief administrative officer for Mayor-President Kip Holden, said the changes would give the areas with the least population disproportionate voting power.
Baker, Zachary and Central make up less than 13 percent of the parish population, Carpenter said.
“You ought to seriously reconsider this proposal,” he said. “There may be something that can be better worked out on this.”
The BREC board has nine members and would be expanded to 12. The library board has seven members and would be increased to 10.
Carpenter said a more equitable way to change the makeup of the boards would be for the council members to appoint a member from their districts.
Wilson angrily responded that Carpenter was reneging on an agreement reached during a discussion last week.
“We all came to an agreement that this was the way to go,” he said.
When Carpenter began to dispute the allegation, Wilson interrupted.
“Well, you’re lying,” Wilson said.
Wilson said the BREC resolution originally sought to replace three of the nine members, but after a discussion with stakeholders, he decided to change it to adding three members to the current board.
“You just don’t want the BREC board to change because you want the upper hand on the votes,” Wilson said. “That’s the problem.”
Wilson also said Carpenter’s population figures were misleading because he was only using numbers representing people inside of city limits.
“Zachary has small city limits but they’re growing very rapidly, and they’re big on the outskirts of their city limits,” he said. “There’s a lot of taxes that these people pay, and I just think these people should have a seat at the table.”
A similar bill is being considered by the Legislature to expand the BREC board.
BREC’s board was created by state statute, so changing it requires a legislative change and a change in the plan of government.
Changing the plan of government requires approval of the Metro Council — which puts it to a vote of the people.
Changing the library board does not require legislative action.
Last week, the Metro Council unanimously passed a resolution showing its support of the BREC bill in the Legislature.