Mayor-President Kip Holden donated more than $10,300 of his own savings Thursday to the Knock Knock Children’s Museum after the Metro Council rejected a proposal to waive various building and permitting fees to build the museum.
The Knock Knock Children’s Museum’s leaders have spent more than 10 years raising $9.4 million to bring the museum to life and are still looking for about $3 million more to complete the project.
The museum broke ground on Wednesday afternoon, but the Metro Council voted Wednesday evening against a request to waive more than $10,000 in fees to help finance the museum’s construction.
“Seeing the high of yesterday and the low of last night was devastating,” Holden said.
He said he was shocked that the council did not do away with the fees, noting that council members routinely pass tax abatement proposals for hundreds of thousands of dollars. The mayor said he initially considered calling other donors before deciding to give his own money.
Holden said he pulled half of the money from his retirement savings from when he worked in the Louisiana Legislature, and he said he took the other half from a personal savings account.
“I thank God for a guy who virtually had nothing to get to the point to make a difference in quality of life,” the mayor said.
Holden announced the donation at a Thursday morning news conference, where he was joined by Knock Knock Chairwoman Staci Deumite Duhé, Knock Knock Vice Chairwoman Aza Bowlin and BREC Superintendent Carolyn McKnight.
Knock Knock is part of a public-private partnership with BREC and will be on City-Brooks Community Park property across from the lakes on Dalrymple Drive.
Duhé thanked Holden and said they were overwhelmed by his support. She said she hopes they can educate the council members who “missed the message” of the Knock Knock Children’s Museum about the opportunities it will bring to Baton Rouge.
Before the vote on Wednesday, Metro Councilman Ryan Heck said he worried that it set a dangerous precedent to waive the fees for the museum’s construction.
Councilman Buddy Amoroso said he wanted more information about the waiver before voting on it, but no representative from Knock Knock was at the meeting.
William Daniel, the mayor’s chief administrative officer, asked the council to pass the measure and said the mayor supported it.
Heck joined Amoroso, Scott Wilson and Joel Boé in voting against the measure.
Only five council members voted in favor, two short of the seven required to pass it. Those voting in favor were Chauna Banks-Daniel, Donna Collins-Lewis, C. Denise Marcelle, John Delgado and Tara Wicker. Trae Welch, Ronnie Edwards and Chandler Loupe were not present for the vote.
Holden said he had not talked to the council members since the vote and that he was “in no mood to communicate” with them on Wednesday.
“The councilmen made it doom and gloom when they decided not to grant a $10,000 waiver from our departments to give to the people who have been working nine years, 10 years and more,” Holden said. “… I can tell you, I went through a range of emotions. I was very upset, because all you had to do was be around those young people yesterday.”