The normally routine business of appointing new members to serve on the city-parish’s Alcohol Beverage Control Board proved anything but at Wednesday’s East Baton Rouge Metro Council meeting.
The appointments were postponed amid complaints from some council members over what they view as an oversaturation of liquor-selling outlets in impoverished neighborhoods.
“We know that there’s a high concentration of alcohol outlets in the urban communities, which overwhelmingly has had an impact on property values, economic decline — you name it, it’s done it,” said Councilwoman Tara Wicker.
ABC Board Director Chris Cranford said the board issued 102 liquor licenses to businesses in 2014. Of those, 32 were for new establishments mostly in the southern part of the parish, which tends to have wealthier residents.
The remainder and majority of the licenses went to businesses that had been selling alcohol but changed ownership or gone through other changes, Cranford said.
One of the biggest problems in the debate is the lack of a definition for what constitutes oversaturation, according to Parish Attorney Lea Anne Batson. Several council members said they have worked on trying to determine where the line should be drawn.
Not everyone agreed the issue of alcohol itself should bleed into the board appointments. Some cautioned the slippery slope that comes with using income level and location to determine if an area has too many alcohol sellers.
“Would we want to sit here and say, if you live in a certain neighborhood and you make $150,000, you should have access to this stuff, but if you live below the poverty line, I’m sorry, you shouldn’t?” Councilman Ryan Heck asked.
The Metro Council deferred the Alcoholic Beverage Control Board appointments for 30 days.
Livingston council vs. Ricks — round 2
The Livingston Parish Council prepared to pick another fight with Parish President Layton Ricks over legal fees Thursday.
This time, the council wants to know whether Ricks has the right, without council approval, to use parish funds to pay his own legal fees in defending a lawsuit the council filed against him late last year. That lawsuit sought to force Ricks to pay the legal fees of two council members sued personally.
Councilman Ricky Goff sponsored the call to request a state attorney general’s opinion as to whether Ricks’ hiring and payment of his attorney without first seeking council approval violates the parish’s Home Rule Charter.
The charter says “no special legal counsel shall be retained by parish government except by written contract for a specific purpose approved by the favorable vote of a majority of the authorized membership of the council.”
Goff said he’d support Ricks’ hiring his own attorney, but the contract should have come to the council for approval. Goff also said Ricks should be responsible for his own legal fees in appealing any judgment that went against him, unless and until he won the appeal.
Parish legal adviser Christopher Moody said the question was a valid one, though it would seem unfair to allow the council to sue the president without also allowing the president to select his own attorney in defending that suit.
Byron Sharper eyes run for mayor-president
Former Baton Rouge Metro Councilman Byron Sharper, who lost his re-election bid to C. Denise Marcelle in 2008, says he’s mulling a run for East Baton Rouge Parish mayor-president.
Sharper was trounced in that race, capturing only 28 percent of the vote.
But he has since managed to keep his name in the news. He is one of the plaintiffs in a federal lawsuit seeking to change the City Court judicial districts to reflect a majority black population. He also was a plaintiff in the unsuccessful 2014 lawsuit filed to prevent the East Baton Rouge Parish School Board from shrinking its board numbers.
Sharper said he plans to make a formal announcement in March.
As a councilman, he was known as a political adversary of Mayor-President Kip Holden. Holden accused Sharper of distributing a 2008 smear flier that said Holden had been caught in an extramarital affair. Sharper denied involvement.
In 2008, while a councilman, Sharper was accused of simple battery for inappropriately touching and trying to kiss an 18-year-old girl whom he gave a ride home. The charge was dismissed after he completed 26 weeks of workplace sensitivity training.
A 2006 case involving a 21-year-old woman, who later declined to press the charge, was dismissed in 2007 after Sharper completed a court-ordered pretrial intervention program.
Holden’s term runs through the end of 2016, but he is running for lieutenant governor. If successful, he would vacate office a year early.
Other potential mayoral candidates who have expressed interest are State Sen. Sharon Weston-Broome, a Democrat, and Baton Rouge Metro Councilman John Delgado, a Republican.
Advocate reporters Andrea Gallo, Heidi Kinchen and Rebekah Allen contributed to this article.