East Baton Rouge Parish Mayor-President Kip Holden insisted Monday that the city’s Mississippi riverfront property is “second to none” as he responded to a weekend Advocate article about the lack of development on the water.
Holden, Chief Administrative Officer William Daniel and Downtown Development District Executive Director Davis Rhorer held a news conference Monday where they stood by the progress of downtown Baton Rouge, the riverfront and pointed to future plans for the waterfront, including the Water Campus. Holden launched a handful of criticisms toward Metro Councilman John Delgado, who was quoted in the original story as saying poor policies and a lack of vision led to a lack of waterfront development.
Holden said Delgado was not in a position to challenge the waterfront development without having worked on it for many years. Holden also suggested asking if Delgado has ever requested favorable treatment from the Baton Rouge Police Department, questioning if he had appealed to them for parking his car in the wrong place or playing music too loud at one of his bars.
Delgado later said he did not know what the mayor meant about him asking for preferential treatment from the police. He added that he, as the owner of a number of downtown bars, is under more scrutiny than many other business owners because he also is a public official.
Delgado reiterated his original comment in the story.
“Yes, we have developed downtown, but we have not developed the riverfront,” he said. “It would be delusional to say otherwise.”
Delgado said Holden should have called him if he was angered by his quote in the article, rather than lashing out during a public news conference.
Many of the developments Holden cited during the news conference — like the Baton Rouge River Center, the Old State Capitol, the Shaw Center for the Arts and the Hilton Hotel — are on property adjacent to the riverfront, and not actually along the water.
Holden said the “riverfront” should not be confined to what is along the water, but instead should be viewed in the broader context of all of downtown.
He called the story “a very critical article that was tendered to mislead people about the progress of Baton Rouge.” However, Holden did not return requests for an interview last week for the article.
Asked why he did not respond to interview requests, the mayor said “my calendar does not work that way” and later added that he does not operate based on a “time clock of when a person is ready.”
Rhorer said the article implied that the Baton Rouge riverfront is dormant. He is quoted in the original story as calling the Mississippi a working river that is “fascinating to watch.”
He added at the news conference that people do spend time on the river, ranging from children who spend the night on the USS Kidd to people who go out to eat at Shucks on the Levee.
Holden also questioned comparisons in the article between Baton Rouge’s riverfront and the success of Chattanooga’s riverfront.
Holden said the two cannot be compared and repeated that impediments from the railroad and levee system make developing Baton Rouge’s waterfront property more difficult.