A task force being created to come up with solutions for north Baton Rouge’s lack of economic development and health care will request $100,000 from the city-parish for their work.
East Baton Rouge Parish Metro Councilwoman Chauna Banks-Daniel said Wednesday that the task force, called #NBRNOW Blue Ribbon Commission, is not meant to be governmental and should have no authority on its own. She said its role will be to provide research and recommendations to the Metro Council and other decision makers.
Banks-Daniel said the specifics of how the money will be used will be up to the people on the commission, and that no decisions have been made yet about how the money would be allocated. She said no other entity is studying north Baton Rouge in the way the commission will, which shows the necessity of securing funding.
“We believe this request will speak volumes to taxpaying residents in and around north Baton Rouge that sit on the sidelines for decades, watching our Metro Council offer generous incentives and build expensive infrastructure in other parts of the parish,” said the commission’s cochairman and TheRougeCollection.net publisher Gary Chambers.
Requests for the Metro Council to allocate money usually come from the city-parish’s administration in Mayor-President Kip Holden’s office. It’s likely that the commission would have to ask the Mayor’s Office to bring the request for funding to the Metro Council.
But even if the proposal makes it that far, some Metro Council members say they are not inclined to approve $100,000 for the task force without a clear explanation of how they would spend the money. Some said they would be more amenable to approving the money if it were going toward a research firm studying north Baton Rouge as opposed to a group of volunteer citizens.
The studies of north Baton Rouge should take around six months, with a finish line goal in August, according to Southern University professor and commission member Cheria Lane-Mackey.
The other members of the task force are:
Co-Chair Leslie Grover, a professor at Southern University;
Dezmion Barrow, who has recently addressed the Metro Council about north Baton Rouge issues multiple times;
Cleve Dunn, who is part of the city-parish’s body cameras committee;
Tiffany Franklin, who works for the Southern University AgCenter;
Eric Horent, an economist at Southern;
Joyce Plummer, a lawyer who has run for public office; and
Lue Russell, a state organizer.
“They’re putting the cart way before the horse,” said Metro Councilman Trae Welch, when asked about the monetary request. “...What is $100,000 supposed to do? I suggest they get with the administration and work with the resources we have through a myriad of people who that is their job.”
Councilman Joel Boé said the city-parish already allocates money to the Baton Rouge Area Chamber to promote economic development across East Baton Rouge. He said he can understand the need to study health care in north Baton Rouge, but he’s not sure what new information could come out of studying economic development.
“I would want to know some more specifics about what they intend to use their money for, what’s the analysis and end result,” Boé said. “How is that different from what the Baton Rouge Area Chamber can offer?’’
Councilmen John Delgado and Buddy Amoroso also said details about the commission are too vague to know for sure whether they could support giving them money.
Delgado said he agrees that north Baton Rouge needs to incentives to lure business there, but he said studying economic development in north Baton Rouge might be best left to consultants.
“These types of citizen committees are not designed to conduct economic development studies,” Delgado said.