North Baton Rouge Metro Councilwoman Chauna Banks-Daniel said Councilman John Delgado’s recent announcement to introduce legislation to improve the economy in the depressed, northern part of the city is politically motivated and offensive to the black elected officials who represent the area.
Banks-Daniel said in an email that she has long been working on her own legislation to help prop up areas in north Baton Rouge, and Delgado’s hastily conceived ordinance is an attempt to curry favor with black voters for an eventual run for city-parish mayor-president. Delgado has said he is interested in running for mayor-president next year, but has not made his plans official.
“I shouldn’t have to be embattled with another politician to rush to get the black vote because of his intentions to run for mayor,” Banks-Daniel said. “I guess he is going to make (north Baton Rouge) believe he is ‘The Great White Hope.’ ”
Delgado, whose council district is in the more affluent, predominantly white, southern part of Baton Rouge, announced last week he was introducing an ordinance to turn parts of north Baton Rouge into an economic development district where property owners could be eligible for property tax breaks that would incentivize development.
North Baton Rouge, which lies north of Florida Boulevard, has the highest rates of poverty and crime in the parish. Advocates have long decried the lack of development and options for shopping with some neighborhoods several miles away from traditional grocery stores.
Delgado said last week that he had been motivated recently to introduce the ordinance after hearing the issue of disparate efforts toward north Baton Rouge economic development raised at a candidate forum held at Southern University.
“I’m surprised. Here I am offering the first concrete plan to immediately encourage business development in north Baton Rouge, and a political representative that would be directly impacted by this is attacking me for offering a plan that would help her district,” Delgado said Monday responding to Banks-Daniel’s criticisms.
“I think people in north Baton Rouge area tired of that kind of representation.”
State Rep. Regina Barrow, D-Baton Rouge, got the ball rolling this past spring, authoring legislation that would create the North Economic Development District, which would set up a framework of public officials and stakeholders who would work to bring economic development projects to the area. The legislation was loosely modeled after the Downtown Development District, which has revitalized the downtown area.
Last week, a day before Delgado made his announcement, Banks-Daniel released a statement saying she supported a North Baton Rouge Development District. She said she’d like to see additional legislation passed by state leaders to give the district taxing authority to generate revenue, like the Downtown Development District.
Delgado’s plan, in comparison, doesn’t suggest raising a tax or creating an organization. It would enable new developers in the area to lock in the lower property tax rates of blighted or undeveloped properties, rather than being assessed the newer higher value property tax after they’ve developed it.
Banks-Daniel has not yet introduced an ordinance for the north Baton Rouge area, but said she’s been working on a plan that would complement Barrow’s legislation.
“I realize this is a long time coming and should not be taken lightly, but strategically and thoroughly planned out,” she said in an email. “Everyone on the council is aware that this is a project I am developing. I think John Delgado is out of order to present his agenda item in the midst of my collaborative efforts.”
Delgado said he’d be happy to let Banks-Daniel or any other council member co-sponsor his ordinance.
He said he did not consult with any of the councilwomen who represent the lower-income, majority-black parts of north Baton Rouge, because the legislation is “a no-brainer” and that taking credit for ideas should not be an issue.
“It shouldn’t be about who came up with the idea,” he said. “The question is does this benefit the entire district and Baton Rouge as a whole.”