Discussion of Mayor-President Kip Holden’s $748 million tax and bond proposal could be moot if the Metro Council doesn’t vote to send the proposal to the Nov. 19 ballot.
Holden needs seven yes votes from the 12-member Metro Council to give voters the chance to approve or reject his third attempt at a capital improvements and infrastructure bond proposal.
The Metro Council is expected to make that decision at its Aug. 10 meeting, but John Carpenter, chief administrative officer to Holden, said on July 20 that a special meeting could be called earlier or later to ensure that all council members are able to attend.
Aug. 16 is when the state Bond Commission will decide whether to approve the item for the November ballot, so Aug. 15 is the latest date for the Metro Council to hold a special session to meet the election schedule.
Already, council members Mike Walker, Chandler Loupe, Rodney “Smokie” Bourgeois and Scott Wilson have said they will vote against sending the tax and bond proposal to voters.
Councilman Joel Boé is scheduled to be out of town on Aug. 10. If a special meeting isn’t called on another date, his absence on Aug. 10 would have the effect of a no vote.
Even if a special meeting is called and Boé is able to attend, he said he hasn’t decided how he will vote. He already has expressed several concerns about the proposal.
Should the vote be conducted Aug. 10, there likely will be four no votes and one absence.
One more no vote kills Holden’s proposal.
That leaves Trae Welch, Ulysses “Bones” Addison, Ronnie Edwards, Donna Collins-Lewis, C. Denise Marcelle, Tara Wicker and Alison Gary (the former Alison Cascio).
Wicker is the only council member to publicly support the Holden proposal.
It’s also worth noting that Gary, in addition to Wilson and Boé, voted against Holden’s proposal in 2009. However, the Alive theme park riverfront development project, which was a problematic component for many council members at that time, is not included in this year’s proposal.
Welch has expressed more negatives than positives about the bond proposal, citing serious concerns about spending $52 million on a City Hall renovation. He also has said the public safety portion of the bond issue misses the mark in terms of addressing crime.
At a recent Metro Council committee meeting, Addison emphatically told Holden’s staff that the bond proposal failed for the third time to address serious infrastructure problems in his district.
Holden said Monday at the Baton Rouge Press Club that he did not know how the Metro Council would vote, but emphasized he refuses to get caught up debating the bond proposal with the council.
He said he hopes the council will let the voters decide, but added that he’ll be taking his sales pitch directly to the people.
“This year I’m not going to beat my head up against a wall on the bond issue,” he said. “I’m going to tell you what’s needed.”
That also means he’s not willing to make changes to the bond issue that may be suggested by the council.
Carpenter said on July 20 he’s “very confident” the council will send Holden’s proposal to voters. He said the council will ultimately see the importance of giving voters the chance to decide for themselves, despite reservations the council members may have about the proposal.
When pressed, Carpenter admitted that “if the vote was today, it might lose,” but added that a lot can change in a couple of weeks.
Rebekah Allen covers city-parish government for The Advocate. She can be reached at email@example.com.