Almost a calendar year after taking office, East Baton Rouge Parish Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome’s administration is starting to take shape.
Talk about a late start.
In the 10 months that the new mayor has presided at City Hall, she can point to accomplishments more of the atmospheric quality than the tangible.
That will have to change at some point.
With the appointment of Darryl Gissel as chief administrative officer and the forthcoming appointment of a new police chief, as well as the plan to bring law professor Chris Tyson to the Redevelopment Authority, key posts are now being filled.
But Tyson is to transfer only at the new year, taking leave from LSU. A new police chief must be appointed soon; applicants are from the department, but still are likely to require some time to get up to speed.
The internal workings of the new personnel can be reset over the holiday season, but clearly the Gissel appointment gives Broome another bridge to the key votes of moderate whites who helped her achieve last year’s 52 percent election win in the parish.
“This is a great example of what can be accomplished in this parish when people from different backgrounds and starkly different political environments can work together,” Broome said of Gissel, a longtime Republican who ran unsuccessfully last year as an independent.
As a property owner and Realtor, Gissel has not been in government directly for years, but he knows firsthand about the city-parish bureaucracy’s sometimes clumsy interface with the business community.
A more responsive City Hall would be a significant advance for Broome, but the path toward change in the bureaucracy, as with so much else, goes through a fractious Metro Council. The relationships with the latter have to be job one for Gissel. The mayor, herself a longtime state legislator, appears to have shown little gift for it so far.
The failure of the council to endorse Broome’s proposed road tax propositions looms larger now. While economic growth has continued during Broome’s first year, significant new advances against traffic require new money. Getting voters to agree is going to be hard enough; a road plan that succeeds needs not only the support of the Metro Council members but also a broader coalition of community leaders.
If that battle is won, a big “if,” the city-parish government will have to move smartly to show significant gains in laying concrete and asphalt.
Tax propositions are notoriously difficult to pass even in good times. With predictions that there might be a modest slowdown in the capital region’s economy, as industrial expansions complete over the coming year or so, political difficulties increase.
Further, to make the agency more effective, Tyson’s RDA needs significant funding — also a council issue.
A new police chief presumably will help Broome achieve her broad goal of a more comfortable relationship between the black community and the Baton Rouge Police Department. A new version of the BRAVE anti-violence initiative also needs to be fashioned by the administration.
But a long hot summer of multiple murders shows how much pressure there is on BRPD from factors that are far from the control of the mayor’s office on the third floor of city hall.
A late start does not preclude a strong finish but, in a four-year term, the substantive projects of the Broome administration may be a bit more behind than she would like them to be.
Email Lanny Keller at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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