Mayor-President Kip Holden is known for his optimism, so we weren’t entirely surprised when he described what happened at a recent meeting of the Metro Council as “a great day for Baton Rouge.”
Holden, frequently at odds with the Metro Council, was touting a compromise with the council on a controversial downtown project when the meeting was adjourned for lack of a quorum.
The absence of a quorum developed after several council members left the council chambers. Mayor Pro Tem Mike Walker, who chairs the council, said he had no choice but to adjourn. But the council’s rules of procedure are based on Robert’s Rules of Order, which give a meeting chair other options beyond adjournment.
Plans now call for a special council meeting on Tuesday to address the issues that weren’t handled because of the adjournment.
Holden conceded the abrupt adjournment of the meeting wasn’t ideal, but he said a proposed compromise with the Metro Council over approval of a stage canopy in Galvez Plaza shows that he and Walker can work together, which prompted his “great day for Baton Rouge” comment.
We welcome greater harmony between the mayor and the council, but we have questions about the proposed compromise.
If the council approved the $900,000 stage canopy, which was nearly killed by the council two weeks ago, Holden said he would put an item on the agenda that would free up $1.5 million in general fund money that can be put toward bridge construction projects.
If the council has real concerns about the cost and design of the stage canopy, we must wonder how those concerns can be eliminated by adding funding for bridges. We favor constructive compromise, but it should be based on shared principles, not political expedience. That’s the best way to advance public confidence in city-parish government, which was seriously compromised by the fiasco at the Metro Council’s recent meeting.
The council lost its quorum after council members Ulysses “Bones” Addison, Scott Wilson, C. Denise Marcelle and Rodney “Smokey” Bourgeois left their seats. Council members Ronnie Edwards and Chandler Loupe were absent from the meeting.
Frankly, we’re puzzled by the Metro Council’s inability to maintain a quorum. Was it that difficult, in an age of cellphones and texting, to summon enough council members back to their chairs? Given the controversial items on the meeting agenda, which also included yet another discussion of the much-debated downtown library, the public needed calm discourse. Instead, residents got more political intrigue. Regardless of whether this was the intention of the adjournment, closing the Metro Council meeting early essentially tabled some contentious discussions for another day. That reality can’t help but translate into even deeper cynicism about the Metro Council’s behavior.
Metro Council meetings also require lots of staff time and resources. The sudden adjournment of the council’s recent meeting — and the need to schedule a special meeting to handle unfinished business — is a waste of government resources at a time when the cause of government efficiency should be more urgent than ever.
The sudden adjournment of the Metro Council meeting seems to be part of a larger pattern of disarray in city-parish government, recently frayed by feuding between Holden and the council, as well as disputes between Holden and other public officials.
Voters have shown their displeasure at political dysfunction in Washington, D.C. We doubt that local voters will be any less forgiving of the political dysfunction playing out closer to home, at City Hall.